The month is long past, It was originally in blog format which made sense if you were reading as things happened. Most of it was composed in internet cafes or hotel lobby computers. I have re-arranged the posts into chronological order and updated the formatting.
February 1, 2012 (Wednesday)
A quiet day in Somotillo today.
We got up and had a traditional style Nicaraguan breakfast at our hotel, then walked to the FH office, joined in the group circle where the day's plans were laid out and prayed. We worked much of the day on packing school supplies into backpacks that will be presented to school children in coming weeks.
A couple of trucks showed up with building materials which we unloaded. The air conditioner company arrived and explained what they need to the staff electrician who then sat down and calculated what he needed and gave that to the director. That should show up and then Paul will work with him. When the plumber shows up he will work with him too. The water tank guy showed up and looked at things and explained what he needed in terms of trenches and the people responsible for that went away.
We walked home. Maybe will explore a bit before dark. Last night on the way home from the internet cafe we stopped in somebody's front yard and ate chicken from their grill. Used the "bano" which was a concrete outhouse. When I asked where to wash my hands I had to walk about thirty feet to the laundry tubs. Seemed a long way from the food prep area. The chicken was really cooked, but the salad not at all. Maybe that accounts for today's queasiness.
February 2, 2012 (Thursday)
The crew was already working when we showed up this morning and Paul generally got in the way a bit and helped a bit. There were a couple of times when the help made thngs move ahead and probably improved the final result and the getting in the way was generally not too bad. Juanita had very little to do and ended up reading most of the day. I think she is getting a little worried as her only written English material is rapidly approaching zero unread.
The crew punched trenches through the concrete floors and walls: a thin trench up from the floor for the new shower; finished the trench for the waste pipe from the toilet; another thin trench from the valve to the shower head in the existing "shower", trench for drains up the wall for the hand basins and across the floor for same; and a trench across the floor for the footing for the wall closing in the new bath / shower room. They do this with hammers and chisels and a Mexican style pick axe (a seven foot long one inch thick steel bar with a sharpened wide end and a sharpened pointed end) wearing sneakers or flip-flops and no safety galses
Then they put pipes in the trenches where appropriate and backfilled the trenches and put concrete and rocks in the trench that is the foundation for the new wall. They use a lot fewer fittings than we do in North America, making their own swages by putting glue on the end of a piece of pipe and igniting it and then forming the swage with another pipe pushed into the end of the hot pipe. What they do should work as long as the pressure isn't too great. Also for joining waste pipes together they will run the lines into a concrete box they are building and let the waste overflow into the line running to the septic tank. No wonder the systems here cannot handle toilet paper. The waste pipe is generally schedule ten. The fittting for the pressure pipe are generally schedule 40, but the pipe itself looks lighter than sched 40.
After work we walked home and ran across enough street food on the way home that we had been fed by the time we reached the hotel. Not much on TV. We generally try to find programs that we enjoy such as NCIS with English dialog (for Juanita) and Spanish subtitles (for Paul). That is easier from Leon south. Up here near the Honduran border they have a different selection on cable TV. We ended up watching the last half of Groundhog Day in English. I used to watch this movie each year as my free movie for my birthday. Needless to say it is not Juanita's favorite, but it was her choice out of 50 channels when the other 49 were in Spanish.
February 3, 2012 (Friday)
We arrived slightly before 8 and it was obvious the crew had been working for some time. This is probably a good strategy since it a little bit cooler first thing in the mornings. With no backpacks to pack and all the staff in Chinandega for training Juanita doesn't have much to do so she has been reading her last fiction pocket book in English and it is almost complete. Maybe we will find someplace in Chinandega tomorrow that sells English books. I doubt it, though, Chinandega is not the tourist centre that Granada is.
Two of the contractor's guys are digging a trench to out near the street. The plan is to tee into the half-inch incoming water line, add a check valve downstream of the tee and run three quarter pipe to the tank. The bigger line will increase the flow available to fill the tank and check valve will allow the system to be pressurized without trying to pressure the whole town system and let the system run like it does now when the pressure system is off-line.
If you draw a straight line between where the water line enters the property to an existing stand pipe and start digging a trench a little to one side of that you find that they didn't actually run the old line in a straight line. The digging bar makes its mark a few times, but the resulting leaks are repaired and the tee and new line to the tank are installed by quitting time.
Just after the trench was opened up the delivery truck arrived with more construction supplies - the ceiling tiles, ceramic tiles for the bathroms, wire for the A/C and other related supplies. After moving some concrete pieces and dirt so the gates could be opened and putting down a few boards the truck manages to get maneuvered into the yard and unloaded. I help unload and Juanita counts pieces and compares to numbers on the invoice.
The monotony is broken by a few runs to the ferreteria for pieces to fix the piping and for a check valve (what they call just-in-time delivery in the MBA business. There are other names for it, but I digress) and a few other things that were previously unkown or unconsidered.
We plan to head out to the reportedly grotty beaches near El Corinto tomorrow.
February 4, 2012 (Saturday)
After our hotel breakfast we asked the hotel owner's wife where the micro buses to Chinandega stopped. She told us just outside and said that they went by every half hour on their return from the Honduras border, about ten minutes further up the highway. When we finally got ready to leave (We divide responsibilities in many areas in our marriage. This particular one of delaying our departure we take turns at. Today was Juanita's turn to be ready and mine to delay. Her turn to be patient. I can't think of the last time I took a turn at being patient. I guess that's a "mommy-do" as some SOWERS friends call it. But I digress.) we went out to the highway and stood in the shade of a hot dog stand to wait for the next microbus to Chinandega. The hotel and his son came out and joined us.
The hotel owner came out and flagged down one dropping passengers across the highway and told it to stop for us on its way back. The owner's son brought out a rocking chair for Juanita to sit in. She was too embarrassed to sit in it. I briefly used it to change my footwear, but then stood again. Change my footwear? In spite of how long it had taken to get ready I had walked out of the hotel in my flip-flops and had rushed back in and grabbed something a little bit better for walking and a backpack to throw the flip-flops and any purchases into.
After a while an older lady with a food basket of stuff for sale joined us in our wait. The microbus stopped and we all got on and the driver asked if it was just us two or if the other two that had been standing there earlier were coming. I said just us and we left. A few blocks down the road he stopped and picked up his conductor. I was a little astonished that the guy was hardly in and the door was not closed when the van began rolling, but then realized he was part of the operation not just another passenger.
Eventually the vehicle filled up with people. Most people paid the same as us, but a few paid less. It became apparent why when they got off only part way to Chinandega. I tend to watch what is going on, because there are many times when we get overcharged for things because we are obviously not Nicaraguans. Probably should not bother me, but it often does and occasionally doesn't. Non-consensual is a big hurdle to enjoyment of something you might otherwise think was fine.
When we got to the end of the line at the Chinandega bus terminal we found a microbus to El Corinto and got on it and sat up front with the driver. He asked us a few things in English and we answered and then started talking, but he had exhausted his English skills. I could relate.
The run to El Corinto was quick with a bit of a bypass through Pasos Caballos which seemed to have a better beach than we found in El Corinto, but we didn't know that then and even if we had I can't think of a good way to get there. You can get off the bus easy enough, but they only go by that beach on their way to El Corinto, so when you are ready to leave you have to get on a microbus that is going the wrong way and is probably still full and microbuses, unlike chicken buses, don't take on a couple of extra passengers. They may take one extra and they may take take children on laps, but beyond that the driver just waves his finger and doesn't even slow down.
Well, we arrived at the bus terminal in El Corinto and got off the bus. The terminal on the fringe of El Corinto was a large parking lot with a bit of a waiting area under cover and none of the market stalls normally encountered in bigger centres. There were the usual swarm of pedicabs waitnig and we picked one and he pushed us to the central park which was quite a long pedal for him, but he didn't overcharge us.
We looked for a place with real coffee, but only found instant. So we went for a bit of a walk and checked out the main square which is mentioned in some guide books for its creative use of concrete in somewhat of a "Jetsons" style. The bell tower and fountain were worth seeing. The turtle in the fountain was okay. I was looking for a concrete turtle, but it was a medium sized real turtle wandering around the dry fountain. There was a high fence to prevent turtle poaching.
There was a cruise ship docked somewhere near town. We were mistaken for cruise ship passengers and prices quoted for pedicabs were twice what the guy who knew we got off a bus charged us. When we were in Mazatlan the prices for thngs like parasailing doubled on cruise ship days compared to days when there were no cruise ships docked there. Must be the same here.
As we walked around the town square we were approached several times by people who asked us if we were from the cruise ship and offered to be our guide. The one I spoke to in my best war movie German just looked confused and kept trying to speak to me in English and getting blank looks in return. I would have been in trouble if he had been able to speak German. But he didn't seem to be able to and he left us alone after that.
Somebody had set up large speakers and were declaring war on ear drums with some latin music. We concluded that the music was going to be for the dancers that were changing in the museum we went into. It was the size of my parents living room and about the same shape. Half a dozen dancers took up half the space. The museum displays consisted of a few phots from days gone by and a few glass cases with a few stray items of uncertain purpose and limited cataloging in any language.
After that bit of excitement we closed the loop around the square and ended up back at the hotel cafe we started at. We ordered a coke and an instant coffee. The waiter brought it. I went to find the men's room. I found it but it was a windowless cubbyhole and there was no light switch. I started tracing the lampcord from the light bulb hanging on the ceiling and had got a fair way down the hall to an office doorway into which the cord disappeared when a kitchen worker directed me to the ladies' room. I protested a bit but was reassured by her insistence and by the fact that this toilet had a seat and the room had a light switch and a working light. Braille was not going to be needed. The tank lid had a third of it missing and a toilet brush stuck in the tank. Just a handy place to keep the brush I surmise. It wasn't to keep it wet. The tank was dry. I left the Ladies' room and the kitchen worker went and got a bucket and went and flushed the toilet. Juanita had moved tables and had put a napkin over my coke. "Flies?", I asked. "Bees", she replied. The waiter was happily swatting bees at our old table by the courtyard. He kept at it a long time. We finished our beverages, got up to leave and stood by the counter to pay. He kept swatting bees. I took the remote for the everpresent TV and muted the sound. I didn't fall when the sound quit since I knew it was going to happen and braced myself against the collapse of the wall of sound. The waiter didn't notice. There goes one theory I have that people are afraid of silence here like some people are afraid of the dark. Must not be that. Maybe he is deaf. A shame for such a young man. The kitchen worker came back out of the kitchen and shook him out of his bee swatting trance. He came over to the counter and we paid and left.
