The month is long past, It was originally in blog format which made sense if you were reading as things happened. Most of it was composed in internet cafes or hotel lobby computers. I have re-arranged the posts into chronological order. Most of it is contemperaneous narrative but there are a few spots where I had just left notes in points form and I fleshed it out into narrative nine years and two months later.
January 1, 2012
Happy New Year.
For a change Juanita and I were awake for midnight but not for long afterward.
Then it was up early to finish packing and take Clifford the Big Red Truck to park in an open area on a friend´s acreage that is more out in the open. There will be people around to discourage vandals and thieves and there are no trees to fall on it a la Big Blue (see Sept - Oct Update).
Then back home to do more packing and winterizing.
Then off to Debbie and Ernie´s and to church.
We had lunch at Debbie and Ernie's. I used their wi-fi to franticly upload photos to the web site until I realized that when we put new SD cards in the cameras the cameras just started reusing the old numbers from the beginning and the web site is starting to let me write over old pictures with new ones and then use the newer pictures for all web pages, both new and old, that use the pictures with that number. What a mess! This is not something that will get sorted out on the road, but it explains why there will be no new pictures on the web site until sometime after our return to Canada in March. It also explains why you may find a picture of a bathroom floor where a picture of the Las Vegas strip may be expected. Bear with us. It will all work out in the end.
Then we say goodbye to Debbie and Ernie and kids until March and Becky, Nick and son until later that evening. Nick and Becky head to Fort Saskatchewan and we head home to finish winterizing and locking the farm gate and so on.
Then on the road to Fort Saskatchewan stopping at the WalMart in Vegreville to pick up a few things not available in Meadow Lake and the Tim's next door for supper.
We arrive and visit. Then we try and make our laptop work on their internet connection. Not going to happen. None of us can figure it out. I rename all the conflicting photos one by one and copy them to a thumb drive and then copy some to the web site using Becky´s laptop.
January 2, 2012
Rush around Edmonton doing some last minute travel shopping - Tilley travel socks and underwear, a bathing suit, a couple of Platypus collapsible water bottles (bags?), and some insulation stops for when we start working on the water shed again.
Back to Ft. Saskatchewan.
Top up the gas in the car.
Wash the car and park it in the apartment parking lot where Nick and Becky and Zeke live. It's another sign that all is not perfect in the oil patch. A few years ago every unit was rented and parking was at a premium. There is no way I would have got permission from the super to park there, then. Now with the big petro projects completed and new ones to replace them on hold there are many vacancies and the super is willing to do things that will make people happy to stay.
We all wrestle for the keyboard and internet connection, and I get my share but fall about fifteen minutes short of uploading the renamed photos. Oh well. They can wait.
We watched a fascinating video called "The Way Back" about a group who escaped from a Siberian prison camp during World War II and walked to escape all the way to India. It was based on the book, "The Long Walk" which I had read years ago. It may or not be a true story, but it is a fascinating one.
Then off to bed.
January 3, 2012
Nick drives us to the IHOP and Becky follows. After breakfast Becky goes to work and Nick and Zeke drop us at the Edmonton airport. Our boarding passes are printed out and we only have carry-on luggage so we can proceed through security and go straight to the gate without having to line-up at the airline counter.
There is a plane to Calgary boarding. It would get us into Calgary two hours earlier than the one we are booked on. That would mean we would have ample time to get from one end of the terminal to the other and through customs and immigration and security. There is space on the flight being boarded and since we only have carry-on luggage the ticket agent prints us a new boarding pass and we arrive in Calgary early enough that we have to sit around for a while before we can proceed to check-in for our flight to Houston.
The flight to Houston goes well. There is no way I will shell out the $7 for a bunwich, butI do shell out $3 for some head phones for Juanita to listen to the news report about the massive Quake in New Zealand. She had brought head phones from our trip on Aer Lingus, but they do not fit the jack on Aeroflot Canada (AC? We booked AC? Yeah, I know. What can I say? For this trip we booked Continental, but that meant we flew AC two of the three legs of the trip to Managua. I like Continental, but on the way through the airport I heard a guy on a cell phone saying - "Don´t EVER book me on Continental again")
The Houston terminal is laid out in a sane fashion. We arrived at a gate in the A terminal and we able to walk and take the tram to the E terminal without having to go out of the secure zone and back through security again.
Other than the hokey hard sales pitch for their in-flight entertainment system ("ONLY $7.99 for flights over 2 hours" "Sign up now. There is still time!") everything about the flight and service was great. The back of the seat TV can´t be much of a money maker if all the seats around us were typical. I didn´t see anybody who bought the TV.
We landed in Managua and plodded our way through immigration and paid our ten dollars each immigration fee. Then we put our bags through the customs x-ray machine and started out of the terminal. Indy´s taxi driver friend was waiting and gave a quick and chatty drive to our hotel in Granada. Bit of a sticker shock when I learn the "special" rate, but the room is large and well appointed. Actually it is two rooms - a bit of a mini suite with a sitting room as well as the bed room and bathroom.
We watch NCIS with Spanish sub titles and then fall asleep content and grateful. Overall a good day.
January 4, 2012
Slept until a sump pump on a two minute cycle or some similar noise woke me about five. That and the A/C beep every time it cut in meant I never went back to sleep so I read until Juanita woke up. Then we got up and about and did some exploring.
We walked down to the lake and checked out alternative accommodations. One was available for about two thirds the cost and included breakfast. We bought the breakfast that would be included if we were hotel guests and checked out a few others. One was a third the cost of last night but was full until next week. We found one for half the cost, plus it included breakfast. We moved there. Then we did some more exploring, had lunch in the square (vigaron - yucca, chicheronnes (fried pork rind) and salad on a banana leaf for 40 cordobas ($2)) and hung out and drank coffee from a cafe where we could see the group arrive.
They arrived. We visited in the midst of luggage and room keys being sorted out. Then somebody dropped us off at our hotel on the way to theirs. After a while we walked back up town and found a moneychanger and a supermarket where we stocked up on junk food and shampoo On our way back a couple from the group was sitting at an outside restaurant table and greeted us. We joined them and eventually the waiter brought us the food and then brought us the bill and then went back and recalculated the bill and we settled up. We had a great vist with the other couple catching up on each other´s lives since we parted in late January last year.
Then back to the hotel to surf and keyboard.
January 5, 2012
Up with birds. There is a bird cage with a couple of parrots and a parakeet in the small courtyard. It is the other end of the courtyard from our room but the birds seem to have healthy lungs and are quite vocal about seeing daylight and their food. It beats the sound of the unknown sump pump. It also beats our alarm by about fifteen minutes.
We review the two choices for the included breakfast and choose a Nicaraguan breakfast (fried egg, piece of cheese, gallo pinto and bread or a tortilla) over Rice Krispies and milk. Either include choice of coffee or tea. Like many places the coffee is instant. We first encountered that in Mexico and I find it a little bewildering to be served instant in areas that grow such fine coffee.
We walk down to the hotel near the lake and meet with group and visit and drink coffee while they eat their buffet breakfast (I'd gain fifty pounds eating there).
We hold a bit of a group meeting where Brother Ben gets us all up to the same speed and then we break into smaller groups to pray. On the way out of the meeting one of the group points out the pool and the furniture that the hotel staff make on site. He reminisced about climbing the coconut palms a few years back and explained the history of the hole in the ground that had become the swimming pool. Apparently a few decades back the regime in power would use the deep end for executions of political prisoners as diversions during their parties.
We ride the rented bus to the Way of the Cross warehouse and everybody gets to work organizing things for the Medfest. Sorting toys. Unpacking suitcases. Checking out the tool and tent situation and so on.
Juanita worked with Martha, the staff nurse, sorting out medications and medical supplies.
A couple of members of our church in Meadow Lake went to California a few years back and worked with a group called Gleaners. One of the things the Gleaners do is put together bags of soup mix made from dried vegetables, beans, lentils, noodles and soup stock. It is packed in gallon zip lock bags and the bags are packed in shipping barrels. It seems that a lot of it or stuff very like it has ended up here with Way of the Cross. The effects of time and the tropics has separated out much of the soup stock which then hardened in a solid lump in the bottom of each bag. I asked why this was a problem since the stuff would probably dissolve if you soaked it in water. Well, apparently there is enough soup mix in the one gallon package to make ten gallons of soup. Not that useful to most housholds.
They reprocessed about half of it last year. We will do the rest this year. Reprocessing involves checking the outside of each individual bag for bugs and wiping them off. Then checking the contents inside for bugs and discarding any buggy ones into a barrel of what will be chicken feed for some pastor's chickens. The non buggy ones have the loose contents dumped into a large aluminum kettle. The solidifed contents get pulverized by hammer into pieces that will go through a hand grinding mill. The powder gets mixed back with the loose stuff and then rebagged in about half gallon plastic bags to be handed out during Medfest. The kettles have last been used for cooking beans over open fires. Soot gets all over all of us working on the missionary soup. Not the place for white pants. The hand mills are a new addition starting with today. Last year they only had the hammers. I am told that the hammering was more work that took longer and didn't do as good a job. I believe them. The missionary kids and the neighbourhood kids halp on and off. The Nicaraguan kids last longer before wandering away.
We go home, wash up, and inquire about maid service which didn't happen and air conditioning which does not respond to the remote control. The desk clerk explained they will not go into the room if you are not there and he turned the breaker back on for the A/C. That´s one way to make sure nobody leaves the A/C running when they are out for the day. The desk clerk brings us some clean towels.
We go looking for chicken restaurant remembered from two years ago which we learned the next day is no longer there. Ran into another couple in our search and we all ended up choosing some street chicken from a cart and eating it inside the Chinese restaurant the cart was parked in front of. Same business. You can walk in and sit down and order from a menu which has both Chinese food from the kitchen and rotisserie chicken from cart out front. Or you can walk up to the cart and walk away with chicken, platanos and all the fixings.
Home to keyboard and then watch some sub titled North American programs.
We will try to get enough information tomorrow to figure out future acommodation. Meanwhile I pay for tomorrow here in our mid range hotel.
January 6, 2012
Up with the birds again.
Eat breakfast at our hotel and walk to where the others are eating and/or staying and join them for coffee and conversation until time for devotions and prayer and some direction for the day.
Before we leave the hotel we track down the maid and leave the door open for here to make up the room. Room was done when we got back. Fresh towels and all.
Indy has arrived and shows us her rock of an engagement ring. I forget to ask her about her first hunting trip in Oklahoma this past week. Another Canadian couple arrived late last night and will join up with the team for work tomorrow.
We loaded onto the bus and rode to the school where some work had been done by WOTC teams last year and looked around. January is the summer school break here so there was just the facilities to see. No kids.
Then we rode close to the church we will be working on next week during Medfest and walked the rest of the way in to have a look. The walls are concrete block and are up. I guess we will be building the metal framework and putting on the roof.
Then it was back to the warehouse and start work again. Juanita worked with Martha sorting medical stuff. Paul worked on missionary soup until just before quitting time when the bags ran out so he went next door and washed off the soot and visited with a local pastor and worked on his Spanish until Juanita came and found him and made sure the bus didn't leave without him.
We took the bus back to the square in Granada and walked to a pharmacy and bought some necessities and also bought some fruit and baked goods from street vendors.
After walking back to the hotel and washing up we took the laundry (cotton stuff that won´t dry hanging in the bath room e.g. jeans that got filthy moving soot covered kettles around) to local laundry spot and left it for pick up tomorrow. Then we walked to the very cheap hotel and the owner´s brother was there and said they had no room next week but to come back and talk to his sister after six. We walked down the street to the hotel all the group will be using next week and some of the group are using now. Didn´t see anybody so started walking back up hill to see if the lady returned. Brother Ben hailed us and we walked back with him to admire the ministry van they bought today. Looks pretty serviceable and in reasonable condition. It is a Hyundai turbo diesel 15 passenger van. About a 2002, I think, and cost $10k. Vehicles seem to cost a lot here compared to the U.S. but not that much more than Canada. The lot it came from specializes in used vehicles imported straight from Korea.
We all three started to walk toward the restaurant area together until Juanita and I stopped to talk to the hotel owner who was back by then. We arranged to move in on Monday morning and stay through the 22nd. We caught up with Ben and a couple of other couples at the pizza joint and joined one table who hadn´t ordered yet. The others were in more more advanced stages of dining. Then back to the hotel. Stopped at barber shop for a shave and a haircut - three bucks. (60 cordobas which is slightly less than 3 bucks! Haircut, beard trim, straight razor trim around the edges of beard and neck, and a facial massage with a hand vibrator. Great deal.).
Juanita headed back to the hotel and caught up on e-mail and the news and handed the keyboard over to me when I arrived. I added today's doings to this page and headed back to the room for a relatively early night. On my way back to the hotel I ran into Martha and chatted with her. She had hung around their room waiting for Indy to show up until she found out from somebody else that Indy had gone to a wedding in Managua and wouldn't be back until late.
January 7, 2012
Up with the birds. Getting used to them. It is a sound that grows on you.
Eat breakfast at our hotel then join group for coffee and chapel.
I remember to ask Indy if she shot Bambi. She says ¨No¨ and then tells us she did blow away an armadillo from about six or eight feet away using a shotgun. I assume a 12 gauge. She said there wasn´t much left. I'm a little horrified. I don't tell her about Ray Bradbury's contention that there is an alternate universe where the armadillos are the dominant intelligent species and they sell bread holders made out of hollowed-out humans.
Then onto bus and off to the warehouse. More medical packing and more soup grinding.
When we arrive at the warehouse there is a two-ox ox cart dropping off a load of sand for concrete. It looks like loam, but is actually black, volcanic sand. Somebody covers it with a tarp before the pile becomes a victim of child´s play.
Each day the number of helpers grows both from more arriving North Americans and from more locals either showing up out of interest in the kingdom or interest in a free bologna sandwich and a pack of cookies at lunchtime or out of boredom. Probably the last two would only apply to some of the younger neighbourhood kids.
At lunch time I went next door to wash up and sat down with a couple of local pastors. The one of them seemed to be saying that after Medfest if we wanted to stay working in the area we would need a translator (a job for a friend, maybe?) and the other was saying that we could work with feeding street kids in Masaya. I explained in my halting Spanish what I thought they were saying and that I wanted to learn Spanish and the best way to learn to speak is to speak so a translator might not help things. Also said I would talk to Juanita, but we had some other things to check out and probably would go with one of those. Also said I would ask Indy to talk to them to be sure I understood what they were saying. My Spanish is not too good at the best of times and the first week after a year off is nowhere near the best of times. What they seemed to be describing didn't seem too appealing either on the basis of skill sets or interests. I'm sure we'll find something by the 22nd. In any case, we would make sure we were not stepping on any WOTC or associated toes before we did any work in the area they introduced us to through our work with them.
