Travel Talk

House Hunting in Leon, Nicaragua


Let us discuss the important matter of house hunting in Leon, Nicaragua. In fact let us discuss in light detail the concept of renting a home overseas or abroad, shall we? Many think renting a house is difficult, it’s as easy as looking in your local real estate listings, asking a few questions and rolling with the punches. Will note that if you’ve been somewhere awhile, getting a local perspective and person on your team will drastically improve your results and lower your costs. Have you made a mental note of this?  Good, moving on…

We rolled into town and met at Via Via before looking at homes. They mentioned a few and one near the river which isn’t a great neighborhood, immediately made it clear I only wanted the city center. Living abroad is cool, living in a developing country is what could be described as rugged. One wishes to be in he action, in fact insists on it. Next thing you know we’re driving into what felt like the middle of nowhere in an area that when saying “less than desirable” is a being incredibly kind. We meet this German couple living there and enter through some razor wire to what turns out to be a spacious house.

Notice I said spacious and not nice or desirable?  Turns out this German couple who I believe are space cadets live there. I say space cadets as the only thing they were missing were techno color parachute pants made of burlap and home made hemp shirts. They were truly “out to lunch” for an old MSN reference and living on another planet. In the short time we were there they couldn’t keep their hand off each other and constantly Inuit kissing, can only imagine when they don’t have guests? Suffice to say the neighborhood was straight up scary. My friends were contemplating it until they asked my opinion which was “NO WAY JOSE”. You couldn’t pay me to live there.

We roll back into town and one of the gents says “I liked it and could see myself building a nice office, just the neighborhood is creepy” to which I quipped “No expat on this planet could live there, except those Germans who clearly are NOT on this planet”. We believe they have gone stir crazy from being prisoners inside their own home for the last 3 months. Straight up, it wasn’t “that bad” but it was very grim, a neighborhood you typically never drive through and if you do, windows up and doors locked. Oh yeah, they wanted $350US a month. To give you an idea it has a massive entrance room right behind the front door maybe 40 feet by 40 feet, a small door to an open court yard with a a large kitchen. There were 3 bedrooms and so much space you could do something special with it. Like most developing parts of the world, the exterior doors make one believe nothing is behind the walls, believe this is done by design. Personally, I’d rather pitch $350 myself and split a $1000 palace in the center of town.

We roll back to town and try and secure another viewing, this one is in the city center – great. Meet a gent from Quebec who has seen it and turns out it is a 1 bedroom or a 2 bedroom but not big enough and also $350. I have made a rule that if I’m living alone, will never rent a house overseas it’s isolating and you get stir crazy / rambunctious  / ridonkulous (sic).  If you’re a people person, you need to have a network of interesting people to at least chat with, if not you’ll suffer an odd isolating form of culture shock and it’s just NOT healthy.

While they are waiting I head to the gym do a leg workout then roll over for some food. Everything is going well and I stop by this place I know to chat with a lady I know who works front desk sometimes, cool. Head to the grocery store and purchase my 3rd street orange of the day, life is grand. Roll back to Via Via assuming we are waiting to see a house, turns out we aren’t. My Swedish friend is leaving so myself and the Spanish man with the broken leg (SMBL) decided to have some beverages as it is trivia night and supposedly it’s an interesting affair.

We decided that cabbing home at night isn’t necessary so we’ll just make a night out of it and stay at Via Via, grandiose. We order a bottle of Flor de Cana rum, then another. People start showing up and the Triva takes place, the bar is lively and the pulse is infectious. The Trivia ends and I eat a street sausage feeling good about myself. The bar is closing and there is an after hours party to attend. My Swedish friend has 7 buses in a row to make it to Costa Rica in one day and the SMBL has a broken leg. I run into some friends and head off to the festivities. Will note I have still not “checked in”. I told them I’d be staying there and they said no problem if you know your passport number…

We get to this party and it’s alright, dare I say great for a Monday night. The same things happen around the world and Nicaragua is no exception. Stay there enjoying cold ones until about 1:30AM and myself and friends walk home. My “home” is only 2 blocks away I say good day to my friends and knock on the door to the hotel. The door is medieval and intimidating in stature. It has a small slider window covered by an iron grid about 12×6 inches.  The slider opens and a Nicaraguan security guard checks me out, moments later the large doors open. I’m inside, hooray but not for long.

The gentleman says “Are you Tomas” to which I reply, no I’m Rob. He tells me to find my name on the list, it’s not there. Tell him my friends are staying there, can’t find their names either, odd. We look through a few times and I quickly realize that “Yes”  to the question “Are you Tomas” was the correct answer. He asks if I have luggage and reply “no” then starts walking towards the door and says “we’re full, get out”, great. I tell him I”ll sleep in a hammock as I have nowhere to go but Las Penitas and taking a taxi 30 minutes at this time of night sounds dicey. Notice he asked if I had luggage, remember my red flag was the thieves had no real luggage? I mean, who checks into a hotel with no luggage at 2am?

He says I’ll be back in 2 minutes as those large medieval doors slam shut and there I am at 1:45am alone on the streets of Leon with an iphone in my pocket and no cash, great. I had brought $20us for the day as had no plans on staying late. Always pull a “Maverick” and have a backup bill, normally a $20 or $50US for whatever reason in a secret pocket but I’ve been living on the beach and thought I was house hunting and hitting the gym, not much else…

As fate would have it, just as I turn around to see what the night holds my friends are walking by on their way to grab a hamburger, awesome. My attention drifts from the predicament to the thoughts of a delicious hamburger. We arrive and order our feast, fantastic. After receiving my hamburger I sit on this chair that has one leg over the edge of a small drop and naturally put my weight there. As it happens go heels over head backwards and my magnificent burger flies in the air dropping in the town square of Leon which probably hasn’t been cleaned since 1540. We enact a 7.5 second rule as I swing at a dog fending my turf, the dirty street burger is delicious.

At this moment a cab drives by and I find myself impossibly attracted to it, in fact I hail it. Tell the gentleman I have no more than .5 cordoba in local currency but have a $20 spot at my house in Las Penitas, he’ll have to take a chance and so will I. That said, my gut was sick of the street burger and felt this cab was the one. The gent I’m with negotiates / translates and a deal is struck. He’ll drive me 30 minutes to Las Penitas, when we arrive I’ll get my cash and pay him $C 250 which is about $11US. Immediately I jump in the cab and force the burger on the driver and he is thrilled about it. We make small talk while laughing like lunatics and 30 minutes later we are in front of my place on the beach. Turns out his name is Alberto and he is my age to the month. If you’re ever in need of a late night ride in Leon call him up at 89410302, he is SHABL approved.

I hop a fence and make my way through the establishment where I am staying, as I briskly pass through the center I look to my left and the security guard has his machete in full tilt ready for whatever. I say his name and the machete drops and grab my cash. Suffice to say we didn’t find a house, Leon has a very healthy night life, Alberto is a life saver and as long as I’m “in the area” I’ll be living in Las Penitas and take trips to Leon when required. Also, always fully book into wherever you are staying once you know you’ll be staying…

Last night was interesting but at this point, much prefer an early morning run over a late night dance.

Tips hat,

P.S: Curious to see how fun this place is without the SMBL or the Swede. Remember it’s the people that shape your experience more than the place.

P.P.S: Had friends not come, would have kicked it with bank security guard across the street until light.

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