day thirty three: five tips for bargaining in Nicaraguan markets

on friday i went to masaya (my favorite city so far) and explored the markets a little bit more… despite the fact that i’ve been there three times in the past two weeks, i still get a little lost every time i go to the municipal market.
i can’t say i mind too much. it’s fun, to explore markets without a deadline or a purpose, wandering and watching and smelling and taking it all in.

but! i have gotten significantly better at shopping there than i was before… and so here are my best tips for bargaining at markets (or really anywhere):

  1. know when bargaining is acceptable. a lot of people say that prices are never fixed. but at some places (for example, when you’re buying bottled water) it’s sillier to bargain than at others (for example, when you’re buying a t-shirt at a market stall). also, recognize that it’s considered acceptable — expected even — to haggle in certain circumstances, whereas in others it’s odd or even rude. other times, it may be impolite to outright question prices, but the seller will probably go down on the price if you hesitate long enough.
    anyway. my cardinal rule is that i don’t bargain in microbuses and i always bargain in markets and everything else depends on the situation and the price.
  2. listen. if there are enough other people around, i like to casually hang around a stall and listen to see what the vendor is charging others, just to get a general feel for how much things should cost/how much i should be willing to pay.
  3. speaking of casual, remember: at least at the beginning, don’t be too interested. if you’re very obviously going to buy something no matter what the seller charges you, they’ll pick up on that Real Fast.
    (alternately, you should still feel free to be interested and compliment the work? not just because a little flattery can get you a long way, but because showing genuine interest is nice and shows the seller that their work is valued?)
  4. smile. bargaining is supposed to be fun, for goodness’ sake, and i think a lot of people forget that. if arguing over a price makes you anxious, then don’t feel like you have to do it! alternately, if discussing discounts gives you a rush, make sure you look friendly rather than Super Bloodthirsty. no one likes to bargain with a bully.
  5. and on that note… know when to stop. especially here, it’s important to remember that you’re a (comparatively rich) foreigner, that people need to make a living — and that sometimes, arguing over those last thirty cents just isn’t worth it.
    yes, i love markets, and by that token, i also love the bargaining.
    but at the end of the day, that’s because i love people and i love practicing my spanish this way and i love discovering new things. prices are just, well, prices.



day thirty: pineapples

we went to a pineapple farm!

two important things i learned here: 

1) the pineapple we get in the US is usually from hawaii, usually picked green and sprayed with something to turn it yellow, and shipped for about 15 days. when compared to the nica pineapple, which ripens on the plant and is bought and sold the same day (or within the next couple), it’s no wonder the ones here are so good in comparison.

2) it’s mango season until the end of june! this will become important for later blog posts. 

an unfiltered photo because i am too lazy to process it:

day seventeen: cooking class

on monday (yes, still monday… not a lot of truly photograph-able things happened the other weekdays) we also went to cooking class!
la mariposa has activities every day for its guests, and paulette wanted me to go so that i could see what the regular activities were like and take pictures and write up a blog, so i accompanied all the students there and prepped myself to bake.

the first thing we noticed was the oven, which was enormous — a good four feet tall and easily wide enough for me to fit (i didn’t try, but what i’m saying is that i COULD have).

we mixed dough out of flour, butter, cheese, and milk (and by mixed, i mean that we literally all stuck our hands in a giant bowl and kneaded it until it “looked right”) and formed it carefully into different shapes.

empanadas, rosquillas, y viejitas, oh my!
(the empanadas are the folded over ones — they’re filled with cheese and sugar. the rosquillas, which i didn’t take pictures of, are little round doughnut-shaped things. and the viejitas were little cups that we filled with brown sugar)
all of them were made from the same dough.

when we were done forming all the dough and filling all the viejitas, we put them into the oven for twenty minutes to bake.

they were delicious!
(so delicious, in fact, that i forgot to take a picture before we ate them all.)


day ten: how to do laundry in nicaragua 

i actually wrote this a while ago, but only recently managed to type it up… don’t worry, i’m washing my clothes regularly. 


step one: get your clothes dirty. a couple hot days and lots of activity (kneeling in the dirt to play with your host sister, for example) should do it… make sure your clothes actually ARE dirty, because 1) water is precious and 2) this is a lot of work!!

step two: assemble your materials. in addition to dirty clothes, you’ll need soap, a clothesline and clothespins, and a bucket or so of water (and a bowl to scoop the water with). you’ll also need a washing table, which your family will probably have — it’s made out of concrete, with three sections in it: a shallow one with a raised ridged area in the center, another shallow one that’s flat on the bottom, and a narrow one that’s much deeper (some tables only have the deep and the ridged one, but that’s all you need anyway). don’t panic! this is just as intimidating as it looks but if your host grandma can do it so can you. (that’s a lie. your host grandma is way better than you at probably everything. but it’s still important for you to learn to wash your own socks.)

step three: put water in the deep section. this will probably be collected rainwater (or, alternately, water from a spigot outside) but either way it’s non-potable. that means DON’T DRINK IT. just in case you were planning to.

step four: lay your clothes in the shallow ridged section and wet them with water. rub the flat cake of soap along the fabric, pressing down (usually it’s brightly colored, which is convenient because then you and your host grandma can both see how bad you are at this and how many spots you missed the first time). now use your hands to scrub your article of clothing vigorously along the ridges, working bubbles into the cloth.

step five: rinse well with more water and repeat as needed. wring your clothes out carefully and hang them up to dry (you’ll want to pick a sheltered place, otherwise when it rains you’ll just have to start the drying process all over again. not that i’ve done this, or run out in the middle of a rainstorm to save my clothes, or anything.) 

congratulations! you did it!

(as a reward for your hard work, here’s a picture of the washing table at La Mariposa. there are some nice lil chickens here too!)