After successfully procrastinating for two and a half months I guess it is time to get the web site back up to date. Last week I e-mailed around a quote from a tweet by Bill Mitchell that said. "With most things in life, the dreading is worse than the doing." That got some confirming feedback as to how true a statement it was.
Also I read a re-tweet from an author who said something along the lines that not writng is the easiest thing in the world.
Writing is not the most convenient thing when we are here in Granada, but I dropped by a friend's "office" this past week and realized how much worse things could be and how he does not let that obstruct him from doing his work for the Lord.
An incentive for me to tackle this writing task is that of the only two people who read my blog (well, one says he does, and the other actually does) both said this week that they noticed the absence of my verbiage.
A further incentive is that eleven channels on the cable TV in our room are showing the inauguration of Mr. Ortega and two channels showing Mr. Obama's farewell address. At least they had the decency to not interrupt Wheel of Fortune or Jeopardy!
Enough of that! Back to the past! The story of the month starts at the beginning below.
Sunday, January 1
After church we went with the Cooks and the Andersons to Chapita’s and enjoyed our last Tex-Mex cuisine for a while. Back at the rig we had a quiet afternoon of puttering at preparations for leaving. Some long postponed paper work got done. The grey and black tanks got drained and the electrolyte was topped up in the four golf cart batteries that store the electricity from the four solar panels on the trailer roof.
Monday, January 2
Monday morning while Juanita visited with Jeanne I rushed to Walmart and bought a top up card for my Texas cell phone so it wouldn’t expire on January 25th. Back at home I shut off the water to the RV and Michael pulled up with the ministry truck and gave us a ride to the airport in Brownsville.
Meanwhile in Houston without our knowledge or consent a storm passes through with a band of thunderstorms and shuts the airport down and disrupts flights in and out of George Bush International Airport. We clear security and then wait at the Brownsville airport while the flight is delayed and then delayed some more. It becomes obvious that the late United flight from Brownsville to Houston will make us miss our Copa connection in Houston.
I call United and they pass the buck to Copa since we booked the trip through Copa. United gives us a number for Copa. That number doesn’t work. I find a number for Copa on the web and call it. The very nice lady on the other end says not to worry. The flights from Houston to Panama City and From Panama City have been rescheduled to compensate. We have nothing to worry about.
We arrive in Houston and wait on the skyway while the ground crew dithers with gate checked luggage and then rush out into the terminal and find a monitor. We discover that the loading for our flight to Panama City has completed boarding. If it was across the aisle in the same terminal we might have made it, but of course it is the other end of the airport world in a totally different terminal building. We go there anyway somehow without having to go through the TSA grope again. Motivated by nostalgia and faint hope springs eternal we go to the gate we should have been loaded at and the sign still says Panama City, but the plane has definitely left the building. Then we go and stand in line with all the other United passengers at customer service.
One customer service representative is processing people a couple times faster than the others. We get her and comment on that with high hopes for a speedy resolution, but we jinx her efficiency and success rate. Eventually after contacting Copa to see if they will let us be handed off to United and fly directly to Managua, it all falls apart when the only seats available are on standby. There is a reasonable chance of no shows with all the weather-related disruption, but no guarantees and the flight to Managua leaves after the sure-thing flight to Panama City. We take the sure thing arriving in Managua tomorrow morning with overnight in Panama City, Panama and go find some food and change our hotel reservation in Managua to the night we fly out at the end of the month and rebook our hired car pick up from the hotel to the airport across the street.
Then we look at Bookings.com and at map of Panama City. Pick hotel near airport on map. Book hotel. Go to book shuttle from airport find out is $US 40 one way and half an hour. Too late to cancel hotel. Still cheaper than hotels with free shuttles. Sometime later when we are in the air I remember that the international airport is on the other side of city out a long causeway. I had been looking at a local military airport on the map. We couldn’t be any further from the International airport and still be in the same city.
We are seated in the back row of a 737. The seats don’t recline because they are hard against the bathroom wall. If the swoosh of the flushing toilet didn’t remind you, the overpowering smell of urine would. With all the weather delays planes are being turned around too quick to be cleaned.
We arrive after midnight and do customs. We have to fill out forms because our nine-hour stay is one hour more than the eight hours that let you out of that exercise. Get to our hotel after 1:30. With rush hour concerns the next morning we agree to leave at six and set the alarm for 5:30.
Tuesday, January 3 (and beyond)
There is time for a quick shower and to grab a banana off the sideboard that is not yet set up for the “free” breakfast and then we head to the airport in the predawn, pre-rush hour darkness.
We spent around two weeks in Panama a few years ago. One of my regrets is not buying a Panama hat while we were there. I did buy a hat in Panama, but it was a cheap knock-off which has given me much pleasure to own and wear, but I still would like to own a real Panama hat. The plan was to buy one at the airport between connections. Military people say that plans are the first casualty of battle, though, and it proved true in this expedition to the airport shops. Hats that had been $US 35 in the old town were $US 165 in the airport store. I might be regretting cheaping out a few years ago, but not enough to cover an over 4X multiplier. The bitterness of low quality versus the sweetness of low price equation doesn’t come into it if you end up owning something too expensive to wear for fear it would be somehow harmed in the wearing.
We carried on to our gate and considered supplementing our banana each. The food shops at the airport want $US 3.50 for tiny bottle of water and $US 7 for a muffin. I checked out the beer cooler. Maybe it is cheaper than water. Maybe I can lower my standards. Nope. No risk of that being a temptation. Almost twice as much for a bottle of beer as a bottle of water.
We waited at the gate and when some airline people showed up to man the gate we got our seat assignments changed to be together. We had a good flight to Managua on Copa. They even served us a tasty sandwich for breakfast. Definitely not United.
At the airport in Managua, our driver was waiting with the people holding up signs with people’s names. He had no sign. He recognized us and we pretended to recognize him. I’ve lost count of the times he has driven us places, but I don’t think I could pick him out of a line-up.
There was a mix up on hotel reservations at the Hotel Jerico. They were not expecting us on the 3rd, had written down 13th. It could be from my my bad Spanish. It might not be. I had the tutor listen in when I called to book. The promised room will not be available for two days so we stay in another one with splotchy TV and elderly assistance devices in the bathroom. In addition to being slightly out of focus the failing TV has some colour issues. Actually Vanna looks pretty good with her dress changing colours as she walks across the screen.
We walked down to One on One Tutoring and set up lessons for next day – one hour from six to seven and then three hours from eight to eleven for three days then back to the one hour before breakfast each day.
Off to Cafetin Claudia for lunch (hugs all around) then the market and the Pali (grocery store owned by Walmart) to change some dollars into Cordobas (exchange rate has gone from 22:1 to 29:1), buy bananas, toothpaste, shampoo, full sized bars of soap and jugs of water.
That was Tuesday.
The rest of the week we studied and ate and slept and web surfed and walked up to Cafetin Claudia for lunch.
Friday, January 6
Today is the last day of four hours of lessons. Starting tomorrow we’ll drop back to an hour before breakfast each day. After the fourth hour Juanita and I headed uptown to Cafetin Claudia for an early lunch before catching a bus to Masaya.
Getting off across from the Maxi Pali supermarket in Masaya we caught a torrito (a three wheel semi-enclosed motorcycle taxi, called tuk-tuks in some countries) to Shiloh base camp.
We visited with Phillip and Jessica and walked around the property looking at some of the things on the list. Each time we come there are more flowering plants. The camp is a veritable Garden of Eden.
After our visit we went out to the road and hailed a green torrito to take us back to the Masaya highway. This is the first for us, all the others have been red We bought some stuff at the Maxi Pali and then caught a bus to Granada and walked home by way of Tele Pizza where we had a salad for supper.
Saturday, January 7
Up early and down the street for a Spanish lesson at six. Then back up the street to the hotel for breakfast at seven.
A bus and a torrito ride got us to the camp shortly after ten and in time to miss most of the people. We spent time visiting with the few who were there and take some measurements and do calculations for rain water collection off the church or the gazebo.
After a while more people show up and we all go to a pizza parlor near Masaya for fried chicken. After lunch, back at the camp, Byron and I (mostly Byron) do some plumbing repairs in the kitchen.
Somebody gave us a ride to Granada and we settled in for the evening.
Sunday, January 8
Spanish lesson at six.
Hotel breakfast at seven.
We were a lot more aggressive in getting up the square and catching a bus and the bus cooperated better than normal today. We arrived at Camp Shiloh a few minutes late for church at eight. They had set aside two plates of breakfast for us. I ate mine and visited with the cook during the first of the church service. It was a conversation at a level of Spanish I was not capable of a year ago. Juanita stayed in the church service. She knows better than to eat two breakfasts in one morning. There is a reason one of us is further from optimum body weight than the other.
After church there was a bit of planning and a lot of visiting.
Several of us went to Sinsa near Managua. Most were just price checking things. I checked out the eavestroughing and learned the Spanish name(s) (common name – canals, equivalent of gutters; name on shelf/in catalog – canoa, equivalent of trough – root word from word for the trough bakers used for making bread and also applied to canoes when conquistadores saw the Indian boats in the new world). I also checked out some Styrofoam panels that come pre-covered with stucco wire mesh which I had seen being used for second story additions in Granada. Actual purchase amounted to a nine Volt battery for the tutor’s alarm clock and a MUCH brighter LED light for our hotel room. It turns the room from a cave into normal. We will have to take it out before going to bed so its not in the socket when the maid does the room the next day, though.
After Sinsa we went to Price Smart and ate samples and berry sundaes while filling a flat deck cart with as much as it would carry of supplies for the camp.
In the afternoon somebody gave us a ride to Granada because they wanted to check out La Colonia for a hair dryer. We bought 4 jugs of water with the chance not to have to carry them seven blocks
Monday, January 9
The Spanish lesson happened at six, but we skipped the hotel breakfast to catch an earlier bus. On our way through the central square I arranged to buy a case of empty Coke bottles for Medfest grounds game and to pick them up from Rosa later.
Once we were on the bus we called the camp for somebody to meet us at the Las Flores rotunda. We got to camp in time to get in line for breakfast. Juanita and I split the last banana. I realized later that the two people who picked us up lost out on the banana. Oops. Sorry.
After the worship service and message there was a bit of a planning meeting. Then we walked Javier through the size and location of cistern. He will have a quote for the work tomorrow.
We drove the ladies to the school grounds to start cleaning. Then Byron, Willie and myself went to Granada to buy valve for one of the water storage tanks. There was not much parking available so we drove around the corner and changed drivers of the van. I drove the van so Byron could jump off and go to the hardware store. Willy and I drove to the central park and double parked while Willy tried to find Rosa and they said she was not there and that vendor sold him her own empties. She tried for more money, but Willie wouldn’t pay more than what Rosa was going to charge us. When we went back and picked up Byron he had been unsuccessful buying a float valve. That hardware store no longer sold them.
We drove to Masaya and found a store that had a valve for sale and bought it. We went to the school grounds and picked up the ladies. We all went back to camp and Byron installed new float on one valve. Later he spray painted the empty Coke bottles to reduce the chance they would get stolen to be sold for the deposit value. He also cut a bunch of rings out of PVC pipe to be used with the empties.