All the pedicab people were still in cruise ship prices mode so we got directions from a policeman and started walking. Eventually somebody called our bluff and names a reasonable price and we got on and rode to the beach. It was worth every Cordoba. It was a long way and a hot day. He dropped us off at the breakwater and we looked at that then walked across the point and looked at the beach for a while and started walking back toward town and hoping for another Pedicab.
About half a block back towards the town center we met a pedicab and rode with him back to the bus depot. The route he took cut diagonally across a residential area so we got a chance to see more of the town. The pedicab driver(?) was born on the Carribean coast Nicaragua at Bluefields.
When we got back to Chinandega we got on a pedicab after agreeing on the destination and the price. After a while it became obvious that our concept of where we were going was disconnected from the pedicab driver's concept. His destination was okay though and we got off and paid him and quickly found a member of the same chain of licuado places we had so liked in Leon and stopped there and re-hydrated and checked the map on my iPod and got their wi-fi key and checked gmail.
We walked to the central square and around it. The town already had a better feel than Leon. I guess I respond to slob appeal, not snob appeal. Leon may have more than its share of museums and elaborate, old churches but it doesn't seem to have any red blood in its veins. Blue maybe, but not red. Maybe it is just me. I remember when as a university student I would read Time Magazine movie reviews. The less a movie appealed to their movie critic, the more likely I was to like it and the inverse. Leon seems too stuck up to appeal to either its inhabitants or to tourists unless they are culture hounds. Chinandega is not a tourist town, but feels like it would be a better place to live for a normal person.The central square had a brick castle on one corner with an arcade at ground level. The market and the street vendors were generally cleaner and better organized than Leon's.
We walked to our original destination and found it had been overbilled by Lonely Planet or had changed since the review. We searched for the bakery mentioned, but it was gone. Then we searched for the air-conditioned Internet cafe mentioned, but found that was where the bakery had moved to. Never did find an air conditioned Internet cafe. It would probably kill them on power costs, but it would be a hit with me. We did find a cash machine with the line up for the ATM's in an air conditioned space. Not many times I would be happy to see a long line, but this was one of them. As they say, even Managuans find Chinandega hot.
Finding a few of the listed restaurants, but not seeing any people in them we took passes and ended back at the square at the Tip-Top chicken place. That was cultural experience, as well, We knew what we wanted, based on a wall poster, but since we were going to eat it there, the process is to take a seat at a table and wait for the counter staff to tell the waiters that they were still waiting for one of the waiters to take an order from us and then one loses the argument amongst the waiters and shows up and takes your order and says "ten minutes" and Juanita returns from the washroom and says that she wants to stay here because it has running water and then the food shows up and then the drink and then you realize that a "burger" in a chicken place means a deep fried breaded chicken patty not a hamburger and that the plancha (breast) option would have been better (and cheaper), but it's not too bad and it is air conditioned in there.
We walked a bit and shopped a bit and bought some cookies and Buba Luba bars at the Pali and some jeans and hit a cash machine up and changed the dollars into cordobas since, hopefully, the dollars came out of our US dollar account so we hopefully won't get dinged on double exchange by buying cords with money from a Canadian dollar account. We probably won't know until we are back in Canada, but did a small transaction for future reference. My last trip here I learned that one does not want to pay with a Canadian credit card. The exchange rate they used was much less than favourable compared with bringing US cash and doing your currency exchanges on the street.
We did find one Internet cafe, but it was hotter than out on the street, there were no fans blowing air around to help and they definitely needed a better string for their Dixie cups - the connection seemed as slow as dial-up. We bailed out in minutes and grudgingly paid their half-hour minimum charge for two computers. Then we walked back to re-hydrate at the Smudy2 (the second smoothie place in town, I guess) but they had closed for the day so we bought a juice and an iced tea at a gas station and grabbed a cab back to the bus terminal and headed home to sunny Somotillo. There were a lot of people sitting there in chairs at the microbus loading area. We don't know what that was about. Were they waiting to go somewhere else? Were they waiting for a microbus with headliner and more uphostlery? Don't know.
We were close to the last people on board so in a few minutes the bus was full and we left and were home in under an hour. We turned on the A/C in our room and went back out an sat and enjoyed our free coffee and then went back to the room briefly and turned off the A/C and went around the corner for an hour of keyboarding and then back to the hotel, checked the TV programs and Juanita decided to wash her hair and I came back for one more hour.
February 5, 2012 (Sunday)
Today was a day of rest. It was also a day of restlessness since we had planned on doing some keyboarding and surfing, but every Internet cafe we found (four) was closed for Sunday including the one with the sign that says its Sunday hours are just shorter than other days. The bars appear to be open so I doubt that the Internet cafes close due to some municipal by-law.
We walked down to the restaurant that we ate at our first day here and enjoyed lunch without being too disturbed about the dead cricket on the underside of Juanita's clear glass plate. At least it was on the non food side. Upon reflection it probably got squished between the food side of my plate and the bottom side of hers, but stuck to hers. I just thought of that now and it is too late to be bothered by it now. Sometimes it helps to be a bit on the slow side.
We got bored enough by evening to watch the Super Bowl. I was reminded of Paul Tanaka's story about working with the Miami Dolphins and helping them set and stay motivated on the goal of reaching the Super Bowl. Apparently they obtained their goal and once there didn't know what to do. Their goal had been just to get there, nobody prepared them for the next step. The next year they set the goal to win the Super Bowl and did. Details. Details.
February 6, 2012 (Monday)
Helped with renos, consulted on best way to do electric work, ran errands, painted. Plan to do more of the same tomorrow.
Juanita ran errands with Gloria, local FH director. Plan for her for tomorrow is to go with them and do a five hour round trip to a school to hand out some of the backpacks we packed.
Learned of a church in Somotillo where a FH staff member attends. Maybe we will lattend there next Sunday.
February 7, 2012 (Tuesday)
Yesterday the contractor's helper chipped a trough in the wall from the roof down to the electrical panel in the main room and ran some conduit and started pulling cable for the A/C units that are going in the dorm rooms. Today we all realized that when the A/C supplier was here and we looked at the panel and said "there's plenty of room for additional breakers" we were basing that on the number of holes available in the cover. Once the cover is off the panel the reality is that there are a lot more slots in the cover than there are in the panel box. The bus stops well short of the bottom of the panel. Time to walk to the ferreteria (harware store) and buy a sub panel. Then it is time for the helper to take chisel and hammer and dig out a hole in the plaster and brick for the sub panel. This is no place to be an electrician's helper.
Meanwhile the other guys are chipping off part of the plaster in the walls of the new bathroom so the new ceramic tile will adhere. Don't think plaster. Think stucco since that is what it is, a mixture of cement and sand that has been hardening for some years on the three walls that were part of an alcove that has been closed in to make the new bathroom. There were three guys in there all day hacking away steadily with hatchet like implements. They only stopped for lunch and to sharpen their hatchets (using a disk grinder and no safety glases, standing on the hatchet handle in their flip-flops).
They were almost done the new bathroom at quitting time.
I only walked to the ferreteria once today, a new low. However I managed to keep busy today painting, finishing the room I started yesterday and another one as well as doing the close work around doors and windows that had been left when the crew rollered much of the walkway last Saturday while we were schlepping around Chinandega.
I also kibbitzed with suggestions about the electrical work which probably was considerd a nuisance, but with good grace and, I think resulted in a more reliable product. Once the contractor and his helper finished all the runs for the A/C units and the new water pump they moved on to starting the suspended ceiling in the dorm room I had finished painting.
I am always in awe of how clever the people here are with getting things done with the minimum expediture of dinero. Yesterday I marvelled at the scaffold support made out of sticks that was so simple, so cheap and yet perfectly safe and adequate to the task.
Also yesterday I was trying to put the handle from the broom onto the handle for the paint roller. The broom handle was threaded. The roller frame was not. I was thinking about buying a new frame when Carlos, the contractor, came by and looked at what I was doing and said "bolsa". So I followed his advice and wadded a plastic bag onto the end of the broom handle before jamming it into the roller frame handle. It works. Today they used the black powder out of an old flashlight battery as the powder in a chalk line to mark where the wall angle goes for the suspended ceiling.
Juanita spent about five hours today going to two schools and helping hand out back packs at the second one. She told me a bit about it - leaving the pavement within a couple of kilometers and fording rivers in the rented pickup (driven by its owner), but hopefully she will e-mail our daughters with an account and I can place an excerpt here, later.
This day I have to tell you about because Paul was painting all day and I was out and about with the FH staff. We were in a four wheel drive truck with six of the Nicas in the back with the backpacks that we were delivering to school children.
About a mile or two out of town we went on dirt road for about 2 hours. I don´t think we went very far but most of the time we were going 20mph and under. What an interesting time. We went across a river by driving down the side to a place where it was not far out to the sandbar that we drove on until we were only a truck length to the other side then the guy stepped on the gas and we actually made it without flooding the engine. After that we drove on rocky and sandy road much of which had not seen any car or truck traffic in some time. There were bicycle tire tracks and lots of cattle and horse tracks.
So out in the middle of nowhere we actually passed two houses that had a single solar panel each on their roofs. We eventually got to a school where there were multiple horses tied to a fence and people waiting around. They followed the truck up a track that was almost too narrow for the truck until we got to an open field. We got out of the truck and loaded the backpacks and teacher supplies on the horses and then went on foot for another 20 minutes before arriving at the school where many children and their parents were waiting for us. This is Nicaraguan summer (93 degrees most days) and they will not restart school for another two weeks. While we were at the school I saw two flying ant nests. They are shaped like wasp nests but look like they are made out of a pale yellow ceramic. Apparently if they sting you you swell up in a hurry and it hurts like anything.. On the way back we repeated the river and several stream encounters. You could not pay me to subject my truck to such a road.
Tomorrow we are going out again to another place. If I understood correctly to is half an hour further out. Should be fun even in the heat.
February 8, 2012 (Wednesday)
Another day in Sunny Somotillo. Not so muggy today, but very hot.
