this ferris wheel — set up for the celebration of San Juan Bautista in the local community — was held up by blocks of wood and rattled ever time it spun (backwards) and it was a terrifying experience but it was so worth it
(this is the same picture that i’m using for my león post on the official mariposa blog but oh well)
anyway. this weekend was león and it was beautiful! it’s my favorite weekend city trip because you get to walk around on the cathedral roof and feel like you’re touching the sky.
nick (another student) and i hit up the sandinista museum (museo de la revolución) and met a lovely man named benito! he asked us if we wanted to see a picture of him when he was our age and when we said yes, instead of pulling out a photo, he pointed out a large picture of revolutionaries on the wall. “that one’s me”, he told us, beaming.
oh, and i had my first taste of baho — it’s a traditional Nica dish made with beef, plantains, and vegetables, steamed over yucca in a very Very large pot and served with salad.
(tip: for cheap eats in león, hit up the ladies in the indoor market/comedor behind the cathedral. they’re super nice, they’re excellent cooks, they explain all the dishes to you, and they even hand you your food on pretty dishes!)
anyway. it was delicious.
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):
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?)
- 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.
- 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.
oh dear i am eating so many snacks!
i tell myself it’s a cultural experience and then i feel better about it
(also i don’t *really* feel guilty because they’re all so good).
also last night two of my friends and i bought street food in san juan! the ladies cooked it on grills set up on the sidewalk and we ate it at a little table in the back and it was d e l i c i o u s.
(also very cheap).
i’ve spent the past few days doing regular intern work: making reservations, sending emails, talking to volunteers, printing and laminating things…
BUT what makes that last task so much more fun here is that it’s completely different! most people (including us) don’t have a personal printer, so when i want to print and laminate anything i go to the local Cyber (pronounced “see-bur”) where they provide everything from internet access to printing and copying to school supplies. it involves a trip to La Concha and it’s usually a very fun time (i’m still at the point where running small errands in town brings me joy and makes me feel independent).
this is what it looked like.
it had a friendly man who happened to be one of the homestay families for La Mariposa! his name was Julio and we had a long conversation about my internship and his Cyber and La Mariposa’s projects while everything was printing and laminating (again, time is different here… nothing is really quick and so you make the most of your waiting chatting with other people). he shared some Nicaraguan sweets with me and i went and bought pan dulce to share with him and then he had to go and get new laminate sheets because he didn’t have enough but the girl who was supposed to mind the shop was late. but by that point he decided he knew me well enough so he just? left me in charge of the Cyber? while there were a bunch of guys there too? for like fifteen or twenty minutes?
anyway we joked that my new title was “intern of La Mariposa — and the Cyber Belen” and nothing much else happened and i got my sheets printed and laminated and today was a good day.