Living Like a Nica

Bought the above titled e-book last night. Have only had the chance to read the chapter on the various towns but quick skimming around showed it to be very informative. As it was published in if I remember right 2005 is there anything that might be considered outdated? One thing I've been wondering about. How large is one manzana(spelling?)? I've seen references to buying x amount of them when buying land.

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As LLN says ...

Try things out. As I read this thread I see some good info and some personal opinion based on personal preference. Unfortunately, some of that opinion seriously distorts reality.

As is said in LLN, when you get to Nicaragua, stay mobile. Don't buy a place to live, ... Plan on at least six months and, if possible, a year shopping for where you really want to be. In that time you can learn a lot about various places and, probably more important, about yourself.

A lot of people miss the fact that LLN is not about how to be poor and live here. It is about how you can be poor and live here. That is, you can move here with little in the way of assets and do fine. It is then up to you how far you move up the socio-economic ladder.

While the book is about you as a person or family and how you can do this, after over eight years here, I probably should write a book on business. That is, the way you can start and build a business here that would just not be possible in North America or Europe. Like moving here without a lot of assets, the business route is easy to do but, just like living here, you are going to need to make some serous changes -- mostly in your thought processes -- for it to succeed.

I agree with the stay mobile part

I do think that most North Americans would be rather brutally depressed by their circumstances if they live in a zinc sided building with a dirt floor, and only a bit less depressed if they lived in a small cinderblock building with a dirt floor. If anyone started in Nicaragua and worked their way up the social ladder, some real testimonials would be nice.

Most Nicaraguans who live that way around here are flying the FSLN flag.

You can live on less here and still get to Metro Center without having to own a car. Public transportation and walkable cities means that you're less isolated and limited by poverty than you'd be in much of the US, but there are parts of the US that do have walkable neighborhoods with shopping and public transportation. And the poor can get food stamps and public housing there, for all the romance of putting up one's own zinc sided house on a wood frame and living on what one can earn making tortillas and domestic work (real person in Jinotega).

I'm curious as to who has actually made a business work and pay them at least $7,000 a year after expenses. My impression is that if people are working remotely, this is a good place to stretch an income, but which expats are actually making money from Nicaraguan-based businesses? The Black Cat Cafe, the bakery in Granada, others? Both of those depend heavily on an expat community.

People who move here as investors have to have circa $40K to invest, plus the money for getting here.

Rebecca Brown

Changes in 5 or 6 years

the biggest change is probably political. The Sandinistas have brilliantly reconsolidated their dictatorship. Although this presents no problems for foreign residents at this time, history seems to say that getting dictatorships is easier than getting rid of them. Since your time frame is 5 years, you have time to watch it develop and see if it is worth buying into somebody else`s problems.

Dispite the economic adjustments in the world, the Nicaraguan welfare state is comparatively booming. Nicaragua has managed so far to maintain it`s traditional sources of aid and trade with the democratic countries while expanding these things with the crackpot and neofascist states. Sales of food , etc., to Venezuela are a great boost to the economy. Brother Kadafy will be sorely missed, but their will always be other dictators to snuggle up to. Nicaragua`s move to locally produced electicity is quite interesting. Next they have to figure out how to keep a system solvent when the majority of customers are paying subsidized low rates that can`t possibly pay to maintain the system.

The cost of living has gone up quite a bit, especially in transportation and building materials. While the building codes here will let you live in an insect and vermin filled shack, you won`t find the bargains in housing that can be had so easily in the US.

The road system has been steadily improved in terms of paving more and more rural roads. Nice if you travel much, but more important for the economy and emergency services.

Shopping remains a sore spot. Defensive shopping, kinda of along the lines of defensive driving, helps but quality and convenience and ethics are in short supply. This might not sound like much. I, too, came here looking for some sort of minimalist existance free from the mindless consumerism that has taken over my home country. Problem is, that in setting up a household and in everyday life, you need to buy things. Learning to settle for second best, not because you like second best but because you dislike it less the third or fourth best, is a tough transition. Bit by bit, modern stores like Maxipali and Sinsa are coming in and will gradually push out the little shed stores that are such a blight on the community. Meanwhile, if you are a ``male-pattern shopper`` (Go, Buy, Leave) expect to squander at least 4 times as much time shopping and still come away unhappy.

