Lessons Learned from Traveling in Panama

Actually, this should be titled “lessons learned in Panama, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua” but that just doesn’t flow as well.12079625_467789510069037_1720374198056508204_n

  1. You can wear your shirt as tight as you want. No matter your size. In fact, the tighter the better. But if you want to wear shorts, oohh girl, you are going to attract a lot of the wrong kind of attention.
  2. A four person taxi is actually meant for six adults and three babies. Who needs personal space?
    Not a taxi, but a very crowded bus
    Not a taxi, but a very crowded bus
  3. Public singing, dancing, and drum playing are highly encouraged. ESPECIALLY at 6 AM in the morning. Especially in Nicaragua.12189679_478797748968213_3213092950659413667_n 12234963_478797812301540_1818992691576079635_n
  4. River rafting guides are the hottest. River rafting guides that cook for you are even hotter. No matter what. No matter the country (even in America!). Ziplining guides are a close second.22507989207_07c7bbfeed_k
Boquete Tree Trekkers!
Boquete Tree Trekkers!

5. You should never ever make fun of someone trying to learn another language, no matter how bad their accent is. Learning another language is hard, unless you’re German. I think Germans have like 5 languages programmed in them since birth. If the speaker says something completely ridiculous such as “I bought my lover on the plane, but I left him in Nicaragua because it was hot” perhaps its ok to laugh a little. Oopsy, I got amante “lover” and manta “blanket” confused. Other great phrases included “I feel sad when they don’t eat dog” Instead of, “I feel sad when they don’t feed their dog.”

6. When you hear or see a new Spanish word, and you can’t find it in the dictionary, it probably means pussy. That rule has about 90% accuracy in my experience.

Learning Spanish with one of my favorite teachers!

7.You actually have to carry cash. Luckily restaurants don’t seem to mind if you have to leave to go to the bank and pay later. Yes, it happened. They were nice. I was prepared to give up my ID, cell phone or anything while I went to the bank. You know what they greeted me with “tranquila, todo esta bien joven.” Calm down, everything is good.

8. Don’t even bother looking for a seat belt in a taxi. The driver will look at you like you’re psycho. And again, you will get “tranquila, tranquila.”

9. The second after you hang your clothes on the clothesline, it will rain. Hard. And your clothes will probably smell like mildew for a week. 12247867_480670295447625_1356730335614358696_o

10. Peanut butter is the only travel food you really need. When you have peanut butter, you have everything.

11. You will meet some of the most amazing people in your entire life. Today I met an Argentinian woman traveling by bicycle from Argentina to California  (Do you know how far that is??!!) and back again. She told me she loved San Luis Obispo, Ca. Me too chica! You will learn more about other cultures than you ever thought possible and gain a deeper understanding of what it’s actually like to live outside of America. From my fellow tourists and the locals, I have learned invaluable lessons and made amazing friends that I know will last a lifetime.

My fam in Nicaragua
My fam in Nicaragua
Friends in San Juan Del Sur Nicaragua
Friends in San Juan Del Sur Nicaragua
Surfing friends in Santa Teresa Costa Rica! Pura Vida!
Surfing friends in Santa Teresa Costa Rica! Pura Vida!
Best friends in Boquete, Panama!
Best friends in Boquete, Panama!

Nutrition Myth Busters (Central American Edition)

PicMonkey Photo

Hola Amigos!!

I hope that you have all been well. After hearing some not so correct nutrition information from various people around the world (AKA in my hostel Mamallena) I decided it’s time to write another nutrition myth busters piece. To check out my first edition of myths click here.

