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Intricate hand-signs and shopping with clabber girl

So our day to day life consists of the usual stuff, like going grocery shopping. Which might sound easy, but is actually an art form. Luckily, we are in Granada, which has the second biggest range of foodstuffs in Nicaragua, but it's still a battle. Firstly, the supermarkets are completely unpredictable. By which I mean they apparently buy all their produce from the supermarkets in Managua, and the contents of the Granada supermarkets at any given time are based entirely upon the whim of the owners. "What shall we get this week?" I imagine them saying. "Parmesan cheese? Decent breakfast cereal? No, let's not. Let's buy sixteen cases of guava jelly and two dishcloths instead." So the trick is, when you go shopping and you see something you like, you should buy EVERY SINGLE ONE, because you may not see that product again. We became aware of this when we were lulled into a false sense of security by the parmesan cheese. It was in the shop for seven weeks. Then it disappeared, still to return. We have started making occasional trips to Managua, to stock up on goodies we can lug back in the mini bus. Like parmesan. And yeast. And non-stick cookware. And... bagels. You know, necessities.

In other news, because all the veggies are organic and whatnot (volcanic soil, who needs fertilizer?). The tomatoes are the nicest I have ever eaten, and they have delicious fresh baby corn (which I still find a complete novelty to shuck) and the spinach and carrots are exceptionally flavoursome. We have gone completely choko crazy, and the avocados are also to die for. All in all, pretty good. And to top it all off, the bread (which is loaded with sugar, of course) is BIMBO brand. And in the last packet of bread we bought I found a bimbo ribbon for one's hair or wrist. Aw. And I buy my milk in plastic bags, which is immensely enjoyable. Good times. Speaking of bimbo, we have been happily and most immaturely amazed by the sheer quantity of sus brand names that abound the supermarket shelves like cock fish sauce, fanny brillo pads, clabber girl baking powder (so I don't know what a clabber girl is, but it sounds dodgy...)

There are some interesting cultural differences that we are coming to terms with. Most of them are positive, in fact the only one I really dislike is the machismo that drives (I'm assuming) otherwise perfectly nice men to leer, whistle at, or make kissing noises at girls... particularly when it's me these actions are aimed at. Most of the time, I just ignore it and stare demurely at the ground as befits my station. Only occasionally have I been tempted to throw a punch, but something tells me that would just be more trouble than it's worth.

ANYWAY, here is a run down of said cultural differences:

Nica time: Ah, yes, time. So valuable, so precious, and here, so fluid. So far, we have had it explained to us in various terms, my personal favourite being from a guy in an art gallery who said "Don't have a heart attack, man, this is Nicaragua. It will happen when it happens!" For example, the doctor's appointment I made to get my pathology results. (Yes, I had to go and pick them up myself, but I still had to have them explained to me in Spanish...) Went to doctor's surgery. Booked appointment for following morning. Went to doctor following morning. "The doctor isn't here" explained the twelve year old receptionist. "She'll be here this afternoon, or tomorrow..." "So I booked an appointment for the following morning. Went to doctor the following morning. "She's not here" Said someone else. "She's in Managua. She'll be back this afternoon..." Okay. So the afternoon is the go. Went in the afternoon. "She's here, but she's very busy. You could be waiting an hour and a half"... so I went in the following morning, and waited for an hour and a half then instead, to be told I'm fine. And that's just totally normal. And while we get concerned if someone doesn't show up at our house because we have to go out, we've learned that you just go and do your thing... otherwise nobody would go anywhere... Our furniture which was scheduled to arrive Saturday afternoon arrived at eight o'clock on a Sunday night, which was nice.

Everything seems to get done, just in a really relaxed way. I think that's the key... it's too hot to fuss or rush. We went out for dinner the other night, and the power went off in the whole of Granada during our meal. Nobody reacted really, just giggled, and they lit some candles, and life goes on. With or without electricity.

Work ethic: Reflected in that whole relaxed atmosphere is the work ethic. These people work really hard... when they are busy. It's not uncommon at a quiet moment in a restaurant for the waitresses to sit down and chat, or snooze, while waiting for the next thing to do... why expend all that energy looking busy when you aren't? I could work like that!

Antibacterial? I should hope so.

Hand signs: Okay, so apparently there is this whole intricate sign thing the Nicaraguans do with their hands and facial expressions. We don't know all of them, obviously, but scrunching your nose at somebody is like saying "What??" and rubbing your pointer finger down your other pointer finger means "pay" and making that sweeping motion with your hand that in Australia means "go away", but here means "come here". So learning those was fun!

Fireworks: Anybody can get their hands on fireworks here in Nicaragua and they do! But rather than gathering them up and letting them all go off in one sitting, the Nicaraguans like to stretch it out and just let one go off here and there at random intervals all day and night. The sound from which echoes around the streets (laid out as they are). The effect of a loud bang that comes out of the blue every so often is to completely shatter one's nerves. I think that's what all the rum and cerveza is for.

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