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Why One Expat Calls a Cloud Forest Home in Nicaragua

Article Summary:

Jinotega is located high in the mountains of Nicaragua; known as the City of Mists, it is home to many expats, and was one of three top choices for NicaLiving Blogger, Oncidiumfan as he began his search for the perfect spot for a new life in Nicaragua.

Photo Credit: NicaLiving

Original Article Text From Nica Living:

Why I picked Jinotega

I thought I’d talked about this earlier, but I get people asking me to talk to them about Jinotega from time to time. The short list for me were Matagalpa, Esteli, and Jinotega for the mountains and the weather. The other requirement was that the place would have enough expats that I would be able to have an English speaking social life without having to get along with all of them, and not so many that I would not be pushed to learn Spanish. Jinotega has been about right for the some expats but not too many. I’m friends with people who don’t either have utterly sentimental dreams of saving some criminal Nicaraguan nor do they think they’re superior to the Nicaraguan in some way.

I wanted a place where people weren’t too jaded about having retirees around yet (eventually the retiree community only talks to itself and everyone else would like the retiree community to get over itself or just die).

The neighborhood turned out to be better than I’d realized — and I’m a neighbor (which doesn’t mean I like everyone here, but which means I try to hold up my end of the little exchanges of regalos and being part of the neighborhood when someone dies. One of my neighbors is another expat — and he gets included in, too.

And things change — my favorite neighborhood computer store has closed and moved out near Supermercado Guadelupe, a building is going up across the street that an American who knows construction and the Nicaraguan building code thought was a bit light on the rebar, and I’m still here, but I go to Matagalpa from time to time, which is Jinotega’s bigger sister city and where many people go shopping. More expats there, more tourists, more stuff to spend money on that I don’t really need.

Jinotega is part of the Appalachia of Nicaragua. Friends who had me over for dinner on Sunday and I compared notes — both places have illegal distilling in the mountains and the liquor can be quite dangerous to drink. Agriculture is still a huge part of life here and even people who aren’t farming tend to follow it and have some interest in it. The other discussion Sunday was about what fruit Americans grow where, and how to cook yuca and malaga, and who besides hippies eat lentils and brown rice (my addition to the dinner). The town is where everyone comes to do court business, get dental or medical work done, and buy fertilizer and farming equipment, and sell the things they’ve grown. There are things I don’t like about that sort of city, but it’s a familiar thing.

Esteli has more in the way of places to take music lessons, more museums, more bookstores, but felt like it had more crime or at least fear of crime; Matagalpa has better restaurants, some more sophisticated shops, and is generally bigger, probably about the same on ease of meeting people who live there because it has more expats, it also has more Nicaraguan residents. I would spend more money there if I weren’t very careful. Esteli seems to be also friendly enough to people who want to make an effort to speak Spanish.

Here also has the mood of a place that’s went through a civil war — and I’m not the only person to feel that people were still recovering from that. In conversations with people who were there, I try to let them tell me what they want to and try not to pry. Some of them were just running from the war; some of them were in it; some of them lost children. I get the impression that people in this culture might hold grudges for less than four generations, though. Some things are the same as the US’s Appalachian areas; some things are very different.

When I was south of Managua, things did look very much more prosperous, but still with the mix of horses and ox carts in the middle of traffic in Masaya.

The other thing is that as people learn English, which they’re doing more and more here, the more the cultures merge at least at the popular culture edges. My Nicaraguan friends are likely to know American filmmaking; many of my NYC friends knew some of the Latin American poets and writers, not always only in English. Some of the kids feel like they’re expatriated in their own country.

The other thing was that I wasn’t going to let staying here or not be a challenge or a test — people sometimes don’t want to admit they didn’t fit in or that they couldn’t make it work, or this isn’t a culture or place that makes them happy. I kept my car in the US until after I got my cedula, then flew back to the US to sell it. I would like it to stop raining (I’m sitting in the house in wool pants and a sweater) and if it got up to 75, I wouldn’t complain.

I still look at the mountains that surround the town, but not every morning. My pleasure in place is either that it’s exotic (the mountains around Boulder, the Tall Grass Prairie National Park, the Arizona desert, the Sierra foothills) or it’s as familiar as my skin. Jinotega is somewhat familiar (mountains) and somewhat not (mountains are craggier and the plants are different). Novelty faded, but certain places stay deeply important to me: New York City from the Hudson to the Far Rockaways, the mountains in SW Virginia, the north Georgia/Sw NC mountains where we used to go ice skating in the winter, certain beaches in the Carolinas. Here — I’ll have to see, but I’m still happy with this high valley surrounded by higher hills, this small city.

Link to Original Article:

From Nica Living

  • Teez in Mex

    curious about storage of personal items while traveling about…security and costs

  • Teez in Mex

    preferably in Esteli, Matgalpa or somewhere closer to Rama that is secure!

  • Rebecca Ore

    Him? This is kinda funny. I was OncidiumFan on Nica Living. I live in town, not in the rain forest, and I’m still living in Jinotega.

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