The month is over. The text on the page is substantially complete. Pictures are in progress.
Page last worked on February 2nd. It was either that or watch the superbowl.
January at Home
Goodbye teens. Hello twenties. Welcome to the new decade. For you purists out there and your “no-year-zero/not-a-new-decade” diatribe try telling a 20 year-old they are still a teenager. So there. There’s a reason there’s no comment section here. 😊
We spent the first day of the year shutting down the water supply, taking out last year’s filters and flushing the system with anti-freeze in case the back-up heat fails. By today, Juanita was all packed, but, as usual I had a bit to go.
On the second day I finally finished packing and paid a few bills forward and did some tidying I had been avoiding since we moved back home in early August. A mess always bothers me at some level. It never seems to bother me enough to do everything necessary to make it go away while I’m there, but I hate to leave a mess. It can be a mess again the minute after I show back up, but there is this quirk that doesn’t let me walk away with a clean conscience if it is possible to fix it.
Then into town for a last few errands and to check the post office box for my re-do DNA kit. They said I broke their system and would have to spit into a new bottle and gave even more detailed instructions for the re-spit. Some people can’t walk and spit at the same time. It looks like I can’t even just spit right. It took them a week after their e-mail to mail the bottle and it went through L.A. on December 24th, but hadn’t it made it to Meadow Lake by January 2nd. Something to look forward to in the mail bin that Debbie keeps adding to while we are gone. We were here at Christmas so there is not the Christmas cards in March tradition to look forward to.
We hit a drive thru and then we’re on our way to Edmonton, through the cold, dim wasteland.
We arrived in time to babysit while Becky took Ezekial to a Bible quiz practice. Over the next couple of days we did any more shopping and errands needed before our trip and the last couple of things on my pre-trip keyboarding.
Friday night Debbie, Ernie and two of their kids showed up. Sasha had to work, so she stayed home.
Saturday we all went to watch Ezekial play basketball at the Saville Centre. After lunch all but Juanita and the two youngest stayed home. The rest of us went to the “Spies in Disguise” movie. After the movie we celebrated Ezekial’s eleventh birthday back at home.
Edmonton, AB to Granada, Nicaragua
(by way of Toronto, San Jose & Managua)
On Sunday after church Debbie and Ernie drove us to a hotel near the airport. Normally, Nick would give us a ride to the airport the morning of the flight, but he headed back to Pittsburgh to work after Christmas. Our flight is scheduled to leave at six in the morning so we need to show up for check-in at 4:30. Even though it starts as a domestic flight with the first leg to Toronto, they want us there ninety minutes early to verify our documents. It would be a bit much to ask Becky to get up, load all five kids, including the newborn, in the van and drive us to be at the airport by 4:30. The hotel is a better solution and not much different than a cab in cost. I don’t think I’d want to trust an Uber to be that reliable that early in the morning. Old fashioned, I guess.
After we check-in at the hotel and drop our luggage in the room, we all went over to the outlet mall near the airport, had lunch and walked around a bit. Debbie and Ernie dropped us back at the hotel and they and the kids headed back home to Meadow Lake. We relaxed, ordered a donair pizza for dinner and went to bed early for a 3:30 wake-up call and a 3:50 shuttle to the airport. It arrives “once per hour at ten to the hour”. At the third pickup on the route, somebody came out with a sarcophagus sized and shaped bag which took all the driver’s strength and imagination to get into the shuttle and laid out on the reclined front passenger seat. It was some sort of ski equipment. Too short to be skis so maybe for a snowboard?
We had checked online as well as we could, but it wouldn’t let us complete the process. The counter agent gave us two of the three boarding passes and said we would have to get the third in Costa Rica or in Toronto if we could find a Copa Airlines agent there. They have an office, but we “would have to leave the secured area” unless we found them in process of boarding a flight.
Off through security for our same sex groping ritual and find a seat near the gate and buy a couple of $4 sandwiches for $9 each and wait for the plane. It loaded as well as can be expected when they load by group numbers and label one portal “Group 1”, the next portal “Group 2” and the third portal “Groups 3 – 6”. After the ritual barking from the gate agent at the mixed line to let the group three people through, we loaded. I think maybe people are nervous about getting on in time to stow their carryon while there is yet room. They keep announcing the flight is full, and they don’t have enough room for carry-ons and they will check your carry-on bag for free. Air Canada claims they were rated the best airline in North America in 2019. Gives you pause, doesn’t it?
The plane took off. Landed in Toronto on time and we found our flight on the screen, found our gate with San Jose and both Air Canada and Avianca listed and settled in for a fivish hour wait. There were no airline personnel at the desk this much time before the flight.
An internet search showed the only Copa Airlines flight through the airport left at 7 am. I went in search of an Air Canada airline help desk. There was a gate with agents around the corner from “our” gate. There was a younger woman at one end along with a man at a terminal with a couple of people in front of them. Toward the other end of the counter was another lady dealing with a customer. I stood off to one side of her and waited for her to be free. Eventually she was. I explained my boarding pass issue and she started working on it. A small dark Hispanic looking man approached the man at the now empty counter and presented his boarding pass. The Air Canada male gate agent snapped at the man and said “that’s for San Jose. Go sit over there”. The young woman at the end explained in Spanish and the man went over and sat in the waiting area while grumpy turned his attention back to his monitor and keyboard. I asked him if the gate had been changed for the San Jose flight. He snapped at me that “they were busy boarding a flight.” The pleasant lady kept working on my problem. I did a Spanish curved illusion tract with the young lady who had explained where to sit to the darker man. The competent lady issued me a boarding pass for Copa Air for the next morning, then she issued another one for Juanita and I gave her a curved illusion tract and gave her one to give to your “grumpy friend”. She smiled. Must be hard to work next to a grumpy. Air Canada has its share of them. And its share of competent, pleasant people, as well.
After checking the boards more closely we moved to the gate where I had got the boarding passes. Who knew there would be two flights leaving to San Jose so close together.