When I was first here I had the pleasure to know the late Tony Rogers in Jinotega. He had a theory that swarms of low income Americans were going to come here and live well on low Social Security. I didn`t pay much attention to this theory, in part because my pension was more than Social security and at the time I had no idea of the high cost of living here. The real catch to this scenerio is boredom and quality of life. To live cheap, not suffocate in mud, and have goodies like internet, you have to live in an urban area where you have low quality of life. Being deaf and having no sensitivity to air polution would be big pluses. After you get over the Noble Savage mode, you find you have little in common with most of the local folks other than ``hows the weather treating you```chat and the people you have more in common with are busy working and have little time to pal around. To build Fortress America on your rural estate, plan on bringing the big bucks. So far, Tony, all we have is Rebecca! She seems to be doing fine, and her idea of digging in cheap in a department capital has merit, but I think it is more for the rugged Starving Artist type than the regular retiree. I know several missionaries who are similarly dug in and seem to be happy, but they have external motivations and church activities to use up their time.

One thing that didn`t that I didn`t think much of when I came here is the business opportunities. This especially applies to Esteli, which is bursting at the seams with money and no where to spend it, although i suspect it is the same in the other department capitals, too.

"You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality." Ayn Rand

Like Peeling an Onion

You guys keep exposing layer after layer to consider and mull over. Something to be said for living in a popular expat area with plenty of English speakers, but then costs usually go up.

Billy Bob and Rebecca, you probably know as much as any American living there so I'll present the plan I've been formulating and let you tell me where I'm going wrong. Anyone else feel free too. :)

After alot of reading here and in several guides and other forums I ran across info about San Marcos. Read that the American Catholic university Ave Maria has a branch in San Marcos and that all courses are taught in English. There are English only zones on campus where all discussions must be in English. And that Ave Maria is highly regarded in Nicaragua. So there are plenty of English speakers in San Marcos.

SC is said, due to Ave Maria, to have services and amenities that normally only a much larger town in Nicaragua would have. Plenty of cheap cafes, coffee houses, shops. It's also popular with well off Managuans. The weather is more moderate than Managua, appears tolerably warm to me. There's excellent transportation in express minivans to Managua, which has as noted here specialty shops as well as modern movie theaters like Cinemark, etc. Nearby to SC is Jinotepe which has a huge open air market as well as a fair selection of restaurants. One in particular is a pizza place owned by an Italian chef who brought a top notch pizza oven from Italy. I've seen reviews that are ecstatic about the quality.

So it appears to me San Marcos has a good quality of life with plenty of places to hang out and read a newspaper on an iPad, places to wander around and take in a vibrant culture(saw a YouTube video of the Jinotepe market, awesome!).

I'm guessing due to the university and well heeled residents and visitors that the Internet speeds are good, if not excellent there). That's important because I found a device called the Huappage Broadway that connects to a digital tv source like satellite tv and connects to an internet source resulting in being able to access your home tv from anywhere in the world with decent Internet. My sister will let me connect it to her satellite receiver and broadband. I'll pay her satellite bill for letting me. You can access your Broadway box with just about any computer and even an iPad or iPhone. The iPad has an accessory that'll let you show whatever is on the iPad on a bigger tv monitor.

I know, it's not the simple life but I figure I'll enjoy the experience more with good tv as well as a Kindle. Don't know about Fortress America but a little slice of America in my apartment will make the culture shock easier. And I've read San Marcos has plenty of rentals due to the school.

So, too optimistic? Good plan but....? Even better town to do pretty much the same thing?


Your information about San Marcos is somewhat correct except that there are not plenty of cheap cafes, coffee houses, shops, there are only 2 or 3 of them. There are not plenty of places to hang out and read a newspaper on an iPad, only a few of them, most of which are in public, and if you make a habit of flashing your ipod around in public, you will get eventually mugged for it.

There are not many of places to wander around and take in a vibrant culture. In fact, San Marco is pretty dead.

Good to Know

Thanks, what I was looking for. Read of a cafe with wi-fi that sounded good. Jinotepe is close, options there too? The vibrant culture part was referring to the large open air market in Jinotepe.

But what if everything you are reading is guide book crap?

And instead you read this story in today's La Prensa about a market in Jinotepe?

This isn't about the market by the way, its about getting yer ass down here and seeing the country for yourself.

