We spent most of January in Nicaragua mostly working along side Way of the Cross staff and blogged about it below. The posts are in chronological order..
This page is pretty well complete. No major changes are planned except for fixing typos and minor editing to make better sense of what was trying to be said. If you notice any typos please advise me.
February 9th update - We were visiting with friends yesterday and Juanita related a story from Medfest that I neglected to include below. One of the days of Medfest a ninety-two or so year old woman arrived on the back of a motor cycle. In triage a nurse determined that she was probably having a heart attack and they got the woman over to be seen by the doctors right away. When checking expiry dates on eye drops before Medfest, Juanita had run across a bottle of nitro glycerine and Martha had set it aside. One of the medical team got the bottle from the pharmacy and with the nitro and needed rehydration the old woman seemed to stabilize. They called the local EMT's who arrived with plans to take the woman to the hospital. The woman said she was ninety-two, she was a Christian and if she lived that was fine and if she died that was fine and she had no intention of being taken to the hospital. She left for home.
Thursday, January 1
Juanita did some packing and I got the truck ready for towing by increasing the tire pressures to 80 psi and by torquing the wheels. Then I checked the trailer tire pressures and dumped the holding tanks. Happy New Year!
Last year (heh!) I reinstalled the hitch, loosened and torqued the bolts so it didn't rock on the hitch bed and greased the hitch internals so the truck is ready.
Friday, January 2
Bonnie and Doug Schroeder came over to the training center. Once Bonnie and Juanita were set up to work on the sheers for the chapel, Doug and I took the screen door off the fifth wheel trailer and took it to a shop to have the screen replaced.
Then we did some consulting with the SOA (SOWER On Assignment) at a staff apartment on how to adjust some closet doors and run some condensate drain piping from an AC unit. Just about the time we were leaving there the ladies texted that they were half done so we scurried to the Brownsville Harbor Freight Store and made our planned purchases.
When we got out of there we were texted that the curtains were done and we all agreed to meet at Chapitas for lunch before going our seperate ways in between-SOWER-project-mode.
Back at home I did a bit more packing and some keyboarding on some Spanish verb sheets before vedging in front of Friday night TV. Not having TV back home even the re-runs are new to us.
Saturday, January 3
Last chance to pack.
So much to do before leaving.
I woke up at 4, but resisted doing anything constructive until 8 when Juanita went to coffee with a friend and I composed a long e-mail to a cousin and constructed update pages for December and January. Everything but photos. It is almost 11 am and I guess I better get back to packing and getting the trailer ready to be buttoned up. It needs to be ready to tow away when we get back from Nicaragua and anything that doesn't get done today won't get done while we are in Nicaragua.
The trailer ended up in pretty good shape. Around four we decided that we would not take it to the slides in, tanks empty, hooked up to the truck, ready-to-roll stage. We are due back about four in the afternoon on January 30th and have almost a week to get to Houston, so it is unlikely we would want to arrive back after a day of flying and start driving north. The trailer is about an hour away from rolling. That's close enough for now.
Then I visited with Ben a bit and then showered and changed. We ran an errand and met up with Andy and Lavonne Anderson for dinner at Chapitas, ran one more errand for some last minute travel items and then back home to bed with two alarm clocks set for the same time - 3:30 a.m.
Sunday, January 4
Up at 3:30
Phillip Zinck drove us to the nearby Harlingen airport where we checked in for our 5:20 flight to Houston then went and waited until airport security opened their gates to herd us through. I handed out curved illusion tracts to people in line and TSA agents. Waited until we had gone through with the TSA agents. Never want to annoy people while they have the power of the latex glove.
We flew with a United Airlines partner on an Embraer commuter jet made in Brazil. It was a smooth flight with views of lit-up towns set in a moonlight countryside.
When we arrived in Houston we chatted with the gate agent while waiting for our sky-checked carry-on luggage to be unloaded. Commuter planes like the Embraer usually don't have room for the carry on luggage that will be stowed in overhead bins on subsequent big jets so they will take the "carry-on" bag at the end of the skyway and give it back on the tarmac when you land. This plane was slower to hand back the luggage than many are so we had time to ask about the gate for our next flight and if there were any earlier than that. There was one flight that was earlier by a couple of hours and she gave its gate number and said to check with them there. At that gate the person there said the people for the specific flight were not there yet, but to go to customer service near the food court. Okay.
The earlier flight was scheduled a couple of hours earlier, but it was overbooked by 30 and had 20 more on standby. We decided not to waste our time and that of the UA staff by adding us to the standby.
We found a food court not far from customer service and had bacon and eggs and coffee and later (Dukin forgive me) a muffin while we waited. There were e-mails and text messages changing the plane gate and moving the time later and then a bit back. Juanita read her Kobo and I got caught up on e-mail. I almost got the unread count down to zero for the first time since the break between November and December SOWER projects when I noticed that it was 11:30.
We went to the gate and saw people lining up and got in Group 4 line behind one other person - a doctor from Leon. I slipped away for a quick visit to the bathroom and when I got back the line had filled quite a bit behind Juanita and our carry ons. While standing in line I checked e-mail and discovered that the time had moved up by fifteen minutes and then we loaded and settled in for a boring flight. Just the kind I like.
Half a paperback and a few sudukos later we received our forms to fill out and then we landed to line up to pay for the entry fee and get our 90 day visas and then put our luggage through the scanner.
A friend (thank you, Indy) had arranged for Don Jose to meet us as he has several times in the past. A young woman was holding up a sign with my name so we went with her and her teen-age son, loaded up and settled in for a drive to Granada.She didn't go the shorter way through Tipitapa, and was one of the most cautious drivers I have ridden with in Nicaragua, but we got to Granada in a calm and timely manner and the price was the same despite being the slightly longer route so we were happy.
On the flight I had considered that with it being Sunday there would maybe be no rush hour and that maybe we could have saved a few dollars by taking a taxi to the UCA bus station and a bus from there. Once on the road I noticed that there may be less traffic, but all the buses and bus stops were brimming. That would not have been a good end for a long day's travel. Sure glad for the cab from the airport in Managua to the hotel in Granada.
Arriving at the Hotel Jerico was like old home week with hugs all around with all the family members. After unpacking a bit we went for a supper of chicken and plaintains at the familiar "Chinese" restaurant around the corner. See photo above.
Early to bed - about 8:30. Asleep right away.
Slept to 2:30
Monday, January 5
Wide awake at 2:30. Tried reading for a while then tried to go back to sleep. That didn't work so I finished the book started on the plane, and got back to sleep shortly before the alarm came on and hit the snooze button once before getting up.
Showered and breakfasted and walked down street to lessons at One on One Tutoring. Hugs from owner. Will do three days of morning lessons with an hour each with four tutors. Once the WOTC staff arrives I plan to do an hour of drill with Roger, the owner of one on one tutoring, each morning before breakfast.
I start out really rusty with my Spanish skills, but come they back fairly quickly with the usual mix of surprising recall and total amnesia.
In past years while I was having lessons Juanita would spend some time drinking coffee at the Cafe Euro. It was located across from the main square. Last year it had moved to the main tourist street going down to Lake Nicaragua. It was next door to the Spanish school. I was known to nip next door from the school once in a while for a coffee or even a piece of cranberry cheese tart. However, the Cafe Euro never had the same traffic levels after it moved away from the square and is now out of busines, It had moved in response to a rent increase. I notice that the old location is still closed up. I guess the landlord didn't benefit much from trying to jack up the rent. He is now getting no rent, close to thirty employees are out of work, and the restaurant owner is out his capital. Sounds like lose-lose-lose to me.
The two places Juanita tried today as replacements for the Cafe Euro proved inadequate in either quality or value. Tomorrow she will resume her search for someplace she can drink decent tasting coffee at a reasonable price in a location where she can sit and read without being bothered by strange men. One strange man is enough for anyone to have in their life at any one time.
After class I walked home at noon, and we went up to the square where I got my shoes shined by the old fellow we frequent. Hugs from him too. A bit of a hard luck story about a recent hernia operation and another soon to be done. Double paid him after the shoeshine and got the impression he was hoping for more.
Walked to Cafetin Claudia for lunch. More hugs.
After lunch we ran some errands. We changed some money with the moneychanger/cambista/coyote on the corner. Way better exchange rate than the temple money changers at the airport. On the way to getting an 80 Cordoba (a little over 3 bucks US) haircut and beard trim we bought some nail clippers. Afterward we looked for mandarin oranges in the market. The season is too early for them yet. Only one stall had any and they were small, green and hard looking. Bought a tooth brush at the Pali (Walmart subsidiary supermarket). The travel one I brought does not stay together unless you hold both parts of the handle and then my fist gets in the way when brushing my back teeth and back of my tongue.
I had seen some scissors on the table of the sidewalk vendor who sold us the nail clippers. The barber didn't trim my moustache and shave my lip. This pleased me because i never liked my lip being wetted with town water before trimming my moustache using a straight razor, but it also meant we needed scissors. The sidewalk vendor had folded his table and fled for the day. Maybe mañana.
In our walkabout we noticed the local movie theatre was empty looking with no movie posters. Nearest movie theatre is now in Managua.
Back to room. Slept three hours.
Out to dinner at the Hot Dog Connection of Granada stopping at the esquina Eskimo for ice cream on the way home. We made it to bed around ten. Despite the three hour nap I made it through to 5:30 without waking beforehand.
Tuesday, January 6
This section started as a kind of point form as the text of an e-mail I sent myself (don't ask me to translate that into Spanish, reflexives are beyond my current ability. Nobody can tell who is doing the doing and whom the doing is being done to when I try to say it in Spanish).
I awoke clear headed at 5:30. After breakfast I headed down to lessons.
Things are picking up with Spanish skills. In addition to grammar, verb conjugations and vocabulary cultural things get worked into the conversational portions of the lessons. One thing I learned today was that it was the day of the Magy Kings (Reyes Magos) otherwise known as Ephiphany in some circles.
We worked out a tentative schedule for after the WOTC staff show up. I paid for twenty hours of lessons (normally used up at four hours a day for five days). Will use three days of four hours and then work the balance off at an hour a morning doing verb drills or conversation. Once the money is used up we will see what's next.
Juanita met me outside school after class. On our walk up the street to our hotel, just short of the hotel, there was a group of kids and adults sitting on the sidewalk listening to a band in an alcove across the street. There were stacks of Styrofoam to-go boxes stacked next to the band. Obviously meals.
After dropping my papers off in the room we headed back to the street. When we got close to the hotel entrance I pointed at the group with the band and asked the maid what was going on. She shrugged and said “Catholics”, I suggested Tres Magos and she nodded "probably".
We walked to Cafétin Claudia, had lunch and then took pictures with the owners Claudia and Felix. After lunch we walked to the market, and found the sidewalk vendor set up and bought a pair of folding scissors from him. Then went home and puttered and watched TV and read.