Back to town and walk to pick up the laundry dropped the day before. On the way back to the hotel we see a sandwich board on the sidewalk in front of a pretty nice restaurant ("The Chocolate Cafe") advertising a special between 2 and 7 of two hamburgers, Cokes and fries for $6.50 and plan to check it out later. We drop our clean laundry off at the hotel and beat the dust and soot off my pants with the small towel. The towel is somewhat the worse for the experience but the pants look okay. They are black dress pants which I wore because they would hide the soot and the jeans were in the laundry. After a day of travel (wear the heaviest clothes you have when travelling with carry on only) and two days in the warehouse the jeans were not up to another day of use. They migh have been up to standing on their own but not for wear in the tropics working alongside others.
Once we were dusted off we walked back up town in search of some more medical necessities at the pharmacy. The ones we found the day before are not as effective as the brand available in the States and Canada so somebody will bring some with them on Tuesday. We bought enough to keep us supplied until Tuesday. We also bought a hair dryer since the hotel we are moving to on Monday does not have one in the room. It took some searching, but we found one a little bigger than we wanted and a little more expensive than we wanted, but smaller than the first ones we found and about half the price.
We picked up some fruit and fibre at the supermarket and a fruit stand and walked to the town square to try an enchilalda from a street vendor before stopping for the "duo combo" happy hour hamburger.
Then back to the room. Juanita showered and then keyboarded while I vegged watching "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy" and then a couple of other not too interesting movies until I finally could not procrastinate any more and had a shower and went to bed. Too tired mentally and physically to want to do anything more energetic or constructive this evening.
There must have been some sort of festival this weekend. While we were eating our hamburgers a parade went by in the street and all evening and most of the night there were fireworks going off. Juanita couldn't find any mention of it on the net and we keep forgetting to ask the locals.
January 8, 2012
Up with birds again.
Actually before that.
I woke about 3 and couldn't seem to get back to sleep. I was lying in the dark reading a book on the Kindle app in my iPod and thinking about either going back to sleep or out to the lobby to keyboard when, at about 4:30, knocking on door asking if we were awake. I assumed it was a drunk and/or maybe a scam and answered ¨Yes.¨ and told him to go away through the locked door which remained locked.
I certainly wasn't going to go out to the lobby to keyboard if it meant arguing with a drunk so chose the go back to sleep option and was almost asleep at five when he came back, knocked again, and said, ¨Your taxi is here¨
"The one which brought you."
"We didn´t come in a taxi. We don´t want a taxi. Go away¨ Juanita was awake by now, but she went back to sleep okay. I went back to reading until I heard the people whose taxi it really was leaving, church bells (Sunday) and then the birds. Then it was time to get up and get dressed and get out in the lobby to eat breakfast and leave for the hotel a block down the street where the group will all be staying this coming week.
On our way onto the street at the hotel entrance the owner apologizes profusely for waking us. I told him he didn't wake me I was awake reading anyway and not to worry about it.
We walked to the Hotel Granada and join group for coffee as they finish breakfast. The bulk of the team had been staying at the Hotel Alhambra but today is moving day to the Hotel Granada where everybody has been meetig for breakfast.
Chapel opens with prayer and song followed by a message based on 2 Chronicles 20:15 and onward about a relatively small group confronting an overwhelmingly larger group and the application of that event to our present circumstances.
After chapel we all join in and pack the luggage from the Grace Turbo van to a room that is already occupied by one of the group. Perhaps I should explain something here - the van the ministry just bought has the words "Grace Turbo" on the front doors. It´s a turbo diesel, but I don´t know where the "Grace" comes from. Maybe it is what Hyundai names one of their vans. It is somewhat appropriate for a van used by a ministry, though.
I slump in a lobby chair and read (Kindle app) and Juanita visits while the group signs into rooms. In Nicaragua, foreigners must provide their passport numbers when they check into a hotel and they are recorded in the hotel registry.
Then off to the Caterina viewpoint with group on bus. There is a stunning view of an extinct or dormant volcanic crater with lake at bottom. You get out of your vehicle in the parking lot and walk to edge and you are looking down into the caldera from a terraced viewing area. There is a good view of the lake at bottom and another lake in the distance. I got hung up negotiating for some poñished obsidian looking magnetic beads and saw Juanita and Marth wandering off down one of the walking paths. By the time I had finished with the vendor and John and I walked over to a food stall to pick up some very sweet balls (look like rum balls) made of banana but dark red inside ( maybe banana blossoms) Juanita and Martha were no where to be seen. We kept an eye out for them but never saw them again until we were back at the top. While John and I were walking on the paths I took pictures of couples with their own cameras and then tested them on the curved illusion tracts before giving them a copy.
When we got back to the top John and I were sitting there listening to somebody on a pan pipe. He had been playing an old Simon and Garfunkel song and then switched to a Christian song. Just about then Juanita and Martha showed up and Martha showed us the two CD´s of Christian pan pipe music she had just bought. We gave them the two banana goodies we had saved for them and Juanita sent me off to buy two CD´s.
We saw somebody selling combo plates of stew which looked pretty good and was pretty cheap so three of us bought some and stood there eating it. Along about the time we were finishing somebody showed up and said we were all going to the buffet in Masaya next. Oh well, we'll just have sodas there. That works. Somebody else showed up showing one of their purchases and on the way back to the bus Juanita tracked that bargain down.
When we got off at the Masaya buffet Juanita and I checked things out decided we had done better price wise with the stew and also decided we might do better variety wise for drinks in the park acoss the street. We did. I had a jamaica and Juanita had a melon and orange drink and sat at a table next to the drink stand and enjoyed the breeze.
We bought a bag of cashews from a vendor and strolled back to the bus. When we got back to Grenada we went back to the hotel and changed and checked on e-mail, did quick web site update and phoned home and got the facetime app working between Debbie´s iPad and my iPod Touch. Then we walked uphill a few blocks back to the Chocolate Cafe for a smoothie and a cappucini and a piece of tres leches cake before heading downhill again to meet up for prayer meeting. There we learned that two ladies had had their purse stolen. One hung her purse on the chair at a restaurant. despite her husband watching it it didn´t last long there. The other purse disappeared in the move between hotels. The passport inside the one purse will be a hassle to replace.
Then home to pack for the move first thing tomorrow from our current digs at the Jerico Hotel to the lesser comforts of the Posada Brisas (in English it would be the Breezes Inn). We like the Jerico. Even at slightly more than half the price it is cleaner than the Alhambra, but as off today we have two months more in the country and cutting one´s hotel bill by almost half again means that there is more money for tours, meals and perhaps further travel later in the year.
January 9, 2012
Up before the birds. Eat. Finish packing and make the move to the other hotel.
Some confusion. My Spanish is even worse than I thought. They weren´t expecting us. Work out when we can move in and make our way back to the the hotel that was so ten minutes ago. They have rooms including our old one, but we can´t move in until 2 in the afternoon even though we just left it. Not a problem. They let us put our bags in it or more accurately let Juanita put our bags in it while I pay for the next six days.
Then off to the group hotel and coffee and chapel and leave for warehouse and grind soup until we have finished the last barrel. I meet with the pastor living next door to the warehouse with Indy translating and I had pretty much understood correctly what he was suggesting and he had pretty much understood my answer. His proposal is not likely to happen. Not a real fit with our resources skills and interests.
After work at the warehouse, Juanita and I join up with Ben and Indy and Martha and, David and Charlene, a couple from Oklahoma to go to a church the other side of Masaya for evangecube training for Medfest. It went well.
Rush back to Granada.
Rush back to hotel and wash hands.
Rush to pizza parlor and buy some slices of pizza and a couple of drinks and scoff it all down quickly. The OK couple does same. We sit at same table but rush off before they are done. Back to hotel. Wash one of Paul's tee shirts, hang it in front of the fan and rush to chapel. After chapel we walk back to hotel, drop off the water bottles and go for dessert. When back at hotel Juanita goes to room for a shower and Paul checks e-mail and updates blog.
It is my turn for a shower.
January 10, 2012
Up early, as usual. Slept right through as is not so usual. Guess we got a good enough workout yesterday that we were tired enough to sleep well.
Today everyone in the group is fasting from after breakfast until tomorrow at breakfast time. In honour of that we each have an extra orange before breakfast and order an extra egg each in addition to the one that comes with the breakfast included with the room. We also eat the last of the Christmas stocking chocolate - a small pack of chocolate covered cranberries.
Then it is off to have a coffee with the group at their breakfast followed by chapel.
Today the group bus stopped at the warehouse. We left Juanita to work on the list Martha gave her. Most of the rest of us proceeded to the MedFest grounds and put up seven tents. Six will be used for medical and dental teams. That took us most of the day. While we were doing that some others were moving onto site the bags of food and gifts that we had been putting together at the warehouse.
At lunchtime we circled up and prayed and then went back to work since everybody but the little kids and the diabetics were fasting.
When we were done for the day about 2:30 another person and I accompanied Byron to a hardware store to pick up the pipes that will be used for flagpoles for each of the churches and groups that will be represented at Medfest. They were not as heavy as expected and so we ended up buying one as a sample and will return tomorrow. We went back to the Hotel Granada and I walked up the street to our hotel where Juanita had proceeded me. Then I read while she surfed and then I had a shower and am updating the blog while waiting for time to go to evening chapel.
Not eating sure frees up a lot of time. I don´t think I will include it as a daily time management tactic, though. Like the guy who said he almost had taught his horse to not eat, but then it died on him I think it has a very short term value.
While writing this up a woman stopped by and was visiting with another denizen of the hotel and they were saying how wonderful the hotel is "except for the birds" waking them up. He said he wears ear plugs.
Sorry for any spelling mistakes. The browser is Chrome and I didn't notice until I was already editing. Only a few words are not underlined in red as being misspelled. I guess they are if I was writing in Spanish. Hopefully this compiles okay. Chrome has given me problems in the past and I avoid the machine in the lobby that is only Chrome or a German version of Firefox. Never thought I'd see the day when I preferred Internet Explorer.
January 11, 2012
All the remaining participants in Medfest are arriving today from 5:30 A.M. to late tonight except for the group from one church which will arrive tomorrow.
The Grace Turbo van had a problem with the left rear wheel trying to come off so it went to the shop this morning.
Things were fairly quiet today. Outside of admin stuff and meeting group members at the Managua airport there was work for about a dozen of the preparation team members so those who were tired could opt out which a number of the moms with small kids did along with their kids. Juanita had some stuff to do at the warehouse working from a list Martha, the nurse, gave her so she took the bus to the warehouse. Others on the bus either worked at the warehouse pouring more flag bases or at the Medfest grounds setting up three more tents.
I hooked up with Byron, the construction guy, and two others. We went to the hardware store and finished buying the pipe and fittings we didn't succeed at yesterday. Then we went to the warehouse and picked up the concrtete bases for the church flags for Medfest and took them and the pipe to the Medest grounds and cut and assembled the flag poles and their cross arms (jibs?). When we were done we went back to the warehouse and picked up Juanita and waited to make sure the bus came and picked up the others to take them back the hotel. Then we stopped by the hardware store to buy one more 20´ piece of pipe and a fitting. Then Juanita and I jumped out of the truck close to our hotel and hussled our laundry over to the local laundry hoping to get it back today, but they were swamped with the stuff from a hostel with a bug problem. We tried the place across the street but they were swamped as well for today and were planning to shutdown tomorrow for maintenance to the machines. We took it back to the first place and will pick it up tomorrow. They assured us they will keep it separate from the hostel stuff.
This morning, while waiting for the truck to find a parking spot in the vicinty I bought a cell phone off the back of a van for $15. It came with 1 minute of talk time so I added 150 cordobas of time ($US 6.56) which might be enough to last us our time here. Or not. Anyway not a bad deal. The van three parking spots down the street wanted $40 last week.
Last night after chapel we planned to have an early, quiet evening and watch a bit of TV.
Well, it was inauguration day for the president. Half a dozen local stations carried his speech live. The rest of the channels were blocked. About 8:30 some of the locals resumed normal scheduling but the blocked out ones were blocked out until shortly after nine. The NCIS program we had hoped to watch was a re-run and neither of us lasted long enough awake to watch much of it.
Today after dropping off stuff at the laundry we walked up to the tourist office and checked out the maps. The country map they had was five bucks and a lot bigger than what I wanted. We took a couple of the free city maps for Managua and Granada and walked across the square for a shoe shine and then walked up to a food court where we had heard of a good, inexpensive foot long hot dog on fresh baked bread. They were good. We visited with an ex-pat from Cleveland who comes here every winter for four months. He flies into Costa Rica, but doesn´t stay there long. Too expensive he says. He does visit the town of Fortuna each year just before he flies back. Apparently it has a fairly spectacular volcano.
One missionary couple is hanging around another week and doing some scouting for outreach locations around the country. It looks like we may hook up with them and do some chicken buses and ten dollar a night hotels with them.
Tonight at chapel we will meet a lot of the medical people that have arrived so far and, I guess, the rest tomorrow.
OBTW (Oh, by the way) - The fire works and parades are just life as usual. No special occasion.
January 12, 2012 (Thursday)
This morning after breakfast we walked down to the Hotel Granada and joined the diners for a coffee. One item that came up in the discussion at our table was an audio clip about The Man From George Street. Listen to the audio clip on that page. Amazing.
We visited until it was time for staff meeting which was quickly followed by chapel. During chapel Byron and Ben went to the hardware store to buy more ladders. The two ladders on hand would be insufficient for the two projects going on. The church needs the roof framework painted and then it is ready for the roofing metal and the school "auditorium" (a lean-to about 24 feet by 36 feet attached to the school building) is at about the same stage.
The group has grown. A lot more chairs at chapel and two buses today to get everybody to the Medfest site. The bus we rode home had standing room only. More people come in tonight. More buses tomorrow one would suppose. The Grace Turbo van was repaired today. New brakes all around. $124 for those and some other minor repairs. Needs a new wheel. It is running on the steel rimmed spare. The original aluminum wheel overheated when the brake seized and the lug bolt holes are damaged.
We picked up some more flag bases and delivered them to the Medfest site. Others had been putting flags on the flag poles assembled yesterday and Ben and Theresa and Indy were marking the field for the booths that will be used the next threee days by the 40+ churches (both local and American). Others started moving the flag bases to the field and still others put flags into the bases.
Juanita helped Martha and others get the medications, and the "pharmacy" and "prescription forms" ready.
Solomon, a staff translator, a doctor and a dentist went to the customs office at the airport to try and bail out the meds and dental tools that were seized from incoming luggage by customs last night. Limited success. (Update - the tools were released the day we were packing stuff away for next time. The other two dentists had enough extra tools between them that things went okay for the third dentist during Medfest.)
During a lull I visited with some of the local translators that had been hired for the event. They told me how bad my Spanish was. Tell me something I don´t know! They also shared their Pepsi with me. Nica style. One of them had been sent to the nearest tienda (store) and came back with a 2 liter bottle and a bunch of baggies. One pours the Pepsi into a baggie and seals the baggie with a knot then bites a small hole in a corner of the baggie and drinks from that. I managed to get it all out without getting any anywhere it shouldn't be.
Dealing with large groups is often a matter of hurry up and wait. The bus ride home was that way. We were rushed onto the bus and dropped what we were doing only to sit on the bus waiting for I still don´t know what to happen before we could leave. A number of people stood. Juanita gave up her seat to somebody and rode on my lap. That worked except for the odd speed bump.
