Here's a video that Way of the Cross sent out with a compilation of Medfest activities last month in Masaya and at the Promised Land Camp. There is a brief glimpse of Juanita and three(!) brief glimpses of me:
Fuerte La Polvora
Saturday morning we hiked uptown and beyond for about forty-five minutes and arrived at Fuerte La Polvora. The sign outside the gate says it was constructed in 1748. I had always thought it was a fortress, but polvora means gunpowder in Spanish so it was originally a place to store gun powder. That makes more sense since it is a long way uphill from the lakeshore where any pirates would have landed. After it was an armory it served for years as the local jail. The fortress defending Granada was on the present site of the church across the street from the Hotel Granada.
On the way we stopped by a park across from a church. A plaque used to commemorate the long ago contributions to Nicaragua of a Black, American medical doctor. At least that’s what I recall the plaque saying. We crossed the street to verify these facts and discovered that somebody had the brass to steal the bronze plaque. I hear they are doing that in cemeteries in North America as well. No comment.
We have dropped by the Fuertes La Polvora a number of times in the past. Usually when we are in the neighbourhood to visit the magnificent Granada Cemetery. We have always been advised that they are working on it and it would be open to the public “soon”. Soon never came. We recently learned that the fort is only open for special events or with permission from the mayor’s office.
Inside is very peaceful and lush. The crumbling walls of the original stronghold are under a modern roof for protection. Because it is not open to the public on a regular basis there is a shortage of information displays. I am guessing that the exterior walls are more recent than 1748. If I find any information on line I’ll reference it.
If you want access drop by the mayor’s office across from the central park. In the meantime, it sits there well-maintained and well-watered just crying to have some actors in blacksmith garb and peasant blouses to give the tourists a first hand experience of life in the old days.
Granada to San Carlos
I went down the street for the usual six am session with tutor, Roger of One on One Spanish. We set up a table and chairs on the sidewalk and drink coffee while he drills me on verb forms or corrects my Spanish as I try to tell him stories. Today is the first day of public school after the “summer” vacation period from before Christmas. There are two sessions of school a day so the morning kids start early. For many of the kindergarten students it is their very first day and is a source of amusement for Roger. He points out the little kids proudly walking with their new uniforms, new lunch kits, new backpacks and holding their mother’s hand. He says a week later they will be walking alone without their mothers and not so proudly.
Usually while we sit there a milkman goes by with a milk can balanced on the crossbar of his bicycle. He has a customer across the street. The neighbour lady to Roger buys her milk from a milkman who drives a motorcycle with the cans of milk on the passenger seat. She brings out her container and the milkman dips milk out of one of the cans to fill her container. She goes back inside and he drives off to his next customer. Whole, unpasteurized, unhomogenized milk fresh from the cow this morning. Roger seems skeptical when I say the milkman would be arrested in “the land of the free”. Amazing what happens when industrial agribusiness can buy all the politicians it needs to make the laws it wants.
Then it is seven and time to head back to the Hotel Jerico for breakfast. Afterwards we putter around the room, finish packing and put on travel clothes. For the trip today we will just take a small backpack each and leave our carry-on suitcases here in the room. Everything is stored in those bags. In the unlikely event the hotel fills up and needs to rent out our room they can just store them in a closet in the owners’ area.
More likely, is that the room will be cleaned around our bags and they will sit there ready for our return. A couple of years ago, there would have been a real possibility of the room being needed. Nowadays, not so much. Tourists mostly stopped coming to Granada with last year’s troubles. The numbers have climbed back up a bit but nowhere previous numbers. It’s a shame. Most of the troubles occurred in Managua, Masaya and a bit in Matagalpa with very little in Granada. Now the whole country is as safe as its ever been but they live in the shadow of sensationalistic reporting in the North American and European press. This hotel was often full in past years. This year there have been three tour groups of three or four days each filling the venue. Between them we usually have the place to ourselves with a couple of days a week when there might be one or two other rooms rented. Sad.
While watching all the kids heading to school I commented on how peaceful it was and what a contrast that must be to last year. Nope. No change. It was always peaceful in this part of town. There was a demonstration at the mayor’s office and a fire there with some looting of computers and blenders by thieves, but nothing here about four blocks away.
A little before ten we head down to the end of the street to near where it turns the corner to the malecon (waterfront promenade). We join the line forming for the eleven o’clock bus to San Carlos. When the bus shows up at ten-fifteen we board while about half the people ahead of us deal with getting their stuff loaded on the roof of the bus. Those of us with more minimalist luggage throw it in the overhead luggage above the seats. I hang the backpack straps down between the shelf and the window. It gives something to hang onto when rocking along and will alert me if anyone tries to leave the bus with our backpacks.
The bus has no seat belts. We opt out of the very front seat because of that and the second row because of the wheel well and choose the third row. Tight on knees but we’ll survive. I started to sit on the righthand side, but Juanita points out that will be the sunny side for most of the trip. Left side it is. I still haven’t figured out why she agreed to marry me but it certainly has made my last 44 ½ year a lot better.
The bus driver fires up the engine at 10:01.
It leaves the bus stop at 11:15. That’s more like Nica time. The driver makes up for it with pedal to the metal every moment we are not stopped picking up or dropping off people. We load more passengers and freight in Masaya. Most of the passengers are for Tipitapa half an hour away.
Masaya is also where the first vendors get on board. They are a feature of Nicaraguan buses. They get on and sell food, drinks, snacks, pills, cell phone accessories and salvation for a time and get off and cross the highway and catch a bus going the other way. Rinse. Repeat. The ones preaching often follow up with a collection. The ones selling snacks and smaller food items often give an item to the driver or conductor. Sometimes the bus will pass a vendor at the side of the highway and not pick him up. Maybe the driver doesn’t want to break his momentum right then or the vendor wouldn’t give samples in the past.
Most of the seats filled up with long distance passengers early in the trip. The short distance passengers stand in the aisle with their butts against the end of the seat backs. They seem pretty oblivious of the side effects of their backpacks and elbows. Juanita is in the aisle seat. Their behaviour is a bit distressing to her, but she endures without pushback. On the trip home I will be on the aisle. I push back and they back off, but I’m getting ahead of the story.
There is a rumoured rest stop in Juigalpa about half way to San Carlos. I have vague memories of a rest stop and a buffet there on a long trip from El Rama to Managua some years ago, but perhaps it is a memory from a different trip and not a bus trip. In any case, today, we do stop long enough for the driver to get off briefly and vendors to swarm the bus inside and out. After the driver’s brief stretch break we are back on the road.
