This month we'll revert to the normal format of the monthly updates. There will not probably be things to talk about every day. Our plans, so far, as of March 2nd, are to finish up language lessons in Granada, Nicaragua on March 6th, travel to Managua on March 7th and fly back to Edmonton on March 8th.
My first scheduled day of work at the Spring shutdown at CCRL is Monday, April 9 with some training the previous week. So, once we are back in Canada, March will largely be taken up with getting ready to work in Regina by taking care of police checks, drug test, and getting the trailer ready to move if that is where we end up planning to live.
There may be an opportunity to find some time in there to finish some stuff in the house while it is unoccupied, as well. Also, there are always things that need taking care of after being away.
March 1 (Thursday)
This was day something or other (seven?) at language school. Some of the stuff is review. Other should be review, but is not and is coming at me like a fire hose. I am content to stand to one side and sip. Even that sipping is markedly improving my Spanish skills. The skills are still pretty flaky at times, but better than they ever have been and even as bad as they were, they were good enough for travel in a number of countries. There will be lots to ponder and polish after lessons end next week.
After class today we walked to Cafetin Claudia and had the lunch special. There was a bit of a humbling conversation with the waitress, but I ended up with the Cerdo Adabado (marinated pork) I ordered and even figured out what I had ordered before it arrived.
Then we walked down toward the lake and caught a taxi to the Zona Turistica and haggled endlessly and shamelessly for a two hour boat ride around the isletas which we got for five bucks more than the one hour ride we had before. We had the sixteen passenger launch all to ourselves and the "captain". I ended up sitting back with him and translating the spiel to Juanita who sat near the front. I was able to understand him when I heard him, but couldn't hear him unless I sat closer. It was a pleasant ride. A nice change from language class and from hanging around waiting for the student to return "home".
We walked home after the boat ride, had supper and settled in to watch Wheel and Jeopardy. Then we went for another walk and a licuado before settling in for the night.
March 2 (Friday)
Laguna Apoyo, a lake in a volcano crater near Granada, is said to have the cleanest water in Nicaragua and is a noted spot for its beauty and as a place to swim and boat.
I took today off from school so instead of going to class we paid our bill at the Hotel Jerico for the next, and final, five days and walked up to the Granada/UCA bus station and got a bus to Managua. We let the conductor know we were only going to the turn-off to Laguna Apoyo and he hollered when we got there and charged us half fare as we got off and said the road was on the other side of the highway. We walked across and talked to some people waiting on the wrong side of the road and learned they were waiting for the bus we wanted, but they were waiting on the shady side of the road for it. We joined them and then crossed back over when they did and caught the bus to the end of its run near the rim of the volcano. Then we bought a couple of bottles of orange juice and sipped them as we walked the 1.5 kilometers down the steep road inside the crater of the volcano to the fork in the road at the bottom.
The road to the right went another two kilometers to a luxury hotel. We followed some directions we had found on line, went left and walked five hundred meters to a school and 50 meters down a road to the beach. There were several restaurants there and it came highly recommended as being cheap and peaceful, but we had visions of being pestered all day. The water seemed pretty nice, despite some wag saying that being called the cleanest water in Nicaragau is somewhat like being called the smartest Kardashian.
We had peered over the gate at The Monkey Hut hostel on our way from the fork in the road and the sign said they offered a day rate. We walked back and checked that out and settled in at a table in the corner of the deck and revelled in the free coffee and the brisk, cooling breezes off the beach. I studied verbs and surfed and read on my iPod while Juanita read. Occasionally one of of would get up to get coffee or order a pizza from the cook at the brick oven out back, but other than that and a couple of walks we spent the day there in total relaxation without once being pestered by a beggar or beach vendor. I walked down once and visited with the brick layer building an additional outside building. He had a few tricks the guy in Somotillo could learn. He was putting up the wall pretty fast without working any harder than that guy I watched in Somotillo.
Eventually the hostel filled up with guests and we started thinking we had better be leaving if we wanted to get back to Granada by dark. We walked back to the fork. We didn't follow Yogi Berra's advice of "when you get to a fork in the road, take it." Instead sat where the girl in the store indicated when we asked where the best place to wait for a bus or taxi would be. Not long after that a cab came along and while haggling for the price of the ride to the highway where we could grab a bus to Granada he offered a price I couldn't turn down for the ride all the way to Granada. So here we are a bit earlier than expected, but with no horror stories of rush hour buses.
We need to run a few errands and perhaps I can convince Juanita she would enjoy a movie in Spanish at the local cine. Or perhaps not. Back to school tomorrow. Enjoy your weekend.
March 3 (Saturday)
Up kinda early, but moving kinda slowly due to the long walk down into the volcano crater yesterday. Both my calves let me know all day that they were not in the shape for that kind of nonsense. Juanita fared somewhat better, except that her knee and the opposite calf took a bit of walking to get the kinks out. I guess her knee, although much better, has not competely healed from last fall and she must have been favouring one side over the other as we walked down the steep hill.