Back at the hotel Juanita showered while I picked up the laundry. The guy said they had managed to get it done yesterday. I said that next time I would leave our cell phone number so we could know too. When I got back to the hotel I showered while Juainta keyboarded then we went out to dinner. The franchise chicken place no longer had the special that we looked at last week so we went to the pizza place. After that we waddled back to the hotel and I keyboarded for half an hour before it was time to go to the evening chapel. The evangecube training that didn't happen this morning because the cubes were sent on the wrong bus yesterday happened tonight. The evangecube is a wonderful tool for sharing the gospel and providing the framework for a conversation about the way to salvation.
After we finished up there Juanita visited with Martha while I surfed on my iPod in the lobby. When we left there we went to the bookstore across the street from our hotel for a Licuado each. Mine was Banana and milk. Juanita had papaya and orange.
Tomorrow Medfest starts. If it is like last year people will start lining up for medical attention at 4 am.
Now it is bedtime. Good night.
The pictures below are courtesy of Steve Moser of SGM Photography. They are a small sample of the pictures he took during the three days of the Medfest. Thanks, Steve.
January 13, 2012 (Friday!)
Today is the first day of Medfest.
We all get onto the buses and go to the Medfest grounds. The event opens officially with a procession led by somebody carrying a cross and followed by somebody blowing a shofar ( a horn made from a ram's horn) and people carrying church flags and a Christian flag.
Juanita worked with Martha in the pharmacy, filling prescriptions written by the doctors and dentists. I went with the construction crew on the church, painting steel. Then we went to the school. The tin arrived on the cart and we started painting it once we had figured out which sides to paint.
North Americans lay corrugated metal (aka "tin") roofing with the outer edges down. This gives you an overlap of one corrugation with better leak resistance and less forethought required. Nicaraguans alternate between edge up and edge down. This gives one corrugation more coverage per sheet, but you have to pay attention to what you are doing.
The tin must be painted for durability. Painted tin lasts twice as long as unpainted tin when subjected to the semi permanent acid rain from the volcanic gases. It is painted before it is put up on the roof. Thus, you have to paint the right number of "up" and "down" sheets. If you get it worng then when you get to the end of the building the last sheet or two ends up painted side down. The bare metal facing up to the sky has to be painted as well as the side facing the congregation. This is a waste of paint and also a permanent testament to bored congregants of your lack of attention to details.
We broke for lunch and then went back to painting.
Somebody was taking pictures for a "memory book". He offered me copies of the pictures if I supplied a memory stick. The bus stopped briefly for us and dropped us off at the Colonia supermarket and we bought a memory stick at the Radio Shack next door before grabbing a taxi back to the hotel.
After our showers we went out for Chinese food meeting up with Andy and Lavonne Anderson from Minnesota and visiting with them as we dined. We all grabbed ice cream cones at the corner Eskimo (Ess-Ski-Mow with the emphasis on the Ski).
Back at the hotel I dealt with e-mail and the credit card statement. They'll find you anywhere!
January 14, 2012 (Saturday)
Second Day of Medfest
While drinking coffee waiting for our breakfast to show up, Michael came up to our hotel and told us the buses were leaving at 7:30.
When the breakfast arrived we inhaled it and scurried down the street to the Hotel Granada. Another case of hurry up and wait that happens with large groups, but it was just wait a bit and we were not the cause of any delays and got on the first of three buses so we were happy.
The rest was point form to be filled out later due to the long busy day. No longer dirty and hungry. Solved those issues but still tired. Have to shut down keyboarding soon to deal with that.
Procession based on King Jehosaphat - musicians, shofar, Bible, cross, Christian flag and church flags.
Oscar Brooks preached
Juanita spent most of the day opening bags.
The pharmacy hands out meds in these flimsy, cheap plastic bags that come all stuck together and have to manipulated with some dexterity to open up enough to drop pills into.
Paul went with church roofing team.
The roofing was done on the church by lunch. A couple of guys stayed there after lunch to attach the ridge cap and paint it. Apparently the galvanized, corrugated metal last twice as long if painted.
Checked out school roof and went there after lunch along with Henry and others. With Henry there roof started getting put on quickly and accurately. Removed the two pieces already on and started over. Finished half by quitting time. Painted panels all but two painted by quitting time. More paint tomorrow.
Pharms last to leave. Got back to Hotel Granada after 6. Walked by Posada Brises and talked to owner about tomorrow morning and passport info and paying and a place to leave bags. All good.
Walk rest of way to Hotel Jerico.
Showered. Changed. called Zeke for his birtday. No "Facetime". Debbie couldn't get wireless working at Becky's.
Walk uptown past square to hot dog place in food court. No coyotes in area. Had hamburger combo for $US6. Walked home. No ice cream afterward. Too full
Need to pack for moving hotels in the morning.
Then bed time
January 15, 2012 (Sunday)
We carried our bags to the new hotel after breakfast where they put them in a locked room until our room is ready. We agree to do the paperwork and payment later in the day. $18/night is a reasonable saving from $34.50/night for just as clean but more humble accommodations.
Same opening ceremony and Oscar preached.
Third and last day of Medfest
Church roof finished yesterday and dedicated today
School assembly area roof finished today and dedicated today.
At day's end yesterday it looked like there would be about two hours work putting corrugated iron on the cchool and then some steeel work to paint. The constraint is the number of ladders. A mental resource analysis suggested it would keep about four people occupied along with Henry the local guy who knows what he is doing hanging tin. I am not needed and these people paid to come here and do this. I asked Byron if I could go on outreach today and he agreed with my analysis.
On outreach I was paired with Ivan who is heavy into street evangelism. Ivan is a retired high school principal from Tennessee. One of his schools was an inner city school that was a turnaround assignment.
He is fearless.
At our first stop he knelt down beside a sleeping drunk, woke him up and with the interpreter's help led him to the Lord. I started to say something to the drunk at one point and Ivan nudged me aside and said it worked better with just two people and I could work on the next guy. It was not long after that when I realized that "next time" was an unlikely occurtence and that Ivan was doing pretty good so he could carry on being the lead.
I did come in useful at a subsequent stop when there was a loud drunk screaming that he was Lucifer and interrupting and drowning out what Ivan was trying to say to the group of drunks and glue sniffers assembled. So I did what one does with drunks to interrupt their vocalizations. I took him for a drink.
Fortunately he was satisfied with a bottle of soda from the corner tienda where he ranted at me from well within my personal space, but far from the group assembled around Ivan and the interpreter. I managed to hand out some curved illusion tracts and invite people to the outreach in front of the church down the block. I later saw them there getting their food, shirts and toys. Three of the four people listening to Ivan accepted the Lord. Team work. Gotta love it.
Juanita worked in the pharmacy.
The medical team (8 doctors, 3 dentists, a chiropractor and a bunch of nurses and pharmacy types) saw over 1500 patients in the 3 days. Update - it was well over 1,500 patients. My number was based on the 1,500 prescriptions the pharmacy saw. When you add the patients that didn't need prescriptions and the dental patients for whom the dentists provided any meds directly the overall number of patients seen was closer to 3,000 in the three days.
Some tents were taken down today. The rest of tear down will happen tomorrow. Teams start leaving tomorrow. WOTC staff start leaving on Tuesday.
Back to hotel at 6. Checked in to new hotel. They had moved our bags from storage to room. Finally realized that room has no air conditioning. Paid 8 days in advance with a discount for lengthy stay, but agreed with them that if can't handle the lack of A/C we will leave early and pay full price for the days we stay.
After we were settled in the room we went to the Chinese restaurant and ordered a roast chicken plate with gallo pinto and fried plantain from off the cart outside. As we were finishing our meal one of the waitresses approached us and told us about a group from the Medfest group that had had a bill of 668 Cordobas and left the restaurant leaving only 325 Cordobas on the table. I knew who it was since they had been sitting in the other corner when we came in and said I would talk to them if I saw them in the morning. Juanita is more responsible than me and more empathetic. She realized that it was about a week's wages for the waitress and that the waitress would have to make up the difference out of her pocket.
Encouraged into more timely action we walked down to the Hotel Granada, took Brother Ben aside and asked his advice about whether I should approach the people and tell them of their error. He said he would rather make up the difference. He said he hadn't had supper yet so we walked back with him to the Chinese restaurant and had a soda while he ate. The waitress's face lit up when she received the money. She was so grateful. $15 is a big deal in a country where the school teachers get paid $40 a month.
January 16, 2012 (Monday)
Living with no air conditioning seemed to work okay last night.
Up with the bird at about 3:30. Rooster is a lot less exotic than parrots. Also a lot earlier, Doesn't seem to need any daylight. Juanita's deaf ear comes in handy at times like this if she is sleeping on it. I read since I couldn't seem to go back to sleep.
Joined group for breakfast. Our new hotel has kitchen, but no breakfast unless you use the kitchen to cook same. We have not had time to shop for food supplies plus value the extra bit of sleep over getting up early enough to cook breakfast.
Recap of hotels in Granada (prices based on two people, one bed, a "matrimonio"):
First night: Hotel Alhambra. Older hotel. Once grand perhaps, but a bit faded now. Quoted $US 65/night at check-in. Quoted $60/night at checkout. Cyclical sump pump-like noise. Annoying electronic beep from air conditioner every time it came on. Two room suite plus bathroom with large tile shower.
Nights of January 4 to January 14: Hotel Jerico. Small, friendly, family run hotel. Cleaner than Hotel Alhambra. $US 34.50/night with air conditioning and breakfast. Large room with cable TV and bathroom with large tile shower. Would go back there for shorter stays, and longer ones if not on a budget. Wi-fi like all other hotels. We had a nice quiet room in back corner of courtyard. Wi-fi doesn't reach that room, but would prefer to stay there again in future. Could save something like $8/night if willing to live without A/C. Not sure it would work. The sun gets into the courtyard pretty well and the units are two levels all around the courtyard.
Starting January 15 and booked to January 22: Posada las Brises. Five room family run inn. Cleaner than Alhambra by far. Maybe cleaner than Hotel Jerico. Only the second night here. Will have to check out how we get clean towels. They cleaned the room while we were out, but rehung the old towels.They were dry so maybe they washed and dried them. Will check tomorrow. There is a woman here from near Chase, B.C. (Canada) who has been coming here for five years or so. There are flowering vines over much of the courtyard and the courtyard has lower walls on one side so it seems to be quite a bit cooler than the Jerico courtyard so no A/C might work out fine.
One of the evangelists from Medfest is moving out of the Hotel Granada tomorrow to a hotel they use in Masaya. They stay there a lot and can leave their excess luggage there while they travel lightly around the country using chicken buses. At $US 25/night with no A/C and only fifteen minutes closer to Managua and with neither of us liking the city of Masaya it didn't get entertained for long by us as an option for us.
After breakfast we joined staff meeting and learned today's assignments then rest of group arrived and we had music, singing and heard testimonies from the group members of some of the highlights of their experiences over the course of Medest.
Roof put on a church followed by a dedication service with the congregation.
Roof put on a school auditorium followed by a dedication ceremony involving parents and students and clothes and school supplies to the kids.
2,365 salvation recorded
1,500 patients seen
Pastors trained in "Pioneer Evangelism" which seems to evangelize through a Bible study program done in homes.
Pharmacy worker reported an eight year old boy trained in evangecube coming into his mother working in the paharmacy and saying ·I led three kids to the Lord with the Evangecube. Did I do good?" "You did very good."
Group member reported on how he had had problems with depression and how helping others and serving the Lord has delivered him from that.
One woman told how she had sold cookies and sourdough bread to raise money to come on this mission trip and how she ahd gone to Europe last year and nobody wanted to hear or discuss spiritual issues and what a contrast the Nicaraguan people are to that.
Then the buses started loading up and the groups went to the volcano outlook at Catarina and then the buffet and market at Masaya.
A number of staff members including Juanita and I went to the Medfest grounds and helped pack, sort and load stuff to be trucked back to the warehouse. The tents were already taken down by the time we arrived. Juanita worked hard helping with packing meds. Others worked hard loading and unloading. I worked a little and got a bit of visiting in. When the last load got put on the truck we got on the bus and followed it to the warehouse where we helped unload the truck and then followed it back to town with the bus where it was returned to the rental company.
Then back to the hotel Granada with the bus.
Martha needed to go to the pharmacy and didn't want to be walking the streets alone so we walked with her. There was quite a line at the larger pharmacy and she took a number 51 when they were now serving number 23. We figured we had time to try one of the smaller pharmacies around the corner. They had a choice of Ciprofloxacin - German made for a little less than $US 7 for 10 tablets or Indian made for about a third of that.
Nicaragua is similar to many countries in that no prescription is required to purchase antibiotics or other theraputic drugs. Kind of civilized. beats sitting in the local clinic exposed to a bunch of unhealthy, contagious people to get a prescription for something you know you need. There are better uses for people's and doctors' time, but you won't find that in the North American nanny state countries. I am reminded of not being able to buy ear drops in the States several years ago, because the pharmicist said they were afraid somebody would sue them if they had needed something more powerful and then had complications.
The day is over too. I'll try and catch up sometime inthenextfewdays and maybe even do some profferading and speling corrections. Tomorrow looks like a good day to check out the Masaya volcano and the day after might be busy with works or checking into other oportunities.
Added a few days later:
On the way back from the pharmacy Juanita and Martha waited while I got the world's longest shoe shine for about 75 cents. He took out the shoes' laces and cleaned them with a toothbrush and thoroughly cleaned and polished the shoes like they had never been polished before. They started out very dusty with spots of red and grey paint from painting the metal for the school and church roofs and ended up looking better than new. Martha and Juanita redeemed the time by visiting on a park bench.
I hailed down passersby and gave out curved illusion tracts in Spanish. They come from Living Waters in California. If your shipping address is Canada they want you to buy from their Canadian web site which doesn't carry Spanish tracts. I ordered three hundred and had them shipped to Way of the Cross in Harlingen and Phillip kindly brought them down to Nicaragua in his luggage. They are only one hundred left. Hate to ration them.
We walked toward the hotels from the square and took a side street to the Asado Corral restaurant where Juanita and Martha had Quesadilla combos and I had an 8 ounce hamburger combo, all for about five bucks each.
After we walked Martha back to her hotel we walked back up to the ice cream parlor and sat at a table outside eating our cones. We were joined by several people from the group and got some visiting in and said some preliminary goodbyes if we missed each other the next morning.
January 17, 2012 (Tuesday)
Tired enough to have slept well. Didn't notice the rooster until about 5:20 which means I had slept out. Eventually we got up and after that we muddled around until we got to the group hotel and shared the tail end of one last breakfast with them. Got to say goodbye to most of the ones we wanted to. Missed a couple of them, but that's the way it goes.
Back at our hotel we checked out some guidebook stuff and decided on the day's plan. First stop at coyote for some Cordobas. Then to a street vendor for some mandarinos (tangerines) and ask where the bus station is for buses to Managua and get onto a bus. Sort of an overblown van, really. Any semblance of aisles get filled with drop down seats as the bus fills.