We checked TV schedule: wheel @ 6, jeopardy at 6:30 and walked up to last year's location of the grill with the stuffed hamburger on its sign. Nope. Not there. We had hoped it was just closed for Sundays and Monday. A lot of places close for both. There was a vendor set up with a table selling handmade jewelry. We asked about the grill and he told us of her new location past the bus terminal and we walked there and ordered a couple of pupusas. The owner started making them and somebdy else came in and ordered a couple of hamburgers. I gave a curved illusion tract to the other diner and the owner said "I know you!" and came around the counter and hugged us and went and told her husband we were back and then we talked about why she had moved her grill and the pupusas were ready and we ate and walked back to our room to watch wheel and jeopary.
The pupusas were easy on the budget so after Jeopardy! was over we walked up the street to the Hotel Dario and spent the price of a meal for a couple of leche con cocoa batidos. Then it was back to the room for a bit more TV followed by sleep.
Wednesday, January 7
Up early and ate breakfast at seven. After breakfast I sent myself an e-mail with notes about yesterday and then walked down the street for an eight o'clock start of the last four-hour session of lessons. Tomorrow we will switch to an hour of drill from six to seven each morning. For the last hour of class, my tutor and I moved chairs outside to the sidewalk and talked there. We bought a couple of Navidad promotions from the Eskimo cart that was pushed by while we were talking. The Christmas special consists of an ice cream bar in the shape of a Christmas tree, covered with a sugary, green wax-like coating.
At noon, Juanita showed up. I bid my tutor good-bye and it was off to Cafetin Claudia for lunch and then to the money changer on the corner for more Cordobas and back to room for relaxation: a bit of reading; a bit of tv and some updating of the blog.
Supper was at Tele Pizza for a shared mediteranian salad and back to room for the last of wheel and for jeopardy. Following Jeopardy! we walked up to the corner to the Eskimo for ice cream and walked down to hotel to check if any of WOTC staff had checked in. We bought a couple of gallon jugs of water at the tienda and watched a bit of TV before an early bedtime.
Set alarm for 5:15, to be at class at six.
Thursday, January 8
I woke up at 4:45 so reset alarm and got up and showered and dressed to go down for class at six. To get out of the hotel that early one has to wake the owner dozing in his chair in his office to unlock the gate to the street.
Class started with a bit of conversation and then moved on to drilling the past tense of common irregular verbs. Ben called about 6:45 and we got on the same page schedule wise.
I went back to the hotel for breakfast at seven with Juanita and wrote an e-mail to myself about yesterday and the first part of today. We walked up to the main square and hopped onto a bus going to Managua and then hopped off the bus at the WOTC staff house about three kilometers outside of Granada. We arrived in time for devotions and then all went over the work list for the day.
One of the vans would not start so we tried pushing it, then jump starting it and ended with swapping batteries and heading with both vans to the Shiloh base camp. Workers were busy building a fence around the property. After moving things around in the warehouse on the property, both vans headed toward Masaya to run errands. The van I was in was in the lead. The fuel gauge showed that fuel level was fine, but it lied. The van stopped for lack of fuel before we got to Masaya. The other van passed us to fuel up and then come back to us with a jug of fuel.
We sat there trading stories and before long a taxi showed up with the driver of the other van and a vegetable oil jug of diesel fuel. The other van had pulled in to get fuel and the ignition key broke off in the fuel door lock. After our van started with its portion of fuel it too went to the gas station and fueled up. The other van was pushed somewhat out of the way from the pumps and off we went to find a locksmith who could carve a new key from what was left of the key and the piece stuck in the fuel door lock which we carried with us. Then we returned to the gas station.
The inert van was in the way, but the locked steering wheel was holding the front wheels in a slight turn that moved the van away from where it had to be after we pushed it. We tried lifting the back of the van and pushing it sideways, but that did not work. Then we unloaded the passengers and that worked way better. After moving the back of the van four or five feet sideways we were able to push it next to a curb, no longer blocking vehicle flow in the gas station. We all went inside the gas station for drinks and snacks until somebody showed up with the new key and that van was push started and we all roared off. The former lead van went to the Maxi Pali supermarket just two doors down the street around the corner from the gas station. Everyone was under the impression that it was much further away. The shopping could have been being done in parallel. Oops. The van with the new key was taken to a battery shop for a new battery as well. Then it came back to the supermarket parking lot and passengers were shuffled. Some people headed back to the staff house. Some people went in the van with the groceries to the market to buy a couple of sledge hammers and to research bicycle and bicycle parts prices. After an hour of that it headed to the staff house, too. It was about five so Juanita and I walked across the highway and flagged down a micro bus and rode into Granada.
We walked from where the bus dropped us to Tele Pizza and shared a Victoria salad and discovered a fun fact. Last year after a hot day in the sun I bought a pitcher of iced tea. When I tried today and wanted no sugar he said they only have it made with sugar because they make it from powder, but that we could have purified water in a pitcher. Free. With ice. That worked.
While waiting for our salad I used the Tele Pizza Wi-Fi to check e-mail and there was an e-mail from the Regina refinery with an application form for the spring shutdown. Once back at the hotel room I updated my resume and filled out the form. Once the form was filled I fought for quite a while to sneak up on the form to sign it and failed. Eventually I succumbed and downloaded Adobe Reader XI and used it to add my newly created signature file. My old signature is on the laptop in Texas.
Another day on the mission field.
Friday, January 9
I went down the street to One on One Spanish for verb drills before breakfast. During the session Roger, the owner, said the bank had refused the two fifties I gave him as part of the payment for my week of tutoring. They had been in my stash belt and with tropical sweat in a leather belt had developed dark lines where they were folded to fit in the belt. He gave them back to me. I gave him five crisp, new twenties from a wallet.
After breakfast we walked up to the main square across from the cathedral and caught a passing bus. It was one that came down from higher up in Granada and turned past the square. Our intent was to save time from waiting for one of the buses to the UCA terminal to fill. They sit at the terminal until they are almost full before leaving. Hopping on this smaller bus would save us time I said. Well. It took us to a terminal in another part of town where we were the first passengers on a large bus which sat there until it was full before leaving. They say you should learn something every day.
After devotions we all headed off on various directions. Juanita helped Martha. I went with a couple of others to go to the Masaya market. They bought bikes and parts for a group coming down to Medfest to do bike repairs as part of outreach. The bikes are to be prizes along with sewing machines during Medfest. I helped load a hundred tires, many more tubes as well as seats, pedals and other parts into the van and seven bikes on top.
Must be something I ate. I make many trips to the bathroom all day including twice while we are at the market. The market public toilet has an attendant and a fee which gets you a wad of toilet paper and the use of a toilet with no seat. Back on the road again we go to a gas station and buy gas for the lawnmower gas can.
Back at Shiloh we unload the bikes et cetera and switch to the truck. The truck will not start on its own so we push start it and go to Managua. First stop is Sinsa, a building supply store. Byron parks the truck so it is a a slight slope and cannot be blocked in by other vehicles. We gather pricing information for the stuff that will be needed for the base camp and then the truck and a van go to Price Smart which is a membership warehouse store, the Nicaraguan equivalent of Costco or Sam's Club. It is a subsidiary of neither. I didn't pay attention today, but last year noticed that it carries both Kirkland and Sam's brands.
Ben left in the van to go look at a van that was for sale. While we were shopping Phillip arrived back from the airport in the other van. In Price Smart we split into a couple of groups, each with a mission to get prices on possible future purchases or to buy stuff. I help start loading shrinkwrapped packages of bottled water onto a cart and then locate an employee for enough packets to make up an order of forty. He gives us one package to run through checkout and says the other thirty-nine will be there at the front of the store when we want to leave. He later appears to make sure that all forty get rung up and then takes the pallet of water out to the truck and helps load it into the truck. The truck is full of stuff and Ben is back from looking at the van so we all push start the truck and leave.
On the way back to the staff house we stop for diesel for the truck. The Hyundai van pulls in the other entrance and diesel fuel spills from the fuel tank breather hose as the van turns. Another thing to be taken care of in the next couple of days.
We help unload groceries and water and then catch a ride into town in one of the vans. A coyote accepts one of my striped fifties that was turned down by Roger's bank and changes it to Cordobas for me. We spend a few of those Cordobas at the Hot Dog Connection of Granada which is across from the money changer corner we used. Then we go back to the room and watch Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! on a Miami station and both shower before going up to the corner Eskimo for ice cream.
Before bed I work about an hour on point forms for the blog.
Saturday, January 10
Phil picks us up at on the Eskimo corner (esquina Eskimo?) at 7:45 and we go to the staff house for devotions. Afterward Ben and Byron remove the starter and the battery from the truck. We take the battery and starter to a parts store on the side of the carretera through Masaya and get the battery tested (official parts store method of testing battery - short battery terminals with a pair of jumper cables. If there is a healthy spark the battery is good). They say they can have a starter from Managua in "two hours". The deposit is paid. Phone numbers are exchanged. Off we go to run errands.
We go to the outdoor market and encounter the other van there loading bike parts. Our mission to find heavier cable for the starter was unsuccessful at a reasonable budgeted price. Meanwhile, Joe, the driver of the other van, goes with Ben as translator to shop for ac’s. When we are done in that market we park near the Artisan's market near the center of Masaya. It is also known as the indoor market and the "old" market which makes no sense since it looks decades newer than the ramshackle outdoor market.
On our way to lunch we leave keys for copying at the locksmith across from the Artisan's Market.
As we finished lunch we called the parts store. The starter would be “another 45 minutes”. So we head across the square and watch some traditional dancing until we realize we have a key to pick up so we stop taking a short cut across the park and head back to the street and go pick up the key. We check out furniture and air conditioner units in a couple of stores and stop in my favorite bakery in Masaya and then a frantic call from the parts store - "Where are you? The starter is here. It is Saturday and we close early" So we go to the parts store and pay the balance of the bill and take the starter and they slam the gates shut and leave before we drive away.
Back at the house Byron installs the starter while I hand him tools and clean a few connections. Byron cleans the rest and installs new terminals on the battery cables and installs the battery. The truck starts cold just fine now. While lookng around underneath we notice smoke coming from the front of the muffler. We take the truck on a test drive to drive it around to get it hot to test hot starting capability and on our journey look and ask about a muffler shop. "Try Managua" is the response from a few people on the street. Then we go past the shop where the truck has spent large portions of its life and pull in there and they weld it right away for two hundred Cordobas (about $US 8). Then we buy oil and go back to the staff house. The truck starts fine hot as well.
It is getting dark.
Juanita and I cross the highway and flag down a passing bus to Granada where we have dinner at Tele Pizza – pizza by the slice and pitcher of water. On our way home to shower and call it an early night we bought water so we wouldn’t have to go out again. Not much gets done at home except the conversion of a day of point form update to narrative.
Sunday, January 11
I was up early and headed down the street for a Spanish tutoring session and back to our hotel for a seven o'clock breakfast. After breakfast we visited for quite a while with another hotel guest, Chris, from the San Francisco Bay area. At 8:45 we went out to the corner and got picked up to go to the staff house for a church service.