Paul painted one of the dorm rooms, and kibbutzed with the water tank and pressure system installers who arrived from Managua this morning. When we left them at the end of the day they were sitting there with everything hooked up and waiting for some water pressure from the town water system so they could test what they installed. The power was off all over town most of the day while the electric company worked on three light poles out on the highway. I guess it took the town water works a bit of time to recover from this since we had power for about two hours, but only a trickle of water for the last hour and not enough pressure to force it to the top of five foot tall tank.
I also went to the ferreteria a few times for supplies, such as a bag of crosses. The tile guy started installing tile in the new bathrom and the contractor realized that they had not asked for any little plastic crosses for maintaining seperation while the thinset mortar set. I needed the walk.
Juanita went even further out in the country today to help hand out backpacks to school kids. The team broke up to handle two schools, dropping her and about half the FH staff at the first school and continuing on to the second.
The Latin approach to sound is a bit of culture shock to a grumpy old Canadian not used to sharing. Churches often have immense loudspeakers to help the people in the next block or two to enjoy their music and preaching. Similarly the guy two booths down at the Internet cafe at this very moment is sharing his favorite music at a volume that is borderline painful in my booth. Quite a sacrifice on his part to endure that volume so that others may share his joy. But all that is a mere seque into an event yesterday that I failed to report. This very loud brass band was approaching the office. I could hear them coming and quite quickly for a brass band. The reason they were able to move so quickly is that they were all in a school bus. All included a guy in the back luggage space pounding away on a bass drum. Even with the bus windows open it must have been cripplingly loud in the bus. It was none too quiet on the street.
February 9, 2012 (Thursday)
Juanita went with some staffers to hand out backpacks at a school today.
I spent some time running errands for the work going on at the office. It seems to be proceeding well. The pressure system is in and works. It cannot be left with the valve open to the main plumbing system yet as there are still temporary caps in a few places until the plumbing is complete in the bathrooms. They stay on with the 3 or 4 psi of the town system, but at least one blows off right away when hit with 45 psi. This drops incoming pressure below that needed to fill the tank so the pump would not run forever. The low level cut-off switch would stop things to protect the pump when the level in the tank fell. Best to leave it isolated for now.
The wall tile is going well in the new bathroom. The outside of the new wall creating the new bathroom was plastered today. The rest of the breezeway main colour got painted yesterday. The grey band at the bottome was completed yesterday on the wall of the breezeway and at the base of the posts today. The last dorm room was started being painted today with a few gaps for the wall trenches where the conduit is being imbedded for the lighting and outlet boxes. The suspended ceiling in one dorm room was completed by noon and another by quitting time. That leaves three dorm rooms and three bathrooms, plus the owner's apartment. The A/C people are supposed to come Saturday if I understood correctly. Doesn't sound right but that's what I thought I heard both times I asked.
My hands on work is cutting back since there is no obvious critical path that has any obvious obstacles where I would be of assistance and it looks like anything I did would be takng food out of the mouth of somebody who can use the work. I think the dorm rooms and touch-up painting I did helped prevent a roadblock, but I can see mostly my role from here on in is more of technical consultant, workmanship conscience and gopher. Time to hit the books in the downtime moments. The first one I started said one of the requirements of learning another language is overcoming inhibitions especially about being misunderstood or misunderstanding. No fear there, mate.
February 10, 2012 (Friday)
The contractor's crew carried on putting tile on the wall in the new bathroom and installing a suspended ceiling in one of the dorm rooms. They finished that room and started moving stuff out of the last dorm room which had been being used to store supplies. This weekend they will continue ceiling work in the last dorm room and perhaps get to the suspended ceiling in the apartment. All the ceiling in those five rooms need to be done before the air conditioning unit installation is complete. The official word is now that the A/C installers will arrive on Tuesday from Managua and plan on finishing in two days. That means the last ceiling has to be installed by Wednesday morning sometime. They should make it okay.
I plugged any remaining openings in the water system with caps or valves and turned the pressure system on and pointed out the one obvious leak to the contractor. In opening up the cement wall to upgrade the shower valve in the old bathroom the hammer or chisel must have dinged the pipe ahead of the valve and cracked it. With system pressure there was a fine spray coming out of the pipe. At town pressure, nothing.
Juanita went off to a school to hand out backpacks. She got back after five and was telling me about her day as we walked along toward home when we stoped and bought some street food and then she was eating as we walked and then we were at the Ciber Cafe. I'll fill in the blanks after I learn more details, but the day involved taking a bleeding child to the hospital.
Tomorrow we plan to head back to Chinandega and perhaps go to explore Chichigalpa a bit before returning to explore the Burger King in Chinandega. And maybe a movie theater! And maybe not.
Here's an excerpt of an e-mail Juanita sent:
I got back to the office at five thirty today and Paul was waiting for me and after I went to the bathroom I was ready to leave and Paul was saying that he would see people Monday. This has been such a crazy week that I thought it was Thursday.
There were again two schools to visit today. We went to the first one that was the smaller one and when we got there there was a girl with her arm bandaged and blood all over the place. Apparently there was some sort of injury a while back and she ended up with a blood infection as a result of that. I did not understand what had happened to start it bleeding again. Anyway the staff member who has had some nurse's training was going with our truck driver to take her to the hospital and she said for me to come along. When we got there the doctor was not available because he had gone with the ambulance on an emergency call. So we had to wait for them to come back. We waited quite awhile and when the ambulance returned the patient was a baby that was tube fed and apparently the food had gone down the wrong way into the lungs and the baby was having a hard time breathing. They stabilized the baby and sent it in the ambulance to Chinandega. The FH gal talked to the nurse and said the baby's chances were slim. Then the Dr. was going to see the girl we brought in so we left. It looks like FH guaranteed payment for this girl.
We went back to the school and collected two people who had been helping with the first school and off we went. When we got almost to the second school we were flagged down by another vehicle. In it was the office manager and the person from Managua who is in charge of teams coming from the U.S. They wanted to know why we were so long getting there and the staff person filled them in and they took off and we continued to the school. Or at least to a sport field. We started on down the road toward the school and were stopped by men from there saying our truck was too low and that we could not get down that road. We females started walking and the men were going to carry the backpacks and teacher supplies - six very heavy bags. When we got to the school the vehicle that had the office manager and person from Managua was sitting there and wanted to know where the truck was. They were told and the person from Managua started walking that way.
We went to the bathroom and then waited for supplies. When they arrived the teacher unlocked the school so we could set up and starting calling the students in. We started with the pre-school kids and after about six had gone through the guy in charge of teams came to talk to our head staff member and said he wanted to process five or six families so when they were done he could take pictures of them as a group. Since everything was bagged starting will all the preschoolers and working up through grade 8 this threw a real monkey wrench into things. We managed to get these people together and sent them out the front door to have their pictures taken. Soon this guy shows up again and selected one mother and child to interview. When we pass out the backpacks each child has their picture taken. Well this guy commandeered our picture taker to video his interview and again off he went after causing a major line up waiting for the individual photos. At some point this guy and the office manager disappeared. Around three our group leader sent the photo guy to a place where his cell phone worked and he called the office manager to ask for help as it became apparent that we were nowhere near done and we were to be finished by about three thirty. He was told that there was no one to send or maybe no way to send them. I haven´t had a chance to talk to Paul yet but my guess would be that the people from the smaller school were probably back at the office by noon.
At this point the people taking information basically were just taking the bare minimum and putting people through almost as fast as the photo guy could take the pictures. Oh, yes, I failed to mention that the camera battery was either not charged or was not holding a charge so soon after the office manager left the photo guy said there would not be any more photos until he could charge the battery. I gave him my camera and he switched SD cards and used my camera until he thought his battery was charged. He then used his camera for awhile until the battery went again. We switched cameras and after awhile my batteries went but no big deal as I had extras.
I didn´t have a chance to eat so Paul and I stopped at our usual food street vendor and we grabbed something to eat on the way to the internet cafe. The little store closes at six so I guess it is a good thing we are headed for Chinandega tomorrow after breakfast and will buy Saturday night snacks there.
So much for a day in the life
February 11, 2012 (Saturday)
Here we are in Chinandega. There seemed to be a general shortage of microbuses headed to Chinandeaga and we passed up on a couple of chicken buses going by that already had standing room only. Other than being in other people's way hogging the shade of the hamburger stand outside of the hotel it was more pleasant standing there than standing cheek by jowl so to speak squeezed into a chicken bus for an hour and half. The microbuses, once you get on one don't make many stops so they only take an hour. We ended up scrunched down behind the drivers seat. There was not enough head room for me to sit up straight, but slouching and playing with my iPod got us there in what seemed like a brief time.
We used the baños at the bus terminal in Chinandega. They are a bit grim, but have seats and they flush! And you get a generous wad of toilet paper for your three cordoba fee. Then it was out to look around at the cabs and get hustled into a pedicab who was kinda vague about the fare. I finally got more insistent about a block away from the depot and named a very high amount I would be happy with. He countered with two and a half times that. An outrageous rip-off. I said "Abajo Aqui!" ("Let me off here!" literally, "Down here!") he agreed to my price which was too much as it was.
We wanted to go to a Bible Book Store we had seen last week. Last week it was all locked up, we assumed for lunch but we were't exactly sure where we had seen it. The street we knew, but not the exact block so we gave the post office as our destination and started our search from there. The gate was locked, but we could see in enough to see their entire stock enough to decide there were no books that looked vaguely like English fiction. Then we walked to our favorite Smudy (sounds close to "smoothie" in Spanish pronunciation) of the two in town and had some licuados and came to the internet cafe that, Maria, one of the FH staffers had found out about for us, yesterday.
From here we will do a bit more exploring of Chinandega especially the new mall and the newish LaColonia. The mall is supposed to have movies and a Burger King and lots of locations for other businesses which are not filled yet. Apparently the BK has a tax deal if they open one store a year. Last year it was in December in Chinandega - the only open business in the mall, but they met the terms of their deal.
Chichigalpa was an option, but Juanita turned up her nose a bit and I read the guide book more closely and unless it is during the week and you have the pull to get a tour of the rum distillery or the sugar refinery there is nothing there of note but the charming name except as a jump off point for a volcano tour. I might be ready for another one by the end of the month and we might go to Mombaya (sp?) near Granada. So we didn't go to Chichigalpa. (I always think that should have an "l" on the end. It could then be a word describing a fashionable girlfriend.)
