We were in Nicaragua for much of this month and the page is in blog format, that is, posts below are newest-at-the-top. Next month we plan to do a SOWER project near Houston and I anticipate the format will return to normal. Blog format works well in real time, but suffers when one goes to read about the month after the fact. Probably will not use it again even for reporting on intensely active months like this one was.
With the nature of working off hotel keyboards and being under the flexibility of adapting to a team environment this page was like an at home construction project done during one's free time in moments snatched here and there from a busy schedule. So please accept the half-finished stuff and bits of plasterboard and wood scraps lying around. It will get cleaned up in due time. <Update - It was cleaned up. The page is finished, so, except for maybe a few typos to be corrected on discovery what you see is what you get.>
Curved Illusion Tract
Many times in this month's blog I refer to the curved illusion tract. It is two different coloured pieces of cardboard that are the same size, but appear to be different sizes when held up next to each other. They are available at LivingWaters.com in English or Spanish.
Below is a YouTube clip showing their use. The star of the video is skilled at using the tract as an opener for evangelizing. I tend just to rely on the person reading the back of the cards which read:
CARD ONE: Hold both cards curving toward the right. Which is bigger, red or the blue? Both are the same. Our eyes are often fooled by optical illusions. Speaking of eyes -- Would you sell an eye for $1 million? How about both for $20 million? No one in his right mind would. Your eyes are priceless, yet they are merely the windows of your soul. Jesus said that your eyes are worth nothing compared to the value of your soul: "If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire" (Mark 9:47). He asked, "What will a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matt. 16:26). There is nothing as important as your salvation. So, do you think you will go to Heaven when you die?
CARD TWO: Check yourself by going through the Ten Commandments: How many lies have you told in your life? Have you ever stolen (the value is irrelevant), committed adultery (Jesus said, "Whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart" - Matt. 5:28), or murdered someone (God considers hatred to be murder - 1 John 3:15)? Have you loved God above all else? Be honest. You know you will be guilty on Judgment Day, and therefore end up in Hell. But Jesus showed how much God loves us by dying on the cross to take our punishment, and then rising from the dead. Today, repent (confess and turn from your sin) and trust in Jesus Christ. Then read the Bible daily, and obey it. God will never fail you.
January 31 (Thursday)
As per usual I wake up before dawn and cannot get back to sleep. An ambitious person might have gone the few miles to the beach at Matagorda to observe the dawn, but this sluggard will not venture forth because of the cold. The closest I'll come to getting up is to briefly go to the other end of the fifth wheel and turn on the other electric heater to supplement the one that has been running away in the bedroom overnight. We originally bought it as an advertised "silent" model, but it has gears to move some internal vanes to spray a pattern of heated air. The plastic gears have worn and it is anything but silent now. The fan itself is not bad, but the gears click loudly and rhythmically.
The wind has died down. Eventually it is warm enough to get up and venture forth to do some keyboarding. The wi-fi connection is good enough that we installed Skype this morning and did some video chatting with Rebekah and Ezekial before putting in the slides and after that to go outside and start putting away cords and hoses and maneuver the rig off the pad.
It pulls off easier than it backed on. That's to be expected I suppose. The one pad is narrow and both pads are finite, so it is easier to hit the driveway than the pads. Especially if the definition of "hit the driveway" includes a bunch of grass in the general vicinity. We don't hit the next trailer and don't make any deep ruts so that was a definite success. I complete the circle check once the rig is onto the driveway. We are off back toward Bay City a little after ten. The nasty cold wind from the north has been replaced with a gentle breeze from the south. Much more pleasant to be outdoors and on the road today.
We ignore the tiny FM road suggested by Apple maps on my iPod and carry on to Bay City and take the bigger FM road that we scoped out last night.
Highway 35 is good for about halfway to Angleton, then rough. Almost like frost heaves. We brave the traffic lights through Angleton and carry on to Alvin arriving at Victory Camp about noon. Coming into the parking lot I pull the rig to one side and go looking for the director, Rod Anderson, before commiting to coming further into the site. He was in his office and we walked over to the parking spots and discussed the options. The electrical service is all new since last year with two spots 30 and 50 Amps and all the rest at 50 Amps. There is the option of parking at an angle or parallel. I opt for parallel on the first spot so there is less congestion for the dumpster truck in his thrice weekly visits. I am not being polite I am being cautious.
There is one rig left from last month. It is parked at an angle, but there is room for us to park. They plan to leave tomorrow morning at nine. That will put them on Interstate 45 through Houston after the morning rush. The other two rigs from last month have departed.
We park the rig, put down the stabilizers, put out our the slides and Juanita tends to the inside and I tend to the hoses, and cables outside. We stand around and visit with the Snipes, the SOWER couple left over from last month. I learn of another route around Houston. Last time we were here we left at the crack of dawn to avoid traffic. I had been leaning toward going around Houston on I8 if the construction is finished in the northeast part of the loop, but not looking forward to pulling a rig through the constricted toll booths at the San Jacinto bridge. The route he mentions has no toll booths, is four lane for the first half, near the metro area and it hits Highway 59 at Livingston. Certainly worth consideration. He also tells me that he retired from being an instrument tech at Union Carbide so we traded instrument stories for a while.
Meanwhile Rod was on a ladder on the side of the building, taking down the old line of sight antenna to the church and adding the antenna for a wi-fi repeater to the mast. There is now a strong signal from that, but it doesn't seem to connect. Still some technical issues to resolve. In absence of that our laptop is able to pick up some mostly workable connections with its powered external antenna, but the iPod only connects within or right next to the building. No more surfing in bed with the iPod when I wake up in the predawn hours. Might have to try sleeping. Might make me easier to get along with if a little data starved.
Before Rod leaves for the day we do a walk around looking at work that SOWERS will do. There is always something. Rust never sleeps. Some of the work will be ongoing repairs from wear and tear, some will involve redoing stuff that was done eight or ten years ago by SOWERS but time and climate have rolled back.
Juanita heads to WalMart for groceries and I set up TV and do a bit of surfing. When she returns we settle in for a relaxing evening which includes a CBS channel which we couldn't get in Matagorda.
January 30 (Wednesday)
There is not much involved with getting on the road this morning. The fifth wheel was still hooked to the truck with a bit of load on the landing gear so it is simply a matter of raising the legs and putting the blocks in the truck. Then there is the water hose to drain and coil, the power cord and coax cable to roll up and the chocks to remove and stow. We are on the road pretty quickly. There is a two lane road more or less direct to Victoria. We have taken it before when there was little wind and we were headed north of Victoria, but while it is a bit shorter it will probably be slower than the alternative. There is a brisk cross wind so we cannot safely drive fast and will tend to back up traffic behind us. That tends to make people do stupid things and if what they try doesn't work out then their problem becomes your problem.
We head south toward Corpus Christi on the same interstate we came up last night. It is a pleasant drive with a tail wind until we reach the junction of the divided highway to Victoria. With the crosswind on that section of highway we drive slowly and get a fair beating at times with the level indicator showing a steady 2 inch list to starboard and worse with gusts. Most traffic blasts past us, some of teh trucks and a couple of the homes are having trouble staying in their own lanes. One particlular motor home was leaning alarmingly, but it sped off and soon disappeared in the distance. I kept expecting to round a bend to find it laying on its side in the ditch, but that didn't happen.
When we came to a wide spot in the road with a gas station and cafe with easy pump access we pulled in and fueled up. While I was pumping diesel, Juanita bough ta couple of breakfast burritos and coffees. They were two handers. We ate them before getting back on the road. When I bit into my burrito I commented, "I bet that cook wasn't skinny." Juanita confirmed my conjecture. My guess was based on flavour, fat content and size. They were wonderful. Not something one could eat every morning, but a real treat to have occasionally.
Eventually we arrived at Wharton and turned south onto Highway 60 to Bay City and beyond it to Matagorda. Finally, tail winds again. Not taking a beating and not having to fight to stay in our lane. We can pick up speed and not hold up any traffic. We stop for most of the numerous traffic lights in Bay City except for the occasional one that didn't get the memo and was green when we hit it.
We arrived at the RV park we had booked and turned east into their driveway and put the truck in Park. The north wind was so strong it took all my strength to open the truck door to go in and register.
Lighthouse RV park is a couple of miles north of the beach town of Matagorda. It is a Passport America park so we got a half price discount when we checked in. We also had the added bonus of only paying for one night and not two like I had expected. When we booked they said that the cancellation fee was $34 which was two nights pad rental, but I guess since I had called when we had trouble on the road they took pity on us and just charged us the $17 for the one night we were going to stay.
The sites are at right angles to the driveway on the left side of it. The driveway is about a foot higher than the sites and the grass on the side opposite the sites. About a truck length off the driveway to the right is a row of quarried stones about the size of bar fridges. The sites have two strips of concrete, one about five feet wide and one about two feet wide with a gap between them of about three or four feet. With enough cutting and filling and back and forthing it is possible to get the trailer wheels on the pads and just enough room to have the front landing gear, the rear stabilizers and the rear truck tires all on concrete at the same time. When you unhook and pull forward the hitch drops alarmingly away from the pin-box as the truck tires roll off the concrete strips on the lower grass. Our fifth wheel trailer is 34 or so feet (depends which document or measuring point you believe). Parking was an adventure. I am glad we don't have a forty footer.
After that adventure we hooked everything up, checked e-mail and headed to the beach. The wind was still strong. It was blowing sand into the ocean and clipping the tops off teh incoming breakers. The locals were all wearing winter coats. We ventured forth in out light clotihng and it was n't too bad until we turned around to come back against the wind. We explored and gathered shells and took pictures until we had received enough of a beating and got back in the truck. There is a nature center at the mouth of the Colorado River, but we had been there a couple of years ago so skipped that. Also a couple of years ago the bridge across the Intracoastal waterway was being built so we took a ferry from town to the beach. No more ferry. No more line-ups. No more waiting. Aw.
We drove around town lookng for a fish and chips spot, but the town businesses scale back this time of year and we didn't see any likely looking prospects and we needed fuel and wanted to check out alternate routes through Bay City so back to Bay City we went.
The road atlas on my iPod had suggested three possible routes from Matagorda to Alvin. The first and shortest possiblility turned off on FM521 a few miles north of our starting point and wandered around the countryside. We checked out the first two miles and rejected that choice. I had seen another farm to market road (FM2668) on the south edge of Bay City on our way south and checked it out on the map. It looked good on the map. so when we got to Bay City we checked it out. It had only a couple of lights and was mostly four lane. Looks good for tomorrow. We fueled up on diesel and found a sea food reataurant. The waitress was attractive, the menu was a work of great prose and what there was of the food was okay. The description of the dessert of the day was compelling, but Juanita concluded that it would probably be the size of a postage stamp so we did not order dessert.
After dinner we headed back home for a quiet evening of NBC, and MeTV and some others, but no CBS. I hope this changes by Alvin, since most of our favorite programs are on CBS.
January 29 (Tuesday)
After circle checks and circling up with the SOWERS we got on the road at ninish. We drove north through the windfarms on secondary roads before cutting over to the freeway at Raymondville. The wind was blowing stiffly from the south and we had to slow down significantly on the east-west leg to Raymondville, but that didn't take long. Once we were back on the highway north life was good. The transmission was shifting well and the wind was a help not a hindrance. The only worry I had was in the back of my mind about the crosswind on the long tall overpass where this highway meets the interstate from Corpus Christi to San Antonio. Well, that's a few hours away.
It turned out to be a few hours more than planned. About a mile south of the immigration checkpoint or a little over 20 miles south of Kingsville the dash dinged at me. The warning light said "check gauges". I looked and thought, "Oh, the battery voltage is dropping" Then I noticed the temperature gauge was buried and we pulled over. The serpentine belt was wrapped around the fan hub and there was steam and coolant everywhere. I phoned Matt and asked him waht he was up to and explained our situation. He was on his way shortly! I checked under the back seat and determined that I had a spare serpentine belt. A belt that was in good condition, but I had removed while troubleshooting for a squeak two years ago and phoned and advised him of that. We discussed him picking up a water pump, but ended up deciding not to. When the engine cooled enough I extricated the belt from the engine. It took a while to do that it was wedged pretty well. I called the RV park and said we probably wouldn't be there tonight.
It was the water pump. We left Juanita to catch up on her reading and guard the truck adn drove up to Kingsville and bought a water pump and some supplies. The new pump almost fit, there was a slight casting difference. After a bit of filing it fit fine. We added what seemed like very little coolant and water and we were all on our way. Matt back to Harlingen. Us north. I called the RV park and said we would be there, but late.
We went through the checkpoint and declared our citizenship. He asked where we were going today and I drew a blank and looked at him and said, "I have just spent four hours a mile south of here working ona water pump". He waved us through. The alarm went off again and the temperature needle buried itself and we pulled over to sit a mile north of the checkpoint until the engine cooled enough to add the coolant I should have before. Like at the south stop a few people stopped and checked if we were okay or needed help. Also a SOWER headed south for Harlingen phoned from across the divided highway and checked on us. Thanks, Rick.
I called the RV park in Matagorda. See you tomorrow. Our new destination became a Passport America park in Mathis, Texas. Crummy park. Nice restaurant across the street.
We arrived and I pulled onto the property and went to the office. Juanita observed that the No Vacancy sign was lit. I said I'd check. Maybe it was the motel side that was full. I rang the bell and got buzzed into the office and the woman said that they had spaces only because the pipe line workers got laid off and left yesterday. She had forgotten to turn off the sign.
She assigned a site and then changed her mind to another one. The one we ended up in had a tree. It was impossible to swing wide enogh to miss the top branches. When the branches made contact Juanita went up on the roof and broke off the branches that had hung up in the solar panels. No roof damage.
The maintenance person came and helped us settle. Part of the time his flashlight was not in our eyes and we quickly hooked up fresh water and power and TV cables. We left the rig hooked to the truck, dropped the front legs and put a bit of weight on them and put out just the bedroom slide.
NCIS was just starting so we watched that before heading across the street to the Mexican restaurant. After dinner we watched a bit more TV before sleeping.
January 28 (Monday)
We and the rest of the SOWER couples attended the weekly staff meeting at 7:30. It is between SOWER projects, and technically a week off, but the meeting is where you find out what is happening and opportunities to help or participate. There was a brief devotional and some singing. Many people shared about what blessed them during their time in Nicaragua at Medfest. Some work assignments were handed out.
Juanita left with Martha to help her. Matt and I went to a few places to look for brake shoes for the fifth wheel trailer. The axles are 6,000 pound CSA rating. We found a complete backing plate assembly for a 7,000 pound axle and I bought those because I was pretty sure the Canadian 6,000 pound rating is a USA 7,000 pound rating. The parts store didn't show the CSA parts number in their listing.
I dropped Matt at the motel to pick up a vehicle that needed to be registered and I went back to the training center where our trailer was parked. There was an answer from the Dexter product manager that the 9/16" bolts shouldered down to take a 7/16" nut would work in a pinch and could get me home, but I should put in the bolts that were 9/16" all the way. They said they were shipping two new pivot bolts to me at Way of the Cross. I phoned and talked to the guy and changed the address to Victory Camp. I also asked him about the 7,000 brake assembly as the CSA 6,000 pound replacement. That would be fine. Then I phoned the Dexter Axle parts order line and ordered a couple of bolts and a link assembly to be shipped to Victory Camp.
Then in with the slides, loosen the lug nuts on the one wheel and jack that wheel up. Remove wheel and brake drum and compare the assemblies. They looked the same. Matt showed up during that process and helped and then got called away to help unload a delivery and I pretty much finished the job before he got back. Then tools away and slides out and shower and change and eat a bit of lunch.
I phoned in a reservation for two nights at a Passport America park at Matagorda, a few miles from the beach. The one right at the river mouth is quasi govermental and the reservation process on their web site is too convoluted and requires several days lead time. Besides, there is the sand to be considered.
We ran some errands including exchanging a few recently read paperback books and bought up to "M is for..." in the Sue Grafton series. We went to HEB for a few things we knew they had which are not always easy to find elsewhere and we went to the DQ to cash in a BOGO coupon that would otherwise go to waste. This way it has more options. It can go to waist, hips and rear as it chooses.
Somebody took us to dinner at Logan's steak house. The peanuts took their usual beating and we had a good visit.
January 27 (Sunday)
With church right on the property and not starting until 10:30 we took our time getting mobile today. At church Oscar Brooks was a last minute blessing. Since he had another meeting to attend later this morning the order of service was altered. A few people shared some of their thoughts on the time in Nicaragua at Medfest and when Oscar arrived he preached. My notes following will not do it justice, but here they are.