Ben preachedmostly on David and how he had enemies, but in many ways his biggest enemy was himself and he made many bad choices and yet he still turned back to God and sought Him. There are parallels in our lives that we often are our own worst enemies and our natural incorrect response is to avoid God after our failures. David sought God and made things right after his failures.
Today is declared a day of rest and we caught a ride in with some staff going to Granada. Back at the room I updated a day's worth of point form into a narrative form.
After lunch at Tip Top Chicken we took a long walk through market street and then to the Pali to buy snacks.We walked a couple of side streets of the market. There were lots of plantains, but no bananas except at one stall and we bought a dozen for 20 Cordobas (26 cords per US$).
Having worked up a thirst we walked back to the main square and across it to a place for smoothies and walked back to our hotel were we watched TV and read and worked on the blog.Neither of us were hungry for supper at supper time so we bought some ice cream sundaes and had a banana each.
We mostly read for the rest of evening. We surfed through the 100 channels a few times, but there was nothing worth watching. There was about a forty minute power failure, but after ten minutes the hotel turned on a generator for lights and internet.
Monday, January 12
The alarm goes off at its usual five a.m. I shower and get things ready to leave right after breakfast. Even though the lessons start at six I ran a bit late getting there. It is easy to set pushy deadlines, but old man bowels on a third world diet sometimes have a different opinion.
After the session with the tutor I rush back to the hotel for the seven o’clock breakfast and we are out on the street before 7:30 headed to the square to catch a bus. Buses pass on the far side of square as we approach. There is no time to get across the square in time to catch one so we go down a block to the terminal and get on a nearly empty UCA bus that fills quickly and leaves the terminal.
We hop off the bus at the WOTC staff house, arriving there before the devotional and have some time for visiting. The subject of the devotional was change.
We rode in the truck to the school grounds where Medfest will be held. Byron checked out where the tent would go then he and I headed in the truck to Sinsa building supply store in Managua. The store looks first world. It is nicer than any building supply store I have visited in Canada. We needed 12 toilets, sinks and stands, faucets for them and six kitchen faucets.
We spend a lot of time trying to find sufficient tap quantities with metal internals in the right price range, and negotiate a quantity discount for them since they do not have the less expensive ones we saw a few days ago.
The toilets and lavatory sinks we want come in sets. We are assured that they have 12. Both Byron and I push for this to be verified to the point of obnoxiousness. Store clerks become visibly annoyed at us and insist there is no problem. Apparently past dealing with Sinsa have revealed their policies. If they do not have all of an item on your invoice when you go to the loading dock to pick it up you can come back for the shortage at a later time. You cannot change your mind and cancel that part of your order and buy that item elsewhere unless you cancel everything else on that invoice. And then you will not get your money back. You will get a store credit. This education took four hours of fussing all the way up to the store manager one day last year when they did not have the ceiling tiles they said they did and put on the invoice. I suppose one could force the issue by giving everything back and using the store credit to start over to buy the parts of the order they did have, but then you would be left with a store credit for the stuff they didn't have.
We check out the evaporator unit and condenser unit listed at $400 on the web site and agree to buy two and open the packages for inspection and then learn that the “conjunto” on the web site means that the listed condenser unit is used with the evaporator unit. It doesn’t come with the evaporator unit. The condenser is an extra $600 dollars. Stop the presses. No deal.
In the paint department we work our way through what is available and what isn’t with about six helpers trying to be helpful from their perspective. There is no semi-gloss or gloss latex paint available in five gallon cans. We buy two five gallon buckets of sealer and a five gallon bucket of satin tinted to order.
Shortly after noon we head to the till. This is taking too long. The valves and toilets were entered into the system in the plumbing department. The paint in the paint department. The bill gets totalled at the till. We just about push the attendant over the edge when I ask again about if he is sure they have the toilets before we pay and Byron asks if he has seen them with his own eyes and the guy tells us it will be fine. Byron gives the till operator the money. About $US 1800 cash. She holds each bill up to the light and carefully inspects it. All the valves are checked at the till against our receipt. We go to the loading dock and bring the truck around. Still no sign of the toilets, sinks, and pedestals. The security guard takes each item that we do have out of the carts and checks it against our receipt. We load what we have. The toilets will be here soon we are told. Eventually we go sit on some display furniture and visit. Clerks show up to tell us there are only eight toilet sets at the store. There are a hundred in the warehouse and we can come back for four more tomorrow. The clerk who could speak English well has disappeared. I rant a bit. Well, a lot. And we try different solutions because our truck is busy tomorrow. None of the solutions work. I ask for somebody who speaks English better. They bring a sacrificial virgin for the dragon, but her English is worse than my Spanish so we carry on in Spanish and eventually I get across that they should bring us what they have and we will load it and take a clerk hostage and go to another branch of Sinsa or the Sinsa warehouse for the difference. They seem good with that idea and finally go off to actually physically get the toilet sets. They come to the loading dock on three jumbled pallets shrink wrapped along with other toilets and bathroom chinaware.
Four people supervise while two workers open each box and inspect the pieces inside for damage and accessories (toilet float, valve, seat, etc.). They open and we inspect and they tape back up one box each for ten sinks, eight toilet bases, seven toilet tanks, and ten sink pedestals. During this process Byron had talked to Ben and Ben said they were coming into Managua tomorrow and would pick the balance up that the clerk said would be in the store by ten. They allow us to take seven sets and promise that the others will be in tomorrow by one. Hopefully they are under promising. The English speaking clerk briefly reappears just before we start loading. He asks at one point if we can pick the rest up “yesterday” and in a better mood I might have cut him some slack, but didn’t. I just pointed out that was impossible a few more times than necessary. Someday I will pay for that churlishness when somebody ridicules me for one of my translation errors.
Each box is now inspected and initialled (so we can’t sneak them back in?) by the security guard before we load it on the truck. We are back on the road to Granada at 3:45. No wonder they have a café in the store. We are not especially happy, but glad to not be going deeper into Managua in rush hour traffic with a Sinsa hostage.
Back at the staff house a van loads up and we are off to find the church where the construction team is going to put on a roof. It is getting dark by the time we are near where Ben remembers the site to be. A few locals we ask suggest it is on the main road to the Laguna de Apoyo and we are on a side road and Ben knows it was not on the main road so we give up and head back to Granada. The van drops us at the main square and we walk to Tele Pizza for a Mediterranean salad and a pitcher of ice water.
When we get to the room we get power turned on for the AC in the room. The AC is on a separate breaker for each room and we (usually) turn it off when we leave in the morning, but the owners make sure. I guess they are also making sure the AC is not turned on by the maid or is on when the door is open for room cleaning. We are in time to watch Final Jeopardy and then there is nothing else worth watching so I finish the “Eye Wall” adventure book on my Kindle.
We take turns showering, I post the day in point form+ and we go to bed.
Tuesday, January 13
I was up with the alarm at five a.m. mostly rested and headed down the street for my six a.m. Spanish lesson. The hotel owner heard me coming and had the door open. After the seven o’clock breakfast we headed up to the main square for the bus.
One was pulling out of the terminal as we arrived, and we hopped on, and travelled to the WOTC staff house. We arrived while people were still eating breakfast so we visited a bit until devotions.
Jessica gave a powerful devotion on how we often forget about the “hallowed” nature of God as mentioned at the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer. Then she talked about the woman with the alabaster jar and her possible background and what her feelings might have been as she washed and anointed Jesus’ feet with perfume, washing them with her tears and dried them with her hair.
We all went to the church where the team will be installing the roof. It was pretty obvious why we could not find it last night. The church body had decided they liked a location on the main road to Laguna de Apoyo rather than on the side road. The church was built on a different site than the one that Ben had visited before. The locals we had asked knew what they were talking about.
The walls of the church were complete and Henry and his worker were building the steel roof structure. We looked around and then one van went to the market to get supplies.
The other van and the truck went to Shiloh base camp. Those in the van started working on the site, cutting grass, moving sand and cleaning the staff houses under construction.
Byron and I unloaded Sinsa stuff from the truck and then Ben, Byron and I loaded the truck with stuff for the pharmacy and dentists. Byron and I took that to the school and unloaded it with the help of the workers hired to cut the grass with machetes in the field behind the school. Then we went back to get water jugs, more stuff for dentists and the big tent and poles. When we got there the machete wielders were gone for the day so we unloaded the truck with Juanita’s help. We found a wheelbarrow and rolled the tent’s pieces into the wheelbarrow from the truck and Byron took them to the field behind the school.
Juanita, Gloria, and Martha had gone to the market in Masaya and got cleaning supplies and some food at the market at the Pali and then went to the school and cleaned the pharmacy room and moved and sorted stuff.
Phillip came and picked them up and we all went back to Shiloh, put away stuff there and went to the staff house. Once there I got some muscle relaxant from Martha and Juanita and I walked across the highway and flagged a bus down and got off at the first corner that it turned once it was in town.
We walked to La Colonia supermarket – bought some necessaries and a couple of bags of plantain chips and a couple of bottles of yogurt drink. Drank our yogurt on a bench and walked out to the street and flagged down a cab. Got off at the hot dog connection corner, bought some Robax equivalent pills at a pharmacy, and changed some money on the corner. Juanita managed to chase and step on an escaped fifty dollar bill before the wind took it into traffic. We walked down to the next corner and read the hours off the closed and locked door of the hardware store. Fifteen minutes late. Oh well, it opens tomorrow at seven.
We walked down to the stuffed hamburger / pupusa place. Ordered a pupusa and a chicken burrito. Walked around the corner to buy a bottle of water while they were cooking. After supper we walked toward the lake a block past our hotel to buy two gallons of purified water and then back to the hotel for showers, some hotel sink laundry, some e-mail, a bit of TV and a muscle relaxant each before bedtime.
Wednesday, January 14
Same old routine: up at five; tutor at six; breakfast at seven and; head for the bus at seven-thirty. We catch the bus from the terminal and arrive at the house in time for devotions.
After devotions, Ben talks to a water well drilling mission group based in Houston. They will be drilling a well near Rivas next week. Perhaps Byron and I will get to go and watch them work and ask some questions.
Juanita went with Martha and Gloria to Medfest location and sorted pills. Paul and Byron hauled pharmacy and outreach supplies from the staff house to the Medfest site at the school. At the school there is a team of three cutting grass with machetes. I interrupted a meeting and talked to the director of school about whether we could pull down an old fence. We re-directed the team of three to removing the fence to make space for the big tent.
Back to the staff house we went where we moved beds for the incoming staff members and loaded the Price Smart water for the incoming Medfest teams. With the Medfest teams arriving, Ben is relocating to the Hotel Granada from the staff house. We took the water to the hotel and left it in his room. Theresa, Jessica and Dr. Phil distributed water to team members’ hotel rooms.