  1.  B12 will cure your hangover. Wrong! Excuse my language, but taking B12 aint gonna do shit. (unless you are a chronic alcoholic and actually depleted in B vitamins). The only things that are actually going to help your hangover are Advil, water, a high protein breakfast perhaps. Don’t waste your money on those “hangover cure” supplements either. Many people claim they work, but the truth is at some point you are going to start feeling better. If you take that supplement you may attribute the feeling better to the supplement, but in reality, it was just time. The placebo effect is very strong people!!
  2. Lemon water to lower your blood pressure. Nope. Not gonna work. There are natural things that can help lower your blood pressure, such as eating more potassium (bananas, potatoes, dark green veggies), exercise, reducing stress, etc. My host mother swears that the lemon water she drinks every morning is helping her blood pressure. No Senora. While I’m extremely happy that her BP is better, I think (I know) that it has more to do with her new exercise routine and weight loss, then the lemon water.
  3. Dietitians and Nutritionists Eat Perfectly. All The Time. I studied nutrition because I like food. A LOT. All food, including sugar, fried food, ice cream, pie. MMM. Yes, I also LOVE a great salad, fresh fruit, hearty soup, and warm whole grain bread. I do have a healthy diet, and generally most dietitians do. But what is a healthy diet? Is a healthy diet one that only includes fruits, veggies, lean meat and nothing else? I don’t think so… that is a psycho diet if you ask me. Or for a more professional term, we refer to this as Orthorexia.
  4. You Need to Eat Organic Fruits and Vegetables to be Healthy. This statement is almost correct. But this one is 100% correct: You need to eat fruits and vegetables to be healthy. Ding, ding, ding! While I fully support organic agriculture for environmental reasons, there is still a lot of mixed evidence if it is actually healthier for our bodies. If you can afford it, 100% go for it. If you can’t, wash those darn things as best you can and eat up. If you want to buy organic, buy organic from the Dirty Dozen.

Any other myths you’ve heard? Don’t agree with me? Let me hear it!

Now for some photos in Costa Rica and Panama…

Spending the night on the river. The rain is soo loud!
Spending the night on the river. The rain is soo loud!
wildlife photography photo cred Julie Mason
wildlife photography photo cred Julie Mason
Buenos Dias Boquete, Panama!
Buenos Dias Boquete, Panama!
Coffee tour with the best guide in Panama!
Coffee tour with the best guide in Panama!
Te extrano Noah!!
Te extrano Noah!!



What I’m Loving (and Not Loving) About Nicaragua

Cascada Blanca, one of the many beautiful waterfalls in Nicaragua

¡Hola amigos! Estoy en Nicaragua. Yo se hace mucho tiempo desde he escrito un blog. Pero, ahora me siento como escribir y es una oportunidad buena para practicar mi español. He estado en tres ciudades en Nicaragua, y todos son diferentes. No tengo tiempo para hablar cada ciudad, en vez de escribiré lo que me gusta mas de Nicaragua, y que no me gusta. Pero, para mis amigos Nicaraguense, no se ofendo por lo que no me gusta. Para mi, es diferente, pero no es “malo.” Y por favor, dime cuando yo utilizo la palabra incorrecta o cuando hago un error gramática.

For my English speaking friends, I’m pretty sure most of you know that I’m in Nicaragua already. Feel free to google translate the above. I know that it has been a long time since I’ve blogged, but sometimes, when inspiration hits you, you just gotta go with it. Other times, your brain is like an empty dark hole and you have no ideas and feel completely uninspired. Currently, my brain is the former.This is going to be a personal blog post about what I’m enjoying in Nicaragua. However, I have a few nutrition posts coming up, so please keep reading (my future posts) even if you really don’t care about my life, but like my nutrition advice. Gracias.

Me gustan mucho…

  1. Cascadas y Volcanes. (Waterfalls and Volcanoes). This one you can find in a guide book. But it’s so true! Nicaragua is full of breath-taking active-ish volcanoes. And unlike other more conservative countries, you can hike up them, slide down them, board down them, whatever you please. I have also seen many beautiful waterfalls in this country, Cascada Blanca in Matagalpa was a winner for sure. What’s more, it’s not packed with tourists ruining the beauty and serenity.
  2. La gente. (The people). Specifically, my home stay family was awesome. Carolina (the Mom) cooked really great food and she was so warm and friendly. Always willing to talk with me, play games, take me to church (ha!). Most people at restaurants and cafes are super nice too. At cafe Nicarguense they are always offering to help me with everything, plug in my computer, bring me water, give me directions etc etc. I find myself thinking, “where did these people come from?”
  3. Mojitos!! I’m not much of a drinker, as many of you know, but if I have to drink, it would probably be a mojito! I love mint and lime. Yes, I really like the limes more than the alcohol, but it’s all good. Mojitos are super cheap and super tasty in Nicaragua. You can even get flavored mojitos -cherry, maracuya, any fruit you want pretty much. It’s awesome.
  4. Desfilas y feriados. (Parades and Holidays). It seems almost every day is a Holiday here. Nicaragua is always finding a reason to celebrate whether its the Virgin Mary, Independence Day, or a soccer win. Today there was a large parade with all of the school kids, I’m not really sure the reason, other than it is just a tradition. Kids play drums, dance, wear their fanciest outfit, it’s pretty cool.
  5. Bananos y fruta. (Bananas and fruit). Bananas here are so good, they taste 1000x better than they do in the states, and they only cost 5-10 cents. They put those 29 cent Trader Joe’s banana to shame! What’s also great, is that the bananas here don’t bruise like they do in the states, you can buy a banana with lots of black spots on the outside but the inside will still be perfect. Que bueno! In general, the fruit is really cheap, and really delicious! Except apples, 1 apple sets you back $1, because they are imported.
Volcan Cerro Negro
There’s always a parade in Nicaragua! and they love their tambores!(drums)

