This month the new stuff will be at the bottom. Last updated – January 31st evening, all photos added, with a lot of captions and other words to come; February 2- updated some point form to narrative.
Wednesday - January 1, 2014
We finished packing and finished winterizing by shutting off the heat in the crawl space and the water shed and turned the main heat really down and poured antifreeze in all the drain traps and the toilet.Then we took the food from the refrigerator to town visited with the family there and headed to Edmonton stopping in Vegreville on the way for a bit of shopping and then an early supper on the road just outside of Edmonton. We arrived at Becky and Nick’s in time to visit and watch a movie together before Ezekial’s bedtime.
Thursday - January 2
Juanita stayed visiting at Becky & Nicks while I ran a few errands and did some 2014 banking, then it was time for Zeke’s ski lessons and I picked up Juanita and we did some more shopping, took in a movie and used a Christmas gift card for dinner out before returning for more iterative packing. Last pass.
The Houston (Bush) airport, like most airports, has a limited number of electrical outlets. When you go scouting for a place to plug in your laptop or your cell phone charger you realize the best indicator of a receptacle is a that there is a person sitting on the floor by the wall.
Boarding by Grouping
The July update had a rant in it under the heading Last Flight Out suggesting how to organize the boarding of an airplane. One of the suggestions looked like the picture at the right.
Friday - January 3
Up at three.
Nick drove us over slushy roads to the airport where we printed our boarding passes and bypassed all the people lined up to check their luggage and proceeded to security and customs. The advantages of travelling with carry-on only!
Security was quick since there was nobody ahead in the line.Through security to U.S. Customs and Immigration. We lined up along the wall towards the doors which opened at 4:30. Based on ending up in front of agent number fourteen I guess we were fourteenth in line. Nothing unusual in questioning and we quickly passed into the holding area and bought some breakfast and a bottle of water for the flight.After the plane loaded and went through the de-icing process, the flight from Edmonton to Houston was uneventful. Just the way everybody likes it.
We sat in the aisle and middle seat. Next to us was a public accountant from small town Alberta. He and his family scattered in the rows behind us are headed to Orlando for a Disney cruise leaving tomorrow afternoon. They will change planes in Houston. This is against the advice of their travel agent who wanted them to go through Toronto and fly on Air Canada, because “if your flight is delayed, Air Canada will hold the connecting flight for you.” Must live in an alternate Air Canada universe to the one I have occupied!
Today there are storms in the east. Later while waiting in the terminal in Houston we see on TV that there were so far, 2,300 flights cancelled into and out of the Northeastern airports. Houston is a better bet today than Toronto.
We discuss gates. His ticket says the plane will disembark at a certain location. Looks like it will not be close to their departure gate and a bit of a walk for him and his family. The flight attendant has more up to date information on arrival gates. They are almost next door. We get to walk.
Our flight is not for seven hours. The display board doesn’t list it yet. We use the restrooms and check again. Still no listing. I make the executive decision to go to the gate listed on our boarding pass. So we start walking, but not that far before a shuttle picks us up. The driver takes pity on this older couple trudging along and gives us a ride to our gate. We check with the personnel there. The gate has changed. We walk back about half the distance the shuttle brought us and settle in, doing relays to get lunch without having to carry luggage or lose our prime spot where we have leg room and end of row space for our bags and ease of TV viewing where we can watch the updates on the storm wrought chaos in the North East.
Eventually our gate changes again and we lurk where we are, across the concourse from our new gate until a flight leaves and we secure prime spots there.
The flight to Managua departs on time and the flight is smooth and a little ahead of schedule. It lands. We are near the middle of the airplane this time and so the line up at Immigration is not too bad. Just long enough for me to change some dollars for Cordobas and get back beside Juanita before it is our turn to pay the entry tax.
We walk around the crowd waiting for their luggage to appear and meet Don Jose at the airport entry holding up a sign with our names. He grabs our bags and we follow him to his van. As we get close the ground changes from concrete to cobble stones and was not as well lit as the rest of the parking lot.
Juanita was walking ahead of me and tripped on the transition to the cobblestones. Her chin was cut open and she was bleeding profusely. Holding a cloth to it staunched the bleeding and by the time we got to the hotel it had stopped bleeding enough to remove the cloth and apply some band aids. They held for a bit while we checked in and got settled in and I went to the hotel bar for a couple of bottles of water and then we washed blood off things and settled in. The cut opened and we dealt with that and Juanita slept the rest of the night slightly propped up with a towel to catch any more blood. Fortunately there wasn't any.
Winter Jacket Buddy Tales
Juanita wore her winter jacket to the airport.
She left it in our son-in-law’s car to go back to our daughter’s house for a few months.
I dressed in layers which I will shed as we get further south and after the carry-on luggage has made it past the airline people and can be fatter without risk of them insisting it be checked.
Here are a few tales I have or have heard about winter jackets.
When we were living in Whitecourt, Alberta, I commuted for a while to Vancouver. Early each Monday morning I would drive to Edmonton, park the car in the Park ‘N Fly and fly out to Vancouver, returning Friday evenings to drive back to Whitecourt. One December Monday I was running late and it had been relatively warm so I skipped plugging in the block heater. By my return on Friday it had gotten much colder.
The car would not start. The parking lot people called the booster service, but that didn’t help enough so they called a tow truck and I waited in their little building. While I was waiting a family arrived “dressed in their summer clothes”. Mom, Dad and the kids all looked a little shell shocked. This was a bitter comeuppance after being on a cruise ship in Florida that morning. Dad went out into the darkness to start the car to warm it up. Mom & the kids waited inside. Dad left the car running and returned carrying everybody’s winter jackets that had been in the trunk of the car. They were frozen into grotesque, stiff shapes. The kids looked even worse than they had. Finally the car was warm and Dad marshalled the troops to make a run for it. The kids obeyed, but there was no way they were going to put on the jackets. They just clutched them and headed for the car in their tee shirts.
Buddy told me of going to work on a start-up in Southeast Asia for two years. Ignoring advice from his boss, he stored a bunch of computers he was experimenting pushing the limits with and some other stuff that he was attached to along with his motorcycle. The storage locker fee was $100 a month. When he returned he sold the motorcycle for $2,400 and threw all the computers and other stuff in the trash. Technology and his interests had marched on.
You ask, “What’s that to do with winter jackets?”
Well, while changing planes in Osaka he threw his winter jacket in a trash receptacle and didn’t own a jacket for the two years he was away.
Another Buddy and I had been hired in a panic for a shutdown where the clients thought they needed a lot more manpower then they did. It meant the work load was not the heaviest, but it also meant our days were numbered. Last-hired, first-let-go is the general rule, unless you generate the opportunity for new experiences by your performance. We were last hired so maybe it was just that, or maybe we earned the lay-off, but they sure didn’t need us.
But I digress.
In our second week it was starting to get cold in the mornings and we asked the foreman about getting some company issued flame resistant jackets. He said he would talk to the company rep coming up from Calgary on Thursday. Thursday arrived. The rep arrived. He handed out ball caps and cooler bags to everybody, but no jackets for Buddy and me.
“Buddy. I think we are being laid off tomorrow.”
I was right.
Saturday - January 4
Eventually we woke up, puttered around a bit, cleaned ourselves up and went down for breakfast before heading across the parking lot for the mall. There was a line-up in the cell phone store and the kiosk in the mall was unmanned so we went to the supermarket and stocked up on band aids, and larger sized liquids than allowed in our carry-ons. Back to the room for a few minutes and then I went back to the mall.
The cell phone kiosk was open so I bought a $US 17 cell phone complete with minutes. We had handed out curved illusion tracts (in Spanish) to those standing in line at the immigration office in the mall, but had run out. I brought more back with me and handed them out to people lining for and people in the pharmacy where I bought a local version of Robaxacet. Then back to the room to re-pack, check-out, and grab a cab to the UCA bus terminal.
There were two buses waiting to fill for the trip to Granada. One with air conditioning and one without. The driver of the bus without air conditioning was more aggressive and grabbed our bags and started to stow them over my shouts of “dame mes maletas” (close enough to “give me my bags”). With the help of the cab driver and the bus driver of the air conditioned bus we recovered the bags and got them moved to the other bus, got on and got settled. Then it was a normal run to Granada.
We got off by the central park, found a vendor to sell us a floppy hat, got a shoe shine, walked down to the Hotel Jerico and checked in. A short walk further down the street toward the lake and we visited with Roger, owner of One on One Tutoring and set times for lessons starting tomorrow. From there we walked back a block the other side of the park and changed more dollars for Cordobas and, being Saturday, bought nacatamales at the Hot Dogs Connection of Granada.
Later on, after a nap and unpacking and a bit of TV in our air conditioned room we walked up the street and pondered the $C 35 hamburgers (~$US 1.40) and decided to go to Tele Pizza for a shared salad. That sums up our first day in Nicaragua.
Sunday - January 5
Class started at 8 a.m. After breakfast Juanita walked me down and went off to catch up on e-mail and coffee at the park. Lessons at one on one tutoring consist of four, one on one sessions of an hour each, usually with a different tutor each hour. Today because of it being Sunday and some tutors with some family events the students have three, with one tutor repeating. There is a bit of a chirp as I hit the runway after not using Spanish for months, but overall it works.
Juanita shows up at noon and we walk uptown to the Hot Dogs Connection of Granada for a mostly adequate lunch. Then we have a relaxing Sunday afternoon of sloth venturing out later in the evening briefly for a couple of street hamburgers and a walk down the street afterwards looking for a restaurant that seems to have gone. While looking we ran across the Euro Café which was Juanita’s favorite hangout in the mornings last year. It has relocated from across from the park to where my classes are held.
Monday - January 6
Classes again in the morning. Things are starting to click already.
We introduced one of my classmates to the Cafetin Claudio for lunch and then parted company.
We headed to the Ceramic Museum and realized we had walked through it in detail last year so just stuck our noses in one of the rom before walking toward the market, stopping at a Pharmacy to buy some Ciproflaxin to have some on hand, and handing out a number of curved illusion tracts before buying a dozen of the first mandarin oranges of the local season.
After our naps and surfing and blog updates we watched Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy for the first time in months followed by a trip up the street for pupusas. Cheap and filling.