After the predictable and unnecessary circus boarding our flight it left pretty much on time. Not long after take-off they asked for a medical person, if any, to identify themselves. I suggested to Juanita that this was not a good sign.
The plane turned back to Toronto and landed, went to one gate to remove the person in distress, and to another gate to deplane us while refueling. A new flight crew showed up. We re-boarded and waited while a mechanic came and made a repair to the starter on the left engine. We took off again and we arrived at San Jose around three-thirty in the morning.
We had booked a hotel close to the airport for our scheduled nine-hour lay over. By the time we got off the plane and into the terminal we only had a couple of hours before it would be time to start lining up for the flight to Managua. So off we went and found a CDN$ 12 breakfast for the bargain price of $US 39, before going to the gate for our plane. Judging from the parade of cleaning personnel on and off the plane, it had some cleaning issues. They got resolved and we left for Managua not too late.
Off the plane, line up, pay our tourist fee, out to the customs area, and run our bags through the X-Ray machines and off to the cab line-up. Don Jose, who has met us in the past seems to have dropped out of sight during the troubles so there was nobody meeting us. The official airport cabs are safe enough. The official tout quoted me $US 50 to Granada. I rolled my eyes at him and he dropped it five bucks. Probably could have forced it lower, but that’s not that far off the going rate. Juanita sleeps a little bit on planes. I don’t sleep at all on planes and hadn’t slept well the night at the hotel. I was sleeping really well when the alarm went off, but it hadn’t been going that way for nearly long enough. Now I just wanted to get to our room. Close enough for cab price.
If you really want to save money. You walk out and grab a gypsy cab. Take it to the UCA bus depot and catch a bus. Maybe save $40, for the cost of two extra hours of cramped, hot conditions and some risk of being mugged. Not today thanks.
I offered the driver the extra five bucks back if he’d stop and wait for me at a supermarket on the way. I darted in and loaded up on jugs of water, toiletries too big for carry-on and snacks. At the hotel it was hugs and handshakes all around, throw the bags into the room and walk down to One-on-One Tutoring before going back to the room to recover a bit before lunch. After lunch at Cafetin Claudia (more hugs) there was a trip to the market for Cordobas, an extension cord and a piece of coaxial cable to rearrange our room more to our liking. I ran out of steam before buying a SIM card or getting a haircut. Time for a bit more sleep. That’s enough market for one day.
After a few days we settled into a bit of a routine with lessons and walks and getting used to the warmth. I bought a SIM card and made contact with Theresa at Way of the Cross. Director, Ben, arrived Thursday evening and on Friday we went and visited him at Camp Shilo and got a feel for events. It looks like Juanita will work helping with the pharmacy at the Medfest in Masaya and Paul will go up country with the construction team to work on a building for future missionary teams.
Saturday, we headed out early to Camp Shilo and hooked up with Theresa and Ben and Cindy, a translator. After stopping in Masaya for new tires for the van we got on the road to Matagalpa. In Matagalpa we visited the lumberyard where they are planing the flooring for the second floor of the new building. It is to be delivered to site next Tuesday. Then up out of Matagalpa to the Promised Land, east toward Dalia turning off the highway just before Cascadas Blancas Eco Reserve. Almost an hour of gravel and mud roads later we were high in the hills checking out the new structure on a pasture which is part of 96 acres of coffee plantation and forest.
After checking things out and some prayer time we headed up and down the roads back to the highway and drove to Masaya in the gathering darkness. They dropped us at the Puma in Masaya. We grabbed a cab back to Tele Pizza for a slice of pizza and then walked back home to the hotel.
Byron is scheduled to arrive Monday evening and we plan to go to Camp Shiloh on Tuesday to finalize my schedule with the construction team. Juanita will talk to Martha about her schedule with the pharmacy. There might even be some things to help with. Generally there is less help needed each year as the in country staff increase and the event becomes more routine to prepare for.
Monday, January 13
This was a quiet day before things get busy. Took Spanish lessons from 9 to 12
Lunch at Cafetin Claudia
Read and relaxed rest of day. No record of where we went for supper.
Tuesday, January 14
After a Spanish lesson at 6 and breakfast at 7 we walked uptown and caught a bus to Masaya, getting off across the highway from the Maxi Pali supermarket (local chain owned by Walmart).
We took a Torrito three-wheeler to Camp Shiloh. Byron, Susan, Tobi and Martha Kroger were there along with others that had flown from the States to Liberia, Costa Rica and then come across the border into Nicaragua last night. Apparently there is an absence of signage and the path across the border is confusing and you have to ask for directions from various random strangers who may or may not have answers or, at least, knowledgeable answers.
We all listened to a devotional, then Juanita worked with Martha on stuff for the pharmacy for Medfest. Byron and others assembled tools for the Promised Land project. I helped where I could. A bunch of stuff was hauled to the Medfest grounds not necessarily in the optimum order. Situation normal, organized confusion with lots of eager hands making extra work by working enthusiastically. It is said to never ask for patience. You may get what you ask for.
Byron and I made flagpoles from PVC pipe and staged them with the stuff going to the Medfest site. While waiting around for lunch we walked to the nearby tienda and bought cheese Ritz crackers and some pastries. Later we added to the carbs with a high carb lunch when some people showed up and did some cooking. We went in a van load of people and bought some tape measures and some drive bits for the construction team.
At the end of the work day Juanita and I caught a torrito passing by which took us back to across the highway from the Maxi Pali. We walked across the highway, went inside and stocked up on snacks, including some low carb ones. Most everything sold is sugar based in terms of granola and other snack bars. If you want low carb you go with nuts and pork rinds. No keto bars to be found in any stores here!