Somebody gave us a ride to the rotunda and we hopped on one of the big old school buses that go to the uptown terminal and then caught a cab to the Pali and walked through the market to buy sunglasses , bananas, mandarin oranges and to check for a hair dryer. Walking through Parque Central I ran into Rosa and she asked about the bottles. Apparently, I had dropped Willy off a couple of booths over from Rosa’s booth and one of her competitors had lied about Rosa not being around and had sold Willie her case of empties. I apologized, but there was no way I was going to buy a second case of empties and carry them to and from our hotel.
The power had been off for most of the country for much of the day. The hotel ran the generator so we had light and TV when it was running but no air conditioning. Eventually the power came back and then went away and came back for good.
We walked down to a bakery for a croissant, but they close Mondays so we tried the bakery across the street, but they wanted airport shop prices for their fresh cinnamon buns so we passed on that and had a small muffin. Then we went and hunted down the pupusa lady in the same place as last year. Hugs all around then a fine meal of pupusa, burrito and batidos (smoothies). The sign outside her restaurant is now a happy hamburger. It used to be a stuffed hamburger made from fabric, but that has not survived the moves between locations.
Tuesday, January 10
Like yesterday I went down the street for a Spanish lesson at six and then we skipped the hotel breakfast and headed to the bus, but we got a little delayed here and there in the process. We didn’t call from the bus to be picked up from the rotunda because we didn’t want anyone to miss their breakfast on our account.
We took a torrito to camp and arrived in time to miss breakfast ourselves. It was all gone when we got there so we ate a couple of Ritz crackers with cheese from our backpack. After worship service and Bible lesson there was a bit of a planning session and people started heading out. Javier presented his quote for the cistern to Ben and I eavesdropped and did currency conversions. Ben gave him a deposit and work is supposed to start tomorrow.
Trucks and vans got loaded and made a couple of trips to the school where Medfest will happen. The big tent for bicycle repair was put up and most people left and Byron re-tensioned the tent ropes with my help and that of a local youth. When a van showed up to take everybody home they dropped Juanita and me at the rotunda and we caught a UCA-Granada bus and got off at the market street and changed some more money. Then we went to Subway to see if they opened early enough and had a breakfast menu. That would be no. They open from 9:30 to 9:30 and have the same menu all day. Prices weren’t much different than a Subway in Canada which is pretty reasonable in the tourist areas of Granada. An Ensalada May at the Tele Pizza was a fine end to the day and then we went back to our room.
I nipped back out while Juanita showered and bought a cup of ice cream. There’s a reason for everything. The reason that I am much more overweight than Juanita is that I eat a lot more and a lot more often. Which reminds me. Today I heard stories of two American women married to Nicaraguan men and a bit of a culture clash. The Nicaraguan men thought it was a compliment to tell their wife that she was fat. Apparently neither wife took it as the compliment intended.
After showers and laundry and Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! the television choices included Daniel Ortega’s hello again ceremonies (inauguration) or Barrack Obama’s goodbye speech. I chose to use the time to block out three new web pages and to bring this month up to date in a crude form with promises of future revisions.
Wednesday, January 11
Spanish lesson at six. I am making some progress with the indefinite tense. When we are busy with WOTC stuff I leave lesson at 5 to seven instead of persisting to get the last five minutes worth out of my six dollar hour.
There was a big group at the hotel so they were serving breakfast early and tables full and luggage piled in foyer. Juanita had ordered breakfast to eat in the room and it was ready when I went in the kitchen doorway to say we were going to skip breakfast so I took the plates and we scoffed the food down, handed in the key for the room to be cleaned and rushed off up the street toward the bus station.
There is a fruit stand at the corner next to the cathedral. They cut the fruit fresh and you can have a bag of pieces of papaya or mixed fruit (papaya, grapes, watermelon, cantaloupe) for ten Cords (33 cents). You know it is fresh because if you go by too close to seven they are still cutting and there is nothing for sale.
The bus that was leaving was standing room only and we got on and got right off and joined the line already forming for the next bus. We were fifth in line and five more were behind us in a minute so when the next bus pulled into the slot it filled and left in under a minute and we were able to sit on the bus ride with less risk of pickpockets.
There were a couple of torritos waiting and the driver of the next one up was a young woman. We waited while she finished braiding her hair and then left at a relatively sedate speed compared to the young male drivers. On the unpaved sections of the road she was more careful and slowed down for bumps. Time consuming but I would rather pay for the maintenance on her machine than some of the others that we’ve been bounced around in.
Church had already started when we arrived. The hole for the cistern was started being dug next to the church as well. After some songs and a testimony and a good message about Abraham proceeding to sacrifice Isaac, Ben announced what we would be doing today and we got with it.
I helped Byron cut some pipes to be used for stakes to make waiting lines for the clinic at Medfest. Everybody pitched in to load stuff onto the truck and into the vans and then two vans and the truck went to the Medfest site and one van went with bottles of water and named room signs to the Hotel Granada where the medical team will be staying.
Once at the site I started to cut off what was left of the supports protruding from the playground. Oh. I probably didn’t mention that the auditorium fell down with the wind while we there Monday. Could have happened any time with kids under it but nobody was near it. When we came back the next day all the metal was gone except for three pipes about three feet long encased in a concrete cube at the base. Yesterday we beat the concrete off. Today I cut one pipe off level with the slab and started cutting the next one off when the saw battery died. The young local men attacked that and the last one with sledge hammers and got them broken off and beat the stubs even with the level of the slab. Probably going to grow up to be torrito drivers.
I went across the street and bought a bottle of pop to share with Juanita. While I was gone and sharing curved illusion tracts with the police at the station next to the school grounds people started putting up the small tents for the games of skill. When I came back I helped a very, very little and visited with people as work wound down.
Byron and Ben went off to Managua to pick up a rental van and meet people at the airport with the rental van and a ministry van (the one from the hotel) and the truck for luggage. When the rest of the small tents were up we went back to the camp and some did some clean-up and others washed the two vans. A couple us of went in one of the vans to Masaya to check out prices for another small tent at the new local Sinsa and then grabbed some supplies next door at the newly opened La Colonia.
When the group arrived from the airport everybody ate a late lunch and visited for a while and then we got a ride in the vans taking people to the Hotel Granada. On the way back to the hotel we tried to buy croissants but they were sold out so we settled for a cinnamon bun and a sticky bun. As we were paying the helper, the baker was enticing a couple of French tourists into his shop and promoting his wares in French. I interjected myself briefly and asked which curved illusion card was “plus grand” and gave them a pair and we left back to the hotel for a quiet evening of Wheel, Jeopardy, laundry and showers.
Just before bed time we received an e-mail from our daughter scolding us because she couldn’t get in touch with us. Her daughters were in the family truck and slid into the highway at an icy intersection in front of a semi which did not have time to stop. Our granddaughter had the presence of mind to floor it when the semi appeared out of the whiteout and the semi only hit the back of the truck. Bruises and scrapes and a sore back seem to be the only bad results so far.
Oh. And a totaled pick-up truck.
Juanita called her on the phone. I sent an e-mail with the hotel phone number and our phone number and Ben’s phone number. Finished uploading this and went to bed. Good night.
Thursday, January 12
Kind of point form, probably more than last night. It’s not that late but I can barely keep my eyes open and still have to shower and do laundry and prep things for a quick getaway tomorrow.
Off to lesson at six. Back to hotel Jerico for breakfast. Then down to Hotel Granada to lurk in the lobby using their wi-fi and getting a coffee for Juanita while the team members ate. Obviously, we are a privileged people. Even in my almost shabby clothes – I can walk up to the front desk and ask for the wi-fi contra-seña (password) and get it with not a moment’s hesitation and can walk into the dining room and get Juanita a coffee and somebody helps me rather than throwing me out on the sidewalk.
One time in Santo Domingo, DR another couple and we got a cab from our cruise ship to a new Sheraton Hotel and the help opened the cab door and helped us out and we walked all over the hotel including in the non-public areas with no challenge from anybody while the husband in the other couple explained what was good and bad in the layout based on his experience as a hotelier (at that time he owned two Sheraton Hotels in the States). This was a place where the doormen wear side arms. Imagine what would happen to a street kid who tried to go through the front door.
After a while people started moving to the street and we went and found a seat on the bus and all went to Shiloh Base Camp and had a worship service and a good message about redeeming the time and the infamous flexi cookie speech about how we need to be flexible and we each ate our flexi cookie which this week is a sour gummy candy. I guess sometimes being flexible has a bitter taste.
The little blue truck died sometime yesterday. The motor overheated and a piston melted and I guess it will get motor number three in the coming weeks. One of the vans had some problems but they were solved and everybody loaded up in the vans or one of the two buses and we headed to where the Medfest will start tomorrow. We had to stop to pick up a few tables that blew off the bus ahead of us. I didn’t see the second table but the first lost its corner on the first bounce onto the pavement.
Once at the site people set up more small tents for the games midway and the bike people started setting up their work area and the medical rooms were cleaned and prepped and the pharmacy was a hive of pill sorting and counting.
Along about 3:30 we all loaded up and the buses with the hotel people headed to Granada and the vans went back to the camp. We rode the bus to the Hotel Granada and walked up to the Hotel Jerico to use the facilities and wash our hands and drop off the backpack. We walked up to the Claro office where the clerk explained to me I had money in the cuenta for phone calls but not in my account for text messages so I paid more money at the cashier window, but will need somebody to read the barrage of messages that resulted from the payment and try to learn how to find out how much is in each of the three possible places and how to move money around. The system did allow me to send a couple of texts but nobody answered so I don’t know if that means they didn’t get them or they didn’t answer them or I am not receiving the answer. I feel like a teenage girl waiting for the phone to ring which these days I guess may not happen the same way as it used to but the teen insecurity probably is timeless even if technology and teen customs change.
When we left the Hotel Jerico the owner kept saying paragua and I assumed he was saying we were going for water and I said no we were going for supper and after the rain started in the first fifty feet I left Juanita sheltered in the lobby of the next hotel up the street and I went back to borrow a paragua (umbrella). My Spanish skills amaze me some days.
When we came out of Claro the rain had stopped and the umbrella had dried while waiting with my service number in Claro. You enter your phone number on a touch screen kiosk at the entry to the waiting area and indicate the type of issue you have and it gives you a printed strip of paper with your service number and that number is announced along with the booth to go to sit across the desk from the Spanish Only speaking service rep who tries to show you what buttons to hit on the phone on which you have selected English as the screen language. There was a whole lot of misunderstanding going on on both sides of that desk. But as I was saying the umbrella had time to dry and we were on our way to Tele Pizza for an ensalada May. It was fine. We got back to the hotel part way through Wheel and then Juanita had a shower during the start of Jeopardy! I sort of zoned out and watched BBC news for a while and read the twitter feed on my iPod and was falling asleep and then it was 7:30 and roused myself to spend this hour blogging and that’s all folks. Oh. I guess I was wrong. Apparently both people do read my blog.
