Tourist Anomalies When Adjusting To Life In Central America
What constitutes regular life for the locals between Mexico and Panama does not always come across as normal to visiting tourists and expats. Sometimes you have to read between the cultural lines to realize that the oddity you are experiencing might not be so strange to the other people around you. If you find yourself immersed in the culture of Latin American life, don’t forget to embrace the many ridiculous and trivial ‘problems’ you might encounter.
Here are a few of my laughable experiences from three years of living and traveling in Central America:
*[All photos by the author unless stated]
~ Never really knowing when you're buying oranges or limes ~
The oranges are on the left and the limes are on the right - and yes, they might taste the same.
~Having to stop in the middle of the highway for Banana Crossing~
Roadtrips in Panama can be bananas, especially when you have to stop for hundreds of them to cross the highway.
~ Never setting an alarm clock because the roosters or howler monkeys will already have you awake by 5am ~
Howler monkeys sound utterly terrifying and 10x their size. Imagine the sounds of a hyena battling a T-Rex inside a blender on high speed. That's your new wake up call in paradise. [Photo from www.strangesounds.org]
~ Instead of paving the streets, the city saves money by dousing the gravel roads in molasses ~
In Tamarindo, Costa Rica, the molasses truck sprays the backroads. It smells nice but you'll quickly lose your sandals.
~ Erupting volcanos (shooting ash into the sky and over the city) becomes a regular weather forecast ~
Volcanic ash from Volcan de Fuego after it blankets Antigua in Guatemala. There are even some bars in town that have daily drink specials for when the volcano is erupting.
~ Bugs are simply bigger and more badass in Central America ~
Spiders, moths, cockroaches - or even this crazy ninja warrior looking grasshopper in Puerto Viejo - all prove that nothing makes insects like the jungle.
~Eating gallo pinto (rice and beans) for breakfast, lunch & dinner ~
A typical Nicaraguan desayuno or breakfast, always complete with gallo pinto. You learn to love the Central American staple, even when you eat it with every local meal.
~ Taxis will honk: when they're available, occupied, turning a corner, slamming on the brakes, saying hello to a friend, mad at another driver, see a pretty chica, honking to the music or simply sitting idle in traffic ~
A taxi cab in Panama City. The birthplace of the incessant car honking.
[Photo by Chris via www.panamaforreal.com]
~ Local shopkeepers preferring to not sell you anything because they don’t have change and don’t want to break your bills ~
The Costa Rican currency: colones. It's clearly the coolest currency in the world. Who needs a dead politician on a bill when you can have a shark, sloth or monkey! (...or is that the same thing?)
~ Being woken up from your daily siesta because the local fruit and vegetable guy drives by shouting Spanish gibberish of the produce he’s selling into a homemade loudspeaker strapped to the top of his truck ~
Every veggie and food truck announcer in Central America has their own ridiculous way to announce their presence and produce. In San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, it sounds like a monotoned spanish alien from Mars Attacks speaking one long word of fruit and veggies: "naranjapinazanahoriaguacatecebollatomatemelonmaracuya..."
~ Seeing intestine, tongue or brain on your dinner menu ~
A street grill in Sayulita, Mexico. Maybe it was better to not know what was in those tacos..."Brains, Welcome!"
~ The morning daily commutes can get pretty long and intense ~
Of course the long rides might be the exact reason why you moved to the pacific of Central America to begin with (or here at Playa Maderas, Nicaragua).
~ Whether it’s Island time, Tico Tiempo or things are running on the Caribbean Clock…you never really know how long anything will take in Central America ~
Apparently knowing the time in the Bus Terminal in San Jose, Costa Rica isn't that important anyway.
~ Getting reverse culture shock by going back home and freaking out that you can flush toilet paper ~
The toilet rules in Tranquilo Bar in Nicaragua's Corn Islands.
It is often the little differences that are the most amusing and make the biggest impact in proving you are no longer in your home country. Whether they are seen as laughable grievances, minor acculturation or First World problems in Third World countries, the contrasts you come across should always remind you to not take traveling for granted. And who really needs to know whether they are making orange juice or lemonade anyway?
*If you have traveled or lived in Central America and have a #CentralAmericaProblem to share, please comment what it is below. I'd love to hear your experience!