All in Good Time

I'll be there eventually. Don't discount other's opinions in guidebooks. It's trite but every journey truly does start with the first step. Reading, asking on forums, etc. Xela, Guatemala has an expat population, primarily due to how cheap it is, especially for studying Spanish. Reading guides and forums got it ruled out for me due to the very heavy rain season with very cold temps at that altitude over 7000'. Would've wasted alot of time and money if I hadn't done the research first. Sorry, anal that way!

I have a philosophy about life

If you're a sensible and reasonable person, or at least on that side of the spectrum within a standard deviation, you can make life work reasonably well anywhere that's not in the middle of a war or major epidemic. You can make a happy marriage with any other sensible and reasonable person that you're half-way sexually attracted to.

People who are alway searching for a better, more perfect place or person, the words for them are not sensible and not reasonable.

The thing with guide books is they're trying to sell you on a fantasy of traveling in an exotic place.

The various pieces of advice I got were to make sure you could leave if you and the local microbes didn't come to terms in six months and have a reserve in case things don't work out or in case things you really need get stolen.

Nicaragua is about the size of Virginia. You can see two cities in a week, and a lot of the country in a month. All of Central America is smaller than the US east coast. Every country has places that are hot all year round and some places that are cooler. Guatemala has elevations that have had snow, but Guatemala also has low lands, too.

Rebecca Brown

Regarding Guatemala

While Guatemala has lowland jungle, most expats live at higher altitudes, namely Antigua, Panajachel/Lake Atitlan, and Quetzaltenango(Xela). Flores/Tikal in the Petan is popular to visit, but the region has had serious problems with Zeta cartel activity.

What I've focused on in every country I've researched is finding quality smaller towns that are near major cities. Finding great smaller towns isn't too hard, it's the large city that I'm not thrilled with. Antigua, Guatemala is as nice as they come but is expensive. That comes from guidebooks, forum posts, and discussions with people who actually live there. Not very impressed with Guatemala City. Same for Valle de Angeles, Honduras. Can't find much recommending Tegucigalpa. There are numerous nice towns and suburbs around San Jose, Costa Rica. But it costs too much. I like what I'm reading about San Marcos, and Managua will just have to do. Not looking for or expecting paradise. Just want something affordable, reasonably safe, decent weather, good scenery. And that's a tough combo to find.

Not My Experience

One of Capitalism's redeeming features is competition is good for the consumer. I've watched the quality of various guidebook series evolve and improve over the years. A good guide will give historical and cultural info, recommend bus lines, tell you what's the best time of year to visit, give lodging and restaurant info in various price ranges, tell you about festivals and religious observances, tell you where to get more info, and many other details. Take Peru. You've probably heard of the Nazca Lines. If I hadn't read a good guide to Peru I wouldn't have known that near the city of Ica, not far from Nazca, are the world's largest sand dunes where sandboarding is popular. I would've assumed that the Peruvian coast at sea level would be hot as it's not far from the Equator. Reading that guide I found that the Humboldt Current brings cold water from Antartica and greatly moderates the coast. Thus Trujillo at sea level has as mild a climate as Arequipa at 7800'. And this guide was very descriptive of ugly towns and dangerous areas that it recommended to avoid. And these guides give info about needed visas and required immunizations. In other words the better guide series are very comprehensive in their approach to travel. They have to be as they're competing against many others.

And now there's Wikipedia and YouTube

Have you actually ever been to any of these places?

Most of the books are sold to or read by people who will never visit the countries they're reading about. I've read three times the guide books compared to my actual travels. I've read about more places than I've visited in Nicaragua, so I do understand the charm of reading about places and thinking, "Oh, yeah, someday, I'm going to take the ferry from Granada to the start of the San Juan River and take a boat from there down to the Caribbean, with a stop at Indio-Maiz for the birds."

The guide book is merely an entry into the reality of a place, and two people can visit the same place even at the same time, and have different reactions to it, and the place to them.

A friend of mine went in Guatemala where the guidebooks warned that she shouldn't go. She went and had a wonderful time.

Wikipedia is probably where most of the guidebooks get their information these days, and it's certainly where I turn for generic information about places.

Rebecca Brown

Are You Saying...