Friday, January 13
Friday the 13th, didn’t notice the date until starting to type this evening. Guess it is too late to worry about.
6:00 – lesson. Doors closed and locked. Learned later that power failure overnight means alarm clock doesn’t ring on time. Clock used to have a nine volt battery but didn’t so happened to find one in a building supply store and bought it, but alarm clock doesn’t retain memory even with battery. In normal stores, kiosks, market stalls etc. you only see AA, AAA, and C sized batteries. Guess the others are too expensive to stock or buy.
Walked back to hotel and answered a couple of e-mails and got ready to leave right after breakfast.
Ate breakfast at seven. Went down to Hotel Granada and scored two coffees since I was missing my usual one with my tutor. Sort of a paid friend who will do verb drills with me until we are sick of it then will converse and listen. After our coffee we wandered out to the bus and got on one while most people were milling around visiting.
At the Medfest site there is a long line already formed of bicycles needing repairs.
Oscar Brooks preached slightly recycled message we heard on New Year’s but it was still good. Hosea was called by God to marry a prostitute. Often we have our dreams and our desires for marriage and a marriage partner and a desire for our own good reputation. God calls us to follow His desires and not ours. Sometimes that conflicts with what we would choose.
The construction van filled up with team members and two ladders inside and had one seat left to pick up Henry in Masaya and that meant I wouldn’t be going to get to go. Phillip stopped the van and pulled off the Nica who had self selected himself to join the group and I got to go. Thank you, Phillip. I gather that the self invited Nica volunteer had burned a few bridges in the past to render himself eligible to get bumped by the self invited Canuck.
We arrived at Henry’s shop/ residence and his helper had the welder ready to load, but no Henry. He went to the Medfest grounds. Once he arrived and there we were gone and people told them we had gone to his house he hopped aboard a taxi and arrived shortly after we figured how to load the welding machine into the van. We understood him to say the paint and the paint brushes were there at the church. Once we were getting close he asked if Byron had the brushes. “No”, I said, “do you not have brushes at the church?” “No.” (other than a 1” brush in his backpack). We stopped and bought four, four-inch brushes and four, three-inch brushes at the next town. Then with Henry giving directions from the back of the van and a couple of us shouting the translation to Byron we got to the church just fine.
I started cutting the gallon water jugs Juanita and I had been hoarding into paint pots. With those and a few other paint pots that had come from the camp people began painting the C-Channel and roof tin and it went pretty quickly. After eight C-Channels had been painted inside only they were welded together to form the rafters and chords of the main roof trusses. While that went on the rest of the C-channels were painted to be used as purlins and then the tin, making sure that we painted eighteen sheets with the edges facing down and eighteen sheets with the edges facing up. I think we got it right. If not, there with be one or more sheets with the green side down as a permanent record of our (my?) error. The silver side that ends up would then be painted after it was screwed onto the roof purlins. Yes. That reminds me. This is the first church we have painted the roof tin and structural members green. Usually it is red. We at first said, “We don’t do green. Do we?” and “Can we do green?”
Before you knew it we were done for the long day that passed quickly and we were off to the Hotel Granada, dropping Henry and Carlos (a Nica selected by Phillip when the scheduled translator was a no show). Carlos wasn’t much of a translator, but he worked so hard at painting it didn’t matter that his English was kinda shaky. Sorry for the do-loop there. We dropped Henry and Carlos off at the Catarina, Las Flores rotunda and carried on to the Hotel Granada at about five thirty.
I walked up the street to the Hotel Jerico. Juanita had been back long enough to have showered and send me an e-mail asking where I was. My iPod beeped with it as I walked in the door.
We boogied in the failing light uphill to the bank on market street and joined one of the four lines to the ATM’s and I drew out some money I will need for tomorrow. Then we went to Tele Pizza for a ensalada May (grilled chicken, bacon, lettuce, etc.) and a pitcher of water and then walked back to the hotel arriving at 7:30. On our way home we passed an ATM for the same bank. It had no lines and was five blocks closer to our hotel. Have to keep that in mind in future.
Too late for Wheel or Jeopardy!
We left the TV off and I washed my clothes and showered while Juanita used the computer and then I used the computer to write this. Good Night. I’m going to bed. I was sure I Had packed some vitamin I but can’t find it. “Vitamin I?” you say? It’s what Appalachian Trail hikers call ibuprofen. Could use some right about now. And maybe some methocarbamol. (Robax).
Saturday, January 14
Heard on the bus yesterday somebody describing Mombacho Volcano saying, “it is not extinct but dormant”. I can relate. I feel like that many days now.
Down the street at six. Good lesson today. No power failure last night so tutor’s alarm clock worked.
Breakfast at our hotel at seven then down the street and sit in lobby and visit until bus arrived and we went out and got on.
Handed out curved illusion tracts to people in line for triage prior to seeing doctors. When Oscar Brook started preaching I went and sat on the concrete almost in the shade until I decided my legs would fall asleep when it was time to go then went and sat in the pharmacy where Juanita was keeping guard during the preaching. Oscar must be hoarse or the sound system was set different but he was not as easily heard from the pharmacy today as he had been yesterday.
Even bigger lines of people waiting for medical and bicycle attention today.
When the preaching ended the construction crew all loaded into the van complete with Henry today and off we went for an hour and half (with stops) to the church construction site. Work went mostly slowly with a little painting to do but mostly waiting for the purlins to be welded with some touch-up painting afterward.
When the trusses were ready to put up I drove Henry to Jinotepe to buy three more six meter pieces of C-channel while Byron and the crew moved the trusses into the church. When we got back the trusses were hanging upside down between the walls and we started swinging them and positioning them so they were in line with the end walls in two planes as best we could. “We” is a generic term meaning myself and others mostly watched and yelled encouragement and conflicting directions in two languages while Jesse and Henry straddled the walls and did the heavy lifting with some additional hands-on help from a couple of people on the ground. A lot more people got involved in handing the purlins up to be placed by Byron and Jesse while Henry welded things together.
While the trusses were being swung the three new pieces of C-channel arrived by horse cart and people leapt into action glad to have something to do. There was little to do until the trusses were build and the C-channel was welded into full length purlins. That’s the nature of this type of work. At four Byron announced to Henry that he had only twenty minutes left of welding for today and the rest of us started putting everything but the power cord for the welder away. When Henry stopped welding he coiled up his cords and somebody lugged the welder to the pastor’s house and we were on out way at four thirty and back in Granada before six. I got dropped off at the La Colonia supermarket and bought some water and peanuts and caught a cab home. He charged me more than is the going rate, but I let the cheapskates’ team down and paid it anyway.
Juanita was already showered and changed and ready to go. I washed my hands and we went around the corner to Restaurante China and the Nica roast chicken from the cart outside with two types of banana and salad served on a banana leaf. Then we came home buying some ice cream from the Eskimo on the esquina (corner) on our way.
Got to see the final question on Jeopardy! and watched part of a hilarious movie in Spanish with conflicting Spanish sub titles, before starting to write this and then it got turned off and Juanita went to bed and as soon as I stumble through doing the laundry and having a shower I will follow. OBTW during a soda pop stop in Jinotepe on the way to the site I ducked across the street and bought an equivalent to Robaxacet. I think I will go take one or two and see how well they work. Good night.
Sunday, January 15
Up in the morning, down to the school, turn back because the doors locked again. Started scanning like “Old Man River” but then the meter stumbled. Kind of like the start of the day.
So the six o’clock tutoring session didn’t happen but the seven o’clock breakfast went fine and then we went down to the Hotel Granada and drank coffee in the lobby until the buses arrived (or to be more accurate came out from around the corner where they had been hiding) just before eight and we all got on and went to the school and the bikes were lined up. The bike line looked a lot shorter but then I realized the bikes were in the line pushed close together and had numbered stickers. They had been through bike triage successfully the day before and given a number. The ones that had no chain, no front forks or front tire were turned away. There are limits what can be done under “maintenance” but people will try and push the limits whether they are Nica neighbourhood kids or pulp mill production managers.
People sang. I handed out curved illusion tracts.
Oscar started preaching. I went over and listened. I took notes. He preached about Shekem. I might transcribe the summary later, but not tonight thank you.
After the preaching, the construction team loaded up and drove an hour and a quarter to Jinotepe and continued work on the church.
The last purlin was welded together. All the purlins were welded onto the trusses. The corner pieces on the side with the long overhang were cut and installed and the welds painted. While this was going on Byron and Carlos and I cut two pieces of roof tin into eighteen short pieces for the long side. I commented that I hoped we had enough tin or we would be two pieces short, but this observation came when we were pretty well committed. It was definitely after it was too late to turn back.
Then the group started slinging tin onto the roof and screwing it down. That went really quickly and we started making optimistic forecasts about early completion and maybe even a side-trip to the Laguna on the way home. Nope, but I am getting ahead of the story.
A couple of short pieces were installed to complete the long side and then installing tin on the side with the short overhang began. The factory edge was maintained at the eave so the eavestrough could be installed. The church is hard against the property line and woe be unto anyone who sends run-off onto a neighbour’s property in Nicaragua. That was why the church was build with a short side and a long side so the tin didn’t hang out over the neighbour’s property and was set-up for easy installation of the eavestrough. The excess length of the tin went past the peak. One person installing the little pieces could not stay ahead of four people slinging tin so activity shifted to completion of placement and screwing down the short pieces. It seemed to go slowly compared to the tin that was just installed but once you thought about it it made sense. The twelve foot sheets had three rows of screws and had four people involved in positioning them against a string line. The short pieces were placed using a tape measure and only had room for one or two people to work and screw in two rows of screws.
Then the tin started being slung again and we were two short. We pondered this while Henry cut the excess off the sheets on the short side. The excess was close enough to sixteen inches that we could have got the short pieces we needed for the long side by cutting them off the sheets for the short side. Too late for that thought now. It is Sunday. Not going to get them from any store nearer than Managua. Then somebody realized we were standing in the shade of the rickety old church. The pastor and two adherents had removed the horizontal pieces of tin on this structure the first day we were there and used it to make a privy. We picked out the two best pieces of tin on the old roof and when Henry came down from the ridge he climbed up and pulled nails and we had the two pieces we needed. Only Henry was light enough to go up on top and even then somebody found a stick and shoved under one of the purlins to stop it from sagging and breaking. Then onto the church they went and were screwed down and painted after being screwed down. The row of old nail holes is kind of charming. A bit like stars twinkling as the branch blowing in the wind cause the sunlight coming through the holes to flicker. On a more pragmatic note it would be a simple matter to replace the two sheets or use pieces of foil backed butyl tape as they did on the holes in the recycled tin in the old church. The pieces we stole must have been new when they built the old church. Some of the poorer pieces of tin had numerous foil backed pieces of butyl. Looked like the aftermath of a bad shaving experience with little pieces of toilet paper stuck randomly on your face.