Byron and the truck and I went to Shiloh, met up with Brother Gilberto and went to Brother Gilberto's church and picked up six tables and a hundred chairs which we delivered to the school / Medfest grounds. While there we checked the progress on the fence removal. It was much better. The posts were gone and the wire could be easily pulled out of the way.
We went to Shiloh. The team had arrived from the airport, had toured Shiloh and were just leaving on bus to hotel. We found vests for security guards and went to the staff house and visited with the additional staff members that flew in today. When Juanita arrived back from school we walked across highway and got standing room on micro bus. We got off on the street going to the main square and walked home and called grandson, Ezekiel, for his birthday.
We showered, watched Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy!, NCIS (English with Spanish subtitles) and then went for Chow Ming de Pollo followed by dessert at Eskimo. We walked to the Hotel Granada and back home to Hotel Jerico to write some one liners in the blog and collapse for the night.
Thursday, January 15
After the tutor session at six and breakfast at our Hotel Jerico at seven we walked down to the Hotel Granada and climbed on one of the team buses. The bus carries us to the Shiloh base camp for chapel in the church building on the site. Oscar Brooks preached about Saul and the men of Jabesh Gilead. After Oscar there was orientation, the patented WOTC flexi cookie talk and evangecube training.
The truck was partly loaded already with water and with sound equipment. The construction team added parts for small tents (poles, skins and joints) to the load. The buses and vans departed to the Medfest site. The truck and one van for the construction team remained until the truck was loaded then left too. We encountered one of the buses broken down blocking an intersection about half a mile away. The truck and van make U turns and take an alternate route to the Medfest site. Byron and the construction team unload the truck and start setting up the big tent for the bike repair shop.
Juanita worked in pharmacy all day helping set it up. There are four pharmacists this year. They should be able to keep up since most times in the past there were two.
Paul spent the rest of the day shuttling between Shiloh base camp and medfest grounds with Daniel Ingles of Oklahoma as swamper. They hauled chairs, rice for outreach, literature for outreach, bicycles for prizes, and bicycle parts for the bicycle repair ministry. Daniel has a wonderful page of pictures of Medfest here. They include one of Daniel with a big US flag during opening ceremonies, one showing half the rice he moved and there is even a picture of a handsome, elderly, portly gentleman in a floppy hat standing next to a ladder on a truckload of boxes of bags of rice.
Around five everybody on site headed back to Granada. Bus time tomorrow morning is 7:45. No meeting tonight.
More people came in today and more coming in tonight at Managua airport.
We get back home at almost six watch Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy!, take showers, wash clothes, and walk up the street for smoothies from Jugoso in a storefront next to Erick Tours. We watch TV briefly more and then early to bed.
Friday, January 16
Today is the first day of Medfest, doctors, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, etc. start seeing patients today. The outreach buses will roll. There are outreach, bicycle repair and discipleship activities on site. Daniel Ingles has many Medfest pictures on the Russell Ministeries web site.
I head down to the tutor at six and we breakfast at our hotel at seven getting down to the Hotel Granada before the bus loading time of 7:45. The buses rolled somewhat after that time and travelled to the Medfest site.
There were opening ceremonies, songs and Oscar Brooks started preaching. Along about then I was called away to help with blowing tents. One of the small white tents had blown onto a roof and then rolled off into a space between two buildings. There was a gringo holding onto one tent edge. None of the Nicas were tall enough to reach the frame of the tent. I held onto another tent and a couple of other gringos showed up and held on until Byron came and solved the problem with stakes and ropes.
The truck was parked in a courtyard on the school grounds. A couple of large metal doors separated the courtyard from the street. There were people filling the street in front of the doors. The guard was opening one of the doors every once in a while to let people and their bicycles in to line up for bike repairs. With great difficulty the guard opened the gate and I drove the truck slowly through the crowd. People did not want to move because they did not want to lose their place in line. The van was parked down the block on the street outside the school grounds.
Once the truck was on the street it followed the van to the church construction site. The construction team started painting the structural steel erected as a roof frame and started painting sheets of roof tin. This pattern is one sided so it obvious which side to paint and there is no need to keep track of up sheets and down sheets which was necessary in past years.
I drove the truck to Masaya to buy paint and thinner (and chicken) then returned to help paint. I was super careful since I had failed to wear painting clothes. I didn’t mind getting paint on my pants, but was very careful about the SEV shirt I was wearing. When all the pieces were painted (just before four) we returned to the Medfest site.
I found Juanita and then walked to the back field to see how the tents faired after we left. I met many people coming from the bike tent rolling their repaired bicycles and expressing great gratitude.
Juanita spent today in Pharmacy, things went smoothly, more smoothly than first day in previous years. 250 prescriptions issued (sometimes families are considered one prescription, sometimes each person so actual people served was higher).
I hung out, doing some tracts and visiting until the buses loaded about five. We got off at Hotel Granada and grabbed a cab to Tele Pizza, were we dined on an Ensalada Victoria. We walked up to the coyote corner looking for a money changer, but they had all left for the day. They don’t seem to like to stand on street corners with fistfuls of cash in the dark.
At the park I get my shoes shined and any paint cleaned off them and we walked home, stopping for a cup of Eskimo ice cream each.
Shower, wash clothes, take two Robax and call me in the morning.
Saturday, January 17
The Spanish tutor and I had our usual one hour session from six to seven this morning. There will not be a session tomorrow, because he has a nephew coming and he expects to stay up late visiting. He does not drink, because of his diabetes, but figures it will be a late night nonetheless.
At breakfast we visit with Chris, the tourist from the Bay area, and after that head down to the Hotel Granada for the bus boarding at a nominal 7:30. We proceed to the Medfest site for the second day of Medfest.
Oscar Brooks preached about Dumah. Dumah means silent. The night is coming, but first the morning.
The truck is in the school courtyard. It had been loaded with a hundred boxes of rice. The people on the outreach buses had taken about seventy boxes of rice, leaving about thirty boxes to unload. I’m busy before and after event, those involved with the event are very busy during the event so I have time and start unloading the 900 pounds of rice. Other people start helping.
If anything the crowd outside the gate is worse than yesterday. I take the truck through the crowd having to stop at one point while some people extract a bicycle caught under the edge of the truck bed. The truck needs diesel and the construction crew wants fried chicken so I go to the gas station.
They are remodelling the fueling area and there presently is no power to the fuel pumps. So I park the truck next to a pump, go inside the gas station and start complaining about yesterday’s order of chicken. The chicken restaurant in the convenience store had a combo that included a two liter bottle of Coke, six pieces of chicken and three orders of fries. Yesterday Dave H. gave me money and I bought four combos, which worked out to twenty-four pieces of chicken, two per person for the crew working on the church. Arriving at the church with the chicken yesterday I discovered that they had only given me twelve pieces of chicken. Today I wanted to buy only two combos, get only two bottles of Coke, but twenty four pieces of chicken to make up for the twelve they shorted me (me falta) yesterday. Of course, there was not a single person working at the convenience store who had been working there yesterday. And any of them would have remembered me since each of the seven or so people working in the store and many of the customers had been given a pair of curved illusion tracts in Spanish. What else are you going to do while waiting for your order of chicken?
Today I was able to make myself understood in Spanish. Both what the problem was and my desired resolution of said problem. Things broke down a bit in my understanding of what they needed from me. They asked what time I had been there and I said “media dia” (noon, literally middle of the day). They disappeared into the manager’s office for a while and came out and said what I understood to be to come back in an hour (una hora), but I was having none of that, I wanted my chicken now. Eventually I figured out that they wanted a more precise time (la hora) for yesterday’s visit so they could check the security camera images. I gave them a closer time and they found a picture of me carrying a bag with four two liter bottles of Coke and another bag much too small to be holding twenty four pieces of chicken.
Now all I had to do was wait until they made the chicken and we counted them. Somewhere in there the power came back on to the pumps and they fueled up the truck and I paid them and while time is no problem while you are waiting it is an issue when they are waiting so I moved the truck to a parking spot and went back inside to try the ATM with a few cards (I now know which one I will not rely on in Nicaragua) and eventually get the chicken.
At the church I scoff down a piece of chicken, load some ladders they no longer need and engage the services of a swamper from the construction team. The roof was almost complete and they were about to wrap up for the day. He and I go to the Shiloh base camp and load boxes of rice and deliver them to the Medfest site. Then we hung out and checked out the activities until they wound down and we all loaded onto buses back to the Hotel Granada. Walking up the street on the way to our hotel we bought a couple of gallon jugs of water.
After showering, changing, watching Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! we went to the Chinese restaurant and ordered chicken, plantains, and salad off the street cart outside to be delivered on banana leaf on plates to our table inside the restaurant. We dipped into the Eskimo ice cream parlor for a couple of cups to go and ate them in the room and went to bed early after taking a couple of Robax copies. I sleep until five a.m.
Sunday, January 18
Final day of Medfest.
No tutor today. I woke up at 5 anyway, but just vegetated in a semi-conscious state and read random junk on internet.
Breakfast at seven and head down to buses at 7:30.
Oscar Brooks preached at the service on the Medfest grounds. He started at 2 Samuel 21:15 with four giants killed by the Israelites and then focussed on one. He was one of Goliath’s brothers, but we don’t know much about him because Goliath was so famous. The brother’s name was Seph which means “limits”. He is the giant that wants us to think of our limits when we are called by God to do something. If God calls us to do something, especially beyond our physical or other limits, God will provide the capability. Examples were: Moses who couldn’t speak well, but God made a leader; Abraham who was too old, but God made him the father of a great nation; Paul who was a murderer, but God used to write much of the New Testament; and Deborah who was a woman, but God made a judge. Seph lies, but Christ has the last word.
After the service, the construction team stayed on the Medfest grounds for a while to get a feel for what was going on there. Then we all headed to the Shiloh base camp and painted on a couple of houses. We applied sealer on two of them and then paint on the inside of the one that is scheduled to be occupied by a WOTC staff member who will be staying in Nicaragua for three months. We had bought five gallons of paint at Sinsa, which would have been enough in a primed, dry-walled house, but was about a gallon short of doing a first coat on the stucco finished block walls, especially since the sealer coat had been applied too thinly.
When things were winding down and we were cleaning up we asked Henry, the Nicaragua metal worker that builds the roof structures for WOTC, how they erected the gazebo. The entire thing was done by him and two helpers. First they put up all the posts, then they welded two rafters and a ring collar together in triangle form and erected this triangle. The rafters were all long enough to reach the ground at first. The first two were erected together as the triangular unit and welded to the posts. Then they added two at right angles and the rest, one at a time. To do the welding at the top Henry shinnied up the rafters. Once they were all up they cut the tails of the rafters off a couple of feet from the posts and then added purlins and screwed tin roofing to the purlins. No cranes and only three people. Wow!
At 3:30 we headed to the Medfest grounds and waited around until the doctors, dentists and pharmacists dealt with the last patients. Joe Garza showed me a picture of a 108 year-old man that had accepted the Lord at one of the outreaches today. That’s cutting it a bit close! Ben stopped by and said that the count from the booths and evangelism teams came to 2,919 salvations for the event.