No me gustan…

  1. Bombas. (bombs?) There is not an exact translation for bombas, but basically they sound exactly like gun shots and they are terrifying to a gringita (like me). Bombas, are a little bit like a firework, but with out anything pretty to look at. Nicaraguans love to shoot off bombas for any reason, especially at 4 and 5 in the morning. The first night I heard them in Leon I really really thought they were gunshots and was debating sleeping on the ground so no stray bullets flew into my room. Now that I no what they are, I don’t hate them as much, but still, not a fan. I wish they could just blow a horn or something…
  2. Chikungunya. When I first arrived in Nicaragua, this was literally the only word I could hear people say. It’s an African word so it really stands out when Spanish speakers say it. Basically, chikungunya is a virus transmitted to people by mosquitos. It’s pretty gnarly, the symptoms are similar to the flu, you are really sick for about a week, but then you have residual body pains and arthritis which according to some people last 6 weeks up to the rest of your life. About half the teachers at my Spanish school had Chinkungunya and it is no joke! Matagalpa, the town that I was studying in, is actually where the first case of Chikungunya originated, but it’s all over Nicaragua now (and I think most of Central America?) No quiero Chikungunya!!! I’ve been using more bug spray than I ever have in my whole life.
  3. Ollas en la calle. Holes in the streets and sidewalks. I seriously can not walk around in this town without tripping. There are so many holes in the street, and some of them are pretty large too. I usually wear shoes instead of sandals,  but I still manage to stub my toes. It’s hard too because usually I’m trying to find something, so I want to look up, but no, no, not a good idea. I pretty much have to stare at the street in order not to trip.
  4. Cat calls. The whistles and “hello baby” I can tolerate. But why are you hissing at me? How do I respond to that? Really, I want to know. Look at the person, ignore them, give them a lecture on sexism?? What’s interesting is that I get a lot of “goodbyes” as I’m walking directly towards someone which can actually be kind of cute/funny depending who it’s coming from.
  5. Food safety.  I’m not usually anal about food being at the right temperature or washing your hands, and I totally believe in the 5 second rule, but soo much food is just left out at room temperature (very warm and humid- a perfect breeding ground for bacteria) that shouldn’t be! Cheese, jelly, prepared rice dishes and stews, almost never refrigerated. I know it’s just rice and beans, but there is a “cereus” bacteria that attacks grains when left in the temperature danger zone!!! My fellow RDs and food safety professionals, do you understand where I’m coming from? So this is a little concerning to me, but so far, I haven’t gotten too sick.

Overall, its been a really great experience and I finally feel like I can understand most people when they speak to me in Spanish! Yay! It takes so long, but I’m pretty sure by the end of this trip Spanish is going to be no problem.

Tell me, do you enjoy the personal posts or you want more nutrition info? It’s pretty hard for me to do recipes when I’m abroad but I have myth busting blogs coming up. If you have been to Nicaragua or anywhere in Central America what do you recommend I see/do/eat? I’m also planning on going to Costa Rica, Panama, and perhaps Guatemala if their political situation improves.


Chelita Heather

Kids marching in the parade.
Comida tipica Nicaraguense. Typical Nicaraguan food.
Mi familia Nica
Really old cathedral in Granada. Granada was the first European city in mainland America
Shane and Carina’s House (where I’m staying at the moment)
Cascada in Matagalpa