How God transforms the heart when He asks you to do something that is bigger than you. I Samuel 10. A character that is not necessarily a very popular man, but is useful for what is going to preach today - Saul.
Starting from the end - verse 6 - You shall be like another man. Anybody who knew Saul because they knew he was not capable of what God wanted him to do. I Samuel 10:1-6 anointed with oil. Tomb of Rachel.
The reason Saul is not a popular character is that he failed and people tend to discount failures. God will ask you more than you can do. If you can do it you are probably not in God's territory: Giant - David, Army - Moses, People trying to kill Paul all the time.
If you look at what God is telling Saul you can see why Saul is having problems with it. Oscar then mentioned that he (Oscar) freaks out at the prospect of being anointed, because he has been there before and he knows what follows. When David was anointed he was happy, but within a couple of days he is in front of a giant. Saul is looking for his father's donkeys. He finds Samuel. Samuel anoints him, "you are going to be king. The first king." "What king?" There's going to be three things that happen. First thing, your father will not be worried about donkeys. Second, you are going to the plain of Tabor. They are going to worship God and will give you two loaves of bread. Then Philistines and the spirit of God will come upon you and you will prophesy and be changed into another man.
He comes to the tomb of Rachel near Bethlehem. Rachel was mother of his tribe. Rachel has a negative side. She was an idolator. She stole her father's idols. She lied about it. She was an earthly person. Nowhere but once do you see her moving toward God. She died in bitterness. She wanted to name her child "bitterness". She died close to Bethlehem. She is the sign of people who get really near, but never really get there. Oscar related a story of a man who was close, but never decided, "I want to serve but....."
At the tomb of Rachel, "stop worrying about donkeys". Jesus said "Lift up your eyes for now the time of harvest is ready." God has stuff for you to do. You need to stop worrying about the earthly stuff. So Saul leaves. He gets to Tabor. There is another group - spiritual. Going to Bethel. They gave him two loaves of bread. Now you are in the spiritual realm and God will take care of your needs.
Tabor meant "brokenness", "a broken region", "time of brokenness". It is hard to break a man from relying on himself. Want to run back to another place, but God says if you go back you will be in that place where you are close, but never get there.
Then took Saul to another place "the hill of God". there are two kinds of people. The Philistines, going to be his enemies forever. Also, the prophets came down. The spirit of God came upon Saul, began to prophesy. Changed his heart, stopped worrying about things of earth, started focussing on things of God. Comforter, convicter, give you power to witness, to pray for others. His heart has changed into another man.
Oscar has preached since 13, taught since 19. Could say "I have got here", but if you do that it gets stale. He has asked this year that God would change him. We could look at Way of the Cross and what has been done and sit back. Can sit back but then it would be the end, Rejoice at what has been done, but need to look forward. Ask God for a new heart. Get ready to face new giants. We have to be in a brokenness place and allow God to work. Change us and make us able to face new challenges.
We joined the two remaining SOWER couples and the SOWER on assignment couple for lunch at Dennys. They mentioned the following week they had all gone to Dennys using a GPS and Dennys was no longer there. Then they went to IHOP and waited until second in line and one of the group had said "I have the address for Dennys on my phone, let's go there, now!". The phone took them to the same place. They lost their place in line at IHOP. Coupons may have been a factor. We used the coupons this week at the real location for Dennys.
A quiet afternoon and evening ensued.
I e-mailed Dexter Axle about the pivot bolts and if the ones I had substituted were acceptable.
January 26 (Saturday)
We took our time getting off the mark this morning. Matt had said he would be by to help with the suspension, but not too early as Friday night is their family movie night and they stay up late and then sleep in Saturday morning. Eventually I finished puttering on the web and got busy with getting the slides in and getting ready to do the work. I got the tools set-up and opened up the box of parts that Dexter axle had shipped. I checked the box. We seem to be missing the pivot bolts. I find two new pivot bolts in the pieces I had left over from the last time we worked on the suspension. They are 9/16" shank, but are shouldered down to 7/16" where the nut goes on. They would support the weight fine, but might be challenged if the side forces are higher with the flex equalizer than the original. It all we have so I decide to use them.
Matt shows up and we put the trailer on jackstands with the stabilizers front and back supporting a bit of weight. By a little after noon we have replaced all the links and bushings and bolts and the equalizer on one side. We go to lunch at the Crazy Buffet and eat enough that our ambition is a bit challenged, but we are committed so we return to do the other side.
One wheel on the second side is "loose". When the wheel is off the ground you can move it several degrees. I brood on that briefly, but decide to carry on with the suspension and avoid that rabbit hole until later. This side doesn't go as well as the first. There is one new link bolt that had some challenges with the nut not torquing, but unable to get it off. I add a nut and deicide it is not optimal, but adequate. Problem for another day. The loose wheel had a loose nut holding the bearings together. The bearings don't seem damaged but the grease seal has failed and there is grease on the brake shoes. We clean the grease off and discover one lining is coming off its backing. The stores shut down early on Saturday and it is too late to find parts so we button things up and call it a day.
We get the trailer down off the stands and return Matt's stuff to the shop. He leaves and I clean up around the trailer and put away tools and Juanita puts out the slides. I shower and change and we head out to dinner at Chapitas. We order one of the specials of the day for Saturday. The waitress returns. They have no beef tongue. Since they are out of the special can I order something else and still get free tea? She checks. Okay.
January 25 (Friday)
Our scheduled day to fly back to our fifth wheel rig parked at Way of the Cross. Might be several days before an account of today gets posted.
The disco at the pool wasn't too bad. Being tired helps. The white noise from the A/C unit next to the bed helps as well. I seem to remember cutting back the fan and or the A/C unit sometime around one or two am and the disco not being an issue. So I was somewhat confused to hear music around 4:15. My brain could not process the source. It was not loud and it was kind of mellow not the jungle beat of dance by the pool music. I finally figured out it was the clock radio and got up and woke Juanita. We put on our pre-stacked clothes and headed downstairs with our bags to catch the five o'clock shuttle. No sign of food in the free breakfast buffet area. The coffee pot was just starting to perc. No coffee for us!
Checking out took a little bit of time since I was paying with cash, not wanting to be worked over by the credit card company on exchange rates. The first time I was in Nicaragua, about four years ago, I had paid my tuition on that lesson from the college of life. There was some shuffle of cash and I got my change in Cordobas and we boarded the shuttle van for a brisk drive to the airport.
The other passenger was dropped off at a local airline door and we were dropped off further along at the international departures door. As we were getting out the driver got a phone call and handed me his cell phone. It was the desk clerk saying he had given me too much change and asking me to give the driver 80 Cordobas. I thought about what he had given me and did a mental calculation and realized he had indeed overpaid me and gave the driver the money reminding him it was not a propina (tip).
We went inside the terminal to the United Airlines area. The line had already filled the roped area for the middle lane. I read the signs on the lanes. The right lane was for first and executive classes. The middle lane was for economy class and the left lane was for economy class people who had alredy checked in on-line or who had special needs. Hey, that's us! No. Not special needs. We had checked in on-line. We moved to the front of that empty lane and stood and waited with our bags.
It wasn't long before the middle line had grown to the back wall of the terminal. Ben and the Chicago group were back there. We visited with Ben a bit.
When the United counter people showed up we were the first people processed. the agent told us we could have printed our boarding passes at a kiosk. Have to keep that in mind for next time. She checked our bags and we headed for security. Relatively painless getting passport stamped. Then we lined up for the metal detectors, take off belts, shoes, etc routine.
There a backlog in front of the metal detector so I did a curved illusion tract demo and gave a tract to the person stationed there. She was delighted and showed several people including her supervisor who seemed really taken with the illusion and was holding them up and calling over to the other metal detector crew to look at them. Much to Juanita's alarm I motioned the supervisor over while I was putting my shoes back on and gave her several of the tracts. Juanita had not seen interaction on the other side of the metal detector and the supervisor's response so it seemed I was calling this person in authority over out of the blue. Not usually a wise activity. the supervisor went away all smiles.
Being in the secured area so early there were no lines to buy food or bottled water. At this airport they seize bottled water at a secondary check-point on the jet way. Last year I had managed to keep mine when the security person nudge-nudge, wink-wink said "you need it for medical reasons, don't you sir?" Worth a try this year.
We ate our ham and cheese croissants and drank our coffee sitting in the waiting area near the gate. Ben showed up and we visited a bit. Then they started loading the plane. They started quite long time before the scheduled departure. They had to. The security people hand searched bags and seized water that had been purchased in the secured area. They did not seem to be seizing the liquids purchased in the duty free stores. Those liquids are a lot more flammable than water be they perfume or other spirits. Have to check next time we fly out from there whether the duty free sells non-alcoholic beverages.
Once on board and in the air it was a pleasant flight. Juanita and I were several rows ahead of Ben. The times I went back to the washroom his head was down and he was busy writing in his notebook so I didn't disturb his concentration. We didn't see him again until we were in line for immigration. After that we picked up our bags, went through customs and dropped off our bags for a connecting flight and made our way to the TSA gong show security theatre. That went fine, I guess.
Ben was a bit behind us so we waited for him to emerge. While waiting we heard an older woman who had sat down to put on her shoes commenting that it is hard to know what country one is in. It doesn't seem like it could be the United States. Ben came out and we waited a while for the group of people from Chicago, but eventually we decided that they had taken a faster line and had carried on to their gate. We headed for our concourse and ate lunch and visited, then parted company for a while and made our separate ways to the ground level waiting area for the smaller planes.
Juanita and I were assigned aisle seats in the back two rows of the plane. When nobody showed up for the other seats next to us, I moved to the window seat and Juanita moved up to the aisle seat beside me. I normally prefer an aisle seat with more room for a long flight, but for this flight of just over an hour it was fun to look out the window at the city of Houston and then the coast line near it (Matagorda and the mouth of the Colorado River) and the coast again closer to our destination of Brownsville. South Padre Island had been cut through with a channel in one spot which I later found on the map and determined it was the Port Mansfield Channel. We also passed over an airport I did know existed at Port Isabel.
Matt Butler was waiitng for us at the Brownsville airport. Actually he was probably waiting for Ben Butler, but why quibble? Our bags went into the back of the truck and off we went to the training center. The rig was waiting. Some SOWERS had already left so we moved our rig into the empty spot which was close to Matt's shop to make it easy to work on tomorrow.
We asked another couple if they wanted to join us for dinner. They had already eaten but were up for eating dessert while we ate supper and we all visited. Mexican food had been high on the list, but the desserts at our chosen restaurant were not particularly desirable so the destination changed to the Texas Longhorn Cattle Company which has decadent desserts in addition to fine meals.
January 24 (Thursday)
While logging out from publishing the update for the 23rd I encountered a notice that the service will be down for system maintenance for two hours today.That includes my planned window for making the last update before we are back in the States. So here it is now a day early, probably the last post from Nicaragua from us for this year.
Our plan is to eat breakfast at the regular time of 7 am and do some packing and then go to the 8 am service for American missionaries we heard about yesterday. After that we will run any last minute errands and drag our luggage to the bus depot about eleven and catch a bus to the UCA bus depot in Managua and a cab to Hotel Express in Managua.
We got up for our seven a.m. breakfast and did a bit of packing before leaving for a long walk to find the service at La Puente (The Bridge). The walk is a lot further than I understood it to be when described to us yesterday. We never did see anything or hear anything that seemed like a service walking the route we understood it to be on.
We ventured into a side street to see if there was a parallel road we missed. It was more of a parallel universe. A slum. We encountered the inept shoeshine guy from yesterday and explained what we were looking for. He knew right where it was he exclaimed and then led us to a crippled friend's backyard where his friend sat in his wheelchair. It was obvious we were supposed to give everybody a couple of bucks. I played dumber than usual and did a tract thing and we left with the shoeshine guy in our wake. He kept asking for two dollars and I gave him one and we ditched him and cut back to the outer world on another side street.
I wonder if his two dollar gambit was like my niece who always asked for two cookies and usually received one. She correctly figured that if she asked for one that she would get none.
On our walk back to the hotel we discuss that Thursday is an odd day for a service. Wednesday or Friday would make more sense. Once back at the hotel we pack. We are taking a large suitcase back to the States for WOTC. We put one of our two carry-ons in it and anything else that is heavy and we won't need for a couple of days. We weigh the bag in the hotel lobby. It is within limits. While weighing the bag I check with the owner to establish checkout time. We have until noon.
We walked up to the tourist office across from the square and bought a two pound bag of coffee. I ask about the thermal baths in Tipitapa and the lady has no useful knowledge. I also ask about a good place to transfer from the bus to the taxi without going all the way to the UCA terminal in Managua. Also no useful knowledge on the subject. She seems pretty knowledgeable about the immediate area, but not thirty kilometers away.
We go to the coyote corner and change a $US 20 bill for two $US10s. No charge. On the way to Cafe Claudia for one last time this year we pass through the square and buy the last two souvenirs. At Cafe Claudia we hand out some curved illusion tracts while waiting for and after finishing our meals. An English speakng girl notices and asks if we are missionaries. She is from La Puente. Services tomorrow and yesterday, not Thursdays. We guessed right. The person who told us yesterday that the services were today was probably thinking it was Tuesday or Thursday when he was speaking to us. That happens.
Once back at the hotel we check the Managua map and decide that the best spot to get a cab for Hotel Express is at UCA.
We say our goodbyes to the owner and staff and check out of the Hotel Jerico. We drag the bag to the bus terminal. The bus conductor stows the large bag in teh midlle of the front aisle. Well, actually it takes up the whole front aisle. We sit in back. Bit of a pain for other passengers. Glad we only have the one big bag.
We arrive at UCA and get a cab to HEX (Hotel Express). On the way there I ask the driver about the thermal baths at Tipitapa. It is too far for taxi costing $US 40 return and he would only wait for an hour while we wallowed and too far to do in an afternoon by buses. Another time perhaps.
We check in. They still have all our information including middle names from last year. We rehydrate and eat a bit at the food court before walking around the mall a bit checking things out. A movie special would include two popcorns, two drinks, a hot dog and two admissions for 280 Cordobas (under $12). None of the movies appeal. I don't know if they are dubbed or sub-titled, but it didn't matter. There were none we wanted to see. I start leading us out of the upper level of the mall through a particular door to go to a convenience store to buy a gallon jug of water. Juanita insists that is the wrong door. I very condescendingly agree to go out the "wrong" door that she indicated. She was right. It saved us a fair bit of walking. Not sure I wouldn't have rather been right, but at least I didn't have to walk a block in the subtropical sun to prove myself wrong.
On the way back to the hotel with the water I decide to go buy snacks for tomorrow at the supermarket attached to the mall. Juanita takes the water back to the hotel room and then meets me at the supermarket. While walking toward the supermarket I realize that they probably have jugs of water and we didn't have to go where we went to get it. Not my finest hours of logic and sense of direction.
At the supermarket we buy snacks for tomorrow's trip. After an afternoon nap, we return to the mall for a food court dinner and walk around. We watch kids inside large inflated clear plastic balls floating in a large kiddie's pool before heading home for a quiet evening. Well, kind of quiet. On our way back from supper we notice somebody setting up for a band and disco music next to the hotel pool. The event seems to be sponsored by a brewing company. The pool is in a large closed in room, but the door is wide open and it has no roof so I guess it is just surrounded by stuccoed concrete walls. Not really a room at all. Nevertheless the sound travels straight from the pool area to our room.
We are tired enough it doesn't matter. I set the alarm for four a.m. and we go to sleep.
January 23 (Wednesday)
Slept in on purpose today and had a relatively late breakfast. Juanita walked to the lavanderia and picked up the laundry while I was getting ready to go out.
I phoned the Hotel Express in Managua and made reservations for tomorrow. She said she would confirm to my e-mail address. No sign of that by ten p.m. Probably spelled gmail wrong since I called it "gee". I'll call tomorrow and confirm if there is no e-mail overnight. We walked down to the Hotel Granada on the chance of running into Ben and getting a large suitcase from him that he wants carried to the States, but no sign of him.
We walked uptown on a side street and handed out curved illusion tracts while we waited for a cab to go by with no passengers. If we reached the square before getting a cab at a reasonable price the plan was to grab a bus to the junction of the highway and the road to Laguna de Apoyo. A man on a bike came up to us and wanted to know what we were doing with the tracts and then we got talking and he is a missionary living in a house on the corner and we had just given his housekeeper a tract. He told us about a worship service tomorrow morning around the corner and we traded a few stories and e-mail addresses and he carried on with his bike riding.