I wandered out to the back field and discovered that the big tent had been taken down. All the little tents were down and they were in the process of rolling up the tent fabric from the big tent. I went out and brought the truck into the courtyard to load with tents and tent poles and helped a bit with loading. There were no crowds waiting to get in so opening and driving through the gates to the courtyard was uneventful other than looking for the guy with the key.
Just about time to load onto the buses I needed a toilet and got some toilet paper from the pharmacy and headed to the communal men’s room, but the gate to the room was locked. Somebody there said it had been locked for an hour, but there was a bathroom off the room they had been using for triage. I headed there for the head, and was relieved to see it unlocked, with an open padlock hanging on the gate. Relief, with an element of nervousness with every noise from the outer room making me think I was about to be locked in for the night. Took the roll of paper back to the pharmacy in time to be herded out of there with Juanita and we headed for the bus which sat there for a long time with the other two buses before the very last people boarded and we roared off back to the Hotel Granada. I would not have survived the wait without having had the side trip to the bathroom.
Juanita and I walked back up the street to our hotel and showered and did the daily laundry. While I was showering, Juanita walked up the street and bought a couple of smoothies and brought them back to the room.
Early to bed, but no Robax.
Monday, January 19
Woke up at 2:30 with a headache and took one Robax and one ibuprofen and ate something and sat up for a while and read before going back to bed and trying to sleep. Must have slept eventually, because the 5 a.m. alarm woke me and I hit the snooze button twice before getting up. I put on shorts and a shirt and flip flops and walked down the street for an hour of mostly conversation mostly in Spanish and some verb drills.
At breakfast Chris, a fellow hotel guest, was concerned with what looked like a cut on his head to us, but was feared to be cancerous by him. His brother and other family members have had skin cancer so he is focussed on that possibility. We walked down to the Hotel Granada where the medical team was eating breakfast and a doctor took him away to examine him.
I talked to Byron by phone and learned that there would apparently be activities where I could assist today. Juanita was already dressed for work and had planned to help Martha. I had not planned to work based on my experience of other years and thus was not dressed for work. I scurried back to Hotel Jerico for more appropriate footwear and clothes and got back before the van left for the staff house. At the staff house Juanita joined up with Martha and I got in the van following the truckload of tents and tent parts from yesterday. We arrived at Shiloh. A carload of Nica pastor and family arrived at the same time and helped unload.
We went to the Medfest grounds to load up chairs for the chapel at Shiloh because the group was coming there after the dedication of the church with the new roof. After a pastor arrived at the Medfest grounds to unlock the room with the chairs we loaded chairs and sound system on the truck to take to Shiloh. As we were leaving we got word that the truck with the chairs and the van were to go to the church dedication. I had a flash back to previous years and the day after the event vortex and what a time suck it can be at times for those like me with limited need to be there contrasted to those who desperately need time to do what they need to do being rushed by those who are getting bored. Once there was the added blow to those who had things to do when they were dragged off to a lunch they didn’t want at a place which was swamped by so many of us arriving at once. Time to bail!
I hopped off the van when it turned off the main highway onto the road to Laguna de Apoyo. I handed out a few curved illusion tracts to bystanders at the intersection and waved down a passing bus about five minutes later. It was going to the main square in Granada, but along with most other passengers I hopped off a block up at the market street. I walked along looking for the vendor with his table including scissors. No sign of him or many other vendors usually there. Maybe they start later in the day? Then I turned around and had a revelation. All the sidewalk vendors stay on the shady side. Since I usually go there in the afternoon I was looking on the wrong side of the street. He was on the shady side across the street from where I usually find him. I bought a pair of folding scissors to replace the pair I lost the other day. Ten Cordobas, less than fifty cents.
Down at the main park the shoeshine man was happy to see me. He cleaned the paint off my shoes with my hand sanitizer and restored them to brilliance. Friday he goes to the hospital for his second hernia operation. I hope to see him before that.
On the street to the hotel I met a few other refugees from group activities and shook off most of my sense of guilt for bailing. Back at the hotel I got the power turned back on for the air conditioner and settled in to do some online banking and updating of the blog. I phoned Byron and tried talking to Juanita over a bad connection, but ended up talking to her through Byron. She left home without Nicaraguan money, but Byron said they would make sure to get her back to the hotel okay. I said if they couldn’t do that to please call me so I could come get her.
Juanita had a busy day. After the church dedication they went to Shiloh base camp and held a worship service in the chapel there. Oscar Brooks preached what she said was the best message of many good messages she has heard this trip. He talked about the Philistines stealing the Ark of the Covenant and then having much sickness among them. They decided to test the premise of whether it was the Ark’s presence that was causing this by sending it on a cart pulled by two cows set loose while keeping their calves in the barn. The natural tendency of the cows would be to return to their calves, but they both went where they were supposed to go with the ark and were sacrificed by Joshua. The lesson for our lives is that we can say we are sold out for God and want to follow His will, but we may have other affections that we want to hang onto that keep us hanging around the barn instead of going where He would send us. Sounds like I missed a relevant message on self-indulgence by being self-indulgent. I did have a wonderful day but more on that later.
Juanita joined the group for lunch at the Masaya buffet, and then medical team members went sight seeing and staff and Juanita carried on to the Mesfest grounds. Juanita helped Martha sort medicines while others packed up stuff from the other rooms. It looked like the school people wanted everyone gone, but it turned out they just wanted to go home for the day and everyone was welcome back tomorrow morning.
After a bit of writing I took a break and walked up town to the Hot Dog Connection of Granada and had a Nica Dog and a Coke Zero. When I ask where and what we should eat, Juanita usually answers “anything but hot dogs”. I am more of the mind of Frank Sobey the founder of the Sobey supermarket chain who grew up in a family grocery store/ butcher shop. He ate hot dogs, because unlike hamburger they “came from reputable packing houses”.
I walked up market street for an eighty Cordoba haircut (a tiny bit more than three bucks) and then into the market to buy a dozen bananas. Back at the room I added pictures to the web site until the bandwidth died. Along about then Juanita arrived home. After she showered we walked up to Tele Pizza for some pizza by the slice.
Tuesday - January 20
Tutor then breakfast and phone Ben about the day’s plans. They were planning on loading a bus for the airport about nine. In the time window before then I loaded some pictures to the web site. Walking down to the Hotel Granada the bus had not arrived so we visited with a few people. When the bus loaded we rode with the van going to the staff house and got off there along with a pastor wanting some medications. That van left to catch up with the bus to the Managua airport and later return to the Medfest grounds with one person staying until the next group comes in on Saturday.
Juanita went to the Medfest grounds in another vanload of staff people. Byron and I went to Masaya in the truck and bought some oil for the well drilling equipment before following in their footsteps. Before noon all the stuff was packed up and ready to load on the truck and we all went to Shiloh base camp and unloaded it for further sorting. At that point Ben gave the staff the rest of the day off. Byron had the option, but decided to work on prepping the well drilling equipment. I stayed to help him.
Juanita got a ride home with some people going into Granada.
Byron and I (mostly Byron) added oil to the drill rig engine, the mud pump engine and the compressor engine. We worked on the packing gland on the head. Then we made a list of further parts and supplies.The battery for the drill rig and a couple of lengths of jack hammer type hose disappeared on the way through customs. Byron dropped me off at the corner near the hotel about four thirty and Juanita and I went up to Tele Pizza for a shared Mediterranean Salad before returning to the room and an early night after a bit of TV and adding all the pictures to date.
Wednesday - January 21
Back from the tutor at seven and passing Chris in the lobby he offered to take us to breakfast so I told the cook we were eating elsewhere today and we grabbed what we would need for the day and went with him to the Garden Café. Juanita had a Nacatamal and I had French toast. We were both pleased and grateful.
We bid Chris goodbye and he headed back to the hotel to finish packing and wait for the taxi to the airport. We headed up to the bus terminal and got on an almost full bus arriving at the staff house while they were still eating breakfast. After devotions there was a roundtable debriefing about Medfest and notes made to help with next year’s preparations. Today's work list was reviewed and then we headed to Shiloh. Juanita and Martha sorted meds. The rest of us shuffled stuff in the warehouse, getting rid of some trash and moving things and making room for the drill equipment so it was accessible.
The drill rig was fired up and the hydraulics tested. The mud pump was fired up and tested. One of the two vans went to the market to buy vegetables. The other van went back to the staff house to start supper. Juanita went to the staff house.
Byron and I stayed and discussed a list of questions to ask a local well drilling expert. Byron called him and they talked a bit and he agreed to meet us at the staff house so we headed back there and called him when we got there. He is based about two kilometers from the staff house. He came right over and was very knowledgeable and helpful. He agreed to come to the staff house at nine tomorrow and go to Shiloh with us to go over the equipment and give some pointers.
Juanita and I walked across the highway and caught a passing microbus into town getting off a block up from the market street. We walked a couple of blocks further down and I got the straps sewn on my back pack. One strap has been frayed for some time where it attached at the top. It and the other strap are now better than new. All for less than a buck. The first mandarin oranges of the season were not such a great bargain in price, but sure were in taste. I saw them in a basket in a fruit stand in the market and homed right in on them. They are more of a February thing usually, hence the premium price today, but worth every Cordoba. Ripe mangos cannot be far behind. They have been selling cut-up green mango pieces with salt on the side for a couple of weeks, but they must be a taste acquired when one is young.
We ate pupusas at the stuffed hamburger place. The cook says she was born in Toronto and has a house in Winnipeg which she goes back to for a while each year. She is married to a Nicaraguan, but her family is in Canada and she says she gets very lonely here. We got back to the hotel shortly after wheel had started and did showers, laundry, some TV and some keyboarding. I stayed up beyond my usual bedtime to write up the last two days and try and break the wakening at 2:30 thing that has been happening with going to bed at nine.
Thursday - January 22
Up early and walk down to the Spanish tutor. No sign of life. “Hola!” a bit through the window, enjoy the sunrise over the church across the street and take a few pictures, but no sign of life in five minutes. Walk back to hotel and relax a bit until breakfast.
Do a bit of updating to the web site and then it is time to head for the staff house. While keyboarding I receive an apologetic e-mail from Roger, the tutor, explaining what happened and offering an extra hour of tutoring free on top of the hours I had paid for. That wasn’t necessary since I had probably enjoyed and used the time to better effect than the hour of tutoring would have been today. This is the day each year when we start that seven month period when Juanita and I are the same nominal age. In other words, it is my birthday. I think she looks forward to it more than I do.
At breakfast the maid, Noami, asks me if we would be interested in some freshly squeezed orange juice. At first I think she is saying some form of the verb vender (to sell), but decide it is my imagination and poor hearing and say “si” to her kind offer. It is delicious.