Coming out, I went to the first cab in the line-up. He didn’t want to go to Granada so I moved to the next one who quoted a fair price (Cd$ 150) with his first offer. He probably thought I had turned down the other guy because of price. Later, on the way to Granada, he asked how much the other taxista had requested. He said he was a volunteer fireman. Most of the fires are in the national forest on the slopes of the Masaya Volcano. There are few structural fires in Masaya other than fires caused by bad electrical connections. They also attend many vehicular accidents.
The cab dropped us at the central square where we asked around about a guirila stand. Everyone said there wasn’t one but eventually somebody directed us to a stand on the square to the north across from the Claro offices and next to a Claro kiosk. This stand has a grill set-up and makes revueltas for $Cd 5 each. They are a small version of a guirila with soft cheese mixed in. They are pretty good. Less sweet than guirilas and with a bit of a bite from the cheese. They are filling and not something you would tend to over eat or want every day.
Home to shower and to putter at packing before an early bedtime. We checked the directory and channel surfed but found no sign of the advertised Tuesday night NCIS on the tube. Guess when we buy the DVD of season 17 next year there will be very few episodes we have seen before.
Wednesday, January 15
Down the street for Spanish lesson at 6 and back to the hotel for breakfast at 7.
I finally finished packing at 7:45 and we walked up the street to the next corner. The first cab didn’t know where Las Conchitas was and turned us down. The second cabbie didn’t know either, but was willing to get there with me giving directions. He asked for Cd$ 400 but settled for Cd$ 300. Probably that was a bit high but it worked for the cabbie and us.
On the Masaya bypass we were following a dump truck which was sort of towing a frontend loader with its bucket hooked on the end of the box of the dump truck. I guess this let the frontend loader travel as fast as the truck. When we all came to a rotunda the truck kept going straight because even with its front wheels cranked all the way over, it couldn’t turn with the front-end loader hooked on its back. The frontend loader unhooked and we all proceeded at the pace of the frontend loader.
We arrived at Camp Shiloh. Ben was holding a meeting about the work to be done at the Promised Land camp. We loaded one of the vans going to the Promised Land with tools. As instructed, we removed the miter saw from the van and put the old blade back on that we had replaced the day before. We took the two vans to the Medfest grounds. We had errands to run but had been instructed to wait there until somebody showed up with money. We waited for a while and then for a while longer. Along about the time we were talking about one of us taking a cab and going to buy the stuff we needed for the project the others showed up.
We went to Henry’s, who had made the windows and doors for the project building at the Promised Land base camp. We loaded windows inside one van and doors on the roof of both vans and loaded Henry’s tools, welding machine and welding cables. Then off we went to the Puma to top up the tanks. The first van got to the Puma. The other van went back to Henry’s for something that had been forgotten. The second van arrived at the Puma. I moved to the second van since the first van was headed to the airport to meet the incoming construction team. On the same flight would be others coming for the Medfest. There would be a bus for them to take them to Shiloh and Granada.
Our van went to Shiloh to load more stuff inside and on top and pickup up other people going north. We left for the airport. On the way we noticed a strong burning smell. We stopped. Some past incident backing up had squished the exhaust pipe and bent it so it was rubbing on the tire. The same event had pushed the wheel well so the seam was cutting a groove in the tire treads. Byron crawled under. Somebody borrowed my multitool and salvaged some barbed wire from a nearby fence. While one person pushed the exhaust pipe to one side with a stick Byron wired it in place with barbed wire. Then the stick was used to pound the wheel well seam a little out of the way. Once at the airport the seam was pushed all the way out of the way with a crow bar from the other van.
People were in the process of getting through customs and immigration when we went inside the terminal. By the time we made pitstops and Byron washed the worst of the grease and grime off his hands and arms we were ready to go out to the parking lot. Luggage got tied on top of one of the vans and off we headed for our first stop at a gas station in San Benito. There were baloney sandwiches for all who wanted them and the ability to buy water and snacks at the gas station store. We all gave our dinner preferences to be sent ahead for the hotel to be ready for us when we arrived. Then we were on our way to Matagalpa.
I was experiencing stomach cramps and requested a pit stop at Sebaco. We stopped at a station. I was alarmed at the line-up for the store but the line-up was for the ATM inside so we could bypass it. Good news. Inside it was bad news, however. The security guard said there was no water. The bathrooms were locked. “Go out back”. That normally wouldn’t be a problem if the solution was going to be a stand-up job, so to speak. But it wasn’t. There were grease pits out back and a big water tank. I found a handy mop bucket and hid behind the tank. Hate to do that to anybody, but a least everything was in the bucket and with the cramps there wasn’t much in the way of solid material for whoever had to deal with the bucket. A boy scout is resourceful, especially when desperate.
We stopped at a ferreteria (hardware store) in Sebaco and Henry bought an abrasive disc. In Matagalpa we stopped at another ferreteria where they loaded sewer pipes, Byron bought some saw blades we hadn’t had time to buy in Masaya and I found a working bathroom.
We arrived in San Ramon and sorted out rooms, threw our luggage into the respective rooms and assembled the dining hall. After the “who ordered this?” routine we dined. Then there was a round of ordering for tomorrow’s breakfast and a quick prayer and we all headed to our rooms.
I took some Robax pills and an anti-diarrheal pill, washed my clothes, took a shower and was asleep by 9:30.
Thursday, January 16
Awake at 4. Read.
Up at 5. Take my pills and fibre and get dressed. Do some writing.
American style bacon is not generally available in Nicaragua. I was surprised to see it as a choice for breakfast when I ordered last night. Not quite as surprised to see it had morphed into the typically transparently thin slice of ham in the interim.
After breakfast we got on the road in the two vans after a brief stop in San Ramon for water. Once off the side road that goes to San Ramon and onto the highway to the turn-off to the Promised Land one van starts falling behind on the hills. Everybody gets out of both vans and start walking up the hill while the healthy van tows the sick van to the peak of the hill. My cramps return and a couple of brothers hold the barbed wire apart so I can crawl through the fence into a coffee plantation. In a few feet one is totally hidden from the road. I hang onto a branch to help stabilize my awkward crouching position. The branch broke. With surprising (to me) nimbleness I managed to twist in such a way and not to land in something you wouldn’t want to fall in. Then back to the road and the bros stretch the wire apart and I am good for a while.
