Current location: Gato Negro Cafe, San Juan Del Sur, Pacific Coast of Nicaragua


Price of beer in a bar: Routinely varies between US$0.98 to US$1.57.

Song currently stuck in my head: Sometimes Things Get, Whatever (Deadmau5)

I knew sooner or later I’d find myself asking for cocaine around the local markets. This is kind of a coke heavy town, the local demand fueled by eager participants in the hard partying backpacker scene. I haven’t been to “Sunday Funday” (video), but people who love it and people who hate it describe it in pretty much the same terms and it sounded like a fast trip to dull molars. I can almost forgive the Europeans, for whom drug possession is generally a minor, ticketable offense, but the North Americans should have some idea what kind of penalties they’re looking at. I’ve always been told they don’t feed you in Nicaraguan prisons; you’re on your own. A lot of expats make “prison buddies” quickly, a safety net agreement that says “I’ll bring you food and get you a lawyer if things go unexpectedly horrible and vice versa”. So when I wandered into the local market and mispronounced an inquiry in Spanish about “powdered cacao”, there was some context. The words for cocaine and cacao are close enough in both languages that I figured this was likely to happen eventually. When it did, when I poked around the market stall, leaned in and asked in confident Spanish “Do you have any powdered cocaine?” three old women’s jaws literally dropped open and continued to gape.

After 2 beats they laughed hysterically as I backpeddled. I thought about cracking a joke about needing powder, specifically, because I’m classy, but even if my Spanish were up to it (it’s not), they would lack the cultural understanding of the American view that cocaine is glamorous, but becomes dirty and shameful when you mix it with baking soda and buy it by the chunk. I’m glad they saw the humor in the situation, though, because I’d have been much less comfortable if they’d thought I was really looking for drugs and admonished me (or, worse, tried to hook me up). You don’t want to be known as the guy looking for coke at the market and this goes double if you actually are a guy looking for coke. You know, now that I think about it, I ended up getting a great price on that pound of powdered cacao in a market with notoriously aggressive gringo pricing. Maybe this is a solid bargaining technique; perhaps they were too floored to remember to bleed me.

Speaking of ground cacao, Nicaragua is a “superfoods” paradise. I don’t necessarily ascribe much value to the “superfoods” tag, this usually just means food with some high concentrations of specific vitamins and minerals but costs more than a commensurate amount of a more common source. I can drink 3 ounces of expensive pomegranate Juice instead of 6 ounces of cheap grapefruit juice? Why the sudden need for efficiency? You weren’t getting fat off of all that broccoli, there’s no need to eat less of it. Here it isn’t superfood, it’s just food and you buy it at the market, often in bulk. If memory services, Chia seeds cost me around US$0.13/tbsp in Leon and I bought the afore mentioned pound of raw cacao for US$2.35. There’s a ready made business model for a Nicaraguan Smoothie chain in The US; as I’ve pointed out these people have been smoothing everything in sight for generations. The supermarkets are small but they have a significant amount of shelf space dedicated to powdered shake additives. Tamarindo juice with chia is damn good, and I’ve never seen it on offer at Jamba Juice.

I’ve also been drinking raw milk here, pretty much daily. The Girlfriend said this concerns her parents, both of whom are medical professionals, and mentioned botulism. I assume something got lost in that particular game of telephone, because I was under the impression that botulism needed an anaerobic environment to exist (or, at the very least, come into existence). Thus far I haven’t had any digestive issues that I can attribute to the milk and I’m drinking about a liter of it a day.


2 Responses to “Current location: Gato Negro Cafe, San Juan Del Sur, Pacific Coast of Nicaragua”

  1. Monte Hensley Says:

    I read your article in which you discussed drinking raw milk. I believe the biggest risk (there may be others of which I’m unaware) is probably undulant fever, also known as brucellosis. It is primarily gotten from the raw milk of infected cattle and can have a number of unpleasant results which can recur at later times as well.

    I had this disease as a three year old child and have no memory of it but it was considered significant enough to result in me being unable to donate blood while in the Army.

    My view is it isn’t worth the risk; here’s a link to a brief article about it: Undulant fever               Undulant fever Check out this article. View on http://www.medterms.com Preview by Yahoo    

    • cgearhart Says:

      Thanks for the info, Monte, though I don’t think your link made it across intact. The medterms link just goes to their mainpage. Would you mind trying again?

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