After a few blocks a beat-up empty cab came by and quoted $20 and I turned and started walking back up the street and he countered and I countered with about $12 in Cordobas which was generous so he took it and we rode in his seatbeltless back seat to the Monkey Hut where we relaxed reading on the balcony until 3 pm, the time the cabbie agreed to come back. After a few minutes of waiting outside the gate, a guy sitting in a car across the road offered to take us to Granada for $12. I said no so he dropped his price to $10 and I said if our cab didn't show up in ten more minutes we'd go with him for $10 for the both of us. It is important to establish the fare and the number of people covered in that fare. I've never had somebody try to increase the price agreed to that way, but last year had a few people say "Oh no. That was the per person price," where we had not estabilished ahead of the trip that it was for los ambos (both) or los dos (two).
The cab never showed up and we didn't see him coming toward the Laguna on the 6 or 8 km. road out to the highway. The cab had quite a shimmy on the highway so it could easily have broken down. Our gypsy cab dropped us on market street out front of Barberia Sultana where I gave the guy one lower number than I should have for the clipper attachment for my head. It will grow back. The beard looks nice, though.
We dropped off our stuff from a day at the Laguna in the room. I changed out of five finger vibes into my paint colored sneakers and we headed up town to the square. Before we got there I tried a shine by a shoeshine guy working the street because he looked hungry. While he worked at my shoes I accosted passers by with curved illusion tracts. He was not terribly succesful with the paint.
The old shoe shine guy in the square did a fair bit better getting the paint off my shoes after I went across the square and came back with some hand sanitizer purchased at the Cafe Euro. On my way back from that purchase I noticed that a ceramic vendor was starting to pack up so I alerted Juanita and she dashed over to make a couple of purchases we had discussed.
On our way to the Hot Dog Connection of Granada for a couple of Chicago Dogs we gave away a few more curved illusions. Our gourmet meal was followed by Leche and Cacoa at the Chocolate Cafe. Just outside our Hotel we ran into Ben and agreed to meet him in an hour which we did and picked up a large and a small suitcase and came back to the hotel with them and then since it was our last night in Granada one last trip to the Eskimo for a junior split (two scoops) and a banana split (three scoops).
Home to update blog and go to bed.
January 22 (Tuesday)
We awoke at 3:30 this morning to multiple suitcases descending stairs and little wheels noisily bumping over grout joints in the tiled courtyard. Once we reconciled the noise to its source (not some idiot bouncing a basketball) we got up and helped move suitcases for the staff members with children in their pre-dawn exercise of getting to the airport. Then we went back to bed to sleep some more.
I came to the realization today that for me the contraction "blog" means "backlog" not "web log". I have a few hours to address that. Juanita left for the warehouse with Martha and two others at about 9. It is almost ten and I have addressed the overflowing e-mail in-box and fought with trying to edit a pdf document that needed to be sent to somebody. It was an expected need so before we left the States I had written the document and had saved it in DropBox, but it needed one change and my iPod wouldn't open it. The hotel computer is all Spanish all the time and doesn't have all the programs I needed. It said it saved my change, but I couldn't open the attachment until after I had sent it as an attachment. The bcc to myself read the same as the unchanged original. Grr. Deal with it next weekend. Perhaps next time we come to Central America I will bring a tiny laptop or small tablet with Word and Adobe capability. This morning a couple of people were grumbling about the coolish shower water temperature here, that doesn't bother me, but not being able to quickly do a simple keyboard task does.
But enough whining. Today is a day to celebrate. It's my birthday. Sixty-five today. If Juanita gets back from the WOTC warehouse in time we might go on a boat ride to the islettas. That would be nice. Last night while hanging out in the lobby of the hotel waiting for a toilet plunger (see yesterday) I asked one of the team members what he did with his afternoon. He said he had thought about going on a boat ride, but some others had told him it wasn't much so he wandered the market and a few buildings. Then when he heard from some who went he regretted his decision. I showed him about twenty pictures on my iPod from one of our trips last year and he really regretted it. Oh well. He comes to Medfest every year. Now he has something to look forward to on his next down day in Granada.
After keyboarding until along about two and Juanita hadn't shown up. I called her and learned they wouldn't be done for at least another hour. The maids were ready to clean the room so I asked Juanita what laundry to take to the lavanderia and changed my footwear from flip flops and headed to the lavanderia and dropped off the clothes including my very grimy blue jeans worn for three days of painting and grubbing around the dusty Medfest grounds. I had managed to work through lunch and didn't want to spoil my birthday supper meal so went to the Cafe Euro and had a muffin and a couple of cups of coffee while reading my trashy mystery novel. I have read most of the books starting with "A is for Alibi", but have a sneaking hunch there may have been one or two or more I missed. Last month I bought "A" through "G" at Books and Things in Harlingen and will read them in order and then read the rest in order. Currently on "B is for Burglar". Don't remember ever reading it before so maybe it is the first time. Or maybe it is merely forgetable easy reading trash.
I walked through the square lookng for some souvenirs suitable for 4 and 5 year old boys and was having a conversation with a vendor when a couple of Canadian girls came by and misunderstood something I had said to the vendor and were laughing about it, The vendor didn't have anything I wanted so I stopped talking to him and switched to talking to them and explained what I had really said and we chatted about where they were from (not far from where I grew up) and where they had been and what they liked so far. They carried on in their direction and I continued working my way down the row of vendors until I found something appropriate and bought two. I ended up chatting to the next vendor who just wanted to talk about Canada and his visit there and we chatted with a Swiss tourist who was trying to buy a combination change purse / wallet with compartments for coins and bills and cards. He had one, but it was wearing out. A lot of the vendor's offerings were close, but not close enough so then the Swiss tourist asked about places to eat and I directed him to Cafetin Claudia and he headed off. Just before the Swiss showed up the vendor had been trying out my Spanish and both our French abilities and had just said that I had passed the "examen". I had hung around until the Swiss person left because the "examen" comment was too good a segue into giving him a "Are you a Good Person?" examen in Spanish. We chatted some more and I left.
While I was asking a person about Mobacho and canopy tours the phone rang and Juanita was on the phone and said they were on their way to the Hotel Granada. They showed up with four of them in a compact cab along with a bunch of empty suitcases to go back to the States. After Michael and Isabel checked into the Granada (they had been in the Hotel Jerico until this morning) and Juanita washed the dust off her hands and face using the sink in Martha's room we all five of us piled into a cab for the Zona Touristic. Juanita sat on my lap. I had negotiated a reasonable price with a launch captain on the street across from the Eskimo while flagging down a cab and negotiating a price for Martha and company to go to the warehouse. The captain had given me a card with his cell phone number and I called him and handed the phone to the cabbie so he knew where to take us.
Two hours cruising the islettas was most pleasant. We got back just after dark at six thirty. I phoned the cabbie from the boat when we were almost back and he eventually showed up and drove us back to the Hotel Granada. The cab was a bit overpriced but other cabs would only carry four of us so that would have been more with two cabs. That and the first cab I asked was the one that the four came in and he was not supposed to pick up fares in Granada so there is no way he would have hung around town for two hours. By the time we got back the area was deserted. No place for gringoes to be walking. The captain waited with us for the cab to show up before he left on his motorcycle.
Juanita and I walked back to the Jerico and changed a few of our garments and walked to the Corral for a wonderful steak for me and an adequate Quesadilla for her. She had had lunch in Masaya so wasn't especially hungry, plus the quesadilla at the Corral is not up to last year's standard. The chicken was not chunky and the cheese was inferior to what they used last year. I had her last piece of quesadilla since she was full. It had all the charm of a tuna salad sandwich. As I say, the steak was great. On the way home we stopped for gelato for a special treat over the more econmical Eskimo fare. We walked a few blocks for exercise and headed home.
Juanita checked her e-mail.
I wrote this.
We will probably head to Laguna de Apoyo tomorrow for a while. None of the Mombacho stuff looked that compelling to us after being busy for the past week. Relaxing seems more appealing.
January 21 (Monday)
We got up and ate breakfast at our regular time of 7 am. The devotional meeting was not until 9 am so Juanita headed uptown to the Cafe Euro for a couple of coffees and I headed to the keyboard to write up yesterday. I got as far as writing up Oscar´s sermon about the time she showed up with a styrofoam cup of perc'ed coffee for me. By the time I had poured some point form items into the day's box it was time to change into work clothes and head down the street to the Hotel Granada.
Worship service was great and everybody was on a high from all the past days' activities. Ben opened the service, and left to take some team members to the airport and to wait for a couple of people from Chicago to come in that are here to do some things this week. Oscar Brooks had time for a more lengthy message which was quite compelling. Summarizing it into a couple of paragraphs will not do it justice, but a taste will have to do you.
Oscar was born in Nicaragua. He has been with Way of the Cross since he was out of college. He has prayed for years that God would send revival and heal the nation of Nicaragua. He lived through a rough period in Nicaraguan history, the civil war. He carried an AK-47 as part of the fighting forces at ages 10 and 11. He mentioned coming back here to preach after being in the States and talked about some of the things he has received for preaching such as pigs and chickens. He mentioned two chickens that were given to him. A mission team member grew attached to them and named them Henry and Etta. When he went to kill them to eat them she wouldn't let him. His admonishment that every chicken you ever ate was once alive was answered with, "Yes, but they didn't have names!"
One time he was preaching in Africa and there were two guys with sticks at the back of the crowd. This bothered him until they started doing their job which was to wake up anybody who nodded off during the preaching. He talked about the cultural differences he has experienced. In India the congregation shook their heads back and forth when they agreed with what he was saying. He found this disturbing at first, until somebody filled him in. In Sudan they make a clicking noise when they agree. He is excited that God works through all these different ways. Then he got down to preaching with Genesis 28.
Jacob laid his head on a stone in verse 10 and then when he woke up he made a pillar of stone and anointed it with oil and named the spot Bethel (the house of God). He then made a vow that this would be God's house and that he (Jacob) would tithe 10%. Twenty years later he returns and erects a pillar and anoints it with oil and pours out a drink offering.
II Samuel 23. When David was hiding with his army of 600 men in a cave from Saul and the Philistines he declared his desire for a drink of water from the well at Bethlehem. There was ample water supply in that cave, but three of those hearing him took it upon themselves to fight spectacularly overwhelming odds against the Philistine army camped there and fought their way in and out to bring David a container of water from the well. He poured it out on the ground as being purchased by the very blood and being of those men and something he was unworthy to drink. This is Oscar's favorite passage of scripture. The story is also found in I Chronicales 11.
Then he polled the group for the seven things that Jesus said while on the cross and the group came up with the list including "It is finished", "Forgive them..." "I thirst." Six of the seven phrases were directed to God or to the welfare of others. Only one was directed to the needs of Jesus Himself. Oscar then related this back to the drink offering of Jacob and the implied drink offering of David in the cave and to Paul when he said "I am about to be poured out as an offering.." .
Jesus was the ultimate drink offering and he looks at us and says "I thirst". It is like saying "I want a drink offering from you. Bring me everything you have and want to be". You know what he is asking from you. "Put yourself here in this container and let yourself be the one who takes away my thirst. Until nothing is left back".
Those team members not headed to the airport for an afternoon flight home had the option of going on a bus to the Masaya volcano, on another bus to Catarina or having a free day to explore on their own. A busload chose the volcano. Only one person chose the Catarina option so that option became a non-option.
Before going to the airport or the volcano those buses will go to the church dedication that I had understood to be scheduled for yesterday.
Some of the staff went with the volcano group. Other staff members went exploring on their own. Juanita and I had planned on helping at the Medest grounds but when the service ended we were told we had the day off because they were taking the pickup and they only had room for five people. Five minutes later, before we had finished putting away chairs, we were informed that plans had changed. They were taking the van not the pickup.
There would be room for us.
We had forty minutes to find lunch and get back to the van. We hustled up the street. I stopped to buy a jug of water for later and Juanita carried onto the room for a pitstop. When I got back to the room and dropped off the water we speed walked several blocks further up town and across to Tele Pizza since they had pizza by the slice and everybody else is painfully slow getting food ready. Grabbed some slicers of pizza, two cans of Coke Zero, two straws and rushed back down to the Hotel Granada on the one way street the van would be taking if it needed to leave before we got back.
It was still there so we sat on the curb and ate our pizza. Seven of us left for the Medfest grounds, dropping one off in Masaya on our way. A number of Nicas were there, but the big truck was not there yet, so we sorted stuff and put the tables back in their boxes and moved stuff out of the building onto the sidewalk to facilitate loading. When the truck showed up it was quickly loaded and it ambled off to the warehouse with a bunch of young Nica men riding on the load and a van load of staff following. Juanita and I stayed with the rest of the stuff and visited with the director of the school and a pastor's wife and her daughter while we waited for the truck to return.
Shortly before the truck came back Ben showed up with the new visitors and Indy and her Dad and gave us some money to give to Phillip to cover the cost of the second truck load. Then they took off and the truck arrived and we loaded it, locked up the school rooms and and followed the truck to the highway. When we got to the Masaya/Granada/Las Flores/Catarina roundabout the truck headed to the warehouse in Las Flores and we headed back to Granada. Back to the Hotel Jerico and unloaded some empty suitcases to be distributed amongst staff for return to the States and some battery drill and impact drivers for Byron to share out likewise.
Byron and Susan were out so we put the stuff for Byron in our room. Martha visited with us briefly and used some bottled water to mix some medicine for one of the kids and left for her hotel. We showered and were ready to check out a different Chinese restaurant that Phillip had pointed out as we came through town. But first I headed down to the Hotel Granada to cash in my ferreteria receipts since they were in Cordobas and I didn't want to exchange more dollars and then get more Cordobas. While there I ran into Byron who was getting the pickup ready to take to wash but still needed to follow my advice about how to get the dent out of the fender. After we had figured out the name for a toilet plunger and asked the Spanish only desk clerk about getting one and explaining that he didn't need the room number since we did not have a plugged toilet, we just wanted to use the plunger to fix the dent in the truck.
I waited at the desk for the plunger (estacadora) while Byron went for some soap and water. He came with the water in a pop can and the soap lathered onto his hand. The maid came and wanted to know which room needed a plunger. The desk clerk explained that we wanted it not a room. There was no plugged toilet. Eventually she returned and I grabbed the plunger and we went across the street to the truck. I have always used liquid soap and poured it on the plunger face to get a good seal. Byron sprinkled water on the fender. I told him to soap up the plunger. He looked at the plunger. He looked at his hand. I said, "Oh, go ahead, soap up the fender." He did. I gently deflated the plunger onto the dent in the fender and then briskly pulled the plunger toward me. The fender went "ping" and the dent was gone. After a careful inspection it was declared as good as new. I took the plunger back to the desk, caught the eye of the desk clerk dealing with some guests and put it around the corner in the side room next to the desk. Byron left to wash the truck and I left to get Juanita and go for dinner.
I had planned on going to the square and getting the paint on my shoes polished off before dinner, but it was now well past sundown and the old guy I like there would be gone. There was a man carrying a shoe shine box ahead of me a few paces and rather than telling him to wait for me I went into the hotel and moved a bag and then tried to find him on our way to dinner. No luck. Oh well, they'll still be dirty and paint covered tomorrow.
We went to the Chinese restaurant. Much brighter than the other one. The fried rice was okay, but not as tasty as our usual Chinese restaurant and they hosed us on the price of beverages so we will return to the other one next time we hanker for Nica Chinese food. On our way home we stopped for a couple of scoops of ice cream and then back to the room. The light was on in Byron and Susan's room. Susan and Toby were there so I delivered the suitcase of drills and a couple of throat lozenges. Then we ran into Byron and I went with him to clean the paint off the seat of the truck while he moved stuff that belonged at the warehouse from the truck to the Turbo Grace van. We went and got the truck filled with fuel for return to the rental agency at the airport tomorrow.
Back in our room there was nothing worth watching on TV. Juanita took out her contacts and went to sleep. I surfed through less then half of the channels before I followed her good example. Great! We can sleep in tomorrow, unlike our unfortunate brethren who have to be at the Hotel Granada with their luggage by 4 a.m.
January 20 (Sunday)
This is the third and last day of serving breakfast at 6:30 and the Hotel Granada has mastered the task. Tomorrow they will revert to their regular schedule and people will also not all be trying to eat at once to make it onto their buses.
All the tin is painted and piled ready for installation on the auditorium and there are more than enough people from the donor church to work on it so I will join one of the evangelism buses. Despite voting myself off the construction island Juanita and I still ride with Byron and Martha in the pickup. We get loaded up and leave, letting the buses and vans fill at their pace and we head for Henry's house in Masaya where we left the extension ladder yesterday. Henry is ready and the ladder gets quickly lashed on and we arrive at the Medfest grounds with the first bus.