The ailing van makes it to the turn-off and a bit along the gravel road going to the base camp. We leave it there and start shuttling people to the job site.
We start our time there in the church with devotions led by David Hefley. He tells us you can clean up a pig and dress it up nicely and put it in church but that will not change its heart or its nature. We are encouraged to examine our hearts to understand if we are changed from the old man through a relationship with Jesus Christ or just cleaned up and dressed nice. A few of the work team gave their testimonies.
We carry tools and materials down the hill to the building and slowly things get organized. Things improve as more people and tools (such as the new saw blades) arrive from the sidelined van.
The main jobs are to clad the exterior with sheet metal panels, to install windows and doors and to put a wood floor in the second storey.
Henry and a bunch of people helping him start on the cladding on the lower storey.
A few of us start cutting wood for the flooring and attaching it to the metal framing. Initially we are working with wood stacked in the middle of the building upstairs. This is a major inconvenience being slow, awkward and, at first, a little dangerous. We lay a few pieces of the eleven-inch-wide shiplap down so we have somewhere to stand, but it is still awkward. The first pieces have to be squared on one end, then cut to length and notched to match the vertical steel. After the first row, pieces can only be oriented one way so the edge mates correctly with the previous row. This involves sticking the board out a window opening and cutting the end square, then pulling the board into the building and cutting the other end square and to the correct length so the joint lands on a steel member. All this while not hitting any one screwing down flooring and without falling off the steel or standing on the unsupported end of a board laying there waiting to be cut. Oh, and please remember not to drop any end cuts on the people working below.
While we are doing this a tiny two-wheel drive Toyota truck shows up with eleven and fourteen foot long pieces of more flooring. Far more wood than we already have. The truck turns into the path across the pasture and makes it a few feet and gets stuck in the mud. I can’t figure out how it even made it to the property up some of the hills we travelled to get here. But it did. They carry the wood down the hill and we get them to stack it downstairs. The long ones together and the shorter ones together.
After the break somebody carries a table down from the church and we set up sawing downstairs. Any wood left upstairs get passed down as we can use it, gets cut to length and handed back up in the correct orientation. Things start going faster with the flooring. While waiting for information for cutting lengths we start squaring ends of the pieces for the next use so there is only one cut to make once they know what they want upstairs.
At the end of the first day about two-thirds of the wood is installed for the interior floor and about two-thirds of the tin is on the lower storey. We all pile into the one van and take a run at the first hill. Failure! The van makes it most of the way up but vertical progress stops happening. Just spinning wheels. Most of the people get out of the van and it backs way back and takes a second run at the hill. At the top everybody squeezes back in.
Once we are back on the highway, we meet the replacement van at the San Ramon turn-off. Many of us get into that van. We get to the hotel and unload. The ministry van goes to Matagalpa to drop the driver of the replacement van at the bus depot and to run some errands. We all had supper and then it was an early night for tired, sore volunteer workers.
Friday, January 17
The breakfast schedule had been moved up so mine was sitting there ready for me when I arrived. Didn’t get that memo but it worked.
After breakfast the Americans headed for the Ford van. The Nicas headed for the Toyota. I joined them and then David joined us, but suffered greatly from the inadequate seating. We stopped at a few places on the way to the job site looking for air for the Ford tire. During the stops I bought a jug of water and a broom.
At the job site we started with a devotion on Esther that somebody read at us from their cell phone.
We carried on cutting boards and pre-drilling the wood and the steel support members. There were people screwing down boards and people cutting tin. Other people screwed on the tin and some others were installing windows.
The wood is green. So green that some of it squirts as the screws are run in. It wouldn’t be surprising to have it shrink ¼” in total once it dries. With the shiplap edge there shouldn’t be any gaps between the board if it does shrink that much. It also wouldn’t be surprising to see it crack with two screws near each edge at each steel member. If you tried using just one screw it is probable that the wood would cup since only one edge is held by the shiplap joint. Time will tell how it ages. You work with the materials you are given and people give you the materials that they are able to buy. There are not a lot of choices. These were all custom cut and put through a planer as a special order and then the shiplap edge was added as part of the order. This is not Home Depot territory out here in the boonies.
There are cans of barniz (varnish) that we are supposed to apply once the floor is down. On top of the wood being green a rain storm came through and rain blew in and soaked about a third of the floor. We all doubt if varnish will stick to green wood. We are absolutely convinced that applying it to puddles of rainwater will not result in anything positive. Applying polyurethane is a job for future Homer not us.
A group of locals is busy cutting down the trees along the edge of the embarkment the building is built next to. This includes a full grown tree bearing almost ripe avocadoes. I guess it is a trade-off of a nice view at the expense of food and the stability of the cliff edge. Time will tell on this issue as well. Sad.
We lose all power. We try to cut the wood with handsaws and a battery powered reciprocating saw. Those are not viable solutions. The two hand saws are rusty and dull with little set left on their crosscut teeth. At this stage we need to rip some of the boards lengthwise. The handsaws are useless to cut the boards to length and less than useless to try and rip the boards to width. The reciprocating saw functions well enough to gnaw a board to length, but five minutes to rip eighteen inches on a fourteen foot board convince that it will not be me doing it. Somebody drags a generator down the hill from the pump house at the top of the mountain. Work resumes somewhat normally with power for the saw and the welding machine.
We head back to town at the end of the day. David changes to the Ford van. I stay with the Toyota that with a running head start makes it up the hill first try. At the top of the hill there is a huge gravel pit that a trackhoe has recently dug out right next to the road. The sides are almost vertical. Seems to be the attitude that they can do anything they want on their own property and when the angle of repose is insufficient to support the road and the road slides into the giant hole that will be somebody else’s problem. Google maps shows another route into the Promised Land. Somebody who has travelled that route say it can be exciting in the rainy season. Not my circus. Gladly.
