The country is tiny, and is divided into departments which are very similar to counties. Next week I will be visiting different municipal markets with a sales man, and I will get to see 3 new departments I think. The country is very split, with most of the people being on the Pacific coast where I am. The Atlantic coast is mostly indigenous people and just really small towns….there is hardly any road access there and to get all the way across the country to the ocean you would have to take a boat! Oh, and supposedly on the Atlantic side is where all the drugs and the gang activity are, at least the hard core stuff. Roger told us a bit about drugs in Nicaragua and Central America and lets just say I am thankful I am on this side of the country!
People here are just very poor (approximately $200 per month salary), with a ridiculously high unemployment rate. I had understood that it was 30-35%, but then I have also heard the number 60% thrown around as well. Roger was explaining yesterday that the problem with poverty isn’t just being poor, it is the fact that it is a cycle caused by ignorance. Education is the only way to break it, but it is just so complex. I have a really hard time really connecting in my mind that these shacks and the signs of poverty are the way that real people live, not just some made up commercial on tv. It makes me feel so spoiled about my life in the US, but even more so about my life of luxury here in Nicaragua…
Only 5% of people have a tv here, so obviously much less than that have a computer or Internet access. There are blackouts all the time, and everyone says it is the government…no one blinks an eye at work when the lights go out because it is so common. All of the plant equipment here is based on generator power because regular electricity is just too unreliable. I haven’t figured out how the energy is tied to the government yet. The government in the 80s that was in power and the US funded the war against them is back in power now, and it isn’t that great apparently. The country is only growing at about 2% per year. The government is also fairly corrupt. There are known illegal acts in business that companies get away with if they are connected to the government…crazy! People just accept this is as a way of life.
There isn’t a lot of infrastructure here. Everyone talks about how there is either nothing to do or no money to afford the activity, so drinking is an extremely popular sport here. Nicaragua is known as the country that drinks the most and curses the most, according to them. Apparently they are also very politically incorrect, also according to them. However, they also have a very open culture that is very neighborly and welcoming….my favorite thing about it!
Oh, everyone greets one another with a kiss on the cheek. Okay, lets just be frank, I tend to have a little Janette bubble that I only let people into on my own terms….fortunately Puerto Rico last year prepared me for the kissing. I am okay being kissed now, but I don’t kiss others on the cheek….you know those awkward hugs when you both lean your head to the same time? I have this terrible fear that will happen if I were to do the kiss greeting….oh my.
There is farming and agriculture EVERYWHERE, although much of it is just subsistent. I am really anxious to find out more though and to see some different types of farms.
Anyway, that is just a bit of background on the country….more to come as discovered...