Yesterday I thought, Great! I have a built-in post today because I had to go to Rivas to renew my visa. I’ll take pictures of the market, horse-drawn carts amidst traffic, street vendors, it’ll be great!
I went with a friend and we had a lovely day. So much so, I forgot to take a single picture!
But, since I’m a writer, not a photographer, let me tell you about it.
It’s about 45 minutes to Rivas from my house. I hire a driver because I don’t have a license and you do need one here, unlike Mexico when I lived there. One thing I love about living in a rural area in Central America is that going to town is an event. It feels like when I was a kid in the midwest and we went shopping for school clothes in the big town: Grinnell, or Rochester.
We headed out at 8 am with shopping bags, a cooler, car snacks, coffee, and the knowledge of every decent public bathroom from home to Rivas.
My friend climbed in the car and revealed that we would be traveling with the baby squirrel she had found the day before. It has to eat every couple of hours. Which sounded about right for most endeavors in Nicaragua, there’s usually a twist.
Nicaragua allows a 3-month visa only if you have been outside the country. You are allowed one 30-day extension to the 90-day visa. We showed up at the Rivas immigration office at 9 and there were six people waiting, probably about a 2-hour wait. I said, let’s hit the market and come back at one. Hopefully, the place will be empty by then.
Downtown Rivas is a terrible place to drive or park, another good argument for a driver. Most of Rivas market runs along the sidewalks making the streets one lane, with no parking because the parking strips are full of vendors.
I wanted to get some bulk cat food, peanuts, which I conveniently bought at the same store, and my vegetables. Rivas also has a plethora of thrift shops: panas, or ropas americanas.
My friend and I love to thrift and we had 3 hours to kill. Thrifting is pretty good in Central America, in most places clothes are well under 10$ per item, and occasionally you find something unique and cheap. Today we came across a huge bin full of fabulous material, curtains and sheets, tablecloths, Christmas tree skirts, and blankets.
I bought a caramel velvet curtain, a dark grey linen curtain, and a gorgeous green cotton woven tablecloth, for 50 cords a piece(less than a buck and a half). It’s hard to find natural fiber fabric in Nicaragua.
While I was digging the baby awakened and my friend bottle-fed him on the store’s stoop. It was kind of the theme of the day, fill out immigration requests while the baby squirrel nurses, wait for our carryout, nurse the baby. Wait for my bottles of bulk cleaning products to be filled, fill the baby squirrel. It was a lovely motif, relaxing, and endearing.
Time passed quickly, we had one hour before our return to immigration. Just enough for the fancy shopping, at La Colonial. It’s a grocery store. The gringo grocery. I bought dry beans that are not red. Red bean is THE bean in Nicaragua. I also bought wasabi, fancy crackers, whole wheat flour, and dark sesame oil. I was not able to buy, hot dogs, yes hot dogs, my mother loves them, or any decent cheese, unfortunately. Sometimes such luxury products require a trip to Managua, it’s a three-hour trip. One way.
I was right about immigration, we returned at one, and I was the only one applying for an extension. My friend, sat in the office chair feeding her baby and chatting with the immigration officer, she’s more outgoing than I am, and Spanish, so her Spanish is pretty good.
She’s particularly charming with a baby squirrel in her bag. The officer didn’t have any time to quiz me about why I have lived in Nicaragua so long with no residency, which was a bonus.
Let’s see what Nica ex-pat advice we can glean from this article.
- Don’t go to the immigration office first thing in the morning.
- If you want some nice natural fiber material, it’s a good idea to look in a thrift shop for curtains and tablecloths.
- Do as much of your shopping in the market as possible, it’s cheaper and supports local business.
- Don’t expect to get everything on your gringo list, even if you’ve purchased it before.
- Don’t drive without a license. Seems like a no-brainer, but there are many roadblocks, the purpose is to make money on fines. It’s easier to drive without a license in the U.S.
- Don’t worry if you need to take a baby animal with you, everyone will be charmed.
It was reassuring to me that I haven’t become obsessed with documenting my life for the sake of my blog. I have felt not present, and intrusive in the past taking photos for VSVEVG. I had a lovely day, I hope I was able to share it with you well enough that you are still reading.
Next month I have to go to Costa Rica for a visa run, maybe I´ll take some pictures…