Eventually it gets kinda full or it's time or whatever and the bus leaves the depot which takes a bit of backing and filling to get out on the street. I had asked the attendant if it went to the Masaya volcano park and how much it cost before we got on. Yes. Twenty Cordobas each (rate at the coyote was 22.80 this morning so about 88 cents U.S.) which would be the fare for all the way to Managua. I don't know what the attendant is called in Spanish maybe "conductor" would be the English equivalent. In any case each bus has two people - the one who drives it and the one who manages it. The driver doesn't deal with passengers or money or luggage. He has his hands full with pedestrians and traffic.
The conductor rides in the open door at city speeds and encourages passengers to join the bus by shouting "Managua, Managua, Managua" to likely looking people standing on the curbs. After we get somewhat out of town the door gets closed and he collects the fares from the passengers while keeping an eye out for possible additional pick-up passengers standing on the road.
He alerts the driver of the need to stop to pick somebody up or let somebody off, and helps people on and off the bus while helping with stowing or unloading luggage. He handed the driver a wad of cash at one point but I don't know the financial arrangement between the two. It is pretty obvious, however, that the conductor can have huge influence on how much revenue the bus sees.
About half way to Managua the conductor yelled at the driver. The bus stopped and we got off across the highway from the Parque Nacional Volcan Masaya entrance. There are a couple of write-ups about the park here and here. You don't need me to repeat what you can find elsewhere on the net. I'll just write about our day.
A friendly park ranger at the gate explained our options. We chose general admission ($C 100/ each (one hundred Cordobas, about $US 5)), transportation up and back ($C 50/ each) and the tour of the cave ($C 50/each to be paid at the museum/ visitor center about 1 km from the gate). The guard radioed for transportation and they replied in Spanish that they would be there in five minutes. In English he told us to take a seat and they would be there in a minute to pick us up. We wandered across to take pictures of the large iguana on the side of the washroom building and then went inside to use the baños and then came out and had a relaxing sit and visited with the other guard until the older 4 door Toyota pick-up arrived to take us up the mountain.
The truck stopped at the curb outside the visitor center and somebody came out with our tickets for the cave tour and took our money so we didn't have to get out of the truck. Then we proceeded the rest of the 5 kilometers to the top where we met our guide and were issued hardhats and flashlights before being transported around the volcano to a lava tube with some bats in it. On our way down the walking path to the entrance the guide pointed out another cave entrance for a cave with about 30,000 bats in it. It didn't seem that our cave had more than a few hundred. If I was a bat I too would choose a cave where there weren't tourists with flash lights and camera flashes disturbing my day's sleep.
Tuesday must be a slow day. There were tour buses to the top viewpoint and their passengers walked up the 177 or so steps to the cross at the very top of one of the volcanic cones, but the tour bus people didn't seem to take the cave tour. For less than $US 5 Juanita and I had our own private guide. We met a group of six or so coming out with their guide when we were part way into the cave, but then we had the cave to ourselves. You can do the research on line if it matters to you, but I seem to remember the guide saying it was 180 meters long and 80 meters deep. It was an interesting hour and a half or so.
When we finished the cave tour we followed the guiode up the walking path a few hundred feet to the road and waited in a gazebo until the truck she summoned returned. The truck took us back to the parking lot at the crater's edge. We returned our hard hats and flashlights and then I got the ranger to drive me back to the gazebo to get my Tilley hat which was still sitting on the bench there.
The name patch on the guides uniform said "MARENA". We had been calling her that. When we got back to where the rangers hung out we noticed that they all had this "name" and we learned that it is the acronym for the government ministry that manages the park. Her name is Marila. Close.
We tied our hats on against the wind and climbed to the cross and took pictures and looked over the edge from a few different spots off the parking lot. Even with the stiff wind the sulphurous fumes were quite noticeable. The pamphlet advise not tos hang out near the edge more than twenty minutes to avoid harm from the gases.
There can be more than gases to harm you. In 2001 the volcano started spitting stones into the air, some of which landed as far away as 500 meters from the edge of the rim. Only one person was injured, but a number of vehicles were heavily damaged. The pamphlet advises that one should hide under one's car if the event recurs. I think a tour bus would be a better candidate for hiding under than something like our Hyundai.
It was about two p.m. and we decided we didn't want to hang around for a couple of more hours for when all the parrots return to their nests around four. So we went and told the rangers we were done and got a ride back down to the museum/visitor center. We spent around an hour looking at the displays on volcanos, the geology of Nicaragua, the local flora and fauna and we looked off the deck to Laguna Masaya. We asked a ranger on the deck about the butterfly garden and she answered. As we walked away I said to Juanita that the ranger had either said it was across the street or inside. We went back inside and through the museum exit to the front desk and asked again at the information desk. The guide from the deck showed up and took us to the glass case of insects and butterflies. There are 122 species of butterfly that can be found in the park, with a representative sampling of dead examples in a glass case, but despite what the Lonely Planet Guide says there is no butterfly garden.
We wandered out of the center and down the steps to the road and decided to walk down the hill to the main gate. A ranger came out of the center and made sure we didn't want transport and told us that it was 1200 not 1000 meters. but we assured him we wanted to walk. It was not all downhill despite the impression we had when riding up, but it was a pleasant walk with a bit of an overcast and trees blocking any direct sun and a pleasant breeze. About half way down we were offered a ride in the back of a pick-up by a local and we joined his son in the pick-up bed and rode to the gate. He asked us where we were going but it wasn't where he was going so we got out and went out to the highway and flagged down a Managua-Granada bus and told the conductor we wanted off at La Colonia. We got the last two spots to sit. The several other people picked up after us got to stand. When the bus turned the corner at the gas stations on the edge of Granada the conductor told us to get off and pointed in the direction of La Colonia.
We walked the few blocks there and bought a sample of groceries somewhat based on what kitchen facilities we thought we had from our impression not inspection of same. We'll know more when we try and cook. We bought coffee and filters even though we thought there was no coffeee maker. We planned on improvising with a cup and hot water, but were pleased to see a coffee maker in the kitchen when we got back to the hotel. Scotoma ?
We rested a bit and then went up to the tourist office to buy a country map and to coyote corner to get more dollars changed into Cordobas and then picked up our laundry and brought it home before going out again to the hotel to see what remnants of the group remained and see what their supper plans were. Six of us ended up at the same restaurant as last night. Then we walked with them as far as our hotel and then went back a block for an ice cream cone and came home to keyboard and shower and wash hair.
Got an e-mail tonight with contact information for a ministry that we may be able to help at. Tomorrow Juanita and I will be counting leftover meds with Martha. I may have time to call them if there is a signal at the warehouse, but it may be a day or two before we will be able to meet directly with them.
Goodnight. I don't expect any trouble sleeping tonight either. Someday I will proffread this section. Someday I will find a computer that will let me read the usb stick with the Medfest pictures and maybe even add some to this page.
January 18, 2012 (Wednesday)
After breakfast we walked down to the Hotel Granda and joined Martha as she finished her breakfast then we three took a cab out to the warehouse ( a little over 5 km.)
We were joined at the warehouse by a pastor's wife. We all four worked sorting out the medical supplies and medicines left over from Medfest. We counted the meds, bagged everything and put it either in some of the packing drums the soup came in or in suitcases. This took until about 2 when Ben and Indy showed up in the Grace Turbo van and we all went to the buffet in Masaya for a late lunch. Then we picked up some meds that had been ordered for Medfest but they arrived a bit late.
After that we drove the van to a vehicle inspection station. Ben and Indy had spent most of the day jumping through many of the bureaucratic hoops required to get the van licensed and insured. A couple of more steps and it should be completed tomorrow morning.
I called the director of Food for the Hungry Nicaragua but he was not at the number we had been given. They gave me another number which he wasn't at either, but somebody took a message and said he would call back.
Then it was back to the hotel, walk uptown to the market to buy tangerines, bananas and to the Pali to buy salsa and plates. On the way back I got my shoes shined again. A lot quicker person today. Back to the hotel again to drop off the supplies and shower and change and take the last of the work clothes to the laundry. I had been hoarding a pair of dark slacks for our last work day at the warehouse and today finished off their availability for further wear without being washed. Also a couple of shirts that had been worn several times each in the evenings.
We went to the Chocolate Cafe and had a licuado and a cappucino and checked facetime. As we were walking back to the hotel we got hailed from a restaurant and ended up joining Ben, Indy and Martha and having a licuado each while they ate. Back at the hotel to keyboard and visit with a few of the new denizens of our posada. They are from Kitchener-Waterloo in Ontario, Canada by way of Toronto, New York and Trinidad.
Tomorrow we will tag along on the run to one of the bureacracies in Managua and perhaps stay there and explore a bit and catch a bus home.
January 19, 2012 (Thursday)
Today was a quiet day.
Juanita prepared breakfast and then we read and keyboarded until it was getting to be time to meet up with Ben, Indy and Martha. We sauntered down to their hotel and about five minutes after we arrived there Indy phoned and said they would be there shortly. We rode with them to Managua and rode around as they found somebody to repair the van wheel and met up with somebody about the container of food that is ensnared in red tape on its way into the country.
I talked on the phone with the director of Food for the Hungry Nicaragua and we plan to meet with him at their headquarters in Managua tomorrow morning. Indy told which bus to take and what terminal it would end up at in Managua. The taxi driver who met us at the airport and took us to Granada agreed to meet us at the bus depot and take us to our meeting. Once we have done that we will know enough to find our way back by bus. What we learn about their operation and their needs and any fit with our talents and interests will shape what we do the rest of the day tomorrow and perhaps the rest of the time in Nicaragua.
One of the stops was at the car dealer where the van was purchased and they gave Indy a calendar with Nicaraguan scenes on each page. Some of them were certainly enticing. Made me want to go exploring. Of course, one of the pictures showed the Masaya Artisans' Market which looked a lot less creepy in the picture than it looks to me when we drive by.
After they accomplished as much as they could in Managua we all went for lunch at the Masaya buffet. Then we went to Las Flores to Pastor Gilberto's house and admired the furniture some team members had donated the money for. Beautiful hand-made rocking chairs are quite an improvement over the plastic lawn chairs they replace. Gilberto and his son rode with us on the country roads past his church where the Medfest was held to a spot far out in the country where there is a school in much need of help.
The ride there was interesting with the dirt road winding between fields with everything from papaya plantations to sorgum to peanuts. But let me tell you about the school.
There are two small block buildings with rusty corrugated steel roofs attached to rotting wooden rafters. I would not get on top of them with any expectation of the roof supporting me. School is out for the month of January so there were no kids around today, but it is hard to imagine 125 K through grade 6 kids and three teachers crammed in there as being an optimal learning environment.
There is a power line to the building but no power. There is no playground, no assembly area, no water and no outhouse. There is a church group that wants to build a basketball court in March. As the director of the school says they are so poor and there is so much need they will be grateful for anything. An advance team of a couple of people will show up tomorrow to check out the situation. I see a lot of opportunities for people to help in meaningful ways and expect they will too.
Then we went back to Granada to learn what was the latest stumbling block the bureacracy had placed on the convoluted path to registration of the Grace Turbo van.
The bureaucracy was up to the challenge. The police came up with one more thing. So it was off to the office that issues ID cards. Then it was off to the bank before it closed to pay for the ID and then back to the ID card place to prove the fee was paid at the bank. By then the police office was closed so they continue their quest tomorrow without us. At times I denigrate Saskatchewan and its government processes, but I have to contrast the days that Ben and Indy have wasted with the five minutes it took for us to do everything needed to insure, register and obtain a license plate for our new car by walking across the street from the car dealer one evening last spring.
I have brief flashbacks to a Massey Lecture where an expert in poverty explained how legal systems and government processes ensure many poor countries stay poor by making it so hard to legally do business in them.
We walked and picked up laundry and saw a coyote for some more Cordobas which we will need tomorrow and stopped for a couple of licuados at the Chocolate Cafe and came home for an evening of keyboarding and TV. We had tried facetime a few times today and yesterday with no success, but a call came through this evening when the crew got home from Cold Lake. It was only -21 there, ignoring the wind chill. I like the night time low here of +21 and don't mind the daytime highs of +31 especially with the breeze chill the last couple of days.
January 20, 2012 (Friday)
Today we were up relatively early to catch the bus to Managua. I'll tell you about that in a few minutes. In the meantime directly below is the text of a newsletter I received from Ben Elliot who was one of the participants in the Medfest. Ben is a missionary to Zacatecas Mexico. He gave me permission to post it here. If you take exception to anything he wrote take it up with him, not me. The opinions expressed....
By the way - to prevent confusion - any time I refer to Ben or Brother Ben in this month's update it is Ben Butler of Way of the Cross, not Ben Elliot.
Sembradores de Cristo Nicaragua Trip Newsletter 2012
“And Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.” (John 9:39)
It was the first evening of the outreach and I and a group from Chicago had extra pizza leftover. We decided to go and hand it out to the homeless and share the more important spiritual food with them. We come up to a tourist from Austria who said, “I’m not interested.” We then proceeded to a group of 4 homeless men, all of whom were hungry for the pizza and more importantly very hungry for the gospel of Jesus Christ. The man from Austria wasn’t hungry physically or spiritually. In fact he thinks he’s fine, that he doesn’t need a Savior. He thinks he can see clearly when he fact he’s walking around blindly and although he is a “rich” tourist he is much poorer now than those four Nicaraguan homeless souls who can now see and will never thirst or hunger again. Christ came for the brokenhearted. Nicaragua is an impoverished nation that is full of broken hearts. Just like my visit 11 years ago, I was able to see a great harvest of souls this past week.
I want to first mention that, YES, I was able to walk just fine this whole past week. The mini stress fractures in both feet were almost completely gone by the time I flew out this past Wednesday. I will soon be receiving some medicated soles for my feet which should train my feet to impact correctly since I have one foot flatter than the other. Again, thank you so much for your prayers body of Christ! It’s so great to be free from that affliction and know that I do not have gout. I have already started exercising again and will soon be back to my normal routine of running 5 days a week, keeping myself in great shape for taking the gospel to the brutal altitudes of the villages of Zacatecas.
Nicaragua trip synopsis
It was a great blessing to be part of this great medical outreach to Nicaragua. I had been praying & trying to go back for years now, but the time hadn’t been right. I joined a team of approx. 100 Americans and hundreds of Nicaraguan pastors and believers for this event. Many souls came into the kingdom this past week. The people of Masaya, Nicaragua and surrounding villages were able to come and receive medical and dental attention but more importantly hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. At the same time there were two pastoral conferences going on, one evangelism training going on, children’s ministry, construction, and also evangelism. I was able to be involved in a little bit of everything: medical translation, pastoral conference, children’s ministry, music, and evangelism “mi mero mole.” The first day I questioned the Lord whether He had really called me to be on that trip since there was a great bulk of translators and musicians available. The Spirit reminded me that I was there to serve and that the Lord would show me why He had sent me back. I got my answer that first evening after the outreach when we went to share our “evangepizza.”
