Monday, May 22, 2017

Tenemos Chinelas

Well, I've been traveling again, this time to Central America.  Managua, Nicaragua to be exact.  I have to say, I picked up a couple of interesting tidbits of Spanish that I'm going to share and I'll also give you a mini-tour of Managua and Granada.

Let's jump right into things.

I actually flew into Managuga from Costa Rica with an airline called Avianca on an avión that looked something like this:

When we got to Managua I was pleasantly surprised by the airport (Aeropuerto Internaciónal Augusto C Sandino).  It was clean and pretty modern.

From there my Nicaragua adventure begin!

I guess we'll start with one of the things that surprised me the most about Managua.  The traffic.  The streets are packed with cars.  La hora pico (rush hour) was absolutely insane.  And because of that, nearly all of the conversations I had with taxistas (taxi drivers) always included:

Hay mucho tráfico
There's a lot of traffic

Except that in Managua they don't say tráfico.  They say presa.

Hay mucha presa
There's a lot of traffic

 Here's another tip you'll need to know if you ever find yourself catching a cab in Managua.

The taxis are colectivos, meaning they pick up multiple passengers.  By the way, it's not uncommon to hear buses referred to as colectivos in some Latin American countries.  But I digress, let's get back on track.

If you're riding solo in a cab and someone else going your direction needs a ride, the taxista will pick them up too.  And there is no taximetro (taxi meter), so negotiate your carrera (fare) before you get in the cab.  And you can expect to pay what I call the gringo tax, meaning you're going to be overcharged.

It was also in a taxi cab that I came across the verb dilatar for first time.  In Managua, dilatar is a synonym for the verb tardar in the context of how long it takes to get somewhere.   Here's an example:

Me:       ¿Cuanto tiempo tarda para llegar al malecón?
             How long does it take to get to the boardwalk?

Taxista: Dilata unos diez minutos
             It takes about 10 minutes

Pan comida right?

Moving right along...

A popular greeting that Nicaragua (or at least Managua) shares with México is qué onda.  I heard this several times.  Qué onda simply means "What's up?".  It's very informal, used in exactly the same way you'd use it's English counterpart.

Another greeting I heard often is buenas.  Buenas is a informal greeting you can use any time of the day.  You can use it with pretty much anyone.  Unless of course you find yourself in a situation you need to be more formal in.  However, it's perfect for greeting folks in stores, restaurants, in the street, etc.  I think you get the idea.

As you walk or drive up and down the streets of Managua you'll see what they call an arbol de la vida everywhere.

I found them to be really pretty at night when they're all lit up.  However as nice as they may look, not everyone is a fan of these.  You see, they're illuminated all night, every night, 365 days a year, paid for by the tax payers.  They also have guards that protect the trees.  Also paid for by the tax payers.  I think you now understand why everyone isn't fan.  Anyway, a taxista filled me in on all the gory details, which I've spared you from.   At any rate, they are nice to look at regardless of the politics and controversy behind them.

I didn't have as much time as I'd like to get around Managua, but one of the places I felt obligated to visit was Puerto Salvador Allende.

Puerto Salvador Allende is what they refer to as the malecón, or boardwalk.   It sits on the orilla del Lago de Managua.  The lago (lake) is also called by it's indigenous name Lago Xolotlán.   By the way, orilla in this context means shore, or edge.

It's a really awesome place.  Huge, as a matter of fact.  You'll find restaurants and shopping, a playground for the kids, historical monuments, all kinds of cool stuff there to see and just a great place to pass the time walking around.   I went there at night because the summertime heat in Managua is insane (90+ degrees).

Night time at the malecón is amazing.  The restaurants have music blaring and are filled with people dining and dancing the night away.  The malecón is filled with locals and tourists alike just walking around and enjoying the atmosphere.

Here's a short video for you to see what it's like.  If you can't see the video, I also included the direct link.

Here are a few photos I took as well.  On the first couple you'll see the palm leaves that cover the benches. The word for those is palapas.

If you find yourself in Managua a visit to the malecón vale la pena (it's worth the trouble).

While this next word isn't exclusive to to Nicaragua, it was a new word I picked up.  I found myself sitting in a bank waiting for my friend to cambiar dinero (exchange money) and I was looking for a water fountain,  which you can call a fuente (para beber) or a bebedero.  Hard to believe after more than 10 years of learning Spanish I've never had to ask for a water fountain.

This post is starting to get a little long, so I'll wrap it up with today's expression, tenemos chinelas and finish the rest in part two, where I'll share the last couple of words I picked up and a brief tour of Granada.

And finally, we get to our expression, tenemos chinelas.

I actually heard "tenemos chinelas" in the airport on my way back to Costa Rica.  I was doing a bit of last minute shopping and while the owner of the shop was showing me all of her goods, she said tenemos chinelas.  Needless to say, I was surprised by the term as I had never heard it before.

It turns out chinelas in Nicaragua are nothing more than sandalias, or chancletas.  In other words, sandals.

The word seems to apply to any and all types of sandals.   The sandals the shop keeper showed me were pretty nice.  If you google the phrase chinelas nicaragua, you'll see a wide variety of chinelas in the results.

And ya, that's it for today. Be sure to read part two where I share a little more Nicaraguan Spanish with you, including a very, very Nicaraguan term as well as some of my photos of Granada.

¡Hasta próxima!


  1. Excellent article as usual, Rodney!!! You write a very good travelog. I have not been in Central America for 30+ years and never in Nicuaragua. I'm looking forward to Part II.