Tell all y'all later how the rest of today went. Later.
We found the Fratanga La Parrallada that I looked for in the wrong place last week. It was crowded and busy and clean, all wonderful combinations in a restaurant. I always remember what Fritz Gajetski said about when they lived in Turkey. Any time that they ate at a fancy restaurant it was not busy and they got sick afterwards. They had better luck eating at the busy restaurants the locals used.
There was a grill working outside grilling chicken and steak. Juanita had the chicken and I had the steak, both with several sides and a beverage each. It was a way better meal than TipTop last week for much less money. No wonder it was packed.
After lunch we walked back to the internet cafe with plans to do a brief bit more of keyboarding and surfing and then have a dessert at the Smudy. The Smudy closes earlier than we thought so we grabbed a cab to the local Burger King for dessert. The Burger King was the only store in the food court of an amost complete modern shopping mall that had no other businesses in it yet. The menu board showed ice cream products, but they had no ice cream or other desserts. They had a burger combo for almost six US dollars on the menu. No wonder they could fit all their customers in a taxi.
We found the bathrooms which were large, clean ceramic tiled North American style washrooms. We asked a security guard abou the "Cine" (movie theatre) but were informed it opens in April. So we grabbed a cab to the La Colonia and looked for English books (no luck) and peanut butter. Learned that peanut butter is not known a butter of cacahuates (peanuts) but of mani (peanuts). I guess Mantiquilla de Mani has a nicer ring to it.
Learn something every day. No wonder everybody looked at me blankly when I asked for it in the small super market in Somotillo. Probably still wouldn't have had it since it costs about five bucks a jar, but they might have known what I was talking about. We bought one jar and debated buying two. Should have bought two.
Finally found dessert at the Eskimo booth in the corner of the La Colonia. Then we sat on a window ledge outside and ate our Sundaes before hailing a cab to the bus terminal. Across from the bus terminal we found a pharmacy and bought some necessary supplies and started looking for a microbus to Guasale/ Somotillo. There was one almost full and we didn't want to sit seperately on tiny, sagging jump seats so we sat on the red chairs and waited for that one to fill and a new one to move into place. Need sharper elbows. That one filled up somewhat quickly for the first part until the better seats were gone. The microbus looked like it had been rolled once and somewhat repaired by an indifferent, incompetent body person.
As we waited for the last seats to be sold and the fares collected by the driver, the next microbus pulled into pole position. It was an almost new larger Toyota in showroom condition. One would neeed really sharp elbows to get on that one. It was swarmed. Funny how when you're talking microbuses at twice the price of chicken buses the people are much more polite on the chicken buses.
We made it through the experience and the police check where the police talked to each other about the bad body work, or maybe it was the bald rear tires, dropped our stuff at the room and went to the Internet Cafe for some mindless surfing and then back home for some mindless TV.
February 12, 2012 (Sunday)
Fighting some sort of flu bug so will keep this really brief and go take a nap.
Up at usual time had relaxed breakfast and get ready for church time. Went to Baptist church. Mostly women there and speaking.
Found internet cafe open. Had to kill an existing wi-fi host on my iPod to sign on to theirs. Hopefully it is not the same name as the other wi-fi hub in Somotillo. That one I can stop and update Gmail on my way back and forth to ferreteria.
Home to lunch and afternoon nap and some Dayquil or maybe Nyquil, now. Cheers.
Managed to get an extended nap without the benefit of cold meds and woke up feeling much better. We ate in the room and spent a relaxed evening reading and a bit of channel surfing. More surfing than actually watching since most English language programs were inane and/or required a high level of suspension of disbelief.
February 13, 2012 (Monday)
The contractor got a lot of work done during the weekend and will probably have all the suspended ceilings done tomorrow in all the rooms receiving air conditioning. The tile work was all done in the new bathroom so today was a day for grouting it and working on installing the toilet and hand washing basin. I watched the toilet installation. They do it differently here. They set the toilet in concrete. No wax ring or bolts! Less problems with leaking, but I would guess the only way you raise a toilet bowl from the floor involves a hammer not a wrench. The guy looked like he knew what he was doing so I spent what amounted to too much time helping translate cards that go out to sponsors of children. When the teams go to the schools to hand out back packs they interview each child with some canned questions and record the response in Spanish on a pamphlet. This gets translated to English and the pamphlet including a picture of the child gets sent to the sponsor. When I took a break from the translating and took a walk I realized I should have birddogged things a bit more, but eventually we got the right guts in the toilet with no leaks from the tank or supply.
The tiling has started in the old bathroom so until the toilet base sets and the door gets put on the new bathroom one has to evict the worker(s) when one needs to use the toilet. The reservoir in the corner of the old bathroom was knocked out over the weekend so one has to go looking for a bucket of water to flush now.
Last week when the teams' leader came from Managua he vetoed putting ceramic tile around the bottom of the walls in the dorm room, but wanted to go with a band of paint. There was a bit of grumbling at quitting time on Friday, but by Monday morning the grumblers had painted the band on three of the four dorm rooms. Probably will save some time as well as money. Won't look quite so nice, but it doesn't look bad. One of the items on my errand list this morning was masking tape for finishing the paint band. And wire to finish the lighting and outlets in the dorm rooms and bathrooms.
Juanita went to a large school where it took most of the day to hand out backpacks there were so many students involved. Here is part of her e-mail account of the day:
Today was much the same as the last week and yesterday.
Backpacks to another school but today the person that takes pictures decided to motivate information takers. On the blackboard he wrote the time starting after we had been there almost two hours, and the number of backpacks given out and the total number to be given out. Did that ever cause a reaction. The information takers started working much faster and we actually finished with 194 backpacks by three thirty. I was happy but it was too soon to rejoice as it was another almost hour before we actually left but at least the school children were not waiting in the hot sun any more.
One of the school teachers had two daughters one in grade 1 and the other in grade three. The one in grade one came and gave me a couple of hybiscus flowers and the older one came and gave me a piece of candy. I attached the flowers to my hat and showed them so the one who gave me the candy disappeared and came back later with a coloring book page that was colored and she had drawn a heart on it with a valentine message for me. This was an unusual school as the other schools seemed to receive the backpacks as if it were their due. In this school the children were very polite and grateful.
The head teacher is a Christian and about two oclock when we were only about half way through he took a couple of teachers aside and soon appeared with food for us and told us to eat. He then cleared away the remaining children so we could eat in peace. It does seem that the spirit of the person over an organization is transmitted to those under him.
February 14,2012 (Tuesday)
Happy Valentine's Day.
Today was a little different than the routine we have fallen into, especially for Juanita who ended up with almost nothing to do most of the day. Some of the staff headed out early this morning for meetings or whatever, the rest headed to Chinandega for a meeting this afternoon. I did a bit of translating on the sponsor cards and in between that did some birddogging to get the shower pipe repaired and pressurized and checked for leaks before it got covered by tile. It did have a leak in addition to the known leak. I guess it got dinged when they were scarfing the wall to aid tile adhesion. That got fixed and the system was pressurized and a couple of slow leaks at new shut-off valves appeared and I fixed those.
The translator took the sponsor sheets so I didn't have much to do between running errands for parts in the afternoon and ended up keeping Juanita company a bit.
The A/C crew showed up at 2:30 from Managua and had the job about half done by 5:30 when we all left. Depending how long it takes them to pull a vacuum and charge the systems I expect they will be done by noon tomorrow. I think they may have done this at least one or two times before. :-)
The carpenter and his helper came and installed the door in the new bathroom.
The building materials delivery person showed up with a truck load of stuff this morning from Chinandega. We sent back the shower curtain rods (too short) and the "widow maker" water heaters that were delivered to be installed at the shower heads to heat the shower water. They drew way more power than the panel can handle and the wiring would cost a fortune, Besides that they only work in a narrow pressure range. The town supply is below that range the new pressure system is over four times the higher pressure they are rated for. Well, the tank sits in the sun most of the afternoon. The first people to shower in the evening will do okay. Hopefully somebody tells them the secret of a cold water shower: don't stand in the spray. Splash yourself with handfuls of water. A friend doing maintenance in a Bible camp in the Dominican Republic couldn't figure out why he couldn't keep shower heads on. People were taking them off because it is easier to get handfuls of water that way-
The contractor's crew worked on the wall tile in the old bathroom and the ceiling in the apartment.
February 15, 2012 (Wednesday)
Just did a bit of surfing of the web variety. It´s been just under forty years since I did any more physical variety of surfing. One of the Nica things that tourists can do is to ride a snowboard down the side of a volcano. All I could think of when I heard that was how sharp volcanic sand is and what the inevitable road rash would be like. But I digress. Just saw a headline on the Internet about some woman shooting her boyfriend over the lack of a Valentine's Day gift. Didn't click on the link, but did remind myself to give Juanita a hug. By agreement we don't do the Valentine's Day thing other than to wish each other a Happy one and she seems good with that.
The A/C guys (and gal) finished up today, ran the units until the rooms got to setpoint, packed up and left headed back to Managua (two in the cab and six in the back of the truck for a good three hour drive. I took advantage of their downtime waiting for things to chill and their good will and borrowed a hammer drill and drilled some holes in the ceramic tile in the bathrooms to mount TP roll holders. The local guys don't have anything as exotic as a hammer drill. I have two at home. I was thinking of all the tools I take for granted as I cut some plywood panels to cover the arched window grills until the new windows get installed so the A/C units can keep the rooms cool. What would have been a five minute nice job with one of my jig saws was twenty minutes of hacking with an old, dull crosscut saw for each panel. The result will work, but it ain't pretty. Could have been pretty but would have taken about an hour each with a hacksaw blade. These are just temporary.
All the dorm room suspended ceilings and the apartment bedroom suspended ceiling were finished today. That leaves the two bathrooms, and the bathroom and closet in the apartment.
The bunk beds and mattresses and bedding showed up today. When the team gets here next weekend, I guess their first task will be to assemble their beds.
Juanita went to a school today and helped hand out backpacks. It is interesting to hear how the staff are getting more streamlined as they go along. They now ask the kids to be thinking about their answers for the questions they will be asked. They now also take the child's picture with a number on the whiteboard. That will make it a lot quicker to match picture with letter that goes to the sponsor.