Ever since the 90’s and a series of wars in Nicaragua the nation has been ripe for the gospel. This Central American nation is now a tourist lure with its fascinating volcanoes, jungles, mountains, lakes, islands, & beaches. With this surge of tourism (atheistic Europeans are everywhere) the broken economy is starting to come back on the rise. Before the wars in the 80’s there was already an underground church but now after the war there has been an incredible wave of the Holy Spirit. The city of Masaya itself practically has a church on every corner. The pastors shared with me that there is now more Christianity than Catholicism in the nation in most areas. The nation’s openness for the gospel has allowed ministries such as Way of the Cross to go in and do large scale outreaches such as the one we did last week.
It was great for me to go and participate in such a great harvest. It was good for me to go and see with my own eyes what the Lord has been doing in this great nation. The people are so hungry for the Word of God. They are not like our hardhearted folks in Zacatecas. They are very humble hearted and sensitive to the voice of the Spirit. Most Nicaraguans have now rejected the lie of the virgin of Guadalupe and other virgins of Mexico and the multitude of saint idols.
The third and last day of the outreach was by far my favorite. Every day I was given the opportunity to sing a song or two to begin the outreach, translate for the pastoral conference, and then help out translating in the pharmacy & minister to the children. The pastoral conference I was helping out at had finished so I was now able to go out with the evangelism team. We went out to a little church and I was able to sing some songs with the little ones before the service. The pastor then asked us to go out to the street so that more people would come. Soon we had a great group of people. How attentive to the music and the Word of God are these people! Many prayed a prayer of salvation and then we proceeded to another location to do street ministry. I grabbed my evangecube and was able to lead three tough looking men to Christ and then was given the opportunity to lead some songs and preach the Word of God. The Holy Spirit led me to share a little bit about our ministry in Zacatecas and our two attacks this summer. Once the people realized that I was an American that spoke Spanish and that I worked in central Mexico I had their undivided attention. I encouraged them that God has the final Word over their lives. Many homeless I had talked with had mentioned to me the impossibility of finding employment without having finished junior high. I encouraged the folks to raise their hands and call out to God who can do the impossible in their lives!
Every time I presented myself to a Nicaraguan pastor or believer they immediately identified my Spanish as Mexican-ha. Then they always said the same thing, “Mexico, muy peligroso.” (Mexico, very dangerous). This trip was worth it for me even if it was just so that these precious Nicaraguan brethren will pray for our ministry in Zacatecas. I have no doubt that these precious servants of the Lord will do just that and maybe even more. Many of them prayed with me right there and invited me to come back to Nicaragua. I was honest with them, that God had called me to this dark place of Zacatecas and that I didn’t plan on returning anytime soon (unless God permits). This trip reminded me brethren how much God has called me to Zacatecas 1% gospel, the black heart of Mexico. I’ m more than excited and pumped up than ever. I wouldn’t change God’s calling on my life for anything in this world. My wife, children, and I are up for the challenge my friends.
The first night I arrived in Nicaragua I was actually able to lead our waitress to the Lord in a local Chinese restaurant. She had been hit up pretty hard by the Jehovah’s witnesses and was quite surprised to hear that they don’t believe Jesus Christ is God. She prayed with me right there out loud in front of the whole restaurant. I went to check on her three nights later and she shared something very encouraging-that since three nights ago she had already begun to see positive changes in her life and her family-wow! She committed herself to go with her believing uncle to a local church and grow in the faith. The last night I found myself again with the fantastic team from Chicago in another Chinese restaurant. A precious sister/doctor named Diane like my wife again had leftover food and as we walked back to the hotel I saw her walk up to a homeless guy. I popped up next to her, shared the gospel, and he opened up his heart to the Lord of Lords. This time we called it “evangechino”-ha. Even the tourism day we were able to lead some folks to Christ. Great times!
Spring Break trip outreach
Our beloved sister in Christ, Sarah Broecker and Pastor Kevin Cole from Buffalo, New York will be coming back to Zacatecas with us this Spring Break. We will be doing an outreach in Monte Escobedo. May the Lord flood that place with His penetrating Spirit breaking through and humbling the hardest of hearts as He has done so magnificently in Nicaragua!
Thanks again for all your prayers and support, Sembradores de Cristo family
We were up early to catch an Express bus to Managua. Our plan when we crossed the plaza was to get on a passing bus if it was not full and walk the one block to the terminal if no not-full bus presented itself. Best laid plans. Once you are on a moving bus and realize that there is just one seat left it is too late. Momentum overrides inadequate determination and there you are standing half the way to Managua unable to read your newspaper or do anything else productive or distractive except avoid overly intimate contact with the people you are sandwiched between and who seem to have a smaller view of what is adequate personal space than is customary in Canada.
Oh well, I guess they live on less of everything thing else. Why not personal space
Once seated I managed to compose an e-mail asking for permission to reprint the newsletter and then read my newspaper. One article seemed to be saying that last year's ban on exporting beans has resulted in a drop in bean prices and an increase in local consumption. It worked for the first year. I wonder what the next step will be when the farmers find more profitable alternatives to beans to plant in coming years.
The bus arrived at the UCA station which is the station for smaller buses arriving and leaving Managua for mulitple destinations. There are at least three other bus depots for bigger buses. I phoned Don Jose, the cab driver who took us from the airport to Granada almost three weeks ago and he showed up and with a few backs and fills found the Nehemiah Center which houses offices for a number of ministeries in Nicaragua.
Not knowing how long it would take to travel to and locate our destination we had left early. Thus, we arrived very early for our ten o'clock meeting. The person we were meeting with is the director of Food for the Hungry in Nicaragua. I had left a voice mail confirming our attendance, but all he got was noise. We had a pleasant time waiting sitting in rocking chairs in the gazebo on the lawn in the courtyard. We always have something to read so when he showed up at ten o'clock it was almost an interruption to do what we had come for.
We learned what they are doing and discussed some of their needs and our skills. We learned of a possible need where we could help in remodelling a house into team housing in the Northwest of the country. It was left in their hands for discussion and prayer.
Before we left I asked the receptionist to check the amount of time left on our cell phone. She said it was 28 dollars which is more than I paid for the phone and the talk time. The cell phone companies here compete with each other with promotions that multiply top-ups. She gave me the number to call to find out for myself in the future.
No wonder I couldn't find the account information on the phone. It isn't there.
We walked out to the gate and the guard let us out and we started to walk out towards the highway hoping that one of the little red three wheeled open cabs would pick us up. One passed coming the other way with about the backseat full of paasengers and one child riding next to the driver. Before another one came along a missionary stopped and gave us a ride out to the highway. He was going right and we needed to go left so we got out and crossed the busy highway to a clump of people waiting for a bus or a cab or something. I asked about a bus to the UCA and was told that it was a few blocks down the street but that taxis would stop were we were. A bus to another destination stopped. Two of the people got on. The bus pulled away and everybody else left. I guess they were there just to see the two off. Seems to be the same tradition that makes Pearson International Airport so crowded.
One empty cab did a u-turn and we discussed our destination, but it was too far for him to go and be on time where he was going to already so he started to back across the busy four lane highway and reconsidered the wisdom of that and went up the side street did a K turn and came back to do a left turn onto the highway.
A little red three wheeled cab came across and asked where we wanted to go. I said UCA station and that it was too far to go in that cab. He insisted and quoted me forty Cordobas for both and we hopped in. Very breezy and a little scary. At one point he went off into a subdivision and a bunch of side streets and I asked him what was going on since I had a pretty good idea of where we should be headed. He said it was short cut. When we showed back up on a major highway I recognized I was reassured.
He dropped us off across the street from the UCA and insisted the $C 40 was an "each" price not a "both" price. Since it was about what we would pay a taxi for that trip and there was a remote chance it was an honest misunderstanding I gave him the $C 80 and a curved illusion tract. Then we bought a couple of mandarinos and ate them in the park and contemplated other snacks and haggled with a taxi until the price was almost reasonable to go to Tipitapa from Managua. We phoned Indy with the taxi's license plate number and then she talked to him and made sure he knew the direction to our destination and that she had his number since it was a fairly lonely section of road we would be on.
Our destination was Christian Aid Ministries near Tipitapa (links here and here). Some WOTC staff had stayed at their base camp a few years ago and had told us of their food program. It seemed interesting so we headed there. Our cab driver hooked the horn and a large dog started barking and eventually someone opened the door in the gate a bit and talked to us. I gave him the name we had for the director and he wasn't there. so I asked if there was anybody else he asked if I wanted to talk to the boss. He closed the gate and went to get him. When he arrived I told him we were members of a Mennonite Brethren church in Canada and asked if we could get a tour. he agreed and we sent the cab away. It wasn't long into our tour that we realized it was not a ministry in need of any help we could offer, but it was an interesting tour, nevertheless.
They receive 16 containers a year of food packages "containing food, healthcare items, and some Christian literature". The items we noticed included cooking oil and cans of bone-in chicken. The food is packaged in Pennsylvania using their own butchers and canning plant. Rice and beans are not allowed to be imported into Nicaragua so they buy rice and beans locally and add them to packages here. There are three sizes of packages: family, widows and elderly. Family size boxes are sealed and banded in the States. Other two sizes are just sealed with tape and re-opened and rice and beans added and boxes re-taped and banded. They have regular recipients of this aid referred to them by pastors. The receipients are checked with home visits to ensure they are needy. One standard is no TV. If they can afford a TV they can afford food. They have regular distribution routes that they repeat on a schedule. They also work with pastors and church members in education and training and they distribute Christian literature.
We walked toward the higthe to highway.hway and past the stockyard busy with arriving cattle and reached the highway between Managua and Tipitapa. We took a passing bus to Tipitapa proper and the Pan American highway and stood waiting in the sun for quite a while. We bought bags of cold drinking water, but off the corners and stayed hydrated.
We rode a chicken bus to Masayalong, passing along the way the Zona Franca, fields of big round bales and brightly painted schools.
In Masaya we caught a chicken bus to Granada. A short walk from that terminal to the Pali for eggs and salsa.
We bought and drank some licuados and visited on Facetime with family back in Canada.
It was time to go to drop off laundry. My shirt died today in the humidity, pants yesterday.
We went out for chow ming followed by licuados at Casa Blanca. Some WOTC staffers stopped by and visited a bit. Then back home to keyboard and a very early night.
We watched the Mentalist and I could hardly keep my eyes open.
January 21, 2012 (Saturday)
Today was a quiet day for us in Granada. We took our time getting up and eating breakfast. Did some keyboarding until about 10.
We walked to the coyote corner and changed some dollars into cords.
Walked to the Iglesia de La Merced on the corner of Calle 14 de Septembre and Calle Real Xalteva, paid our buck each and climbed the bell tower. I wasn't the only one up there who couldn't resist ringing one of the bells. Somebody said there was a rule against that. I guess I missed the orientation session. Great view. Got a feel for the layout of Granada.
We walked the street one block off the market street to the Pali. Lot easier walk than dodging cars, bikes and vendors on the market street. In our walk we discovered a bus terminal for Masaya buses that we didn't know was there.
Bought some necessaries and some cookies on sale at the Pali. Then we walked toward the bus terminal where buses leave for Rivas so we wouldn't have to walk all over the place looking for it while carrying our bags on Monday. Happened upon a Movistar van so topped up the cell phone. You tell the guy what you want in manner of top-up and he punches it in to his cell phone and a minute later you get a text message on your phone from Movistar saying you are topped up.
Found the Rivas buses. They are true chicken buses all huddled in a yard that looks like a chicken run.
We then walked through the market and bought some bananas.
Then we walked toward the Tele Pizza with thoughts of buying a few slices since it was getting close to lunch time. We had further thoughts about eating with our hands in the state they were in and pondered how long pizza slices might have been sitting around waiting for the lunch crowd and decided we weren't that hungry yet. We went around the corner from the pizza parlor to the Iglesia San Francisco (Convento y Museo San Francisco) at the intersection of Calle El Arsenal and Av Saavedra.
Juanita took a pass on the museum, checked out the gift shop and went home to read for a while and have a licuado at the Casa Blanca a few doors up the street from our hotel while she waited for me. I enjoyed the museum. It had a display of the restoration project that had been done on the building. The English for that particular display was a bit bizarre being bureauspeak translated from the Spanish.
They tried to overblow the organizational and planning part of the project and then get into an elaborate explanation why results never happened on schedule. I should have taken some pictures of the phraseology. To give you an idea contemplate a barely comprehensible missive out of Ottawa. Translate that from English into another language. Then have it translated back into English by somebody whose first language is other than English but with a buzzword bingo card as a one of their chief resources.
There were some great examples of Zapatera sculpture, paintings, displays about indian life, pictures of Granada from the past and a large (maybe 15' x 20') model of Granada in a glass case. It was even better than looking down on the city from the bell tower to get a feel for the layout of the city. It was not a perfect representation - it was a lot cleaner and market and street vendor stalls were absent, but still it was pretty good.
After that I walked back to the hotel stopping for a hair cut (still $US3 and I really got value for my money. I may not have a lot of hair left on my head but he took most of what I did have off my head and face. My beard looks like it does two weeks out of a shutdown where I had to be clean shaven. The hair will grow back. I hope. Also picked up the laundry.
After regrouping and rehydrating we walked down to the lake, paid our fee into the Tourist zone and haggled a bit for a boat, which took us out to Las Isletas - a bunch of vegetation covered islands some with elaborate homes, one with the Fortaleza Castillo ( an old Spanish fort), another with some monkeys and many with birds. Words don't do it justice. Neither may our pictures but sooner or later they will get posted.
Then we walked home cleaned up a bit and decided it was finally time to go to Tele Pizza and have a few slices of pizza before going to the Chocolate Cafe for some batidos as dessert beverages. We then walked down to the Hotel Granada to say goodbye to the last of the WOTC staff who will be leaving in the morning. When we were about a block away we saw them get into the Grace Turbo van and pull away- Oh well, they'll be home by about eight we figured and we went back home to shower, change into less sweaty clothes and start puttering at preparing for our next nomadic impulse. I went to do some keyboarding but somebody was using the computer so I started watching the tale end of Jeopardy (in English only) and then started watching a Dr. House episode with Spanish sub titles. The person finished with the communal computer, but I was absorbed in keeping up with the dialog so just told Juanita it was available so she did research on Ometepe Island, the island with two volcanoes in the middle of Lake Nicaragua, until the program finished and then we went back to the hotel met up with the group and two members of Christ Community Church near Chicago who are looking at partnering with WOTC on some construction and outreach projects. We sang some songs and prayed together and then it was ten o'clock so we said our goodbyes and returned home.
They left a wake up call for four am so they could leave for the airport in Managua and were planning on going right to bed.
We don't have any deadlines tomorrow morning but it is now somewhat later than 10 and I think I will follow their example of going to bed. The spel chceking and seeding in the grammatical bare spots can wait.
January 22, 2012 (Sunday)
It's Sunday and a day of rest (mostly). The nearest church we have worked with is a $C 200 cab ride away and we have not seen anything but Catholic churches in this area. Hard to imagine anything that would be an improvement on the meeting last night for us and that we would be anything but a distraction for others.
It's also my birthday so we will plan on having a bit more upscale dinner than we usually have. :)
I had started looking at editing yesterday's section, when the phone rang and it was Becky, Nick and Zeke calling in their birthday greetings. I hit "publish" and abandoned the computer to the waiting person who I had promised to hand it off to in "fifteen minutes" anyway.
