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10 Things I Dislike About Central America

Lash going nuts

Lash going nuts from excessive noise

10 Things I Dislike About Central America

Before I get into the negative aspects of Central America (from my perspective), I want to clarify up front that I do actually quite like this region of the world over all. I’ve been traveling in Latin America for two years now and I’ve greatly enjoyed every country I’ve visited, with the exception of Honduras.

In particular, these countries all have beautiful natural places, lots of outdoor activities to participate in, beautiful colonial towns and architecture, great arts, nice people and good food.

But every place seems to have its downsides too, which is true for countries all over the world, not just Latin America.

So without further ado, here are the particular things I rather dislike about this part of the world… and which tend to drive me a bit crazy over a time frame of many months on end… Aka, Lash’s rant on Central America… Here we go…

Food Pet Peeves

one type of crispy Mexican tortillas

one type of crispy Mexican tortillas

Tortillas

Seriously, of all the hundreds of breads in the world, tortillas must be at the very bottom of my list. I much prefer breads that have some ‘meat’ to them rather than flat breads that consist of little more than a paper-thin wafer, which seems to me more like cardboard than food.

Beans

OMG – I am so SICK of beans!

I’ve never been very fond of beans any how, truth be told. And having to eat them every day, at least for breakfast, if not two or three times a day, is getting pretty unbearable. I am fed up with beans!

gallo pinto with fried plantains and cheese

Central American Rice

I lived in Japan for six years, where they grow the very best tasting rice on the entire planet. Immediately after Japan, I traveled and lived around SE Asia for about 15 years.

Second runners up to the delicious Japanese rice are Thai Rice, Jasmine Rice and the Indian Basmati Rice. Asian rice varieties are all just really delicious.

So after spending more than 20 years eating the best Asian rices in the world, I find the rice here in the Americas pretty much sucks. It’s so bland compared to what I’m used to, that I can barely eat it most of the time.

Every once in a while I luck out at a restaurant that prepares tasty, moist rice. But for the most part, day in and day out, traveling around Central America for me means barely edible rice.

pork tacos in Campeche

pork tacos in Campeche

Lack of Vegetables

Mexico was the first country in the world where I actually felt I was getting too much meat. I’ve always eaten eggs, chicken, red meats and seafood on a daily basis. My body seems to thrive on protein. But in Mexico, the sheer amount of meat in meals became overwhelming even for me.

I actually concluded it’s the lack of vegetables rather than the amount of meat that’s the issue. After several months traveling around Mexico, my body began craving vegetables. So I started buying and preparing veggie dishes whenever I had access to a kitchen to make up for the lack of greens in Mexican cuisine.

Seriously, most Mexican dishes consist almost entirely of meat and tortillas in one form or other. Sometimes there’s a wisp of shredded lettuce, tomatoes and onions thrown in. But otherwise, aside from a few particular dishes like rellenos (stuffed peppers), it’s just meat and tortillas.

As I’ve continued traveling through the countries of Central America, I’ve continued seeing a severe lack of vegetables in their cuisines. Instead, they tend to feature meals with a meat and 3-4 carbs. Quite typical, for instance, is chicken or beef with rice and tortillas and yucca or boiled plantain. Wowie, that is a lot of carbs! Where are the greens, people?!

Pet Peeves with Local Customs

these folks are on the slimmer side here...

these folks are on the slimmer side here…

Everyone is Over Weight!

Clearly Latinos prefer heftier human body sizes than we Occidentals do!

In every country I’ve visited here, I’ve been constantly surrounded by a majority of people who I’d describe as hefty to obese. Honestly, it’s even worse than in the USA, which I didn’t think was possible. Lol.

I’d estimate that about 80% of the people here, including most children, are over-weight, from slightly to grossly over weight.

Since I’m a woman who has always been focused on health, nutrition and fitness, it’s very sad, puzzling and even annoying, to see so very many people who just don’t take care of themselves properly. And after living in Asia most of my adult life, where almost everyone is slim and fit, I’m just not used to this over-size humanity. 

Of course, it’s quite possible that they’re all looking at me thinking, “Oh, that poor lady looks like a stick” Who knows?

Tights and Skinny Jeans Obsession

With that in mind, I find it even more puzzling and astounding that nearly every single person here wears some form of skin-tight pants: skinny jeans, thin tights, ass-conforming stretch pants.