We go to the bus and ride to the staff house for devotions. The driller is going to be a no-show. They have the bit and a bunch of drill stem stuck in the well in Rivas. They use a big rig with 3-1/2 inch diameter drill stem and proportionally sized drill bit so there is serious potential loss of investment if they cannot get their stuff out of the hole. He is off to Rivas and will “maybe” call this afternoon. Byron and I go to Shiloh in the truck. The van Juanita is in arrives a bit later. It needed push starting. We move some boxes in hope of finding the missing air hoses. No joy.
Juanita worked sorting meds with Martha. We fire up the compressor to check it out and make a list of hardware items we will need to buy. We talk to some of the workers who are working on the fence and the houses and ask them about hand dug wells in the area. They say they don’t know as they live in Masaya. Later they come back after asking around and say that the water is 600 feet or 80 to 100 meters deep in the area. I think they have some problem with conversion or I have some problem with translation. The six hundred feet is very clearly said, but that would be more like 180 meters. Perhaps that is what they are saying, not eighty to a hundred meters.
Byron and I walk to the little store down the street and what I understand him to say is that there are no hand dug wells in the area because the water is too deep. There is a well at the nearby power plant (Planta Che Gueverra) and a couple of municipal wells for the water district. He says there is a vein of water going through the middle of the camp property “very close” to the surface, but that the three drilled wells are very deep.
Joe Garza “checks” for water with a couple of bent welding rods and “finds” a sweet spot to drill, but we engage his language skills and he comes with us to visit the storeowner and confirm that the store owner told us what we thought he told us. The back of the power plant is across the road from the camp. Joe, Byron and I take the van and go to one of the security gates on the road in front of the plant. The guard says this is gate three and directs us to gate one. At gate one they check our ID and make a few calls and then say they can’t tell us anything about the well, but we can go to the water district office down the road and they will tell us. Off we go. The lady there receives us warmly and says the supervisor will be there shortly and offers us chairs to put in the shade. The water works guy shows up and we sit and chat about the municipal wells. There is a new one and an older one. They are both six hundred feet deep with seventy feet of water. We are sitting about twenty feet away from the older one. It has been out of service for a couple of years since the pump failed. It costs seven or eight thousand dollars to bring in equipment to remove and re-install the pump so they have been using just the newer pump down the road a bit. The well has twelve or fourteen inch casing (poor notes, Paul and worse memory) and has a twenty five horsepower submersible pump hanging on the end of a number of twenty foot lengths of four inch steel pipe. It is fed from a 20 kW transformer.
While we are at the well head I get a call from our daughter, Deborah, to wish me a happy birthday. It was great to hear from her, but the call is pretty short. I can’t hear very well and I don’t want to miss anything the water works person says and I am always unsure how many minutes are left on the phone.
If this is the water level in the area it might be a bit of a stretch for the well rig in the Shiloh warehouse. It has thirty four lengths of seven foot long drill stem so it can reach 238 feet assuming the mud pump has enough jam to clear the cuttings from the hole. It’s not like one can drill three holes and stack them. I wonder what the phrase “a vein running close to the surface” in the local folklore means.
We went back to Shiloh for a while and then Byron and I went to the Masaya market in the truck and bought a kitchen strainer, some screening, hardware cloth, nuts and bolts and some nails. While there my daughter Rebekah called me. With the noise in the marketplace I could hardly hear the phone call and we cut the call short. Then it was back to the staff house and we went back to Granada.
After a shoe shine at the square we stopped by a few restaurants and checked selections and prices for a birthday dinner. I try the Magic Jack phone the hotel has to offer “Free Calls to the United States and Canada” to call back to Deborah and Rebekah but it is not working. The receptionist offers me her cell phone and I call and have a fairly long call with Rebekah. I ask about using the phone to call Deborah, but the receptionist looks concerned, checks her phone balance and says I can call for two minutes. I try, but Deborah was out for the evening. Kids will keep you busy that way.
We do the shower, laundry, wheel and jeopardy routine and go to the Garden Cafe for a relaxing birthday dinner. Back at home we channel surf very briefly and go to bed just after nine. This means, of course, that I wake at 3:45.
Friday - January 23
Up at the usual time and down to the tutor and back to the hotel for breakfast at seven. The cook sends the maid to collect payment for yesterday’s juice. A fair price maybe, but it’s the last time we’ll do that. I was right the first time. Shewas saying “sell”.
After breakfast I called Byron to ask about today. Shortly into the call my phone announced that I had no more minutes in my account and disconnected the call. Byron was able to call me back and we finished our conversation, but until I cough up more Cordobas I cannot make calls.
We head to the staff house taking a bus from the terminal and arrive in time to hear a devotional by Jessica. Ben is meeting with the police about the upcoming training so we do the devotional and go over today’s plan without him. The plan for the day for the ladies is to paint houses at Shiloh. Juanita is not wearing painting clothes.
Juanita, Byron and Paul go in the truck to Ferreteria Lugo for pipe etc. Once we are there Juanita walks to the hotel and back to change while the truck is at Lugo. Lugo only has two, four inch schedule forty pieces of PVC pipe. We buy one of the two, plus some fittings. Juanita gets back before we are loaded. I buy minutes for my cell phone from a street stall. On the way out of town we stop for fuel for the truck. I buy a piece of torta de leche. It is so good that it must be practically fatal to eat.
We go to Shiloh and people get started painting. The new paint does not match the prior paint. It is noticeably lighter. It a different brand tinted the same in the same store, but the prior base is deeper (mas profundo). We start to cut slots in the four inch pipe so it can be used as a screen at the bottom of the well to keep out sand. We use a hacksaw and cut the slots to the depth of a hacksaw blade. There are three rows of slots around the circumference of the pipe, with the slots about half an inch apart at their sides. The bottom of the pipe will be capped and the first two feet will be not be slotted, leaving eighteen feet to be slotted. The first foot takes an hour by hand. Hmm.
Ben arrives and I go to Sinsa with him in a van driven by Theresa. We buy matching paint for the house already mostly painted inside with the first paint. We buy six more pieces of pipe for well casing. They only have five pieces in the rack inside the store, but we wait until they go outside and bring in the sixth piece before we proceed to checkout. Ben buys a cut-off saw and a narrow blade for slotting the screen section of the pipe. After settling up we go to the loading bay door. The pipe is on a trolley ready to go out the door. Things are looking up! Theresa hands the invoice to the woman who had been helping throughout the buying process. The women rushes off and disappears into the bowels of the store with the piece of paper we need to get the pipe the twenty feet from inside the store to the top of the van parked next to the door. About fifteen minutes later she reappears and we can pass the pipe past the security guard for inspection and load it on the top of the van and Ben can ratchet strap it down. All is not lost. While people are searching for the woman I manage to dart back to the instore snack bar and buy a piece of torta de leche. It is not as good as the gas station version, but I’m sure it is still good enough to kill you in a week or so.
When we return to Shiloh the well rig has been set in place and the operation tested by making a three foot deep hole. The settling/mud pits are laid out on the grass.
We ride the van to Granada and go back to our hotel. I remove my jeans and Juanita takes them and other accumulated non-sink laundry to the laundry place while Paul showers.
When she gets back we head to Tele Pizza planning to take the long way up by Hot Dog Connection corner to change money with a coyotes and buy some skin cream at a pharmacy. We talk to Allen at Erick Tours about a ride to the airport, and say we will make a deposit after supper, but we are in a hurry to get to coyote corner and the pharmacy before they close. He takes us to a coyote around the corner from our hotel and to two pharmacies. I am wondering if he would be offended if I gave him a tip for his helpful actions and decide that it might be offensive. Coming out of the second pharmacy after a degree of success finding the cream we were looking for he says, “can you loan me $8 ?” I give him 200 cords.
We walked to Tele Pizza for a Mediterranean salad. On the walk home we buy some bananas in a touristy corner store and walk down the street for water and detergent. I ask for Fabuloso which they don’t have and she asks me what it’s for. Apparently despite the gardener in Oaxaca washing his clothes in Fabuloso it is more of a disinfectant like Mr. Clean. She sells me a small bag of clothes detergent. Back home we see the tail end of wheel and all of jeopardy, watch a bit more TV then wash daily clothes and crash early.
Saturday - January 24
In the daily session with the tutor, we worked on review of regular verbs and then went on to verbs with irregular present tenses. After breakfast I called the staff house and we headed there about eight. We were running late so I flagged down a cab and he quoted 20 cords each and we got in. Before we had gone fifty feet the price went up to 100 cords for both. Probably a fair price for the distance, but not what was quoted before we got in so we got out and went to the bus terminal. We arrived at the staff house after the devotional. The day's work list was being reviewed.
Susan and Toby were riding with Byron in the truck so I got in the van with Juanita and Martha leaving a few minutes after the truck. A mile or so up the highway we encountered the truck dead beside the road. We stopped briefly, but Ben had been called and was on his way back so we carried on to Shiloh. The ladies got started painting. I started cutting more slots in the PVC pipe to use as well screen. The van showed up with Susan and others and a while later Byron showed up with Ben in the third van. They had towed truck back to the staff house. It will need to go to the shop next week.
Byron, Susan, Toby and I went in a van to Tipitapa, where there is a row of roadside barrel stores. We were quoted $US22 each for three barrels and were strapping them on the van roof and then the price went up to $US27 each. We took them off the van and bought them at a nearby competitor for slightly less than $US27. Once we had purchased the barrels we headed back to Shiloh stopping at a gas station for drinks and bathrooms. I ordered a hot dog. The weiners were in a normal looking heated case with a rotary basket mechanism for keeping them evenly heated above bacterial growth levels. The girl took a weiner out of the case and put it and a bun in a microwave oven to heat them. I went over and touched the weiner case. Room temperature. I have been told that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, but know no good scriptural basis for that. Back in the van I ate my hot dog. Frugality over common sense. Or maybe the belief that a hot dog is toxic enough to deal with any bacteria all on its own. There were no immediate negative outcomes of the gastronomic experience.
After dropping the barrels at Shiloh we all headed back to the house. Juanita and I were going to get a ride to Granada but they were cooking lunch and then Joe called, His van had a flat tire and no spare and no jack. Byron and Phil left to help. Juanita and I walked across highway and got on a bus. We got off not far from the market so looked for mandarin oranges. My shoeshine guy in the square said he would be in the hospital so I got a shoe shine by the side of the market street while Juanita shopped for bananas and mandarins. I was quoted about 20 percent of what I normally pay for a shoeshine and paid him double what he asked for for a shine slightly less bright.
After the shoe shine I walked down a block and waited at that junction for Juanita. When she emerged from the labyrinth we went to the nearby Pali looking for washing soda and bought a package of butter cookies. We walked to the square and ran into the regular shoeshine guy who had said he was going to the hospital for operation. He now claims the date of the operation has changed to February third.