After the call we changed foot wear. Even though many of both genders of Nicaraguans wear flip flops for everything I am not ready to wear them on the street especially for a twenty block walk. We walked up toward the Fortaleza La Polvera, a 1748 turreted Spanish fortress. On the way we did our now daily transaction with the coyote. With our current burn rate of cash we will either have to hit an ATM in a few weeks or scale back our spending habits. Still way cheaper than staying home particularly for someone addicted to building.
Part way to the fort we encountered a French group going into a cigar factory. We joined the group, took pictures of the cigar makers and the parrot, and lined up for the baño. I used the baño first and while Juanita took her turn I joined the back of the group. The tour guide came over and asked me something in French and I said "Je ne parle pas francais bien". She then asked if we were part of the group and I said no and about then Juanita came back from the loo and we walked back out onto the street and on up to the fortaleza. It was closed for Sunday, but we took some pictures of the outside and through the gate and had probably seen just about everything we were interested in except the cannons and we've probably seen enough of them here and elsewhere in the world.
By the way, when I view this blog certain symbols don't show up properly. They are the closest I can find on a Spanish keyboard. I'm sure that somebody who knew what they were doing would do better, but it's good enough to ship`and I'll come back over it in my copious free time in Canada (pause for uproarious laughter).
We walked back to the hotel paying a bit of a premium for some bananas on the square instead of taking a two block detour to the inner market and relaxed for a while and then both did some keyboarding. While I was writing this Juanita went across the street and traded the mystery novel she had just finished straight across for a different one. She figures the bookstore owner hadn't read the one she wanted to trade.
I took a break from keyboarding and we went for a cacoa, coco and leche licuado at the Chocolate Cafe. Also had a piece of Tres Leches cake in honour of my birthday. Tried Facetime from there but no response. Then we walked to an internet cafe and I spent two hours going through the 4 gigs of pictures that Steve Moser had put on a USB stick for me, trying to choose a reasonable sample and uploading those to my ISP's server so I could show them to you. When we walked into the Internet cafe I asked for two computers so Juanita would have something to do, but she declined and said she would go back to the hotel. I was reviewing the pictures and had chosen some and realized there were so many so was starting to skim quickly through them all when this voice in my ear said "go back one". Happily, it was Juanita. I would rather not be hearing voices nor having strangeers help me edit.
She had trouble getting in the room since I had the room key so she came back. She was a big help in choosing pictures. It took a while after choosing 51 examples, because they all had to be selected one by one and then uploaded in about ten packs. Of course I had not chosen them in any sort of numerica order so that slowed things down. Once uploaded they are available for me to add to web pages without needing a computer that would accept a usb stick.
Dinner followed at the Asado Corral. I had my traditional steak for birthday dinner. It was great after it went back to the kitchen for a bit more grilling. This works well. Debbie fed me steak in December at the Canadian celebration of my birthday. Having two birthday parties and only getting one year older has to be the best of all situations.
Juanita had a quesadilla combo.
We came home and I added the pictures to the page and added captions to them. In the process realized the selection could be added to with three or four more. That should happen next time I'm near a computer where I can use the usb port. The one in this hotel has been disabled for security purposes.
Well, it's not that late, but's it's late enough to call it a night. Time to go pack to be ready for the chicken bus to Rivas in the morning. From there we will look for transport to San Juan del Sur.
January 23, 2012 (Monday)
We were up early but had a relaxed breakfast and finished packing before going two doors down and dropping off some leftover stale tortillas for the neighbour's chickens. Then we said our goodbyes to the landlady and handed in the key and headed up the street to the next intersection. The first cab we hailed down already had two people in the back seat. They scrunched over and made enough room for another person, but with our bags it would have been a tight squeeze, plus the quote was thirty cords to the bus terminal. A block later we flagged down an empty cab and he quoted twenty cords so we threw Juanita and the bags into the back seat and I got in the front and off we went. He explained he couldn't take us right to the buses and I agreed and said the corner at the gas station would be fine. When he dropped us off a tout started encouraging us to the Ricas bus and it was just a little over half full and we found the last seat together that didn't have a wheel well as part of its floor plan.
The tout stowed our bags where we could see them and shook my hand and got off the bus. I had been feeling awkward because I didn't have any coins for a tip except the smallest ones they make amounting to about 1/2 cent in US funds, but there was no hesitation of expectation on his part. He just shook my hand and got off the bus. I decided he was the guy that rode on the top handling overflow luggage and doing his part to get the bus full and out of the terminal.
The bus filled up some more to standing room only and while it was doing that various vendors and a beggar playing a harmonica came through, working their way past the passengers. Let's see if I can remember what the vendors had - one guy with a box of pizza selling it by the slice, a woman with a dish tub on her head filled with cookies, crackers and chiclets and plastic bags hanging from her waist with vigaron (salad, yucca and pork rinds wrapped in a banana leaf) and a guy with small bags of what looked like cubes of peanut brittle and a large open bag from which he could fill the small empty baggies sticking out of his jeans pockets. Towards the end the dish tub woman came through again this time also selling baggies of juice complete with straws sticking out of them. We didn't need more liquid for a two hour confinement nor potential sources of bacteria so we bought one factory packed package of chocolate wafer cookies. The beggar got the ten peseta coins. Last of the big time philanthropists.
When the bus was more than full it was time for it to squeeze into the alley and up to the corner and we were rolling. We passed the Granada cemetery. It looked as impressive as the guide books say. Be a bit of a slog to walk there, but we'll add it to our next-time-in-Granada list. A little while later we passed what I remember to be the house Ben pointed out that the ministry was praying about buying and that they had not heard a clear answer on. Then we passed the entrance to the Mombacho Volcano park. Probably leave that on some future trip list as well. We are happy with the sights we saw in and near Granada and could happily leave it at that if we never returned, but it is always good to leave something for next time if there is one.
These buses are old school buses with overhead luggage racks and roof racks for overflow and large luggage. But they get you there. Maybe not in comfort, but they do the job. Ours gets us to the Rivas bus terminal.
There is a bus in the dock for San Juan del Sur. It won't be long before it leaves, but it is already standing room only. We board the bus behind it which will leave in forty minutes.
I get Juanita and the luggage settled and go to find a bano. The closest one I find is two blocks away and cost seven Cordobas to enter. I took a picture of Bano building and building at intersection where you have to turn on way to bano.
On the way back to the bus I buy a bag of mandarinos. Twenty minutes of the forty have elapsed.
I show Juanita the pictures so she will be able to find the building without having to ask questions people won't understand to get answers she won't understand. I mention it is the building with the backpacks for sale out front.
She leaves. A vendor walks through the bus selling face cloths. People buy them and use them right away to mop up the sweat on their faces and necks from the heat of the sun beating down on the parked bus..
The bus fills to the max.
The driver starts the bus engine.
Paul rises from seat and starts considering how to get the luggage off through the crowd. People in seat behind say they saw Juanita walk past the side of bus. I can see a bit of grey hair through the throng. I relax. Juanita shows up about five minutes later. "Every single stall had backpacks hanging out front!" Oops.
As we leave Rivas we are briefly back on the Pan American highway and get a view of Ometepe Island and take pictures. Not long after that the bus turns west on to the highway to San Juan Del Sur.
We disembark when the bus arrives in San Juan Del Sur. The first hotel we check out is $US 20 a night and is worse than an hourly hotel. The second is only almost as bad as an hourly hotel for $US 25 a night. The quoted rates in this, their high seaon, are much higher than the prices listed in the guide books. We take the second and dump our luggage in our room which would be spacious except they have crammed three double beds into it. Don't dwell on the ceiling or look under the toilet seat. Just don't.
We walk to the beach, look at the water and ask tourists about restaurants. Based on their advice we walked back a block and had the Barrio Breakfast Special. While eating I received and e-mail from Dynamysk. Looks like I have a spring job at the refinery.
Back to room again to change into shorts and we walk to market buy garlic for ankles (Don't ask me what that means. I have no idea. It was in the point form in the bottom half of this pane and I am fleshing the points out nine years and two months later. My grandmother said procrastination is the thief of time. It also may the slayer of clarity.).
We walked the length of the beach to the north and then walked back on the road. Back at the hotel I answer another e-mail on the iPod.
We walk to the church to check it out, ate some cheese things and drank some juice and then walked to the south end of the beach. After sharing a rellena at the Eskimo we walked back to the Barrio for their happy hour half priced coffee. I did e-mail and updated the web page at an internet cafe.
It's time for supper at the Iguana Restaurant over Henry's Bar. Hope it's good since we recommended it to some other tourists who were looking at the menu posted outside the Barrio and they might still be there at the Iguana.
January 24, 2012 (Tuesday)
Here's an excerpt from an e-mail we sent to our daughters when we arrived in Isla Ometepe, the island with two volcanoes in the middle of Lake Nicaragua:
Made it to Ometepe. Had a disturbing night with an intimate relationship with the toilet seat. Can't take Immodium with having diverticulitis so took the max of Pepto Bismo tablets. While waiting for breakfast I walked around the neighbourhood and the.pharmacies were closed until nine. Rather than sit around for an hour and half we decided that things were settled enough to try the chicken bus which would be about the same time to Rivas. Took the key to the desk and told them I was a little sick and we would be walking to the bus and if we were still gone in an hour to consider us checked out. Walking to the bus a taxi driver asked if we wanted a cab. I said no and then asked how much to Rivas and how long it would take. $15 and half an hour. Seemed like a good idea at the time and it got better as we went along. I told him I needed a pharmacy and maybe a bano and maybe not a bano. The last pharmacy in town was open already and we stopped and I bought ten pills of Cipro (6 for the next three days and four to get going on the next episode) for less than two dollars and came out and told him next I needed water. We stopped at a gas station and I bought some water and a Gatorade clone. On reading the Gatorade label I realized it wouldn't work with Cipro.
Further along things were still pretty settled so I asked about how much it would cost to go to San Jorge where the ferry leaves from. Five more bucks. Worth it.
The ferry had left but we bought tickets on a lancha for 30 cords each that was leaving at nine, in about twenty five minutes. Ride was a bit rocky. Pretty basic but we arrived fine.
Looks like I feel fine enough to go exploring, especially for lunch. "Continental" breakfast that came with the room was two thin slices of white toast with honey and a cup of coffee. I had a bag of chips before we got on the boat to replace some of my salt, but I'm kinda hungry. Must be feeling better.
Ended up having coffee and cake with the owner of The Landing Hotel where we are staying and talking about our time in Nicaragua and listening to him talk about some of the development opportunities locally and then riding with him to see his "Monastery" property several miles around the island and the idled orphanage next door, former home of 400 orphans. Both properties offer a lot of potential for several possible future uses from a campus for an ecological or evangelical university. The Monastery has particular potential as a base camp for foreign work teams for outreach or humanitarian purposes. He understands that we are in no position to be directly involved in whatever the next steps are, but that we might encounter somebody who has that potential and pass on what we saw.
That took most of the afternoon. We drove back by way of the Punta Jesus Maria, a spit of land which extends out into Lake Nicaragua at lower water levels. We stopped by the town bakery once back in Moyogalpa. Then we got settled outside our room and chatted with our neighbours as we ate some bakery goodies. After a while we went in search of water for taking the next Cipro tablet and stopped by a restaurant which had been recommended. They close at five and we had ten minutes to order smoothies and then drink up as they closed up. They recommended La Esquinita Caliente (the Hot Little Corner) an economical Nica place. (OBTW I was informed today that "Tico" is a term that Nicas apply only to Costa Ricans not North Americans.)
Walked back through the sunset and Juanita went to the room to wash her hair and I went to the communal computer to compose this. Time to call it a day, have a shower and enter a vegetative state in front of TV and recover from the very short sleep time I had last night. I'll proof read this tomorrow and maybe fill out the point form portion of yesterday's account.
January 25, 2012 (Wednesday)
Today was a relaxing day starting at our hotel in Moyogalpa on Isla Ometepe in the middle of Lake Nicaragua. We walked up to La Esquinita Caliente and had breakfast. Juanita had the Nica breakfast of gallo pinto (beans and rice) fried bananas and cheese and I had an omelet. Then we walked up hill a bit and stopped and I experimented with a debit card and took 1,000 cordobas out of an ATM. That was easy.
Then we walked up a few more blocks to where the round-the-island highway is and stood and visited with each other and the locals until the bus came for Altagracia, the second biggest town on the island. It is on the east side of Conception Volcano the more northerly of the two volcanoes that form the island. Moyogalpa is on the west side of the volcano and much more at risk of some future eruption of this active volcano.
It wasn't long before the bus was cheek by jowl full. The density ebbed and flowed with passenger drop-offs and pick-ups. A woman got on selling tamales and we bought two just before it was time to get off.
We got off short of Altagracia at the turn-off to the Playas Santo Domingo (Santo Domingo Beaches) a bunch of us tourists got off. Some stood at the crossroads waiting for a bus south. Some started walking. We stood and visited with the couple that had been in our hotel as they stood there with their luggage and waited. They had rented a motorcycle the day before and checked out alternate accommodations and booked one that they had liked.
After a while we started walking down the highway through banana groves toward Ojo de Aqua. The 2 kilometer walk went quickly as we ate our tamales, admired the flowers and birds and greeted people on the road or in their yards. We turned off the road at a directional billboard and followed a dirt road for about 300 meters to the gate of the springs and paid the modest admission fee. The pool was crystal clear with water from 12 natural springs backed up into two pools that ranged in depth from wading to swimming. We got settled in some chairs in the shade and then I got changed into my swim trunks and waded and swam the length of the large pool. Then we relaxed and read and visited and watched the young people trying out the "Tarzan" rope and dropping into the pool.
The video below is one of several on Youtube that people have taken of Ojo de Aqua.
After a while I went and bought a coconut. The seller cut off the end and stuck a straw in it and we made some inroads in drinking it. After a while I had dried off and took another dip and then walked over to the food area and decided we would eat elsewhere, later. Long about the time I was dry again the sky got dark and it looked like it was getting ready to rain. We staked out a claim on two chairs under an umbrella and waited for the rain to pass. When it stopped I got the coconut cut up and we took a large piece of the coconut meat each and climbed to the top of the hill, climbed onto a cistern and admired the view. Then we walked back down the hill and out to the paved road.
The first bus going by was going the wrong way and was full. Neither status mattered. They managed to fit us and three large Germans after us onto the full bus. We took it as far as Playas de Santo Domingo and got off and looked for the playa (beach). The guides say the beach can be 80 meters wide in places at low water. Water is high right now.
We walked through a luxury hotel and down their stairs to what little beach there was and took pictures of the volcano and the beach. We climbed back up the stairs and sat in an eating area overlooking the water and the vegetation and ordered a juice and a cappuccino. There were a couple of diners in the formal eating area, but after the waiter dropped off our beverages we had this area of hardwood slab tables to ourselves. That is until the birds showed up. They were brilliant blue birds with white throats and a a feathered crest on the top of their heads. Research has determined that the birds were White-throated Magpie-jays . They were very bold and we managed to get some close-up pictures as one of them sat on the other side of the counter and coveted the sugar bowl. When we got up to leave the waiter scurried over and rescued the sugar bowl before the bird got it. The locals call the birds huracas. I commented to Juanita as we walked away from the hotel that they behaved like whiskey jacks. I guess that is a fair comparison since both whiskey jacks and white-throated magpie-jays are members of the corvid family, as are crows and ravens.