Just before the music starts for the worship service I grabbed a chair from the rows assembled in the sun and joined some sensible Nicas in the shade of their tent. We visited a little. When the Americans were asked to come to the front and do a motion based song, I kept a low profile and stayed with the Nicas. They laughed when I told them I was Canadian and the annoucer had specifically requested Americans.
After the worship service Oscar Brooks talked about being in various places and eating things that we think of as strange such as snake, monkey and dog. He said he brought some Korean brothers to Nicaragua and they questioned that there was hunger in Nicaragua because there were so many dogs on the streets. Obviously people had more than enough to eat in the presence of such abundance. Then he started quoting various scriptures that mentioned scrolls with the word of God starting in Zacariah 5 with the flying scroll with writing on both sides. Other examples were given and God's command to eat what was given.Time belongs to God. You may think you have time but today is the day of salvation.
Oscar related the timing of the eating to hitting a baseball. You have to be paying attention ahead of time to the ball coming toward you so you can swing at the right monent. Hence if we are distracted from looking at God's will for us we will not be ready to act on it at the correct moment. The distractions can be many, but our job as believers is to focus on God's word for us and partake. He talked about his own life and how he was saved at age nine and first preached at age 12 and that God told him was going to be a missionary and preach around the world. This was unheard of. Nicaraguans don't become missionaries. So Oscar didn't know how these things were going to come about but he kept his eyes on God. He was excited about what he was going to do. He saw what was coming and when it came he grabbed it. The same opportunity is available to us. There is no accident in our lives. God has a plan. Pay attention to Him and what he has coming at you and seize it when he ready for you to have it.
He related a story about a brother who was distracted into an unadvised marriage and how a few years later ran into Oscar in a restaurant and wept hanging onto Oscar's legs in such deep sorrow because his wife's will for them was at contrast to what he knew was God's will for him, but he had chosen her and that choice was final. The scroll was coming his way, but his eyes were elsewhere and it passed him. What is God's plan for you? "Let me take that scroll and eat it" Ezekial said it was sweet. Are your eyes on Him? Is He in control of your life? Are you concentrating on Him? Zacaharias saw a beautiful vision, but a scary one. Oscar closed with the admonition to understand the timing of your vision.
Before the service I had asked Joe which bus was his and had left my hat and a water bottle on the front seat. At the end of the service I just stepped over the rope and got onto the bus. There were several Nicas aboard and we visited a bit until the team members joined us.
Along with the bus today there will be a van following the bus and joining in the outreach services. All the supplies were on the bus. It filled with people and we left pretty promptly with the van following. We turned right off the grounds and went in a direction away from the Masaya-Managua highway deeper into the countryside on the dirt road until we came to another dirt road and turned left. After a while we met up with a highway and turned right onto it. It looked familiar and I asked if it was the highway to Tipitapa. It was. A fair way along that highway we turned to the right, off onto another dirt road that eventually turned into a peanut field which we drove through until we reached a settlement.
The team had been a little loose with their schedule the previous couple of days, but today we had been told we needed to be at the church we finished the roof on to dedicate it. As we started rolling I stood up and introduced myself and said their leader, Joe, had allowed me along if I entertained them and did the curved illusion "which one is bigger" question holding up the two cards. They are both the same. Our eyes can fool us, but sometimes it isn't our eyes it is our way of looking at things. Then doing a "juggling" demo with a mandarin orange throwing it straight up and catching it and explaining my philosophy of juggling. (quantity doesn't matter). Stopping that I held the orange up saying "would you say this is mostly orange colored?" they agreed, but turning the orange so they could see it from my point of view it could be equally said that it was mostly green. Then the hand from sides hairy and freckled versus pink and wrinkly.
There can be two viewpoints that are opposite but equally accurate depending where the person is sitting. We can think we are being polite when we visit with our friends or visit with kids while handing out candy but from the perspective of the kids waiting it doesn't seem polite. There is a church waiting for us at the end of today. Somebody donated a couple of animals and they sold tehm and used the money to put up a few rows of blocks. They held bake sales to buy the rest of the blocks and now we had come and put a roof on their building and we would be dedicating it this afternoon and it would be great for them if we could all be there. Also told an anecdote about a team of military kids who got on the bus promptly each time and how they had an hour in the pool at the end of the day while the teams on the other buses never had time to swim. Nobody ever accused me of being subtle.
We stopped the bus in the collection of dwellings near the peanut field. I hustled off the bus to the van to give the 20 second version of why we have to be speedy today. There is a church is waiting to be dedicated and they are expecting us.
Some of us waited under a big tree with a pig tied to it with a rope while others went out into the neighbourhood to drum up a crowd. A crowd assembled. We sang songs. They joined in on some of them. A few people gave testimonies. Somebody delivered the gospel message and gave an invitation to accept Christ. Many did. A line was formed for those needing prayer and the kids were lined up for candy. Team members circulated among the adults until everybody had some candy and bags of rice and Gospels of John. Along about the time the goods were handed out everybody who wanted to be prayed for was prayed for and it was back onto the bus and into the van.
On the bus again and back out to the highway but rather than turning onto it we cross the highway onto the rutted dirt road and go several miles to a settlement. We set up in a wide spot in the road across from a small store. I buy a small bottle of "Big Cola" for five cordobas and somebody strings an extension cord into the store and across the road to where the musicians set up their sound system. A crowd gathers and the band sings, people give testimonies and then somebody with a microphone narrates the Evangecube explanation of salvation while half a dozen people operated their Evangecubes so everybody could see them:
After the Evangecube explanation of salvation there is a call for decisions. Many raise their hand acknowledging having made a decision. People are prayed for. Bags of rice, candy and Gospels of John are handed out. The sound system goes back in the bags. The extension cord is rolled up and everybody is back on the bus headed to the highway. On the way back to the highway sandwiches and water bottles are handed out. We get to the highway. The bus stops, and sandwiches and water are taken back to the van.
Once back on the Tipitapa highway the bus heads back toward Masaya. When we reach the intersection with the Granada- Managua highway Joe goes back to van. The bus does a detour through Masaya to drop off a bag. There are narrow spots. One spot we crept through while the owners of the cars on either side of the street hovered nervously. There is sheet metal in bus door where there used to be glass so the driver stops and opens the door at intersections. We head to the Las Flores rotunda and take the road toward Catarina and the first side road into a neighbourhood. The van is already there. We set up on the edge of a football field. Set up sound system with an extension cord into the nearest house. Crowd gathers and so on.
We head for the Medfest grounds ahead of schedule.
Today there were small crowds at our team's meetings, but overall 360 people put up their hands that they had decided to receive Christ.
When we get to the Medfest grounds, we see that the roof is now on the auditorium despite the wind. They used only one set of workers to apply roofing. That meant they could use a ladder and "bucket brigade" to get the tin onto the roof. They did not need to use clamps. We learned that Byron went home to hotel to rest as he is not feeling well. My assumption was that he had taken the pickup and I would need to grab a bus. Wrong, but we'll get to that.
Medical services were winding down and the last prescriptions being handed out. The auditorium was dedicated with speeches and prayers by all including the school director. All the team members went to the church across street (Pastor Irving) and a collection taken for them to buy the lot out front of the church and for Pastor Gilberto for some of his needs. c The teams walked down to the street to a house and property for sale about two blocks away. It would make a good team headquarters. Juanita was still working at the pharmacy with Martha so I called Martha's phone and encouraged Juanita to come see the place and walked out on the raod to meet her so she knew the way. We did a quick walk through and she said that Martha should see it too. I called Martha and she said that she would come and I said I would meet her on the road. I walked all the way back to the pharmacy where she was just coming out. She said she didn't need help finding the place so I walked across the street for some cookies and crackers to tide us over to supper since it was getting dark. The store keeper was friendly and wanted to talk and we talked awhile. as I stepped out of the store the first bus was leaving and I flagged it down and got on. They said that Brother Ben was looking for me so I cried "abajo aqui" at the driver and got off again and walked around the corner to discover the pickup sitting there with Juanita in it worrying that I would be left behind. I called Ben and told him I was found and got in the pick-up. Phillip had driven Byron home and come back with the truck. Oops. I hate to inconvenience other people.
Turned out that the church dedication I had been so rammy about getting people to on time will be held tomorrow. Well they got back for the other stuff they were supposed to be at.
Site clean-up tomorrow. Most of staff fly out day after tomorrow.
So off we go back to town. We both shower and head off for pizza and spaghetti. How is that low carb?
Early to bed with devotions tomorrow at 9 we might catch up on some sleep. We plan to eat breakfast at our own hotel.
January 19 (Saturday)
Last night I swallowed my two white (non-drowsy) cold pills about 8 pm and lay down to doze off while the TV failed to keep me awake. As I lay down I realized I should have taken one red pill. Didn't think that adding the red pill to the two white pills would be a good idea. When I woke up at 4 this morning I briefly contemplated taking a red pill, but figured that would take on the risk of sleeping through the alarm so took another couple of white ones and went back to bed to lay awake until five and then get up and start getting ready. At 5:30 when the alarm went off I took a while getting to it and Juanita didn't budge but she must have jumped a foot when I touched her and said it was time to get up.
We went down the street to breakfast at the Hotel Granada which was scheduled to start at 6:30 and actually did. Before then most people were just grabbing cups of coffee and going back out into the lobby to visit. I picked out a spot at a table and started to write notes about yesterday and then moved to a different spot where the light fell better and the shadow of my hand didn't obscure what I was writing. Eventually people joined me and the line started forming. We joined it. By the time I had almost arrived at the buffet table the eggs were gone. The hotel kitchen was more on the ball today and by the time I reached the egg container they had replaced it with a full one.
I had a good visit with my table mates and then we went out to the bus line-up and eventually everybody loaded. The pick-up we were in filled right away so we left first.
The Turbo Grace van is back this morning after being out of service all week. Extensive repairs to the transmission and two new shocks and repairs to the air conditioner and the doors came to $US 500. Try that in the States or Canada!
The wind is still too high to consider slinging tin and screwing it onto the auditorium today. Before devotions started myself and another fellow started stacking tin in a pile with four sheets one way then four sheets the other way and so on with a couple of weighted sheets on top. Others joined in and in hardly any time we had half the tin stacked on one side of the auditorium and half on the other.
After the music stopped Oscar Brooks preached on revival. He mentioned three kings in the Old Testament and how revival had started in the land after they had started cleansing their own houses of idols and inappropriate objects. It is easy to tell people to clean up their lives, but harder to clean up our own life. Usually if leaders clean up their lives and seek God then the people will follow. The kings all seemed to have burned the objects or pulverized them and thrown them in the brook of Kidron. Made me wonder if it would be an EPA super site these days, but I digress. Kidron means a dark place with ashes which hardly seems like a place where revival will start, but that is where revival starts.
Oscar said that Kidron was where David went after he was confronted with his sin and repented and revival followed. He said that Jesus had retraced David's steps with eleven of His apostles and Oscar drew comparisons then wrapped up the message and we dispersed to our day's activities.
After devotions a couple of fellows finished the last couple of screws into the roof over the school principal's office and we grabbed the ladder, lashed it on top of Grace Turbo van and filled every seat plus one for sixteen people in a fifteen passenger Hyundai van. The mud flaps and bumper rubbed at the slighest bump even though the driver was being extremely careful and driving slowly. Our destination was the church we had started painting yesterday.
Once there, some of us started where we had left off. The church members had moved yesterday's 31 sheets of painted tin inside the church and put away the blocks we had used as paint stands. We set up the blocks again and put out the pipes for drying racks and started painting with two sheets with their edges down to start the two rows of drying tin.
Jesse Stone and Henry and a couple of others got the guide string strung on the side of the roof facing the road and were screwing down the tin that others were handing up to them. In hardly any time they had finished putting up all the painted tin from yesterday and today's tin wasn't dry yet, so they used five sheets of unpainted tin on the side closest to the road. Somebody then climbed up and paiinted the tin in situ. There were about ten sheets of tin unpainted at that point and we stopped painting and those unpainted sheets were used to start the side away from the road.
We moved the wet painted sheets more into the sun and cut and painted the ridge cap and set it to dry. The chicken somebody had gone for arrived and we all stopped to eat. When we resumed the tin was all dry enough and some slung tim and others screwed it down and others cleaned up brushes and moved blocks away and put away the pipes and wood we had used as drying racks.
Several of us started walking toward the highway to give Turbo Grace a break and then loaded on when it caught up. As we dropped off our three Nica helpers and the ladder Turbo Grace rode higher.
Home to shower and blog until Juanita showed up and she is now showered too and wanting to go eat so good night for now.
We walked up to the Hot Dog Connection of Granada by way of the town square where there was a large crowd of people assembled being haranged at high volume from a large stage. The speaker was female but her tone was Castroesque. Much police presence.
The HDC had nacatamales this week! We enjoyed one each and headed back home through a now emptying square with the main sound that of workers tearing down the stage. Still lots of police. Maybe they are there to guard the stacks of chairs waiting to be picked up. We check the menu of a steak restaurant we heard of. Expensive by Nica standards, relatively cheap compared to Regina. Might still be more than I'm willing to pay for my birthday meal next week.
We're still stuffed from the nacatamales, but figure that after the walk we can manage a scoop or two each. I leave it to your imagination who got the one scoop and who got the two. We ran into several Canadians from Ontario, one of whom knows a few of my distant cousins. We compare notes about what we are doing in Nicaragua and learn of a mutual acquantance at the Jeremiah Center in Managua. We also show each other pictures of what we have been up to. Also at the Eskimo are Joe and Gloria Garza. There is not much construction work left to do (wind permitting, hang the already painted tin on the auditorium) and lots of people to do it so I will join Joe and Gloria's outreach bus tomorrow.
Bed time. Good night. Must remember take a red pill for my cold.
January 18 (Friday)
Today breakfast is at the Hotel Granada for all group and staff members. It is 6:20 and Juanita is long gone. I'm still at the Hotel Jerico hoping to get a few minutes of keyboarding snuck in while waiting for my early breakfast. When that is done I will walk uptown to the ferreteria (hardware store) and pick up the suppplies we were too late to get last night. I just got a call with a few more items for the list.
The teams will load at 7:15 and head to the Medfest grounds. There should be thousands of people show up to see doctors and other attractions. Three busloads of evangelistic teams will head out in three different directions to hold three outreach meetings each today. There are twenty-seven planned meetings over the next three days. Breakfast is here, gotta run!
The text below was added later.
Breakfast came and I inhaled it and added chilled water to the coffee every time the level fell until it was cool enough to gulp down. Is that cutting a drug? A brisk walk to the ferreteria and grab the first item, two packages of four light bulbs. They are blister packed but the ends are exposed and the clerk takes the package and checks that each lamp works. While he did that I headed to the back of the store for things I knew about , but came back and asked for help finding a screw-in receptacle and WD-40. The WD-40 is for the bike repair ministry. Apparently WD-40 is not allowed on airplanes. Makes sense if you have ever played with it as a propellant in a potato cannon.
I phoned Byron and they were nowhere near ready to leave the hotel. Plan A had been for me to hang out at the coyote corner near the bank and get picked up on their way by. It is the corner of market street and a one way street that comes up from near the Hotel Granada. I start walking down this street towards the lake. The Cafe Euro sits about a block along this route. As I walked I brightened at the prospect of buying a coffee and a muffin and sitting on the steps of the Cafe Euro and waiting for my ride. The door is closed. The place opens at 7:30 not 7. The best laid plans of mice and muffins gang aft agley. I carried on my journey down the street the 6 or 8 blocks to the Hotel Granada.
Almost all are loaded by 7:50. Two buses leave. The last stragglers appear from the Hotel Granada. The third bus leaves. We bring up the rear of the procession with the pick-up. On the way we pass one of the first two buses stopped at the gas station fueling up. I ponder the level of planning and insight on the part of the bus driver to not have enough fuel before picking up passengers. I also ponder the likelihood of keeping all those independent people on the bus and the joys of getting them out of the convenience store and back onto the bus.
At the grounds we sneak past most of the buses and get close to the sound stage and unload the sound equipment. Everybody settles in and starts into preparations for the day's work. The announcement is made over the p.a. system that worship service is beginning. I head to the field. There are chairs lined up in rows in the full sun. The front half of the chairs are occupied by people sitting in the hot sun. I go to the back of the field to take some pictures and then grab a chair and sit in the shade under a tent. Eventually I am joined by a Nica pastor and about 20 family members. They too are too smart to sit in the open sun. Songs are sung. A message is preached.
Oscar Brooks' message started with the question "Who has been saved less than five years?" "More than five years?" Then he started in Genesis chapter 15. My very rough notes follow.
Abraham was a man of faith, but he was curious. He wanted to know "how are you going to bring to pass those things you have promised?" He believes God but asks "How do I know?" God asked him for five sacrifices. The first sacrifice was a 3 year old heifer.