Somewhere we parted company with the road to El Rama. It went east and we carry on southward on a slightly narrower, but still pretty decent highway. This highway was built in anticipation of much higher truck traffic between Costa Rica and Nicaragua when the Japanese built a bridge across the Rio San Juan. Apparently, the governments don’t get along very well and their lack of co-operation has meant the increase in trade didn’t happen. The highway is nice, though.
The bus arrived at the terminal at 5:45. A “seven-hour” bus trip in six and a half hours.
We noticed an executive style highway bus loading for Managua. We’ll definitely check that out for the return trip. The return buses direct to Granada leave San Carlos at 3 and 4 pm on Tuesdays and Fridays. That would get us there 9:30 at night or later. Too late. Also, the trip in that direction is different. If you want to go to San Carlos leaving from Granada ensures a seat for the entire trip. If you want to go from Managua you pretty much have to go into the city a bit and get to the El Mayero bus terminal. Anything after that you could end up standing for hours, being squeezed, groped and at risk of pickpockets. No thanks.
Leaving from San Carlos bus terminal, you are going to get a seat no matter where you are headed. If you choose to go on a Managua bus you can get off at Tipitapa and get a seat on a bus leaving from there to Masaya. At Masaya you can get a bus from the market to Granada or get off on the highway and get a cab or, in the middle of the day, choose a passing bus that has seating.
We got a cab to Hostal Don Frank, which we had booked on Booking.com. It was clean and roomy enough for $US 17 a night. The owner put up a mosquito net for us. We ended up not using it. It would only work if you turned off the fans and then the room would be too hot to sleep. With two fans blowing across the bed there was little risk of mosquitoes bothering us. We only saw one mosquito anyway. I squished it. Its body was gone from the wall the next morning. I guess I unintentionally left out a snack for the resident gecko.
The owner gave us directions to a restaurant. Walk towards the Malecon, turn right and go uphill half a block to the restaurant. We never made it that far. Half a block down from the hotel we ran across a fritanga with a charcoal grill grilling beef, pork and chicken. We had meat and cole slaw. They said they would be open about 6:30 for breakfast.
We were in bed asleep before 8.
San Carlos to El Castillo
We were mostly packed before going for breakfast and arrived at the restaurant about seven. Then we went next door to the French bakery and back to the room and finished packing to be out on the street. A quick walk to the Malecon and out on the dock to shake hands with the captain of the boat tied up at the dock and getting ready to go. Unfortunately, it was going out into the lake to the Solentiname Islands and not down the river to El Castillo.
Two blocks quick walk in the other direction through the terminal and out onto the dock where there was a different boat getting ready to leave. There were immigration people there at the top of the walkway. The immigration officers are there because further down river the river becomes the border with Costa Rica. They wanted to see our tickets. We didn’t have any. Where do we buy them? Back in the terminal. No time for that before the boat leaves. The immigration people yell down to the boat. Will the boat attendant let us pay on board? Sure. The immigration people asked for permission to take pictures of our passport page because there wasn’t time to copy the information onto their sheet by hand. Sure. Then we hand out a couple of curved illusion tracts and head down to the boat and get the two seats facing each other at the front of the boat. I walked back through the occupied 2+1 seating to get a couple of life jackets from the overhead racks. As the boat is pulling away from the dock, we put on our life jackets.
The sides of the river are low lying and scrubby at first and then become more verdant and forest like after we pass under the bridge to Costa Rica. Here and there the bush opens up for a break for a ranch or farm with a lone shack. The boats slows and noses into the river bank at some of these cabins to drop somebody off or to pick somebody up. Occasionally all there is is an opening in the forest for a trail and the person disappears into the forest before the boat has finished pulling out.
When underway the boat moves quickly. Nominal time to El Castillo is two hours. There is also a slow boat that one can take that takes about four hours. I am glad that the one waiting when we arrived is one of the faster ones. I had originally thought a slower boat might be more enjoyable, but the scenery is not that varied. We passed a number of garza blancas (egrets) and a huge flock of some sort of duck that was just a bit too far away to see any details.
I handed out some curved illusion tracts to people in the first couple of rows of seats and to the odd passenger waiting to get off the boat.
The person next to me is from Catarina. He has a business there selling plants and flowers. He and his wife and a niece are traveling to El Castillo. He points out various notable plants to me as they appear in the foliage. Their plans are to go to El Castillo, spend a few hours to tour the fortress and go back up river to San Carlos and then go to Nueva Guinea for the night. I have been to Nueva Guinea. I was there with a friend for some meetings he was arranging. Didn’t notice any tourist stuff there at the time, but I guess it is as good a spot to spend the night as anywhere. Based on his plans I assume the threesome from Catarina has a car at their disposal. They would be heroic, taking public transport in that time frame, but it would be a fairly pleasant drive. There are times it would indeed be more pleasant to have a car, but driving in Nicaragua can be quite an adventure and one is always at risk of being shaken down by the police for DWW (Driving While White).
About half an hour from El Castillo the boat stopped at Boca de Sabalos (the mouth of the Sabalos River). We had originally booked a room there at a local Lodge that Booking.com shows as being at El Castillo. Not quite. The owner had some issues and we, at his request, cancelled our booking there and booked a place in El Castillo proper. Staying there would have been exciting. Looks like a pleasant settlement and probably has some decent tours available up the Sabalos River, but not the optimum place if you want to check out the old fortress at El Castillo. Dodged that bullet and had no idea until we passed the place we had formerly booked.
At El Castillo we got off the boat along with everybody else. End of the line. We asked where Casa Huespedes Universal was. When we got there there was a French couple checking in. I guess they were on the same boat as us but in back. We got off first, but took some time to take a picture of the threesome from Catarina and to hand out some Spanish curved illusion tracts.
They picked their room and we picked ours. They opted for one with the bathroom down the hall. We chose one with a private bathroom. The bathroom needed cleaning so we put our bags in the room and locked it and gave the key to the owner to do the cleaning while we walked around town.
Back to the landing we went and up a likely looking stairway up the hill. Part way up I confirmed with a soldier that we were on the way to fortress.
At the gate we paid the site admission fee and the camera fee. While we were waiting for the clerk to fill out our two-part carbon paper entrance form, complete with passport numbers, our Catarina seatmates from the boat showed up. It looked like the fee they paid as nationals was lower than ours. That’s fair. It’s not like ours was onerous at about $US 3.
The stocky guide walked with us to the museum and said there were three rooms. I translated for Juanita, then the three from Catarina arrived and the guide focussed on them and starting talking more directly to them in a more fast and furious fashion. We moved into the second room. There was a small placard with an English translation of each display. I read both in most cases to work on words that were unfamiliar to me. The group with the guide arrived in room 2. We moved back to room 1. The guide assumed we were leaving the property and said we could get our ticket stamped if we wanted to come back today. I thanked her and we finished looking at the displays in room 1. By the time were done the group was onto room three and by the time we were done in room two they were headed up the hill to the fortress and the guide went back to the entrance building.