The congregation arrived for the four o’clock dedication and everybody took turns saying nice things and some scriptures we had written down and placed in a pill bottle were buried in the dirt under where the pastor will stand to preach. The floor will eventually be poured and tiled but for now it was rather handy to be able to just dig a bit to place the pill bottle. In the book written by Cortes sidekick conquistador he mentioned that the Aztecs buried gold and trinkets and precious stones and such under their temples, but sometimes one can ponder things too closely especially if it is something that somebody else is doing. Need to remove beams from one’s own eye before raining on somebody else’s parade or something like that.
The big event during the dedication was that one of the neighbourhood men, who had been talking to one of the team members, came to the church dedication and accepted Jesus there!
Into the van along with the two ladders and Henry’s welding machine and off we went about five and retraced our steps to drop off Henry and his machine and then onto Granada dropping off Carlos and then Oscar the interpreter for today and yesterday.
To the room and picked up Juanita. We decided to eat chow ming (that’s what the menu calls it) at the Restaurante China but when we got there it was full house with most people staring at empty tables waiting for their orders to arrive or be taken. We balked. Even the cart outside had a line up. Tele Pizza looked similarly full looking in from the door so we bought a couple of mega slices of pizza which come with a cup of super sweet iced tea. We walked to the main street and sat on a public bench and ate our pizza. I took a few sips of the tea and then gave it to a wobbly kneed homeless person as the police dragged him away from standing watching us eat and saying he was hungry. We were only a couple of feet away from a table a restaurant had set up in the street and I think they called about the guy and his buddy who disappeared shortly before the police arrived. I feel like a fat rich person ignoring a starving beggar. What would Jesus do? What if it was Jesus?
We walked back home. I fired up the computer to write this and took two Nyquils for my sniffles and aches and wrote this and will cut and paste sin spell check and sin proof reading. It might never happen, but hopefully it will get cleaned up someday. Today Tonight is not that day.
Good night! I have a date with a bathroom sink, an SEV tee shirt, some SEV shorts and some Tilley socks and then when they are washed, wrung out in a towel and hung by the fan with care. It is time for me to clean myself with a shower and then off to bed.
Monday, January 16
Lessons at six. That was the last day paid for and we agreed to pay after each day from now on since there was no guarantee that the tutor would wake up with his alarm clock broken. He bought a new one on E-Bay and a friend will bring that to him from the States in February.
Breakfast at seven. Puttered around and read until time to head down the street to the Hotel Granada. The buses showed up about 8:45 and we all got on and went to Camp Shiloh for a worship service. Then everybody split up into groups and headed off in all directions: some to the Masaya Buffet and then Volcan Masaya, others headed back to the Hotel Granada to do their own thing with tours they had arranged. The staff not involved with driving vehicles or acting as guides hung around the camp for awhile. Then we had a sandwich and headed to the school ground with a truck and a van.
Everybody pitched in loading stuff to go back to the camp and cleaning classrooms used for Medfest. The vans arrived back from the Hotel Granada having dropped the team members there. Some vehicles loaded up and headed to the camp. We finished loading the stuff from the pharmacy into containers to go back to the camp. Then we said our goodbyes and rushed across the street and caught the bus that came along right then.
The bus dropped us at the rotunda and we didn’t wait long before one of the UCA-Granada midsized buses showed up and we got the two front seats next to the driver and hard against the windshield. The driver has to wear a seat belt. Passengers don’t get that option. Great, unobstructed view, but you will be first to arrive at the accident scene in the event of an accident.
We got off at the market street and walked to the Pali. It started to rain. I stopped to have my shoes shined under an overhang. Well, I was under the overhang. The lustrador was in the rain insisting he was good with that. Juanita walked briskly to the Pali and bought water and waited for me. I bought a baggie filled with the juice of two large oranges squeezed on a cart right before my eyes as the lustrador removed the dust of three days from my shoes. Then I walked up to the Pali and the rain had mostly stopped and we bought some mandarins and some bananas in the market and walked home.
We got home about three. I checked e-mail and surfed until the air conditioning dried the shirt on my back, then took some cold meds and slept until my alarm went off at 5:45 pm then had a quick shower and watched Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! and we went out to my birthday dinner at the Garden Café. My birthday isn’t until next Sunday but the restaurants we know in Matagalpa are okay at the mid budget range but really high priced in the high end.
Then home for more cold meds and a really early night. The blog can wait.
Tuesday, January 17
Woke up around 2:30. Took another cold pill. Kind of succeeded, kind of failed at going back to sleep but eventually the alarm went and eventually I got up.
Usually I shower both morning and night when we are in Nicaragua, because even with AC I wake up sweaty and sticky and when we are working anywhere you wouldn’t dare go to bed without showering. The sheets would be reddish brown from the dust that stuck to the sweat during the day. This morning I got up and skipped the shower and the usual pill and fiber taking and threw on shorts and a tee-shirt and slapped down the street in my flip-flops to view the closed door of the one-on-one Spanish school. Alarm clock still not working. Back at the hotel I went back to bed for a while then we went out to the entry hall and had breakfast and then I puttered while Juanita used the computer.
After I had re-washed the shirt from last evening to get the steak sauce out and then cut my hair and had a shower and took my daily pills and daily dose of psyllium husk it was my turn at the computer after making a call to Byron about some thoughts on improvements to the cistern the camp is having put in. Tried Ben as well but his phone went straight to voice mail. He can’t pick up voice mail from Nicaragua so I didn’t bother leaving a message. Then it was back inside to finish up the verbiage on the blog as far as we’ve gone. Somewhere in there, Juanita went up town for a second cup of coffee or two and brought back some bags of cut-up fruit which we ate.
After this is posted we’ll walk uptown and have an early lunch and decide if we are going to go to the Monkey Hut or take a pass. It was raining earlier and is pretty cloudy right now so we are not terribly enthusiastic about that so far. I’ll let you know. Check back later!
We’re back and what a nice time away we had.
We walked uptown to Cafetin Claudia and had the daily special and said our goodbyes ‘til next year. Juanita got her goodbye hug and we walked to the parque central and caught an UCA bus that had just left the terminal and still had a couple of seats left. Once onboard I took my cold meds on the dot of noon and we got off at the road to the Laguna Apoyo (a lake in a hopefully extinct volcano). We stood on the shady side of the road along with half a dozen other passengers until the Masaya – Laguna bus could be seen coming down the highway and we all crossed the road and got on when it turned the corner. Juanita got a seat with somebody but mostly it was standing room only until pretty quickly the locals got off and we both got to sit down and ride most of the way sitting down. Jumping off the bus at the Monkey Hut I asked the driver what time was the last bus and he said 4:50. Later somebody said 4:30, but the clerk when we were paying up at quarter past four said 4:50.
We had a relaxing time sitting and reading overlooking the lake. We enjoyed a few coffees and snacks as well. I managed to get the password for the wi-fi under promise of keeping it secret so carried on watching a video, The Hidden Beauty of Rainbows, Byron had e-mailed me the link to (is that a dangling participle? Are they still verboten? Or are they optional like gender specific pronouns these days?) . Also read more in the book written by one of Cortes’ fellow conquistadores The Conquest of New Spain about taking over New Spain. Fascinating. What bravery! What faith! What missionary zeal! What cunning and diplomatic and political skills they exhibited. Not to mention greed and treachery, of course.
I grabbed a life jacket and a kayak paddle and headed down the stairs to the beach and dumped the little bit of water out of one of the kayaks not wanting to sit in water. I then took it out into thigh deep water and proceeded to forget everything they taught in kayak school. I dumped myself and the kayak over three or four times before taking it back to the shore and straddling it and walking it out into deeper water. There it got totally swamped by the heavy waves and I persevered and kept paddling out and the water drained through the holes in the low spot like it is supposed to. Sure glad I tipped that excess water out, wouldn’t want to get a wet butt.
Now that I had mastered staying on top of the water on top of the kayak I paddled out past the swimming raft. Conscious that much more paddling against the waves could result in a cardiac event since I was gasping for air already, I turned the kayak back toward shore without getting it swamped and or flipped by the swells and rode the waves back in expending considerably less energy on the way to shore than away from shore. Or, for that matter, less energy than was used repeatedly flinging myself at and under the kayak while trying to get and stay in it. Juanita insists that I mention the girl in the teeny weeny bikini that got off her inner tube and offered to help the poor old fossil. I declined the help with more dignity than I exhibited wrestling with the kayak.
The wave conquering hero took back the life jacket and the paddle and climbed the stairs to where Juanita was watching and taking pictures. My bathing suit, five finger vibes and SEV tee-shirt were all soaked. The vibes were full of small chunks of lava. I went into the lavatory and removed them and rinsed them out and rinsed grit off my feet one at a time in the bathroom sink. It would be quite a gymnastic accomplishment to do both feet at once and I didn’t even consider that until writing about doing one at a time. I went back to my chair and carried on reading about the brave conquistadores. About four the shirt was mostly dry and I went and changed out of my bathing suit and into pants and shortly after that we wandered up and paid our tab and started waiting just outside the gate for the bus.
It started to rain a bit and we hid under cover just inside the gate but it stopped right away and we went back out to the road. A cab showed up to pick up three people for the Masaya Volcano. Then one stopped for a couple of Canadian girls going to their hostel in Granada. We worked out a deal to go out to the main highway for $6 for Juanita and I and we joined the girls in their cab. They were going to pay $15 for the two to Granada. When we got to the highway and I said “abajo acqui” (Literally “I get down here” but that’s the right phrase for “here is where I get off”) the taxista offered a trip all the way to Granada for $5 each. The girls would save five dollars on their negotiated price and we would only pay $4 more to go all the way to Granada. Since that was reasonable and the buses would be really crowded this late in the day and it was raining for real we all grabbed at the deal.
Once we were in Granada I gave directions to the cabbie to near their hostel and then we headed toward our hotel, but decided to go to the Hot Dogs Connection of Granada so got off uptown and saved him some travel. This is the second time we have eaten there this year and the first time our usual waitress was there so we said hello and goodbye to her and ate a couple of Tico Dogs.
We were home in time for wheel and jeopardy, but channel 49 had Yes! TV (related to Jeb! ?) in Spanish even though the cable channel guide channel said it should be ABC out of Miami showing wheel and jeopardy. Channel surfed a bit to see if they had transposed something and wheel was where Yes! came from but no joy in mudville tonight. Tried calling brother Ben and it went to voice mail just like this morning and he can’t pick up voice mail on his US phone when he is here so didn’t leave a message. Maybe tomorrow.
After eating the ice cream from the Eskimo across the street I started writing this update and now it is time to wash the tee shirt that was washed in the questionable waters of the Laguna de Apoyo. That will probably be enough excitement for the evening. Oh! And another Nyquil.
Tomorrow we plan to head to Matagalpa up in coffee growing country.
Wednesday, January 18
Down the street to the tutor at six. Alarm clock still doesn’t work. No class today so I walked back up the street to the hotel. Must not be as much under the weather/meds as yesterday. Today I stopped at the hotel. Yesterday I walked almost to the next corner before realizing I had overshot and walked back and loided the lock to get in. The iron gate is closed early in the morning and sometimes the wooden inner door as well, but the keyed dead bolt lock is not latched. To get out I open the manual bolt and spring bolt. To get back in one needs a key or a credit card to open the spring bolt. By seven the gate is wide open, but if I come back right away at six it is not.