...that most anything positive found in a guidebook is just hype to sell books? Interesting perspective. Take what I said about Trujillo, Peru. Fantastic climate at sea level. That's not hype, check out weather websites. Nearby Huanchaco has a record low of 52 degrees F and highs throughout the year in the 60's and 70's. Nicaragua isn't like everywhere else, only poorer. It and other countries have their unique and interesting places. And yes what one might find fascinating another might find boring. It's all part of doing research and many of the people I've talked to over the years actually lived in those places and were just as knowledgeable as you. Some only want to talk about their favorite place, some are interested in the country they live in, and some have traveled widely throughout Latin America before settling in their town. Takes all kinds and I've learned alot talking to all of them. And after all that I'm still interested in Nicaragua!

Nicaragua's major difference from the rest of CA is they're

...tricksters who got the US to go away and who then waited for 17 years before putting back in power the party the majority wanted in power. First presidential election, they were cautious; this last one, they just flat out voted 63% for the FSLN. Yeah, it's not like any other country in CA.

My Jinotega is not the Jinotega you'd live in. I would say that 100% of the North Americans, including me, were shocked by its appearance when we first saw it. How you do or don't wrap your mind around that reality is going to depend on a range of things -- your prior experience with poor parts of the US, your tolerance for being better off than most of the people around you (if that's the case), and whether or not you believe that people could just fix it up if they wanted to.

I know someone who hates Jinotega only he hates other places even more.

If you want Mayan ruins, Nicaragua has one foundation somewhere that might be Mayan. Putting that into the mix means living here is like living in Tennessee because you like the beach, which is only one state away, after all, more or less. Better to live in North Carolina or Georgia where you can actually get to the beach easier if the beach is really important to you. What's the weighted importance of that?

My impression is that people who can't afford at least a week visiting before moving probably can't really afford to move to another country (fees for residence or the out of country trips necessary for extended tourism, cost of getting stuff here or cost of buying household supplies and furniture here).

Rebecca Brown

But Rebecca... are making assumptions and basing views on past experience. Take Guatemala. Nowhere did I say stay out of the lowlands, they're too dangerous. I said the vast majority of expats live in the highlands. I did say there's cartel activity in the Peten, such as 70 something people getting slaughtered on a ranch, not far from the single biggest Mayan site, Tikal. It's still popular to visit. Sailors still spend time on the Rio Dulce in spite of a number of them being murdered on their boats. There's a very popular backpacker hangout, Finca Izobel(spelling?) near Poptun who's founder was murdered in the early 90's by the Guatemalan military(in all the guidebooks). But most expats live where the climate and scenery are world class. Antigua is an internationally known place for studying Spanish, and has many upscale restaurants and lodging. Xela also has many Spanish schools and is considered the budget alternative to Antigua. It also has a mall and a 5 screen multiplex. Go over to Chiapas, the poorest state in Mexico, and you still have amazing towns like San Cristobal de las Casas and Comitan. SC also has a multiplex and Walmart and is 40 miles from Tuxtla Gutierrez with a good airport, malls, multiple multiplexes, even a well regarded zoo. In other words Latin America, especially Mexico, Chile, Colombia, and Brazil, hasn't stood still but has developed nicely. It's not hype but well documented fact. I work full-time. When I get vacation I use it to visit family. And wherever I end up having affordable access to the States will be necessary for me. Thus it's not a matter of not being able to afford a visit. I will certainly check it out beforehand. But I like to ask questions so that I go in with eyes open, having some idea of what to expect. Maybe that's why so many choose Granada in spite of the heat. Appears to have, besides being a great looking town, the goods and services many want.

Eventually, you move somewhere

...and you'll find that it has warts and problems and amenities the guide books don't know about, and people the guide books didn't tell you about (the geek kids, the FSLN people who are from educated families, the people who used to live in South Carolina and who now run USA Articulos, the color printers who do world-class work, and all that). Why a place works for you or not depends a lot on you, not the place.

The climate here is great, except when it's not. I happen to like the scenery here well enough, but there are other places as beautiful and some places that are fantastically more beautiful (I'd like to visit the 18,000 ft volcano I saw from the airplane going back to the US once). Unless you're an avid hiker, the most fantastic scenery becomes a backdrop to your life with other humans.

I think expatriates tend to sort, more or less, along two poles. One is the people who want to live around other English-speakers, who want English language bookstores, who want malls and multiplexes, who want to be able to drive a car. The other is the people who want to learn the new country, who want to learn to cook with the new food, who have as a goal speaking the language fluently, reading the local books in the local language, learning to play the local music, and having local friends, a local spouse.

