Recently, a group of seven of us decided to go to Managua to see a movie. The only movie theater in Granada has been dark for more than a year, although there are rumors that it is being renovated. Several of my expat friends thought it would be fun to get out of town, have a nice lunch, go to a movie theater, and enjoy a recent offering from a choice at a multiplex in a shopping mall.
We met on a corner of the park and walked the half-block together to the express bus depot where we could be reasonably sure of all getting seats. The bus was about to leave so we piled on and found spots near the back and close to each other. The trip was uneventful, though at one point we thought our bus might be in a race to get there faster than some other bus, and the “air-conditioning” was provided by the breeze through the open windows. We got off the bus across the highway from the very modern shopping mall, and I’ll confess to a mild case of culture shock, coming from a highway shared by horses and carts, with cows wandering along its sides, then entering a sparkling, ultra-modern shopping center through an upscale department store providing chilly air conditioning.
We headed straight for a Japanese restaurant and ordered lunch. Another little bit of culture shock ensued as I read the menu: virtually every roll contained both the Nicaraguan version of cream cheese, and avocado!
My prior sushi-eating experiences in Vancouver, Canada (which has a large Japanese-Canadian community) led me to expect avocado in a “California roll” and cream cheese in a “Philadelphia roll” rather than in every available selection. Somewhat dismayed, I settled for Tekka Maki (tuna) and a couple of pieces of salmon sushi, and after a substantial wait our food arrived.
Hmmmm. The fish looked rather limp and wan, though it did not emit any alarming odors. It was edible, and filled the space available, but I was decidedly underwhelmed.
Our bill came with a tray of fortune cookies (!), and a handful of what appeared to be chocolate hard candy but turned out to have chewing gum on the inside.
Following our meal, we headed across to the movie theaters, where we split up, with the majority of us going to see “Mission: Impossible–Rogue Nation”. It’s not the kind of movie for which I’d lay out $11 in the U.S., but for $3.57, why not? It was fun, with the requisite number of impossible feats, the obligatory beautiful and fierce woman, enough plot twists to make me dizzy, and I probably pumped enough adrenaline to last the rest of my life!
After the movie, one of our group headed out on her own, and the consensus of the rest of us was that we would walk a couple of kilometers back along the highway towards Granada to visit a branch of Sinsa—the hardware store whose parent company is Ace Hardware and which looks, for all intents and purposes, like a Lowes or Home Depot.
Getting there was a hike—although the day was overcast and so a smidge cooler, it was still humid, and we were walking on an unpaved gravel verge, giant billboards looming overhead, with buses, trucks, cars, and 18-wheelers thundering past us constantly. I’d hate to see what my lungs looked like after that walk! Finally, we arrived and I rested comfortably in the garden section on some nice patio furniture while the do-it-yourselfers combed the aisles, unsuccessfully, as it turned out. When they were done, we headed back to the highway to catch a bus back to Granada. Eventually, an express bus arrived, packed to the gills with people, standing room only, and two of our group got on that one. We waited some more, and finally a Granada-bound and very full chicken bus pulled up. We piled on and hung on for dear life as it rattled and lurched down the highway. Eventually, I got lucky and was offered a seat, and after we passed Masaya, where a number of people got off, the others also found seats. While enjoying the rich, green scenery around us, I couldn’t help worry about the acrid, burning smell that seemed to be coming from the tires/brakes! When the others joined me in seats close by as we approached Granada, it was agreed that the driver was burning his brakes and I prayed that we would make it into Granada without mishap, which we did–whew! Only, this being a chicken bus, not an express, we arrived at a terminal close to the edge of town, so then off we hiked towards the center. By the time we got there we all felt that we deserved a beer and gratefully sank into chairs at a bar near the park to down a well-earned cold one. One of my companion’s step counting app. calculated that we had walked a total of around 5.79 km that day and I’m inclined to believe it was pretty accurate! That night I had a good dinner, and a dessert I felt I had honestly earned!
Postscript: There is actually good sushi in Nicaragua. I know second-hand that it can be found in Managua and, on the last night of this trip I went to Kanpai, in Granada, whose owner has lived in Japan, has Japanese chefs, and serves plump, juicy fish, crisp tempura (asparagus!) and rolls without cream cheese, except where it belongs, in a Philadelphia roll! I had a delicious meal!