Room one of the museum was about pre-Columbian indigenous culture. Basically there were two main cultural groups occupying the country, Meso-American and Indian.
Room two talked about the fort being built to hinder pirates coming up the river and raiding Granada. The location was chosen because the rapids would slow the pirate ships down and the high ground gave an advantage for the cannons. There was a chain of fortresses around the Caribbean to protect Spanish interests in the region and facilitate the free flow of looted treasure from the Americas back to Spain. We have been to the fort in Lake Nicaragua and to one of the Caribbean forts at Portobelo in Panama. We crossed the continent four times the day we went to see that.
Room three was devoted to the time that Nicaragua was a major route for the California Goldrush. Ocean steamers would bring people from New York or New Orleans to the mouth of the Rio San Juan where they would transfer to river steamers for a trip to El Castillo. They would get off the boats below the rapids where they would board a short railway for goods and people to the upstream side of the rapids. There they would board steamers that carried them up the river to Lake Nicaragua and across the lake to Rivas and a trip down to the Pacific Ocean and a waiting seamer to San Francisco. The map showed a canal and locks on a river at Rivas and dams in the delta of the Rio San Juan to improve flow on the chosen branch of the river.
We climbed the hill and stairs to the fortress and wandered around. It was rebuilt by the government of Spain in the 1990’s. One can only imagine the hardships the original soldiers went through to build the original fort. It has a commanding view of the river and successfully used its fortifications and position to fend off attackers.
We walked back to the hotel. The owner was still cleaning the bathroom. We walked west past the landing until we were in mostly residential area and then back past the hotel the other way. We reached a sign that warned any further traffic was prohibited in a military zone. Then we back tracked a bit and looked for Borders café which had been mentioned in an old Lonely Planet guide I have had on my kindle for years. It was supposed to have gourmet coffee. When we found it we were alone. A young man wandered out from the back. With a little encouragement from us and a few questions from him to an unseen voice off stage he presented us with a filthy menu he found somewhere. We scanned it briefly and left not willing to risk our GI tracts to that particular mix of warning signs.
We stopped at the Hotel Posada del Rio and I ordered, I thought, an omelet for me, and filet of fish and a papaya smoothie for Juanita. We got an omelet, a plate of fruit and a smoothie. The omelet was fine. The fruit was wonderful. I risked falling from ketosis and ate my half. Juanita said the smoothie was great. By the time we realized there was no order of fish on its way Juanita decided she had eaten enough with her half of the fruit plate.
We headed back to the room and retrieved the key and had a rest. I had brought only shoes because we had heard how bad the mosquitoes would be, but they are not that bad. I went out to see if I could find a pair of flip flops. Mostly there were just women’s styles. The men’s styles were for smaller feet than mine. There was one pair of Nike sandals they were more proud of than I was willing to pay. Shoes or bare feet it is then.
For supper we walked to Comedor Vanessa built out over the rapids. It was mentioned in the old guide as being the place for fish and river shrimp so that is what we ordered. It is probably the most expensive meal we have ordered in Nicaragua in ten years of coming here. To put the price in perspective it was still cheaper than the pizza we ordered to our hotel room the night before we flew out of Edmonton. And it was delicious. A couple of the resident restaurant cats hung out at our feet hoping to share. Mostly they were disappointed. As the sunset approached flocks of birds flew by to head for their night time roosts and a boat with a couple of fishermen worked the rapids with a throw net.
We waddled stuffed homeward along the river walk, walking past our hotel until we found somebody grilling meat on a charcoal grill and checked to see what time they would be cooking tomorrow night. Can’t eat river shrimp every night!
We opted to rely on the fan and not let down the mosquito net hanging above our bed.
I was ready for sleep at seven but forced myself to stay awake until eight before going into a coma. The loud visiting from the people on the veranda outside our window did not interfere with me falling asleep. Nor, I am told, did the downpour on the tin roof disturb my slumber.
Down the Rio San Juan and up the Rio Bartolo
I did wake up about two am and listened to some rain about three. Being wide awake I read awhile and then watched a replay of Trump’s SOTU until it was time to get up and eat my pills and psyllium husk then shower and launder yesterday’s clothes (except socks). Yesterday afternoon I did shirt, underwear and socks from the trip to San Carlos. This morning everything was dry enough except the socks so no more sock washing on this side trip.
Actually, no more laundry at all. It is too humid by the river and it needs more than just overnight to dry clothes. I am not particularly fixated on laundry, but one of the secrets of travelling really lightly is to minimize the clothing you carry without going around stinking when most of the day the weather is sweat producing. That involves clothing and laundering choices that you don’t think of at all living in a house with a few closets of clothes and a laundry room.
By seven am we were on the deck overlooking the rapids eating the breakfast and drinking the coffee we ordered yesterday. A launch to San Carlos left at 7:05.
We are almost ready on time to head to the boat tour at 8 am. The hotel owner drove the outboard-powered “canoe” while his teenaged daughter carefully scanned the river and river banks for birds and animals. The five-year old daughter was along for the ride.
We crossed the river above the rapids and went down the rapids between the far bank and a small island, before crossing back across the river part way through the rapids. Not something I’d want to do on my own without a knowledgeable guide. There are some pretty big boulders just below the surface of the swiftly flowing water.
The daughter would speak up when she saw something and the father would slow the boat and get us as close as possible for better viewing and photo ops. The first thing the daughter spotted was a kingfisher and we knew the name in English and she said the name in Spanish and showed us the picture in her laminated guide to birds and animals of Nicaragua which had English, Latin and Spanish names next to the pictures. Apparently it was a collared kingfisher, but not being a birder I’ll settle for “kingfisher”.
In all we saw kingfishers, egrets (Garza blanca), herons, all sorts of ducks, a number of iguanas (green, yellow and gray) and a bright green iguana-like lizard whose name didn’t translate into English and had no picture in the guide. There were blue butterflies and golden ones and little yellow birds (how can you tell we are not birders?). At one point the girl pointed up in the tree and said there was a parrot there, but that was one of the things we failed to pick out of the foliage.
The border between Nicaragua and Costa Rica runs south of Lake Nicaragua and south of the Rio San Juan for about half the length of the run to the Caribbean. Then the border veers north until it hits the river and the south bank of the river becomes the border until the delta where the border follows the south bank of the northern branch. There is a broad cut line through the forest to the shore of the river and a row of posts marching to the river along the imaginary line.