After breakfast Juanita walked me to school and then headed up town with a two for one coupon for the Europa Cafe. The server was a little confused since Juanita was alone so the owner came over and asked if she was doing this to get a second cup. She affirmed his guess and he said that if anybody wanted a second cup it was always free. Best deal in Granada - a good sized cup of fresh brewed coffee with a free refill for seventy-five cents and they don't add a 15% IVA and a "voluntary" 10% tip to the bill. A dollar cup of coffee at the Chocolate Cafe costs close to a buck fifty by the time they end up playing with the bill and exchange rates.
After school I changed clothes and we took our laundry and dropped it off at the lavanderia on our way to Cafetin Claudia. Also stopped off at a book store and bought some paper and a folder for notes. On our way I noticed a truck and camper coming along the street and admired the design of the awning and how it was attached. After lunch we walked back toward the square and the truck and camper was parked there. Juanita commented on the license plate. It appeared to be Swiss. A long way from home! I took pictures from several angles and noticed there was an older Germanic looking lady in the passenger side of the cab. The window was open so I asked here if she spoke English and she said yes and I asked a bunch of questions short of asking to see the inside of the rig.
Even I have some limits.
They have been on the road 540 days this trip including a few trips home to Switzerland. They had the rig brought across the Atlantic Ocean by boat from Hamburg, Germany to Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. They then traveled across Canada up the West Coast to Alaska, around Alaska and down to Central America. They hope to go as far south as they can, at least as far as Buenos Aires, Argentina if not further. Their web site is here. It is in German, but there is a map that works in all languages. As far as I can tell from another map on the site they also circumnavigated Australia in 2008.
After that we went through the square where I had my shoes shined and then we walked up to a pharmacy and checked on prices for Prevacid as a reference for next year when we no longer have a drug plan. Name brand was about 75% of the cost of generic in Canada. Not a massive bargain, but not bad.
Then back to the room to study for a change.
March 4 - 6 (Sunday through Tuesday)
Today, Tuesday, was the last day of Spanish classes and will be the last night in Granada. Breakfast in the lobby is included with our room. For the other two meals we have gotten into the habit of eating in the room for one and eating at a restaurant for the other. On Sunday we went to Kathy's waffle house for lunch since Cafetin Claudia was closed. By wiser choices of menu item and choosing to drink the coffee that comes with the meal instead of over priced licuados the bill was merely high and not extortionate. Basically a dinner price for a filling brunch.
On the way back from lunch on Sunday we stopped by and picked up and paid for the laundry at the lavaderia. Some time after that, according to the lavaderia's neighbor, the police came and took away the lavaderia's owner. Monday the place was locked up. There was a young woman staying at our hotel who was most upset. She had dropped off a large load of clothes on Sunday for Monday pick-up and there was no way to get at them before she left for Managua. She had paid in advance. Not happy and quite vocal. She didn't say it, but if she is anything like me the clothes that dirty first are the ones I like best, and by the time a load gets taken to the laundry all I have left are clothes I don't particularly care for.
When we picked up our laundry all the machines were running. I expect there are a lot of upset people. The place was still closed today. I guess it is one way to learn how to travel with less stuff.
Speaking of less stuff, I suppose I should go and start packing and culling stuff so that the luggage still qualifies for carry-on status. I don't want to do the Oregon Trail toss of possessions in front of the airline check-in counter. Better to do it in the hotel room. It's a private matter. Private matters belong behind closed doors. Would that the creepy old men with young Nicas remembered that rather than perform PDA's on the street. I always thought I was open minded but I guess I'm a prude at the core.
March 7 (Wednesday)
Bus to Managua (UCA terminal). Hired cab to hotel with fierce haggling and drama of going out onto street for alternative cab to get lower price. On way to hotel (booked on Internet) learned of cheaper hotel from cab driver. Will keep in mind for future reference. More haggling and arrived at a price for cab driver to drive us around Managua for two hours and back to our hotel. We managed to hit all the spots I had picked from the guide book and a couple of others. There was no way we could have seen all of them with buses in under four or five hours and that would have been pretty tiring and not much cheaper than the price the cab driver quoted since i was so "duro" (hard).
After our tour we relaxed by walking to the next door mall and walking around it and the nearby neighbourhood, eating at the food court.
March 8 - flew back to Edmonton by way of Houston
Rebekah and Ezekial met us at the airport. Nick had already left for work at the refinery in Regina, Saskatchewan.
The rest of the month: (point form)
- spent a couple of days at Rebekah and Nick's in Fort Saskatchewan, outside of Edmonton. Did shopping, ran errands, toured the Royal Alberta Museum, went to the union hall and then headed home to Meadow Lake
- stayed at Deborah and Ernie's
- Becky and Zeke came and stayed for a while, while we were there
- Music festival - both Sonja (piano and violin) and Sasha (piano) participated and won prizes.
- watched grandkid gymnastics
- Worked a bit on house - finished insulation and sheet rock installation.
- Got fifth wheel ready to head south to Regina
- broke dental crown, managed to get a new one made and installed
- new tires for truck on a Goodyear recall. Was planning on replacing all six this summer. Only cost was nitrogen.
- Had gastroscopy - no obvious esophagus or stomach problems. Biopsy of suspicious area at top of intestine
- moved fifth wheel to Drumheller's farm yard before driveway melted.
- made arrangements for driveway to be gravelled before we come home.