Tuesday - January 7
Juanita walked me to class in the morning before her walk and coffee break and was there to meet me when classes were done at noon. We lingered afterward for a while to review another student’s guide book and offer any suggestions we could, based on our travels in Nicaragua. Then we walked to Cafetin Claudia for our daily filling and economical repast.
During and after lunch we passed out fifty curved illusion tracts on our way to the tourist office to see if they had anything listed that we wanted to see, but had not seen in the past. They were having a meeting so the dutch doors were closed and we couldn’t enter to browse brochures.
We wandered back to the room for reading until supper time. We ate pupusas, then walked down the street to buy a couple of jugs of water and to go to a stand to try potato balls (made from mashed potato with small cubes of Nica cheese. The mixture is formed into a ball the size of lacrosse ball and deep fried.) We visited with a few newcomer Canadians while standing at the stand. Ate the ball while there talking, and took the banana leaf and banana chips that came with it back to the room for Wheel, etc. Before we got back to the hotel, a parade broke out so we watched the procession of Santa Claus with a pair of small children dressed as Mary and Joseph along some wise men and angels, a brass band and a group carrying the image of a saint.
Wednesday - January 8
A day off from school.
There is some sort of tour group of Central American children and adults staying at the hotel. They arrived noisily last night and woke up noisily assembled on deck at 6:30 for the 7 a.m. breakfast. We take our time going out for breakfast and they were all finished and loading onto the tour bus in an iterative fashion – some would load and others would get off and go back to their rooms.
About nine we walked up the square. arriving there in time to just miss an empty bus going by. So we walked half a block to the terminal and got on the waiting bus and waited while it filled enough to leave to Managua. Once on the road we paid enough to cover the distance to where we got off at the road to Laguna Apoyo. There was a cabbie dozing at the intersection so we negotiated a price for a ride into the caldera to the laguna and the Monkey Hut, a hostel on the shores. Traffic was backed up for a while on the way while a truck sat across the road trying to offload a roller machine on a raised bank. The bank was a bit high and there were a few trees in the way so there was some mad shovelling and machete work while the waiting traffic built up. At one point the machine made a good run at the bank while the bank was still too high. The truck rolled and it looked like the machine was going down but the operator managed to back it back onto the truck deck until the bank was hand dug a bit lower and this time the truck driver kept the brakes applied and the machine rolled off okay and the truck got out of the way and traffic moved.
They have done a lot of work on the Monkey Hut since last year. Looks nice.
Unfortunately they cut up the public veranda into private decks accessible from rooms. We found a new favorite spot to relax the day away. Finished a paperback, practiced some conjugations, handed out a few tracts to obviously Spanish speaking people, drank coffee and ate lunch overlooking the beach. A large group of young medical students arrived to enjoy the sun, water and kayaks. They were taking a break from clinics they were holding in Masaya. We talked to a few of them. Most were from Minnesota and Wisconsin with one lone Canadian – a dental student from Winnipeg. It quieted down a bit after they left, but there were a number of people we decided were German from the cadence of their conversations.
Along about four we ambled up to the main building, settled our tab, showed the paid receipt to the guard so he would let us out and walked to the triangle intersection where the road coming down the side of the caldera met the two roads going opposite ways around the lake.
We sat on a large rock and waited for a bus or a taxi. Several taxis went by either going the wrong way or full. Finally a bus came down the hill empty and we got on since the driver said it was only going five minutes down the road before turning around and coming back to go up the hill. The bus seemed to collect a lot of day workers from the area and got pretty crowded. Good thing we boarded when it was going the wrong way. Buses end up cheek by jowl full and I prefer to be seated. One of the “German” girls from the Monkey hut asked about the curved illusion tract we were accosting people with and we got talking. She was born in Nashville and had lived in the Netherlands for fifteen years and was in Nicaragua as a med student with her three friends. They had been working at a hospital in Leon since November and were taking a break before going back to work some more. Even the Netherland born girls spoke way better English than I do Spanish.
The bus was going to Masaya so when it reached the main highway we got off and waited for a bus to Granada. One only a little bit full stopped before the other bus had pulled onto the highway and the four Dutch girls, Juanita and I all shoehorned into the microbus. Its final stop was a few blocks west and south of the market so we walked until we hit the market asked a vendor about banana chips and were offered some at double the going rate and declined. Bought some at half the price on our way back to the hotel.
We were still full from lunch so we decided on a supper of ice cream only, from the Eskimo across from our hotel and ate that in the room watching Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! We have a TV at home, but CBC shut down the transmitter year before last so we normally don’t watch much TV. Wheel and Jeopardy! are in English, but almost all that we watch are in one language (usually English) with subtitles (usually Spanish). I find that really helpful for building vocabulary and understanding of idioms.
I am reminded of a Buddy Tale of a friend who brought his bride from India and told her to watch television while he was at work to improve her English skills. She had all the doors locked and wanted bars on the windows. He figured out why when he realized she was watching the “local news” on Detroit based cable channels. Detroit has a somewhat higher crime and murder rate than small town Saskatchewan.
Thursday – January 9
Breakfast was busy and tables were few so we joined a couple at their table. They were an Adventist couple from Panama. He spoke reasonable English so between his English and my Spanish we communicated fairly well. They were part of the tour group staying at the hotel. Yesterday, the group went to the Masaya Volcano, the Masaya market and did a boat tour of the archipelago of isletas in Lake Nicaragua. Today they are going to Managua but will be back here for the night. Tomorrow they leave early for Panama.
Juanita walked me to class this morning and we went to Cafetin Claudia again for lunch then back to the room for some keyboarding. I phoned a member of the group who we expected to arrive tomorrow to check on times and locations, but it appears they will not be here until Sunday afternoon. We darted out of the air conditioning and booked another two days of lessons. Won’t have time for that when the group gets here.
Friday – January 10
The tour group from Panama staying at the hotel were up and about and loading somewhere around four a.m. to go home to Panama. They were not particularly quiet about it so it was a challenge to go back to sleep and then get up, but we managed. Juanita walked me down the street to language classes and I managed to stay alert until noon.
It was the last day of Spanish lessons for one of the other Canadian students and she joined us for lunch at Cafetin Claudia. Tomorrow she heads for Isla Ometeppe. We all walked back to the square and then parted ways and Juanita and I walked through the market to a barber shop for a haircut and beard trim for me. We walked into the market looking for mandarin oranges, but they are still green so we bought some bananas and went back to the room before a walk down the street for a couple of gallon jugs of water.
Supper was a repeat of pupusas and a several block walk. Tomorrow we probably change our supper routine.
Zeke's Five !
The Meadow Lake bunch travelled to Edmonton for the weekend to celebrate Ezekial’s fifth birthday a couple of days early.
Saturday - January 11
Another routine day. Paul goes to language school. Juanita walks him there and then walks to the park and back before settling in to read her book and drink her coffee at the Euro Cafe. The Euro Café used to be across from the far corner of the central park, but has moved right next door to the school. She sits at an outdoor table if possible. Having tourists sit at the outside tables seems to reassure and attract other tourists looking for a safe place to eat. Occasionally we get to chat for a few seconds during the stretch and walk around between classes.
Yesterday the owner of Cafetin Claudia told me that they close earlier on Saturdays and that the meals would be smaller. Smaller did not make sense until we showed up for lunch and the selection of daily deals was smaller. The meals themselves were the same size and price.
We chatted a bit with a fellow hotel guest before lunch. Not everything added up but you do meet some interesting people on the road.
The afternoon was quiet with some keyboarding and subtitled TV and we wandered up to Tele Pizza staying under overhangs and making a dash the last few feet to avoid the rain. We tried the Mediterranean Salad this time which seems to be the Victory Salad with no lettuce and a bit more of the non-lettuce ingredients for the same price. Not quite as big, but still a good deal. Unlike this time of year in some places we could mention, the tomatoes are ripe.
When we came out of Tele Pizza the streets were dry and the stars were out. It was a pleasant walk back to the hotel with a pause at the Eskimo to pick up a little ice cream to eat back in the room. The brass band in the street out front was not quite loud enough to overwhelm the audio on the television.
Sunday - January 12
Early to bed last night and early to rise this morning being unable to sleep over the noise of the cherry bombs and the church bells. The Way of the Cross staff are scheduled to arrive in Managua at 12:12 on the twelfth. Most of them are staying on a property they have rented in the country. Some will be staying at a hotel down the street. Hopefully we will meet up with them later in the afternoon. Today is the last morning of language class that is scheduled. There might be more on this trip. Or not. Probably not. Classes are really helpful at the beginning of our times here. It gets Spanish skills back up to speed and then adds a bit each time.
At One on One Tutoring usually you get a different person each hour for the four hours. Yesterday and today I had the same person for two hours. Jasmin and Nataly cover for each other’s studies. Nataly is taking English classes on Sunday mornings and Jasmin is taking classes on Saturdays to be a lawyer. She says this will take five years and will involve some tough exams.
After school we walk uptown to the food court expecting to dine at the Hot Dog Connection of Granada, but they are closed for Sunday. This is only a little bit of a surprise. Memories are fickle after a certain age and I was not sure whether they closed early on Saturday and were closed on Sundays like Cafetin Claudia or if they were open normal hours on Saturday and closed on Sunday. It obviously is the latter. We crossed the food court to one of the open restaurants and dined on quesadillas at Café Lucy.
After an afternoon of watching NCIS reruns with Spanish subtitles we walked down to the Hotel Granada and hung around for a while waiting for our friends to show up. When it was close to dark we decided to walk home and maybe go for supper. As we walked up the street we saw the Grace Turbo van going down the street to the Hotel Granada and we turned around and helped unload luggage amid hugs and handshakes. Once everybody was settled several of us walked to the Chinese restaurant for dinner together. They had all been up since two this morning for their day of travel.
Monday – January 13
Today the plan is for the group at the Hotel Granada to be at breakfast by seven and on the road to work at eight. We will have breakfast at our hotel, join them for a coffee and then go off to work with them and the group staying at the house in the country. We’ll learn what we will be doing once we arrive wherever we are going. The Medfest this year will be at the same school grounds as last year so I expect we will shuffle stuff from the warehouse to the school grounds and perhaps have a look at the church being built on the property that the Way of the Cross has purchased.