We all go to Matagalpa for supper. It is presented as being ready at a buffet and not having to wait to be served at the hotel. One loud person chose that option without anybody having the opportunity to suggest that travel time might factor into comparing the two choices. Fascinating how decisions get made sometimes. On the way to supper we stopped for fuel. Then we stopped at the Maxi Pali and bought a few necessary items. Maxi Pali keeps its prices low by minimizing the number of cashiers at work at any given time. Buying stuff happens at the expected pace. I wandered around while people were trapped in the line at the cashier and gave out a few curved illusion tracts. Not much opportunity in the boonies.
The buffet turns out to be fritanga style which means you can line up at the cart outside and buy what you want to go or you can go inside tell a waiter what you want and wait until he brings it to you from the cart. With about twenty people this is going to happen about as quickly as you can imagine. I look at the cramped quarters with people sharing a row of picnic style tables with attached bench seating. I have flash backs to when I tore a hamstring twisting into crowded lunch room seating and decide to find a table on my own with a detached chair. I have my order made and delivered before the waiter has taken about 20 orders and have eaten before all have received their food. I then have the most enervating time quizzing restaurant guests with the curved illusion tracts. We all came into the restaurant, tired, sweaty, slightly grumpy from hunger and muddy from slipping up and down the hill at the worksite. I don’t know about anybody else but fifteen minutes of handing out curved illusion tracts totally energized me. I practically floated back to the hotel. About five minutes after hitting the room I was showered and hitting the sack and asleep almost right away.
Saturday, January 18
Henry and four helpers leave for the job site to get a head start on completing the tin. The rest of us have breakfast at 6:30 and are on the road early with the luggage in the backseat. We stop at a hardware store on the way. While all the clerks are busy with team members and clerks’ friends I short circuit the whole purchasing process. Normal process is the clerk helps you select an item and then fills out a factura. You then take the factura to the cashier booth and pay and they stamp the factura. You than take the factura back to the clerk. If the clerk has started dealin with another client or is visiting with somebody you have to wait you turn again. You give a copy of the factura to the clerk who gives you your purchase and the other copy of the factura. While all the clerks were busy in varying degrees of utility, I took a shovel off the rack, showed the price sticker to the cashier, paid the cashier and walked out with my new shovel and stowed it in the van. Rebel.
Wood has been running low. With careful cutting and deeming formerly unacceptable boards good enough we manage to finish the floor on the balcony and all the steps except half on the second stairway. We clean up our work areas and carry tools up the hill while Henry puts the last of the tin on one of the gables. I guess the other gable will get done someday.
There was a church service which a number of the neighbours had been invited to attend. At the end of the service a young man was baptized in the pool of a stream further up the hill. Then we loaded into the vans. The plan had been to move the luggage onto the top of the Toyota to free up space in the Ford. As so often happens the first and loudest to speak rules. He didn’t want his suitcase riding on top of a van. We rode scrunched together for six hours with suitcases filling the back seat as well the usually available floor space aka leg room. At the end of six hours my leg was back to where it had been eighteen months ago. If I flew tomorrow, I would qualify for preboarding. David had slightly better leg room than I did, but appeared to be suffering as well. Maybe this game is not one for old men. I am starting to conclude it is not one for this old man.
On the way to the hotel from the restaurant last night a gasoline tanker had broken down in the middle of one lane of traffic inside the city. It was still there and traffic took turns getting around it. Then we waited at another spot while an ambulance loaded a motorcyclist that had been involved in a collision.
With a stop in San Benito for a potty break and otherwise driving as fast as the Toyota could we made it back to the Granada Hotel shortly after dark. The group went in to get their rooms and I limped uphill to Hotel Jerico for shower and clean clothes before going across the street to the Eskimo ice cream parlor to put minutes on my Claro phone. Then early to bed.
For the last two days while we have been adventuring in the mountains, Juanita has been working in the Pharmacy area at Medfest.
Sunday, January 19
I was up at five as usual and went out to the front gate of the hotel a bit before my scheduled lesson at six. I was able to open the inner wooden door, but the metal gate was locked with a deadbolt. Normally the hotel owner’s daughter is up and she unlocks the gate. I learned later that she had been woken at three am to let a partying guest in and had gone back to sleep. Also later I am promised a copy of the key for the gate tomorrow when they can get one made.
In the meantime, I phone my tutor and cancel today’s lesson. Then it is breakfast at seven followed by us walking down the hill to the Hotel Granada to board the buses to the Medfest site. This has been Juanita’s routine since Thursday. On Wednesday she worked with Martha setting up the pharmacy to a certain point. Then the group from the airport arrived and finished the job. She rode back on the bus with them to the Hotel Granada and walked up to Hotel Jerico. She walked to Tele Pizza that evening for a slice of pizza since she didn’t know how tired she would be in subsequent days. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday she rode the bus to and from the site and worked in the pharmacy. They were busy all days. She seemed to do okay while I was off playing worker in the mountains.
Before anybody started seeing patients there was a worship service. Singing was followed by a message by Oscar Brooks. He talked about how Gideon sacrificed the second bullock. He tied the significance of the second bullock to Elijah's second meal. When Elijah was threatened by Jezebel he ran for his life and then ended up falling asleep in depression. God sent an “angel chef” who prepared a meal and woke Elijah to eat it. Elijah ate and went back to sleep. The angel prepared a second meal and woke Elijah again. After eating Elijah ran for forty days and forty nights. Oscar tied this back to the second bullock and the provision of God that provides energy to serve.
The construction crew went with Ben to look at future construction projects. I was free to hand out curved illusion tracts. Byron was policing the grounds. Around noon I borrowed him as a chaperone and we handed out some tracts in the neighbourhood and then went to eat at the Masaya Buffet. In line and after eating I handed out some more tracts, then we checked out the park for a shoeshine person and handed out a few more tracts. No shoeshine person was present. We took a cab back to the grounds.
