I've been here for about four weeks now, unconfirmed because I'm currently too lazy to look at a calendar and count out the weeks since May 25th, but here are a few things that have stuck out to me culturally and in general.
Granada is a sleepier town than Leon. People tend to keep their schedules pretty simple in Granada since the pace of life seems to be slower. In Leon, there are always people out and about. The city is a bit bigger and there is a lot more traffic.
There are no traffic lights in Granada, and possibly only one in Leon. There are stop signs which people take as suggestions more than as law.
The machismo culture is about one of the worse sides of Nicaragua (I cannot speak for other countries in Central America). What is it? It sucks. According to a student at Stanford University (if you want academia quality citation, you're going to have to look elsewhere than a personal blog), machismo is:
a concept that dictates many aspects of Latin American male behavior, it has particular relevance to male sexual culture. In terms of machismo, males have an “expansive and almost uncontrollable” sexual appetite, and it is their right to satisfy that desire in the ways they choose (1). In contrast, female sexuality is seen as an object over which the male has control. Females are expected to have only one sexual partner, none before or outside of marriage (1). Machismo sexual behavior is a source of pride for males and men must prove their manliness by upholding their sexual dominance. In this way, reputation is one of the driving forces behind machismo (2). Hirsch et al. makes the argument that reputation is the central element of sexual identity. The overemphasis on sociosexual reputation explains why males often act in socially safer yet physically more risky ways (2).For this reason foreign woman in Nicaragua constantly get "cat-called." Men shamelessly, openly, and overtly display their sexual prowess by whistling, wagging their tongues, making obscene gestures, and verbally harassing women on the street. The more vulgar, the better. In my personal experience, this is mostly harmless as they do not actually come into physical contact with you and do it from a safe distance or as you are passing by. Beyond that, it's more amusing than anything, but if you are having a bad day it can certainly be irritating. I've noticed the machismo culture to be stronger in Granada than in Leon. Young boys will even participate in this in Granada, whereas in Leon it usually comes from adult males.
Customer service does not exist because, in fact, everything will always be your fault. I will not go into details about what a scam the telephone company Claro is, but if you are ever in Nicaragua or any part of Latin America, do not get a Claro plan or SIM card. They will likely be leaving out some fine print on purpose and you will end up frustrated and losing money. Trying to solve the issue only results in Claro pointing the finger back at you and taking no accountability for their mistake if you are lucky enough to even get them to admit it was their mistake in the first place. Just don't do it. It's pointless. Another great example of customer service today:
I was at Pan y Paz in Leon (a French bakery owned by a French woman). I ordered a glass of white wine and a fly flew into shortly after. I notified the owner and asked if I still had to pay for the wine since I don't know their restaurant policy, but I obviously did not expect them to void my wine it as I knew customs are different here, but I asked, just in case. The response was, "Yes you still have to pay as I do not control the fly who flew into your glass." This was followed by a few outbursts of mocking laughter. Another presumptuous bratty American bites the dust (aka, me). How silly of me to assume otherwise.
To be here is to accept the mentality that you are solely responsible for you. And if something goes wrong the onus is always on you no matter whose fault it really is because too bad. What is life.
Having lived in Shanghai, I should have anticipated the alienating and inevitable feeling of being a fish out of water. But with each new incident, the reminder continues to be jarring. In Shanghai, I eventually built up such a thick skin (without realizing it) that I became desensitized to the cultural difference as I reluctantly accepted it as a way of life, and took on the mentality of a fighter going against the world. This resulted in reverse culture shock when I later returned to the states, but that's an entirely differently entry.
The plumping systems here are weak. You cannot flush toilet paper down the toilet. There are trash bins next to every toilet specifically for this reason. Otherwise, do not expect to find a trash bin anywhere else in the building, house, restaurant, etc.
Dusty for days. No matter how much I use hand sanitizer, lotion, or wash my hands, they always feel dusty as if I've been caught in a sand storm. This sensation never disappears. It is what it is.
No AC but fans are vital. Everyone owns a fan, or at least every American gets a fan in their room. This is only in regards to homestays. I don't know what it's like at hotels, etc. Perhaps they know about our proclivity for air conditioning and adversity for extreme heat from experience, but it seems like a normal thing to provide us with a fan in our rooms, no questions asked. I do not object to this at all, but feel a bit bad for having one run through the entire night. It is so unbearably hot here that it is impossible not to have a fan on. I sweat from just breathing. That's not hyperbole either.
This is all I can think of for now. Perhaps I'll continue this on a later date...no guarantees.