After breakfast we walked down to the hotel stopping for a couple of coffees to go from the Euro Café and arrived just as the van was being loaded. Like with any group activity there were a couple of stragglers so we were not holding anybody else up. That privilege always belongs to the last person.
The van load of people went up to the Claro store across from the park and a couple of people were dropped off to buy phones for the staff. Then the rest of us went off to a store to buy plastic bags of various sizes before coming back to park near the Claro store. It was obvious that the cell phone buying would take a bit more time so myself and another person grabbed a cab back to the hotel to get his sunglasses. We were back to the van in lots of time and then went the house where the others were staying and had a worship and bible lesson before heading out in various directions to do prep work for Medfest. This included a trip to the Masaya market to buy bicycles and bicycle parts for prizes for the outreach activities on the Medfest grounds. Many people worked on sorting gift items brought down from the States into bags for each booth.
About four in the afternoon a van load of us returned to the Hotel Granada to deliver bottles of water to be used by the team members arriving in the next few days. The van headed to the Pali supermarket and dropped three of us off to look for one more cell phone. There were no Claro vans in the street, just Movistar vans and booths so we walked back to the Claro store which was full of people and lines. It looked hopeless of getting a phone today, but a staffer seemed to take pity on a group of older people and took some money and piece of ID and came back with a phone and then took the phone and some money and came back with some time on it. One of us was fluent in Spanish and that helped. My Spanish would not have carried the situation. After that we met up with our wives and went for supper.
Tuesday – January 14
Breakfast at Hotel Jerico
Walked to Euro Café for a couple of coffees
Walked to Hotel Granada. Arrived at 8 and visited with staff and some new arrivals until about nine. Went to house for worship service and devotional and then jobs handed out. Juanita helped at the Medfest grounds helping clean and organize the room to be used for pharmacy. Paul worked with group hauling stuff from the warehouse to the Medfest grounds: chairs, rice, and pharmacy and dental supplies.
We were dropped off in front of our hotel and washed ourselves and our clothes and put on clean clothes and walked up the street for pupusas and a quesadilla.
Wednesday – January 15
Second day of new routine. Breakfast at seven, walk down street to Euro Café and the Hotel Granada. Today we arrived just before time to load the vans.
The van stopped for fuel and then on to the staff house for worship and a devotional. We all went our separate ways to deal with assigned tasks. Some to the hotel to put signs on room doors and put water in each room. Others to meet incoming team members at the airport. Juanita and Martha went to the Medfest grounds. Paul went with Byron to check out the construction site and to buy pipes and elbows for flag stands and to cut and assemble them and drop them off at the Medfest grounds.
We arrived there just as a van was leaving so Martha got out and unlocked the pharmacy room so we could put the flag stands away for the night and then we followed everybody back to the staff house before heading to Granada. I got dropped at the market street and Juanita headed back to the hotel. After changing some money with the cambista/coyote/money changer I walked to the PaIi, bought a jug of water and some shampoo and plantain chips but they had no sun screen. Back out on the street to buy some mandarins, oranges, banana chips and visit a pharmacy to buy sunscreen. Juanita had showered by the time I got back to our room so it was my turn and then we walked to Tele Pizza to share a salad and a pitcher of iced tea.
After supper we attended a chapel service in the banquet room near the Hotel Granada pool.
Thursday – January 16
We ate an early, quick breakfast at our hotel and walked down to the Hotel Granada, stopping for a coffee at the Euro Café. Chapel was held at 7:30 in the banquet room next to the swimming pool. After some songs Oscar Brook preached. He started in Numbers 21:10
10 The Israelites moved on and camped at Oboth. 11 Then they set out from Oboth and camped in Iye Abarim, in the wilderness that faces Moab toward the sunrise. 12 From there they moved on and camped in the Zered Valley. 13 They set out from there and camped alongside the Arnon, which is in the wilderness extending into Amorite territory. The Arnon is the border of Moab, between Moab and the Amorites. 14 That is why the Book of the Wars of the Lord says:
“. . . Zahab[d] in Suphah and the ravines, the Arnon
How God sees what we do. Remember the valley of Zered. (vs. 12) and Arnon (vs. 13). Verse 14 mentions the Book of the Wars of the Lord.
We hear about the book of life, but we don’t hear much of the book of the wars of God. I (Oscar) want to know this book, because God’s battles are my battles. He is talking about Israel and how they came to be. About the time they were writing this book. They are trying to discover what happened at the Red Sea and what happened at Arnon. Between the Red Sea and Arnon there were forty years. They were trapped by the Egyptian army at the Red Sea being pursued by the Egyptians and Moses parted the waters after God commanded him to put forth his staff.
There were many battles for forty years, but only two battles (Red Sea and Arnon) made it into the book of battles of the Lord. The other battles did not make it into the book of the wars of the Lord. The other battles because they were supposed to go into the Promised Land and but they didn’t because “there were giants” so they wandered for forty years. They fought many battles, but they were not supposed to be wandering in the desert so these battles were not recorded in the book. These years they were surviving not prospering.
Battles like these are all your own stuff. God helps you because He loves you, but they are not His battles. I (Oscar) have been many places e.g. Africa, Mindanao, and others because there are more things to life than eating, working, watching TV, but God drives you to fight the battles of the Lord. God has a place for you. He has a book where he wants to write about those battles He has sent you to do.
A whole generation fought their whole lives and it accounted for nothing and was not written in the book of the battles of the Lord.
In Oscar’s town, 52 of them left to fight in Nicaragua’s civil war. Six came back and four have died since. Leaving Oscar and one other. You are standing on ground where a lot of blood was spilled. They have had wars, earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes and tsunamis, but the greatest struggle is what does God want from His people? There is a book open and God is waiting to write down battles that He asked us to fight. Ask yourself with every battle you fight, “does it make it into God’s book of battles of the Lord?” Every single battle from Arnon on, that generation’s battles were written down.
God wants to say, “Here I am. I want to fight your battles.” For example, there was a time when things were alright and we were doing okay. Just existing, but a time when our spiritual life shrinks and there is no joy, because it is a time of not fighting God’s intended battles only your own – “a circular life.”
The essence of God’s message is that He will take away your joy until you are fighting the right battles and they’re being written in that book. Ask, “give me strength.” Ask to be fulfilling the purpose of God.
After chapel we went to the Medfest grounds, the same schoolyard as last year. Juanita joined Martha Kroeger in the pharmacy to help get things ready for when the patients start showing up tomorrow and the two days after that. Paul walked down the road a bit with the construction team lead by Byron Kroeger. This is the site of the Way of the Cross base camp for Nicaragua. The property was bought in November. The first structure is a forty foot by eighty foot church building. The block walls are built. The rafters and purlins are being finished up this week along with the last bit of concrete on the gable ends. We start painting the corrugated tin that will go on the roof and continue until we run out of paint. We stack the painted tin cross ways from each other to minimize sticking. Right at quitting time the rest of the paint shows up. The tin will still need painting tomorrow.
In North America we put tin roofing on with all the edges facing down and a bit of an overlap between adjacent sheets. In Nicaragua they alternate the sheet edges up and down and get a bit less overlap and a bit more area covered per sheet of tin. When in Nicaragua….
Henry, the local building expert, showed up along with the paint and we learned from him how many “ups” and how many “downs” we needed to paint. You don’t want to mess this up or the last couple of sheets of tin end up with the paint side in and you get to paint the up side with the tin installed on the roof. This is a waste of paint and a permanent record of your malfeasance. I do a head count of the sheets already painted and decide on how many of each orientation we need to lay out when we start tomorrow to complete the tin for the north side of the church roof.
We all load into vans and buses and head back to Granada. There are a couple of staff in our bus so the bus stops across from the highway from the rented staff house and drop them on the side of the road to dodge traffic to the median and then across the two lanes going the other way. The bus drops us all at the Hotel Granada and we dash up the street to our hotel and shower and change and dash to Tele Pizza for another salad and pitcher of iced tea and back to the Granada for worship and team orientation.
Friday – January 17
Up early, quick early breakfast at our hotel, picked up two coffees to go from the Euro Café and got on the bus to the Medfest site. I walked to the construction site and tried to count the cross-stacked tin to confirm starting positions for painting and discovered they had all been moved close to a secure spot and stacked straight. I guess it meant they didn’t get liberated by the neighbors from down the hill, but it also meant they were impossible to count. Oh well, back to plan A.
And back to the Medfest site for the worship and preaching service. This year it was under the covered auditorium we had built last year. Most seats were taken so I found a spot on the edge of a tall sidewalk. It was shaded and worked except for not being particularly easy to hear the sermon in detail.
After the singing and message and opening ceremony we all dispersed to our various spots to do our duties. A couple of us tried to find the problem with power for the dentists’ room, tracing wires to other buildings and checking breakers and then realized they were plugged into a non-working receptacle. Moving the plug to the working receptacle did the trick.
We walked to the construction site spreading out the estimated needed panels on two silo bases to go with yesterday’s painted panels for the north side and started the rest on some other silo bases. Silo bases? Yes. This site had once had silos on it. It was hard to sell because of all the concrete bases, but they will be ideal as foundations for staff housing and the lowered price was attractive. While the tin was being painted a couple of us cut wide strips of flat tin into two strips and then bent them down the middle for ridge cap.
One part of the group started installing yesterday’s painted tin on the north side of the roof. Shortly after all the dry tin was on the north side we all broke for lunch. After lunch we carried on painting and installing tin until there were 14 pieces left to install on the south side. Most of the fourteen were drying already close to the trusted neighbor and we moved the couple that were not and walked back to the Medfest grounds to load onto the buses. A pastor and his son and their bicycles were on board my bus so I visited with them until we dropped them off at a roundabout.
The pharmacy still had prescriptions to fill so Juanita stayed late to help fill them while I headed home by bus. By the time I was done my shower she was home and ready for hers. After we went up the street for pupusas at the doorway grill and cacoa and leche drinks at the Choco Café. Then early to bed for Juanita. No energy for blogging but forced my eyes to stay open to watch Blue Bloods until ten.