The south bank of the river is more developed in Costa Rica. There are more roads and ranches. Many of those ranches have vehicles parked near their buildings. Greater development is to be expected considering that Costa Rica is a richer country and only has about a quarter of the river shoreline. Also, since the river proper is in Nicaragua it would make it difficult to use the river as their highway like the Nicaraguans do.
After a while we arrived at the mouth of the Bartolo River which enters the San Juan on the north side. There was a military base one side of the Rio Bartolo at the mouth. As we approached our guide advised us to not take any pictures of the base or the soldiers.
We tied up at their dock and the boatman filled out some forms. We used their composting outhouses, took some pictures of some trees (but no soldiers or buildings) and walked around poking bushes until the guide flushed out a green frog which, of course, was a major photo op. I handed out curved illusion tracts all around and we were on our way up this quiet tributary.
As we progressed up the Bartolo the water became more and more clear. We stopped to take pictures of a five-foot-long alligator until it got annoyed and left. The boat motored up further until the river became too shallow for the motor and shallow enough to be poled and then even more shallow and the teen dragged the boat to a sandbar where we got out and had the opportunity to wander around and swim. The little girl did the swimming. The river seemed a little shallow for a big old white whale and you know when you are getting old and grumpy when you pass up a chance to splash around because you don’t want to be sitting around in a wet bathing suit while it dries. Guilty as charged.
While we were on the sand bar a boat with the French couple and a French speaking guide showed up a little way away and they splashed around a bit and left just ahead of us.
The boatsman emerged from the bamboo thicket with a red frog on a banana leaf. More photos. He showed us some pictures of the remnants of some river steam boat boilers rotting on the riverbank further down the San Juan. He offered to take us there for a fee. Wasn’t really all that interested. Not much left of the boilers and declined even when he reduced the requested upcharge to our tour to the boilers.
Back down the Bartolo to the military base for more paperwork and then up the Rio San Juan and up the rapids to the landing at El Castillo. Arrived pretty close to the agreed upon noon. I think he has done this before.
We walked around town eventually making our way to the Posada del Rio and tried a repeat of yesterday’s lunch. Nope. Yes, we have no papayas. I had an omelette and then we walked to a smoothie shack and Juanita had her papaya smoothie. Then it was time to relax in our room.
For supper we found the charcoal grill/ fritanga. The meat wasn’t finished cooking yet so we came back in half an hour. Juanita said her chicken had the best flavour ever and I said the same about the pork. All for about a quarter of the price of last night’s dinner.
El Castillo to San Carlos
We were up eating breakfast overlooking the river and saw the seven am boat leave for San Carlos. The next boat is scheduled for 9:15. We were to go there and get our name on the list at about 8:45, but when we headed that way the hotel owner said he had called the machacho (teen) that handles the tickets. We went to the landing and found a place to sit and the kid from the boat came over with his clipboard and copied down our names and passport information. I handed out some curved illusion tracts including to the JW’s set up to work the crowd waiting for the boat. A largish, nice-looking boat showed up, but apparently wasn’t ours. Our, smaller, boat showed up and left on time.
The ride back up the river was the reverse of the ride down the river.
Go figure. Birds. Passenger pick-ups and drop-offs.
A lot more people got off at Boca de Sabalos than on the way down the river. That makes sense. El Castillo would be the nearest bigger town than Boca de Sabalos. San Carlos, although much bigger, is a long way away and would be the source of less passenger traffic for Sabalos. One passenger got off at the Costa Rica side of the bridge on the highway to the Costa Rica border.
When we arrived at the dock at San Carlos there were no immigration people. We went inside the terminal and used the servicios and then went and found our hotel and settled back in there. We walked along the Malecon. On the way we handed out curved illusion tracts including to a crew setting up carnival rides in the Malecon park.
After lunch at our favorite fritanga, we climbed the streets until we reached the high spot where the fort guarding the river had stood in colonial times. It is pretty developed as a tourist type site, but not much of the fort is there either in original or reconstructed form. It has a commanding view of the where the river leaves Lake Nicaragua. It would have been the obvious site for a fort to guard against boats coming up the river.
Back at the hotel for a bit.
We took a cab to the bus depot. I messed up. First, I had no idea how far the bus depot was from where we grabbed the cab. Second, I mentioned a price before the cabbie had mentioned one. That meant I paid a little over a dollar to save us from walking two blocks. I knew I had messed up the moment the cabbie’s face lit up as he agreed to my suggested price. Not the end of the world, and a really minor annoyance but a good reminder to use better negotiation techniques.
At the bus depot we checked out the prices and times of buses back to Granada. There are two buses on Friday from San Carlos to Granada. One at 3 pm and one at 4 pm. Either would be travelling in the dark for much of the trip and get to Granada pretty late at night. Not sure I want to walk that street at that time of night. There were multiple buses to Managua, including two express buses that would theoretically not stop for passengers along the way. One leaves at 3 am and the other at 9 pm. Again, you’d be travelling the route in the dark. Not my idea of safety. The one scheduled at 8 am will be an executive class bus similar to a North American style highway bus, not an overgrown school bus. It would not be an express so you’d still be stopping for passengers to get on and off all along the route, but at least you’d be stopping and starting in relative comfort.
Back at the room we rested and fought with the wi-fi that was running at dial-up speeds for some reason. Before sunset we walked to the end of the Malecon for some sunset pictures across the lake. Then we had supper at a predictable place before going back to the room for the night. We briefly tried the TV, but it was tiny, high on the wall and at a bad angle for bifocals (let’s hear it for the Golden Years!). Nothing left to do but to go early to sleep.
San Carlos to Granada
I woke up at 1:30’ish which is early even for me and was too awake to go back to sleep so I read and surfed. The bandwidth vampire must have retired for the night so wi-fi speeds were okay again.
When Juanita woke up early, but not quite so early as me, I proposed that we catch the 6:30 bus instead of the 8:30 bus. Seemed like a good idea at the time so we showered and got dressed and schlepped our way the two blocks to the bus depot. It was about six so no sign of the bus yet.
I found one of the food booths starting to open up and ordered just scrambled eggs and coffee for the two of us. There is a cultural barrier and a language barrier when you do that. Nobody can handle the idea that you don’t want gallo pinto (red beans and rice) and tortillas with your eggs and assume you screwed up the translation when you asked for just eggs. The full breakfast came and I ate my eggs and sipped some of my coffee.
Then this decrepit old Bluebird bus arrived half full of passengers and with a load of firewood on top. I left Juanita to finish her eggs and coffee and took my backpack (traveling with just a small day pack each this trip) and got on the bus. Most of the desirable seats near the front already had at least one passenger sitting there or a backpack reserving a spot. There were a couple of empty seats near the front but one was actually missing the padded seat and the other had that one’s seat thrown in it loosely along with its own seat back. I moved things around so they looked okay but decided I didn’t want to have the seat slide from under us every time the bus braked. Been there, done that once in Panama.