Probably very few people are pure examples of either. I'm on the assimilationist end of the spectrum, but I also like to go to Metro Center from time to time (I also like the scenery between Jinotega and Managua, so the trip isn't a pain).

If what you want is a place where you can spend most of your life talking English to other expats and the few bilingual Nicaraguans, eating out, and going to the movies, then more places in Mexico have this than places here (Managua has neighborhoods that are world-class, but the people living in them tend to be Nicaraguans with money). Basically, it sounds like that's what you want. Or at least what you talk about the most.

Most towns in Nicaragua now will have net access, and the postal system has yet to bolox up a camera gear shipment for me. I don't eat out that often except for breakfast maybe once a week or two. My entertainment is my computer, my camera, and my Kindle.

You need to sort what's second in importance to having reasonably fast access to the US.

One day, you're talking about marrying someone and having a family, which sounds like you're planning to marry a Nicaraguan woman and live in a Spanish speaking family. Another day, it's all about having malls, multiple movie theatres, and restaurants. As fond as I am of a couple of places in Jinotega, none of them are world-class restaurants.

Many of these things aren't mutually exclusive, but a small town near a department capital or one of the smaller department capitals isn't like living in the Managua suburbs (hills 20 minutes from the city) or within walking distance of Granada (Laguna Apoyo and the small towns on the rim, maybe a long walk). If I personally could stand the heat, I'd probably look at Sebaco, but then I rather like country market towns.

Some of this feels like you haven't really sorted out what you want, other than easy access to the US. What I or anyone else thinks about what you want is irrelevant, but I think people can give you better advice if you know better what is and isn't important to you.

Rebecca Brown

My First Priority... to escape my job. Thought I had in '97. I'm a FedEx courier, went 4.5 years without a raise in the mid-90's. Quit and bought a pickup to tow travel trailers. Delivered them all over the country and Canada, 107,000 miles in 7 months, found out why there was so much turnover doing that, didn't pay enough. Had alot of fun though. Moved in with my mom in Florida, found out FedEx had come up with substantial raises a year after I had quit and local station was hiring. Told me I'd top out in 7 to 8 years, turned out not true, 13.5 years since rehired and work next to topped out guys making $9k a year more with no hope of ever catching them. Our CEO made sure through passing out millions to Congressmen that we'll never unionize like UPS. I put up with it all because we had a traditional pension that would at least insure a better life overseas. Pension plan terminated in 2008. Bottom fell out of the economy and I developed diabetes. Then plugged up artery in 2011. So no jobs to move onto, health will keep me from moving on anyways. I had already planned to live overseas, but now with a much smaller pension have to be realistic about what I can afford. My job is literally killing me, so the sooner the better. So after alot of reading, alot of talking to people who live in or have lived in places, I'm taking a serious look at Nicaragua. What Billy Bob and Fyl have said about living cheaply works for me. I'm not a drinker, not against it, just don't drink alcohol much. So don't need several hundred dollars a month to party. Poor conditions don't bother me, have seen them in Mexico and on Indian reservations. Have never lived very fancy myself. I do like going to the movies and it's something I'd like to continue to do. Oaxaca has an English lending library and an excellent English bookstore. A must for me until the advent of e-readers. As far as getting married, I realize in the States in my 50's it's unlikely I'll meet anyone young enough to have kids who'll find me appealing. I'd like to have a family and I'd like to marry someone who speaks English. Most likely I will settle into a place I like very much, and when the time comes I'll go to the Philippines for awhile to find a nice English speaking young wife, bring her to wherever I'm living. If I should happen to meet someone in Nicaragua first that would be great. I'm looking at 4 or 5 years from when I arrive to leaving to find a wife in the Phils. If I had a better pension and better pay I would've left the States for the Phils at 52, but being considerably poorer I'll have to wait until I'm nearer to Social Security age. And as far as my job goes, worked very hard, best numbers of anyone in places I worked for them, and yet they don't reward hard work. At some point you just get tired of being taken advantage of. My quality of life will go way up the day I leave.

I guess that explains why...

Why you wanted to be near the young English speaking ladies from Ave Maria!

Don't forget your club, just in case she doesn't want to move into your cave!!

I've Been Found Out...