Saturday – January 18
I woke up at 4 a.m. and raised the setpoint on the AC and tried to go back to sleep. Along about 5 a.m. I kind of started sleeping again, but was not ready for the alarm at 6:20. I was slow off the mark. Juanita was more organized (I should have gone to bed at 8:30). Juanita ordered breakfast while I muddled along. Then she headed down the street and bought coffee for us. We got to the hotel and got on the almost full bus and then it sat there another ten or fifteen minutes waiting for the last eight people to board and we left for Medfest. Waiting on the bus we started talking to Lisa Kay, one of the other passengers. She has a blog (http://www.walkingnexttojesus.org/) and a radio program of the same name on www.wunt.org This is her second year at Medfest.
We got to site and had a song service with mostly Spanish songs and a message from Oscar Brooks based on Genesis 26: 11- 22
17 So Isaac moved away from there and encamped in the Valley of Gerar, where he settled. 18 Isaac reopened the wells that had been dug in the time of his father Abraham, which the Philistines had stopped up after Abraham died, and he gave them the same names his father had given them.
19 Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and discovered a well of fresh water there.20 But the herders of Gerar quarreled with those of Isaac and said, “The water is ours!” So he named the well Esek,c]">[c] because they disputed with him.21 Then they dug another well, but they quarreled over that one also; so he named it Sitnah.d]">[d]22 He moved on from there and dug another well, and no one quarreled over it. He named it Rehoboth,e]">[e] saying, “Now the Lord has given us room and we will flourish in the land.”
One of these days I will transcribe the notes of Oscar’s message.
The reported salvations from yesterday both on site and the outreach buses were 1,738.
The construction team was way ahead so I got permission to ride on one of the three outreach buses today. Our bus headed to around Tipitapa where the river comes out of Lake Managua going to Lake Nicaragua. We were about half a mile downstream from the main highway and bridge across the river. Our crossing was a ford without a bridge. I guess the river is not that deep since we made it across. We stopped in three places in the area and outreach did three outreaches to the about 200 people, about half kids and half adults, who showed up at each. Formats were songs involving the kids, a couple of testimonies, a gospel message using the Evangecube. At one outreach the Mexican pastor travelling with us told his story of leaving home at age 12 and living on the street, doing drugs and drinking and eating food “the dogs were afraid to eat” until meeting the Lord at age 22 which changed his life totally.
Sunday – January 19
After breakfast at our hotel, we walked down to the Hotel Granada grabbing a couple of coffees to-go and a bottle of water from the Euro Café and loaded onto one of the three school buses going to the Medfest site. Once there Byron and a crew headed to the warehouse to pick up more boxes of bags of rice. Each box is about 30 pounds with 36 sealed, plastic bags of rice. Before Medfest we were supposed to bring 300 boxes and actually brought 400 boxes (14,400 bags) to the Medfest site. A bag gets handed out to each man woman and child attending an outreach and it is looking like 14,400 will not be enough based on the last two days experience.
Worship music from various people and a teaching from Oscar Brooks based on Exodus 30:22, 34, 36
3,600 salvations have been reported up to this morning. Today Juanita will continue to help in the pharmacy and I go out with Joe Garza’s outreach bus again to three locations around Masaya, including the other end of a soccer field where we held an outreach last year.
After the outreach buses get back and the medical work is wrapped up we all go a half block down the road to the location of the Way of the Cross base camp under construction to dedicate the roof we put a church in the past few days. After the dedication the hat was passed to raise the money to pay for indoor plumbing for Pastor Gilberto’s house. More than enough was raised.
Then we all got on the buses back to Granada where everybody probably did what we did- showered, changed, ate dinner and went to bed for an early night after a day of hot, dusty, worthwhile effort.
Monday – January 20
After breakfast and a leisurely coffee at the Euro Café, Juanita and I joined others at the Hotel Granada at about 9:30 for a chapel meeting. It was mentioned that 150 Nicaraguan pastors and believers worked at Medfest along with the 153 North Americans. There were worship songs played interspersed with people talking about their experiences on this trip.
Some talked about how they had seen God’s hand at work in various ways. Others shared about how God had touched and changed them. After that those who were interested got on one of two buses which went to Masaya to the buffet for lunch and then to the Masaya Artisan market for shopping. Then the buses went to the Laguna de Apoyo overlook at Catarine where people shopped and enjoyed the view of the lake in the volcano crater, and the distant view of Granada for an hour or so before heading back to Granada for the evening.
Tuesday – January 21
We attended the worship and teaching time at the staff house based on Romans 8:28, John 16:14, and Matthew 16. I might even transcribe my notes some day. The teaching was worth transcribing.
After devotions we all got in vans and a truck and packed stuff to the warehouse from the Medfest site. The “warehouse” is a partially completed house under construction. The lease ran out on the warehouse that Way of the Cross had been using in the fall and the owners decided they could up the rent a great deal because of how much stuff was in it and the lack of other options. They figured wrong. This house down the road from the old warehouse was available. Its owner is in the states and it might as well be used for something while under construction and now it is. It is leased for most of this year, but my guess would be that after the warehouse on the base camp site is finished that every time something is used from the house warehouse it will return to the base camp warehouse for storage. At some point this summer there will little enough left stored at the house that the balance will be moved to site to have it all in one place.
I am reminded of a lumber yard that started up hand to mouth in my home town. It was an empty lot that was fenced with a small office in a shed. I used to buy my lumber there because it was the first in town to bring in kiln dried Alberta spruce lumber which is so much nicer to work with than the damp hemlock the other yards were selling at the time. After about ten years when the lease came up for renewal the land owner tried to double the rent. The lumberyard owner bought a piece of land on the outskirts of town and moved all his stuff there. The land he bought was a former go kart track so instead of going up and down rows of lumber you wind around the curves of the old track with stuff stacked on either side. It is over twenty years ago that the move took place and it gives me a warm feeling when I’m in my home town and drive past the fenced empty lot and I wonder if the land owner misses the rent each year when he pays property taxes on his weeds.
Wednesday – January 22
We were up for our normal breakfast at the Hotel Jerico, and grabbed a coffee at the Euro Café on our way to grab a ride to the Way of the Cross staff house. There was a worship time and a devotional based on Isaiah 55:6, 11, and Romans 12:1.
Then we went back to our hotel and walked to Cafetin Claudia for lunch followed by a walk up to the Cocoa Museo for walk through, were we also checked prices at the hotel portion. Wow!
After a nap at our hotel we walked down to the Hotel Granada. Our friends and fellow SOWERS, Andy and Lavonne, had suggested an interest in doing a boat ride around some of the 365 isletas on Lake Nicaragua and our agreement was that we would meet at 3:00 and if either couple was a no-show we would carry-on on doing whatever we decided. We were there a few minutes before three and sat just inside the doors of the lobby were we could see the street. They showed up in a horse drawn carriage and we went out to greet them and see what the deal was. As we approached I realized my phone was ringing and dug it out in time to miss the call. It was our daughter calling to wish me a happy birthday. She called right back. While we talked some Medfest people walked around us on the way to load into the van for the airport and we said our goodbyes. Multitasking in the middle of the street, Nica style. Some things catch on quickly.
Our friends were some put off by the large waves on the lake, we assured them that we didn’t have to leave from the beach loading in the surf, but could leave from the marina next to the restaurant area. After some half-hearted negotiating we got not a good price, but a better price than the carriage driver started with for carriage and boat ride. We rode down the street towards the lake shore drive and I started thinking about sun screen and realized it was in my back pack and that was still in the hotel lobby. So the poor scrawny horses had to drag the carriage with four North Americans and the driver back up hill to the Hotel Granada to get my back pack which the hotel staff had moved behind the reception desk.
When we got to the boat disembarkation point the driver parked the horses and carriage in the shade of a large tree (no food or water, but shade) and all five of us got on the boat and went on a one hour tour of the isletas, including around the old fort, the rich people’s houses on their private islands and the monkey island. The fuel source was a hose stuck in a one gallon anti-freeze jug. When we got back Andy lifted it and shook it. It was essentially empty. Talk about inventory control and just-in-time-delivery!
Our pathetic horses laboured away dragging us through the tourist zone and back to the Hotel Granada. I asked the driver if he owned the horses and he said he was an employee. Andy asked me to ask him if he drew the short straw, but the best I could do was ask if he lost the lottery for horses. He affirmed that he had.
We wanted to go a fair distance uptown for supper so parted company with Andy and Lavonne because of the walking involved. The last two years I have celebrated my birthday with a steak at the El Corral restaurant which had a half roof and an open area set up to look like a corral. They have finally covered that open area with a roof (no longer a topless restaurant?) and have raised their prices considerably to pay for the new roof. Their steaks were good but not that good in the past so we walked around and ordered a quesadilla and grilled beef at a hole in the wall called Ra’s Den. We sat outside at a table in the street until we realized it was too windy and we moved inside. The food was every bit as good as we normally order for the occasion and closer to the usual price. We saved more than enough to buy a mini banana split at the corner Eskimo on the way home. Ruskin warned of the danger of the bitter taste of poor quality exceeding the sweetness of a low price, but I haven’t heard of any opinion from him on the issue of higher prices for the same quality or the sweetness of saving on goods of the same quality.
It was a happy birthday.
Thursday – January 23
We were up for our usual 7 a.m. breakfast, planning to meet the group at 9:30. While we were eating, Ben showed up and advised of the time change to 8 a.m. We visited with Ben for a while then scrambled to get there on time. Juanita left on time, but I wasn’t ready. I relied on my iPod hourly time announcement, but should have checked it. The volume was turned off. Oops. The van was waiting for me. Juanita told them to leave, I could get to the staff house just fine on my own, but they didn’t listen to her. Fortunately it was just a few minutes, but I felt bad nevertheless. Grabbing a cab to play catch-up would have been fine. Might even have beat them to the house since they stopped for gas on the way.
Devotions at staff house were delivered by Jessica, based on Luke 9:57.
After worship and devotions several of us loaded in a van and went to Masaya to buy a chalk line and a couple of shovels at a hardware store. We used the chalk line at the site of the Way of the Cross Nicaraguan base camp were we had put the roof on the church last week. There is also an old warehouse on the site. It has a concrete floor and some pillars and about half of a corrugated asbestos cement board roof. Last week labourers started replacing some missing pillars and building the concrete block walls between pillars. The walls are about half done, this week. Once the walls are up the asbestos board will be removed and metal rafters and a corrugated metal roof will be installed.
