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Living Abroad in Nicaragua

Welcome to Nicaragua

© Randall Wood and Joshua Berman, from Moon Living Abroad in Nicaragua. Used by permission of the author(s) and Avalon Travel Publishing. All rights reserved. For more info please visit Moon's website, Moon.com, and GotoNicaragua.com, a site created by Wood and Berman for fellow Nicaphiles to come together, plan their trips, and ask questions.

Forget everything you thought you knew about Nicaragua. As this nation’s turbulent history fades even farther into the past, the unique, offbeat allure of Central America’s largest and least-visited nation has caught the world’s attention once again  — this time for more appealing, positive reasons than the specter of civil conflict. Nicaragua is a place where, even in the 21st century, time clicks by a bit more slowly than you may be used to; where the sun is warm, the breeze blows year-round, and where the basic things in life  — like family, friends, and time to sit out under clear, starry skies  — are more important than normal North American concerns like office politics, mortgage payments, and credit card bills.

Nicaragua is an illumined land of sandy shores, cloudy forests, volcanic peaks, and a vibrant people who take life one day at a time. Nicas (as they call themselves) enjoy each other’s company in a way the “developed” world seems to have forgotten, and if you find their enthusiasm contagious, you are not alone. Recently, while seated among an eclectic gathering of Nicaraguan artists, Dutch hikers, British language instructors, and Colombian agronomists, an American friend remarked, “ Nicaragua has such an incredible ability to bring people together.” Twenty-five years ago, such a group probably would have been gathered in this Matagalpa restaurant in solidarity with the revolutionary government; today, their reasons are infinitely more personal as they pursue dreams as different as the paths that led them here. Yet, these extranjeros (foreigners) have one thing in common: They have discovered that living in Nicaragua is safer than it is in most American or European cities  — that it is exceedingly affordable, constantly inspiring, and an adventure unto itself.

Whether you discover Nicaragua in the context of a semester program, building brigade, or community service trip; as a researcher, economist, or entrepreneur; whether you come to work, explore, set down roots, or retire, Nicaragua has something to offer you. This country’s astonishing beauty begins with its broad diversity in geography and ecology  — volcanoes, mangrove swamps, rich agricultural fields, and Caribbean pine forests — and continues with its charismatic architecture; from rustic, red-tiled villages and stately colonial-era towns to parks, plazas, and cathedrals that will keep you reaching for your camera. Most important are the six million Nicaraguans themselves, a rousing and vivacious people who have lived through difficult times and, despite past and current differences (including an enormous gulf between rich and poor), are fiercely proud of their common Nicaraguan heritage.

Foreigners who make even the slightest effort to communicate will find most Nicas to be fun-loving and eager hosts  — quick with a smile, a joke, and a hot cup of coffee. They love to laugh, to give each other nicknames (you’ll get yours, too; just wait), and to argue about sports and politics. Many Nicaraguans have family overseas, particularly in Miami, Houston, and Los Angeles, and have a more well-informed opinion of the United States than you may expect. And though they are aware of  — and sometimes aspire to  — some aspects of North American culture, most Nicaraguans have not forgotten what is important in life: that you work in order to live and not the other way around, that children and the elderly are to be nurtured and kept close, not dropped off in day-care centers and put into old folks’ homes, and that who you are and how you behave is more important than what you own or where you work. Above all, Nicaraguans’ intense history has taught them that life is short and should be lived fully, among family and friends.

We have both experienced this sentiment in personal ways; Nicaragua has changed us. Never mind the adventures, the great stories, and the albums of brightly colored photographs; seeing the world through another culture that has suffered mightily but retains the resilience, the strength of spirit, and the proud sense of self to build and grow is a life-changing experience. We both admire the Nicaraguan people and the way they see the world. After a couple of years in Nicaragua, life “back home” seemed immeasurably altered  — things that were once important to us were no longer a priority, and other things we thought little of became more important.

We encourage you to pack the essentials for your journey: patience, a sense of humor, an unhurried spirit, and the willingness to experience things that are new to you. We encourage you to keep an open mind, live with curiosity and compassion, and be willing to accept what you cannot change. Whether you make Nicaragua your next home or not, you will return with far more than you left with, and probably will look at the world differently as a consequence.

We both balance lives spent sometimes in Nicaragua and sometimes elsewhere, but we never fail to return to Nicaragua with a sense of coming home. If this book does no more than share with you the pride and solidarity we feel with the Nicaraguan people, we have succeeded. But we hope to do much more. We hope this book will help you determine if this country is right for you. And if it is, it can give you the information you need to cut through the red tape, set up your life, and buy or rent a home or apartment that matches what you’re looking for.

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