We decided we had gone far enough the wrong way so we found a shady spot and stood waiting for a bus to go by in the correct direction. Eventually one of the diners from the hotel came by in a hired car and asked her driver to stop and pick us up. They were going toward Moyogalpa to shop for ceramics and we wanted to go to Altagracia for no reason other than never having been there before so when we reached the crossroads they dropped us off and they went west.
We stood waiting for a bus and a person came across the highway from the bus stop for the other direction and asked where we wanted to go. He told us that one bus had just gone by and it could be awhile until another came along, but it wasn't "that far" a walk to Altagracia.
We visited with him for a while. He lives on Bainbridge island off of Seatle and has been coming to Ometepe for eight winters. Bainbridge is the sister island to Ometepe. After our visit ran down we started walking. We passed up the chance to flag down a passing bus because it was the first mini-bus we had seem on the island that was public transportation. All the other public buses we had seen were old school buses and all the mini buses had been for tour companies or hotels. Four kilometers later we were in Altagracia, long enough to buy some street food and a coke each and get in line near the start of the bus run back to Moyogolpa. We got a seat. If we had been a block further up the street we would have been crammed in to an extent that sardines would use us as an example of crowding. While waiting I handed out a couple of tracts that were in my back pack. The curved illusion tracts are running low, but I also bought a hundred "Are You a Good Person" tracts in Spanish with a "examen" (test) inside the booklet. I have been reluctant to use these since they can require a bit more conversational skills, but had figured out a way to at least try. The first guy who got one was a JW so he gave me a Spanish version of Watchtower. I translated the cover and the back to Juanita and he had some English skills and admired my Spanish skills and we had quite a good visit with me pointing out that the questions on the back of his magazine had a "what" as an answer, but the more important question had a "who" as an answer and that "Cristo es la repuestra" (Christ is the answer). I don't think I got very far, but I planted a seed and he kept the booklet and promised to watch the Evangecube video below. The other guys just took the booklet and put it in their pockets.
Eventually the bus got to Moyogalpa and we returned to our hotel room, took the key out of the door that was standing open and went in the room. Nothing seemed to be disturbed or cleaned. On our way out to supper I gave the key ring to the owner and explained the situation since we had had our key with us and had closed and locked the door when we left this morning. He said he didn't know what was going on, but would check and "Oh" they didn't clean the rooms, but we could have anything we needed. Just ask for it. As we left to the pizza parlor we could hear him interrogating the desk clerk about the keys.
After pizza we hit up a corner store for a bottle of water and some stuff for a make shift continental breakfast so we can get an early start for the ferry tomorrow followed by a bus ride to Managua, a cab ride between bus terminals and a bus ride to Leon. I called the hotel in Leon, tonight and got voice mail which jarred me a bit and I left a garbled message. I'll call again tomorrow. Also today I called FH and it looks like Juanita and I will have some things to do in Somotillo up near the Honduras border - conversion of a dwelling to team accommodations and packing two thousand back packs with school supplies to be handed out to school kids. I was already enthusiastic, now Juanita is as well. She said, "That's something I can do."
It is time to do a proof read of yesterday's missive and then go upstairs and smear cream on my sunburned legs and ankles and go to bed for an early start tomorrow. Juanita already had the good sense to get a head start on the sleep. Good night.
January 26, 2012 (Thursday)
I wrote this on a buggy, slow computer on which somebody had applied redirects to some unknown language so the keys are marked in Spanish, but the punctuation you punch is not what you get. Anything but periods and commas were found by accident while looking for something else. I told Juanita I would check her e-mail for her but couldn't find the needed underscore to get in. Sigh. Note: she got in later by finding an underscore in some text and cutting and pasting it into the address line.
I apologize (mentally) to the person who I thought was hogging the computer for over two hours. It could simply have been it took her that long to do something simple.
Now back to writing this as if I was writing it all today. When the text below is in sentences it is as done as it gets.
Today we left Isla Ometepe on close to the first boat. The experience revitalized some lessons of my youth growing up on a de factor island - No matter how early you get up you can still manage to miss a ferry.
I had set one of the alarms on the iPod for 4:43 and had woken up slightly before it went off and had a shower and started getting dressed and packed before waking up Juanita. Our plan was to take the six o'clock ferry. There was a lancha that was earlier, but our target was the six am ferry. Juanita had the valid question of what we were going to for almost an hour. I didn't have a vaild answer or as somebody I used to work with would have said a "good, valid" answer but we muddled on, got ready and went downstairs and roused the night clerk and gave him the room key and got him to let us out the gate onto the street. We walked down the street to the end. Somebody ran past us. I remarked that it was almost as if he was late for the ferry. Haha. No he was just trying to catch the lancha that was about to leave. He did. We didn't. The guard wouldn't let us past the gate and said the next lancha was at 6:30 and that there was no 6:00 ferry.
We walked back up to the hotel and got the night clerk to give us the room key back and put down our bags on some chairs. He asked if we wanted to have some coffee. The Turk from the room next door joined us and we were visiting and at about ten to six I thought it might be a good idea to check to see if there really was a six o'clock ferry. I walked down and asked some bystanders at the gate to the lanchas and they said "over there" and pointed to the next dock. The lancha company and the ferry company are competitors. I guess the guard who had said there was no six o'clock ferry hadn't wanted to give any business to the competition. I ran back the hotel and grabbed our bags and ran out with the room key in my pocket and Juanita following me. We ran down to the ferry and stood there in a clump with some other people. We signed the clipboard that said how old we were and our nationality so they would know when they had found enough bodies if that was necessary and we continued to wait. The guy next to us explained that the ferry had been broken down and they had just got it fixed and that they had yet to test the engine. About then they fired up one engine and it sounded like it was running sort of okay. He talked to one of the mechanics and learned that they only had one working engine not the usual two. He explaind to us that normally the ferry was about five minutes quicker to cross the lake than the lancha. He also said the lancha was rougher, but it was made out of wood so if it broke up pieces would float, but the ferry was steel so it would go right to the bottom. It was now after six. He left for the other dock and the lancha. We followed.
We had sat next to an opening in the side of the lancha, but it was tarped over to cut down on the amount that splashed in. Peeking over the edge of the tarp at 6:30 I observed the 6:00 ferry had not left. At 6:36 when the lancha was pulling away from the dock I checked again and the ferry had slipped its slip unnoticed by me. Guessing from its position on the lake it must have left at 6:31. I am both happy and sad to say that the people who took the ferry didn't drift around all day powerless.
Halfway between the island and the mainland I noticed the hotel key in my pocket and wrote an e-mail to the hotel owner on my iPod and left it in the send later bin for when we encounter a wi-fi signal.
The lancha passed the ferry just before arriving at San Jorge so both arrived pretty much at the same time. You can't tell me that if we had not taken the lancha that the ferry would have made it, though. I have to admit that I had second thoughts lancha when I went to the head and passed two guys spelling each other off on the manual bilge pump.
We got a taxi to the "rotunda", a traffic circle on the edge of Rivas and waited for the express bus to Managua. The rotunda is the second stop for the Rivas to Managua express bus. The young man who had told when the bus would be there grabbed my bag and carried it onto the bus. He left Juanita to fend for herself so I carried her bag and pushed her ahead of me. She often gets offered a better seat than they would offer me. It was already too late in the bus route to get a seat and then more people got on at the next two stops before the bus entered its express mode. The bus was full enough that the fare taker worked his way down the aisle squirming through the crowd, but he did not go back that way. He opened the side rear door and climbed the side of the bus to the top and went to the front of the bus along the roof and then climbed back down and into the front door. Wonder what OH&S would think of that?
We handed out some Pregunta tracts (Are you a good person?) with interesting results. One woman sat down and did the test in pencil and erased the results and gave it to a young man and insisted he read it. One young man read it and pocketed it and an older man just glanced at it and gave it to a woman in the next seat. Literacy may have been an issue. Or indifference.
We stood about half way to Managua until a few people got off and a seat became available. At one of the stops a Granny got off, hugged her gandkids, unloaded some bags of produce and after a while got back on the bus for the ride to Managua. Asking the other passengers about the bus to Leon from Israel Lewites (sp?) bus terminal everybody said it was far too dangerous but to go to UCA and take a minibus. I thought it was the terminal that they were saying was too dangerous and subsequent inquiries to other travellers have confirmed that. When we came to a bus stop where taxis to UCA waited everybody told us to get off and we did as they helped with our bags. Then we grabbed a cab to UCA.
Before we committed to a bus we called FH and asked for Nathan in case he wanted to see us or wanted us to sign papers but he was not in the office and would be "manaña".
We went into an empty cantina and paid five cords each to use the bathroom. Then we tracked down a minibus and they put our suitcases behind the back seat and we got in. Shortly after we got on it left for Leon which is a trip of about an hour and a quarter. The minibus to Leon was a 16 passengers plus driver van with 18 passengers counting the chidren on laps.
We passed through the town filled with brick and roof tile works and kilns. Sort of like the Mexican towns where every business sells the same thing. I had thought there were no iguanas for sale unlike the last time I had been on this road, but Juanita told me later that there had been kids standng by the side of the road holding live iguanas for sale. I guess the meat is fresher if you buy them live. Also, I guess I was reading my iPod and missed seeing them myself this trip.
We arrived at the Leon bus terminal. Like many bus terminals it is the middle of a large market. We got a cab to the Tortuga Booluda (Lazy Turtle) where we had called for a reservation. We got their one room with a bathroom, but just for the first night. After that we move to a private room, but with bathroom across the courtyard. It is basically a hostel and a new experience for both of us. Juanita has some challenges with the idea, but the free coffee helps. The private room is like a penthouse and has a wonderful large, private balcony which we utilize fully while it is available.
Thinking ahead, we phone a hotel in Chinandaga. They have no rooms but they recommend a much more expensive hotel, which does not appeal to us.
We went for a walk to the cathedral. The museum on the way that we planned to visit is not open. We also check out a hotel on the way. Muy caro. We walked through the market behind the cathedral. The prices were higher than we were used to from other markets and the place was relatively filthy compared to many other markets we've been in over the years.
We drop by one of the restaurants on the tourist map and check out the menu. Muy muy caro.
We see a comedor listed on a sidewalk sandwich board and go into the courtyard to look for it. We find it inside a medical building. There are lots of people siting around waiting for various things, but no food customers at the comedor. This is always a bad sign.
Then we walked up the street and ask about an Eskimo: No response. (Note - found out that the word is pronounced es-KEY-mow)
Stumble across coyote and change dollars and then see smoothie place across street.
Delightful menu, great customers and staff good food hand out a few curved illusions encounter some Canadians from the Yukon who just checked out of a wonderful hotel for 20 a night to go to Costa Rico to meet their daughter's flight.
Walk to their former hotel and book Saturday and Sunday for same price as tomorrow night's grim little room with bano and shower across courtyard. Friday was not available. Talk to nurse from AK who is here for two medical missions. One done and one to come. Cheaper to stay and brush up on Spanish than to go back to AK between them.
Check out hotel I stayed at three years ago. It has increased in price by 50 percent in three years and is now three times the hotel we just booked with no better rooms.
Walk around. Look for nose pieces for glasses. Only some smaller ones available. Will look for foam at a variety store.
Ask directions to a good panaderia sp? and follow them to wonderful place. Find a dairy and egg store we had seen earlier and buy eggs and cheese. Walk back to digs and enjoy our balcony. Communal kitchen is hard on Juanita's comfort zone but we have a reasonable meal.
Update blog as far as possible within limits of keyboard punctuation and time and connection speed and buggy browser
Will hangout tomorrow morning and enjoy our balcony as long as possible and then find things to do away from hotel after we switch rooms. Some interesting museums and churches in town. Might even find a good internet cafe and fix this mess. Good night all.
Janary 27, 2012 (Friday)
Today was a relaxing day. We got up early to avoid the breakfast rush for the kitchen and hung out on our balcony until the sun drove us off it. We retired to the shaded courtyard below and visited with Debby and family on Facetime under the star fruit tree (us under the tree not them. They warmed up to minus 5 yesterday). Just before the eleven o'clock checkout time we roused ourselves and changed into street clothes and packed our bags and left them on our table in our old room to be moved to our new room by the hotel staff after the new room was cleaned.
Our first stop in our wanders was at Museo de Arte Fundacion Ortiz-Guardian a few blocks from our hotel. It has a collection of European, and Central and South American art including some stuning modern Nica pottery. The guide books mention that they have art by Picasso and Diego Rivera. Rivera was a real draw for me. When I think of him I think of bold colours in powerful paintings. The one piece this museum has is a line drawing in black crayon that was simple but also powerful. At the other end of the spectrum was some laughable art work that one cannot help but wonder if the artist was in on the joke and giggles when he thinks about being paid or whether he was serious but misguided. Is that seriously misguided?
Some of the work from the era when my mother was at art school in the 1920´s looked like it could have been done by her famous contemporaries who stayed in the art game. One piece from 1940 was as fresh as yesterday. Some of the work from the 1990´s has not aged as well. Some look like final assignments from art school on which the professor took pity and gave encouragement grades to students he knew were moving on to pursuits for which they were better suited.
As we finished up in the second of the two buildings the noon siren blew. Just like the noon whistle in the paper mill town I grew up in. Most other museums close between noon and two so we had some time to kill.
We walked to the Pura Fruta place and did a repeat of smoothies and paninis for lunch. Then we found a coyote and topped up on Cordobas and bought and had installed some new nose pieces for my eye glasses and found a store which sold us an envelope for mailing the room key back to Ometepe. We then walked many many blocks to the post office. When we arrived I asked the counter clerk if there was a bathroom and I translated the directions to Juanita and she headed off in the right direction.
After finishing up at the counter (it seemed a bit involved to send something by post. I read a quote the other day that said this country definitely has a Marxist government the question is whether it is Karl or Groucho. But I digress.) I followed her. I came upon an employee ranting at another employee about people using their bathroom so I asked where the bathroom was. He told me and then said it was occuppied right now. I said I knew. It was my wife and I just stood there until he renewed his rant. I got out some curved illusion tracts and that seemed to derail things and got a lot of people laughing and involved and then I handed out a couple of "Are You a Good Person" Spanish tracts and Juanita appeared and we left. It was just about two so we headed for the bug museum. (Spanish Site for Museum)
The Entomological Museum was a long way back the way we had come to the post office and then some. We got there about 2:30 and despite the information on the sign on the gate, the door was closed and locked. I rattled the door loudly and we started walking down the street and returned when we heard the door being opened. The woman spoke only Spanish but she spoke it loudly so we did fine. A lot of times lately I have trouble hearing and when I ask people to repeat things they assume it is a langauge issue (which it often is, but not mostly, lately) and things go downhill from there. Anyway, back to the museum - It is just a large room full of glass topped cases full of bugs, beetles, spiders and creepy crawly things from Central and South America. The most visually interesting ones are on top. People who know bugs can go many more layers down. I enjoyed the butterflies and scarab beetles. Worth the time and the price.