The site has six, twenty-eight foot diameter slabs formerly used as silo bases. The plan is to build two bedroom units that can be used for dorms for teams (two bunk beds per bedroom – eight people) or for staff housing. A plan had been drawn up in Visio in Texas. Not having Visio on our travel laptop, I bought a geometry set and a scribbler at a corner store and drew up a modified version of that plan. Our job at the site was to lay out the walls as an assessment of the layout and as a guide to the block layers. The chalk line produced imperfect results that were hard to understand and would not necessarily last until the block layers got to building. We tried the charcoal from some burnt sticks. That worked better, but we finally arrived at using block we took from the warehouse wall project and demarking the walls with rows of blocks. While we doing this Ben went to the hardware store and got some spray paint so Byron could spray along the edges of the blocks leaving a mark that would stay if the blocks went missing. We then marked the windows in different colored paint. Using blocks and a tape measure we were able to fine tune the design on doorway and plumbing fixture placement. Mark 1 version should be okay. Mark 3 based on actual use would probably be better, but probably all the walls will be done to Mark 1 layout before there are any roofs or occupancies to test the design.
After our collaborative architectural effort we all got back in the van and went to the Masaya buffet for lunch and then headed to Managua to a hybrid big box store that was like a cross between Sam’s Club and Costco. It was neither, but carried brands from both of those chains. Somebody had donated money for a propane barbeque grill for the staff house so that was picked up along with water and other supplies for the construction team arriving tonight from Chicago.
The van was somewhat overloaded but made it back to the staff house where we unloaded the water, grill and other supplies and then it took us townies back to Granada.
Juanita and I showered and walked to Tip Top chicken for supper and started back to our hotel. Half way back we met up with Andy and Lavonne and walked to a Farmacia on the market street where Andy bought some arthritis supplements. I failed to use the opportunity to buy some Nystatin cream that was on my list. That’s what will happen if you don’t check your contextual list in context.
We all walked back to close to the Hotel Jerico. They had not had supper yet so they carried on to the Chinese restaurant down the side street and we went back to our room. Another full day, post Medfest.
Friday – January 24
We caught a ride up from the Hotel Granada to the staff house and joined them for worship and devotions. There is a new team arrived from Christ Community Church and they brought their bi-lingual song books for this trip. Ben delivered an orientation and a devotion based on bow making. After this morning they will take care of their own devotions.
We joined them on the trip to their first construction project and the base for some training and evangelism they plan to deliver. The old roof has been removed from pastor Gilberto’s church and the new metal rafters and purlins installed. The tin is ready for painting. I help set up the team for painting and explain to somebody how the Nicaraguans place tin and how you have to organize yourself for painting to not waste paint or to create an embarrassing permanent record of your errors. Henry showed up briefly and calculated how many sheets per side they would be using and I worked with the guy that would be in charge to suggest one way of keeping it all straight. I warned him that it was a cross between herding cats and playing whack a mole. Tim had recruited him by telling the team leader that he needed to “put your most anal guy in charge.” I reluctantly agree. That job is often mine. It probably says more about me than I want to hear.
Some of us bail and go with Henry, Ben and Byron and others to the location of a round pool house that Henry built. It will give some idea of the possibilities and challenges of the roofs on the silo houses. The poolside barbecue shelter is a spectacular example of good construction using post, other structural member, and roofing material much heavier than normally encountered in Nicaragua. It would probably hold up to Canadian snow load and perhaps a hurricane, certainly one this far inland. In addition there are some round auxiliary buildings as examples. The roofing material is unidirectional and thus would generate a lot of waste on a segmented roof for a round structure, but there are materials that are bi-directional that are heavier than the normal tin we have used here. I have used the heavy, unidirectional mock tile roof metal roofing in Oaxaca. It is more durable, but considerably more expensive.
When we are done we say our good-byes. The others start loading into the van. We step out of the WOTC vortex and I flag down a cab and start negotiating for a ride back to Granada. He quotes a high price and just about then a chicken bus shows up behind us and we start to make motions of taking that and his price becomes reasonable and Juanita and I get in and we head to Granada by cab. More money, but quicker and more comfortable than chicken bus to the roundabout and another bus from there.
Once in Granada we ask to be let off on the market street and go to two pharmacies and get Nystatin cream at the second. While paying I am a bit slow moving away from the window and an angry man shoves me a bit for taking so long. I moved aside and didn’t pay him any mind just chalking it up to impatience. Later, Juanita told me he was the scariest person she had seen here and that she was in fear I was going to start doing the “which is bigger?” curved illusion tract with him. Not.
After a stop at the money changer on the corner we head to Cafetin Claudia for lunch and back to the room for keyboarding, answering birthday e-mails, and working on the blog.
We go out for a non Dukan supper of pizza at Tele Pizza and dessert at Eskimo. Then it is back to room for blogging, TV and packing for the trip to Matagalpa tomorrow morning.
Saturday – January 25
We were up at six and had most of our packing done before breakfast. After breakfast we puttered a bit and finished packing the last minute stuff. I was thinking this morning about having got in the habit of flossing and brushing my teeth and rinsing with mouthwash. All after breakfast. Hopefully my breath doesn’t slay a server. When I was a kid the drill was to get up brush my teeth and get dressed and go downstairs to a breakfast of cold cereal. For some reason I always put the sugar on first then poured the milk, washing most of the sugar into the bottom of the bowl. After eating the cereal I would drink the grainy syrup of milk and sugar from the bowl and leave for school, probably not brushing my teeth again until the next morning. Between that and the soft water of the B.C. coast and never even hearing of flossing until I was an adult is it any wonder I do not have a single tooth that never had a cavity?
We walked up the street to the park and saw a Managua bound bus passing by while we were across the park from it so we walked across the park and half a block south and got a good seat behind the driver with room for our bags under our seat. The bus didn’t sit there long before it left, picking up passengers and dropping them off on the way to the UCA station in Managua. I told the conductor we were going to Matagalpa and asked if it was better to get off for a taxi for Mercado Mayero (location of Matagalpa buses and other buses to North and East of Managua) at Metro Centro or UCA. He said it was about the same and we elected for Metro Centro. When we arrived there he grabbed our bags and dropped them on the curb and told the driver of the first taxi in line where we wanted to go. I carried on negotiating a price for both of us and confirmed the location (Mercado Mayero) and final destination (Matagalpa). He quoted $C 150 (about $US 6) and we took his offer and he grabbed the bags and threw them in the back seat on the driver’s side. Juanita got in the back and I got in the front. It is important to establish that a price is for both (los ambos) or for the two (los dos). Before I learned that it was not uncommon to get somewhere and have the driver the price quoted was for each of us and he wanted twice as much as quoted. Since learning the scam and establishing the price for two up front we have never had any taxista try to change the rules at the end of the ride.
As we got to the terminal the driver paid his admission fee and asked if we wanted an express bus or a local bus. The express bus is non-stop, has assigned seating, is a bit quicker but leaves less often so in the end may take more time. But it is time spent more comfortably. You are sitting and you may briefly have people in the aisle next to you but not for hours at a time. He dropped us next to the loading point and ticket office for the Matagalpa express. I lined up and bought tickets. The clerk could have been speaking English, not Spanish and still I wouldn’t have heard her with the flood of background noise so her end of the dealings were numbers scratched on a notepad. She could hear and understand me speaking through the hole in the glass so we got our tickets okay for $C 72/each $C 144 total (Just under $US 6, less than the cab fare across Managua). It was a little before ten and the eleven o’clock express to Managua would load a few minutes before eleven so we sought a spot in the waiting area. After a few minutes a better spot opened up were we would be facing the buses on our side of the terminal so we moved to those chairs and settled in to read and wait and people watch. I went and checked out the food options and came back and informed Juanita of the choices, then went and bought her a slice of pizza and brought it back to her while she sat with the bags. I then went in search of a lower carb alternative for me, but was too cheap or microbe phobic to buy any of the choices so bought another slice of pizza from the same stall. They kept the pizza heated and not sitting in a case at room temperature. I also bought a couple of bags of water. These cost about a quarter of the price of bottled water and are just as pure and just as cold. They tend to keep them out of sight so people who don’t know any better buy the stuff with the better profit margin. Then we did our pre-trip bathroom trips in relay format taking turns sitting with the bags. I handed out curved illusion tracts to those seated near us. We read a bit more and then our bus pulled into the loading area and we swarmed it just like the locals. :0)
Since seating was assigned we didn’t have to be in a rush to board, but a) we didn’t realize that’s what the numbers on our tickets meant until we were told while climbing into the bus and, b) getting to your seat first means you get to use your piece of overhead rack.
Our two carry-on bags fitted in the overhead rack above us with not too much shoving and we had room for our two smaller bags (what the airlines call personal items. The windows are covered with sheets of plastic tinting material, what you see advertised on signs as papel humado (literally, smoked paper). The driver’s side of the bus has curtains. Most of the upper windows are lowered. I am in the aisle seat and can see over the lowered windows. Juanita is in the window seat and has trouble seeing through the two panes of tinted glass. At one of the traffic light stops on our way out of the city I raise the top window a couple notches and she can see out okay and is happy enjoying the vistas pass by. She cannot read in motion without undesirable side effects and I usually can. I mostly read and look up and around occasionally if I start feeling uneasy or think there is something worth looking at. I spent summer road trips with my nose buried in a book looking up and around periodically and don’t think I missed anything significant and probably remember as much as somebody who looked around continuously despite my father’s grumblings at the time. More recent understanding of how the brain stores information supports my self-serving bias. You may think you remember every scene of a movie, but you don’t. Not even close. Nor could the brain do that without running out of space. We remember markers/ milestones and fill in the blanks from other sources like the people we discuss the movie with.
The scheduled run was two hours from Managua to Matagalpa. About half way a woman got on and spent several miles selling plaintain chips and soft drinks, before getting off to refill her stocks and catch a bus going back the other way. The chips looked pretty greasy so Juanita opted out and I bought a bag. It came with a small piece of the salty local cheese. That was different, but okay. I guess.