There seemed to be more room near the back, but the exhaust gases coming up through the big holes in the floor discouraged me from that choice. I went back to the front and claimed the seat behind the driver by moving the jug of radiator water off it and placing it next to the driver’s seat. When Juanita showed up I left her as a place marker and went and finished my coffee in the still dark terminal. Juanita was a bit cramped by the partition in front of her and being over a wheel well, but by riding side saddle a bit and with my legs sticking out next to the driver’s seat we’d be okay.
The bus left the terminal on time but soon stopped at a restaurant and said “bathroom break” and went inside for a few minutes. Juanita took advantage of the opportunity and was back on the bus before the driver showed up munching his breakfast. Underway again we stopped for every school kid between here and 7:30 and then for every passenger and vendor standing by the side of the road. The conductors and the driver seemed to skim samples from many of the vendors as an entry fee. The one vendor desperately waving at the bus yet the driver didn’t slow down and stop for may have been one who didn’t go along with the mordida in the past. Who knows?
The drive on the bus to San Carlos the other day had two speeds: stopped and pedal to the metal. Today’s driver had a range of speeds, each of them slightly below the speed limit which is not that high in most places. With so many stops for passengers and driving so slowly we conjectured that sooner or later the 8:00 bus would pass us every though we had a nominal hour and a half head start. But it didn’t by the time we got off the bus in Tipitapa.
We had planned to find a bathroom and maybe a meal in Tipitapa but there was a bus for Masaya stopped across the street from our bus stop when we got off the San Carlos bus. Juanita said she was good to go without a break so we hustled across the Pan American highway and got on the waiting bus. It was mid sized, clean, in pretty good shape and not too crowded. There were still a couple of seats left when we got on board.
We got off at the Puma rotunda at Masaya, had some chicken and water and then caught a passing bus to Granada. Being midday it was not totally full.
Back at the hotel Jerico was like a homecoming. After unpacking and doing our laundry we walked around the corner to the Chinese restaurant and got some grilled pork off the fritanga cart out front and brought it home to eat.
Then it was very early to bed and I slept eight hours straight through. Even at my age I seldom need to get up in the middle of the night very often, but I generally sleep out after five and half or six hours and don’t go back to sleep even when I try.
We settled back into our Granada routine with Spanish lesson at six and breakfast back at the Hotel Jerico at seven. We paid for the room for the next ten days and started puttering away at catching up with the web site.
There was a big stage set up in the open area east of the Parque Central and tents set-up in the square north of the stage. This is an annual folk festival with dancers, booths, people in costumes and folk poets. Each night of the event they set up a bunch of chairs and the crowd gathers and overflows the chairs for standing room only. We wandered past it a few times, but never really got into the event, especially the first night when some politician was haranguing the crowd. If you were five feet away your glasses might get spattered.
Workmen painted a church-owned building across the street north of the cathedral. They assembled multiple levels of Safeway style scaffolding. My understanding of this type of scaffold is it is to be plumb. Also, that if you are going to put up more than three levels it must be attached to the building and outriggers are advised. Not Nicaragua style. It went to the top of the building, maybe five or six sections high and it was right angles to whatever surface it was on. On the sidewalk that meant it was tight to the building at the bottom and about three or four feet away from the building at the top. There were a couple of flimsy cables attached to a frail looking parapet at the top. Wouldn’t get me on that thing. Nope. Nope. Nope. It didn’t fall and the building got painted. As did much of the sidewalk. We don’t need no stinking drop cloths!
One day we took a day trip to the city of Managua. We went to a Walmart and wandered around to see what they carried. Pretty much what any super centre in North America does except I didn’t notice an electronics department. That could have been me, but I was pretty sure we went up and down every aisle. Then we hopped a cab and went to the Metro Centro shopping complex and wandered around. It’s no West Edmonton Mall but it is as fancy as any mall in Saskatchewan. We checked out some stores and ate at the food court. Then we hopped a bus going to UCA bus terminal and caught a bus to Granada at its point of origin. Fun day.
Our hotel is on the main street in Granada for tourist bars and restaurants. Walking to supper on Valentine’s Day we noticed that they had all tried to outdo each other for Valentine’s Day with decorations and special bands. Coming back from supper they were doing a roaring business which carried on noisily well into the night. Big day here, I guess.
We ran into Frank one afternoon. He offers a boat trip well beyond the typical isleta tour. He said it goes to an island with petroglyphs. I took that to mean it went to Zapatera Island where I have wanted to go and put it on my future list when we could get five people together since the price is the same for one person or five. It might still be alright value, but it definitely isn’t what I thought it was. I guess Zapatera Island is a lot more involved. Something to look into. Probably not this trip.
Wednesday, February 19, 2020
Lessons have been going well, but I’m taking a break for three weeks.
After the daily session with tutor and breakfast today we’ll pack up and get a cab to a particular bus station where the buses go to Roberto Huembes terminal in Managua. I chose that because the buses going there are big old school buses with room for a carryon and the terminal is closer to the next bus terminal we want in the Mayorero market. From there we’ll buy tickets on a bus to Matagalpa where we plan to spend the next two weeks. Then a week in Esteli before coming back to Granada.
At Roberto Huembes we’ll take a cab from inside the terminal. They charge more because they paid to be there. One time in the past I went outside and bargained for a cheaper cab. That cab was memorable. He went the wrong way down a one way street for a block. At red lights he passed the cars waiting for the light by cutting into the left turn lane and passing them through the intersection. When we got to our destination (Best Western Hotel across from the airport) he asked for more money than he had agreed to. When I only paid him the agreed upon fare he sat there mad and wouldn’t get out, but motioned me to get out. Juanita was already out. I just sat there until he finally got out. He couldn’t sit there forever. The reason I didn’t get out until he did was the bags were in the trunk and I needed to prevent him from driving off with our luggage.
At ten we started walking up the street to the corner, but grabbed a cab who had turned down toward us. After dropping off his current passenger he took us to the terminal for buses going to Roberto Huembes. We were the first passengers on the bus and the conductor said the bus would leave in ten minutes. It was a Nicaraguan ten minutes, but still we didn’t wait too long before the bus left with its handful of passengers. Definitely waited long enough to miss rush hour. There were only brief intervals on the trip to Managua when there were passengers standing in the aisles. The bus seemed dreadfully underpowered and seldom got going fast so the trip into Managua was more leisurely than most bus trips here. Probably no point in rushing to get to the other end of the run only to wait there.
