Friday, January 23, 2009
Here are some miscellaneous pictures that capture the essence of Nicaragua. We are going to miss this place. Some things more than others.
We call this the "widow maker" shower. They call it hot water. It only ever get luke warm, tepid at best.
A shoe shine in Esteli. The boys sitting around got a good laugh at Carol-Ann taking the picture when I was half way done. They also laughed at me for wearing white socks.
A fun version of a rooftop garden.
A classic Nicaraguan hazard.
So.... after a good day of checking out the Nica version of the Ontario Science Centre with the, how do I say, 'creative' exhibits, I lay down in the hotel room and let the kids run amuck. I was just dozing off nicely when Nora lets out a scream and it sounds as though a river has changed course into the room. I get up and am required to jump into action. The water tap below the sink, yes, that is correct, a tap under the sink broke when Nora tried to stand on it. Ooops.
As the room quickly filled with water I realized that something needed to be done. Carol-Ann ran away. I looked at the hole at the end of the pipe, then I looked at my finger and thought of a little dutch boy I've read about. (You know the one...the little boy puts his thumb in the dyke to stop the town from being flooded)
I was soaked to the bone and unable to move. What felt like 2 and a half hours later, Carol-Ann came back with the Manager. He shook his head and left. No jokin. He evidently thought my solution was good enough.
The water eventually stopped. I guess the Manager turned it off and we left the building. Returning many hours later, the problem was fixed and we never mentioned it again.
We did get a discount on our rooms, however, it had nothing to do with the water issue. Math is not a strong point for many people it seems.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
For our last adventure we drove up into the interior north of the country. It is wonderfully mountainous with incredible valleys that offers you panoramas of the landscape.
Nicaraguan soil is incredibly fertile in the northern region. It is here that they grow coffee, chocolate, all the vegetables for the entire country, and of course tobacco. In the early 1960's, Cubans began moving to Esteli, along with their precious tobacco seeds and so the industry began. Today, we toured a cigar factory. Not the average school field trip for children, but hey, it was still a field trip. We saw how the tobacco was brought in and each leaf was de-veined. The leaves were then pressed and left to dry. Strangely, the leaves are not crushed or shredded as I had originally thought. The leaves are rolled whole. Different plants with different leaves are used for rolling the outside of the cigar.
Unfortunately, there are less things to do with the children up here. There are few watering holes, no shells to collect, and the central parks are great places to play, but they just don't cut the allure of the beach.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
"You can take the man away from work, but you can't take the work out of the man."
Yup, JD. While at our property we noticed that a very large tree had been cut down. Our neighbour, Colin, said the crazy woman did it. The crazy woman, who was not so crazy, said Colin did it.
We also noticed that Colin had a very organized pile of wood stacked up. Here is picture of JD and Colin discussing the event.
Over 150 years ago, the majority of western Nica was deforested due to logging and exporting. As a result, today no one is allowed to cut down a tree or transport any lumber, without permission.
Well, the wheels in JD's head started turning and he decided to go through all the hoops to get permission to cut the fallen tree up into lumber. After all, it was now lying on our property.
It took a lot of patience to circumnavigate the local municipal government - la Alcaldia. JD had to talk to everyone. Each time the conversation went around in circles.
JD would explain the situation: A tree was felled on our property and I want permission to cut it up into lumber to build a house. And everytime he was told that you can't cut a tree down without a permit.
Eventually, he was given permission to cut the tree, but then they wanted to know exactly how many pieces and what sizes he was going to cut. Again, a conversation of circles. JD would explain that he had no idea what he was going to get from the tree until he started cutting. So they gave him an open permit to cut the tree into lumber, but halfway through the process and before he transported the lumber he had to return back to the Alcaldia to register the quantity.
JD was thrilled. He found a guy with a chainsaw, who found a guy with a truck, who found a couple of guys to help.
And now we have lumber ready and waiting to build our eventual house.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
Beer is delicious here and is always cold. The one litre bottles are a real commitment for me because C-A doesn't share them with me. Cost: ice cold in a restaurant is $2.25 CAD per litre.
I limit my beer days to three per week or I will end up with a belly. The fried food doesn't help much either in this respect.
Food is a bit of an issue with us.........more on that later.
We went to the beach again. This time to Las Pinitas. This quaint village is to the north of the country, close to the colonial city of Leon. We stayed not on the ocean, but along the river that leads into the ocean. Everyday we rode the tides out to the ocean. It seems like the largest water park I have ever seen.
Along this river, but much farther up into the swamp zone of the mangrove forest you can find all sorts of animals....like crocodiles. We hired a boat and a tour guide to make the trek into the 'scary zone'.