We went for Tip Top chicken for lunch, picked up our laundry and walked by Erick Tours looking for Allen so we could pay the deposit on our airport shuttle for Friday morning. They said he would be right there and to take a seat. After about five minutes we left for our room, arriving there about three. We relaxed, did a bit of keyboarding, and watched wheel and jeopardy. After wheel and jeopardy we walked up the street for a couple of smoothies in lieu of supper. About then I noticed our water jugs were gone. We buy water in gallon jugs, because we are not acclimatized to the local tap water and gallon jugs are the most economical size to purchase if you are going to be walking a few blocks with them. I had been saving the empties for use for paint pots and had left them by the door so we would remember them tomorrow morning. I guess the maid thought we were throwing them out and carried them away. They are nice, clean jugs so hopefully she saved them for other uses and didn't just throw them in the trash.
I did a bit more keyboarding and we stayed up too late watching “Maverick” a Mel Gibson movie in English with Spanish subtitles. Juanita went to bed and I went to brush my teeth and realized I had left the daily laundry soaking in the sink. I zombied through to rinse and wring it and leave it with fan blowing on it. Tilley socks and SEV tee shirts and boxers dry in less than two hours if you wring them out, then wring them out in a towel before hanging them in front of a fan.
Sunday - January 25
This morning the tutor and I set up chairs and a table on the sidewalk and did verb drills between sips of coffee. I enjoy the breeze from the lake. His inspiration may have been the power outage which stops the fan over his desk inside from working. When I got back to the hotel for breakfast there were lots of people already at breakfast and a noisy generator running out on the street. It had a "powered by Honda" sticker, which meant it had a high speed Honda motor on a more traditional generator. It was not one of the modern, quiet inverter models that runs at low speeds and gets its AC frequency electronically. We ate quickly to free up a table.
I asked the maid about the water jugs and she got them from her supplies closet and gave them back, She seemed a little embarrassed. We walked down to the Hotel Granada with our water jugs held together with a length of string. The group that arrived from Chicago last night were eating breakfast, I went in to the dining room and met most of them. We had met one them before before in Mexico and here in Granada. Then I went back out to the lobby and waited with Juanita until the van was ready to go to the staff house for devotions.
The devotional started in Matthew and dealt with going the extra mile. Then it covered Elijah and Elisha and the significance of the “double portion”. There was the patented WOTC flexi cookie talk given to new teams then we all left for Shiloh.
The group did a tour of the property. The staff started on preparations for the day's activities. I cut some water jugs up for use as paint pots and started to mark the screen pipe for slotting.
Byron and I cut the tops off two of the barrels we bought yesterday. We used a Dremel tool with a cutting disc made for plastic. It is narrower than the blade bought for the cut-off saw at Sinsa.
The group starts work, ladies painting houses, men digging mud/settling pits for well drilling. I start cutting slots using the Dremel saw and then get others involved. There is NO water in main water tank for the camp. The water works people are there to change the inlet valve at the tank top. Water flows, at best, every second day so you need storage capacity of some sort. The locals all have several barrels sitting in their yards.
This is more of an orientation, preparation day than a serious work day and we all leave the site fairly early. Juanita and I ride in the van going back to the Hotel Granada where the group is staying. We are back at our hotel at 2.
We relax, do a bit of keyboarding, and eventually walk to Tele Pizza for a slice of pizza each, and tres leches cake for me. We buy a smoothy for Juanita on the way home where we watch a Kevin Costner movie with Spanish subtitles, about a Detroit Tigers pitcher.
I make notes of the day, do daily laundry and we are in bed before nine.
Monday - January 26
The day begins with a session with the Spanish tutor. Regular verbs are going well. Irregular ones need some work, and we will start with those tomorrow.
I have a quick breakfast so I can dash off to the hardware store (Ferreteria). Juanita will head down to the Hotel Granada and meet up with the team before eight.
I head uptown towards the hardware store (opens at 7:30) and grab a passing cab. He takes off several blocks in the wrong direction to drop off the other passenger and then drops me off at Ferreteria Lugo more quickly than if I had walked. I dart through the store buying all the stuff on my list that they have.
After paying for the purchases I walk briskly across town and walk down the up street that the WOTC van will use. Once on this street I slow down a bit and start handing out curved illusion tracts. I am fascinated by the fellow on the sidewalk who is shouting instructions to a worker on the roof across the street. The worker is up there to paint the facade of the building. There are different layers and shapes of stucco. The fellow is trying to communicate which parts to paint which colour. He yells something like "the rectangle" and the worker points to the innner rectangle. The fellow is getting quite frustrated. I can tell what the fellow wants, but the painter is too close to the building to see the pattern that is obvious across the street. I am not confident the first pass of the painter will yield the intended results.
The owner reaches the point where he thinks the worker understands and I share the curved illusion with him and carry on down toward the bottom of the street. I am almost at the intersection and I see the ministry van turn and drive away from me. I run after it and it turns again at the next intersection. I rush to the corner and see it has stopped near our hotel. Then I get closs enough to see better and realize the people in the van and the people now loading are nothing to do with the ministry. The van is just a look alike. I rush back to the other street and worry that the real ministry van has gone past while i was a block over.
This is a nagging concern until I am almost at the Hotel Granada and see the right van approaching. It stops and I get in with the purchases and the van proceeds to Shiloh base camp.
After devotions I start greasing the rig. The team moves the drill rig into place and the learning begins. Before it is set-up Jorge from the well drilling mission organization comes and gives advice and coaches the team through the early steps. Ben and Phillip leave to tow the truck to the shop.
There are some hydraulic pressure problems. One possibility is that the rig might be low on hydraulic fluid. A hose was nicked duringshipping and it lost about a gallon of hydraulic fluid before the hose was mended. I go to Masaya in search of some hydraulic fluid. There is no TSC here. I find some power steering fluid labelled "aceite hydralico" (hydraulic oil) as well. It is in sealed one liter containers so I have to buy one to break the seal and check it out. It looks and feels like hydraulic fluid. I bring the one liter container back with me and compare the contents to the hydraulic fluid in the reservoir. It seems the same.
Ben comes back from towing the truck. He accepts trying the power steering fluid and I add the one liter. Then I go for six more liters and later go for ice and water when the water coolers run low. Mostly I spent the day puttering on the periphery while the team did what they came to do.
Juanita painted with the ladies from the team. The 20'ish girl team member worked at painting and helped mix drilling mud and even changing drill stems.
Around four the team started pulling up drill stem and everyone carried any loose tools or other items to be locked up in the warehouse. The drill rig will stay in place overnight under the watchful eye of the night watch man.
We rode back to the Hotel Granada with the team and then bought a couple of gallons of water and got to our room at the Hotel Jerico at ten to six. We showered and changed and watched wheel and jeopardy and answered e-mails until seven and then went down the street for Chicken Chow Ming (not a typo) and then a couple of smoothies.
Back home by eight and in bed before nine.
Tuesday, January 27
The usual session with the Spanish tutor from six to seven was followed by another quick breakfast at our hotel and a dash off in a cab to Ferreteria Lugo to buy a wire brush to clean the threads on the drill stem.
Typical cab fare in town is 10 Cordobas (about 38-1/2 cents) for a shared cab. At that fare the cab may already have passengers or may pick up more passengers. They get dropped off in the same order they are picked up or sooner if their destination is on the way to the earlier passengers' drop-off point. The cab I flag down is empty. It goes straight to the hardware store.
Coming out of the store I walk a block back toward the center of town and hail another empty cab already going toward my destination. I get back to our hotel before Juanita has left and together we walk down to the Hotel Granada and join up with the team from Chicago before they get in the van.
We travel to camp Shiloh were we dig the mud pits deeper and add concrete blocks to increase drop out points for cuttings. At devotions we sing worship songs in Spanish and English accompanied by Lucy on guitar and Phillip on flute. The devotional was given by Jessica, a testimony of her life and God’s work in it. God doesn't do things the ways we would think He would and he doesn't need perfect people to do His work.
The drilling team starts.
The painting team starts with a bit of confusion over what needs painting first, but that got sorted out.
Some staff and the Chicago team leader go to Managua to meet with officials about the upcoming police conference.
The drilling is going well and then the mud pump seal fails. It started with dripping, but by the time all the drill stem was pulled it was a pretty healthy (should that be unhealthy?) spray from the liquid leaking out of the pump onto the spinning coupling. Work stops for lunch while the seal is being changed. The ceramic portion of the seal looks not too bad, but the carbon ring is no longer present.
The first of two spares on hand are installed. The pump is restarted. It takes a while before it pulls a prime and starts pumping, but it runs without leaking.
Drilling resumes. Fairly soon the pump starts leaking again. No carbon ring left when pulled apart. Wear looks uneven. A team member calls the pump factory. He learns that this is a fairly difficult service for this type of pump. It doesn't particularly like a lot of grit passing through it. Starting it dry is not advised but shouldn't be instantly catastrophic. The spares we have are the correct part numbers. A little lube on the seal faces wouldn't hurt, but not help all that much either. The second and last spare is installed very carefully and the pump is restarted with no shortage of priming water. Drilling resumes.
The team leader and staff return from Managua. The team is back up to full strength. There are enough people to do the work. Juanita and I say our goodbyes and leave about three. We walk about a mile and catch a ride on a three-wheel motor cycle cab to the Masaya Carretera. We walk across to the other side of the divided highway and catch a bus to Granada getting to the main square around four.
I get my shoes shined and we go for a shared salad at Tele Pizza. Back at our hotel we have showers and relax. At about eight thirty we go for smoothies and then come back and go to bed.
Wednesday - January 28
Down the street to the Spanish teacher at six, but he is not feeling well so we agree to cut the session short after half an hour and do an hour and a half tomorrow. I came back to the room earlier than usual and filled time before breakfast with some tidying and doing the laundry of yesterday's shirt, socks, etc. Yesterday was the last work day for us this trip so I didn't need them for today and procrastinated from doing it last night. Got a little too much sun the last couple of days so it was nice to do absolutely nothing in the evening.
Today's plan is to go up to Erick Tours at eight and try and arrange a shuttle back from the Monkey Hut on Laguna de Apoyo which is a lake on a hopefully extinct volcano. I checked yesterday and they quoted a price for each way, but we never have trouble getting there. Sometimes it has been a bit of a hassle getting out of the crater at the end of the day. At nine we plan to take a combination of bus and cab to get there and sit in the shade and get in some serious and frivolous reading. And maybe we'll take out a kayak or two!
I went up the street and paid the price for pickup at the Laguna and came back to the room for a bit. A little before nine we started walking toward the main square. I checked with a couple of passing cabs, but they quoted the same price as each other and as the tour company to take us to the Laguna. The bus at the terminal filled quickly and we got off at the intersection of the road to the Laguna and the main highway to Masaya. Within five minutes a cab came by and quoted a price one third of the rest so we hopped in and saved the price of lunch. At the Monkey Hut we signed in for our day pass and received a lamicoid tablet to show to the servers so anything we ate or drank would be recorded. There is a restaurant and a pizzeria on site as well. They are under seperate management from each other and the hotel and expect to be paid when they deliver the food to your table (or hammock).
