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.

What is Nicaragua like? Part 1

 

People often ask me, what is Nicaragua like?  I usually tell them how great the weather is, how friendly the people are and that every day is an adventure, you never know what you will see but on a recent drive to Managua I decided it would be better to show what Nicaragua is like instead of trying to describe it, sometimes there are no words for what you see here.  This picture is a perfect example:

 

A guy riding on the back of a pickup truck driving down the highway.  He couldn’t sit up front because there are already two passengers up there and the law requires that each person in the front seat wear a seatbelt.  But this is not the strangest part of the picture.  If you look at what is in the left side of the truck you will see a pig.

 

I have seen pigs riding in the back of trucks, inside the 3 wheeled motos they use for taxis here and even tied to the back of a chicken bus in a sack.  You see them wandering out in the road, out on the beach trying to steal fish from fishermen and I even saw a girl walking a small pig on a leash.  I have been told that the reason you don’t see the really big ones is because once they get very large people will steal them so the owners keep them inside their houses.  I can’t wait to visit someone and find a pig in the living room .

 

But don’t get the idea Nicaragua is a completely backwards third world country, we do have our amenities’ as well.  We have modern convenience stores:

 

Large air conditioned grocery stores:

 

And upscale shopping malls:

 

But you can avoid all of these if you choose to because you can buy just about anything from your car window at a stoplight.

 

Hungry?  This guy is selling mango slices and several guys at the next light will probably be selling cashews and there will be someone with water as well.  The girl below is selling some type of cooked food prepared right on the side of the road.  You can tell she is planning on being there for a while; she brought her hammock with her.

 

 But don’t think food is the only thing available, if you drove around long enough you could probably find everything you need.

 

This girl is selling candy and window decals.  I have seen cell phones, medicine, car seats, stuffed animals and many more things I can’t remember for sale on the side of the road.  But vendors are not the only thing at stoplights, we also have entertainment

 

How often do you see someone juggling fire sticks at a stoplight?  I have also seen acrobats, window washers and just plain beggars.  Every stoplight is an adventure.

Settling in

We have been down here long enough to establish a routine and it is going well.  Sundays are always internet days, we come down to the hotel in Caseres to use the internet and have a few (how many is a few) beers, we talk to family, Mike checks out Facebook and I look for new fish recipes.  Mondays usually end up being cooking days for me since we don’t have to deliver fish, I will make beans for the week since beans take a long time to cook but I have discovered a recipe for black bean humus that takes a short time to eat, chicken broth so the dog will eat her dog food, she has gotten picky down here and will only eat her food if I put chicken broth over it!! and then usually pizza or some other dish that requires a lot of time for dinner.  Mike will work around the house, sanding the windows or working on his grill, he has added a cement platform and plans to put a roof on it so he can cook in the rain.  He has even shoveled out the bottom of my “nica pool” and now with all the sand out it is about a foot deeper 🙂  Tuesdays are a busy day since we have to deliver fish to all our customers in Granada, that is an all day event and we usually get home very late.  Wednesdays we usually go down to visit friends from Canada who are here for another week and have a few drinks (once again, how many is a few?).  Thursdays tend to be another productive day around the house, Fridays more fish deliveries and Saturdays are reserved for the hammock.  It’s a hard life but someone has to do it 🙂  When I think about how crazy my life in the states was, working more hours than I care to count, no time for myself and Mike & I might go days without seeing each other, all I can think is I hope it works out down here because I don’t ever want to go back to that!!!!!  So far each week we manage to make more and spend less money so we are headed in the right direction.  We still haven’t been able to get the Tona truck to stop at our house but we are able to add our order to the beer the hotel buys and get it at wholesale prices, we just have to return the empty bottles every Wednesday and they magically appeared filled on Thursday.

I have been in Nicaragua for 1 week now and starting to settle into a rhythm.  One of the things I really like about living down here is we have a caretaker who takes care of cleaning the house and doing our laundry, it is really nice not having to do that myself and it also gives me a lot more free time.  While a great deal of this is spent on the beach or in our pool I am also trying to master cooking in Nicaragua.  The first couple of times we came down everything I made turned out horrible.  Having never used a gas stove and working with fruits and vegetables I had never seen before made for some “memorable” dinners but not in a good way.  Also trying to make a lot of the same things I did in the states was frustrating because of the lack of available ingredients, does anyone know where to get goat cheese???  I have now made friends with the stove and some online research and experimentation with local ingredients, along with advice from our caretaker’s wife have lead to some fairly good meals.  Now instead of dreading having to cook and how it is going to turn out I am actually enjoying my time in the kitchen.  I still haven’t given up on adapting some of my favorite recipes from the states to Nica friendly versions but the new stuff I am coming up with is really good too.  Samuel, the caretaker’s 6 year old son told me I am no longer a bad cook so I think I am headed in the right direction.