Today we hired a cab from inside the terminal. The driver had the same uniform shirt as another cab nearby which added to his credibility. I openly texted the cab number to a friend, a common security practice in Managua. He drove in a sane manner to the Mayoreo terminal, paid the fee to enter the terminal, rather than dumping us on the street nearby, and parked next to the lane for the Matagalpa bus. He hopped out of the cab and got our bags from the trunk. Quite a contrast to crazy cabbie from a few years ago.
Speaking of cabs. One time we travelled from Chinandega to Matagalpa. The van that goes between the two sits in the terminal in Chinandega at seven am and leaves when it is full of passengers. We arrived just before nine on a bus from Somotillo where we had been working for Food for the Hungry. Once we got on the van they needed only one more passenger and a passenger arrived shortly and we left. We talked to a person from the States. He had been travelling around Central America for three months without being able to speak a word of Spanish. His survival technique was simple. When he was ready to go to the next town he would have somebody at the hotel call the next hotel and make reservations for him and have them write the name and address of the hotel on a scrap of paper. He would show this paper to the bus drivers and cab drivers along the way until he got where he was going. We shared a cab with him to his hotel and then the cab dropped us off at our hotel. That was a nice hotel but in a inconvenient location. Inconvenient to walking around town, but convenient to the bus. The incoming and outgoing Managua buses stopped there. We had no idea at the time and stayed on the bus to the terminal. That was the only time we have stayed there, but we see it each time we arrive at or leave Matagalpa by bus.
Another time at the bus terminal in Matagalpa we went out with the crush of arriving bus passengers and got ourselves into a cab with a couple of others. At that time the Matagalpa taxis had a fixed fare for anywhere in the downtown core of Matagalpa. I had said we were going to the El Castillo hotel. It is a bed and breakfast overlooking the cathedral. When I asked to confirm we would only be paying the set fare. The cabbie said that it would be higher. I said I would only pay the lower rate. He slammed on the brakes, stopping in the middle of the street. He ordered us out of the cab and leaped out of the cab himself, grabbed our bags out of the trunk and dropped them in the street and drove off. We walked to the next corner, flagged down the cab and paid the set fare to El Castillo. I figured out later that he must have been thinking we wanted to go to El Castillo de Chocolate. It is a place where they make artisanal chocolate bars and give tours explaining and demonstrating the making of chocolate form cacao. It is a bit out of town and would definitely be a higher fare. We’ve been there once in the past. I would encourage everybody to give it a tour at least once.
It was noonish. I bought tickets for two on the 12:30 express bus to Matagalpa. They cost 180 Cordobas for two tickets and came with two assigned seats. Compare that to the forty Cordoba cab ride to the terminal in Granada, the fifty Cordoba bus fare from Granada and the three hundred and thirty-six Cordoba ($US 10) cab fare between terminals in Managua.
I stood with the bags while Juanita went to the washrooms. While I was waiting the bus pulled in and a porter grabbed our bags and stowed them in the overhead bin across from our assigned seats where I sat until Juanita returned and I took my turn at a run for the baños. A quick walk, seven Cordobas to the attendant and a quick walk back and we were both on the bus well before its 12:30 on-time departure. We ignored all the high carb food the vendors were peddling and washed down our pork rinds and nuts with water we had brought. You don’t want to become dehydrated in the heat. Nor do you want to tempt fate with overhydrating before a close to three-hour bus ride.
On the way to the street a few peddlers and a few last-minute passengers boarded. Theoretically an express bus doesn’t stop for passengers along the way. It really means it doesn’t stop for every passenger along the way. There is a major stop just east of the airport and at Tipitapa where people wait for the long distance buses. We generally avoid that approach because there is no guarantee of a seat or for overhead rack room. That would be a long trip to make standing up while the bus driver plays Parnelli Jones, tailgating trucks and buses and swerving around them and then hitting the brakes to turn near-hits into near-misses. When we come back from Esteli, we will save time and cabs by not going into Managua and get off at Tipitapa where buses originate to Masaya.
At the terminal in Matagalpa we waited for the surge to get off the bus before pulling our bags from the overhead bin and getting off ourselves. I went to the ticket window and checked on the bus schedule for Esteli. our destination in a couple of weeks. They leave every half hour on the twenty-minute mark starting early each day. Then we walked out to the street and a tout helped us get the first cab in line. Things had calmed down from the Managua bus arrival that we weren’t fighting for cabs like we would have if we joined the stampede off the bus when we arrived. We had the cab to ourselves. I gave the name and location of the hotel and the driver gave us a price and we got there by a little after three. The hotel was closed. We had talked to the owner on phone. The original booking was for yesterday, but she called last Friday and said she had to go to Costa Rica to see her sick brother and could we change our arrival to Wednesday at four. Sure. We changed plans and added a day to our stay at the Hotel Jerico.
Now here we were at a little after three. I called the official number for the hotel and heard it ringing inside the hotel. We waited in the shade a bit and tried the number the hotel owner had used to call me last week. She answered right away using my name (“Don Paul”) and told me she was minutes away. By 3:15 we were signing the register and trading stories about our families.
The owner had called the maid who showed up wanting to clean our room. After we washed up a bit we left her to it and walked uptown to check out changes and buy some water, toiletries and food. The hotel didn’t used to have breakfast, then a couple of years ago it changed and included breakfast. It has changed back. The low-cost café where we used to eat breakfast seems to be a parts store now. I guess we explore tomorrow morning.
We checked out the new Estrella super marker that was being built a couple of years ago. It’s pretty high end in selection and seems to have pretty good prices on the things we checked. Then we walked down the street to the La Colonia, ate at their lunch counter and bought some supplies. On the way home we bought a couple of gallons of water at the Pali. It’s cheaper there and a lot closer to carry.
The travel today went well, but we are both tired. We managed to watch an NCIS episode before crashing.
We have been here in Matagalpa a few days and are falling into a bit of a routine. We have done some exploring by foot and noticed businesses that are new and businesses that no longer exist. Some of the ones that no longer exist include places where we used to eat. We have tried a few replacements. Most had good food with mixed pricing results compared to our old favorites. We have found new favorites. They are further away than our old favorites which means more walking. That might be a good thing in terms of health as much as I’d like more convenience.
In our wandering we meet and talk to people. This morning while we were standing in the park eating our scrambled eggs, an obviously North American, asked us if we were Americans. He is a Canadian who has been here six years.
He and his wife built a hotel just off the highway a couple of miles past the turn-off to San Ramon (see better directions below). He was a builder in Vancouver and built Tierra Alta Eco Lodge to North American standards. They are Swiss Chalet style buildings with well-ventilated sleeping quarters on the second floor. They are fully screened and bug proof unlike any Nicaraguan style buildings I’ve stayed in. Their menu is all North American style food with vegetarian and other options if needed. Their clientele is a niche crowd that wouldn’t include us. We travel more economically than that and spend way too long in the country to consider staying there. It sounds nice and looks good on Trip Advisor, Facebook and at Booking.com. It may suit your needs just fine. Check it out.