We ate breakfast around seven and carried on packing. Juanita, as usual was way ahead of me in that department. We counted our stashes to determine if we needed to be frugal and had more tucked away than we thought and decided to take a shuttle or private cab to the bus depot for the Matagalpa bus.
The Matagalpa bus leaves from the bus depot near the Mayoreo Market which is not that far from the International Airport on the east edge of Managua. To get to it from Granada by bus you take a Microbus from near the central park that goes to UCA (the bus terminal across the street from the University of Central America on the west side of Managua). There is no room for your bags. If you pay a fare for each of them you can set them on a seat but people resent them and you as they stand in the aisle. Or for half a fare you can park them on the roof and hope nobody steals them or that they don’t fall off. Both are rare events, but still a source of worry. If you tell the fare taker that you are going to the Mayoreo bus terminal they will dump you and your bags off in a more central location near the Metropolitan Mall. The cab fare is slightly less than from UCA, but you have to scurry to get off the bus through the standing passengers with your bags or get through and get out to the back of the microbus as the bags are unloaded. Then you have to negotiate for a cab at the side of the highway. This is a common transfer point so there are usually two or three lurking.
You can take a cab uptown in Granada and get a school bus style bus with more room under the seats and go to the Roberto Huembes terminal in Managua. It is slightly closer to the airport than the metro stop, but with really aggressive cabbies.
I went up to corner and bought two bags of fruit.
Got quotes for shuttle or private car. $40 and $30 from two different tour outfits. No prize for guessing which one I chose. I started to pay him with the $50 I had put in my throw down wallet but he didn’t have change and would “give it to me later”. We were close to the hotel so I said just keep writing the invoice I’ll get the right change and went to the hotel and came back and paid him the $30 and signed the receipt. The agreed upon time was 10.
After finishing packing I web surfed for a while and then at quart to ten we went out and said our goodbyes and walked up the street where the slightly beat up Hyundai was waiting with the driver. The driver was one of the tour company guides that hangs around trying to attract customers. He loaded our bags in the trunk and backed down the street to the Eskimo corner.
He didn’t drive quickly but didn’t seem afraid to pass when it was safe so we had a calm drive for Nicaragua. As we approached the airport he seemed to get a bit nervous then did a u-turn at an intersection and stopped and got out. He came back to the car and said a muchacho had said the Matagalpa bus stopped there. I said we wanted to go to the terminal because if we got on in the terminal we would be sure to get seats. They might be all be gone by the time the bus got here.
He went back and got directions from the muchacho and then got in and did another U-turn, this time across the median and we headed past the airport.
He asked a vendor on the boulevard where the bus terminal was. He pointed back the way we came. The driver was getting pretty agitated. I told him to turn left at next intersection. He did. Further up the road we turned onto I told him to turn left again. He saw a parking lot full of buses and tried to dump us there. I said that’s not the terminal it’s up ahead on other side of the street. He followed my directions and pulled over where I said so he didn’t have to pay a toll to enter the terminal. We all got out, got suitcases and paid him while we blocked the bus coming out of terminal from turning onto the street.
Gave driver $5 tip and curved illusion tract. He calmed down. He left. Bus turned. And we entered the gate with a line of buses coming out. Just inside the gate was the bus for Matagalpa. I asked if they had seats. Si!. We got on. Our bladders could wait two and a half hours. We hoped. A word on the tip. I had got out a five dollar bill as a tip somewhere around Tipitapa, but as the driver tried to ditch had reduced it to having three one-dollar bills when he tried to ditch us in appropriately. When I realized how lost the driver was and how stressed he was becoming I switched back to a five. The driver saw none of this, but my silent commentary somewhat amused Juanita.
By the time we got to where the shuttle driver had wanted us to wait, the bus was standing room only. With no Spanish and no assertiveness and no prior knowledge of where we were going we could have ended up standing most of the way to Matagalpa. Not the way I want to spent two or three hours with people squeezing by and being bashed by vendor baskets as they get on, push through the crowd hawking their wares and push back through to get off.
At the first stop vendors got on selling banana chips. Also, a salesman got on and stood and made a pitch for various natural pills he was selling. Pills for men, women and children. Hard to hear and hard to follow his pitch in detail, but you got the idea. At many other stops vendors got on and stayed on selling their pastries, drinks, enchiladas, corn on the cob, or tamales until the next stop a few miles down the road. At Sebaco the bus stops for a couple of minutes and the vendors swarm the bus with fresh peppers, tomatoes and onions along with the usual other offerings.
Once we were in Matagalpa we considered getting off before the terminal but didn’t want to wrestle the suitcases out of the overhead bin and push through the standing people. We arrived at Matagalpa bus terminal and waited to get off until aisle emptied. Glancing at the grim bathroom facilities we decided we could hold bladders until we were at hotel.
Outside the terminal there was the usual scrum for cabs. One cabbie handed us over to a truck driver who grabbed our bags and threw them in the box of a tiny two door pick-up. I looked at lack of signage on the truck. Juanita looked at lack of room in cab. I insisted on bags back. Driver swore at us a bit and made the shaming hand signs but gave them back. We got a pleasant taxista who knew where the Hotel Villahermosa was and went the right way. Along the way he tried to upsell us on taking us out to Selva Negra at what seems to be the going rate. I negotiated a better rate last year, but the cabbie was a no-show at four when we wanted to come back home and we had to wait half an hour for the cab Selva Negra summoned to arrive.
Turning onto the street I pointed out the Hotel Villa Hermosa and we stopped and went in and greeted the owner’s daughter. Hugs all around. She pointed out the changes she had made turning the old dining room into a sitting room with a large flat screen TV for Netflix. Looks a lot nicer, but I liked the old set-up. I did a lot of writing there. However, they have also touched up our room a bit and it now has a table and chair I can use for writing. Not quite as cool during the day, but no interruptions and no dress code.
We unpacked a bit and dug out the agreed amount of money quoted by Booking.com and I took it out to the desk and all was good. I had been a little concerned, because some friends had tried booking directly and been quoted twice what we are paying by booking on-line, but it was fine. Later I learned they had more people per room and wanted air conditioning.
After a bit more unpacking we walked uptown and checked out the breakfast place across from the Pali. It has new owners and a new look and maybe even a name now, but still more of a breakfast place. The new owner said she opens at seven in the morning. Then we checked out a new pizza place just up the street from the guerilla stand on the Pali side of the street. It is very new and the young man was very unsure of himself but in a thinking suspended moment we ordered a much too large pizza which tasted okay. It was both lunch and supper as it was now about 3 in the afternoon. We had not eaten since breakfast except for some fruit in Granada and a small mandarin orange and a small pastry on the bus. I managed to eat my half of the pizza and was thinking I had eaten too much when Juanita bailed and left the last slice on her half for me. I ate it. Next time we’ll order a smaller pizza.
We went for a walk through the park next to the cathedral and then down the middle street for a distance and found that the smoothie stand Juanita had liked last year was no more. Then we crossed over to the next street up and walked back. We passed a bakery which Indy had mentioned now serves breakfast and stood and looked across the street at a tent set up in a parking lot with the words “RAM Test Drive” on it, a range of Dodge RAM models parked in a semi circle around it and a young female model standing in her little black dress trying not to look bored. “Come check out the new models?”
Then we walked back through the park and to the Pali and bought a jug of water for later and a couple of Frescas from the cooler for now.
When we came out of the Pali it was starting to rain and it kept raining more as we walked back to the hotel. The cloud was slow moving and dark so there was no point standing somewhere and waiting it out so we trudged on, passing people busily packing up their booths and booths already packed away for the night. It was about four when we got back to the hotel and stripped off our wet clothes. I towelled off my head and was fine. Bald is handy sometimes. Juanita broke out her curling iron to repair the damage as her hair dried.
After checking out the channel guide and determining that it may show ABC and NBC as being on 49 and 50 respectively, it lied. No Wheel for us! I went to sleep and woke briefly at 5:45 to confirm no ABC (my alarm was still on from the day before) and went back to sleep until after 1 AM when I woke up and read for a couple of hours before going back to sleep and waking again around seven. Nothing like having a bit of a cold to make you sleep.
Thursday, January 19
Slept late. Got up later. Eventually got dressed and went uptown to the café across from the Pali and had scrambled eggs and a piece of cheese each and a cup of coffee each. Then we walked down to the bakery to check out their breakfast menu and had a cup of coffee each and shared a pastry. Good coffee. Then we walked down that street to the park on the other end of town and sat on a park bench across from the church and talked and watched people and the trucks arriving with flowers for a funeral. About noon we walked through the park and its rows of young people hunched over their smart phones. I checked my iPod and found the free Parque Wi-Fi connection. That explains it.
Then we walked back up another street to the park by the cathedral and to the Pali for water and cups of noodles for later. I wasted the afternoon catching up on political blogs and Juanita read. About 4:45 she suggested we should walk a bit so I agreed I would after spending fifteen minutes blocking out yesterday’s adventure.
We walked up to the corner pharmacy but couldn’t find any cold medicine that didn’t have an analgesic in it so walked another couple of blocks and ended up buying separate pills for decongestant and antihistamine. On the way back to the hotel we bought a couple of pieces of fried chicken. Then we settled into watch the biased, but in English, CNN coverage of the pre-inauguration until we got sick of the bias and I returned to keyboarding.
I called yesterday’s cabbie and at ten he will take us to Selva Negra which means black forest. It is a coffee plantation owned by several generations of German immigrants. Today I noticed the bakery had Selva Negra cake on their menu and thought they were doing a play on local attractions. Later Juanita remarked that she had looked at the selva negra cake and it looked like black forest cake to her and I said that was because that’s what selva negra means and the penny dropped. It had nothing to do with the coffee plantation. It just was black forest cake.
Friday, January 20
Slowish start to day, but walked up to the former no-name restaurant which seems to be named “Pour Out Dinner” or maybe that is just a large wall plaque with no significance.
After breakfast we walked across to the Pali and picked up a couple more jugs of water to get ahead of the game. The water here is colder and probably not stored in a rooftop cistern like at the Hotel Jerico. I am always suspicious of drinking water that has had time to percolate colonies of bugs and algae. Probably fine if you survive the initial exposure, but the destination isn’t worth the journey. Probably will pick a time when nothing is planned for a day or two for us in Matagalpa and start sampling the Hotel Villahermosa tap water. Maybe Monday. Maybe tomorrow.
On the way back to the hotel we dropped into a Claro store and tried to top-up our cell phone. I was just wearing a pair of shorts thrown on to go to breakfast. The notebook with the phone number was in the other pants pocket. After thrashing around for an inordinate time trying to find the number on the phone I succumbed to reality and let the person ping the phone and get the number back from the system. Armed with the number and a crisp new hundred Cordoba bill he did his thing and the phone lit up with text messages from Claro.
We were out in front of the hotel waiting for Alex the cabbie a few minutes before ten. At ten oh two I called him and asked where he was. He said his cab was in the shop but he could get a friend to come for us or maybe do it another day. I declined. Prearranged cabs, like maintenance departments, are selling reliability. If he couldn’t be bothered to send somebody or call when he was going to be a no show we didn’t want him.
