Monday, November 17, 2008

Nicaragua: Leaving Town with the FSLN

Pork tamal wrapped in banana leaf.

It's our last day here in Managua and my last chance to enjoy the tasty tamales they have at the breakfast buffet.  The only problem is that there are no tamales out this morning.  Crap.

During our morning breakfasts, I've discovered that the one item they do here brilliantly at the Hilton is the pork tamal.  It's perfect and I must have more.  Luckily, they have some in the back and, in a few minutes, out comes some fresh, hot tamales.  Add a house baked pretzel to the mix, some orange juice and all is well.

Last breakfast together

All week long, the staff here has been asking us if we would like coffee with our breakfasts. At a table full of international coffee judges, one would expect coffee to be a central component of our meal. Unfortunately, the coffee here is utterly atrocious and everyone in our group has uniformly declined a cup all week long.

To be fair, I did give the coffee a try during my first morning here in Managua and it was truly horrid. I can stomach quite a bit of coffees but this was too much. Unlike the watery brew I find across America, the coffee here was just - oh, I really can't describe how bad it was. Sludge, maybe?

Our crew is rapidly dwindling. Cleofas took off on the first flight out at 6am. Evidently, if he left on that flight and flew to Atlanta, he would be home in Tijuana by 4pm. If he took a Latin America based flight through Mexico City, he would be home sometime tomorrow. Rouki and Brent are on a flight to Guatemala City at 1pm and Alirio and myself will be on afternoon flights back to Colombia and the United States, respectively.

Don Roberto and Martha pick us up at the hotel around 1pm. Our flights aren't until 3:45pm so we've got some time to go touring around and visit Frank and Cela Rogers at El Coche Cafe.

Sandinista Protest

Even though it's been quiet and there have been no scheduled disturbances/riots all weekend over the mayoral election, now that it's Monday, the Sandinistas have taken to the streets once again in protest. Rumor has it that tomorrow it's going to get worse. This past week, I've heard a bit of disgruntlement over the election and even some people who sound as though civil war haven't been ruled out if the election process isn't vindicated. Coming from Suburban America where we let our government run rampant over us while pretending to still live in a free country, I'm kinda shocked. I can't imagine my fellow Americans rising and taking arms to restore a free society.

FSLN in the car

To be honest, I don't have a predisposition for the Sandinistas or the PLC (the opposing party). I'm just a visitor here. I don't know Nicaraguan politics nor do I care to get involved. But, as we pull up to a traffic light, there's a lady selling Sandinista flags amidst a demonstration and I think it's a great opportunity to score Nicaraguan memorabilia.

It's not perhaps a chunk of the Berlin Wall, but I wasn't there for the fall.

For a moment, I think about waving my little flag around but then think better of it. I can do all the waving of my flag at home, behind pulled curtains without concern for being labeled. Then again, it would probably be a good idea to hide the flag in my luggage to avoid questioning by authorities while passing through immigration.

Pollo Estrella Airport

Managua boasts Latin America's most modern airport. I certainly can see that it is quite modern. But it is rather small. There's not even a long driveway to access the terminal. Just drive on up, get out and go to your plane. Checking in is rather painless and soon I'm off in search of a quick bite to eat.

There's a food court in the airport and I give Pollo Estrella a try. The chicken is lightly seasoned and the skin is thin and crispy. It's pretty decent and the price is cheap (at least when you're spending dollars).

Barista Carmen Suarez makes me a cappuccino.

Once past security, I've got some shopping to do. My friends have been telling me that it's cheaper to buy Flor de Cana rum at the airport than at the local markets. I go for the 18 year old rum for $30 each.

Next is a stop at the Padron Cigar booth where they're selling 1964 Anniverary Padron Torpedo Maduro cigars for $300 a box. While I really enjoy this particular cigar, I don't know the price. So, after a quick call to my local tobacconist in Baltimore, I decide to pick up a box (the price at home is $416). A twenty percent savings? Not bad at all.

Cappuccino by

There's a coffeeshop by my gate and I notice that it's a Cafe Flores location and that two of the competitors work for the company. I go in and find one of them working the bar. Time for a cappuccino.

Readers of this blog know that I'm pretty cautious about trying coffee at coffee shops. This time, I throw caution to the wind - mainly because she knows me. The cappuccino is pleasantly tasty. A nice balance of sweet milk and dark chocolate-y espresso. I like it.

By now, I'm late for boarding and I'm off to Miami.

Cafe Las Flores at the Aeropuerto Internacional de Managua.

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