Isaiah chapter 15 title could be "a prophecy against Moab". (vs1, vs. 5).
Jeremiah 48 - city named Zoar, also a prophecy against Moab (vs. 34)
Abraham was a hero, the father of faith, father of the Jewish people. We would say he is the father of three religions. His name means "father of nations". He is told to look at the stars and that he will have more descendants than that.
We believe in a living God, Muslims believe in a dead God. Nothing else can help you. Alcohol and women are temporary help.
The 3 year old heifer. There are three years that are most important in human history. They are the three years of Christ's ministry.
What God is asking with the three year old sacrifice - show me how you are going to live. Abraham is told to cut the heifer in half and in the night the fire will pass through it. Abraham became a great man. Abraham's nephews (sons of Lot) were Moab and Amon. Lot was told by God that because you did not bring me a three year old heifer...
Every person here, God has a great plan for you. He is asking for a three year old heifer. A sacrifice of ourselves. There are things that we may want or may need to bury/ to be sacrificed in order to become powerful in God.
After the worship service and message the medical teams get busy and the construction team moves our painting supplies to a shady spot. Volunteers leap in and start moving tin from the classroom it was stored in to the concrete pad of the auditorium. I intervene and get some of it redirected to a spot closer to the painting and not in the way, but you can't be in all places at once so a lot of it gets piled where the wind will catch it and where it will have to be moved an additional time. After a few pieces blow off the pile and get wrapped around a post the remains of a couple of concrete fence posts are put on top of the stacks of tin.
As the sheets are painted we lay them down in order to keep track. Also, if the sheets are kept close together the wind seems to have a harder time grabbing them. Still picks up a few, but fewer than if they are apart. We break for lunch. Most of the painting crew comes back after lunch. Better than yesterday.
I went for a lunch of cookies, pop and pastries across the street at the tienda. I sit in my chair in the courtyard and am joined by 5 or 6 team members. The storekeepers helper brings more chairs.
Byron, Henry and Jesse were busy finishing putting tin on the director's office in the morning. After lunch it looks like we are starting to run low on paint so Byron and Henry do a paint and paint thinner run. The paint is diluted about 10% since it is so thick to start with.
Once all the tin for the auditorium is painted seven of us head in a van to the church that needs a roof. When the van left us there, Byron rode back in it to get the truck which had been busy with other errands. We painted for a little over an hour and managed to get almost half the tin painted for that roof before Byron came by to pick us up. On the way through Granada, I hopped off at market street and went once again to the ferreteria to buy another clamp so we can have two teams hanging tin tomorrow.
When I got home I showered and washed and thought "I'm hungry" and polished off a bag of plantain chips from the emergency stash. When Juanita got home and cleaned up we went to Tele Pizza for salad. Lots of team members were there and we visited with some. Then we went to the Cafe Euro shared a brownie and had a smoothie and a cafe Americano.
We walked home. I took two white pills and crashed.
January 17 (Thursday)
Today the breakfast at the Hotel Granada was scheduled for 7 am, unlike plan A of 6:30. Juanita left early to be there. I opted for breakfast back at our hotel and a bit of keyboarding and arrived as the breakfast was ending, saving money, saving time and the frustration of lines and food outages on the buffet line.
Tomorrow is earlier yet and I will see if I can do breakfast here a bit earlier than the posted 7 am. If not then it will be having to be up horrendously early just to get a spot in line. The Hotel Granada doesn't seem to do crowds well. They put out a nice buffet and when it evaporates with the first people in line they then seem to start thinking about replacing the food for the rest of the people that have not yet eaten. With some exceptions I have never been particularly good with sharp elbows and as a nominal ministry member it would probably be inappropriate to assert my interests over those of team members that are here for a couple of days to participate.
We arrived downstairs early for chapel, in time to help put out chairs. The people who had gone to the airport last night were there this morning so there was a lid on ego outbreaks. Oscar Brooks gave one of his usual exceptional sermons. This was about King David and two events in his life and how he kept certain artifacts around right after those events to help him remember how powerfully God worked in his life. The takeaway for us was that this week has the potential for us to see powerful and mighty things and with the corresponding let down and attacks when we return to our regular life and that we need to keep those memories of the powerful alive in our minds.
Ben gave his usual flexi cookie lecture to help people remember how flexible we all have to be in the dynamic and occasionally suddenly static circumstances of a mission trip in a foreign country. Things change, things happen and occasionally things stop happening and we are all wondering what we should be doing. Adjust. Help others adjust and take it as a heads up if somebody tactfully suggests we may need a flexi cookie. Good advice.
Then we loaded up. Six of us rode in the five passenger pick-up. We started to set up with me in the front passenger seat and Juanita on my lap, but before we left I realized that the police give tickets for not having a safety belt if you are in the front so we moved to the back and Martha rode shotgun. We stopped at the warehouse to pick up a few items. By the time I had unentaggled my feet and got one leg out so Juanita could get out so I could get out the rest of the way it was almost time to get back in the truck. I helped close and lock the warehouse door and we all got back in the truck and headed to the Medfest grounds which quickly became a bee hive of activity for staff, team members and Nica church members.
Juanita worked with Martha most of the day, helping get meds and other stuff sorted out from the room it had temporarily been stored in to the rooms where it would be used. They and several others made sandwiches for all the staff and team members, the many, many Nicas that were helping and then again for the team that arrived from the airport later in the afternoon. Paul helped a bit painting the tin that was going to go on the roof of the principal's office, but mostly made sure others were painting the right sides and sizes of tin in the right quantities. Nica style tin application alternates which way the sheet edges go so you have to keep track while you are painting them or you get to the end and have to paint both sides of some sheets. This is wasteful of time and paint and, in the case of roofs open to below, looks tacky to be staring up at a few painted undersides. You can't just paint every second sheet differently, either. If there is an uneven number of sheets in each row along the length of the roof you need an extra sheet with the edge pointing down for each row. Oh. The reason we are bothering to paint the tin? Apparently the painted tin lasts twice as long as unpainted tin in the acid rain caused by the volcanoes in the area.
There were lots of helpers painting tin. This diminished greatly after we broke for lunch. Never break the flow. I started doing some painting myself until a few replacements showed up. During lunch I went to the tienda across the street and visited with the owner as I sat and ate in their courtyard like yesterday. Meanwhile his wife and a helper were rushed off their feet serving the gringos at the counter.
Henry (a Nica who does a lot of metal work for WOTC) and Jesse got most of the tin screwed onto one side of the roof of the school director's office which is two rows of tin wide and about 48 feet long.
Near the end of the day I felt the effects of too much sun and took a brief break in the room where Juanita was working and she fed me liquids until I felt better. Before quitting time I obtained some cold meds from Martha. Hopefully they will help me shake the minor bug bothering me. It was good to see some familiar faces from last year's team in the group arriving form the airport. It wasn't long after that we all loaded up and headed "home". We were in the same pick-up truck in the same passenger configuration and got away from the grounds in a timely fashion. Somebody had filled the back with suitcases and backpacks. They were mostly empty except for some on the bottom filled with Evangecubes for tonight's training session. The load settled on the rough road going out to the highway. That meant the ropes holding the load on the truck were not as tight as they once had been.
Somebody flagged us down and said we had lost two bags. They weren't there when we went back but we lost enough time walking back to check that we missed the closing time of the hardware store. Oh well, they open at 7 tomorrow morning. I guess I get to do an early morning walk after the early breakfast I arranged at the Hotel Jerico.
Martha got off at the market street to go to a pharmacy while we got off to go to the closed hardware store. Juanita checked with Martha but she declined the unparalleled experience of a foot long hot dog at the Hot Dog Connnection of Granada and carried on home without us.
We showered and changed clothes and after some keyboarding and visiting with extended staff members and staff members, went for a smoothie at the Chocolate Cafeteria and home for some cold meds and bed.
January 16 (Wednesday)
Today is the first nominal day of Medfest, a medical outreach effort in Nicaragua under the auspices of Way of the Cross Ministeries. The bulk of the teams will be arriving from the States today. The staff is in the process of moving from the Hotel Granada to the more humble abode of the Hotel Jerico so the team members get the nicer rooms.
Juanita will be helping Martha with room assignments and labels in the Hotel Granada. I will be helping Byron with errands and some pre-construction stuff. Things are a little confused at first and I took advantage of the confusion to do a little keyboarding while the move happened. Byron passed by on his way to his new room and said "we work together each day, but I check your blog at night to see what we did." I don't know if that is good or bad.
When everybody is moved in I join Byron, Steve and Jesse in the pickup truck and we head to the ferreteria (hardware store) and buy corrugated paint rollers, PVC pipe for flag poles, PVC fittings (for some reason tees are cheaper than elbows so we buy tees for the pole and the crossarm junction on the flagpole) and glue and galvanized pipe to drive holes in the ground for flagpoles. The galvanized pipe will be removed from the hole and the flag pole inserted. The galvanized pipe is a new thing. Last year we made concrete bases with a piece of PVC pipe one size bigger than the poles. The churches got to keep the flags, poles and bases. I don't suppose they will get to keep the holes this year. At least not take them home with them.
The pipe comes in 20 foot lengths. We cut it into 12's and 8's and take it to the checkout and ask for and receive a quantity discount. We carry it out to the pickup truck and lash it to the headache rack. There is enough stuff that we bring it to the truck in relays and Steve and Jesse spend some time at the truck guarding pieces. The truck is parked across the narrow street from the Oasis Hostel. They comment on the long-haired, hairy faced people coming and going through the hostel door. I mention that we had been there last week to check on shuttle rides to the Laguna de Apoyo and that the dorm rooms are only seven bucks a night. "Wow!" Then I mention that we stayed in a hostel in Lyon for a few nights last year. They look horrified. We leave for the warehouse.
We stop for fuel. I fuel up at the convenience store with an omelete sandwich and some high carb cocoa drink that has coarse ground bits of cacoa settled in the bottom of the container. You shake, drink and shake, drink until it is gone. Adios low carb.
At the warehouse we load water tanks, pipe tools and other supplies
We arrive at the Medfest grounds with the stuff from the ferreteria and the warehouse and drop it all off. There is a discussion with the people staying at the grounds about cleaning water tanks while we are gone and selecting a place for the table we will be bringing back.
We add Martha to our crew of teamsters and head to the Maxi Pali in Masaya for bread, ham, mustard, and soda pop. I notice that a SMALL jar of peanut butter is for sale for a mere 138 Cordobas ($US 5.75). That is a matter of observation, certainly none of us would buy a jar at that price. There are large jars of peanut butter kicking around, but they came frm Sam's Club in Managua so they were probably merely overpriced as opposed to horrendously overpriced.
We run by the warehouse and pick up the table for the water tanks and the other half of the extension ladder so the piece that is already on site will reach the eave of the auditorium. Back to Masaya to the ice plant for bags of ice cubes. On the way back to the Medfest grounds we choose a different road from the highway than we had previously used. We carry on down this road and things are starting to seem unfamiliar when we encounter a painted castle that none of remember seeing. Ever. After the u-turn it isn't too far back to the right cross road to the road to the Medfest grounds and we get to the Medfest grounds just after the team members having just arrived in the country. They came from the airport on a bus. Their luggage went to the hotel on another bus.
Sandwiches are made while the group tours Medfest grounds and get innoculated with the vision. The group starts lining up for sandwiches. I retreat to the tienda across the street to buy food and eat it sitting on rocking chair in courtyard with piglet, chickens, duck and ducklings. This is peaceful and restorative. A local pastor shows up to buy something at the tienda. My secret is exposed and I wander back to grounds and mingle a bit until time to head back to Granada.
On the way to the hotels Martha gets dropped off at market street to go to the pharmacy. Juanita and I get off to go to the ferreteria. At the grounds we had checked the roller profile against the metal profile.We buy three more paint rollers and some screws to fix one of the dentist chairs (canvas lounge chairs) and bring our purchases back to the room.
We went for some vile smoothies across the street from the Hotel Jerico. Don't order their smoothies containing ginger. There was way too much ginger. We went for ice cream to kill the taste of the smoothies. There is a bit of time to update the blog and then we rush to Hotel Granada to be on time for 7 pm chapel.
There is nobody else there. We try leaving but run into Martha and she herds Juanita and I back and we all start carrying chairs from the far flung corners of the lower levels of the hotel and setting them up for chapel. Others start arriving for the 7:30 chapel and finish setting up 61 chairs. Chapel starts more or less on the new time and then more and more people start arriving. We are probably about ten chairs short so we set up more laboring under the admonition for not setting up more at first. Lanyards get handed out to those who get them. Some people leave for airport to collect incoming team members. One airplane full of doctors has been cancelled. They are still in the States, scrambling to find new flights.
Worship service starts. It is interesting to watch people from various ministeries, each of whom is used to being the center of attention, work out their pecking order as they come together for the first time in a larger group. God will use us mightily despite ourselves.
All the non low carbs have done their thing and I am faint with hunger. Worship service ends and most of the people scatter. Juanita won't let me sneak away leaving just a couple of people to put the chairs away so we stay and expand the ranks of the handful by two more. We, the handful, return the chairs to their nooks and crannies so we can collect them at 7 tomorrow morning.
We go for fried rice and head back to the hotel to shower, wash necessaries and collapse in bed to be up at 6 am.
January 15 (Tuesday)
We ate breakfast at 7 am at our hotel and then walked down to the Hotel Granada for a quick cup of coffee with stragglers at their buffet breakfast.
We set up chairs in a banquet area for chapel. There was a lot of hammering coming from the next banquet room from a couple of workers knocking out the suspended ceiling. We were loud enough during worship and when the devotional started the workers were briefly quiet, but then hammering started again.
I slipped away from the group and went and visited the workers. Giving them them curved illusion tracts distracted them for a while and then I practiced my Spanish conversational skills with them. They wanted to know about me and if it was my first time in Nicaragua. I wanted to know what they were doing to the ceiling and roof. They explained they were making the ceiling the same as the ceilings in the area we were worshipping in. They explained that they would replace the obviously pinholed tin of the roof. We talked about the bamboo ceiling and I mentioned a couple of things I had noticed about how they had done it (sawing slots in the really big pieces of bamboo so they could get them straight and how they fastened them with redi-rod. They were pleased with that and said they had been replacing ceilings in the hotel with bamboo for five years. I mentioned that the first time I had stayed in the hotel was four years ago. I returned to chapel to hear the end of the message ( the reward for labourers hired at end of day and also the whole armor of God). Then it was time for prayer and seizing the day.
There was the usual commotion and confusion of filling several vehicles with many people and we were soon on the road to the Medfest site. I helped build tents and untangle what was left of a thousand foot plus coil of rope that had been approached by several people with more enthusiasm than skill while acquiring rope for marking off the field. Others pounded stakes to lay out the grounds and hold down tents and still others sorted medications.
We finished working available tasks and then visited with the Nicaragua believers who had taken down the roof from the principal's office. There had been talk of replacing the transite (cement fiber board) corrugated roofing with metal roofing. I take it from the activity that the decision has been made. If not it soon will be. They are beyond the point of return now. The Nica men swarmed the building and removed the old roofing to the bare rafters and purlins while the Nica women and children watched. Many of the roof panels have grapefruit sized holes in them, but many are okay. Men, women and children load the old panels on horse carts and off they go to be used on a nearby church. We all head home around four pm.
Juanita stays in the van and carries on to the hotel, but I get dropped at market street, go to the hardware store to see if they have paint rollers like I saw in Somotillo last year. They do. They match corrugated roofing. In Somotillo they had told me they were for fence posts or poles. I guess they would work for that too, but they are obviously for corrugated material. I ask the clerk if they were for "lamina" she says "no, por tin" pronounced "teen". I explain that they call it lamina in Mexico She says "not lamina, tin". I shrug and take my treasures to the cash register. While I am waiting my turn I read the label and it has 1-1/4" on the small paper label on the clear plastic bag the roller comes in. I start wondering if there are other spacings available, and leave my purchases at the front and go back to the paint department to look. There is another choice for corrugated roller. It is yellow while the first was white, but it seems to be the same size and density as the one I already had so I asked the clerk about pricing. The shelf label on the second choice was 85 Cordobas. The shelf with the one I had picked up first is not labelled. She checks the computer and the white one is 168 Cordobas. I put it back and take a yellow one.
The yellow one has a label and it says the roller is for "lamina, zinc, etc." I show the clerk the "lamina". She points and says "zinc". Also while reading the label I notice instructions for washing the roller with soap and water and start wondering if it is only good for water based paints, but read further and see one should use the same "deluyente" as for the paint you are using. I am reassured and carry on with the purchase, but I am reminded of the creeping effect of English on Spanish. Last year I went to the lumberyard in Somotillo looking for "deluyente". They looked blank and I explained it was for adding to paint or cleaning up after using oil based paint. They said of you need "thinner" pronouced "theenner" and brought out a bottle labelled paint thinner.