After trading a few stories about construction and trade practices he went on his way. I topped up my cell phone for the coming week and handed out a number of Curved Illusion Tracts.
We pass a pet/feed each day on our walk to uptown. They have a parakeet cage near the window which reminded me of a story Buddy told me about his buddy who sold parakeets by mail order with a money-back guarantee that they would talk.
He sold thousands at a pretty high price since they were “Guaranteed to Talk”. He bought his stock cheaply from Woolworth’s and other chain stores that sold parakeets at a loss to make money selling cages, feed, etc.
Of course, the birds never talked and people would call his toll-free phone number and ask for their money back. He would say, “No Problem. Just put the bird in a Ziplock bag and mail it back to us. When it arrives, we’ll sent you your money for the bird and postage.” Nobody ever sent one back.
Eventually the feds shut him down, but it was a profitable scam while it lasted.
Lawn Boy Buddy
Buddy sold Lawn Boy lawn mowers at his small engine dealership. He sold one to an elderly widow. She traded in an ancient pull-start Lawn boy for a new electric start model. The old one was in mint condition since she and her husband before her would thoroughly wipe it down after each use. It worked fine, but was getting too much for her to start by pulling the cord. The electric start one would solve that problem. Unfortunately, the electric start mower seized up in a few months.
The lady brought it back to Buddy’s store and he replaced it under warranty and passed on the cost to the manufacturer.
A few months later the warranty replacement mower seized in similar fashion. The lady returned it.
Buddy couldn’t replace it under warranty without the manufacturer getting involved. The manufacturer’s rep claimed that the lady must have failed to use oil in the mower gas for the engines to seize like that. The lady insisted her husband had taught her about adding oil to the gas and she had done it for years on the mower she traded in. The manufacturer’s rep was still pretty skeptical, but Buddy fought for doing the right thing by his customer. They arranged to go to the lady’s house and they asked for a demonstration of how she mixed mower gas.
She got out her measuring cup and measured out some gas. Then she took out her bottle of Crisco cooking oil and measured out the precise amount of cooking oil to add to the gasoline. “Stop, right there!” The problem was solved. The newer mowers had tighter tolerances in their engines than the old one that had survived years of cooking oil. The rep agreed that they would replace the mower under warranty “one last time”. He gave her a case of two-stroke oil with the mower and the insistence that that would be the only type of oil she ever used.
Buddy came to Canada from Germany with his parents when he was about ten years old. They sent him to school in Canada in lederhosen. He said he learned to fight.
There is a fable about an ant and a grasshopper you may know. The grasshopper plays all summer and is not ready for winter unlike the ant who industriously stored up food.
Buddy was fond of strays, perhaps that is why he befriended me. Maybe, but it’s been decades since I could ask him. One day he picked up a hitchhiker. The hitchhiker (let’s call him HH) said he was going back to his parents in Pennsylvania. Buddy offered to buy him a hamburger. HH said he was a vegetarian, but since he was traveling, he guessed that would be okay.
Over hamburger and fries HH related his tale of woe.
All summer long HH lay in the meadows in the sun playing his guitar. When winter arrived, he had no firewood. One day of cutting firewood gave him enough fuel for three days. Being out of shape from doing nothing all summer meant that he needed to spend those days resting up in bed. By the time he was rested up it was time to cut again. As the winter grew colder, he fell behind and catastrophe struck.
His water bed froze. Time to go home to mommy and daddy. Buddy dropped him at the ferry landing to help him on his journey.
Winters don’t last forever. Spring arrives. Buddy sees HH looking very downcast walking along the street. He pulls over and says he looks a bit down, could he buy him a hamburger. HH guesses that would be okay under the circumstances.
Over hamburger and fries HH explains the source of his despondency. One thing he hadn’t bothered to tell Buddy last winter was he had not played in the sun alone. He had an “old lady” that he had left with the frozen water bed. She had solved the water bed problem by acquiring a new “old man”. When HH arrived back home the disloyal wench and her new old man ran him off. I guess you can’t rely on anybody.
Race to the Grave
Buddy lived in Maryland for a number of years before returning to his home country. He told me about a funeral he went to. The client was presented to the funeral home as penniless, homeless and without family in the United States. Whether by law or by custom the funeral home did everything at no charge.
The funeral service was held in the smallest room possible. A crowd of people showed up, made up of friends, supposedly non-existent family and other members of this large ethnic community in Maryland. The partitions had to be moved back to make the room bigger to handle the crowd. The funeral director realized he had been scammed. He looked really annoyed.
When the casket was loaded into the hearse, the hearse took off at full speed and maintained pedal to the metal all the way to the graveyard.
Years later Buddy cannot tell the story of how fast the hearse drove to lose the procession and how annoyed the funeral director looked without laughing almost to the point of tears.
Selva Negra is a coffee plantation established in the 1880’s by German immigrants. It is currently run by descendants of the founders. There is a working coffee plantation on much of the property and a restaurant and hotel and hiking trails on the rest. A day tour, and horseback riding are optional activities.
The last time we were in Matagalpa in 2018 we established a relationship with Joel, a cabbie we could trust. We called the mobile number we had for him and it is no longer in service. We received some ridiculous quotes for a ride to Selva Negra and back from one source so decided to find a new cabbie by taking our chances on the street. I flagged down a relatively dent-free cab and asked for a price. It was a bit high but less than half the price of the quote we had already received. I accepted the quote without haggling. One year I negotiated a much lower price from a cabbie for a ride to Selva Negra, but that is also the year the cabbie didn’t come back to Selva Negra to pick us up in the afternoon. Not a disaster. The hotel called us a driver and we had a pleasant ride home after waiting a while, but I decided not to press for pennies off this year.
I had a great conversation with Francisco, the cabbie. He has been a cabbie for 18 years. Before that he worked as a carpenter at Selva Negra for a year. He shares the cab driving with a partner. One drives from 6 am to 2 pm and the other from 2pm to 10 pm. Francisco’s partner, Antonio would be the one picking us up at 4.
You pay 200 Cordobas per person at the entry gate and get a placard that you hand back in for a 200 Cordoba credit toward any restaurant charges you have accumulated by the time to leave.
We sat by the lake and had coffee and enjoyed watching the aquatic birds and the fish. After that little break we went off to hike some of the trails in the forest above the lake. We took a few we had not walked in the past and one that was an old friend. There were some areas that had been planted with coffee bushes since our last visit, but mostly you walk on well maintained trails through pristine tropical forest accompanied by the ominous cries of howler monkeys.
