Monday, June 16, 2014

life in Nicaragua vs the United States

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 guarantees.


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

5 Beauty Travel Must Haves for Hot & Humid Climates

It's 80% humidity here. Or so it feels like it. A girl needs her sunscreen and skincare. This is what I have been using in Nicaragua, the land of heat, humidity and scorching sun:

The absolute basics are above. I use my staple mascara (Chanel's waterproof Inimitable in Noir) and eyeliner (NYC's dark brown waterproof liner), but as far as skincare and maintenance goes, the above are a must in addition to regularly using face masks with calming and brightening agents (a post on that later).

From left to right:
Chanel Les Beiges Healthy Glow with SPF 15 in No. 30: I love this powder. This helps keep away the shine (which you will be plenty of in this weather), gives you a healthy dose of color without blocking your pores, while protecting your skin with vital SPF. One should never go without any sort of sun protection and always look for product that do double duty with added SPF. 

Chanel Retractable Kabuki Brush: The mink fur brushes that come with the Chanel compacts aren't the softest thing ever. They feel rough on my sensitive skin. This synthetic brush feels like pure heaven. It feels like whip cream, clouds and baby's bums. I use this to apply the Les Beiges powder.

Missha All Around Safe Block Essence Sun SPF45: I've long ago given up on American sunscreen products. They usually leave a heavy, filmy residue that can block pores or leave you looking pale like a ghost. That or they end up very oily after a few hours. Sunblocks from Asia do not do this. Missha is a Korean brand that I discovered on a trip to Seoul a few years ago.  Despite being SPF 45, this sunscreen is super light and non-greasy. It does a great job of protecting my skin and not leaving me shiny. It also contains some amazing ingredients such as rose and hazel extracts and none of the bad stuff such as parabens, etc. An added bonus: it's water resistant.

*Forget Shiseido sunblocks. Despite being an Asian brand, I've found Shiseido to be too heavy, leaving a slight a residue. The price for the pint size bottle is also a turn-off. 

Missha Super Aqua Deep Sea Micro Mist in Rose: This is the key to keeping cool under so much heat. Spritz a bit of this all over your face to keep it hydrated and your make-up in place. 

"The Rose scent contains rose oil and water to promote metabolism and revitalize your skin. Each contains 97% deep sea water enriched with minerals to provide moisture and radiance to skin. It also includes seaweed extract enriched with vitamins and iron to soothe and protect skin from external factors."

Protip: Use this to wet your beauty blenders before applying foundation instead of putting it under water. 

And lastly, I forgot to add this to the photoroll above, but M Prism Spot Flash Brightener SPF30 in No. 2: Vital for concealing undereye circles after long nights of drinking rum or cerveza (beer). This brightener contains SPF and gives the face an instant awake look. I seriously cannot live without it. 

Links to buy:

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Why being lost is not a bad thing - Nicaragua Day 11

Get lost. As many times as you can in your short short life.

The truth is I have never had a plan. I let things find me or follow the things that intrigue me. The ones who have their life planned out, who follow that straight path and have "things figured out," I admire them, but I know it's not the life for me. 

The truth is I get bored easily. The truth is contentment makes me restless. There is something in me that refuses to stay still. It's a chronic thing that's plagued me since childhood. I can't stand redundancy. I have to constantly be challenged, moved, removed; remade. 

I wander because I know exactly who I am. I wander because I truly enjoy being lost.

But let's get real. Life is not an instagram filter combined with a perfectly timed image. There will be those who look at you inquisitively, confused or with disdain. Why don't you have a job? Why don't you settle down? And there will be real adult issues you have to face: like how can you even afford to do what you are doing, let alone a hotel. For those who are short sighted enough to assume that traveling doesn't amount to any sort of real world applicable skills, you can tell them that you are well versed in cross cultural communication and working under extreme uncertainty. Should you ever want to settle your awesome self down, any company with the foresight to acknowledge the courage and resourcefulness that it takes to be a world traveler will not want to lose you. 

I've been told by many recruiters that my real-world experience and past work at Uber, in nonprofit, fashion PR, and most recently as a consultant in Nicaragua makes me a better candidate than most MBA's out there. You can always have adventure. You just have to look for the right project that aligns with it. I believe in purposeful traveling. This way I can also build my resume while bouncing around the world. I also have some technical skills that are highly desirable and set me apart from most candidates, such as coding, graphic designs, and a vast digital marketing portfolio. Be sure to always keep your professional growth in mind even if you are not immediately looking for a job.

I've been doing this for four years and there is nothing that I would do differently.