Other than a handle for the paint roller my other purchase was a c-clamp to try for passing the tin up for the auditorium roof. The structure is a lot higher than the normal churches and a bit too high to just hand up from the ground. Perhaps a c-clamp will work as an attachment point for a rope.
After the hardware store it was time for a walk through the congested market street to the Pali supermarket where I checked my hardware bag at the security counter and got a claim check before going in to shop for soap and some snacks. On the way back home through the square I stopped for a shoe shine.
I got back to the room and Juanita is out of the shower and a lot cleaner looking than when we parted company. I strip for shower. The only thing dirtier than my legs is under my socks. That fine dust gets everywhere. Shower and change. Too dirty to worry about wasting clean clothes by wearing them back out into the heat and humidity.
Before chapel we went to the China restaurant and share a huge mound of chicken fried rice (Arroz China - pollo).
On the way by the hotel we go back to the room and get a flashlight, get van keys from Phillip who is at the Eskimo so I can check the van floor for the missing rite-in-the-rain pen. Not there. Oh well.
We go to chapel. After breakfast tomorrow, the majority of staff are joining us at the Hotel Jerico to make room for the incoming American short-term medical mission team members. Juanita will work with Martha and others organizing room door signs and putting bottled water in rooms for the incoming team. I'll head with Byron to the hardware store to pick up pvc pipe for flag poles and a few other supplies before heading to the Medfest grounds with a handful of guys to set tent poles and perhaps get started on painting the tin before it goes up.
We probably will. This is the last night we get to sleep in until 6:20. After tomorrow we will need to be at the Granada for breakfast at 6:30. That will probably mean up at 5:45. Update - the 6:30 is deferred for one more day. Last I heard.
January 14 (Monday)
Bear with me gentle reader. It will take a few days to catch up. I have written out Saturday & Sunday on paper, but not transcribed it to the web site. Yesterday when I had the time window in the morning I was not in condition to commit to being at the computer in the lobby without being able to depart back to the room with hardly any warning. The notes are good so the daily blocks will flesh out okay, but maybe take a few days. After chapel tonight I entered today's doings in point form. It is almost a month later and everything below here on the page has been corrected and the pictures added. If you see any typos please e-mail me. Thanks.
We enjoyed our usual complementary breakfast at our hotel, Hotel Jerico, at the usual time of 7 am and then we walked down to the Hotel Granada to join the stragglers at their breakfast for coffee and then the whole group for 8 am chapel. Then we all loaded up for the warehouse and some went to work sorting a few things. Part of the group goes to scout out evangelism outreach sites for later in the week and part leave for the Medfest grounds to start gettingthings organized there.
The people who went to the Medfest grounds started by cleaning school rooms for use for the doctors, dentists and pharmacists and some rooms for supply storage. The school grounds are som dusty that a half inch layer of dust can form in a classroom overnight.
Those who stay at the warehouse load a five ton truck when it arrives and then all follow it to the Medfest site to unload it. Some follow it back to the warehouse to load it again.
We open the box containing the miter saw. Last time it was used somebody used it to as a chop saw to cut steel with an abrasive disk. That sure helps how smoothly the cutting motion works . We need to change the blade from a metal cut-off abrasive disk to a wood cutting miter saw blade. We have no wrench. We have a couple of leatherman type multitools amongst us. We try the plier on the multitool. Nope. Not going to work. We try the multitool as hammer and use a support rod as wrench. Nope. Not that either. We borrow a crescent wrench from the truck driver. That works. We can cut stakes for the site layout and pvc pipes for flagpoles and ...
We stop everything and button the site up while we go to the Masaya buffet for 2 pm lunch with the local pastors and their families. Juanita and I both have beef tongue this time. She likes it better than the chicken she had last time. On the way back from the buffet we stop at a lumberyard / door fabricating shop and buy some lumber for stakes to layout the Medfest grounds. Once back at the site some get busy cutting them to length with a pointy end and a blunt end.
Then it is back to the hotel to wash hands and arms. While drying hands I touch my nose with a towel for some unknown reason and leave a blotch of dirt on the white towel. I have almost enough time for a shower, but would then change into clean clothes and go out into non A/C word and come back sweaty in sweaty clothes. One of my low impact hobbies is to read about people hiking the Appalachian Trail. One hiker I read about commented that when she started hiking she washed every night and changed into clean clothes, but abandoned that habit when she realized that in the morning her hiking clothes were going to be just as sweaty as they were yesterday. We have no intention of going down that path. Well actually no intentions of going down those paths. Neither the Appalachian Trail or abandoning daily hygeine. However, unless particularly filthy or rank we will time our clean-up window to once we have settled in for the night. I must note that Febreze can make a handy delaying tactic to doing laundry. Not an option here, of course, travelling with only carry-on luggage and the realtive unavailability of Febreze at a reasonable price, but I digress.
We walk up to the square and get my shoes shined. A fair trade. Clean shoes for me and a dollar to somebody who needs it and is willing to work for it.
We are not especially hungry since we ate a couple of hours ago, so we go for smoothies and then it's time for 7pm chapel. Hunger is starting to surface so we walk to the China restaurant and share an order of the toughest grilled pork in the world.
We walk to the Eskimo ice cream parlor on the corner and have a single scoop of ice cream each as a night cap before heading home to our room. Juanita hits the shower first, while Paul enters a point form summary in the blog. And it is shower time for him and laundry time with washing clothes in basin. And, finally, bed.
January 13 (Sunday)
My day starts before dawn trying different Spanish Bible translations and the audio that goes along with them (with headphones, of course). If you can't sleep you might as well redeem the time. I also started an internal debate with myself on whether to take Cipro or whether the passing phenomenon that disturbed my sleep at 5 am is a passing phenomenon or is planning to hang around for a while as an unwelcome guest.
One translation was very old style Spanish read very precisely and slowly in almost a prissy tone. The second was modern language similar to American Standard Bible and the reader was more western hemisphere style Spanish. He also had a deeper voice, but talked faster than I could read along with. Eventually I just laid back and went with the flow.
We had our usual breakfast at 7 at our hotel. After breakfast I stayed at the table and wrote notes about our doings in my notebook. Juanita went to the computer to do e-mail. When I finish my notes I head for the room. Juanita is having trouble with her e-mail app. I start to sit down to see if I can help and the intruder that woke me is back. Sitting down right now is a bad idea. I think I will very quickly and purposefully go to the room and hope I don't fumble the key.
When the episode passed I grab our stuff and flag Juanita. She has solved her problem with windows and hotmail and is ready to leave for the Cafe Euro for coffee. We quickly pass throuh the quiet Sunday morning streets and arrive at Cafe Euro and I order a cranberry cheesecake, a zucchini muffin and a coffee for me. If things are happening faster than one would like perhaps it is a good idea to have some bulk in one's system and maybe a bit of binder.
We sit at our table near the open doorway enjoying our visit and the view across the street into a corner of the square. The church bells start ringing and the Beatles anthology playing in the backgrounds chimes in with "There were bells..." Impeccable timing.
We rush back to the room to pick up the stuff on the way by and then to chapel with the WOTC staff at the Hotel Granada. We arrive during the first song. After chapel a show of hands is asked for who wants to go to Catarina. We are part of a total group of 15. One van load. The van is to leave in fifteen minutes.
When we went to the room on the way to chapel I knew there was something I was supposed to pick up. I racked my brain. "I know!" "Ear buds!" Wrong. After chapel I rush back to our hotel and get the tracts I had meant to pick up the first time and rush back to not be the one holding up the van's departure. When we get back to the hotel we get in the van and sit down and listen to the negotiations of who sits where and if there is enough room for everybody. The last three people hover near the door debating if three people can fit in the three seats remaining. Finally they get in and we leave for Catearina, with a brief detour to Masaya to drop off one person who was meeting somebody at a local church.
Catarina is a town on the edge of a ridge left from a dormant volcano. Its specialty is selling plants and nursery stock, but at the top end of one street is a viewpoint overlooking Laguna de Apoyo. There are restaurants, and vendors and souvenir booths. You can rent binoculars to look down into the Laguna or across the Laguna to the city of Granada and Lake Nicaragua beyond it. There is a seating area to sit and look out over the Laguna and there are paths for the ambitious to walk part or all the way down to the Laguna. You can also rent horses and ride on the bridal paths.
When we arrived we were swarmed by jewelry vendors. I asked them if there was a restaurant selling nacatamales. They said no, but a motorcycle cab driver said he could go and get some. We discuss size and agree on a price and we agreed that that included him getting them and bringing them back in ten minutes. We had time so I went and looked in the viewing area for the guy selling CD's from last year. No sign of him, but the swarm of vendors hovering like black flies responded to my expressed desires to find him. They rustled up a CD vendor who had all sorts of gray market CD's, but he was not the guy who had sold us his CD's of pan pipe worship music. Should have bought more last year. Don't often say that! Oh well.
The cab is back. We pay for the nacatamales. We pay extra for transport. I had included the anticipated shakedown over a "misunderstanding" when agreeing to the purchase so I walked away happy with our nacatamales. We located a cement picnic table sheltered from the wind by a nearby restaurant. I don't think the table was part of the restaurant, but it was within its sphere of influence. Like an eastern European country and Russia. The waiter took a proprietary interest and offered to bring us bottled water or soft drinks at an inflated price. We declined. We laid out our nacatamales on the table and considered how to cut the string. While I was getting out the scissors attached to the mini leatherman I carried, a grandmotherly type in an apron came by and whipped out a butcher knife and cut the string on Juanita's nacatamale. I cut my own string but wouldn't have been above accepting help.
Speaking of help. When we opened up the banana leafs and surveyed the gooey contents within we realized we were going to need help eating these. We could use our fngers, but that would not be our first or even second choice. I got to use the conditional tense in Spanish for the first time in real life outside of a classroom. I addressed the hovering waiter. I would buy the drinks you offered us if you brought us utensils. He even brought napkins. Happiness all around.
After lunch I went to the viewpoint and rented binoculars and explored for a while. We checked out a few souvenir stands and met up with the others at the van. On the way back to Granada we went to the Masaya market. I followed Juanita around while she shopped for souvenirs for the grandkids. I may even have helped. :-)
We got home and had a rest and a read, Then we walked uptown to the Hot Dog Connection. Neither of us was hungry, but Juanita pointed out that I had told the girl we were coming today for nacatamales. If I only ate when I was hungry I probably would have a different silhouette. It doesn't usually take much convincing to get me to overeat. Off we went. They were closed. They close early on Sundays.
After chapel we had an ice cream at the Eskimo, watched TV and went to bed. Enough excitement for one day.
January 12 (Saturday)
We are up at the usual time to eat breakfast at the Hotel Jerico and afterwards head down the street to the Hotel Granada to infiltrate the group at breakfast and have a coffee while visiting with them. One couple in addition to the regular Way of the Cross staff is Mark and Debbie Roy from Sulphur, Louisiana.
After the usual worship, scripture and prayer of chapel we went over the team assignments and covered some of the material that is in the team leader binders. I am on Byron Kroger's team for construction. Juanita is on Martha Kroger's team for medical and pharmacy.
We moved suitcases which contain stuff for outreach and for Medfest and piled them in the lobby while we waited for the people to return with the plastic bags they went to purchase. Then we crammed people and bags into cars, vans and pick-up trucks and headed out. The first turn off the highway was onto a rough, narrow dirt road. It was made more narrow by the deep ditch men were digging down one side. As they dug they had piled the dirt on the remaining road surface which tilted the whole surface rather alarmingly.
Eventually we came to the site of the church which needs a roof. The pastor told how they had raised the walls to a certain height with money from selling some animals that somebody had donated and how they had, over a long period of time, bought enough materials to complete the walls by raising money through bake sales. Then he had taught himself to weld and the metal framework was now ready for the metal roof. One of the construction teams will be assigned during Medfest to paint and install the metall roofing. We prayed and then carried on down the road in the same direction we had come from the highway. In about half the distance we had travelled from the highway to the church over a much better road we arrived back at the highway. There is no accounting why anybody would use the first route.
Once we are back on the highway we head toward Masaya and then turn off the highway and go to the school which will be the Medfest grounds this year.
There are one or two construction projects on the Medfest grounds. This will be in addition to the tents and outreach by local chuches and the Medical, Dental and Pharmacy by the medical teams. The first and certain construction project for the visiting teams will be to apply a metal roof to the metal auditorium structure which has been built over a concrete basketball court / assembly area. This is a huge area and th roof is very highHuge area, high up. Since the church in Chicago supplied the funds for the structure and the roof, no further work will be done on it until they arrive.
The other possible construction job will be to remove the cement fiber board roof on the school directors office and replace it with metal roofing. It is a good sized area, but not particularly high off the ground. Funding is still uncertain for this. I guess we will know next week.
While others checked out the grounds I hung around outside the school grounds at the truck with the bags to keep an eye on them, but utilized the time to visit with the locals and the ice cream vendor with his pedal cart. The locals enjoyed watching and receiving curved illusion tracts. The ice cream vendor wasn't going anywhere as long as there were North Americans wandering around. I told them there would be a lot more people here from Monday on.
We all headed to the buffet in Masaya. There was not a good parking spot for the pickup truck so we went around the "block" which with one way streets and not quite grid layout of Masaya was a big block indeed. By the time we got back there was a parking spot opening up right in front so we took it. There was a bit of jostling over who would stay with the truck and watch the bags. I lost and went inside and ordered tongue from the cafeteria style serving line. Juanita ordered chicken. She said next time she would order tongue. The food was fine and quick although not necessarily a bargain.
When we all finished eating we went to the warehosue and sorted meds, outreach items for the 40 or so local church outreach booths that will be on the Medfest grounds.
We also sorted tent parts, and tools. There is an ongoing cycle of sorting with the tent parts since they have come from different manufacturers at different times and the pieces are similar but not quite the same. All the tubes are painted white. Some of the tents use tubes all the same length and others use slightly different lengths.
The tents are used for various events throughout the year. Mostly with WOTC staff, but ocassionally just by locals. This too-many-cooks situation means that at various times some tubes have been labelled to assist in assembly. and some have been duct taped together so they are were matched with the right length mating tube. Of course, other cooks have cut the tape off and even cut some of the tubes when they didn't understand the system or hadn't taken the right parts from the warehouse to a site or maybe thought they were helping. Overall if you want teh pieces for a tent you have embarked on an adventure. We set aside enough pieces that we know we have enough piees even if there might be a few extras.
Oh yeah, to replace some missing tubes a few pieces of white PVC water pipe have been added to the mix. They don't have quite the same structural properties of white steeel pipe,but they look about right and fit about right.
We have all the passengers for the pick-up so we leave the warehouse for Granada slightly ahead of the others. The pick-up gets waved down by a cop coming out of the Masaya/Catarina/Granada roundabout. It appears that was an illegal lane change in the roundabout. There are three policeman present. There may be "safety in numbers", but not when it comes to settling a ticket on the side of the road. With three cops not one of them is going to take a bribe. The policeman explains that is he taking the driver's license of the truck driver and giving him a ticket. If he gets stopped again he should present the ticket to the officer stopping him. He must go to a bank and pay the ticket and take the receipt for payment to the police station. Since the truck was rented in Managua he will have to go there to reclaim his driver's license. A following vehicle with a better translator stops. Nothing can be worked out on the side of the road. The driver now has a ticket and no driver's license until he reclaims it. In person. In Managua. After paying the fine in Masaya.
We ride back to town and arrive at the Hotel Granada. I find Juanita who was traveling in one of the vans and we walk back to the Hotel Jerico and wash some of the dirt off our faces, hands and arms. We go out into the street and run into Ben, Indie and Jesse. They had just missed the time to purchase cell phones for the staff and said they were told that there are no celll sales from 5 pm Saturday until Monday morning.
It is getting dusk when we get to the square, but the 80'ish guy that does my shoes is there so I get a shoe shined to take off the day's dust and grime. It is shift change on the square and one of the night shift people hangs her shawl on the nail in the tree that the shoeshine guy uses for his backpack. He says something to here and pinches her butt as she passes him to head further into the square. We pay up for the shoe shine and head to the Hot Dog Connection in search of nacatamales and on our way there check the market street for cell phone vans. Sure enough. None there. Who would have guessed?
