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.

What I have learned my first year in Nicaragua

They say your first year in Nicaragua is like a college education (and will cost you almost as much) and lately I have been looking back at all the things I have learned in the last year and decided to make a list:

Manana does not mean tomorrow, it just means not today.

Hot water is not necessary. (although some mornings it would be nice)

If the price is listed in dollars you are probably going to pay too much for it.

If you have to go to the bank on Friday go to the bathroom first, that is at least 1 hour of your life you will never get back. 

There are some types of cheese I don’t like.

Rosetta Stone may teach you Spanish, it will not teach you Nicaraguan.

My legs are irresistible…….to mosquitos.

Do not assume you will have electricity all day long

Roads are not just for cars & trucks, expect to see ox carts, horses, pigs, dogs, pedicabs, motos (3 wheeled vehicles that only go about 35 miles per hour) and people just sitting (or laying) in the road.

Rice & beans get old very quick.

Every sunset is worth watching.

Getting “dressed up” can still include flip flops.

A bus is never full, if there is no more room inside it is OK to ride on the back bumper, the ladder or even the top of the bus.

4 people will fit on a motorcycle although usually 2 of them are children.
The plastic bag is the national flower of Nicaragua (you see them “growing” all along the side of the road)

You don’t need a lawnmower, grass is cut using a machete.

Relaxing in the hammock is a worthwhile pastime.

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.