I had bought a drain for a lav just before quitting time today and when I got back to the office realized it was unservicable (¡No Sierve!) so we left a bit earlier to exchange it before the ferreteria closed. This disrupted our rut routine so we ended up eating at a comedor across from the market. Some sort of pancake things with beans and other stuff in them served topped with vinegary coleslaw. Nice change, but not an everyday thing.
The following arrived by e-mail the other day. This was the event we spent a good part of January working on:
Greetings in the name of the Lord!
With a total of 2,375 salvations, we returned from Nicaragua rejoicing! Most of the staff was there for two weeks to be a part of Med-Fest 2012. We had battles at every turn but God had the victory in the end.
We were blessed to have 80 American doctors, dentists, nurses, pharmacists and evangelists join us this year. While the doctors were working we had booths set up with games, toys, candy, puppets and the Gospel message for all the people to enjoy. We also had teams of construction workers building a church and continuing work on a local school. It is always amazing to see people of so many different talents come together to spread the Gospel message.
Since we’ve been back home we have all been trying to catch our breath. We are beginning preparations for our 2012 schedule and as always, we are excited about what God has in store. We have many missions opportunities available this year from evangelism, medical, construction, children’s ministry and many other things. We would love to have you and your group to join us to spread the Good News in the United States, Mexico or Nicaragua!
We are in the process of building a new website right now and there should be some really good changes there. We are hoping to keep up with the monthly newsletter as well as current calendars. I pray that all of you have a very happy new year and that God will put us together in serving Him this year. We will send a calendar of events out by e-mail sometime this next week.
P.S. Thank you all for praying for my eye. The laser surgery went well but it will be a while before we know how effective it will be. I covet your prayers for at least the next two to three weeks for my eye. Thank you.
Pretty quiet day for Juanita today. There were no school visits with backpacks. Mid-morning, however, an FH staffer from Chinandega showed up and dropped off some boxes of dried soup mix from Fraser Valley Gleaners in B.C. He then took the rest of his load to various schools and Juanita got to ride with him and a Somotillo staffer to do that for a few hours.
Between errands to the ferreteria I assembled a hand basin to go into the remodelled old bathroom tomorrow, I also assembled a toilet. I think I may have used a few more gaskets than the first attempts for the other bathroom. Once the old bathroom is working again, hopefully I will have time to pull out the sink in the new bathroom to find and repair the source of the leak.
The ceramic tile was done in the old bathroom and was being grouted today. They were laying ceramic tiles on the floors of two dorm rooms today and hope to have them and two or three others completed tomorrow and the contractor said "¡Sabado Listo!" ("Ready Saturday!"). Should be. He also puttered at installing light switches and light fixtures. I puttered at burning trash and masking the new bathroom for painting above the new ceramic tiles.
The team is arriving in Managua on Saturday and in Somotillo on Sunday. They will be working at putting a roof on a school during their time here.
February 17, 2012 (Friday)
I must be tired. It took me two tries to remember that the asterisk key is the open bracket symbol and the open bracket key is the close bracket symbol to write the line above. To get the "@" sign one tries the shift 2 combo. Sometimes that works, but usually one gets the quote symbol. Then one tries the right hand or "alt gr" key and the 2 key and that often works on many machines, but when all else fails alt 64 will get you the @ symbol. That is done on autopilot tired or not, but the bracket thing can take a bit more awareness level.
The morning was quiet until the contractor decided to finish the electrical wiring and gave me a huge list. The office manager is away so that seems to make me both the banker and errand boy. I hope we can sort this out when she is back on Monday.
We are running out of meaningful work and getting ready to discuss the implications of that with the organization, but today after a morning lull I seemed to keep busy at the tiddly sort of stuff that kept me happy for years as an instrument mechanic. Juanita had a few more challenges keeping busy, but did some crosschecking of databases with pamphlets and a few other clerical things that require no translation skills.
The contractor crew was finishing up grouting in the bathroom today and the contractor finished the ceiling in the new bathroom and there are now lights in both bathrooms. There were ceramic floor tiles going in like crazy and the delivery truck brought more tiles. Hopefully all the floors are finished and grouted tomorrow. The groutng process is a lot more labor intensive than I am used to, but uses a lot less material. Makes sense in a place where labor is cheap and materials are not. Well maybe expensive is a better term than not cheap. Quality can be a challenge. It took three tries the other day to buy a drain for a sink that threaded together correctly.
Tomorrow we plan on getting up early and heading to Leon for a real coffee, some books, a museum and maybe back to Chinandega for a good meal. Oh, and don't forget the Smudy.
February 18, 2012 (Saturday)
Juanita wrote an e-mail to family about today. She gets the first word. My stuff follows.
Went to Leon today and finally found a cup of real coffee. Now I think I can make it for a few more weeks.
Today's commentary is on modes of travel.
Bottom mode of travel is walking - we have certainly done our share of that but not enough to keep off the extra pounds. Look for our Dukan Diet when we get home.
Next step up is pedicabs- We have used them more often here in Somotillo because we are usually late for work and just don't want to run.
Then we skip to bus service. You have to consider very carefully before using this service unless you want to get to the bus half an hour early. Otherwise you will be standing all the way with various types of being squished to death.
Your next level of travel is the micro bus. This mode of travel varies widely from one microbus to another. You have the Oklahoma Land rush to get on a decent one. The not decent ones range from ratty to just plain dangerous. Today was one of those dangerous ones. No fuel gauge, no speedometer, temperature gauge stuck at H, and the guy had to jam a pipe in place for the emergency brake. We are still alive.
Then the supposed top of the line would be taxi. These are the most often used to take you someplace and rob you. The one we used in Managua we called Indy and gave her the licence plate number so she would know where to direct the searchers and so the cab driver would know somebody knew.
Anyway, not much more to say about today besides the fact that we found real coffee, found a place that had a few, very few used English books and had a good meal in Chinandega before returning to Somotillo.
All for now Love Mom/Juanita
Type Eh! personality. That phrase came to me as we were shuffled around by the locals and tried to find a direct bus to Leon this morning. It fits somebody who is kinda impatient and pushy, a true type-A personality, but is also Canadian which takes the edge off a little bit.
Skipped our hotel beakfast this morning to go wait for the microbus. We were told that there is an express microbus to Leon and that it would go by at 7:30, but maybe not or maybe not on Saturdays, but we caught the "nice" microbus to Chinandega, paid our three cords each for a pitstop and walked to the far end of the terminal for the bays marked "Leon". There were no buses but we stood there as the throng grew. Noticed some people clutching laminated pieces of plastic and noticed a window off to the side marked "boletas" (tickets) so I asked one of the people and they said yes you need to buy a ticket and pointed to the windows.
A microbus arrived, discharged passengers across the parking lot on the other side of the bus lane and then backed across the bus lane with the back end almost into the parking bay and it stopped. The waiting crowd swarmed the microbus. We could count and just stood back. Although all the "15 passenger" microbuses we rode in today had 18 passengers counting kids in laps and people sitting on improvised seating such as a five gallon/ 20 liter bucket between the seats there were more than that crowded around the van shoving to get on. Last helicopter from Saigon sort of stuff. We figured we could wait ten minutes. So we positioned ourselves to be on the right side of the next van and do our share of shoving. The next one arrived in ten minutes and came in forwards not backwards. We were on the wrong side. By the time we got to the right side there was nothing left but the bench behind the driver (where there is not enough head room to sit up straight for anybody taller than five foot eight) and the drop down jump seats next to the forward facing middle seats. I tried sitting on one of those, but was evicted by the passenger pusher /ticket taker. He claimed there needed to be a fourth passenger on the back bench seat. The three guys sitting there already filled it and had no intention of squishing together to make room for a seat mate. Somebody else tried to sit on the jump seat and he evicted them. I tried again and was evicted. Then suddenly he changed his mind and filled the jump seats with women, took our tickets and sent the microbus on its way with me hunched in my corner. About half way to Leon some people got off and we moved to a bench seat.
In Leon we grabbed a cab and went to the Smudy and got some smoothies to go and picked up the overnight Gmail by wi-fi. Then we walked to a cafe we had heard about that serves real coffee, pastries, cheese cake and breakfast all day. The smoothies had spoiled our appetites so we looked at the menu, made sure they didn't close for lunch (anything is possible in Leon), made sure they served breakfast all day and left, still sucking on our smoothies.
We walked the block and a half west from what we thought was the reference point and didn't see a Don Quixote book store so we went into a pharmacy and asked the guy sitting there waiting for his prescription if he knew where it was. He gave detailed directions which we followed and ended up outside of a hostel which was a block and a half west from the probably correct reference point. I asked the people washing the lobby floor if they knew where the Don Quixote book store was. They pointed inside. Pretty quixotic, but there it was - a room with a couple of shelves of worn and worn-out books, a guy at a desk talking French into his laptop and a sign that explained books were 1 for 1 trades for guests and 1 for 2 trades or 1 plus C$ 50 for others. We took our old book and our new to us book to the bar/front desk and after we paid the clerk. I asked him if they had a bathroom and after some discussion with the cleaner about whether it was clean Juanita disappeared inside it.
While waiting I read the bulletin board and found several opportunities for the budget traveller: part time desk clerk at a hostel in return for a free room, volunteering to teach English to street kids in return for a hammock to sleep in, volunteer work planting trees, and a few others.
Then we schlepped down to the museum of Myths and Legends which is housed in an infamous prison. The courtyard outside the prison walls has some well done mosaic tile murals. The walls of the old prison building have life sized black line drawings of inmate life. The rooms are populated with life sized and larger than life sized paper mache figures. Even more quixotic than the Libereria Don Quijote is LA XXI & Museo De Leyendas y Mitos. There are explanations of each figure in both English and Spanish. They are printed on sheets of paper and propped in plastic covers in such a manner to maximize the reflection of the natural light coming in the doorway and window. Not having the patience to work my way through each of the sheets and translate it into understandable English spares you, dear reader, from having to face them second hand. However, who cannot warm to a golden crab that protects buried treasure or to the woman that was so ugly she compensated by exposed her large mammals and distracting men as she approached until it was too late to escape her clutches or the ... Oops, sorry, I got distracted thinking about high school there and wondering about what happened to whom and lost the thread of my account of the paper mache munchkins, monsters and other m-words. Guess you will have to do your own researchonline or visit in person. Worth the $C 30 each, but not worth going too much out of your way.