The hotel owner was standing there with us and I explained that the cab was in the shop. She asked how much we were going to pay and said she would go inside and check on an alternative. A few minutes later she came out and said her daughter would drive us there and back and be ready to go in five minutes. She was as competent a driver as any cabbie and was related through grandmothers to the ownership of the Selva Negra coffee farm and resort so she talked us through the gate without the usual drama of spending a hundred Cordobas each to get an entry card which then is refunded through a discount on the restaurant bill. We still ate as much but paid only after eating.
The day was clear and warm and we had no need for jackets that the hotel owner had asked us if we were taking. We sat at a table under cover next to the lake and drank coffee and listened to the swearing in of the 45th president of the United States and his inaugural address. Short and sweet. Read later that he used “I” only three times and “we” forty-five. That alone is a pleasant change from speeches that had more eyes than an oculist lecture. Sounds like he plans on doing what he was elected to do. I think the pace of his actions on so many fronts at once will be beyond the ability of the opposition to handle if the sloth like pace they deal with issues is any indicator. Will definitely be flying within their OODA loop. Not that they won’t try to get off a few shots and backstabs.
I interrupted my listening to take a picture of a couple with their camera and share a curved illusion tract, but it was back to the speech and the anthem and then went and got a map of the hiking trails and we went off and managed to miss the same connection as last year, but did walk a bit of path new to us as well as the same as last year. When we came past the chapel on our way back we took a few pictures. Coming out of the chapel was somebody who looked familiar and we said hi. In the distance in one picture was a man who looked really familiar. A minute later the whole group came out. It was Jesse and Indy Stone and her family. The women who we had shared hi with was her mother. We had a good visit and walked back together to the restaurant and had a good relaxed lunch together.
They headed off and we ordered a dessert and a coffee and glass of ice water and sat and read and finished that off and then moved into the shadows where it was easier to read the screen on my iPod. Around four we wandered out toward the front of the building and stopped to look at the relief map of Nicaragua and Belma, our driver du jour, showed up. Her English is pretty good, but could do with practice and Juanita had suggested I provide her with that opportunity. I suggested that we should talk Spanish in the mornings and English in the afternoons, but she insisted it was better for me to practice Spanish so we did.
As we neared Matagalpa she asked if we had ever been up to the overlook of the city which we had not so she took us up the mountain to Mirador Calvario which we would call Calvary Viewpoint. At the gate a security guard was selling tickets and there was a fairly long and quick paced discussion and I paid the twenty cords and up we went. The last little bit of road was so steep I was concerned that she had not started at a quick enough pace not to stall out or start spinning tires, but she made it and we climbed the steps to the viewing platform and had a spectacular view of the city and the valley it sprawls in. I climbed the tower and got even a better view.
Back at the hotel she showed us how to use the NetFlix on the big screen in the seating area. We tried to find three of the selections on my list but came up empty and went back to the room for a quiet evening of reading and checking out the reactions and over reactions to Trump’s speech.
Saturday, January 21
Another quiet day.
Wandered up town to breakfast across from the Pali and then wandered down the block to the Panderia Belen and ordered a café con leche and selected a couple of pastries from the case. I ordered without checking the menu we looked at the other day. Shoulda. The menu, I immediately remembered says “leche con café”. What triggered this memory was the arrival of two one cup sized carafes full of hot milk along with two shot glass sized jugs of percolated coffee and two small plastic tubes of instant coffee. I poured my coffee into my cup and added the milk. Juanita poured in the coffee, the milk and then stirred in the contents of a packet of instant coffee. Not what either of us had in mind. The pastries were good.
We walked down the street to the park on the other end of downtown and sat across from the church. In not too long a time we cut through the park and went to a Belen Express on the corner across from the park. There I ordered two black coffees and headed to the washroom. I acted this morning on my intent to switch to local water, but that was too soon to be the cause of any urgency. Just a passing issue I guess since the situation seemed to resolve itself and not return so far, twenty-five hours later as I write this.
Juanita was appeased by a cup of real coffee and we wandered back outside and across the street to a park bench on the street. I bought a shoe shine and spoiled things for other tourists by paying sixty cents instead of the requested twenty-nine cents. Then we sat there and watched the world unfold in the street and speculated about some of the passers by. Directly across the street was the empty storefront we had first had coffee in Matagalpa. The guide book had hailed its bags of coffee beans, but we found that the formica tables and fluorescent lights gave it all the ambience of a laundromat. I guess others must have not been impressed either. It wasn’t in business the next time we came to Matagalpa and still sits there empty with broken windows and chained doors.
Some elderly man sat next to us but mutual hearing issues rendered us mutually incomprehensible and we wandered away up the street in search of a smoothie at Don Chaco’s. I had in the back of my mind that they close Saturdays and, regrettably, was correct. We crossed over a block and checked out Panaderia Belen again but it had no tables and had cranked up the music to counter the cranked up music from the furniture store two doors down. Stereo! We left and wandered home stopping at the Pali to stock up on snacks and cup of noodle soups.
On our way home we bought a couple of guerillas (cornmeal pancakes) and munched on them as we walked.
We read a bit. I napped an hour from four to five and then we read and surfed some more. Just before bedtime I posted what I had written in the morning. The connection to the server was just too slow this morning.
Sunday, January 22
Happy Birthday to me. First e-mails were from our daughters with my birthday gifts. Look like fun. A chocolate mystery theater dessert event. Refrained from opening the link to get all the details until we were back near a printer, lost a coupon last month that way. Not that I need a DQ blizzard, but still a bit jumpy. Doing a duckduckgo search on the name of the gift indicates it should be fun and will be about twenty minutes from our February project. Good girls. Juanita taught them well.
It was a relaxing day. You’d think we were on vacation/retirement or something. We took our time getting mobile and walked uptown to the Gran Café which is open Sundays and has good wi-fi. Took a couple of hours to have breakfast and then walked back to the park near the cathedral and to the only moneychanger working Sunday by the entrance to the sad little upstairs food court. Haven’t been up there this year. Best to avoid sources of depression.
We walked the length of downtown to Parque Dario (I think) and sat and read there for a bit before walking home for a slothful afternoon. Along about four I suggested we walk to the pizza parlor in the alley about four blocks east of the park by the cathedral. On the way we encountered a couple of older British tourists who had an open guide book and bewildered expressions. I bet you’re looking for something? Can we help? They had been looking for an hour and a half with no luck. Directions are usually given by so many blocks east or west from some land mark. In this case it was the park. Might have worked better if they had started with the right park. They started with the one near the bus station not the one at the other end of downtown near the cathedral. They also said they had asked a Nica for directions and he asked them why they didn’t just take a cab. They said they liked to walk because you never got to talk to anybody if you are stuck in the back seat of a cab.
She showed me the write-up in the guide book for two different places to stay. One was the Hotel Castillo. We had been half a block from it when we ate breakfast at El Gran Cafe. The other was in the same alley we were going to. I think it is owned by the people who own the Italian restaurant. You could walk out one’s door and into the other’s. We said follow us and modified our route a bit for one a bit more level to allow for the suitcases they were dragging. We got there, told them how to find the other one if this one didn’t work out (go to the other end of the alley, turn right and walk three blocks). Never saw them again. Good luck Ross (short for some long feminine name) and Anthony. Couldn’t help but think of Anthony Ross which is a company that made large air handling systems for pulp & paper mills. Apparently not in Britain, though.
After a much smaller pizza than last time and still with Juanita trying to give me her last slice (compromise – I cut it in more or less in half and took the smaller piece) we took our time and then went for a walk back to the far park and hung out there for a while before walking back home. This morning the owner’s daughter and the Sunday maid (was full time last year. This year she is raising her son) tried to convince us to go to a fancy ice cream parlor near that park. We checked it out. It was as overpriced as we remembered. Took a pass on that idea. Not going to pay more than Marble Slab prices in Nicaragua.
Back home for another quiet evening. Did three days laundry tonight. Grandma was right. Procrastination is the thief of time.
Tomorrow we plan to go to Cascadas Blanco (the white waterfalls).
Monday, January 23
The Dinner is Poured café was open and we went there about eight and had breakfast and then walked through the park to Panaderia Belen for a cookie and coffee. Ordered black coffee today. Much better and much cheaper than milk with coffee. On the way past the cathedral I took a closer look at the team painting the front of the cathedral. They have three tall scaffolds set up. Looking closer at them I realized that they actually had safety harnesses on over their hi-vis vests. Of the seven people on the scaffold, five had safety harnesses, two did not and only one guy had his lanyard “attached” to a tie-off point. Its end clip was placed over the pin coming out of the top corner of the highest scaffold section. The pin that is used to connect scaffold sections together. Probably not adequate to handle the forces involved with what looked like an eight foot lanyard with no shock absorbing section built in.
At ten, Belma, the hotel owner’s daughter, drove us to the Eco Resort Cascadas Blancas waterfall and restaurant and talked our way in without the entry fee and introduced us to Victor the resort owner with a lovebird on his shoulder. He said we should go check out the water fall and that they would pay us a bit more attention as soon as they had finished up with a bit of a do in the restaurant.
We went to the waterfall and admired it for a while and then followed the path around behind to a cave. Juanita was keen on sitting there and reading in the cool air. I was thinking it was nowhere I wanted to be in an earthquake and my mildly claustrophobic attitude prevailed and we strolled back out and sat in a niche by the path and then headed back toward the restaurant. We were almost there when we ran into a group of tour guides from Selva Negra and Cascadas Blancas, carrying a cake. Victor was with them and insisted we join them for group photo in front of the waterfall. We played along. Somebody was holding the cake up and we didn’t get a good look at it but it seemed to have a waterfall theme and looked like an ice cream cake melting in the sun.
After the group photo the Cascadas Blancas guides headed back up to the restaurant and the Selva Negra guides hung around a bit. I showed them the curved illusion tract to their general amusement and handed pairs of tracts around. Started the trip with over five hundred and after today have only about fifty so am starting to get more sparing. Need to run out as we leave the country.
We followed the river around the corner a bit and sat there and read for a while and then headed up to the restaurant. There was a man there and I asked about the guides getting together and asked if there was a connection between the two locations and he said that it was just getting together to discuss common issues. He said he was friend of the owner and had been born in Bologna, Italy.
We ordered lunch. While waiting for lunch the lovebird that had been on Victor’s shoulder came along the handrail toward us and I put out my finger and he climbed onto it. I took a selfie with the bird. When he noticed himself on the screen he attacked my iPod, but eventually settled down and I took a few more selfies. Somebody came and took him away when the food was ready as they don’t let him in the area when people are eating.
While we were eating I overheard some people asking about a member of the local fauna, a nutria, and asking if it was a beaver. I chimed in that it was more like a muskrat and we got talking further and they were from Nipawin a couple of hours drive from where we live in Canada.
After lunch we went back down to the river and walked along it a way and sat on some eroded bedrock next to a smaller rapids and read for a while in the sun, then walked back up to a bench in the shade of some passion fruit vines and read there for a while.
