Sunday, August 31, 2008

First week in Nicaragua 8.31.08

We’ve been in Nicaragua for a week and it’s been a fun. We had a nice birthday for Michael. Had a nice breakfast, went to the beach

surfed a while (Michael got up several times but I only got up on my time they're working on me standing), then came back to the house & showered and headed into town.

Even Mocha got a shot at surfing! And I hate to say it but think he may have done better than both of us....

There is a great little Italian restaurant that we went to for dinner, then downtown for drinks & dancing. We ended up back home around 2am or so...and had a great time!!

Oh, also we had an invasion! It absolutely poured the night before and in the morning there were a ton of Alacrons (scorpions) that managed to get everywhere around the house.

Michael & Scott started killing them and finding more & more, then the army ants came....and almost took over! The Army Ants were attacking the scorpions! We got to watch this, armed with a machete & a broom to keep everything off of the patio while Scott mixed up some bug spray. It was really amazing. All in all, I believe we counted about 40 of them.

The area is absolutely beautiful. It's definitely a third world country though, no paved roads in their town except for a few streets that are still cobblestone - you must have 4 wheel drive and must be prepared to bounce excessively on the drives. We're in the JUNGLE!! It's nice - save electricity, enjoy your surroundings, etc. There are bugs here, but no more than while we were camping. skeeters that bite, but we wore more au-de-bug spray when we were camping than I have here. San Juan del Sur is a great beach town. There are lots of young people here, lots of foreigners from everywhere around the world. Adventure backpackers, surfers, and travelers looking for beautiful beaches. It's an absolutely beautiful place - jungle that goes right down to the beach, beautiful white sand beaches, lots of wildlife - birds that make absolutely wonderful songs, etc.

It's been nice here - in the 80's and 90's with between 80 to 94% humidity each day. It has rained every day, some days harder than others. The rain brings down the temperature which is nice unless it only rains a little where it just increases the humidity and makes it worse. It's less hot here than it was in Corpus, but just as muggy. You can't leave the house without sweating.

Scott & Liz’s house where we’re staying is very nice, two bedroom, two bath, with a large family/dining/kitchen area. Their dogs (they have 4 of them) are an active part of their lives, they don't go anywhere without them and they're constantly around licking you, etc. They also have 3 cats but they're not around much. There is no hot water. All showers, dishes, etc are taken with the lukewarm water that comes from the well and is stored where it heats to room temperature. Getting into the shower is sometimes difficult! But amazingly, you feel soooo better once you're finished. They have a wonderful garden & eat many things from it which is way cool. They also eat a ton of chiles which we also like but they eat them much more. They use chilis in most everything they make and it makes my head spin. They have a great plant right outside of the deck on the front of the house called 'Chili Diablos' as they don't know what kind of chili's they are. It's a beautiful plant, the chilis are only about 1" long and start out purple, change to orange, yellow, & finally red. The purple is mild, the red hot, hot, hot. I'm hoping to take some seeds back with me to the boat to plant in a little pot, it's such a beautiful plant, very colorful. Everything grows here in the jungle & they've planted lots in the garden. It's nice, everything is fresh - fresh made tortillas, fresh veggies from the garden, etc. They have a dirt/mud driveway that's about 1/2 mile up from the main road, the Chocolada which is like the coast highway of Nicaragua. The closest town is San Juan del Sur and is about 4.2 miles away from their driveway. It takes 20-30 minutes to get to town because of the roads. The only thing I could compare it to is when you’re traveling in L.A. traffic and it’s stop & go….well, it’s very similar here. Drive 20mph, stop to go over some bumps, drive a little, stop again, it’s incredible.

They also have a casita on the property, a 1 bedroom/1bath house totally separate and down the road from the main house that they rent out as a vacation rental. I've been working with Liz with her website that she built. There are lots of changes but check it out…

They are ‘off the grid’, making their own power either by generator or solar. To install power at their house would cost $20K and then the electricity is very expensive. It’s just like living on a boat! They have Satellite TV (which was installed while we were here) and also Satellite Internet. The internet has been problematic for the past couple weeks, up and down all the time until it was down for about 4 days straight. Turns out they had to pull down the radio off of the water tower and found army ants had invaded it, turning it into their own little nest. The computer guy (Nica Geeks) came out to fix it and we’ve been back up & running since. They have a well that water is pumped out of and into a water tank. The water is then mostly gravity fed through the house. It’s an amazing system. Everything else is just as you would expect of a house still being built. They have screened windows which sounds so normal, but in this country, most windows are not screened and they have a mosquito netting over the bed instead. It’s sooo much nicer this way as the windows can be left open, ceiling fans on and enjoy the beautiful evening air without the bother of bugs.

This week the offshores blew all week – South winds, which ruined the surfing so we used the week to rest, relax, & enjoy the area. Next week we're planning on shopping & enjoying the area - Liz needs a kitchen table (she has one now but wants a better one), hammocks, small lamp fixtures for outside lights, small tables for the bathroom, etc. We're also planning a trip to one of the volcanoes in the middle of Lake Nicaragua where we can hike & will stay the night as it's such a long (time consuming) place to travel to. We haven't been back at the beach since last Saturday because of the South winds and it looks like they’ll be here a while longer because of the hurricanes in the Gulf.