Also along this stretch of river we swam with hermit crabs, a family of pigs, black vultures, plenty of dogs, and even more children. We watched as the fishing boats came back every day and would unload their catch. There were sting rays, hammerhead sharks, and plenty of fish with unknown names. (Oh yeah, we named one Henry)
Now I have never seen pigs fly, but I have also never seen pigs swim. How bizarre.
Monday, January 5, 2009
Here it is. This is the view from our property. We front onto the Rio Citalapa with a view to the Pacific Ocean. JD and I have been thinking already about house designs. We will make sure there is sufficient space to allow for visiting guests.
But, that will be in many years to come. We have a lot of work to do first.Here is a picture of our lot with all the splendor of vegetation.
What you cannot see are all the little prickly seeds that come from a particular plant that is everywhere. Nor can you see the mosquitoes that live in the crab holes which are everywhere.
Hmmm. Sound inviting? Anybody booking their tickets just yet?
While we are here, we have hired some locals to clear the land of brush and to erect a fence surrounding the property. This is to confirm that the property is owned and that squatters will not be able to set up house and claim rights.
The income of this area is sugar cane. It looks like a very large Miscanthus Grass in many an ornamental garden that I have planted. It is very beautiful. The stocks are cut down and hauled away to be processed into sugar just 17 kms down the coast at a town called Masachapa.
This is another beautiful sunset, but captured along a service road between fields of sugar cane.
We have been checking out our property this week. JD and I found two great nica girls to look after and play with our three canadian girls while we drove off on motorbikes.
What a trip. Me on a motorbike! Not your everyday occurrence. As a result JD took soooo many pictures.
-just to document the event and make sure he had a reminder of it
- just in case I never get on a bike again.
After all, I went on twisty curvy roads, had to swerve for cows, pigs, horses, chickens, dogs, people, cars and potholes and before all that started, I had to get myself out of the the crazy city of Managua. Previously to the motorbiking I drove exactly two times in our rented Jeep and can you guess how many times I was pulled over by the police? yup. two. But in my opinion they were for ridiculous reasons. The first was because a taxi stopped in front of me on a green light and appeared not to be going anywhere. I made the choice to go around him. Wrong choice!! You are not allowed to change lanes in an intersection. Due to my limited spanish I failed to ask the police if it was legal to stop at an intersection on a green light. The second was equally as ridiculous. You are not allowed to pass another vehicle just prior to or on a bridge. However, there are no road signs to indicate that a bridge is up ahead. Hmm.
Anyways. I apparently am a better driver on a motorbike.
Our first destination was our property at Playa Miraflores.
Friday, January 2, 2009
Surprising as it may seem this is a land of choice.You can choose between strange looking red things, strange looking green things, or strange looking yellow things. All available conveniently delivered to you doorstep in the back of a pickup.
You can take one of the many brightly coloured buses or you can walk.
Pepsi or Coke.
Best wishes to all. Had a relaxing couple of days in a small fishing village called El Gigante. Fantastic beach and a great Surf Camp called 'Giant Foot'. Then it was back to Sal's house because all the hotels had been prebooked for the holiday.
There were roadside vendors selling thousands of fireworks, most of them homemade, the rest chinese. We bought a bunch to bring in the new year. When in Nica do as the Nicas do. The firework show all over the country started at 6pm and continued until dawn. The explosions were so loud they would set of the car alarms in our neighbourhood, much to the delight of the perpetrators (more noise the better). A house on our street hosted a Nuevo Ano Fiesta which meant loud polka type music till dawn. There was an upside to this though.... the noise completely drowned out the barking dogs and roosters crowing.
Throughout the country people made effigies and placed them, in different poses, in front of their homes. In the pockets they place their resolution lists and at the stroke of midnight they set fire to them and toss them into the middle of the street to burn.
Thursday, January 1, 2009
Well we finally decided that there must be more to Nica than a bunch of foreigners and surfer dudes hanging out in a beautiful bay, so we packed up and moved on.
Averyl and Nora loved the waves and Elsie liked playing in the black sand.
Next stop was to be the island of Ometepe. To get there we would need to book passage on a ferry. This turned out to be impossible due to the Holiday season. Nicaraguans were on the move too. Seems that they had the same idea as we did and the ferry was booked solid for the next two days. When I came back from the ticket office with the news I saw C-A breathe a sigh of relief, because while I was gone she had tossed the kids in the lake and was in the process of wondering if that had been such a good idea. The waves were crazy and last time we were on a ferry in rough water she had spent her time barfing over the railing.
Averyl and Nora loved the waves and Elsie liked playing in the black sand.
We booked a room and treated ourselves to some fantastic seafood at the 'Gran Diamonte' restaurant.
Here is a MUGSHOT of the bad-ass chicken that chased the littlest Shifflett around a San Juan del Sur restaurant.
If you see this thug RUN!!!!
Nora, mind you, wasn't the least bit amused. The rest of us may have giggled a bit though. It was quite a sight.