Apparently tourists love Granada. It has horse drawn carriages, colorful colonial architecture, and access to Lake Nicaragua. There are plenty of restaurants with beautiful courtyards, rowdy hostels, and good cheap food. On the whole it reminded us a lot of Antigua, Guatemala, and of how much we love traveling in Central America.
Of course, in the off season for tourism (which is now), things are a little less exciting. Many businesses are closed during rainy season, and the ones that remain open feel like ghost towns. I didn’t photograph much in Granada, partially because we were only there for two days, and partially because everything felt closed and boarded up. There were still locals riding around on bikes and relaxing in Parque Central, but otherwise a lot of Granada’s energy appeared to have dissipated.
The children in town were the big exception – begging kids were everywhere and they were full of energy. They offered to sell us palm fronds folded into a variety of shapes, and ask for food right off of our plate at restaurants. While essentially they are begging for food and change, there is a different sort of attitude in these kids. Rather than appearing desolate and starving, these kids have an upbeat, joyful energy. I can’t explain it, but rather than feeling sorry for them you just want to smile at their innovation and give them something. And it doesn’t take much to make them happy.
One day, while eating lunch at an open air restaurant in the park, I had finished eating and was about to put my napkin on the plate. There was a bit of rice and beans left, and a small boy of about 7 immediately rushed up to my side as I moved to set my napkin down, pointing at my plate and then to his stomach. Surely you’ve heard some variation of the phrase “Clean your plate – there are starving children in Africa who wish they had that,” either from your mother or someone else’s. Well this was the most immediate example I’ve ever witnessed of that phrase in action. If I wasn’t going to finish my meal, there was a starving kid in Nicaragua, just next to my table, who would be glad to do it. So I nodded at him, and he pulled the remnants of my meal from my plate and happily went off to eat it. Such efficiency.
Later that same night, another round of hungry kids found us at dinner. They came right up, put their arms around me, hugging me, asking for parts of my burrito. Again, in any other circumstances I would probably have been horrified to have a small begging child clinging to me during dinner, but here I found it somewhat endearing. I cut them each off a slice of my burrito, and they left a palm frond folded into a flower behind as a thank you. I then watched as they begged from a man at an adjacent table, who took another look at the menu and ordered a plate of food specifically for them. When we left, we saw the two boys seated at a table drinking Fantas and tucking into some chicken and rice.
While there was much more we could have explored in Granada, somewhere else appealed to us a bit more. Isla de Ometepe was calling our names, so we headed there to enjoy nature and lay around in hammocks for a few days. Photos from paradise soon.