Towards the end of the day somebody came up the stairs to the pharmacy and yelled “Pack it Up”. We figured this meant the buses were ready to load. Nope. It was the truck for the Nicas back to Camp Shiloh. We got on the bus and waited a long time while the dentists finished the last patients. I finally said to Juanita if nothing happens in another five minutes we’ll grab a cab. About three minutes later some dental people showed up and then the rest of them within ten minutes. While waiting we learned how some of the medical people made it through the border from Costa Rica. One of the dental assistants is Romanian by birth and she had taught herself Spanish since it is so close to Romanian. She was able to convince the border people it was a good thing that the doctors were coming to help people.
We went to Tele Pizza for a salad and walked back by way of the local lavanderia (laundry) schedule is Monday to Saturday 8 – 4.
Monday, January 20
I went down the street for the regular 6 am lesson and came back to the hotel for breakfast at 7. Juanita was feeling under the weather so I took the bag of laundry to the lavanderia only to be met by a sign stuck to the door “10:00”. Sufficiently succinct. Maybe I’ll come back later.
When Juanita felt brave enough we went up to the corner and grabbed a cab who was willing to follow my directions to Camp Shiloh for $Cd 300. Devotions were in progress when we arrived. Joe Garza was talking about being fully cooked and not just “half-baked” in our commitment to serve.
The American medical and construction team members were back in Granada at the Hotel getting ready to fly out midday today. The WOTC staff was headed to the Medfest grounds to clean and to bring back stuff for sorting and storage. Somebody had sent us an email that there would be no medicine inventory today and we could take the day off. It had got hung up in their out-box.
We got a ride to Masaya and got dropped off in the street in front of the Maxi Pali were we bought four jugs of water. When I came out the first cab quoted me $Cd 500 to Granada but quickly dropped to $Cd 200. That cab seemed a little sketchy as we drove along and he phoned people told them where he was headed. The engine of the cab died coming out of the Las Flores rotunda. We grabbed our water out of the back, he flagged down another cab, I paid him $Cd 30 and we switched cabs. Back at the hotel I grabbed the laundry and dropped it off. Normally we manage day-to-day washing our lightweight Scottevest clothes in the bathroom sink and they dry overnight. The mud-covered heavy, cotton cargo pants were another matter. They wouldn’t wash easily in a tiny sink and would take forever to dry.
We went to Cafetin Claudia and afterward exchanged some Dollars for Cordobas at the corner cambista then back to the hotel. I picked up the laundry and when I came back to the hotel was given my key for the front gate.
We went to the Chinese place around the corner for dinner. First time this trip. We ran into Oscar and Charmaine there in the middle of their meal. We said Hi and sat around the corner in the next room. Then they came over after they ate and we had a good visit. We had carne asada (grilled beef) and cerdo (grilled pork) from the cart outside, served on a banana leaf with plantain chips and cooked plantains.
Tuesday, January 21
Lessons at six followed by breakfast at seven. We puttered around the room and left the hotel at 8:30. On our walk to the square we stopped at Abdala Tours and asked Hugo about San Carlos and the San Juan River. They didn’t have anything, but he said he would ask around and get back to us.
At the corner we bought papaya chunks in a plastic bag and carried on walking to the square. On the other side of the square we hopped on a passing bus and got off in Masaya across the highway from the Maxi Pali.
We took a torrito to Camp Shilo where Juanita helped Martha with sorting and inventorying the medicines. Byron and I mostly visited with him doing a bit of work while I kibitzed. We started in the gazebo but the sounds from the enthusiastic board game drove us away to the chapel. Deaf people don’t need additional sound when they are conversing. When Marth and Juanita were done they came and visited next to us in the chapel.
We caught a ride with a group going to the market and the Maxi Pali. At the Maxi Pali we bought snacks for tomorrow. On the cab ride to Granada we talked about the Laguna Apoyo with the taxi drive. He lives in a house there. He told us that the Monkey Hut is closed right now but the Paradiso is still open. Back at the hotel we researched the Paradiso and learned it has a connection to a local tour group. I went up the street and bought day pass and tickets for the shuttle for a $2 up charge each and a total cost of $US 30. Ready for a restful day. Don’t want to hassle with buses and cabs and unreliable pick-up for a few bucks. Maybe when more rested.
We had dinner at the Chinese place for the second night in a row. Same choices. Then early to bed to sleep poorly.
Wednesday, January 22
Down the street at 6 for session with Spanish tutor. Breakfast at 7. I answered some birthday messages and then we went up the street to talk with Hugo about what he had learned about San Carlos and the Rio San Juan. There was another person there and he made a call and then gave us a sticky note with attractions listed. He said there was a bus that left Granada for San Carlos two days a week.
We went to the shuttle location at ten and caught the shuttle to Paradiso. The shuttle picked up two more couples at two local hotels and made the quick trip to Paradiso and told us to be ready to be picked back up at 4. A volunteer showed us the ropes and gave us coupons for a free coffee or tea and a cardboard card with a name for us to run a tab for the day.
We spent the day lounging around looking out over the waters of the Laguna de Apoyo. There was a massage hut up near the entrance with massages for $US 10 per ½ hour and manicures or pedicures for $US 10. I treated myself to a birthday massage for ½ hour. There was a chaperone present to keep things on the up and up. My leg felt like new for a few hours.
The Paradiso is pretty nice. Neither of us like the layout as much as we like the now closed Monkey Hut, but it’s a pretty close substitute. Paradiso seems to be run by better marketers. They have a selection of packages of various levels of rooms together with language lessons. Their menu is much more expansive than the Monkey Hut with pricing in the middle of the tourist range. Pizza is only available on the weekends. The food concession is part of the operation so it could be added to the tab and settled up at day’s end. At the Monkey Hut it was from a separate business and had to be paid for as it arrived.