Before we leave talking about the prison, however, what impressed me most was just looking up at the guard booths on the corners of the prison walls and thinking how small the scale was. They couldn't have been more than twenty feet above the prisoners and less than a hundred feet apart. Too far to reach, but so close the prisoners would have been sitting ducks. It would have been a very personal and close relationship between the two groups. Nothing at all abstract and de-coupled like the guard towers one sees high above current Canadian prisons.
We walked back to the coffee shop and on our way decided we could make it back to Chinandega for lunch so we had some perced coffee and some cheese cake both of which we savoured.
We stepped out of the cafe and grabbed a cab for the bus terminal. As it turned the corner I saw where somebody had laid out about twenty feet of used books for sale. With only a drive by assessment, some looked to be English, but mostly hard cover text books and self help books not trashy novels for escapist reading and we had a book so decided not to stop the cab.
We got to the spot in the Leon terminal where the microbuses to Chinandega load. There was one backed in with only space for one passenger. Juanita didn't seem keen on splitting up so we defferred. We stood on the passenger side and the next one pulled in forwards putting us on the wrong side again. They don't seem to alternate so I don't know if it is a pattern of approach or they come in such as way as to mess with the white guys. It wouldm't surprise me, but just because you are a visible minority doesn't mean you are being discriminated against. Ask the Divisional Court of Ontario.
Well, with the judicious use of elbows I got Juanits into the bus and then followed to claim my portion of the backseat she had claimed. After a pleasant ride to Chinandega we grabbed a cab and had another wonderful, economically priced lunch at Fritanga La Parillada.
Then another cab to the La Colonia supermarket for peanut butter and another cab to the bus terminal. We were no match at all for the elbows crowd to get onto the nice Toyota microbus, but did get onto a Kia microbus after it. I considered it a step above the worst microbus we have ridden on. Juanita has a slightly darker opinion of it, but we had a quick trip "home" to Somotillo, despite the driver not always being able to get into fifth gear and starting to pass and then flinching and retreating several times.
Once home we dumped our stuff, grabbed some mandarinos at the market, dumped them in the room as well and walked to the nicest Interent cafe in town. We stayed there until we started to stick to the seats and walked to th FH office to see how the contractor was doing. Pretty well, but he needed two keyless fixture and a couple of light bulbs (sepos and focos) to finish one room. It was too late to walk so I left Juanita and grabbed a pedicab to the ferreteria and got my foot in the door before the owner's daughter could close it on me and bought the bulbs and fixtures and took them back so the team would have light in that dorm room.
Then we walked back to the Internet cafe eating some street food on the way and enter the day's activities in point form (since expanded into verbosity) before holing up for the night.
February 19, 2012 (Sunday)
Sunday in Somotillo. Got up at usual time, ate breakfast relaxed over a second cup of instant coffee. Enough milk and sugar and anything goes down okay.
Puttered around washing yesterday's clothes and left at about ten for a ten minute walk to the ten o'clock church service. We were among the first people there and it started about ten thirty. With concrete walls and ceramic tile floors and huge distorting speakers we only catch about every third word, but it is a pleasant experience if not terribly edifying. We walk home, eat lunch and have a nap until the alarm goes off at two. Eventually we get up, buy a gallon of water from the store next door, leave it in the room and grab a pedicab to the FH center. It is scorching out, especially after the nap in an air conditioned room. Hence the pedicab.
The contractor and his crew were just doing some touch up painting and adding a few tiles in a doorway or two. Most of the clean up is done.
No sign of the team so we walked up to the nearby Internet cafe. I can think of five others in town, but this is the only one we have ever found open on a Sunday. All machines are busy when we arrive, but the proprietor says there will be two in fifteen minutes. Juanita works on her calendar and I surf with my iPod while waiting. There are now six people waiting for computers. I could stay here forever, but to be fair will cut it off at half an hour.
February 20, 2012 (Monday)
Our last day in Somotillo, or our last night. We will spend the night and then head out. The only thing left to do is to get the sub-panel wiring cleaned up by the contractor.
We got to the office early, but the team had already left for breakfast and then off to their work at the school. So we took part in staff devotions and I visited with the contractor. He had given his guys the day off after working them straight through two weekends at the request of the team guy from Managua, but had showed up hoping to get a cheque so he could pay them.
The right people weren't there to sign so he was told to come back in the afternoon. I asked for my money to cover the stuff I had purchased at the ferreterias as well. That would be in the afternoon as well. By six he had his cheque and by six I had part of my money and the promise of a cheque in the future. Oh well. It wasn't that much. If they had a stronger evangelistic leaning I probably would have not even have handed in the invoices. There is nothing wrong with humanitarian work, but it is a relatively short term result. Evangelism gets eternal results. That said, evangelism with no meeting of physical needs falls short, too.
I did a walk around with the contractor and he promised to clean up some loose ends when his crew was back and we arranged to meet up later today and I would watch while he re-wired the sub panel. Along about then the water ran out. The tank was empty and there was no town pressure.
I composed a resignation letter on the iPod.
The director for FH Nicaragua showed up with some people. We discussed the work here being substantially complete and us leaving and he invited us to meet for lunch later today and he left.
Then we went up to the nearby wi-fi spot for half an hour of surfing and keyboarding and then we went back to the office.
It took about an hour, but it dawned on me that they had probably shut off the water to hook-up the new fixtures in the old bathroom. So I went out to the street and turned the main water valve back on and the tank started filling. It took a couple of hours to fill.
After lunch I helped a bit by translating sponsor pamphlets, and Juanita helped with correcting the English of some translated letters. Then the contractor showed up and re-did the panel to my satidsfaction. More translating work and then the team showed up and we visited with some of them and then it was six and we started our walk home by way of the internet cafe.
Tomorrow we plan to go to Matagalpa. I remember it vaguely as being pretty. It is higher than here and everybody says it is cooler.
February 21, 2012 (Tuesday)
This morning we arranged to have breakfast a bit earlier than usual and we were out on the curb in front of the hotel about 7 A.M. The microbus to Leon came by and we got on. Outside when the driver stopped to tie on luggage and ask where we were going there was a bit of confusion at my inadequate pronounciation of "Matagalpa" because we needed to know if the best place to go was Leon or Chinandega if we wanted a bus to Matagalpa. When I slowed down and very clearly pronouced the vowels correctly it became clear that the best place to go was Leon. There is a chicken bus that leaves Chinandega in the pre-dawn hours and another in the late afternoon. It would make frequent stops and take a long time. There is also a chicken bus from Leon to Matagalpa with a similar schedule. However, we discovered that there was an express bus (microbus) as well from Leon. There were two Hondurans on our microbus from Somotillo that were planning to catch the express to Leon. They made sure we made it too.
We arrived in Leon about nine and got two of the last three seats on the express bus. There was a fellow from Bloomington ("Hi Jim," if you are reading this.) who said he had been sitting there since 7:30 waiting for the microbus to fill up. It leaves when it is full. It left a few minutes after we got on. We were taken good care of today. The overall trip today could have been an eight to ten hour ordeal with hanging around waiting for bus schedules. We took under five hours hotel to hotel.
An explanation of the term "chicken bus" is probably order. Chicken buses are old school buses that make frequent stops and can carry produce, furniture and even small livestock on top or on board. Microbuses are a cut above. That said, the girl next to me on the first microbus this morning was carrying a chicken by its trussed up legs, holding it between her legs with the feet sticking up between her knees. It never made any noise that I noticed and I wondered if it was alive, but when they got off at the gas station in Chinandega she laid it on the ground to deal with the luggage and it was breathing. More than can be said for the young horse lying on the side of the highway between Chinandega and Leon. It apparently ran out in front of a passing van. The van had a shattered window, but unlike the horse, might be restored to service.
Jim had the phone number for the hotel/hostel we had the name of but not the number. I called the number, but they had no rooms for tonight. Tomorrow, but not tonight. Likewise with the hotel I think I stayed at three years ago. "I think"? Well, when you are just along for the ride and other people are making the bookings and doing the driving and all you do is pay your hotel bill in the morning you are not always sure exactly where you have been or how you got there other than ride in the van. There was no room in that inn either. So I picked another one from the guide book and phoned and they had room so I booked it and they took my name and number and confirmed it and called back a while later to make sure we didn't want air conditioning.
The ride to Matagalpa - rice fields - coffee bean drying fields both sides of the highway - climbing into the highlands - much cooler, really refreshing after three weeks in Somotillo et al
Shared a cab with Jim, the retired CPA from Indiana. He gave the driver written directions to his hotel. I spoke mine. I can't imagine wandering all over South and Central America with absolutely no Spanish, but he says he manages but pays a lot more for things at times. We got to our hotel first and it seemed awfully close to town for what the guide book said so I asked the cab to wait and went in and asked if I had a reservation and they said yes, but then came out into the parking lot before the cab left and said we weren't in their book.
It was a Bed and Breakfast with same name as our hotel. Got to the right hotel and the cab left and we pounded on the door and the lady came and then said we weren't in their book either. The guy had written the name down wrong, but they had the right phone number. I really don't understand that one. My Spanish alphabet except for "Y" is not too bad and he repeated each letter of my name as I said it just as he repeated the numbers of the phone number. Oh well. Got a room despite that confusion. Since we were there so early we got to choose our room and ended up with the room we wanted plus the table and chairs out of the room we didn't want.
Cab to bus depot for grilled meal.
Mandarinos on the street
Incredibly bad cafe Americano at Cafe Latino (guide books are just guides not rules)
Cab to Castillo de Cacoa - the cab took us well beyond Castillo de Cacoa, almost to San Ramon before turning back to the right spot.
We did a cacoa and chocolate tour which ended with a coffee and chocolate tasting session. The Swiss tourist on the tour is staying at same hostel as Jim("say hi to Jim").
Cab back to town and central park - tour cathedral - go to cash machine - find coyote - internet cafe - batidos - dinner not at fritanga originally planned for. It doesn't do dinner. - walk back toward parque Ruben Dario - internet cafe - back to hotel (last line is currently prophetic not historical)
Tomorrow will do coffee plantation tour if we can find out which one to do.
The day after tomorrow we plan to go back to Granada.