Mike and Mark’s great central american adventure

Well the Honda is packed and the guys are ready to go but tragedy struck.  At around 8:00 pm the night before they are leaving Mark’s passport is missing, he is sure he put it in the glove box but it is no longer in there.  We take everything out, go thru it one piece at the time but no passport.  It’s not in the glove box, the center console, the side door console or under the seat, it is time to panic.  Mark is sure he put it in the glove box so one last check with a flashlight and we can see it solidly wedged behind the glove box and about 3 inches out of reach.  After several minutes that seemed like hours Mike was able to get his hand behind the glove box from the bottom and pull it out.  Yea!! the trip is back on schedule.

The next morning the guys set out on the two-day drive to the first border crossing.  They arrive at the Mexican border on Sunday morning, yes we have read to try to hit them on week days but Macy’s (the dog) paperwork didn’t arrive soon enough to make that happen.  Mike thought they would still be able to cross but it would just be slower.  This was not the case.  They got across the border but one of the checkpoints they had to go thru to get the paperwork for the vehicle was closed, not slow but completely closed.  So it is back across the border to spend the day in lovely Brownsville TX and try again the next day which is a Monday.

It turns out that waiting until Monday turned out to be a godsend.  Mike & Mark met a couple traveling all the way to South America with a dog who have already done this several times and speak fluent Spanish and are nice enough to let the guys follow along.  Mike has documented their adventure at the following link http://www.nicaliving.com/node/20226.

We are all here in Nicaragua now and settling into life in Central America.  No internet at the house yet because you have to have residency to sign a contract and Claro requires a contract for internet.

Packed and ready to go!!!

ImageImageIt took 3 days to load the SUV but it is now ready to go.  We had to leave some room for Macy, our dog, but every other square inch is full.  I have made detailed lists and taken pictures of everything so I hope Mike won’t have to unload the vehicle at every border crossing.  Has anyone out there had any experience with this?  Any advice is appreciated.

The only thing we are waiting on now is the paperwork from the USDA for Macy, hopefully it will arrive today and we can leave tomorrow morning.  Mike & his friend Mark headed south and me to North Carolina to visit family for a few weeks.  They hope to make it down in about 8 days if everything goes as planned so I am allowing two weeks because I’m sure things won’t go as planned :).

Kodak

This entry really has nothing to do with Nicaragua, living on the beach or moving but I wanted to write it anyway.  Kodak, Mike’s flat coated retriever,  passed away yesterday morning.  We had taken her to the vet on Friday because she wasn’t eating.  The doctor found a 2 1/2 lb. tumor on her spleen that had ruptured and she was bleeding internally.  He said he could remove it and she had about a 50% chance of surviving the surgery and about a 75% chance that the tumor would be malignant.  We immediately agreed to the surgery and hoped for the best.  Kodak spent Friday & Saturday in the animal hospital and was able to come home Sunday for Mike’s birthday but she absolutely refused to eat anything no matter what we tried to bribe her with, not even peanut butter.  Monday we took her back to the hospital for the day and they put her on an IV to give her fluids but explained to us if she didn’t start eating now we would have to discuss “other options”.  That night at home at about 2:30 in the morning she made a strange barking noise & woke up Mike.  I think she wanted to let us know it was time for her to go and we were able to be with her as she passed.  I know a lot of people would say, “oh, I would never spend thousands of dollars to try to save a dog, that is just nuts” and I used to be one of those people.  Until you are in that situation  and the only thing standing between your dog possibly living or definitely dying is a piece of plastic you really don’t know.  Even though she didn’t make it I know we did everything possible to give her the chance and we got to spend a few more days with her.  This is the first time I have ever been through this and I have to tell you, I had no idea how much she had worked her way into my heart and how much I miss her.  It is amazing how attached we can get to our pets and how attached they can get to each other.  Our Rotti, Macy laid on the couch last night making these really sad chirping noises and wouldn’t come in the bedroom with us.  I swear I think she was crying and waiting on Kodak to come home.  She will now be making the journey to Nicaragua without her buddy but there are two dogs at our house that belong to our caretaker so hopefully she will be able to make some new friends, even if she doesn’t bark spanish.