“I’m not afraid of death…I’m afraid of time.”
Interstellar is one of my favorite movies of the last five years. Christopher Nolan’s tour-de-force of wibbly-wobbly, spacey-timey exploration is riddled with powerful quips such as the one above. The film provokes thoughts of our own mortality and the entropy that our world faces. Moreover, it challenges our perception of time, often profoundly.
“Time is relative. It can stretch and it can squeeze, but… it can’t run backwards. Just can’t.”
In the final stages of my yearlong solo-travel escapade, I find I’m constantly wondering where all the time went. How it went by so fast. How it feels like just yesterday I was throwing my backpack over my shoulders for the first time, leaving for Iceland on a spring afternoon 10 months ago. Indeed, time is something I grapple with incessantly these days.
And so I type this to you, benevolent reader, feeling a bit like the expression Matthew McConaughey always seems to have plastered on his face in Interstellar. Confident and in command, yet terrified and uncertain. Excited to be beginning another adventure, but afraid. Mostly of time.
In Nicaragua, “Nica Time” refers to time’s fluidity in this corner of the world. As in most of Central America, it is important to think of Nica Time in relative terms – much like in Interstellar. It is something abstract, bendable, never fixed. If something is scheduled for a given time, there’s a good chance things don’t get going for at least 20 minutes.
Nica Time. It promotes relaxation, chill vibes, and taking your time, which I can totally get behind.
And yet time was not something I could afford to waste. Since arriving in Managua 8 days ago I have moved constantly and spent time in 4 cities. Not really aligning with the vibes of Nica time. But I need to get north to San Pedro Sula, Honduras, by Saturday (I start that journey tomorrow). So a week ago I set off with some urgency to see, listen, and learn as much as possible about beautiful Nicaragua.
The rain cleared up in the early evening for my lone day in Managua, so after finishing up my writing I set off on a stroll down Avenida Bolivar. There I see several “Trees of Life”towering over the hectic highway. These 17 meter tall, multicolor, metal, treelike structures were a project spearheaded by Nicaraguan first lady Rosario Murillo. Meant to inspire and boost morale, the trees seem to only have further stoked distaste for the government (per the conversations I’ve had).
Numbering 134 in total, costing about $20,000 a piece, plus an additional $1.1 million in yearly electricity bills, the trees are a questionable use of government funds to say the least. In a country that is wrought with poverty, one wonders if the money would not be better used elsewhere. My taxi driver from the airport scoffs at the trees and even points out that the branches look like the symbol of the devil, 666.
I would eventually learn much more about Murillo and her husband, President Daniel Ortega.
That evening darkness fell before I could explore too much, so I retreated back to my hostel as the trees lit up the night.
The next day I again stroll out to Avenida Bolivar and flag down a chicken bus bound for Granada. Chicken buses are a staple of transit in Nicaragua and elsewhere in Central America. They are actually old school buses driven down from the United States, painted, and recommissioned to provide cheap, and crammed, travel in between city centers.
As I sit there with my hulking bag pinning me uncomfortably between seats, I wonder if some of the old school buses I used to take are somewhere in Central America, cruising around, blasting jaunty Hispano radio tunes.
I travel for a little over an hour to Granada for just $1.
Situated on Lake Nicaragua, Granada was settled in 1524 by Spanish colonists, making it ostensibly the first European city in mainland America. I only had 24 hours there as well, but it’s a small city and very walkable. So I pulled up my bootstraps and did some frantic walking, taking in all the beautiful Andalusian architecture and colorful buildings.
Above, Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción overlooking the central park of Granada. Below, the view from the top of the bell tower.
Granada is lovely. One of the most walkable cities I’ve ever been to. Every corner presents a new street of colorful homes and shops, markets and green areas.
Unfortunately due to my limited time I barely get to digest it. Moreover, I didn’t even spend much time in my hostel meeting other travelers, or striking up conversations with locals on the streets. Granada seemed like such a great place for Nica Time.
Such is life. These things are hit or miss while solo-traveling. Especially when time is limited. Thankfully the interesting conversations and experiences, both with locals and fellow backpackers, would come through in my next two destinations: Masaya and Léon. What eventually spurred these interactions, beyond the urgency to get as much out of Nicaragua as possible in my limited time, was definitely my love for cultural immersion.
“Love is the one thing we’re capable of perceiving that transcends dimensions of time and space.”
I could go all day with these Interstellar quotes.
Check back soon!