Good night for now
Juanita's account of today, excerpted from an e-mail:
We were able to have an early breakfast in Somotillo so we were able to catch the microbus that goes directly from Somotillo to Leon without stopping at the bus terminal in Chinandega.
Some people said the microbus would come at seven and others said seven thirty. It is a good thing we were out waiting at about seven as it arrived about seven ten. The regular buses here are actually called chicken buses but we have never seen a chicken on them. Well, one of the gals that got on our micro bus was carrying a chicken by its feet that I actually thought was dead but it clucked a few times so I guess it was alive.
When we were between Chinandega and Leon we passed a van that had a smushed in front and windshield, on the opposite side of the road was a dead horse. It is surprising that we have not seen more of these accidents as a lot of the horses are running free.
When we got to Leon we switched micro buses. It was about nine and there was a guy in the one we were changing to that was from Indiana. He was happy to see us as the bus does not leave until it is full and he had been on it since seven thirty waiting for it to fill up.
Anyway we are in Matagalpa. It is beautifully cool and we are in a hotel with running water. What more could a person want.
I am sure Dad-Paul will write about the chocolate factory tour and I am getting hungry so will end for now.
February 22, 2012 (Wednesday)
A lazy morning with a late breakfast and a relaxed approach to getting moving, but Juanita finally prevailed and we grabbed a cab to the bus depot and waited about twenty minutes for a bus to Jinotega to pull into the stall and got on and after about five minutes it was time to leave. We got on early enough to have seating. The additional twenty or more people stood. It made for a bit of a push for us to get off about ten miles out of Matagalpa at the immobilsed army tank which marks the turn-off for the gravel road to the Selva Negra (Black Forest) coffee plantation and hotel.
We walked about half way to the gate and a truck stopped and we and the two Nica girls from the bus who were walking with us all got in the back of the pickup and rode to the gate. The Nicas were going there to do some computer training so they just walked around the gate. The pickup passengers paid their C$ 100 each, got their laminated receipts for same and drove off up the hill to the hotel. If I had known how steep the grade was I would have ased them to wait while we paid, but we didn't know and we got some needed aerobic exercise. The climb was worth it. We talked to one of the staff about tour times and hiking paths and she said she would make sure we got out to the highway before dark when she left at five. The tour was at three so we decided to have some coffee and cake. Excellent coffee and cake.
We sat on the covered deck next to the lake and relaxed and ate and drank. Then the plan was to go for a walk on a trail that looped through the forest from the chapel and ended up on the other end of the lake and back at the restaurant. That would get us back in plenty of time for the three o'clock tour. When I went to pay the bill and buy the tour tickets I found that the gate tickets could be redeemed for our cost and that covered what we had consumed so the only cost was the tour.
Also discovered that there were enough people wanting a tour that we could leave right then rather than wait two more hours so we lept onboard the tour which was people from Project Hope. One of their group was a coffee importer / roaster that bought coffee from this plantation so he added a lot of value to the tour with his knowledge. Also it was interested to learn a little bit about what Project Hope has done in Nicaragua and their emphasis on both humanitarian and evangelism work together. I'll know more after reading their web site. If you click on the link so will you. The coffee planatation tour was fascinating as we learned about how they pick and process the coffee and all the things they have done to make the operation sustainable and minimize the environmental footprint and how they utilize all their waste products.
The setting itself was incomparable. It would be a good location for a wedding (in their chapel) or a honeymoon or just a quiet place to get away for a few days. Next time in Nicaragua we plan to pencil in a few days.
After the tour we had some cheese cake and cake and share a Gouda cheese sandwich (cheese made on site with milk from their dairy herd) and more wonderful coffee. We decided that walking through the forest would take too long, but we had time to walk up to the chapel, make one more pitstop and start walking out to the highway. We needed the exercise and we made it out to the highway minutes before the bus showed up. If we had waited for the staffer we would have had to wait about half an hour for the next bus. The bus went past our hotel so we got off, dumped our backpack and grabbed a cab for the central park. Then we walked up past the Pali and bought a tamale, for Juanita, and a gruilera with a piece of cuajada for cheese for the fat guy.
Time now to go home to the hotel and on the way check out the bus depot for Masaya / Granada bus times for tomorrow. Update; we skipped the bus depot based on what the driver and other cab passengers said about the schedule. They were kinda right.
February 23, 2012 (Thursday)
After breakfast at our hotel in Matagalpa we grabbed a cab to the bus terminal arriving just as the Express bus left for Managua. That was okay since we were not planning to go to Managua. The ticket seller informed us there were no buses to Masaya, despite what the guide books and the schedule board said. (The schedule board said 2 p.m. for one and 3 P.M. for the other so that would have been way too late, anyway). We had just missed the 9:20 Express bus to Managua so bought tickets for the 10:20. We got tickets #1 and 2 so that made us really early. It's always better to be early than late, isn't it?
About ten I went to the washrooms and paid my $C3. When I came back the bus had pulled into its stall and anybody there including Juanita had loaded. The conductor had loaded our bags and she had saved me a seat next to her so that went well. The bus backed out of the stall a couple of minutes early and crossed through the gate of the bus terminal precisely at 10:20.
The bus also went past our hotel on the way out of town. We could have saved ourselves that cab fare and just walked across the street and got on the bus we had barely missed. That is, if we had known we were trying to catch an Express bus to Managua. Oh well. Of course we would have had to get shuttled onto chicken buses when the bus we missed broke down about half way to Managua. Our bus stopped to see how it was doing and there didn't seem to be any passengers, just a bus with the hood up and a few bus line employees staring at the engine. I assume somebody picked up the passengers.
When we passed through Tipitapa we discussed the last time we had waited for a bus there and how we were better off going to Managua. How quickly an opinion can change! Our bus got to Managua, but there were no buses that left that terminal to either Masaya or Granada. A half hour cab ride and a twenty minute wait while the Granada bus filled and multiple stops of our so called Express bus and we made it to Granada fine. If we were to replay today we would have walked across the street from our hotel to the Cotran booth and boarded the next Managua Express bus there and got off at Tipitapa and grabbed a Masaya bus from there. But we didn't and we got here alive and well and not that late in the day.
It was like old home week checking into the Hotel Jerico. After showering and changing we grabbed some language school brochures off the lobby table and walked down to the one that was my first choice subject to it checking out okay in person. It sounds good and it looks like I'll do two weeks of study with them to upgrade my Espanish. They have a deal where you do one day and decide at the end of the day if you are going to commit to the week and then you pay at that point either for just the first day or for the whole week.
If things go well you won't see much blogging since I want to concentrate on Spanish and not switch back and forth except to keep Juanita sane and friendly to me. She doesn't want lessons and feels that she can manage to handle waiting around for my lessons to finish better in Granada than anywhere else we've been. We opted for the Hotel Jerico because we like it better than the Posada and it has air conditioning and breakfast. The temperatures here are not as refreshing as in Matagalpa and not as stifling as Chinandega or Somotillo, but if you are going to spend any sort of time in your room during the day A/C is a real plus. With less than two weeks left we are less concerned about prices and having the offer of a job for April also takes the edge off the parsimony gene as well.
After signing up for language school we went back to the room and picked up our laundry we had been saving up since Somotillo and headed to the Laundromat to drop off for tomorrow pick up. Then we went to the Chocolate Cafe for a licuado and then to the Pali and the market for supplies. Then back home to drop off our purchases, rehydrate a bit and off to the Chinese restaurant for Chow Ming Pollo. First Chinese food in over a month!
Excerpt from Juanita's e-mail for today. In any case of contradiction with what I wrote above, her version is probably correct:
We are back in Granada after spending hours getting here. We got up rather late and had a nice breakfast before leaving Matagalpa. Took a taxi to the bus depot and waited almost an hour for the express bus to Managua. We had wanted the express bus to Masaya but it didn´t leave until two in the afternoon.
We discovered today that just because a bus says it is express does not mean that it travels in an express manner. We had taken one from Ometepe to Managua and were a little disappointed because they made the occasional stop to let someone off or pick some one up. I thought maybe they were friends of the driver or helper. Today the express bus to Managua was just that, no stops except to see if any help was needed by a broken down bus. None was needed because all of the passengers had already been picked up.
Anyway back to my story. There are three bus terminals in Managua. We have only ever been to one. The one our bus stopped at did not have busses that continued on to Granada so we had to take a taxi to another terminal. First off the guy would´t leave until he had stuffed five of us into a three passenger car. It took us half an hour to get to the other terminal because he drove way out of the way to let the first passenger off. At the terminal we got on an Express mini bus to Granada. The only thing that express meant was that it did not go into the bus terminals of any of the towns we went by but we certainly stopped multiple times to pick up, let off and try and talk people into getting on the mini bus to fill it up. I was certainly disgusted by the time we got to Granada but should not complain as they only charge $1 per person and the gas prices are rising here as they are everywhere else.
It is nice to be back in a familiar place and we are staying at the Jerico Hotel where we spent part of the time last time we were here in January. Paul will start Spanish lessons tomorrow.
If we are ever back in Nicaragua I hope to spend most of our time in Matagalpa. It is in the mountains so is much much cooler than anywhere else we have been. We went to a coffee plantation and if we are ever back in Nicaragua plan to spend three days there. The plantation is paradise !!! but the rooms there are too expensive to us to spend much time there. You can buy breakfast and lunch there for about $3 each. Dinner is between $5 and $12. The area is lush tropical with lots of trails to walk and lovely places to just sit and read. They have horses for horse back riding and raise most of the food that they prepare and sell.
We shall see what our next adventure is.
February 24, 2012 (Friday)
First day in Language school. Arrived at 8 after getting up to some GI challenges which persisted intermittently throughout the morning, but no closer than 1/2 hour apart which didn't affect learning experience much. You get a new instructor each hour to work with you on vocabulary, conversation and grammar. They adapt pretty quickly to the level you are at so I found the day rewarding and signed up for a "week" (five, four-hour days) and will probably do another week after that.
The four-hour day ends at noon so I went back to the hotel and rescued Juanita from her boredom and we went to lunch at the famous Kathy's Waffle House. Seems to be a place for homesick ex-pats feeling nostalgic enough for North American food that it has dulled their financial sensitivity. I enjoyed my blueberry pancakes, Juanita didn't think much of her chicken sandwich and the bill came to over $US 15. Some Peace Corps types were at the next table. One of them had been at the small town of Boaco so they probably chose the restaurant as a treat to her. In eavesdropping on them we learned of a really cheap restaurant a couple of blocks away so we went there after lunch to check out the menu. We'll be back.