We passed through the crossroads market town of Sebaco which always is so colourful with its vegetable displays. Just before Sebaco there was a silo arrangement similar to that on the Way of the Cross base camp property. The silos looked pretty small. Missed the chance for a photo, but will keep an eye out when we head back south. I had thought we might go back through Leon, but that was pretty clearly vetoed in discussions last night so we will probably have a chance to see the silos again and hopefully take a picture. I can’t understand why I kind of like Leon so I really can’t understand why somebody wouldn’t like it just because it is hot and dusty and there is nothing to do there.
Sebaco is higher than Managua, but after Sebaco the road starts a more serious climb into the mountains on the way to Matagalpa. Even though the Pan American highway turns north at Sebaco the highway east from there to Matagalpa is a good one with passing lanes on the hills. The bus passes a few trucks and gets passed by cars and bigger buses. Shortly before Matagalpa the road does a good run downhill into the valley of the Rio Grande de Matagalpa, the river that “defines the city’s western edge. The city runs up the hills from the river.
The bus stopped at the hotel we stayed at the last time we were here, two years ago. It stopped for a couple of minutes while the conductor lowered four sacks of boxes of garlic down to the waiting traveller. About five minutes after it started rolling again and made a few wild turns through the narrow streets we disembarked at the terminal and went out to fight for a taxi with the throngs. We lost. Just not pushy enough. I figured that eventually the swarm from our bus would die off and there would be a calm, but bus after bus must have been arriving, because no matter how far we moved down the line of arriving taxis we did not succeed in elbowing our way through to the front to deal successfully. There was one taxi I got my head in and asked if he could take us to the Hotel El Castillo but he said, “No!” and I backed off. Then he loaded a passenger in the back seat and a chubby woman I remembered from the bus. The average construction bus loads and unloads in a more orderly fashion than a Nicaraguan bus. On construction buses the front passengers get off first and everybody disembarks in order. Nica buses are every person for himself and if you don’t get into the aisle right away you could sit there for a while. I guess she remembered me, too. I had stopped in the aisle to allow her to get off but she had declined and waved me on. Probably because her and her companion’s wheelers had been stowed near the back of the bus and the conductor needed to get them.
The women asked the taxista about us and he said something and she motioned me over and I repeated the “Hotel El Castillo” and he said the equivalent of “Oh! The Hotel El Castillo!” and I asked the price for the two of us ($C 20) and he popped the trunk, stowed our luggage and we got in the back seat with the other passenger there. The cab dropped off the other two passengers at their two destinations and then us up a hill in front of the Hotel El Castillo.
Total transportation cost to get from Granada to Matagalpa came to about $US 14.40 . I had asked a tour outfit advertising shuttle service from Granada to Matagalpa and they quoted $80 at any time of our choosing. Might have been a little more comfortable, but certainly would have lacked in adventure and experience.
The hotel people remembered our reservation and we looked at the room and it was fine. I left Juanita and the luggage there and went downstairs to pay the $US 44 for two nights including breakfast and gave them my passport information. There was a great view of the city below us. I got the password for the Wi-Fi, checked e-mail and sent a few people a picture of the view from our balcony. The room had no chairs so I sat on the couch on the landing that the rooms open onto and read while Juanita read and napped in the room.
One out of breath tourist came up the stairs and went into his room, commenting on the heat. It seemed pretty refreshing to me compared to Granada, but I just agreed with him. A man came up with the receptionist to check out a room. A few minutes later he and his wife huffed breathlessly up the stairs with more luggage then I hope ever to see. Already I am plotting and taking notes on ways to cut back what we brought on this trip – a carry-on and personal item each. Can’t imagine also having a full sized suitcase to deal with. When we left Granada I threw out a pair of jeans and a pair of shoes that I brought with that intention. The two tee shirts I brought with the same intent didn’t get any paint on them and I couldn’t bring myself to throw them away, not that I like carrying them with me. Next time I will bring virtual rags of tee shirts for construction and painting and maybe my hoarder instincts will not prevail.
Eventually we got more ambitious and walked down the hill to the park across from the Cathedral and down one of the streets to a place that sells wonderful smoothies. Closed. Maybe just because it is Saturday. Maybe forever. There is no telling. We walked back to the park and bought the equivalent of Fudgesicles from an Eskimo cart. They were a bit more cold and harder than the ones sold by the carts on the Medfest grounds, and Matagalpa is a bit cooler but it was still a challenge to finish eating them before the chocolate was dripping.
We saw some encouraging smoke from across a street fronting the park and headed there. It was a grill set up in front of a restaurant, but the stuff looked scarier than our appetites and we walked up to the Pali. We checked out the guirilas booth just to the north and then went into the Pali to buy some mouthwash, deodorant, and hand sanitizer to refill our stocks and some snacks for later. Standing in line I handed out curved illusion tracts and then learned something as checking out. The plastic shopping bags are hung just ahead of the register. If you want some to carry your purchases you just rip them off. Must have been to one Pali or another about twenty times over the years and could never figure out where the bags came from or understand the slightly annoyed body language when I asked for a bag after paying for my purchased. I should have put pulled them off and put them on top of my purchases and been bagging as the stuff got entered by the cashier. Live and learn. Some of us learn slower than others.
Anyway, after that lesson we went out and bought a couple of guirilas which came with a piece of more creamy than usual cheese and stood there eating them. Guirilas are sort of a thick, slightly sweet tortilla made with corn flour and grilled on a banana leaf. There was a row of chairs but they were filled. A boy got off one of the chairs and offered it to us. I declined. Then there were two chairs and he offered again. Anyone who has seen me eat would understand why I wanted to eat standing to minimize spillage on my clothes, but Juanita pointed out that he had been compelled to offer by his mother so we sat. The booth also sold cups of a mixture that looked like grits. I went to buy one to try and then a second if we both liked the taste. When I asked the girl about what it was and if it was sweet she said it was made from corn and was a little sweet but also a little acido. She gave me a little on a spoon. An acquitted taste I would venture. I probably could eat it and over time enjoy it, but I gave it a pass for now.
We walked around looking for a smoothie place and ended up in a bakery which sold smoothies, coffee and cakes. We ended up ordering cocoa con leche, which was more like Cacoa Fresco than the Choco Café’s version, but fine nevertheless especially with a piece of wonderfully moist tres leche cake. We waddled back up the hill to our hotel and channel surfed until we found a program in English with Spanish subtitles. Don’t ask me about it. I rolled over and went to sleep. Juanita must have followed a while later and locked the door and window for the night. I woke up around 2:30 for a while but managed to go back to sleep eventually and woke up again at a more reasonable hour.
Sunday – January 26
We woke up about 6:30 and puttered around and surfed and had showers. The widow-maker water heater on the shower head worked fine - warm water and no shocks.
I managed to throw everything in the bags okay in Granada, but with less attention to accessing it than should have been applied. Nevertheless I prevailed in finding what was needed for today. Have to adjust to moving every day or two. One gets spoiled being in the same place for several weeks. After a sumptuous leisurely breakfast we walked half way down the hill to a bakery coffee shop we had checked out on the way home last night to find out opening time. The El Gran Café offers all manner of coffees, teas, beverages and some breakfast selections and cheese and other cakes. We ordered a couple of café Americanos and Juanita read and I wrote for a couple of hours before heading further downtown. When paying the bill and getting the address for Trip Advisor I handed out a couple of curved illusion tracts to the staff. When back at the table wrapping up computer cords and waiting for Juanita to return from her pre-walk pit stop the server brought over a couple of complementary handmade chocolates from the case. Yum!
Downtown we tried matching the map in a two year old Lonely Planet guide to the restaurants on the ground, but failed. Seems that happened two years ago as well. In our reconnaissance we discovered that the Rincon Don Chato is open on Sundays and had a steam table buffet as well as the smoothies we remember from the past. We came back there from our several block walk to eliminate possible map errors and made our selection from the buffet and ordered smoothies. Juanita had the orange juice and papaya. I had the leche and manis (milk and peanuts). Both were fine for us, although neither would have traded with the other.
After a quiet afternoon reading and keyboarding we walked back down the hill to the Gran Café and had some omelets and coffee and shared a piece of cheese cake. Well, actually I ate the cheesecake and Juanita got a couple of bites. Her choice. Back to the room for some subtitled CSI TV and some more keyboarding, adding pictures to the web site, before going to bed. Sleep was disturbed by a crying baby, a barking dog and some things crashing around in the wind, but we survived. Just glad it was not our baby or dog.
Monday – January 27
Up at six for a shower and some packing. Packed some stuff that was not quite dry from Saturday and a shirt and some underwear that we knew would not dry. We have high tech stuff from SEV which dries overnight if the climate is a bit dry and you have a fan blowing on it. Matagalpa is cooler than Granada, but a bit more humid at the moment. Might need all our clothes, not just one change, if we stayed here long. Breakfast starts at seven and we were there on the mark with a bit of a visit afterwards with a Canadian couple from Ontario. They sponsor several children in Nicaragua and have made several trips to visit them and to teach some children the artisanal skills of making earrings.
The guide book said that the morning express bus to Esteli leaves at 10:00 so we finished packing and walked with our luggage down the hill to the Gran Café. A couple more coffees and we snagged a cab to the bus station. We learned that the only express buses go to Managua and only ordinarios go to Esteli so we went and waited near where it would depart in half an hour. When it p ulled it we swarmed it along with everybody else. Not quite a match for the sharp elbowed little Nica women, but we did okay. I was going to block for Juanita to get on, but we had been separated by several women so I got on and staked out a double seat and a place for our bags. The bus quickly filled to standing room only which included a vendor of plantain chips and a boy selling hard candies. They got off once the bus started moving.
The bus picked up more passengers as we headed out of town. People pay according to how far they are going. We paid the full fare of C$ 60 ($US 2.40) for two to the Esteli terminal at the other end of the run and were issued tickets. The bus climbed out of the valley of Matagalpa and then down the mountain slopes toward Sebaco. We passed fields where coffee and other crops are spread to dry. They may be grown in the mountains, but they are carted down to the valley to dry out. Trying to dry them in the misty mountains would work sort of like drying our clothes and the sodden towels in our room last night didn't work.