The Hot Dog Connection doesn't have nacatamales ("nacatamales today?" "no" "you lied" "tomorrow. I promise") so we walk back to the sign we saw on a side street and stick our head in through their door into their living room and they don't have nacatamales but for sure next week. Just as well. If the living room was that grimy what's the kitchen like? We head to Tele Pizza for a couple of quick slices of pizza out of the display case and then for coffee and torta and then to the Hotel Granada for chapel.
After chapel we head back to the room, our clothes soaked with sweat in the heat and humidity. A quick shower and briefly watch a creepy TV crime show and then to sleep.
January 11 (Friday)
Today was the last day of lessons, It had sort of a Friday feel and a last-day-of-school feel, with the cognitive dissonance of not wanting to leave anything undone and lack of will to make an exceptional effort to prevent that.
For lunch we walked uptown to the Hot Dog Connection of Granada and I asked about the nacatamales they had said they would have today and was told "Not today. Tomorrow."
We had walked uptown on a parallel street looking for a barber shop on our way to lunch and not found the one that I remembered being there last yer, but did pass a store sign that said they had nacatamales on Saturdays & Sundays. Since the HDCoG didn't have nacatamales we decided on Cafetin Claudia. Nothing if not original. Since it was almost as far in the other direction we might as well check for a barber shop a few blocks further down market street. I had talked to a young lady in the doorway last week to get the Spanish word for scissors and a suggestion on a store for same. She was still in the doorway and said the person who did men's hair was off and they would be there tomorrow. She did offer to paint my toenails and give me a manicure. I wasn't a bit tempted especially when I walk around town wearing flip flops most days.
When asked she gave us directions to a barbershop a few blocks further up the street just short of the Pali (a local supermarket). El Barberia Sultana welcomed us and quoted a haircut and a beard trim for a hundred Cordobas (US$ 4.17). A bit overpriced by local standards but why make somebody angry who is about to be holding a straight razor to your throat. Other than a few hygenically challenged parts such as when he sprayed my face (AND LIPS!) with Nica tapwater and later brushed his work with a brush full of perfumed talc that almost subdued the rank smell of the sweat of a few hundred prior clients he did a great job. Juanita was happy and she is the one who has to look at me.
Since the Pali was only half a block more we went there and bought some mouthwash (we checked prices at a small pharmacy earlier in the week and took a pass on the price) and some coffee. I used a bit of the mouthwash in the parking lot to rinse my lips and mouth. Not usually too much of a germophobe, but some things get to me.
We got to Cafetin Claudia after the lunch rush, but they still had what we wanted to order except Juanita's first two choices for natural fruit drink.
Back to the room. Read. Surf. Relax. Update blog.
The WOTC team arrived today. While I was blogging Juanita had seen and chatted to a few of them. When I reached a stopping point and it was getting on to supper time we started walking down the street to their hotel and encountered three of them and headed off to dinner at the China place. We did a repeat on last night's meal except Juanita opted for the chip style plantains. I tested one and it was an immediate unsubtle reminder not to go down that path.
Everybody met at seven pm for chapel at the Granada Hotel and we joined them. Worship and prayer and a bit of a foreword on the schedule for tomorrow and the coming week.
Back home to the hotel. Write in blog for today. Head for bed. Tomorrow starts early.
Reading about the Pan-American Highway today I thought of a Tale of Buddy and added it for your pleasure.
January 10 (Thursday)
A pretty quiet day. I'll tell you about it tomorrow, right now it is past supper time and I still have my notes to review for any last questions for my tutors. Tomorrow is the last day of Spanish classes unless something opens up in our schedule. The WOTC staff arrive in Managua midday tomorrow and we will fall into whatever schedule they have.
It is now "tomorrow" I'll flesh out the point form summary left in this box yesterday until I'm done or the mosquitoes biting my ankles drive me away.
Mostly I have been wearing some tee-shirts of some quick drying modern technology. Probably not the sort of thing to wear in a fire as they would melt onto your skin, but they sure wick away sweat and they can be washed in a hand basin and dry in a couple of hours in front of a fan. I tried the same trick with a cotton shirt and wore it to breakfast, planning on it being my shirt du jour. On the insistence of my fashion consultant I changed before class and we assembled a package of similar items for her to take to the laundry after walking me to class. We picked them up after class and Juanita was telling the owner that she was so glad to come in this morning and see him there so she could talk English to somebody. I flinched a bit as she started talking as I thought she was going say she was glad to see him there and not in jail. He might be a bit sensitive on the topic. We had managed to pick up our clothes the day before the police took him away last March. Other guests at the hotel had not been that fortunate. Last week he told us he had been in jail until September. I figured my saying that we were glad to see him there and his troubles behind him was already pushing the envelope of intrusiveness. But, of course, Juanita knew enough not to raise the subject again,
But back to the shirt. They must pull it from the dryer at the right moment it was not at all wrinkled especially compared to the morning.
Class went okay with its usual ups and downs. Nice to have the Laguna de Apoyo to talk about rather than where we ate lunch and so on. I had known for years that placement of the adjective "nuevo" (new) changed its meaning from a brand new car to a used car that was new to you. Today I learned that there were a number of other adjectives that behaved similarly like a friend who is aged versus one you had had for a long time, or water that is pure versus ordering purely water and nothing else and so on. Nice feature. Of course other adjectives like good and bad don't care whether they lead or follow and mean the same either way.
When lessons get repetitive the teacher will interject with questions. Often they are pretty basic like about your country or family, but one of today's was interesting. I had already answered earlier a question about kayaking or sailing and danger. I replied that either can kill you, but it largely a matter of knowledge and experience and went on about water temperature, etc. Later when things were flagging came the question about jealousy and what causes it and who is more prone to being jealous, men or women. The first part I answered and said it was like kayaking a matter of "experience and knowledge". After the laugh the discussion became two-way and looked at the differences in cultures. Still struggling to hear and come up with words and verb conjugations, but that is a discussion not possible a week ago.
We ate lunch at Cafetin Claudia and went back to our room briefly before walking up to the town square and having some sugar free smoothies and sat on the veranda across from where the horsedrawn carriages wait for clients. Eventually we headed to Cafe Euro and drank a cup of coffee while I finished my mystery book and Juanita read her Kobo.
On the way to and from the we stopped and watched the construction of the addition to the cathedral. Safety standards are a little different here than in Canada. Nicaraguan practices for rigging, hoisting and fall protection would get you thrown off a job site in Canada.
We got back to the hotel and I wrote up yesterday's trip to Laguna de Apoyo and then it was supper time and we walked to the cart outside the Chinese Restaurant and ordered street cart chicken.We thought we'd pass on the banana chips (platanos verdes) this time and order chicken, salad and bananas "maduras". Rather than being thin, crispy, greasy bananas chip made in a factory these are made from plantains cut lengthwise and then into pieces two or three inches long and fried until they are soft and dark and look like candied yams. They are greasy, but it is a grease that seems to sit better than whatever they use to make the chips in the factory.
Rather than do the take away and sit on a bench in the street like last time for about fifty cents each more we went inside and the waiter brought our street cart chicken to the table presented on a banana leaf on a tray with the salad and the plantains. She even brought napkins and knives and forks. Better than digging through a leaf bundle in a bag on a park bench. Didn't have to go home to wash my hands this time. Used the restaurant sink.
Went home anyway after dining and watched a couple of CBS shows mostly in English with Spanish sub-titles.
January 9 (Wednesday)
This is a day off.
A day off from eating sensibly.
A day off from lessons for Paul and going to the Cafe Euro for morning coffee for Juanita and to Cafetin Claudia for lunch for both.
We ate our regular breakfast that comes with the room - scrambled eggs, cheese and instant coffee. Walking up the street toward the town square we stopped for some perc'ed coffee and a torta de leche puddin for about 75 cents each for the combo. The torta is definitely not even "loosely" low carb. It is a five inch square of cake heavy almost to the point of sogginess with milk pudding. Quite sweet, too. :-)
There is a bus terminal about half a block from the square used by mid-sized buses (between a very fat van and a school bus in size). There was one passing the square mostly full of seated passengers but all the standing room still available. The conductor was yelling "Managua", "Managua" Managua" to encourage more passengers to board. We let it pass. There was one of the oversized van type buses sitting at the curb while they unloaded a bicycle frm the roof. It was marked Managua so we got on board and I told the conductor when he got back from unloading the bike that we wanted to get off at the road to Laguna de Apoyo. It wended it's way through town and got to the highway to Managua, but a few blocks up that veered off back into the city streets. I paniced briefly, but realized we must be going to the local terminal for buses that size. Sure enough. A few blocks later the bus stopped and the conductor directed us off and yelled "Laguna de Apoyo" in the general direction of the bus waiting at the front of the line before the bus we had been on took off to troll for more passengers in town.
We waited with the handful off pre-existing passengers as others boarded. One guy got on with a sack and sat across the aisle from us. I asked him what was in the sack and he informed me it was plantains from the Island of Ometepe. I told him about our trip there and where we had stayed and he told me a few things half of which I understood. I gave him a curved illusion tract in Spanish which delighted him. When the bus filled and we were out of town I made my way to the front and made sure the conductor knew where we wanted off. On my way back I managed to distribute a few more of teh curved illusions to the people in the bench seat across the back and then to the conductor when he came to collect fares. He charged only 20 Cordobas which is a pretty large portion of the 24 Cordoba fare for going all the way to Managua, but I guess that is part of the price of being a gringo. Might as well accept it with good grace. Especially if handing out tracts.
When we walked across the four lane highway to the corner with the road going to the Laguna de Apoyo there were a couple of women waiting for the bus. They were happy to accept some curved illusions as well. When a taxi with a passenger in the front seat stopped and offered us a ride for a hundred Cordobas all the way to the Monkey Hut Hostel we accepted and got in. The bus only goes to the rim of the caldera and then one has to wait for a taxi there or walk. Last year we walked and that was okay, and a kilometer or two downhill on a very steep grade is something my legs can handle, but not without obtaining revenge the next day.
We beat the crowd of day passers and got the table on the veranda were we quickly settled in to read and surf looking out on the Laguna de Apoyo - a lake in the crater of an extinct (we hope) volcano. Juanita went and brought back two cups of their perc'ed complementary coffee. When I finished mine I wandered the property a bit and took some pictures and talked to the guys making the excavation where the kitchen had been next to the wood-fired pizza oven. The oven was on its own to one side under its own little roof looking a little abandoned so asked if it was still in use and did they still have pizza. One of the guys asked if I wanted pizza and I said later, but not right now. He assured me they still had it and pointed to the relocated kitchen on the other side of the property.
Getting close to lunch time I went and ordered a pizza and along about the time it was due to come a rain squall came up and the strong on-shore wind was blowing the raindrops all the way across the veranda onto our table. We relocated ourselves and our stuff inside to the only two stools at the breakfast bar and watched our pizza being carried around the excavation from the oven to the kitchen prep area. It arrived and we paid and enjoyed the super thin whole wheat crust and the cheese, pineapple and ham toppings. Also not low carb, but it was our plan to have a day off and we are enjoyably executing that plan. Just as our pizza was about finished the rain stopped and a couple settled into our table, but we found a good spot across from each other at the 10 person picnic table on the veranda. I got out a tablet of paper and continued wriing out the conjugation of various verbs thar I had started a few days ago. Before I was done the table became free so Juanita went and claimed it while I stayed at the picnic table until my goal was reached for today's exercise. A Dutch couple joined me and we talked about studying Spanish in English (their English was better than my Spanish will ever be). They asked about how to say something and I told them they didn't want to learn Spanish from me, but looked up the imperfect tense in "Getting Beyond Beginners' Spanish" in the Kindle app on my iPod and they took turns reading its description of the Imperfect tense. We chatted a bit, then the husband left and then I left to get changed for kayaking.
Kayaking was a drag. The strong on-shore wind made the tiny kayak pitch most uncomfortably and the last foot rest was too close (my knees were in the way of the paddle) and resting my feet past the foot rests with them next to my ankles meant all the forces had to countered by my calf muscles when paddling against the wind. I didn't keep it up for long before retreating to the veranda. Later, after getting more of a fill of reading and relaxing we relocated closer to the shore so Juanita could take pictures and I went out again for a longer session of kayaking. I adjusted the seatback as best it could be, but it offered little enough support that when I paddled with the wind on the way back to shore I sat crosslegged. Probably not a normal kayaking posture, but it rested my back. The experience was overall not that great, but also a great reminder that one needs to test drive a model of kayak before purchasing. Half an hour was okay. A day in a kayak configured like that would make a chiropractor rich. I left the camera's float in the States and my glasses on shore (the float for them was back in Granada) so you will have to take my word and blurry memories that the view from the water was grand.
Along about four I changed and we paid our tab and I headed for the gate and Juanita headed to the washroom for one last use before heading back to Granada. The security guard at the gate checked my receipt for the tab and asked about the second person that was notd on there. I explained where she was and that she would be there shortly. He also wrote down the amount we paid on his clip board. Checks and balances. While we were waiting for our cab to show up at the appointed time I managed to get rid of a few more curved illusions with the gate guard and the construction workers working on one of the new buildings being built near the gate. The cab had seat belts for the backseat, but no buckles to put them in. He assured me the police only cared about the front seat belts and it was more dangerous to wear the back seat ones than to not wear them. He had a story about somebody who was killed by his backseat belt in Masaya. I grumbled about it, saying that I was more afraid of Physics than of the police, but in the end there isn't much one can do about it so I settled back and enjoyed the drive to Granada. He dropped us at the corner near our hotel.
We dropped our bag in the room and walked up to the market for a watch battery for Juanita's watch. On the way we passed a restaurant with a grill in the doorway stacked with hamburger patties and a sign advertising hamburgers for 35 Cordobas each (US$ 1.46). I asked about tax and it was included. We carried on to the table on the sidewalk where they sell and install watch batterries and we bought one and he installed it for 50 Cordobas. Back to the hamburger stand. When we said we eating it there they set up a table and two chairs in the street. A two handed hamburger with lettuce tomato and condiments for that price. Almost as good as Velma Dini's. Juanita even ordered a side dish of hot sauce. I ate mine. Burger, bun and all. Juanita had been watching the woman press the buns down on the grill with her bare hands and managed to eat the insides of the burger without eating the bun. Lower carb and probably lower microbes as well.
Walking back up the street to the square again we settled in for a limonada each, Very tart. Not much sugar, but still probably best confined to a day-off scenario.
Back to the room scan the TV offerings and soon shut it off and go to sleep pretty early,
January 8 (Tuesday)
There was a link that came in today for Living Waters' new movie Genius with many references to John Lennon. I enjoyed it
Learning a new language can be humbling. I have been bumbling away at learning Spanish for a number of years and tend to lose much ground each summer in the north, but am generally much improved over several years ago. Nevertheless it was additionally humbling today when I noticed that the books the tutors were using with me were mostly level one of six.
Despite my realization of how far short of fluency I am, lessons went okay this morning. I had paid for a week and could have fitted in eight days before the WOTC group arrives at midday on Friday, but I will skip lessons tomorrow and reduce Juanita's boredom. We plan to go to Laguna de Apoyo.
Cafetin Claudia did not disappoint today. We came straight back to the room for a while to read and relax. Later we went uptown to the pharmacy to buy some Cipro, "just in case" and exchanged a few more dollars to have some Cordobas on hand. Chicken salad at Tip Top Pollo and a walk back to the hotel before sitting down to spend an hour keyboarding until NCIS came on. It did. We watched and the program following and back out to the communal computer to finish up the rest of today's monolog.
A few aha´s during class and a big one (for me) in the evening. Whenever somebody has asked me in Spanish in a restaurant in the past couple of years whether food was to eat in or to go I knew what they meant, but could not make out the word for the to-go option. I kept hearing "ibar" (eebar, phonetically) but that doesn´t match any Spanish word known to me or any dictionary I consulted. Last night I finally heard "llevar" (yay-var phonetically) which means "to take". Not a big deal, but a source of frustration. Besides, as I enter my second childhood smaller things amuse me.
This morning I woke up with the sun which happens earlier here than the continent north of us. It dawns here a little earlier than Florida at this time of year. Laying there reading web pages on my iPod in the dark so as to not awaken Juanita I clicked through one link on the Captain Capitalism blog to Hawaian Libertarian. I don´t agree with much of what either of them say, but parts of it strike a chord, especially HL´s point that the "only one who can change you is you". The point being that there is no point becoming an annoying nag to change people who are not ready to change. He makes the point that he "loosely follows" a paleo diet and then later says he is dismayed by the number of people who have stopped bringing their own cooking to a potluck so if somebody brings a homemade lasagna he makes a point to have a piece and tell them how wonderful it was even though it is far from paleo. The comments following had links to other sites about paleo diet and following through to those links one quickly found highly dogmatic people in the comment section who threw their non-paleo food in the trash when they converted rather than take the stuff in their pantry to a food bank. Rather to see people go hungry than have them eating food their new found belief didn't agree with. Quite a contrast, I know who I'd probably rather be around.