Then we went to a coyote and the bank machine and picked up our laundry and went home and I crashed fighting this bug and now feel somewhat better after a nap and supper and taking Juanita out for a licuado.
Tomorrow more lessons in the morning and then Cafetin Claudia and go buy some more Cipro and take things from there.
Time to go do my homework. Bye.
February 25, 2012 (Saturday)
Second day at 1 on 1 Tutoring Spanish Language school here in Granada. It is a few minutes walk down the street from the Hotel Jerico so Juanita can walk me to school before she goes off to look for a cup of real coffee. Being Saturday one of the instructors is a no-show. Since there are only one or two students and he would only get paid for an hour I don't blame him. Most normal students take the week-ends off and during the week you are pretty much assured of a different teacher for each of the two or four hours you have chosen. The lessons are perfect for somebody at my level - somebody who is not a beginner, but at a serious contendor for intermediate level. I learned stuff in the first two days I can't imagine why nobody taught me or I failed to learn on my own in other Spanish" learning situations. Can't comment on what it would be like to start at square one here, but can't help think it would be pretty good if you had an aptitude or desire.
After school I picked up Juanita at the hotel and we walked to Cafetin Claudia and had a full meal - fresh squeezed fruit drink (choice of mandarin, mango or melon) rice, beans, salad, plantains and choice of meat (chicken, pork or grilled beef) for $C 50 each. Then we walked to the bus terminal for the Masaya bus and sweltered in an old school bus until it was more than full and then cruised slowly along the street until the real bus driver showed up and then puttered around town until he had enough passengers that nobody could breath and then he started getting serious about heading to Masaya except to stop and encourage passers-by to board the bus. Eventually we arrived at Masaya bus terminal having squeezed what is a twenty minute car trip into an hour and a half bus trip.
On our way to the bus we stopped by one pharmacy and it only sold made in India Cipro and it seemed overpriced so we took a pass. As we left I overheard a remark about Americans. I didn't go back and correct the misconception. Sort of like the Austrians claiming Beethoven, but distancing themselves from Hitler. The farmacia we had used before was closed for Saturday. The big one on our way had number tickets with a display of now-serving "80". I asked the last person in line what ticket they had and it was "97". We balked and carried on to the bus terminal.
We grabbed a cab to the artisan's market and finished off our list of souvenir purchases and then some, walked to a nearby bakery for a snack for the fat guy and then hailed another cab. I asked him how much to the Granada bus and he quoted half what the trip from the terminal to the market cost. I had thought the other guy overcharged me, but he didn't go down in price when I haggles and it was starting to rain as we got off the bus so I blinked and paid the two bucks. One buck was better, though. The reason for the second bargain was that he didn't take us to the bus terminal but out to the highway were we could watch a succession of buses pass. Some had room, but were not going to Granada. The ones going to Granada just had arms sticking out the windows and didn't pause for more. Pretty full when they don't try for just one more.
As we rode to the highway I had noticed a farmacia and remembered the need for more Cipro but didn't stop the cab to get any. The longer we stood by the side of the highway with no bus to Granada the more I thought we would not make it back to Granada before the farmacias closed for the weekend. We grabbed another cab to a nearby farmacia. Their Cipro was made in Guatemala and cost half as much as the Indian stuff.
Before we got out the cab driver quoted ten bucks for a ride to Granada and twenty minutes later we were walking through the central park here. We traded an English pocket book for another one straight across at the bookstore across from the hotel. After a bit of a meal in the room we were planning to go out for a smoothie, but got engrossed in a Saturday night movie on TV. I rationalized it as homework since it had Spanish sub-titles.
February 26, 2012 (Sunday)
I was one of the few students today at language school. Although having done almost no homework I am progressing faster than I expected. Their approach is right for me and with the rotation of teachers and the variety of the work with each teacher (they break up the written stuff with conversation sessions) there is not time to get bored or tired. I can't say that I have learned the material in the sense that it is all internalized, but I understand a lot more of the basics and am getting a framework to build on after being stuck at the same level for several years. We'll finish off our time here with these session and if we return for an extended time try to start off with something similar to kick-off the learning and then perhaps after more in country time do a week or two advanced session perhaps with a teacher I learned of in Leon to take my Spanish as far as I want it.
After walking me to school, Juanita went for coffee and then did some gift shopping in the central park. After school we walked to Cafetin Claudia and found it closed as expected, but we had to check our assumption. Then we walked to Tele Pizza for lunch and walked to check out the new ice cream parlor and the associated art galleries. The ice cream flavors were pretty exotic with lots of free sample spoons handed across to us before we made our choices. The prices were about what you would pay in a Canadian mall so they were no bargain, but a nice treat.
The local Eskimo has been frantically re-modelling the last couple of days in response to the competition and had their doors open today. We snuck in yesterday and checked out the new lay-out. Not as fancy as up the street, but nicer than it was and still having the same low prices as before. Their prices are more like Canada twenty years ago.
Slothed around after that doing some recreational reading and then decided to do some keyboarding work. One of the to-do items on my list was to check for a long distance app for my iPod and I quickly found a Dell Canada one that gives me free calls over wi-fi anywhere in the world to Canada and a local Edmonton number that allows toll free calls to us from Edmonton. Saskatchewan was not an option for a local number. Talked to Becky as a trial and it works well. (Update: the calls are free within Canada, but pretty cheap from/to elsewhere - about 8 cents a minute from Nicaragua)
Probably should study now. There is a first time for everything and there a couple of irregular verbs calling for my attention.
Rolling power outages in town with power off much of the afternoon and parts of the evening. Near sunset the hotel fired up a generator and we had light for awhile and then power came back on to stay except for a few brief interruptions. Once we had power we had air conditioning.
On the way to lunch we checked the barber shop, but it was closed. Maybe for a siesta?
Also on the way to lunch we stopped in a bookstore and bought a copy of El Viego y El Mar (The Old Man and the Sea in Spanish) by Ernesto Hemingway. The book store across the street from the hotel had sold out and didn't know where to get more. It is a skinny book and Hemingway writes sparse prose so it is a good candidate for translating. After lunch at Cafetin Claudia we walked around town, picked up some stuff at a farmacia and walked around until the siesta time had passed. We checked the barber shop and decided he was closed for Monday. Then it was nap time. After supper in the room the power came back and we spent a quiet evening.
While we were walking around town we went to the Choco Museum (Here's somebody else's pictures). We wandered around reading and viewing the free displays and the interesting furniture and art work. We tried a free sample of cold cacoa tea which would be an acquired taste if ever, and then we bought a pinolillo drink which we shared and enjoyed. Pinilillo is made from corn meal and cacoa and was served with ice in a carved gourd.
February 28, 2012 (Tuesday)
Day five of Spanish language classes here in Granada, Nicaragua. Every now and then a light goes on in my head both in class and during down time and I suddenly realize why something is the way it is in Spanish or how something works in Spanish and I mentally kick myself for not picking up on it sooner. There a few moments when stuff comes too fast at me in class, but I just set that feeling aside and think "For now I'll just handle what I can handle and leave the surplus learning for later."
When I woke up the power had gone out again so I quickly got up and had a shower while there was still water pressure. After a few hours there is no water pressure. There were a few nervous moments after I had soaped up and was rinsing off, hoping that the water wouldn't choose to stop before I finished rinsing. It didn't.
Juanita walked me to class as usual and then found a spot to drink coffee where nobody would bother her. The power went out about 11:30. After class we walked by the barber shop and it was closed. Maybe due to the power failure? There was flag there between the metal grill and the wooden door that we didn't remember from yesterday. Then on to Cafetin Claudia for the less than two dollar lunch special c/w natural fruit drink.
After lunch we walked around for a while and sat in the square until I started to sunburn and then back to the hotel for a while. Then we went for a licuado at the Chocolate Cafe and checked e-mail and news on the iPod using their wi-fi. After a bit of a rest at the hotel we checked the barbershop again and talked to the neighbours on the other side of the street and found out the barber was sick. He was a nice old guy and I was sorry to hear he was sick. I was also sorry to think that the next place I tried would charge me the gringo price and not the Nica price. I was right. He quoted me a reasonable price and then afterwards said that was just for the hair the beard was the same amount again. Or double. Which meant the price was a third of Canada, but twice what a Nioca would pay. The trim wasn't that good, either although it improved when Juanita insisted he do a better job on the part of the beard on my lower chin.
The power came back on about five and then it was quiet night of watching TV and avoiding studying.
An excerpt from Junaita's e-mail to our daughters re: Monday and Tuesday:
Didn´t spend any time at the computer yesterday as it started to rain when we got back from lunch and then the power went out for about three hours. The rest of the evening it was spotty so pretty much stayed in the room. The place we are staying has a generator but it does not power the air conditioners. It does power the fans so we kept ours on full and the door closed in keep out any hot air.
This morning we got up and again the power went out for about half hour. I think all was well after that. Not sure as when your Dad goes to his lessons I take off. I have quit going to get licuados as I seem to have picked up a follower there that creeps me out. So I head the opposite direction for coffee and reading my book. Then I went to the market to buy bananas and mandarins. Bananas are a cordoba each (about 4 cents). Mandarines are double that.
Since I did not want to go to the licuado place I headed to another cafe and had a lovely limonade made from fresh squeezed limes. Read some more and came back to the room. I lead such an exciting life that I just had to tell you about it :) Actually this is far better than Somotillo !!! Love you all Mom
February 29, 2012 (Wednesday)
Happy Sadie Hawkin's Day. Don't get to write that every year!
Day six of language school in Granada. Signed up and paid for the second five-day "week" this morning.
At lunch time there had been no power outages so far today so I took the time to update the last couple of days. After that we had lunch in the room and I did homework and studied while Juanita read and had a nap. Eventually we went for a walk to the bank machine and a coyote, then we wandered around some shops off the square to look at souvenirs we were not going to purchase. Then we came back to the room for awhile for a bit more homework before walking uptown to the Asado Corral restaurant for dinner. A waddle back to the room with a brief detour to the remodelled Eskimo and then we were home again.