LOL!! :)

I disagree...

With all due respect, the guide book information will make Granada sound attractive and tell you where to go and what to do when on VACATION.

It will not base that information on you needing a new widget, shipping a computer part, barrio to barrio crime, community information, consumer price comparisons on rice and beans, where to get good migracion services, roads, access, internet speed and on and on.

What are the stats on ex pats living in Granada versus anywhere else in Nicaragua? From memory, and if this site is a good guide, there are no more members living in Granada than there are any other locations.

For my money, a nice barrio in Managua would give living in Granada a good run for its money, if as you say its "goods and services" they want.

On the other hand, some folk are in Granada for the goods and services THEY want; like the gay massage hotels, the whores & rent boys in the park, general under age sex, cheap drugs etc. etc. Not that those thing are specific to Granada but it did and may still have a bad name for that. Its getting cleaned up and the last guy getting busted scared a few sex tourists away but these are all non guide book facts of life.

But Who Said...

...that travel guides would give you that info? I read guides to find out where the most popular places are, because believe it or not some places are more popular than others and their popularity often leads to better amenities. No one disputes Managua would have more infrastructure. It's much larger. But when you are talking about what might attract retirees to Nicaragua you'd have to go with what they're being told in guides and magazine articles about San Juan del Sur and Granada. If they do their homework they'll read about Leon and Esteli. If they're really serious they'll find their way to this and other forums and talk to people like you and realize that Nicaragua isn't just like the States, only cheaper, and that there are many more options than SJdS and Granada. But don't discount the value of travel guides. For many people learning about another country starts with a trip to Barnes & Noble. Have to start somewhere. And the idea that most guides are written by referring to Wikipedia is ludicrous.

I must have missed that in this War & Peace thread...

The Wikipedia comment?

But I have met many of the writers and one time when I was staying at a certain hostel, the owner was at the beach and left me "in charge" I did get them into the Editors choice for the next edition under hostels...

Frommers is upfront about being revised by readers

The Moon Guide people do appear to have visited the places. Lonely Planet, not so much. Wikipedia on Jinotega is actually more accurate.

Rebecca Brown

I like the Moon guide better than the Lonely Planet Guide

Reading books like those give you an idea of the country, but it's also partial and based on how good or not an observer the guide book writers were.

Neither LP or Moon's warns about the dodgy neighborhoods in Jinotega, but I understand that yet another book does.

Rebecca Brown

Very true

I first moved to Costa Rica. Two years later I moved to Nicaragua. I could afford to live in Costa Rica, finding things I wanted was a lot easier (partly because of where I lived) and, in general, I found it a really pretty country with a lot of diversity. What I did not like were the Ticos, the people who lived there. For those who have lived there, I am sure they will understand. For those who haven't but care, I highly recommend The Ticos: Culture and Social Change in Costa Rica

So, I moved to Nicaragua. It has many of the same disadvantages (like being controlled by lines), similar climate options from too hot to almost too cold and, ultimately about the same level of infrastructure (which many will disagree with unless they have lived in both places). But, here, I actually like the people and I am not alone in that opinion.

I Lived Cheap in the US, too

It's just time/money, with my interest more on the time than the money, though I did the money thing for a couple of years before heading here.

Honestly, I don't think many poorer Americans who aren't arts types or aging New Leftists are likely to be coming here, and they're not the poorest of Americans, who are going to move in with their kids or go on welfare in the US.

Rebecca Brown

Why Nicaragua

I hope you don't mind, but what was the motivation that led you to Nicaragua?


I have multiple health problems with heat and UV. 850 meters is decent, although higher would be better. Low cost was another factor, but I have found you get what you pay for. Nic. can be cheap, but not a bargain.

As far as your comments about the mountains south of Managua, I am not familiar with the area but I suspect it would be nicer than most for the reasons you state. It was not on my list because it is on the line of volcanos. Go visit-- I think most people will find most things in Nic more primitive than they expected, but occassionally you get a surprize. My wife and the neighbor lady have found a cutesy Starbucks knockoff in downtown Esteli with wifi etc. Too pricey for regular use, and located in urban grunge, but a pleasant treat for every once and a while.

Met a guy a while back. He was coming to the budget hotel I was staying at to use the book exchange to find reading material in english. He said he had been here 7 years. He led a minimalist lifestyle, road a bicycle, and mentioned that of all his material possessions had been lost , stolen, or given away. He seemed to be a happy camper as long as he had nice weather, a check from the first world, and things to read.

