During my five weeks abroad, from June 2 to July 7, I wrote down my thoughts and experiences everyday spent in Bluefields Nicaragua, where I helped collect data for cervical cancer screening research with Hala and Yolande. This is my post from June 11th:
It’s Saturday so we can wake up late. Taking advantage of that, I woke up at 10 and finished transcribing the first interview script. Then in the afternoon, we got lunch at Galleria Aberdeen.
This is the third time we’ve been there since coming and it has made me see that it is really true how we as people tend to go back to what we find comfortable. We are what our culture and environment makes us, a lot of times… and although I don’t really love that we do this when travelling to a new country, it’s something that usually inevitably happens no matter where you’re from. In Galleria Aberdeen, you can look around and see that this is clearly a restaurant that was made for westerners. At every single table there were non-locals, most likely Americans, eating. At first I thought it’s maybe because the food is relatively more expensive there, however, Yolande Hala actually save money going there rather than eating in our hotel or in certain more authentic places—so although I definitely do think that money comes into play, it’s also about the kinds of foods they serve, the layout of the restaurant, the high ceilings, the clear menu, the big fans and overall very western setup that really draws us in and keeps us coming back.
If you want to go somewhere really authentically Bluefields, it can be a very confusing experience. For example, the first day in the city, when we wanted to get lunch, we went towards the fish market to the second story, where Babsie told us is a place we could eat. The overall experience was a good one, although it was definitely not something we’re used to. When walking up the stairs, women from the kitchens start telling us (yelling at us) what they were offering (rather than us sitting down, getting a menu, etc). Then we were taken to a table and again asked what we wanted to eat. I ended up ordering something—I can’t even remember what it’s called—they were tiny shrimp in a red sauce with vegetables. It was good! The cleanliness of the place was definitely a little disconcerting for me, with huge flies assaulting us and our plates from everywhere and the “restaurant” was more like a huge cafeteria where a ton of tables were bordered with kitchens, where women cooked whatever they were offering. There were no menus. No signs. No decorations. Just tables and kitchens. It was a very interesting experience and I think we’ll be back to try out a different kitchen.
That being said, we’ve still yet to return and yet we’ve been to Galleria Aberdeen three times. I see that as a definite sign that (although we are trying to assimilate to the culture around here) sometimes a quesadilla or a slice of pizza is needed so we don’t feel… just plain confused. Speaking of pizza, there’s a really funny thing here in Bluefields where a pizza kitchen is run through five different, adjacent restaurants. Each restaurant is different in style, but all three have the same menu AND the same kitchen! So far we’ve visited 2—the sports bar-esque place and the fancier, French place. The fancy restaurant had a different menu with more non-pizza food, but when we asked for pizza, they brought out the same exact menu from the sports bar place. I think that’s so funny. I really wonder why they do that. The pizza is great though—nothing like pizza from the US. Same toppings but the cheese and sauce here is so different, making it feel less like a western food cop-out. J
Anyways, enough about food. The main point is that, I now can see that I am no different than the people who I used to question before for not “branching out”. In the US, I love meeting and being with diverse people, going to new places, trying new things, etc… So when I see people who tend to hang out with the same people, do the same things and go to the same places, I sometimes think to myself, man… these people need to branch out and be adventurous. But I’m the same way! We all are. It’s natural. It’s good, however, to be aware of this and try to have a balance.
After having lunch at Gallerina Aberdeen, we bought a cake to bring to Andrew’s apartment since he and his wife invited us to have dinner with them. (Andrew is a graduate researcher from England studying food security in Rama Cay—we met him through our faculty advisor)Dinner at Andrews was so nice. Their apartment has an amazing view of the lagoon and of course, one of the cutest babies I’ve ever seen in my life (other than my nephews), little Noah. We played with Noah, ate dinner outside, and talked for a couple of hours. We also met Orlando, a community worker nurse who lives in the same apartment building. He’s 22 and he’s a trained nurse who works in several neighborhoods in Bluefields. He’s really funny and going to be a great key informant for our research, so I’m really happy we met him through Andrew! Andrew and his family are leaving on Wednesday, going back to England, so hopefully we’ll be able to see them once more before they leave.