At Sebaco the bus was swarmed inside and out with fruit, vegetable and food vendors. They offered bags of grapes, bags of mandarin oranges, bowls of vigaron, bags of onions, green and red peppers, or tomatoes not to mention cans of soda pop. We turned north at Sebaco and went several miles to a small town where enough people got off that all the standees were gone and about half the seats were empty. While parked at that town a few people bought large wedges of watermelon exchanging money and water melon through the open windows. We both thought how messy that would be and were happy with the small bag of mandarins we had bought at Sebaco. The road started climbing again and a little before Esteli we started seeing pine trees. In Estelí itself there are both palm trees and pine trees.The bus pulled into the Cotran Sud (south) bus terminal and we got off. Tomorrow we will leave for Somoto, north of Estelí, from the Cotran Norte bus terminal at the north end of town. There was a cab sitting in the next bay to the bus and he beeped at us and after asking him about taking us to the Hostel El Alvergue and him not knowing where it was I took out the directions that Indy had written down for us after she called the hostel Luna on my behalf. I had managed to understand that the Luna had no room and that they had booked us into another hostel, but I could not understand the name or the directions. Thank you Indy! I guess I could have done a plan B and taken the cab to the Luna and had them explain to the cab driver. Like somebody I used to work with used to say, “for every solution there is an alternative.”
The cab dropped us in front of the Hostel El Alvergue and after a duel of rapid fire Spanish versus stumbling Spanish and incipient deafness we figured out that the room was reserved for us, we could see it and leave our bags in it, but it was about to be cleaned and we could wait in the common area upstairs. We inspected, concurred that it was fine, left our bags and went upstairs to pay our $US 16 charge for the night and sit at the table there and drink complementary coffee and check on e-mail and write up our adventures.It wasn’t long before our room was accessible so I handed the computer off to Juanita, and went to the room to hang out the slightly damp stuff from Matagalpa and wash the shirt from yesterday and hang it in front of the fan to dry. It was mostly dry by the time we were back from downtown.
This is not my first time to Estelí. Five years ago I had been here with Ben for a meeting with a number of pastors from north of here. It was held in the banquet room of the Panorama, a pretty nice hotel on the South side of town. We passed it on the way from the bus station and I mentioned it to Juanita. She said it was listed as being pretty reasonable and there was another with the same name downtown. We passed the downtown one as well and it looked okay but less grand than its sister property.
The Hostel El Alvergue is clean and well laid out. Estelí is high enough we will not need air conditioning, but there is a fan in each room. They are busy adding rooms that will double its capacity.
Around 1:30 we ventured out to do a bit of exploring and maybe for some lunch. We had demolished a medium sized bag of plaintain chips while keyboarding so were not particularly hungry so we explored a fair bit before ending up at a Cuban restaurant and having a bowl of their special of the day soup followed by a walk to La Colonia supermarket for a gallon of water and a stop at an Eskimo for ice cream. In our explorations we located the UCA Miraflora headquarters that arranges tours for a large protected area not that far away. We decided it didn’t appeal to either of us for this trip. Maybe someday. Back to the hostel a little before five and in the common area doing keyboarding shortly after that. Getting caught up.
Tuesday – January 28
The fan blowing overnight dried our clothes and blocked out most of the inevitable street noises and we slept well. A little after seven we walked up the street to the Café Luz across the street from the Hostel Luna and had a reasonable breakfast of breakfast burritos. On our way out we started chatting with Len and Bonnie, a couple from near Edmonton and ended up sitting down for quite a while for a good visit. They had just spent a week with her delivering hygiene lessons and food and him restoring wells to working condition. They were now headed to Honduras. They travel with just a backpack each and show up places and seek a room upon arrival. I’m inspired, but in concept not action. When we get back to our hostel I book another night for after Somoto and phone the hotel in Matagalpa to book two more nights after that. I get two nights booked, but the schedule slipped for a day so we will figure out later what to do for the open spot in the schedule.
Before we left we booked an additional night back in Estelí so now there is no hole in the schedule. My clerical tendencies are assuaged.
We arrived at the Cotran Norte and hung around the bus slot for Somoto. The other lurkers said it wouldn’t be long and we swarmed with the crowd and secured a seat for two and managed to fit our carry-on bags mostly beneath the seat there being no overhead rack in this bus. As the bus filled the conductor had a woman remove her bag that was on the other part of the seat. She complied. The conductor had less success with a large, mean-looking national police officer. He was asked, but kept on sitting with just him and his bag on a seat for two for the entire trip of a little over two hours. With the ever changing scenery and the ebb and flow of passengers and vendors on and off the bus the time passed quickly.
About forty minutes out of Somoto a somewhat overweight man in a dress shirt and pressed slacks got on. He was carrying a nice leather dispatch case and Bible in a nice leather case. He stood in the aisle, unzipped the Bible cover and started reading aloud from the Bible very loudly and forcefully and then angrily delivered a thirty minute exhortation at the top of his voice, hardly stopping to take a breath. It was delivered in burst mode and I tried to keep up with simultaneous translating to Juanita but quickly abandoned that as he never stopped for a breath and one cannot hear and talk at the same time. As he got wound up I could not keep up even for my own edification. Everything I managed to catch seemed doctrinally correct. That said, it was somewhat scary and there was nothing in his angry manner that would make me say, “Hey! I really want what he’s got.” Well, God’s word doesn’t return void and it is a different culture so maybe he was there to connect with somebody, even if everybody looked as interested as a group of grade eight boys in poetry class.
Off the bus and in a cab to the hotel. The hotel photographs well but is a bit mal maintained. We ended up with a large, slightly grotty room, which looks fab in the photo. We booked a canyon tour at the front desk for eight the next morning and established that the breakfast included with the room happens at seven.
The central park in Somoto is probably the most pleasant park we have been in in Nicaragua. It has large shade trees, pleasant paths, a modern playground, several cages of animals (monkeys, miniature deer, raccoons, a python and a few other species) and a pleasant little snack bar and bakery with really friendly people. They sell rosquillas, tiny donut like shapes made of corn flour, which for some unfathomable reason are popular in Nicaragua. They are comestible if soaked in the café con leche we bought. More like hot milk with a dash of instant coffee, but it did prevent us breaking our teeth on the rosquillas. It was no help with the hard, deep fried churros which we ate under certain conviction the next bite would cost a tooth. Enjoy the park, skip the snack bar. Nice people, but then again it is not the first time somebody has been taken in by a pleasant entity in a pleasant garden.
We got directions to the market and bought some coat hangers, mandarin oranges and a replacement pair of sunglasses for Juanita’s dollar store glasses that finally bit the dust after five years of faithful service. On the way back to the hotel we checked out a smoothie place perhaps for tomorrow and a restaurant for later tonight or for tomorrow night. The restaurant was across the street and we ended up going there for a late dinner after a few hours hanging around the hotel courtyard and our room.
The Somoto Canyon, one of oldest rock formations in Central America, has become one of the main attractions of Northern Nicaragua due to its recently "discovered" tourist potential. It is an impressive site with a unique scenario. Between its walls, visitors can undertake various activities.
Fifteen minutes West from the city of Somoto, capitol of the department of [visit/madriz], tourists will find this amazing geological structure that inhabitants of the area call "the structure" or "Namancambre".
The vertical walls extend for approximately five miles, on a sinuous path whose width varies between 10 and 15 meters. The waters from the Comali River (from Honduras) and Tapacali join to form the extense Coco River. In its bottom, the calmness of the water is interrupted by rocky formations that have created seven or eight small ponds with an environment filled with life, plants and fish.
The cliffs have a height of 120 and 150 meters. In the narrowest area, they are located five meters away from each other. According to the Nicaraguan Institute of Territorial Studies (INETER), these interesting columns are the result of a geological formation, combined with the erosive action of the water.
This is what Juanita e-mailed to friends and family about our day:
We did the Canyon yesterday. What a rush!!! I do not know if we would have done it if we had known the details. About 6 hours of walking, floating/swimming with life jackets, much more of the same in and out of water finally coming to a place where we got into a boat, off loaded with more walking a lot of which was walking up out of the canyon to finally end at the guides house for an already prepared lunch (about 3:00). It was well worth it !!! Unfortunately much of the floating was done with our cameras safely in the guide’s waterproof bag. Neither of us are moving very well this morning and Dad/Paul has sunburn that we will shortly try to find a pharmacy that has something for relief.
After finding meds we will head back to Estelí for two nights where Paul will hopefully get pictures put on his web page.
We were up and dressed and out in the courtyard in time for the breakfast that we had been told would start at 7. Coffee and juice came about then and we self-served that and sat at a table. Not too long later a plate each arrived with a typical NIca breakfast of gallo pinto (rice and red beans mixture) a fried egg and accessories.
We went back to our room and started preparing to be ready to be at the front desk to meet our guide at 8. At about ten to eight our guide arrived and knocked on our door. We quickly finished getting ready and joined him. He asked if we minded if a couple of muchachos (guys) joined us. We didn’t mind. They were in their early forties and from near Berlin in former East German territory. We had enough overlap in Spanish and English and “speaking with our hands and feet” as one put it that we communicated fine. The cab fare to the trailhead was included in our fee, but the cab was parked across town across the highway from the market we walked to yesterday. A brisk walk later (sort of a pre-test for fitness for the day’s hike) and all five of us joined the cab driver in his sub compact. Juanita and the guide, being the skinniest, shared the front passenger seat.
There was a warning sign in the room that valuables left in the room were at the guests’ own risk and the hotel would only be responsible for stuff left for safekeeping. We left the bag with the front desk. They started to put it under the desk to be taken to the lock up later, but I fussed and the desk clerk headed off with it. He may have just gone around the corner until I was out of sight, but I went away happy.
At the guide’s house they told us to get rid of everything but a camera and a bottle of water. We put our passports and other valuables in our backpack in a locked room. It was the guide’s house and his family lived there and they have a lot more to lose business wise with a bad publicity than they would gain from the contents of our bag. Juanita had on beach shoes. I had on my five finger vibes. Both were declared adequate by the chief guide. Otherwise he would have supplied beach shoes. After being fitted with life jackets and shown how our day would unfold on a map we gave our lunch orders from a menu. Then back into the waiting cab with the guide for the day and up the road a few miles to the trail head for the “five hour tour” of The Somoto canyon.