One last trip to the restaurant for a soda pop each to drink at a relaxed pace. They didn’t have Coca Light or Coca Zero, just sugar based soda pop in glass bottles. I bought Juanita a Fresca and myself a Grape Fanta. Smells and tastes can bring back memories. My first sip of the cold grape soft drink reminded me of a hot summer day my father and I had together when I was about eight years old. My father had bought a few lifts of green lumber from his employer. That day we stacked them with lathes between each layer to let the air circulate and then built a top layer of boards covered with roll roofing to keep the rain off. The stack was on a vacant lot he owned on the lakeshore. When we took a break I drank a grape Crush. A year or two later when the lumber was air dry he sold the lot and the lumber as a package the purchaser used to build a house on the lot.
A little before four we walked back up to the parking lot level and got up there as Belma appeared and we all rode back to Matagalpa. I learned the word for pothole in Spanish, but it was not a learned, learned word. Today I couldn’t remember it but now seem to think it was hueco. Yup. Just checked duckduckgo.
Another ultra quiet evening.
Tuesday, January 24
Another lazy day. Washed cargo pants and left to dry in fan slip stream and headed up to breakfast.
Walked past cathedral and watched painting crew do things that would get you kicked off any industrial job site in Canada for self and other endangerment.
Looked at a small bowl of fruit for sale for 25 Cordobas and walked to other side of park and bought two bigger bags of fruit for 10 Cordobas each and then we stood in the shade and ate them.
After the fruit we went to Panaderia Belen for a second cup of coffee each. I don’t understand, but today two cups of coffee were twenty-four cords and yesterday two cups and a cookie were twenty-five cords. I asked about it and was told I could have a cookie for five cords more if I wanted. Oh well.
We walked back to the hotel stopping at the Pali and at the fruit stand near the bridge for more mandarin oranges, getting back to the hotel at about eleven.
About three we headed back out after a late lunch and walked down to Don Chaco’s and checked out the batido menu. Nothing too interesting there so we carried on down to Parque Dario at the other end of downtown and had a coffee each and shared a mini loaf of carrot cake/bread. Juanita took two spoons worth and I ate the rest. Then we found a shady spot on a park bench and read and watched the people passing by for quite a while before walking back to the hotel. At the guerillas stand I was a little more assertive than in the past and managed to buy two guerillas which we munched on the way home.
Haven’t figured out how Claro cell phone charges work but know if I top up every two days texting works.
Despite all my good intentions I did no writing, but did answer and delete a few e-mails. Did a lot of political reading. Noticed that on the second working day of the new administration the press asked what had been done for the blacks so far. Somebody observed that nobody had asked that question for over 2,000 days of the previous administration. Not sure if that is true, but the press does seem to have different rules for different administrations.
Wednesday, January 25
Our bathroom shower has a widow-maker electric hot water heater which is a shower head with wires running to it. You turn the switch to “on” and then turn on the water as slowly as possible. When the internal flow switch detects the water flow it completes the circuit and the lights dim and you have warmish water that gets colder if you open the tap and warmer if you restrict the flow a bit. If you restrict it too far the lights brighten and the water gets cold and you open the flow a bit more and the lights dim again and you accept the temperature for what it is. It is better than cold. As the man said – anybody who says they enjoy a cold shower in the morning will lie about other things.
We headed uptown for a quick breakfast, stopping at a farmacia to buy some Panadol for Juanita. They had two versions, but reading the ingredients on the side of the boxes they were both the same, the equivalent of Dayquil. We bought 8 pills of the cheaper priced version. The Bolognese man from the waterfall was eating at the breakfast place. We acknowledged each other’s presence.
After breakfast bought more soup at the Pali and came back to the room and did a bit of keyboarding and reading until it was time to leave for Indy’s mother’s place.
Cabs that were not full were in short supply so we kept walking and eventually a cab pulled over and a man got out of the back seat and we got in. Before I had finished getting my money out of my wallet the cab stopped again and a woman got in and I managed to get my money out the wallet and the wallet back into my pocket and the pocket zipped up with out overly crushing Juanita on one side or inappropriately touching the woman on the other side. I guessed at the cab fare from what I thought I knew of the local customs. Must have been right. He took it and tucked it into a cubby in the dash. Or maybe he was distracted by the intense conversation he was having on his cell phone. Speaking of which I got out a pair of curved illusion tracts, but the woman next to me was talking on her cell phone as was the driver. The man in the passenger seat was poking at his smart phone. Between them being engrossed in their phones and the external events that I kind of thought the cabbie should be paying attention to keep us all alive I decided that the tracts were not going to get any traction and put them back in my pocket.
We arrived at Indy’s mom’s place. I remembered seeing it when we picked her grandmother up to take her out to dinner in 2009. Since then her grandmother has retreated into a more proscribed reality which must be quite hard on the family. Indy and Jesse Stone and their daughter, Savannah were there as were her mother Alcira. Alcira cooked us a wonderful lunch. Walking along the street yesterday about supper time I said to Juanita “All I would like right now is a pork chop.” Lunch today included pork cutlets in a rich sauce. After lunch we all had coffee and pastries and visited and shared stories until after four.
Indira, Jesse and family had all gone to the Cascadas Blancas on Sunday and she shared the history of that resort and that when they were kids they would go there on Sundays. It was totally undeveloped and they would slide down the mud canyon banks hanging onto vines and try to get behind the waterfall without the benefit of the walkways that are there now. I think I like the walkways and paths at my age.
We walked along not really looking for a cab and crossed the river and walked past the Cotran Norte (northern bus terminal with buses to Tuma, La Dalia Muy Muy (indian word for nutria, a type of river rat) and parts east of Matagalpa.). A few years ago we were here and we looked around at the mud and the crowded standing room only waiting area with NO shade and an hour to wait for the next bus headed toward where we wanted to go and the roughest crowd I have seen in Nicaragau before going to El Rama and we bailed and went out and caught a cab to the south bus terminal (Cotran Sur) and went to Boaca by way of Managua. Not the shortest route, but a lot smoother and maybe even a bit quicker.
This was an area of town we had not walked through before, but it was quite built up and busy and in half an hour we got to a street we knew and climbed a street and went down the other side to the bridge and we were home as we call it for now.
Thursday, January 26
Really off to a slow start this morning. By the time we wandered uptown it was almost eleven so we carried on past the usual breakfast places and went to the buffet Manos del Cielo (Hands of Heaven) and had an early lunch from the steam tables. Then we walked to the far park and sat and read for a while until about noon and went for a second cup of coffee at the Belen Express across from the park.
We walked back the length of downtown and picked up some more soups at the Pali and a gurila from the stand for Juanita. Then we stopped at a farmacia and bought way too much anti parasite medication. The dosage on the box that the pharmacist used as a guide line was for tape worms. I think we will scale back the dosage back a bit to what the WOTC staff nurse normally prescribes. I show no sign of having a tape worm and might even consider living with one for twenty or thirty-pound weight loss. Of course, it is not weight one wants to lose so much as body fat. I read yesterday of a device that plastic surgeons use to body sculpt. The device chills the area of the body where you have unwanted fat to slightly above freezing. Apparently the fat cells are less cold tolerant then skin cells and they die and are absorbed by the body in a couple of weeks. Or, as one of the comments to the article said, one could diet and exercise.
We topped up the fruit supply at the stand by the bridge across the Rio Grande de Matagalpa and got back to the room about one. We settled in for the afternoon. About five I wandered out to the sitting room and searched for the movie, “Look Who’s Back” on Netflix. A friend had recommended it having watched it on Netflix Canada in German with English subtitles. My best choice here was in dubbed Spanish with English subtitles. I found it immensely funny at places. Juanita watched about five minutes and said. “Enjoy.” And went back to the room.
I can not recommend it except to those of sophomoric low-brow temperament. It is about Hitler waking up in 2014 next to his bunker from 1945 and how he integrates to modern German life and politics. In college I noticed that I have low brow tastes in culture. If Time magazine recommended a movie I hated it. If they panned it as being beneath dignity to watch I enjoyed it. Once I figured that out I at least knew which movies to avoid.
After the movie more reading and web surfing and bedtime. Another quiet day of retired bliss in paradise. Talking to Indy the other day we learned of a few more attractions in the area, but we decided that we would save a few for a future visit. Generally, we come here to relax and to not have to be busy every day.
Friday, January 27
Back in our routine. Get up. Have shower. Wash yesterday’s clothes and leave for breakfast. There is an Opel Kapitan parked across from the car wash on the corner. The hood was open the other day and I looked in at the in-line six cylinder engine and read a plaque that somebody had attached near the radiator giving the car’s model year as 1948. It didn’t look like a late forties car. I remember what the Chevs, and Fords and Oldsmobiles looked like in that era and it looked a lot more modern. Sure enough with Google and Wikipedia I determined that it might be a 1956 or 1957 model. The 1948 model year was the first model year after the war and was basically a 1939 body with a few tweaks. It also was the first six cylinder German motor car after the war.
Today on our way to breakfast across from the Pali the car wash owner was standing there with a friend and they tried to talk up the Opel which is for sale. They claimed it was a 1942. I argued that they didn’t produce cars between 1939 and 1948 because of the Guerra del mundo Segundo. Probably not good grammar, but they seemed convinced or less willing to argue for the forties. They were delighted with the curved illusion tracts I gave them from my diminishing supply as well. Later in the day when we came back to the hotel from our afternoon walk the owner asked for another. I had given all I had out at the far park to the money changers and lottery ticket and souvenir vendors there. The money changers at the near park all got some last year and just say “same size” if I ask which is bigger.
After breakfast we went for coffee at the Belen and then back to the room for a bit of keyboarding. Starting to attack a very neglected in-box.
At noon we went to lunch at the lunch counter at the local La Colonia super market. La Colonia’s are way more upscale than the Pali‘s or Maxi Pali’s (owned by Walmart). Walmart’s upscale supermarkets in Nicaragua are called La Union. There is one next to the La Colonia in Granada, but I haven’t seen one in Matagalpa.
After our roast chicken combo we walked down to the far park and exchanged some dollars for Cordobas and sat mostly in the shade and read for a while before going across the street for a coffee and a juice at the Belen Express.
Back at the room we could hear the jungle beat beginning from a Christian rock concert across the street and about a block up the river. It started warming up about four, although the free tickets we had said five-thirty. We had already decided we would be no shows based on a web review of the two main singers. No telling how good the preacher is, but he sounds angry. This thing lasted until past eleven and is vibrating our concrete walls. If actually there I think OSHA standard would require wearing double hearing protection.
When you cross the street you have to look all ways constantly. A lot of the streets are one way, but bicycles don’t believe that rule applies to them so you don’t take anything for granted. Only about one vehicle in twenty actually uses turn signals when making a turn. I pointed out to Juanita today as we were swivelling our necks around before crossing the street that Nicas are so generous with sharing their music with every furniture store having a lease breaker stereo system blaring and the streets having a parade of sound trucks with music and announcements. But they sure are stingy with blinker juice. Must be expensive here.
