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 twenty six: to market to market

the masaya markets are my favorite markets.

there’s the artisan market and the municipal market, which basically means there’s a tourist market and a local one. i visit the local one because it’s cheaper, but the other is lovely too.

i go on my days off, i go when i’m working tours… something in me love love loves markets (and craft markets specifically). they’re so busy and interesting and overwhelming and there’s always something i haven’t seen and i love buying things from people who made them and having a conversation to remember after i have my things. i’d rather buy everything for the rest of my life in an outdoor market, if it was possible. 

is that silly? probably.

but it’s still true.

day twenty two: real talk (heat and health and hydration)

while we were on the boat tour in granada, chester told us to drink water.

i, working busily to translate the rest of the tour, take pictures, and keep the four-year-old from falling out of the boat, did not do a good job of listening.
i was also in the sun for most of the day, and i didn’t do a great job of applying my sunscreen either.

…ergo, heat exhaustion.

according to the internet,
heat exhaustion is a condition whose symptoms may include heavy sweating and a rapid pulse, a result of your body overheating. it’s one of three heat-related syndromes, with heat cramps being the mildest and heatstroke being the most severe. causes of heat exhaustion include exposure to high temperatures, particularly when combined with high humidity, and strenuous physical activity.

it’s also typically accompanied by thirst, weakness, headache, and loss of consciousness… and/or nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps, and dizziness.

not fun.

anyway, lessons learned:

  1. it’s much safer (and more convenient) to be sick when you have a range of pals to take care of you and buy you medicine and look out for you in case you almost throw up in the street. thanks daph, you’re a literal angel.
  2. medicine is cheaper in nicaragua. like, 30 cents kind of cheap. also electrolyte water costs about three dollars and tastes kind of like gatorade. thanks socialist government of nicaragua.
  3. don’t ever forget to drink water. thanks chester, even though i didn’t listen to you at the time… i appreciate you.
    (and look how much i’m hydrating now! two waters, lemonade, and electrolytes, ft. the only thing i really felt like eating that day)

and so it begins

what with turning in six final projects, setting up post-graduation garden parties, moving out of my dorm, packing one suitcase for a summer in two continents, putting the rest of my possessions at college into a very small storage unit (thank you, Lyft driver who reminds me of my grandpa and who helped me move boxes for an hour), fixing minor (and major) crises, and landing more or less successfully in nicaragua…

the past few weeks have been a truly wild ride.

and now– here i am!

i’m spending the next two and a half months (ten weeks, to be perfectly exact) in San Juan de La Concepción, Masaya, Nicaragua. i’ll  be writing emails, visiting projects, making reservations, writing updates, placing volunteers, working with children, and who knows what else…

and i can’t wait to start.