Met another FWF (My term--first world foreigner. Since we all speak English and have similar class and educational backgrounds, sometimes its hard to put a nationality on people) in cab in Esteli I asked her what she thought of the town. I was somewhat surprized at her bluntness--``dirty, ugly, and not at all what I had expected``. another victem of Sandalista guidebooks?

Check out your college town--culture and intellect sometimes also come with sex, drugs, and rock and roll.

Leon is probably the cultural center of NIc., but then culture comes in different flavors like Marxist, Catholic, scientific, etc., and it is in Spanish. Reminds me of another friend I had years ago. She had studied in southern South America and was quite happy with the culture. Later she married an educated gentleman from the Carribbean Basin. She was visably shaken when she went to visit his country and they decided to live in the States!

"You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality." Ayn Rand

They're such great trolls

No, seriously, they're a foreign country I could afford. I'd looked into Mexico and Guatemala decades earlier (in my twenties) and Nicaragua seemed reasonable. I came down for a week's visit, came back and after five months, went back to the US and sold my car.

I also like the politics here. They tend to make sense considering, and it's fun watching USAnos spin and spit over them (which is kinda the indigenous/mestizo trolling side of Nicaragua from El Gueguense on.

Rebecca Brown

Phil seems to have omitted references to middle class Nicas

$600 a month puts a gringo without connections in the lower middle class of any city. $1200 a month is middle class in any city other than possibly Managua. While half the population is very poor; half the population isn't. For expats who actually want to have a life among Nicaraguans, the middle class and lower middle class parts of towns can be more comfortable and I, at least, have more in common with those people. Nostalgia for mud and sturdy peasantry only goes so far and so long for most of us.

Until you're fairly fluent in Spanish, many monolingual Nicaraguans will consider you to be somewhat stupid in the same way that people in the US do about people who don't speak fluent English. They're just nicer about it. Some Nicaraguans tend to be complimentary if they can make out what you're trying to say (I was told yesterday that I have a good accent). I get the impression sometimes that people are resisting an urge to pat me on the head and call me una vieja bonita or something.

Rebecca Brown

Better Brush Up...

...on my Spanish. For me personally I've lived in a travel trailer in RV parks the last 11 years. I currently have a pickup but years ago I did without a vehicle, walking, riding a bike, and for a year in Seattle riding the bus. I have the opportunity to transfer to a small, affordable town in Colorado and if I get it will be getting rid of the truck. One last push to get some savings together before heading south. I like very much being able to build a small house for little in Nicaragua. Will pay for itself in the long run. And being just another crazy gringo in my opinion frees me from any obligation to keep up with the Jones'. I'm not fanatical about it, want to take in a movie now and then and have good Internet. Just don't need the lifestyle $3000 a month affords. Walking is healthy, public transport is fine. Glad to hear Nicaraguans have opportunities to move up the scale if that's what they want. Too much poverty leads to anger and instability.


1 Manzana = 1.74 Acres

1 Acre = 4,047 Square Meters AND 43,560 Square Feet AND 5,758 Square Varas

1 Manzana = 7,026 Square Meters AND 75,950 Square Feet AND 10,000 Square Varas

1 Hectare = 10,000 Square Meters AND 107,600 Square Feet AND 14,233 Square Varas

1 Square Meter = 10.76 Square Feet

1 Square Meter = 1.423 Square Varas

1 Square Vara = 7.595 Square Feet


(An old Del Sur News article from 2006)

A manzana, (also the Spanish word for apple) is a typical and traditional unit of land measurement in Central America. It is an area measuring100 x 100 varas (10,000), a vara meaning rod or pole. The popular use of the word manzana as a unit of measurement most likely comes from the term manzaner which means orchard.

That sounds simple enough. So how big is a vara? There are many different lengths of varas ranging from the shorter Spanish vara at 32.908 inches, a generally accepted Latin American vara at 33 inches, an older Texas vara at 33 and one-third inches and a South American at 34 inches.

Buying land? If a person from Portugal used his stick or pole to measure your 100 x 100 varas, you’re in luck. Portugal tops the vara league at a whopping 43.3 inches!


for the breakdown..i never new what the differences were


Helps alot, thanks!