The House of Unfinished Projects Part 1

Buying a “fixer upper” in Nicaragua has presented it’s fair share of challenges.  Deciding what should be done first, locating material and hiring competent help has been interesting.  We are always in the middle of several projects at the same time and sometimes it can get very frustrating. In the beginning Mike tended to start projects that we had the materials on hand and stop once we needed to purchase more leaving a lot of things unfinished for months at a time.  It has gotten better now that we have pretty much run out of materials and everything has to be purchased.  We had no ceilings in the house for the first two years because we knew we needed to rewire the house before we could put up ceilings.

the old wiring was just scary, I am surprised the house never caught fire.

the old wiring was just scary, I am surprised the house never caught fire.

much safer

much safer

I waited 2 years for ceilings, love these.

I waited 2 years for ceilings, love these.

We now have cane ceilings downstairs which I love and will soon have them upstairs as well.  The wiring was the big project and Mike decided to do it all himself after seeing what passes for acceptable wiring down here.  We had security doors and windows installed downstairs and getting used to the welder’s work ethic took some patience.  He would tell us he would tell us he would be here first thing in the morning and then show up at 2 pm the next day. A project that should have taken about a week took over a month and the welder saw no problem with this. The kitchen was pretty disgusting when we bought the house

as bad as it looked I could still see the possibilities.

as bad as it looked I could still see the possibilities.

, peeling paint, missing cabinets and a window with a missing pane nailed shut.

rehanging the missing cabinets and fresh paint really helps

rehanging the missing cabinets and fresh paint really helps

At first I liked the countertops, stones in concrete, but I soon realized I didn’t have 1 flat surface in the entire kitchen and with all the crevices the counters are hard to clean. We decided to add some new concrete counterskitchen during 4

adding counter space

adding counter space

and replace the existing ones with concrete also. I plan to keep the stone backsplash and add one to the new counter as well. I was so excited to get the top finished and installed in the kitchen, the only thing left was to seal it. We bought the sealer and were about to apply it only to read that we have to wait 28 days before we can apply it so I still have to wait almost a month before I can use the counter.

We have also started working on the front of the house. This house had absolutely no “curb appeal”. The yard is horrible, random plants with no rhyme or reason with a few patches of grass. The house

the front of the house started out very ugly.

the front of the house started out very ugly.

itself looks like someone was actually trying to win an ugly house award, it would be hard to make a house this ugly without trying. The first thing we have started is installing an awning along the front of the house.awning 4

adding a new tile awning across the front of the house should give it more character.

adding a new tile awning across the front of the house should give it more character.

. After that I want to put some shutters on the upstairs windows and some window boxes on the downstairs windows. If anyone has any suggestions (other than changing the roof, too expensive) I am open to any ideas.

Electricity, or lack of it

Living here on the beach in Nicaragua we experience frequent power outages.  When the electric company is doing any work on the power lines they just turn the power off while they do it, usually for about 4 or 5 hours and always during daylight hours. Not having power for a few hours down here is no big deal, but the other day we had an outage that lasted 22 hours.  It really drove my husband crazy since he had projects planned and needed his power tools.  A lot of our friends have generators but we have not yet found one necessary.  I remember reading an article on the internet written by a woman in the US about how her family “survived” a three day power outage during the middle of the summer and I found it very amusing how much more necessary electricity is in the US than it is down here.  We don’t have air conditioning or a hot water heater, our stove is propane  (that is the norm down here), our house has lots of windows  and doors to let in light and breezes from the ocean.  We were able to go about our daily lives with pretty much no disruption (except for the power tools).  I was able to sit in the living room and read a book, take my normal lukewarm shower, cook meals in my kitchen, we had friends stop by and had cocktails out on the porch,  Since we have just recently gotten internet at the house I didn’t really miss it and we usually only watch TV at night but since I had enough battery power on my computer we were able to watch movies I had downloaded from the internet.  In short, not having power here didn’t affect us the way it would have in the states.  There I would have been lost without electricity for a day.  How would I charge my cell phone, heat up my microwaveable Lean Cuisines, (or even cook since my stove was electric) or check my email.  Houses there are not designed to be without electricity, you need air conditioning because even if you could get a nice breeze by leaving your doors and windows open all night how many people would feel safe doing that, there are no water storage tanks allowing the water to be heated by the sun so you need a water heater, the water coming out of the pipes comes from underground and it is cold. While I have no intention of ever going “off the grid” it is nice to know that the lack of electricity has very little affect on us here.  I will admit I was very glad when it came back on because even being very careful to only open the fridge when absolutely necessary the beer was starting to get a little warm.

Domestic Help

While growing up in a middle class family in the US and having to do “chores” as a child I used to always wish we were rich and could afford a maid.  Well living in Nicaragua you don’t have to be rich to have one and we have a caretaker who takes care of the grounds and provides security at night and his wife cleans the house for us.  There are definite advantages to this and I love being able to have domestic help but there are also some cons as well.  I don’t want to sound like a whiney princess just give you an idea of the pros as well as the cons.

The pros are rather obvious,

They do the work so we don’t have to and they do a better job than I would.

We have security at night, the caretaker gets up 3 times a night to walk the property and he has contacts in the community so he knows when other properties have been experiencing problems.

They don’t speak English so we have no choice but to learn Spanish.

They will dog sit for us if we want to be gone for a few days.

They have lived in the area for most of their lives and know where to get things locally.  If I forget to buy eggs at the grocery store they know where to get some here so I don’t have to drive 17 miles to Diramba.

Now the cons:

They live (in a separate house) on property so they are here 24 hours a day, while they normally are only in our house during the day they may pop up in the evenings as well.  You really have no privacy.

Even though we bought a washing machine because we were tired of having our clothes “washed to death” on the concrete wash sink if I don’t wash the clothes in what they consider a timely manner they will do it for me.  They just don’t understand we don’t want our clothes threadbare and stiff as a board.

When they clean they really clean, they move all the furniture out of the room when they mop which is fine except I was sitting there, I just got up to go to the bathroom and when I come back the room is empty.

All that being said the pros far outweigh the cons and I am very happy to have them, they are a very trustworthy family and make our life here in Nicaragua much more enjoyable.  I just never considered all those years ago when I dreamed of having a maid that I would miss being able to walk around my house in my underwear.