We went down and chose a spot overlooking the water and sat and read and drank coffee until we moved to some more comfortable chairs with almost as good a view. We then proceeded to diligently do nothing strenuous for the rest of the day, both making a bit of progress in the books we are on, but not much else. Juanita found a sunny spot for a while and I found a shady spot in a hammock for a while. The highlight of our day was watching a group of twelve or so adults that had been there for a couple of hours and how they behaved when it was time to leave. There were a number of false starts and reluctant starts and a few breakaways to the bathrooms before everyone disappeared out of view toward the parking lot. Not sure I’d make a happy tour guide.
At quarter to four we gathered our stuff and headed up the hill to the office to settle our bill and then show the settled bill to the security guard to let us out. Our four o’clock van and driver was already waiting and we were rolling by five to four. Back home we dropped off our stuff in our room and walked up to the market to buy some mandarin oranges. They have dropped in price in the last week. Then we stopped for pupusas one last time. We said good bye to the owner. She hugged and air kissed us.
Back at the room we watched a bit of wheel and made a few phone calls. Around eight we headed up the street and brought smoothies back to the room. End of a most relaxing day. First in a while.
Meanwhile, back at the camp things were less relaxed. Today they hit hard rock at 96 feet. Soon after starting the other day they had hit soft rock at fourteen and a half feet, had switched from a four inch mud bit to a four inch roller cone bit and carried on. The rock they hit at 96 feet was too hard to drill for the bit and the rig. They decided to ream out the top fourteen and a half feet to six inch diameter to install casing to the rock and work at developing the well like that. They had pretty well reached that depth and just added the third seven-foot long drill stem and were slowly rotating it while flushing when the rig lost all hydraulic pressure. The shaft on the hydraulic pump had sheared. They hand pulled the drill stem and bit and filled their settling pits and picked up tools and everything else. The pump will go back to the States for a warranty claim and the rotating head assembly will be sent to the factory for examination.
Thursday - January 29
Today is our last day in Nicaragua. We are scheduled to fly back to Harlingen tomorrow. The flight is from Managua at 7:57 and we have a car scheduled to pick us up at 4:30. I guess you could say that tomorrow is the last day, but even the IRS doesn’t consider a day spent in airports as a day in the country.
The tutor and I set up table and chairs on the sidewalk one last time for this year. He ended up cancelling his classes yesterday even the one he was supposed to do on Skype. Our session today was an hour and a half. After the tutoring session (goodbye hug from Roger) I went down to the Hotel Granada and gave Ben our Nica cell to give to a pastor. We had a bit of a chat and debriefing. The well drilling and painting team will be having a pizza party tonight and we were invited, but have plans to go out for a last nice meal at Nicaraguan prices. Ben’s wife Jeanne was scheduled to pick us up at the airport, but it looks like she has to go back up to Houston so their son, Matt has that duty.
Back at the room I added photos of the last few days to the web page and puttered at other stuff on the page. Around eleven we went for coffee while the maid cleaned the room. Then back to the room for a bit more editing and then off to lunch at Cafetin Claudia. More hugs and air kisses.
The afternoon was spent editing. At five we went to the Garden Cafe for a good last supper in Nicaragua and then back to the room for more editing, a bit of TV and packing. Our flight is scheduled to leave Managua about eight tomorrow morning and we have a cab scheduled through Erick Tours to pick us up at 4:30.
Friday - January 30
I awake before the alarm set for four goes off and I decide to get up about 3:45 and dress and finish packing toothbrush and tooth powder (not a liquid. Take that TSA!). Juanita is up before four as well. We are all packed and ready and walk out to the street gate of the hotel at 4:25. We visit with the owner and by 4:30 there is still no sign of the ride from Erick Tours. We have lots of time so a few minutes late wouldn't matter if we knew it was only going to be a few minutes and not a total no-show. I have visions of last-minute desperate negotiations with the driver of one of the broken down gypsy cabs that race around town for ten cordobas a trip and ending up paying way too much for a terrifying trip to the Managua airport in the dark at highway speeds.
Juanita notices another van loading up the street. I walk up to the corner and talk to the driver. "Erick Tours?" "Nope" I say we had booked a van but it hadn't shown up yet. He asks if it was for five and I answer that it was for four thirty. He shakes his head. I shake mine. I ask him where he is going. He says that he is going the airport in Managua. I ask him if he will take my wife and I. He quotes a price. I make sure it is for both of us not for each of us and accept the price. It was the same price we had agreed to pay Erick Tours. I had made a deposit with them and had the balance plus a tip in my wallet. With their deposit and the just quoted price the total was the same as we paid to come from the airport to Granada almost a month ago. That works.
The driver swings the van around the corner and stops in front of the Hotel Jerico, grabs our bags, throws them in the back, tells one of the female passengers to get out so Juanita can get between her and the other female passenger on the bench seat. There is some ill tempered grumbling and swearing in French, but she moves and Juanita gets in and she gets back in. I hop onto the jump seat in the next row and do up my seat belt and we are off to the airport using the Masaya diversion and the road through Tipitapa. Racing along thorugh the dark in a solid, near new Toyota van. With seat belts. Most cabs only have front seat belts. Between Tipitapa and the airport there is a large flatdeck semi trailer wedged across both lanes of the road, but we snake around the back end (the front end has one wheel in the ditch. The driver swung too wide coming out of an industrial site.) and lose hardly any time at all.
We are early enough that the lines to the Copa Airlines desks are full, but not those to the United Airlines desks. We walk up, get our passports checked and are handed our boarding passes. We go to a kiosk in the food court and there is coffee for two US dollars a cup. I offer the owner all my cordobas with a value of about three fifty and he gives me two cups of coffee.
After our coffee we head through immigration to get our passports stamped and go through security. The person ahead of us forgot to take off his leatherman tool so was donating it to one of the airport workers. We did the usual remove belts, shoes semi strip tease act and then proceeded to the gate marked on the boarding pass. It was busy because there was an Avianca flight departing from that gate, but after that departed it seemed a bit sparse in terms of waiting passengers.
I went for more coffee and some water and a panini each and we ate those. Getting close to boarding time I went for a last pitstop and thought I had better check the other gates. Good thing. Our flight was getting ready to board from a different gate. Back at the gate I informed Juanita and the others waitng and we all scrambled to the correct gate and got in line. I went up to the desk at the gate and the airline person's face lit up like he had been paging me. "Oh yes. Mr. PaulWilliam (all one word). I need to have proof of travel that you will be departing the United States to Canada." I told him my proof was parked in Texas and I would be driving it back to Canada. That seemed to satisfy him and I joined Juanita back in line and inched forward until there was a lull and they announced our boarding group in Spanish first and I moved before it was said in English.
In the past, both here and in Panama, there has been additional security at the entrance to the skyway. They hand searched all bags and took away any liquids you bought in the secured area. Today only the occasional passenger was stopped. On the plane along about row twelve there was a flight attendant standing there. The young Nica woman ahead of me asked where seat 9B was. I stopped and moved into an empty aisle to let her pass back toward the front of the plane, but most others acted as if it would be faster to try and carry on toward their seat while she salmoned against the flow. That meant there was a fair bit of space behind me when I got to our row. I planted my carry-on in the overhead bin and my personal item in the next bin to make sure there was space for Juanita's carry-on when she got there. She had been standing behind somebody talking to them when the line started moving and you can only move as fast as the person in front of you. (Theory of constraints, I think. You probably don't want to read about takt rate so I'll stop right there.)
The flight itself was mostly wonderfully boring. We had a nice view of Volcan Concepcion when we flew past and a few bumps in the flight. but dull is the goal.
We landed in Houston a bit ahead of schedule. Customs and immigration has streamlined things with passport scanners and touch screen questionaires. The mid airport TSA had streamlined the line we went through and got rid of the trays and you could keep your shoes, belts and glasses on in that line but I found it a bit disconcerting, because I had metal in some moneybelts and in my jacket and had to remove them and find a place to stuff them in my luggage to make sure nothing fell into the cracks between the rollers. A tray would have been quicker. Oh well, they are trying, I suppose.
We took the airport shuttle train to our next terminal and walked to the gate and looked at the facility and walked back to the hub and bought lunch and sat at a table until much closer to boarding time. We checked our e-mail and did some blog editing with the free airport wi-fi. When we went to the gate there was a long time United employee sitting behind us loudly and obnoxiously ranting about United to other employees and all the ways United had wronged him over the years and how incompetent and uncaring management was and so on. He had "just been shouted at" and I guess he was working off the adrenalin rush of fight or flight, having done neither. We just hoped he wasn't going to be on our flight to Harlingen. I guess he went to Louisiana.
We had a pleasant flight to Harlingen. I called Jeanne when taxiing. She didn't go to Houston. By the time we got to the front entrance she was waiting there for us. Back at the rig, we threw the bags in the door, Juanita went up to have coffee with Jeanne. I turned on the water and the propane and hooked up the power cord then opened a few vents and watched jeopardy and read a trashy mystery novel with the screen door open and the wind blowing through to air out the trailer. The January SOWERS came over and introduced themselve and we visited for a while.
When Juanita came back we went to Costco for dinner and to buy some stuff. The Costco is a bit far from here, but more convenient than the one in downtown Houston. When we got back home from there we set the VCR to record and crashed into bed. I woke at four.
Saturday - January 31
I'm awake at four. I try surfing on my iPod but the signal is so weak I give up and get up and start editing the blog. Juanita wakes up about six thirty and we have breakfast. She goes for coffee with Jeanne and I do some more editing, and finally fix the formatting problems I was having using the machine we took to Nicaragua.
When Juanita came back we went to the dentist and I had the December filling adjusted for a better bite, then we did some shopping and came home for lunch. In the afternoon I went to the tire store, but they had been unable to find the wheels I wanted. Being Saturday it took a lot of waiting around to find out something they had promised to e-mail during the month. But I was happy waiting. I like reading and I always bring a book and they have comfortable chairs and free coffee.
Then it was off to a bank machine on the way home to check if the card that didn't work in Nicaragua, works in the USA. Yes it does.
More editing, then we dropped by the motel briefly to say hi to Byron and Susan who arrived back from Nicaragua this afternoon. We used a gift card to dine at Applebees and came home for a quiet evening.
And that was January.
Reading through to check for typos I noticed that I seemed to watch a lot of wheel and jeopardy and eat a lot of ice cream. There is anywhere from five to ten months a year when we do not have any television access so I don't feel bad about watching those programs when they are available. I do have flashbacks of working in my workshop in our duplex and hearing the elderly neighbours shouting jeopardy answers at the television. I'll try to keep my voice down. As far as the ice cream goes, I noticed the Houston airport price for a scoop of Blue Bell ice cream is ten times the price of a scoop of ice cream at the Eskimo in Nicaragua. We must do enough walking there to counteract any ice cream that gets eaten there. The morning after we got back I weighed a couple of pounds less than my last Texas weight before we left.