The use of inner tubes, life jackets and kayaks was included with the admission. Paddlebaord rental is extra.
It was fairly busy for mid week in the shadow of last year’s problems. If tourism picks up it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Monkey Hut reopen.
Wi-fi is only available up near reception so I climbed the stairs a few times to up date my in-box. When not sitting there reading and eating snacks I handed out curved illusion tracts.
The shuttle had us home by 4:30 where we cooled off in the room until we went to the Chinese place for a repeat of previous nights’ meals, but with only one order of meat between us.
I laid there with the phone hitting me in the face until I eventually dragged my self up, washed shirt and underwear and had a shower. I went to sleep and slept like a rock.
Thursday, January 23, 2020
As we settle into a routine of reading, writing, walking and eating I will stop writing about each day unless something interesting (to me 😊) occurs.
That said, after the six o’clock lesson and seven o’clock breakfast we walked up the street for some fruit and more information on San Carlos and the Rio San Juan.
A little after ten we walked down the street to near the Malecon (waterfront promenade). There was a bus parked at the side of La Calzada street almost to where it turns to go along the lakeshore to the tourist zone beach. There were people lashing cargo to the roof. I got on the bus. Externally it looks like a big school bus, but inside it had two by two seating that one sees on the up country buses at La Mayereo terminal in Managua. More upscale than school bus or city bus seating but a notch down from Greyhound seating. They’re good enough for a seven-hour run.
The conductor had been standing on the sidewalk talking in his cell phone. He finished and came to check out our intentions as I got back off the bus. I learned that the San Carlos bus leaves from there at 11:00 am and 2:00 pm every Monday and Thursday and a bus leaves San Carlos for Granada every Tuesday and Friday at 4:00 in the afternoon. Fare is $Cd 200 each and there is a rest stop in Juigalpa. Total trip time, about seven hours. I told him we’d see him on February 3rd. He checked the calendar on his cell phone and agreed that was a travel day. The bus was about half full at 10:30 so probably we should get there about ten if we want our choice of seats.
Of course, curved illusion tracts got handed out all around to the conductor and others on the sidewalk.
Friday, January 24
In our trips to Abdalah Tours they said they had a boat tour of the islettas (islands in Lake Nicaragua) available for today at 9:30. We signed up.
The van with the guide picked us up at our hotel at 9:30. We joined a young Dutch couple (the husband works for PetroCanada in the Nederlands) and had one of the best of our five or six tours of the islettas we have ever had. The van dropped us off at the restaurant at the far end of the Tourist Zone. We had a few minutes for a pitstop and a chance to buy bananas to feed to the monkeys on Monkey Island before getting on a boat.
The water was calm and the weather was sunny. Our boat took us through the water foliage and past a few islands to the island with the Fortress. We did a drive-by of that island with the old Spanish Fort. Then we wove our way between islands with their houses of the rich and locally famous. One island had a hotel with some $US 1,000 a night rooms. Included in the price is the use of jet skis and a helicopter ride to the island and back to Managua.
We fed the monkeys bananas at Monkey Island and then the boat docked at an island with a restaurant and we had enough time there for a meal and a beverage if desired and sampled some of the local coconuts. The boat got back to the dock around noon and in a few minutes the van picked us up and dropped us back at the Hotel Jerico. The rest of the day was unremarkable after a lunch at Cafetin Claudia.
Saturday, January 25
Saturday is a down day for the Kroger family. Byron starts teaching missionary training school next week and then he and his wife and son all go back to the States next Friday. His mother, Martha, will be in Nicaragua until later in February. It seemed like a good time to get together. After a bewildering round of telephone tag involving his US cell phone, our Canadian cell phone and the magic jack connections for the Hotel Jerico and Camp Shiloh we arranged for them to pick us at nine at our hotel.
First stop was for breakfast at Cafetin Claudia. Then at the local Puma to load up with snacks for the day.
We took the turn to the right at the triangle at the bottom of the road down the side of the crater that forms the Laguna de Apoyo and went to the end of the road and a restaurant we have been to before with groups. Previously it has been busy. Today it was quiet. Before our arrival there were more staff members than guests. There were a few people at the pool table near the pizza oven by the entrance up near the road. There were a couple of people sitting down near the water down the many stairs. At the entrance there was a sign that said no entrance fee but we ask you make some purchases. Then as we walked down the many stairs to be closer to the water, I noticed some signs saying there was a minimum charge of $Cd 300. Close to ten bucks. When we arrived at the lower level after many steps we were directed to a dining table with menus. I checked the menus. The cheapest thing on the menu was pollo a la plancha for $US 10.97 (about $US 3 at Cafetin Claudia). Prices escalated rapidly from there. A steak could cost you in the mid twenties. I asked the waiter if the three hundred Cordoba minimum was per group or per person. It was per person. No wonder the place is no longer busy.
Maybe the old business model wasn’t working and too many people came and spent too little. This current model doesn’t seem to be a winner either. Maybe a mixed model like Selva Negra uses where there is modest entrance fee to ensure no free loaders, but having the entrance fee apply against any food purchases on a mid range priced menu would work better. I don’t expect to see this business around in future years unless they change something.
On top of the sense of being ripped off was the concern that one doesn’t want to eat in places where they don’t cook much. I always remember an old boss, Fritz Gajetzki, telling me they ate at places that were busy with the locals in Turkey, because any time they ate in some elegant place with white table cloths and hardly any clients they got sick. This place has hardly any clients and it has white table cloths. Do you suppose?
Did I mention the many stairs? There seemed to be even more of them on the way back to the van. We went to Paradiso and paid the entrance fees and visited, drank our complementary coffee and tea and had a couple of pizzas. Paid overall about the same but it was busy and there were kayaks for Byron and Tobi and it was bustling with the weekend crowd of guests and lots of opportunities to hand out curved illusion tracts.