Michael had some bad news on his b-day, his dad went into the hospital with chest pain, he thought he had a heart attack but they determined it wasn't, but are keeping him because of his kidneys and talking dialysis. Ugghhh... Michael's stressed and worried. He’s better, left the hospital on Friday. They found there was a drug interaction with his meds which shut down his kidneys totally. I couldn't get any details out of Michael so can't tell you which ones. His 'new' kidney Dr came in and scolded him for not knowing he was not supposed to take these two meds together. He said he's feeling much better now, still weak, but OK.

Scott has been sick since we arrived so we've been hanging low here at the house for the week. We've been working in the garden, chasing howler monkeys through the jungle, practicing our Spanish with the workers that work here, reading (I've read 3 1/2 books since we got here!), reading, reading, relaxing, and cooking a ton. It's been great. We bought a book series 'Twilight' by Stephanie Meyer for Michael to read about vampires and I've been reading them as well. He's on book 4 of the series and I'm just beginning on book 3. They're labeled 'teen' reading so they're light & cute. About a girl that falls in love with a vampire, then a werewolf, and all the trials & tribulations surround that. It's cute & fun. Then Scott & Liz gave us a stack of books to take back with us and in the stack was a Dean Koontz book 'Velocity' was riveting. I finished it in 2 days and had lots of crazy twists & turns.

Since it has rained every day, we've only left the house 2 days to go into town. Monday we headed into Rivas which is a pretty big town to the Northeast of us and went in search of materials that Scott needed to install his wind generator - a ladder & wire to hold it in place. We had to order everything and it was just available on Saturday. Scott was not feeling good at all while we were in Rivas so we picked up what we could for groceries and headed home. It's amazing - there are Ox carts & horse carts everywhere here, most Nicaraguans don't drive or have vehicles, only bicycles, ATV's, or walk. When we went to Rivas we picked up an elderly man who was hitchhiking along the side of the road and on our way back, we picked up a mom & daughter probably 15 or so. The Nicaraguans are friendly, but not as friendly as the Mexicans. We stayed in, making lots to eat & drink (shakes that they call here 'frescos' that are mostly made with inedible fruits that you boil then blend with sugar, cinnamon, & clove that are just divine). We've had true Nicaraguan fare sold to us by the neighbors - enchiladas that are more like an empanada - huge, stuffed solid of chicken, rice, & lots of flavor. The next time we went into town it was just Liz & I. We went to the water store, the propane store, the cell phone store to buy more minutes on her cell phone, the mercado where we purchased some fresh veggies, fruit, an avocado the size of a HUGE papaya, & other little stuff. Then we went to the 'Pali' which is like a miniature Vons to pick up the rest of the stuff - rice, beans, sugar, flour, etc. That part is just like Mexico. You don't have a large store to go to to purchase everything on your grocery list. I love/hate it. It takes a ton of time but is so much fun to go everywhere. We did a little shopping while we were in town, there are a few places to 'shop' for beach clothes, slaps, and little stuff. We're going to go into the big town later this week and will shop for some of the handcrafted stuff that the town is famous for.

Scott & Liz have two workers from down along the main road, Katy (pronounced Caught-Y, not Kate-y) and Victor. Victor works M-F and 1/2 day Saturday. He earns $10/day. He works outside all day digging, using the machete to clear the land, moving rocks, dirt, cutting down trees, and just about anything they want him to, climb this tower, move this, clean this, etc. He's 23, married to an 18 year old who is the sister of Katy. Katy works inside, cleaning the house, doing dishes, washing laundry by hand, making homemade tortillas, planting flowers, making food, etc. She just does about anything 'inside' where Victor does everything outside. She's much more than a maid, more a housekeeper. She just does everything. They both do not speak any english, although Katy is attempting to learn. She is very shy, but wants to talk to me in Spanish. I've forgotten much of my spanish and am trying to talk to her back and luckily have Liz to help translate often. She has 3 kids and if I remember right, is like 28. She has an 11 year old, an 8 year old, & a 2 year old. Very cute kids. Her oldest is protesting going to school so she said fine, you go to work with me. So her 11 year old has been here the last couple days and finally told her mom that it was too much work, she'll go back to school. Funny. Katy comes M-W-F but with us here, has come M-T-W-F-S. She earns $7.50-$10/day as well, depending on how long she works. It's kinda embarrassing having her do our laundry but boy can she get the stains out of our clothes!! I want to learn how to make tortillas from her on Monday if we're around for it, she makes it look sooo easy!! Oh, the average daily wage here is $5/day. And both Katy and Victor are always busy, never sitting around, always doing something.

The exchange rate here is like 18 to 1. The currency is called Cordovas or 'Cords'. We round to 20 when trying to figure it out so it's easier. Things are very inexpensive here, but finding things is difficult and some things are a bit 'cheap' too.

That’s it for now, I hope you enjoy our tales of doing….well….not much! In a nutshell, eating, sleeping, reading, watching the new TV, gardening, and just checking everything out. I’ll attempt to update more frequently the remainder of our trip.

Have a great Labor Day weekend!


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