We walked a few kilometers to a stream where some locals were washing clothes and then across the stream, over some rocks and we started down Rio Tapacali, a tributary of Rio Coco, the longest river in Central America.
The pictures do not do the trip justice. We spent a lot more time floating than would be indicated by the pictures since our cameras were stowed in a waterproof backpack when we were in the water or carried by the guide where there was a reasonable expectation we would slip and fail wading over slippery boulders.
The guide demonstrated the sensitive plant which recoils from touch and he pointed out many bee hives in the crevices under overhanging cliffs. Bats live under some of the overhangs as well and they left in a crowd when splashed by the guide. On some spots there are large spiders on the rock faces. They blend in so well I don’t think I would see them if not told about them. The guide grabbed one and threw it half way across the pool we were floating through. The spider ran back toward the rock face hopping across the surface of the water. It seemed to stumble a few times and then disappeared below the surface, dragged under by a fish. I asked about piranhas. The guide said there weren’t any in this river.
At one point we were wading and floating and we were passed by a couple of young men who were managing to get downstream walking along paths in the cliffs. They were carrying spear guns and face masks for diving. When they crossed the river near us I asked to look at one of their spear guns. It was homemade from pieces of wood, steel, pipe fittings and surgical rubber. It was about the same technology we used in our neighbourhood when I was young. By the next time we saw they had stripped down and were working a pool looking for fish. No luck by that point but it didn’t seem to be their first fishing trip and that suggests they must have caught something in the past.
There was a spot where we could jump off a large boulder into a deep spot. Both Germans jumped. Being a bit of a wuss and not wanting to deal with losing glasses or being blind while they were carried for me I got in upstream a bit and floated to the spot. About five feet to the left of where they jumped was a rock about two feet below the surface. Good to have a guide. It would be just as easy to jump in the wrong spot without somebody to tell you.
We had been passed by a couple of groups moving more quickly than we were. We rested where Rio Tapacali and Rio Comali meet to form Rio Coco. A little after a large group and their guide we carried on downstream. About half way through our tour we caught up with a guide and a couple. The couple were Russell and Shirley, a retired couple from Ontario. We had seen them and talked when we were in Estelí. They were staying at the Hostal El Alvergue when we were there. They still were. They had caught an espresso early in the morning and got off at the guide’s house. The way you catch an expresso from Esteli to Somoto is to wait at the gas station in Esteli for an expresso from Managua. If they have developed a vacancy by somebody getting off they will sell you that seat. If all the seats are full you are out of luck. They had been in luck. They had also booked a 3:30 bus back to Esteli. Their canyon tour was four hour tour, which means that they didn’t ride up the highway from the guide’s house, they walked to a path up the highway and then walked down to meet the river more downstream than our group had. That’s how they managed to “get ahead” of us by starting later.
We ended up travelling together for most of the rest of the tour. In the canyon one has the opportunity to jump into a pool from various heights up to 66 feet / 20 meters. The Germans jumped from about half height. Shirley went in from about five feet. Russell climbed backwards down the rock into the pool. Juanita and I followed his example. Then both guides jumped the max. Walking along later, Russell told me his experience a few years previously. He had jumped from the maximum height, following the guide’s advice to stay straight, keep your feet together pointed down, your hands together above your head and not to yell. It was a real rush. So he did it again. Not so much of a rush, but still okay. He was talking up the experience with a couple of young women later in Matagalpa and they were quite interested. A few weeks later he met up with one of them in Honduras and asked where her friend was. Apparently she had not followed the guide’s advice to the letter and raised her legs a bit and let out a yell about half way down. She hit the water wrong and started feeling terrible that evening and bleeding as if she had her period. The friend stayed by her side in the hospital for three days and then her parents came down and she was med-evac’d back to the States. No wonder Russell has such strong opinions on the safety of jumping there.
The floating part of the tour sets its own pace. The walking on rocks, especially slippery ones out of view under water could easily take on a death march aspect with having to pay such close attention to footing and trying to keep up with others, but the guides set a good rhythm with stops to see things and to catch one’s breath. At one spot where we were hanging around, the water flow narrowed to a spot less than three feet wide between two boulders. I started picking up rocks and filling the gap. Juanita suggested it was a bad idea since I might be breaking some rules. Shortly after that I decided it was a bad idea as well when I picked up a rock and there was a snake under it. I mentioned the snake and everybody gathered around to see. Right about then Russell mentioned that there was a scorpion by my feet. I leapt about three feet sideways and the scorpion became the new attraction. I kept my distance. It was a good size, about three inches long with its stinger curled and waving.
At the portion of the canyon which appears on the Nicaraguan fifty Cordoba bill there were boats waiting. We all got into one and the boatman rowed us down river to the landing where some hapless vendor stood trying to sell bracelets to a bunch of tourists who had been told to leave their money in lock up.
From the landing we walked a bit then forded the river one last time and walked a long way up an at time steep road to the guide’s house where we changed our clothes and ate our lunches. Russell and Shirley took off in haste to catch a chicken bus from Somoto back to Esteli, having missed their 3:30 express bus. I wished them well for purely selfish reasons. If they make it back in time to do something on their agenda tonight, then they will leave for Leon tomorrow morning and that means we get their room at Hostal El Alvergue. At this time only the upstairs rooms get wi-fi and their room is the only matrimonio (double bed) on the upper level. I am sure that as the new rooms get added they will add wi-fi repeaters, but for now the metal Q deck used as the form for pouring the second floor blocks the signal from the lower rooms.
The head guide and the four people in our tour group get into a sub-compact taxi and go back to Somoto. The cabbie is heavier than the one this morning and he has trouble with shifting gears with three people in front. I miss getting a picture of a dairy water tank that is shaped like a large milk can, but the image is fresh in my mind. The senior guide pays the cab and walks back to the hotel to get his share of our tour money from them. I ask about my computer bag but the woman with the key is not there. They bring it by later. While I am reading in the court yard I start talking to a fellow Canadian from Red Deer, Alberta. Until he retired in 2003 he lived and worked in our home town of Meadow Lake. Small world.
After a late lunch we are not especially hungry so we go for a walk, buy some glucosamine/chondroitin pills at a pharmacy and go to the smoothie place we walked past last night.
We crash early after a long day in the fresh air and water. We feel pretty good, but both take a Robax tablet. I woke up at midnight but went back to sleep after a couple of hours reading.
Thursday – January 30
Conference in hotel. Noisy bunch.
- Putter, read, surf.
- Wait until 9 when pharmacy will open.
Walk up street in flip-flops.
Offered calamine lotion.
Remember my mother using it on my sun burns.
Can’t remember it helping. Buy hydrocortisone cream.
- Back to room put cream on ankles
- Put on socks and shoes
- Run into ex ML’er at corner and visit, get name and share names of many mutual acquaintances. He leaves tomorrow for Managua and then back to Red Deer, Alberta, Canada where he now lives.
- Get cab to bus depot. Arrive as bus is coming out of driveway of terminal. Bus stops and waits for us. Cab driver says not to pay him. I pay anyway. He doesn’t seem to mind.
- Get on bus. No seats.
Conductor makes young woman put her child on her lap. Juanita sits with her. He makes a young man move his bag of stuff. I sit with him. There is not enough room between seats to allow him to close his legs. Nor me to close mine. My right leg is in the aisle and my share of the seat is only enough for half my butt. But at least I am sitting down. When the young man gets off, Juanita moves across the aisle and we sit together until a woman with a toddler is given my seat and then I stand for quite a while until we hit a bigger town and there is a brief time when people get off before more people board to replace them and I get to sit for a while and at another lull we shuffle seats and Juanita and I are back together for the rest of the trip to Estelí.
Cab to Hostal El Alvergue
Walk uptown to cafetin for typical Nica lunch
Walk through park, check out rental cars
Walk back to hotel, surf a bit, nap, read
Walk to Café Luz to checkout list, listless
Walk to Al Colonial for supper
Start walking home remember batteries
Walk back to La Colonia for batteries
Back to hotel, for quiet evening or equivalent with added noise, We are cultural misfits
Go to sleep with fan running
It works for most noises, doesn’t drown out the 6 a.m. siren
Friday – January 31
Slow, relaxed start to the day. Walk up to La Colonia after 8 for breakfast. The food court is open, but no breakfast until 9 so we walk to the cafetin from yesterday and she makes us a custom breakfast of scrambled eggs, cheese and café con leche. It’s a good deal at $2 for both of us, but next time I’ll be sure to mention “without sugar” for the coffee. Two or three spoonfuls must be the norm since it was added without question.
There was a very active street side market set up on the street on the north side of the park. We had walked past it on the way to breakfast but had not wanted to buy anything and carry it. On our way back from breakfast we stared some more and were given some sample chips from plants we could not identify from the Spanish names other than yucca and plaintain. We bought a mixed bag and then bought a dozen mandarin oranges for twenty Cordobas, best price so far this year and half the price of Somoto two days ago. Juanita waited in the entry way of La Colonia while I went in and purchased a gallon jug of water and then we headed back to our hostel.
We stopped on the sidewalk across from an old, crumbling adobe building with a tile roof that was so old that things were growing from it. I had given the chip vendor a curved illusion tract along with two of her customers. While we were standing there on the sidewalk one of those customers came along with her boss who also wanted a tract. I had no more with me so we established that she worked in the government office right there and we promised to bring her some. We went to the hostel and restocked on tracts and returned to the government office and fulfilled the commitment. Then we went to a sidewalk stall and bought an enameled steel cup for coffee.
Back at the hostel I did my laundry and hung it in front of a fan to dry and then went out to the common area to keyboard. There were two French guys and a French girl there. There was much hilarity as the two guys each chugged a glass of orange juice with a raw egg. One way to get protein I suppose. From their reactions I understand it to be a new experience as a low cost breakfast.
The rest of the day was spent puttering with keyboarding and choosing and uploading and posting pictures and visiting with fellow travellers. When we realized we hadn’t eaten it was too dark to be roaming the streets so we had a mandarin orange each and shared the bag of chips: plaintain, yucca, malanga and one remaining to be identified. More visiting then some TV and it was dream time with the fan doing an effective job of drowning out most of the street noises.