We headed back to Granada around dark and the Krogers had some shopping to do at La Colonia. We said our good byes until next fall. I bought some insect repellent for our trip to San Carlos and El Castillo and we grabbed a cab to Tele Pizza for a salad and then home to the hotel room.
Getting the In-Box to Zero
Some people have a goal to get their e-mail in-box to zero every day. I don’t. I try to get the unread messages to zero every day or two, deal with the urgent and important ones and leave others as reminders as an inefficient do-loop of reminders. I know better, but we often know how to be better than we are.
Sunday morning I was laying there looking at e-mail on my iPhone. I had been expecting something that hadn’t showed up and I checked the junk mail folder. It was not there but there were half a dozen items I wanted to permanently delete. I went into edit mode, highlighted them and deleted them. They didn’t go away. In the spirit of if at first you don’t succeed and the insanity of doing the same over again a few times and expecting different results I tried a few more times. They didn’t go away, but everything that was in my in-box disappeared. Some of them had been in my in-box since 2017.
In only an hour I had gone through trash a couple of times and moved all the desired e-mails back to the in-box. At least I’m telling myself that I got them all. If there is some reply that you have been waiting for while I come up with the perfect response, you might want to re-send it.
The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet
In The Big Fat Surprise, investigative journalist Nina Teicholz reveals the unthinkable: that everything we thought we knew about dietary fat is wrong. She documents how the low-fat nutrition advice of the past sixty years has amounted to a vast uncontrolled experiment on the entire population, with disastrous consequences for our health. – part of Amazon Review
This book was recommended by a friend just before we left Canada. The best-selling author gives the history of the low-fat movement and contrasts the politics and inertia of that catastrophic social experiment with recent increased scientific understanding of how different types of fat affect the body. The dangers of trans-fat are covered along with the trend toward pure vegetable oil which has created its own scary scenario.
Definitely worth a read. Some of the past political shenanigans are echoed in today’s political climate science.
Book Review - Why We Get Fat And What To Do About It
Something in The Big Fat Surprise book suggested this book. I found a copy already in my Kindle library. The furthest point read was fairly far into the book. I sure don’t remember reading it before. Maybe I went to that location to check a reference. Who knows? I do know I read the entire book this month and think it is full of valuable information that could be useful to many people. I think I am one of them.
The author, Gary Taube, writes, “The first part of the book will present the evidence against the calories-in/calories-out hypothesis…” And “The second part of this book will present the way of thinking about obesity and excess fat that European medical researchers came to accept just prior to the Second World War.”
It is well written and exhaustively referenced. The section on endocrinology was a slog. My iPhone hit me in the face multiple times one night before I gave up trying. Even the next morning it took several passes through the same material before what I was reading made sense while I was reading it. Don’t ask me to pass a test on it a day afterward, mind you. Gladly, most of the book is more accessible than that section.
I learned a lot and retain a fair bit of it, but the money quote for me is, “… you lose fat because you cut out the foods that make you fat – the carbohydrates. If you get down to a weight you like and then add these foods back to the diet, you’ll get fat again. That only some people get fat from eating carbohydrates (just as only some get lung cancer from smoking cigarettes) doesn’t change the fact that if you’re one of those who do, you’ll only lose fat and keep it off if you avoid these foods.”
I was 212 pounds when I turned 21. I was a skinny kid, but from 10 to 12 got fat and stayed fat through my teen years. The year I was 21 I started dieting and got down to 164 pounds in the next couple of years. Slowly it came back on with a graph like a yo-yo going up a staircase. Up a bit, down a bit, but over the years trending higher. When I retired at age 57 I was 253 pounds. Not sitting behind a desk for hours a week melted some of that off. A few years later I did the Dukan diet and got all the way down to 172. Since then it has yo-yo’ed gradually upward hitting around 232 this last May and is now about 200.
So, I know how to lose weight, but don’t keep it off long term. I can give you all sorts of excuses, but one of the underlying arguments I have always made is that food is not like drugs, tobacco or alcohol. Those things are not necessary for life. You may be very attached to them, but once you decide to remove them from your lift the war is won. There may be many battles on the fringes before all the combatants get the news, but the war is over.
Food doesn’t work that way. Like the guy said, “I almost had my horse trained not to eat and it died on me.” You gotta eat. Approached that way you are doomed to a daily, running guerrilla war against temptation and deprivation with your limited will power an inadequate weapon against your basic biological need to eat.
But what if it is only certain carbs that affect me that way? Then perhaps the solution is to decide those carbs are harmful to me. They can be treated a class of food and not food in general. Something that you can decide to permanently forgo. All the tools that were used to conquer cigarettes and booze can be applied in fighting the skirmishes.
I’ll need to maintain motivation on the way back down in weight.
I’ll need to figure out what is safe to include in a permanent eating regimen and be wise about that process. I know of alcoholics who were “recovered” but started drinking de-alcoholised beer because it was “safe”. That didn’t end well.
Also, it’s common to see the zeal of the new convert and the annoying smugness of the fatty who thinks they are onto something and their condescension to the unenlightened. Check them out in two years. Maybe they no longer want to talk about it. I don’t even want to talk about this now except I think this may work for me and give me the mindset to break a lifelong pattern. And maybe somebody reading this will be encouraged to figure out how their body works and figure out what will work for them. I wish you luck. Please do the same for me.
Book Review: The Banting Diet: Letter On Corpulence
Low carb diets work.
They have worked for a long time.
William Banting wrote his Letter on Corpulence in 1864 about how he went from having to walk down stairs backwards to having a healthy weight. Some critics accused him of peddling old news that everybody knew. Many of the people who followed his example lost a lot of weight and the self-published non-profit letter became an international best seller of its day. For many years to Banting was synonymous with to diet.
A quick but interesting read. You can see what he got right and what, in terms of current scientific knowledge, was off the mark. He worked with what he had and it worked for him.