February 9, 2015

What We Pack

Even with the impact of globalization in our world today and the closeness of the Nicaraguan border to the United States, access to goods, purchasing power varies drastically from place to place.  While living in Nicaragua, our goal has always been to live simply, while allowing ourselves to enjoy what is around us.

Before leaving for Nicaragua three years ago, we strategically planned how we would pack our four suitcases and two carry-ons.  As we have traveled back and forth, we always try to take advantage of the free 54 pound (oh wait, it is only 50 pounds) suitcase that we can take with us.  We have also learned that our carry-ons are not weighed, which means they usually weigh much more than our checked bags.  We have learned a lot of packing strategies, my mom thinks it is manipulative, but if you would like some tips, let us know.

Moving back to the point of this post.  There are some wonderful things that we can find in Nicaragua that we cannot find in the United States and there are some wonderful things that we can find in the United States that we cannot find in Nicaragua.  There are also exported items that are available in Nicaragua, but they are extremely overpriced or there are no warranties or returns.

So, what did we bring back in our 54 pound suitcase?  Here is our list: 

Dark Chocolate and Chocolate Chips – Dark Chocolate bars are pretty difficult to find here.  Thus, dark chocolate was on the top of our Christmas lists.  Because our friends and family are generous, we came back with several bars which now fill up the bottom drawer of our fridge (stored in the fridge because they melt in Managua heat).  While chocolate chips have gone down in price since we arrived, the price still does not beat the 99 cent bags that Kevin’s mom gets at their local grocery store.


Cans of Pumpkin – We love all things pumpkin – baked goods, pumpkin lattes, and curries.  Our first Thanksgiving in Nicaragua brought us the gift of 1 Cordoba (about 4 cents) cans of pumpkin on super-sale at the grocery store (Nicaraguans generally don’t buy pumpkin, especially when the original price was over $5).  Kevin bought all of the cans of the shelf that time, but we have not found the same deal since.  Kevin’s mom always picks up a few cans when they are one sale and a few made it back in our bag this time.


Naked Juices – Notice the theme of food?  We love the green machine naked juice.  Our trick for this one is that we purchase it on our last connecting flight at the airport (a bit overpriced) and put them into our handheld bags.  This allows them to avoid the weighing scale (we wouldn’t want 55 pounds!) and it maintains the temperature.


Toiletries – We buy the majority of our toiletries here in Nicaragua, but there are a few items that we usually bring back with us.  Sunscreen is very expensive here and with a friend’s 40% Mary Kay discount, it is much better for us to buy it in the United States.  I generally buy a tube of mascara from her as well.  I will also add that our birth control (i.e. condoms, sorry if this is too much information) are much cheaper in the U.S. as well as candles (which Kevin has tried to limit).


Apples – Last food item, I promise.  Apples are one of our favorite fruits, hence why we got married at the Minnetonka Apple Orchard.  They are imported here, overpriced and generally bad quality (think old Red Delicious).  Thus we bring back a bag, this time it was split between our handbags – no weighing issues and no bruising to the apples.


Books – While we use our Kindle’s for the majority of our reading, there are always a few books that we bring back with us.  They always go in our super heavy carry-on.


Tennis Shoes – We both regularly enjoy exercising, thus a good pair of tennis shoes is important.  This is an item that we have found to be quite expensive here.  So a quick trip to Kohl’s while we are home usually takes care of this purchase.


Picture Frames – I am always hanging something new on my wall or giving away a framed quote or picture.  We have purchased frames here, but they are hard to find, usually in a weird color which requires spray painting and again overpriced.  Thus, a run to Ikea is usually on my list of things to do when we are home.


Fabric – I have found some lovely shops at the Mercado Oriental in Managua that sell fabric.  However, I like to complement what I find here with a few new yards from home.


Food Dehydrator – On our most recent trip, we decided to bring back a food dehydrator.  We are thoroughly enjoying every fruit that we can get our hands on, pineapple is my current favorite.  This was a debate because of the space that it took up in our Action Packer (highly recommended), but it has been well worth the space.


So that is my list.  Kevin’s is very different, although the chocolate, pumpkin and apples are always a high priority for him.

While our list may not be that interesting, what we have brought back for others is.  Here are a few items that I can think of off the top of my head - life jackets, dry bags, Forever 21 jewelry to sell, protein powder, cameras, eye glasses, jeans, bras, shoes, underwear, books and computers.

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