I spent the evening attacking e-mails and got to one in my in box where I had promised to do some editing and commenting on some stuff for somebody. Oops. Guess I forgot in our time of self indulgence and relaxation here. Tomorrow. I promise. It’s too late. I would have gone to bed an hour ago, but needed to wait until I was too tired to be kept awake by the music.
Saturday, January 28
Up not too late and got a bit of editing before breakfast then uptown for a quick breakfast across from the Pali. After breakfast we went in the door of the Pali planning to buy some peanuts for our travels but baulked at the line lengths. Later for that. On the way back we topped up the phone again and bought some fruit to last us through to tomorrow morning. We were back so early the room had not yet been cleaned so I carried on keyboarding until the maid was ready to clean and moved out to the sitting area and carried on. A little after noon it was done and I e-mailed it out and we went to the La Colonia at one for a repeat of yesterday’s lunch and then walked to the far park and shuffled seats as people left until we got one with both of us together in the shade. About four we walked back home stopping to buy peanuts at La Colonia.
The music was starting up again as we got home and killing in-box e-mails carried on until about 9:30 when yesterday and today got written up.
Tomorrow we plan to go to Managua and then Monday we plan to fly back to the States by way of Panama City.
Sunday, January 29
Stayed up too late last night. By the time I wound down the concert at the rodeo grounds had wound down, but I woke at five and took care of what woke me and eventually went back to sleep and woke up again at seven when my iPod started announcing the hours. Around eight we finally got serious. I had a shower and drank my pills and packed.
We laid out the things we weren’t carrying with us any further on the desk and showed them to Denora, last year’s full time maid and this year’s part time maid. She is spending more time taking care of her son. I explained that we were purposely leaving them and she was welcome to anything she wanted after we left and we were going for breakfast, but would be back. Right after we got to the main street we flagged down a cab with some room in it and it dropped down the street from El Gran Café where the food was its usual good quality but the speed of the service was somewhat below usual.
After breakfast we walked back home. No cabs in sight until we only had a couple of blocks to go so we walked all the way. Then we grabbed our bags, said our goodbyes to Denora and walked to the end of the street. Denora showed up with our extension cord that I had left on the desk and asked if it was the hotel’s. I said it was not. It was hers. She looked pleased and went back to the hotel and a cab stopped for us. There was one passenger in the back. He moved to the front as the taxista was putting our bags in the trunk and we got into the back seat of the cab. After dropping the other passenger off near the near park we rode to the bus depot and went in. I bought two tickets. It was for seat 39 and 40 near the back of the bus that was just loading. It was an expreso to Managua. As we got on the bus one of the helpers tried to take our bags to ride on top of the bus. I said no we are getting off at the airport. We went inside and found our seats near the back of the bus I put one bag in the overhead rack and the other helper shuffled some stuff around and put the other one up there as well.
The expreso lived up to its name. It was pedal to the metal all the way out of the highlands and down onto the flats. What was a three-hour trip to Matagalpa from Managua was a two-hour trip back. No stops to pick up passengers. Only two vendors picked up the whole trip. One of the helpers handed out quarter liter bags of water about half way. There was a preacher while the bus was in the terminal and he preached until across the river in town and then got off. Only a few people got off on the way to Managua until we got to Tipitapa and then a few more got off and a couple just before the airport and then we got off at the airport and there was another man got off at the same time. One of the helpers got his big bag off the roof.
We walked back about fifty feet up the street and into the entrance of the Best Western and checked in. That was about quarter after one. Not too bad when the bus left the terminal in Matagalpa at 11:20. Our room was not ready so we went and found a couch in the lobby and read for a while and then I used my iPod and Juanita used the laptop to catch up on e-mail and news. Things hadn’t changed much since early this morning. Everybody was still upset that the Donald was doing what he said he would even though nobody objected when previous presidents had restricted immigration. Somebody commented that the most unbiased report was on the Al Jazeera (sp?) web site and I followed the link and it was a pretty neutral article about the five W’s and the ten times in the past presidents had done the same thing, including Carter and Obama. As Joe Friday used to say, “Nothing but the facts ma’am.” I think the article even mentioned that the list of countries affected was a list from the Obama administration.
A lot of people are saying “Not my president” and I share that sentiment. However, as a Canadian he is not my president. I have a prime minister. As far as any U.S. citizens saying that goes, I’m afraid you’re wrong. He is. And from the looks of his first week he may do more good for your country than my prime minister after over a year in office looks like he will do for mine.
After over an hour with nobody coming to tell us the room was ready and noticing a changing of the guard at the front desk I went over and asked and was given keys and we went to our room, dumped our stuff and walked out to the street. The cabs that wait on the ground are really over priced. There was one cab parked on the street right at the entrance. He quoted five US dollars to go to the Puma gas station about three blocks away. He had been cross contaminated by the captive cabs near the door. I shook my head no and we walked twenty feet and a cab pulled in, quoted us fifty Cordobas for both of us and we got in. Five dollars is just shy of three times that much.
At the Puma we bought a quesadilla combo and a chicken combo and happily dined on our food. Then we bought a two liter bottle of water and walked back outside in the heat and humidity that is Managua. The second cab stopped and quoted us fifty cords for the return trip. We took the bottle back to the room and walked across to the airport terminal. We bought a couple of cups of ice cream at the Eskimo stand there and went down to Copa airlines. The sole occupant of the Copa area was singularly reluctant to do anything other than look at his cell phone and said we would have to come back tomorrow. I think the only reason he was there was to be around in case there some issues with an arriving flight. We walked the length of the terminal until we had finished our ice cream in the air conditioned building and then went back across the street to the hotel.
There are push button activated signal lights for the cross walk. On the way to the terminal the push button didn’t do anything despite many pushes (“welcome to the psychiatric help line. If you are obsessive compulsive push two repeatedly”) so we waited for a clear patch and walked to the median where we waited for another clear patch and continued across. On the way back I hit the button and the lights changed and the pedestrian green light started counting down and we crossed the first half uneventfully, but still with a wary eye to make sure vehicles were trying to stop and looking like they were succeeding. On the other half of the highway two lanes stopped and we started walking across and I noticed two motorcycles not slowing down and swerving into the curb lane. We stood back a bit in front of the second lane of stopped vehicles and I waved at the motorcycles. One tried to stop and looked like he might succeed. The other tried and started skidding then they both realized stopping wasn’t happening and we were not moving in front of them so they sped up and whisked past us. I think anybody that acts like everybody is going to do what they are supposed to do would die a quick death around here. You still might die being suspicious and cautious, but the probabilities are more in your favor being that way.
Back at the room we cranked up the A/C and cooled and dried off and relaxed. After a couple of hours we went out into the dusk and walked the hotel grounds a bit and then back for about an hour of TV and doing an update.
Tomorrow we plan to fly back to the States by way of Panama. Probably Wednesday we will drive half way to Houston and then on Thursday the rest of the way to Victory Camp in Alvin just south of Houston for the February SOWER project. One year I left the blog sitting at “Tomorrow we plan to go to Managua” for about six months. I will endeavour to not do that.
Besides, this month is still missing all the pictures.
That is partly sloth and partly because when you just have text on the page it is quick to edit. Changes happen and it comes right back and you can do the next thing you want to do. Once there are a lot of pictures you make a change and it goes around the world before it comes back and lets you do any more editing. If you get impatient it can freeze and kill all your of your session’s work.
Monday, January 30
Last night I had some cramps. In the middle of the night I got up with an urgent need to find the commode. Things are generally unsettled. After much internal debate I took an anti-diarrheal pill. Generally, I try to avoid those with diverticulitis, but also generally try to avoid fouling myself on an airplane or anywhere else for that matter.
After breakfast I asked the desk where the nearest pharmacy was, thinking I would grab a cab, but she said it was in the airport terminal next to the arrivals door. I boogied out the door of the hotel. Their shuttle was just starting up so I hopped a ride in it. At the terminal I bought some Ciproflaxin and walked back to the hotel. The crossing was less dramatic than yesterday, but I noticed that motorcycles just slow down and pass the cars stopped in the curb lane.
In fifteen minutes we will go surrender ourselves into the tender hands of the bureaucracies of four airports, two airlines and three countries. Hopefully there will be nothing to write about that adventure or the GI issues mentioned above.
Update – We made it home alive at about fifteen minutes to midnight. I managed to keep all bodily fluids contained except when expressly situated in an appropriate location. I did not read one word on any of the three flights, just gave my snacks to Juanita and drank my ginger ales and sat there with my eyes closed most of the time. We sat in an exit row from Managua to Panama City. That was nice to have the leg room. The Copa Airlines flight attendant briefed us on what to do, made sure I could physically do the job and made sure I knew enough Spanish to act when we were told “Seatbelts off! Everybody out!”. I was ready to act as we took off and landed and was also grateful that no action was required.
The next flight on United was a bigger plane. It had two exit rows over the windows. This time we were seated right behind the second row. That row had two people. One on each side of the aisle. The row in front of it had nobody. A person across the aisle from us asked the flight attendant about sitting in the empty row. She explained that people pay $150 extra to sit there and that once in the air the person was free to find a space to the rear where there were lots of empty seats, but under no circumstances could he sit in the high-priced row. Thanks a lot, United! In the event of a crash there will be nobody at two of the four exit doors in the middle of the plane, but maybe, just maybe the first person to get there in a crash situation will be capable of guessing correctly what to do and capable of doing it. What are the odds of that scenario compared to some panicking lemming rushing into the void of the empty aisle and standing there in hysteria unable to open the door and preventing anybody behind them from opening the escape hatch? I’m not a super fan of over regulation, but if United can’t figure out that this is a bad idea, perhaps there should be one more rule.
Jeanne met us at the Brownsville airport and drove us home where I turned the water back on and figured out that the A/C had tripped a breaker and then everything was okay and we went to sleep by midnight and I slept through until 8 AM.
Tuesday, January 31
Juanita got up at 7 and went off to have coffee and visit with Jeanne. I slept until she got back at 8. I never sleep eight hours, but I did. I guess I really was under the weather, but I feel great now, I thought. Until I got up and decided I didn’t feel so great after all, took a Cipro and ate breakfast and went back to bed. Every so often I would think I was fine and got up. Getting up dissuaded me of any idea that things were fine. Later in the morning we went down to the warehouse and picked up the mail including the package that the USPS said they couldn’t deliver and to show up with the pink slip at the post office. I took the truck to a coin wash and did one cycle of wand wash to rinse a month’s dust off the truck with liquid wax.
On the way home we stopped by Chapitas for one last reasonably priced meal of good Tex-Mex food. I choose something that was high in cheese content and otherwise bland. When we went out to the truck I said to Juanita that she was driving. I may not be the world’s best driver, but I am probably the world’s worst passenger. It is definitely a sign of malaise for me to surrender the keys to the truck. Back at the rig I looked at the list of everything that should be done before travelling and went back to bed. Around sunset I got up and greased the fifth wheel hitch on the truck and filled the windshield washer reservoir. And then it was dark and time to go back to bed. We’ll get up early tomorrow and plug away at things until we are ready to go and then leave.