Speaking of not agreeing 100% with people. I often don't agree with myself completely on everything I say or fail to say. Not that I'm deliberately lying, but like everybody I'm not totally free of cognative dissonance nor social graces. And then there also may be a degree of cowardice, at times.
Lessons progressed apace today. I quit a few minutes early today to make up for getting into a conversation that ran us over yesterday. We weren't early enough to beat the lunch crowd at Cafetin Claudia but didn't wait too long for our orders of the lunch special w/o rice. Ordered bottled water today rather than the instant coffee we had on Saturday. Afterwards we walked to the libreria and I bought a tablet of paper. Ready for some studying, finally. Just maybe the reason I learn so slowly is I'm a lazy student. Maybe my dad was right when I was a teenager. Wouldn't be the first thing he was right about.
Being a little concerned about our sedentary lifestyle with so much sitting and laying around I did a quick google for attractions we hadn't visited before. So after lunch we walked to Mi Museo which is a museum with thousands of pieces of pottery from various archeological sites. Interesting. Free. It is in Granada's oldest building, formerly a private residence. Some house! When we finished that we dropped into the Choco Museo gift shop next door to check coffee prices. I had been looking for one of my instructors from last year at the Chocolate Cafe up the street from where we sty, because I had been told he was there (or had understood it that way). However there he was at the Choco Museo. We had a joyous reunion. Of course he now offers private lessons. We' ll see. Maybe next year. Last year I had two male and two female tutors for an hour at a time each morning. The variety was good. This year all are female. Three of them with similar higher pitch voices. After being corrected in the same pitched voice for three hours a day I tend to flinch when I hear a young mother admonish a child in the street. Also with the guys when I was tired of being in the classroom we could move the lesson to the street and walk to the lake or a cafe while working on my Spanish skills or lack thereof. I don't think I want to suggest that to one of the young ladies.
Following the Choco Museo visit we proceeded to a few hostels to find out about shuttles to Laguna de Apoyo. The first said they didn't have a shuttle, but wrote a note for us to give to a taxi driver. My communication skills are obviously lacking. Atr least with that person. The person at the tourist info place understood perfectly and marked on the map a transport company and two hostels that did shuttles. We checked the transport company first since they were next door, but they only offered private transport not shuttle service. The hostels offered shuttles, but to other locations at the Laguna and we want to go to the Monkey Hut again.
When we were back in the room I checked the Monkey Hut web site and found a hotel and a tour company mentioned. After our supper of street chicken, deep fried bananas and cabbage salad in vinagrette all in a couple of banana leaves eaten on a bench on the street we washed our hands back in the room. If you eat everything with one hand and eat the salad last the vinagrette washes most of the chicken grease off your hand but it is still a bit greasy. The room key was in my right pocket but we managed to get it out with Juanita's non-greasy left hand. After buying a jug of water for tomorrow we checked out the tour company and the hotel. The tour company offered reasonably priced transport there and back but the driver waited there and brought you back after an hour and a quarter. Not long enough for us. The hotel said they had no shuttle but could arrange private transport. Tomorrow we will decide if we settle for a shuttle to a different location or if we do the bus so far and get off and get the next bus like we did last year. Much more economical and it would tend to beat the crowd that you arrive with in a shuttle.
By then the grease off the banana chips had got to me and we stopped by the Euro Cafe for a banana smoothie. I would feel less guilty if it had helped the indigestion more.
Back in the room we did a time comparison for the CBS channel to make sure the program schedule channel was in sync with programs times. It was unlike some of the other channels which can be one or two hours out depending on where they originate. So we know we want to be in the room tomorrow at 7 pm when NCIS starts. Kind of pathetic, but that's the way it is January 7, 2013.
January 6 (Sunday)
Cafetin Claudia, our normal lunch spot, is closed on Sundays. After lessons today we went to the Hot Dog Connection of Granada. Forgive me. I have sinned. I ate the bun. Juanita was more noble. They said they would have nacatamales on Friday. We plan on returning on Friday. Definitely not low carb. Maybe I can just eat the centre. Or. They're cheap. Maybe that will be centres, plural.
While in the neighborhood I changed fifty bucks with the cambiste/coyote/moneychanger on the corner. We then walked to the Cafe Euro but decided to have coffee later when we found out they were open until 9. Drooled on the ice cream and pastry cases on my way by.
Then back to the room for naps and reading and eventually dinner at Tele Pizza. Large salads for both of us. Juanita's with olives and cheese. Mine with olives, cheese, turkey and provolone. Returning to the Euro Cafe we had our post dinner coffee and resisted the temptation to buy any of their delectable and high priced high calorie offering to go with the coffees.
Then back to the room for TV. Watched Leccion de Honor, a Spanish sub-titled print of the Emperor´s Club (2002). Enjoyed just as much this way. Always fun to see how the translators don't even try to come up with direct translations for some idiomatic expressions and still get the meaning across. Speaking of idomatic expressions last night I heard somebody from the platform ask somebody in the audience if they were having dream (literal translation). I thought it meant the person had fallen asleep and woken. Learned today in class that the English meaning of the phrase is to be sleepy.
January 5 (Saturday)
Lessons from 8 to noon. I have brief flashes of brilliance and long periods of struggle. The format is that you sit at a table with one tutor for an hour and then another tutor for an hour and so on for four hours. My tutors this year are Nataly, Liveth, Beatriz and Rosa. Last year my regular tutors were Michael, Liveth, Kenyn and Jessica. Michael left to run his own massage business. Kenyn to work for somebody else and Jessica got married. Rosa is Jessica's cousin. I guess jobs get passed along. Beatriz and Nataly were around last year, but I only had one or two lessons with them when somebody else couldn't make it.
Juanita rediscovered her favorite place for coffee (fresh brewed, high quality Nica coffee, refill free).
Then lunch at Cafetin Claudia. It was the middle of lunch rush and we managed to decide on low carb alternatives, but it slowed down delivery a bit. Had kinda okay instant coffee instead of their wonderful natural fruit drinks. Coffee may be low carb, but is also low appeal.
Then to the square for a shoe shine and back to the room for a nap and some reading. On the way back to the room checked out the cost of rental kayaks. At the quoted prices they wouldn·t need to rent too often to cover their costs. Then it was supper time. Went to a Tip-Top Chicken which is a fast food place with waiters who take and deliver your orders. Had grilled chicken salads with Coke Zeros. Tasty, plentiful and low carb.
Then we sat at a church service in the square hoping to hear some preaching, but the worship music became louder and rockier as time progressed so it was back to the room to read and update the blog.
January 4 (Friday)
We awake when slept out in our small but comfortable room in the Hotel Hex (or "Otel Express" as they answer the phone). Have showers and take turns going to breakfast so we don´t have to figure out what to put in the room safe. Hotel is safe, but this is Managua. Juanita was concerned that the "included" breakfast last time was pretty lame. I pointed out that last time we had been headed to the airport at about 5 am and that it probably would be better this time. It was. I managed to stay low carb. I hear reports that not everybody did. That´s understandable. It was a pretty nice buffet and not everybody is as chubby as the guy at the keyboard.
Eventually we checkout and grab a cab for UCA. He quotes $US 12, but also quotes $40 all the way to Granada. It´s early and we have time so UCA it is. The bus pulls out of the terminal headed west when full, then does a u-turn in the middle of the next intersection and starts picking up more passengers to stand in the aisle. We pass time by mugging with a toddler in the seat in front of us and by handing out curved illusion tracts.
We arrive in Granada about ten am, walk to the hotel from the bus terminal, buying a current Nicaragua & major city map on the way. Staff greet us like family at the Hotel Jerico. We turn on the A/C, leave our stuff in the room and walk down the street to one-on-one tutoring and book lessons for Paul starting at one pm. Then off to run errands, buying things we forgot or too bulky or not allowed in carry-on luggage. Also change another $US 50 into Cordobas with a coyote (money changer) on a corner (24 Cords per dollar, way better than airport).
On our way back with our purchases (scissors, shampoo, contact case, Nica cell phone) we visit Cafetin Claudia. One can´t always eat low carb. Can one? Grab a heavily sugared cacao drink in a baggy to go when we finish lunch and head back to the room and lessons. Juanita did some exploring while Paul was in lessons.
I am always amazed at how much I remember and dumbfounded at how much I forget, but it should be a good week. They will improve my Spanish skills despite my poor hearing and basic laziness.
After lessons we went to a Chinese restaurant and ordered roast chicken from the cart outside along with coffee. Chicken was good. Coffee was grim instant. Oh well. Low carb again. Then an early night and a long sleep.
January 3 (Thursday)
We got to sleep in more than expected when we went to bed last night.
First thing was to get dressed to go use the toilet in the tractor barn. Don´t want anything in the empty holding tank for three weeks, especially with warm temperatures predicted to return to Harlingen next week.
Next, string an extension cord to a 15 amp outlet in the landscaping near the Cross meditation area. Wait a few minutes for the surge arrestor to decide if it would make the connection. It did but in a reluctant, humming sort of way. A bit less juice than it normally has to pull in its internal contactor. While watching the incoming voltage on the inverter panel I enabled the smart battery charger. The voltage dropped from 114 V. (not good) to 93 V. (really bad). The surge arrestor started growling. The smart battery charger stopped trying before the surge arrestor cut-out at the pre-set 90 V. It´s been a while since I programmed the inverter/charger, but it is set up not a volt too low. I disable battery charger. We´ll burn that bridge when we get to it later today.
Onward and outward - discuss breakfast and decide on Denny´s.
Call and cancel language lessons for tomorrow. Call and cancel room reservation in Granada and make new one for midnight Friday. E-mail and phone Indy Stone to arrange for a cab from the airport in Managua. Our plan when we thought we were arriving in the middle of the day was to grab a cab from the airport to the bus terminal near UCA and catch an overgrown van type bus to Granada. That would not be a viable plan in the middle of the night. Probably no buses, but also probably a lot more hazards to personal safety.
"Things can change on a dime" - Stephen King.
The night before as I lay there awake with busy mind I thought about things that should be done on the truck next summer when we have another working vehicle. One is to replace a front engine seal which has a slow oil leak. This may involve removing the fan hub again and I borrowed a wrench from Matt the last time. We night as well pick up one at Harbor Frieght in Brownsville after breakfast. The more time in the warm truck the better. Then when I was contemplating the mud on my shoes from where we were parked I was thinking about the mesh shelf I wanted to put under the stairs of the fufth wheel. I had dropped off a drawing and a sheet metal shop in San Benito had promised to make it and call me last Monday. Plans changed again. San Benito first before they all leave the shop for job sites.
On the way out with the truck we get flagged down by another SOWER. He has lost his 30 amp connection. He is okay short term plugged into a 15 amp receptacle, but 30 amp would be better. Also explains our results. I think he is using the same circuit we were trying! Maybe there is hope for us later. We check breakers and everything looks okay so I call and leave a voice mail for Byron. And we leave.
Picked up the mesh. Tin basher had "been meaning to call". Plan to paint it and install it later today.
MacDonalds is now a lot closer than Denny's and no coffee so far so Mickey Dee's it is. Using their good internet to Facetime to connect with family in Meadow Lake. We were whining about the cold, wet weather and took a shot out the window saying it looked like "Seatle". Daughter's reply "Or Vancouver". "If Vancover had plam trees." Yeah, I guess there´s that. On to Brownsville.
On the way with coffee in us we were thinking a bit clearer. After I buy the wrench we can go to the airport. Maybe there is some other way to Houston. Even if we end up spending the night at a relative's we can maybe catch the morning flight from Houston to Managua. There is. We end up on standby at 5 pm confirmed at 7 pm out of Brownsville with Houston at 7 tonight or 9 tomorrow moring. Call Indy, cancel cab. Call Juanita´s nephew - "Want houseguests?"
Back to rig. Make arrangements for a ride to airport and lunch on the way.
Juanita goes to office to use our laptop where there is a desk and warmth. I put away extension cords, turn off propane, open a covred roof vent, take the truck to top-up fuel tank and come back. Then up to the office and write down phone numbers for two hotels. The first on is a cheap hostel type mentioned by a cab drive last year. The second is one that Expedia says is full. Well we all know what that means. Well, it could mean they are full or that Expedia is pulling a bait and switch. Rush and change. Put bags in friends car. Stop by warehouse and pick-up Fedex package on way to lunch. Have low carb lunch at IHOP. It can be done.
Arrive at airport. After lengthy session at counter get what other ticket agent promised, walking away with standby boarding passes for 5 pm flight to Houston and confirmed 7 pm flight out of Houston. We went and sat by security and before it opened for 5 pm flight the ticket agent had found us and gave us confirmed boarding passes for 5pm. Call nephew. Call hostel. "Full. No rooms." Call hotel that Expedia says is full. Lots of rooms. "Too late for shuttle. Do you want me to have a taxi meet you at airport?" Great. Have hotel. Have cab. Just needed my name. Checked that we had stayed there last year. Didn´t need credit card.
On approach to Houston we sneak into seats closer to the front (must have had more than two no-shows) and rush off the airplane to hang around in the skyway until our checked cabin baggage is retrieved and handed out. Then almost run through terminal to other gate where flight to MNA is loading. Juanita sneaks away to bathroom and makes it back before we are to the front of the line. I talk my way into bathroom on board to "quickly change into a cooler shirt". Fulfill other needs as well before coming back out.
In Managua we make it through immigration and pay entry fee of $US 10 each. Change fifty dollars into Cordobas (@ 19:1) and pass our bags through x-ray. On way to the door we can see taxi driver with a "Paul Alton" sign. We wave and he meets us at the door. To hotel, get A/C going (if it´s not too cold it´s too warm!) and crash.
We've just come in from the rain, circling up and praying with the other SOWER couples and wishing goodbye to the first SOWER couple that has just now left for their January SOWER project. Another couple will head out tomorrow morning to join them at the project just up the valley. Two other SOWER couples from last month will remain at Way of the Cross. Three couples will join them for a busy month of cleaning the RV and renovating staff motel rooms.
Last night we finished packing our bags for Nicaragua. Today we will button up the fifth wheel and park it on the back of the property. We'll sleep in it with the slides in tonight and get up and head for the airport in Brownsville at 3 AM for our 5:20 AM flight from Brownsville to Houston to connect to the flight to Managua, Nicaragua. There were significant savings to fly out of Brownsville versus Harlingen. I will try to think of that at 3 AM. Also, it is relatively cold as well as raining. It could be any day of the year on the BC coast, but goes to the bone here. Juanita keeps repeating "We´ll be warm tomorrow."
Airbags are pumped up on the truck. Language lessons are booked starting Friday morning at 8 AM. Now I guess it is time to go back out into the rain and dump tanks and put away hoses and electrical cables and put the slides in and move rig and run errands and... Well times a wastin'. Talk to you soon.
January 2 - The rest of the story (updated a few days later from notes & memory):
After the above and one last shower before dumping tanks I got busy and did all of the necessary stuff and we moved the rig. The fridge was taking its time to defrost so we left the fridge doors open, but Juanita rode in the closed-up rig to prevent the doors slamming. I missed having her as a spotter and stopped a few times to make sure nothing was amiss in the close quarters. Then we ran a few errands and went to dinner and came back for chapel. I turned the cell phone ringer off so it wouldn´t bother anyone in the unlikely event of an incoming call.
After chapel we settled in for a cold, but short night with the alarm set for 2:45 am. The furnace was as low as possible to conserve batteries and yet keep us comfortable. Juanita went promptly to sleep, but I stayed awake for a while and surfed and read e-mail on my iPod. About to call it a night I checked e-mail one last time.
There was an e-mail from Orbitz saying our flight from Brownsville had been cancelled. Some checking of the United Airlines iPhone app on my iPod to see if it said the flight was cancelled and a Goggle search later I opened the phone to call United.
There were two missed calls from their 1-800 number. I checked the voice mail and learned the flight was cancelled and called the 1-800 number. The other end knew it was probably me based on caller id and after asking for confirmation went into a recorded spiel about the cancelled flight for Thursday am and said we were booked on a flight at 5 pm Friday. I called again and fumbled the voice recognition part so I ended up with a person and argued about the shortness of the connection in Houston and explored other options. We left it at the 5 pm on Friday from B´ville.
With Juanita in the same bed while I was doing this she woke to learn our situation. Good news - we can sleep in. Bad news - trip delayed with one less day in Nicaragua and another night in the cold. Would the batteries have enough juice to run the furnace for another night? I called our ride to the airport and informed him that he got to sleep in. Thankfully I didn´t wake him to tell him that.