They seem to love showing off all their bulges, fat rolls, massive guts, wide hips and bulging thighs. Sorry, but that is not attractive in my book.

What’s up with the skinny jeans and tights here?

Lash soaking in hot springs - Taupo

Conversational Interruptions

Just about every time I stop to ask question to a local in any of these countries, he or she interrupts me in the middle of my sentence and proceeds to give me an answer to the question they think I’m going to ask.

Inevitably, that is not what I was going to ask. So I have to start all over again with my real question. Only to be interrupted yet again and given a different explanation, once again to something I wasn’t asking.

Generally the only way I can get an answer to my actual question is to say, “Escucha me!” “Listen to me!”

Luckily, that works a charm. They take a completely different stance, usually cupping one hand over the other, tilting their head slightly and very earnestly keeping their mouths closed until I’ve completed my question and stopped talking. Then, lo and behold, they answer the question I set out to ask.

Sheesh! Talk about annoying.

people tend to take up the entire sidewalk here

people tend to take up the entire sidewalk here

Sidewalk Hogs

Another pet-peeve custom of mine here are all the sidewalk hogs. Whether it’s one over-sized person or a couple or a group of friends or a family with young kids, they all seem to love taking up the entire sidewalk (most of which are pretty narrow to begin with).

Even worse, they all seem quite reluctant to scooch over to allow other people to pass, whether other pedestrians are coming from behind or are coming towards them.

Whenever I’m walking in towns here, I have to continuously say, “desculpe” “excuse me” and then wait until they budge over enough to let me pass. It’s generally just easier for me to walk in the streets, especially in crowded towns.

At this point, anytime I see people on the sidewalk, I pretty much just move into the road and walk with the cars, buses, motorbikes, bicycles and taxis. It’s generally much easier, sad to say.

a raggaeton group called Yandel - photo from Flickr CC by Izabal Online

Awful Music a reggaeton duo – Wisin and Yandel – photo by Izabal Online on flickr CC

I love many different kinds of music from all over the world. Quite unfortunately for me, in this region of the world, several of the most popular forms of music are not ones I enjoy. At all.

I simply do not like Latino pop, this genre called ‘reggaetron’ or the whining love ballads that seem to be played non-stop in stores, local restaurants, public buses and even sometimes in hotels and hostels.

Even worse, local people do not seem to like using head phones. They just play their music out loud on their cell phones in public parks, buses, restaurants, even out in forests and mountains. It’s a nightmare.

public buses in El Salvador

public buses in El Salvador

Pet Peeves with Public Transportation

Nightmare Public Buses

Mexico has one of best public transportation systems I’ve seen anywhere in the world. Buses are clean, modern, comfortable and even luxurious. Traveling around Mexico by bus is really quite awesome.

In extreme contrast, the countries of Central America that I’ve explored thus far have public bus systems that pretty much suck. The buses are way, way over-crowded, with people packed into the aisles like sardines.

And the buses take an excruciatingly long time to reach their destinations. That’s because they’re continuously stopping (I mean literally every 5-10 minutes) to pick up new passengers to somehow squeeze in, dropping off others, picking up and off-loading cargo.

As an example, a trip of 65 km / 40 miles that I recently took between two cities in Nicaragua took more than three hours!!! That’s only 13 miles an hour!

And that wasn’t because the roads were in poor condition or we were traveling on winding mountain roads. It was simply because of the never-ending stops along the way. In a private vehicle the trip would take just one hour.

Nearly every time I take a bus here I am continuously jostled, bumped, knocked, and pressed on, even if I have a seat. I find myself pressed in close by bulging bellies, hips, boobs and asses.

I’ve had my sunglasses knocked off my face several times from careless passengers. I’ve had elbows, arms, bags and boxes resting against my head and shoulders. Honestly, it’s a complete nightmare.

And, at this point, I will always try to avoid these nightmares by finding other transportation options, even if they’re expensive. I’ve had it with over-crammed, maddeningly-slow buses!

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Summary

And that concludes my ‘Lash Rant on Central American Annoyances’.

To balance things off and to end the year on a positive note, next week I’ll be writing about all the things I love about Central America. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, you might find the following posts useful:

10 Things Distinctly Nicaraguan

Busting American Myths About Mexico

Surprising Facts About Guatemala

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