Then we walked home by way of the market and a pharmacy, dropped off our purchase in our new room, made a phone call and went back to the market for grilled chicken. The woman changed the price on us after we had eaten, but it was still a bargain so I just paid and chalked it up to my naivety. Then we went and washed it down with smothies and walked back toward the hotel and stopped by an internet place and wrote this twice. Chalk that up to laziness. Something happens and I lose an hour's work so I start saving my work every ten minutes and then nothing happens for a long time and I get complacent and don't save so often and I lose an hour's work. That's my excuse why I ran out of time and yesterday´s work is still a mess and I´m sticking to my excuse.
January 28, 2012 (Saturday)
If it got any more relaxed than this one would think we were retired. Hey! Wait a minute!
Up hyper early and found the bathroom by flashlight in the dark and had a shower, quietly dropped off the towel in the room and slipped out of the room to let Juanita sleep while I sat in the dark in a rocking chair in the corner of the courtyard and read and surfed on my iPod Touch. As the courtyard got lighter the night and day clerk slipped past carrying his mattress to storage. I didn't check, but think he sleeps on the pool table.
Juanita was one of the first other people up and she made coffee and cheese omelets which we ate at the dining room table. I met Ellen from Denman Island who Juanita met yesterday. We three visited over coffee and breakfast until I got up to make banana pancakes to use up some of our bananas. Ellen just arrived from Costa Rico where she has spent much of the winter.
After breakfasts I found a spot in the love seat in the corner of the courtyard and read for a while interspersed with chatting with other tourists about buses and bus terminals and Sony readers and iPods etc. I was reading something in an app and I wanted to switch between translations and compare them and I couldn't figure out how to do it so I sent a question to the help desk about split screens and reading two versions at once. A few minutes later I turned the iPod from landscape to potrait orientation and a control bar appeared that allows you to switch back and forth. Not the first time lately I've wasted energy on a non-problem. For example here's a part of an e-mail I sent to our daughters:
Was going through all sorts of contortions figuring out how to renew visas including a quick trip to Costa Rica and back (learned you have to stay out of the country for 72 hours). Did figure out that Honduras doesn't count as "out of the country. When.,,,,,.
Reading a blog on the fines and calculating it would be less than $200 saw some reference to the stamp in the passport with a number written in it. Looked at our passports and discovered that our stamps had 90 written in them despite what the little piece of paper they gave us said. Problem solved.
I was pondering the other day how often I write about what and where we ate. Sure, it is a focus, but not as much as the references to food and eating would suggest. The conclusion or theory or whatever is that in our normal life food mostly just happens. We stock up at the supermarket every so often and there it is when we need it and it gets cooked or we show up at Debbie's. Pretty marvellous really when you consider that for much of human history including for many in the world today the process of finding, growing and preparing food takes up much of each day. When you travel in a strange place finding safe, affordable food does take more effort and thought then when back home in Canada. But not that much time, fortunately. Also, it's maybe a bit of a game for us. We are so blessed that is all it is. Sort of like when you are feeling really crappy you can elect to take a taxi and not a chicken bus. Being the pauper only has charm when it is prince and pauper stuff not when it is a permanent, grinding condition.
Speaking of food, as it got close to checkout time we packed up, changed into street clothes and shoes. We pause here for a moment of silence for something that has been close to me for almost ten years. I threw a shoe this morning or, more accurately, broke a strap on one of my thongs as we called them years ago and now people call flip-flops. Speaking of which did you hear about the guy with two left feet who went into a store and bought a pair of flip-flips? Thought you might have.
After packing we took our remaining groceries and Juanita made another cheese omelet which we split between us and ate with some fried bananas which left two bananas for dessert and then we brushed our teeth, paid the bill for the room and incidentals and left.
All the taxis passing by had a least one other person in them so we walked to the next street up which is one way the way we wanted to go and waited until an empty taxi came by and we hailed it down and took it to our new hotel. You can breath now. The sentence is finally over.
After checking in I did some minor laundry including my five finger vibes which had developed major odor being put damp into a plastic bag. After hanging the laundry on the line at the end of the courtyard, we went and checked out the square around the corner and the loud music and outreach going on there and walked to El Centro for some smoothies. There it is again. Food. Sort of. Juanita had a papaya and naranja (orange). I had blueberry. Most likely imported blueberries. :P
We found a coyote, changed some dollars into cordobas and found a pair of flip-flops. After blundering into a really modern air-conditioned super market and buying some stuff and also some stuff we needed and topping up the cell phone we walked back to the hotel. I visited with a couple from Bath, England who started their travels in Cancun, Mexico last October and plan to return to England from Rio de Janiero in October this year. Then we went for a walk to find a ciber cafe. Eventually asked a cop and he walked us past a grotty one next to a hostel and to a good one down the street. They wanted to know how much time we wanted and to have us pay up front. That is so yesterday and a one trick pony. I told them I wanted it for as long as I wanted it and they agreed. I had a vision of being happily typing away and my time being up and losing everything I has just written. Now why would I see that?
Haven't heard from our Leon contact from FH yet. We were supposed to hook up with somebody and sign a piece of paper that says nobody owes us anything if we do any work or get hurt doing it. This morning, I booked a room in Somotillo for Monday night so that takes care of accommodation there. If paperwork gets lost in the shuffle we will deal withit by e-mail and fax machine accordingly before we do anything that puts anybody at risk.
January 29, 2012 (Sunday)
Today is a rest day. Was awake about 4 and got up briefly and then read until a little after five and then went back to sleep until after eight. We took our time getting up and around and enjoyed a breakfast of nacatamales served along with coffee, toast, fresh squeezed piña (pineapple) juice and cut up bits of papaya and pineapple. The nacatamales were a mix of rice, chicken, corn flour and other flavorful items in a plaintain leaf.
After tidying the room so the maid wouldn't trip and fall on anything and doing a bit of laundry to keep ahead of the game it was time to leave. The landlady had told us what was resonable for cab fare to the beach or to the mercado subiada where the buses leave for the beach. We stepped out the door and flagged a cab down and he wanted more than that and wouldn't budge so we waved him off and walked around the corner. The next cab that we flagged down quoted us the right price so we got in the backseat and waited until he dropped off the fare in the front seat and turned more in the direction we wanted to go. Part way there a couple joined us with him in the front and her in the back squeezed in tight with Juanita and me.
They dropped us off at the market where the bus leaves for the beaches. It was full. I didn't see how we could fit so we decided to wait for the next one and took a walk through the market for a few minutes and came out and the bus was fuller yet. Not only did we not share the bus tout's vision of full now we didn't want to become part of the mix even more than we hadn't wanted to before. Six backpackers (without backpacks) stood considering whether to get on the bus and decided not to. Thay also found out that the next bus was at one and the time was now approaching twelve as the bus got ready to leave. I guess the buses leave every hour on the hour. We told them we would go in on a cab or van if they found one and we all walked out onto the street looking for same.
Juanita and I saw a truck with a back for livestock that had been tarped in. It was filling with people. I talked to the driver, but it was not going to the beach. Two of the backpackers had got into a cab and the price has risen to C$250 each so they got out.
This was outrageous and about what we had been told to pay for two people. Just about then the Dutch girl from the backpackers' group got an invitation from a couple of guys going to the beach in a pick-up truck with a canopy. We all got in the back, all eight of us. It was a lot less crowded than a chicken bus and with the canopy we could visit with no wind noise. We, of course, were the only two old people. The others were all 20 somethings - one each from Finland, Canada, the States, Holland, and two from Poland. When we got to the road running parallel to the beach the backpackers started looking for the destination they had heard of.
Then the truck pulled into the bar/restaurant they wanted to go to and we all got out and each paid the driver the $C 20 we decided would be fair in our discussion as we rode along. He protested a bit, but kept the money. Juanita and I walked through the establishment out onto the beach and walked the surf a bit and climbed around on the rocky point and then walked the surf line a bit in the next bay picking up a few shells as we went.
After I reached my best before time for rays on pale pink Canadian legs we walked up into a beachside restaurant. It was filled with prosperous looking Nica families eating some pretty good looking food. Looking at the menu we decided that there was a reason the clientele was prosperous looking. One would have to be prosperous to eat there. We walked back to the other establishment and had a pretty good meal for a lot less, but still more than we had paid before on this trip. Juanita had a whole fish that she enjoyed. I tried a few pieces. It was good. I had a chicken pasta dish. We both had the obligatory licuados. This place had a burger side to the menu as well which could have made it a lot more affordable if one was so inclined. This was possibly the last meal we will have in a tourist area for maybe a month so it was a bit of an occasion.
After the meal we walked out to the road and walked back toward Leon until we found a spot that was shady on both sides of the street and we crossed over so we would be on the right side of the road for a bus headed to Leon. We had been told it would be along in fifteen minutes. After a while I started thinking about why the woman might be sitting there against the wall and I crossed back over and talked to her. Yes, she was waiting for the bus to Leon. It comes by from Leon, goes to the other end of the beach and returns. I asked if it wouldn't be crowded and she said yes, but they all get off and you have a seat before the people going back to Leon get on. We joined her. "Ask a local." She was right. We had to ride on the bus step in the open door most of the way to the far end of the beach but we got to sit down on the way back to Leon. We ended up sharing our seat with a little girl, but it was better than standing. She showed me the crab she had found at the seashore and I gave her a curved illusion tract.
We got off the bus at the market where we got on and started walking and then it took off toward El Centro. Shoulda asked. Oh well, got a cab down to a reasonable price and rode it to El Centro and then walked around until we found a restaurant that a guide book at the hotel said had good coffee. It was closed for Sunday so we stated walking a different way to our hotel than we had been before and stumbled across the really fancy Eskimo I had been at three years ago and was wondering where it was.
That's the thing when you go somewhere with somebody who is driving. You don't necessarily know where you are or exactly how you got there. After the desserts which were more varied and economical than at the beach we started walking toward the hotel by way of the internet cafe we had used yesterday. They had no bathroom so we went to a hotel across the street and had a coffee each and used their bathrooms.
Then it was back across the street to check e-mail and write this. Now we will go to what passes for home for tonight and hopefully hear from the FH people about the paperwork. If not will probably head to Chinandega tomorrow anyway and try and hook up with the FH person there for a ride to Somotillo.
Hopefuly, also, we will meet up with the English couple at our hotel. Yesterday they were asking me about some hostels in Granda and I didn't know, but Juanita remembered what somebody in Ometepe had said. They were not impressed with the Oasis, but liked the Backpackers Inn. Our experience with the Hotel Jerico and Posada del Brises was favourable and is above.
January 30, 2012 (Monday)
Today we took a minibus to Chinandega passing by Chichigalpa (had to mention that name) on our way. Then we took a minibus to Somotillo. We passed two smoking volcanoes on our travels today. Also were passed by a motorcycle. Nothing remarkable in that, but it did remind me to mention the helmet laws here. All the motorcycle drivers wear helmets. None of the passengers do.
Somotillo is where we plan to be working for the next month with Food for the Hungry of Nicaragua. After our bus dropped us off we were swarmed by pedicab drivers as the bus driver got our suitcases off the top of the bus. When they asked where we were going and I told them the name of the hotel they pointed across the street and we walked across the highway and checked in.
The room has air conditioning and cable TV for $US 15 a night. It also has at least one mouse and a large garbage can full of water to use to flush the toilet or to have a "shower". We'll survive. It is, after all, the best hotel in town. The town is near the Honduran border, but is an agricultural center, not a tourist center. It is a bit drier here than other places we have been in Nicaragua. It also seems to be a wi-fi desert. I asked the hotel owner about wi-fi and he said "you mean Inter Neck? Inter Neck is around corner" No more FaceTime for us.
I called FH and let them know we were in town. Somebody came by and picked us up and took us to their office and showed us what we would be working on. Then we went to lunch and came back and packed backpacks (about 400) with school supplies so the packed backpacks could be given to school kids. We packed until we ran out of one of the sizes of notebooks that went in the grades 1 to 4 packs we were working on.
Then we sat and visited and then sat in on a birthday cake etc for a staff person's birthday. When we got back to the hotel and the owner came and turned on the air conditioner we told him we would be here until February 29 and he said "My how is your how". The depressing thing is that his English may be better than my Spanish.
Tomorrow we get to meet the construction person and Wednesday we are supposed to get some construction materials.
January 31, 2012 (Tuesday)
Today we were up and out of our room for the 7 o'clock breakfast the owner had promised us. It was pretty obvious that he had said nothing about this to his wife, but we managed to eat by time to leave and walk to the FH office and sit and visit with the staff until a key holder showed up.
We unloaded backpacks and supplies from a 4x4 which had come from Chinandaga this morning. Then it left for back to Chinandaga and onward for a meeting in Managua. The home visit people left and Juanita and I worked with Maria, the remaining FH staff person, the rest of the day.
First we counted the backpacks and supplies that had arrived. Then we reopened the 300 plus backpacks from yesterday and put 2 ink pens in each. Then we filled 500 more backpacks with school supplies completing the grade 1 - 4 backpacks, the high school backpacks and carried on until we ran out of school supplies ten short of the number we were supposed to fill for the secondary students. It was close to quitting time by then so we swept the patio area and visited a bit and left. I also did a minor electrial repair today. It is always interesting to see what they use locally. The double switch I replaced was made in Mexico for a Peruvian company. Definitely wouldn't meet CSA standard, but it seems to do the job. The boxes and screws are all US-Canadian sizes and threads.
On the way home we went into a health food store, licuado place we had both seen in our walks and visited with the owner and his daughter as they fed the baby parahillo´s including one breed that will grow up able to talk. Then we sat at their outside counter (it was cooler) and drank our licuados. I had leche and cacao and Juanita had Guaybano (I think). Last night we had taken a pedicab to and from the nearby Eskimo for malteados. This was better and much cheaper.
Then we walked back to our hotel to find that we had the only room key, but they would clean the room tomorrow for us. In the meantime they topped up the water barrel in the shower so we could wash and flush. Then we had a coffee each and went for a walk before dark. The supermarket was said to have face cloths for sale, but we couldn't find them. Maybe tomorrow.
The internet cafe from yesterday was full. All three machines were in use. The wi-fi said it was there, but the kid still didn't know the password. "Tomorrow. For sure." I asked if there was another inernet cafe and he said there was, about two blocks that way and there was. The computers are in booths with doors. That seems to keep the sand out of the keyboards. The computers are newer and the charge for use is less. I think we will keep walking the two blocks. Yesterday, I was about to smash the machine I was using since the keys kept sticking. They either required pounding to make work or they worked and stuck there giving you many more of whatever you asked for until you pounded the key a second time to stop the giving. This place is better except it is hard to talk to Juanita through the wall. She came out of her booth once and into mine to tell me that Hotmail wasn't working for her. It didn't work for me either.
After we leave here tonight we will wander a bit and try and locate a small, busy, economical restaurant. The place we went for lunch yesterday was busy and tasty, but not economical. Enchiladas from a stand for 10 cords each at lunchtime today were fine.