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.

The first month

We have been here a little over a month now and things are going well.  We have the business up and running and showing a profit for the first month, very small but at least we are not in the negative.  We are going to have to show more profit if we are going to be able to stay in Nicaragua but we are headed in the right direction.  We have been reluctant to spend much money on the house that wasn’t absolutely necessary so a lot of projects are on hold.  I have been concentrating mainly on cooking and Mike has decided to strip all the windows in the house, the last owner painted all the wooden windows brown so he wants to strip them down to the wood and just put polyurethane over them for protection.  I have to admit the one he has done looks really good and it keeps him from wandering around the house looking for things to do.

 I made my first real batch of cheese today after doing a small test batch the other week.  It won’t be ready until tomorrow but I am looking forward to having something I can use to make lasagna.  I also found recipes for home make crackers and really good humus made from black beans which are readily available and cheap down here.  Last night we had stingray in a roasted garlic cream sauce which was wonderful.  I’m guessing most people are turning up their noses at stingray but it is really good.  You may have had it and not known it because it is one of the things some restaurants will use to make fake scallops and it taste just like scallops.

We had some new neighbors move in a few miles down on Wednesday.  They are teachers and able to spend the summers here in Nicaragua and then back to Canada for the school year.  It is great seeing other expats moving into our area, while we do have several friends in Granada that is a long drive just to visit someone so it will be nice to have another couple to hang out with  We have started Spanish lessons but in true nica fashion our teacher is unable to show up for just about every other class so they are going slowly and he is the only Spanish teacher in the area so if I fire him we will have to drive all the way into Granada for classes so I am hoping he will still work out.

I have gone over our spending for the first month, we had set a budget of $1000 per month for normal expenses; food, power, water, salary for the caretaker, basically everything not related to the business or legal expenses to get our residency here.  I was hoping that we had set it high and would come in way under but right now we are only about $70 under, hopefully next month we can beat that, I would like to get it down closer to $700 which I think is doable, we just have to stay out of La Colonial when we go to Granada, they do have cheaper beer and cigarettes than the local pulparias here but we always end up buying other stuff that we shouldn’t, if we could only get the Tona truck to stop at our house J.

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.

Traveling with Dogs

ImageWhen we decided to move to Nicaragua we knew we would be taking our two large dogs with us, a Rottweiler and a Flat Coated Retriever.  We considered flying them down but gave up on that quickly due to costs and size restrictions.  The Rottweiler was right at the max weight and if she happened to be having a fat day she wouldn’t have made the weigh in, and as you can see from the picture most of her days are fat days. The only other option was driving and my boyfriend decided he wanted to drive down with a friend of his and have me fly down once they arrived, not sure if this is over concern for my safety or his lack of confidence in my map reading skills but regardless I put up no argument over that decision.  The next question was what to drive, I have a Miata & he has a Harley, see any problems with this? After a bit of car shopping the dogs approved a used SUV with plenty of room for them to stretch out (we haven’t told them yet that they will be sharing that space with tools, clothing and kitchen appliances).  With the purchase of the vehicle out of the way the next step was to find out the requirements for taking the dogs in and out of each country they will be traveling through.  I researched on the net, trying to find the requirements of each country and reading any stories posted by people who had done this already and once you sift through all the confliciting information it seems pretty straightforward.  The USDA has a great website (http://www.aphis.usda.gov/regulations/vs/iregs/animals/) that gives specific requirements for each country.  There are other websites that do the same thing but they seem to include in the “requirements”, things they are trying to sell you, (microchips, country specific health certificates, pet passports, etc.)  Hopefully Mike will be able to remember the actual requirements of each country and I will list them here once the trip is done. If anyone else out there has done this already any tips or tricks you learned on the way would be greatly appreciated.