After about an hour and a half of hiking we came out at the chapel and walked back to the restaurant. I managed to find a choice that was close to keto neutral and Juanita found something to her liking. The food came and it was, as usual, wonderful. If I was wealthy, we would probably spent a week a year here. We sat and digested our meal for a while then went for a hike on a half-hour easy trail around the lake. Then we had more coffee and we ordered Juanita one of the richest brownies of which I have had the pleasure of having crumbs.
The cabbie, Antonio, was a bit late, but not bad by local standards. He wasn’t as friendly as Francisco, but still okay. We visited a bit and arranged for a ride to Tierra Alta Ecolodge tomorrow morning.
Pictures to follow.
Tierra Alta Ecolodge
I wrote above that Terra Alta Ecolodge is just off the El Tuma highway a few miles past the turn off to San Ramon. In an e-mail exchange inviting us for a visit the owners corrected my misunderstanding. The hotel is a few miles past San Ramon on the highway to Muy Muy. I gave the information to the cabbie and off we went. He worked his cell phone to get more precise directions and we turned off at the appointed the road. It was much further off the highway than I expected. I paid the cabbie accordingly and we got out to experience a most wonderful several hours.
We visited over coffee grown and processed on the property. Tila was originally from Central America and by way of Mexico ended up in Canada at a relatively early age. We talked about her work and going to the same school and her studies there and her job. Her job involved detecting financial crime. This meant dealing with people who had experienced loss. Their distress took a toll on her and she retired. It reminded me of going to a police station to report a minor hit and run on my truck. There were boxes of tissue strategically placed on the counter where people came to report their loss. One of the people near me was reporting a break-in where he lost some jewelry of little economic value but belonging to his recently deceased wife. It gave me a different perspective on police work and her tale gave me a different perspective on forensic analysis. I always thought it would be a deeply analytical dispassionate job, but you can never discount the human factor.
After some cookies and coffee and a chocolate treat made on the property we moved on from the little outside shelter. The retired couple occupying one of the units joined us for a tour of the property. They were hotel guests for a few days visiting the area from their base in Nicaragua on the coast near Leon. They winter here from New Jersey. They travel home for Christmas and the summer. By travelling outside the immediate holiday season at Christmas they keep their travel costs on Spirit Airlines very low.
Tila and Daniel have owned the property for six years and are responsible for all the plants and buildings. She took us plant to plant and we sampled tastes and smells of herbs including stevia, mint, oregano, and a bunch of odd, strange and curious tropical plants and fruits.
Early in their tenure they planted a field of pineapples. They grew well, but it cost a lot of money hiring two workers to heavily water the plants everyday. It turns out you don’t need to do that, but that is a hindsight lesson. Overall cost came in at around twenty dollars a pineapple. More than just a little bit more than what they would sell for in a market in Nicaragua. They dropped that as a business idea, but still grow a few pineapples for their own use and for the food they feed their guests. Speaking of which, Mike, the guest from New Jersey said they had fed him the best steak he had had in years of coming to Nicaragua.
They planted two vanilla vines which set twenty flowers this year which they hand pollinated with a toothpick. Successfully pollinated flowers stay on the vine. Fourteen fell off in a couple of days. Six flowers turned into beans. They harvested one and had it on a saucer in the fridge, but a helper threw it out figuring it was a just a rotting green bean. They showed us their five survivors.
We climbed to the top of the property and looked across the valley to a bean field and an old gold mine.
After a banana papaya smoothie from fruit off the property we hitched a ride from them into San Ramon where we grabbed a cab back home to our hotel in Matagalpa.
We can see the incompetence of the Canadian government while minions of hostile foreign interests shut down the country. The inept reaction to blockades by fauxboriginals and environmental poseurs got me thinking about competence and decision-making ability.
We seldom have the politicians we need to be making the decisions that affect us. People vote based on feelings. Politicians get elected based on feelings. Good decisions are made by logic and reason not by emotions.
Early in our marriage we ended up with a subscription to the local paper. It had minutes from the local municipal council meetings. I would read those minutes and get irate at the stupidity involved. I would get totally wound up. Then I realized there was no point in that anger. If left unchanneled it was only harmful to me and, perhaps to Juanita who had to listen to my rants. If channeled into action it could mean getting involved with local politics and maybe running for office.
In a worst case scenario, I would end up being elected. Either option, unresolved anger or political office could destroy my life.
I found a solution.
I quit reading local newspapers.
I have missed out on knowing about the odd local event, but other than that the effects have all been positive. I recommend it. It hasn’t changed the actions of town councils, but you can’t fix stupid. It is mostly better to let them blunder around in their well-meaning but inept knee-jerk responses without you knowing about it.
Let’s contrast that with a situation where people are hired and promoted based on competence.
A couple of years ago I ran across a copy of a quality manual from the papermill where I worked as a student and then, later, for seventeen years as a full-time employee. I have no idea where I got it, probably it was laying in an abandoned office after somebody moved to a new one. There were no trade secrets. It was a vintage collection of memos duplicated with a spirit duplicator. The names on the distribution list would have held Godlike status to me in my twenties. They were people in the production and technical department management. Each memo outlined some production or quality problem or issue that had arisen, what they thought caused it, and what the procedure would be to handle it going forward.
I spent half my working life in management dealing with problems. This gave me invaluable perspective into the binder decisions. I was in awe to read page after page of logical, effective solutions with minimum wasted energy to implement. After a couple of fond hours forensically watching some master managers at work I tossed the binder. Eventually my sea can will only contain needed stuff and this was one small step in that direction. The appreciative glow of observing competence is still with me, however. These guys didn’t get their jobs by appealing to an electorate’s emotions. They got them by doing good work and making good decisions and over time getting to make bigger ones.
Don’t you wish we had somebody like that in charge of the country?
February 29, 2020 - Happy Unbirthday
My mother’s due date for my birth was February 29, 1948. Today was supposed to be my birthday but I came early by about five weeks. I was a pretty healthy weight so the doctor told her she was mistaken on the due date. My lungs were about as well developed as they are supposed to be at five weeks premature so I kept turning blue. Of course, I only did it when there were no health care professionals around and they wouldn’t believe my mother. Until one time I did my blue face look for them and they panicked, threw me onto oxygen and took me to the dock on the lake and loaded me in the amphibious plane and then came back to the hospital for a full oxygen tank and the plane flew me to the city.
My mother and her ward mates watched the plane fly past the window. One optimistic nurse said, “He’ll never make it.” Somebody, not my mother, reported her and she was fired. She always claimed it had been my mother and neither her nor members of her extended family ever talked to my family again. Well, I guess I made it or it’s been some seventy-plus year hallucination.
But just think today could have been my 18th birthday instead of five weeks past my seventy-second.