Thursday, October 1, 2009

Our Final Post!

With mixed emotion, we have decided to no longer update our blog. The purpose of keeping the blog was originally to keep family & friends updated as the where we were and to assure them we were fine. We also wanted to share this wonderful experience with any who wished to travel with us in spirit.

We have reached the point here in Nicaragua that life has started to fall into a routine, of sorts. No longer just an experience but our actual life for the time being. As such, keeping the blog feels a little vain. Our day to day is often no different than anyone else's day to day.

We would hope though, to remain in contact with friends & family through e-mail.....that way we get your news and it's not all about us :)

Your friends,

Gary, Joanna & Nikki

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Basura Por Favor.........

Nicaragua is suffering a drought caused by the weather phenomenon El Nino. The UN is in the process of providing emergency funds for food. Here on the ground, the reality of the situation is starting to become evident. Last week on garbage day, we had two separate men ring our bell and ask for our garbage! I leave it locked just inside the gate so that the street dogs don't get into it and then run like a mad woman when I hear the garbage truck coming down the street. These men obviously wanted to go through it to find both food & things that were saleable! We have also four times in the last week had our door bell rung by people begging. This has never happened before....and no matter how bad I feel or how much I want to provide something for them, you can't. You'd have them lined up constantly at your door, needy and greedy alike.

Another indication of the problem becoming more severe is a rise in crime. Nicaragua is said to be the safest country in Latin America but common theft is still a real problem (as we have discovered) and from what we read in the news is increasing. Gary & I were talking to a well dressed young Nicaragua at a restaurant. He started asking for some personal information (this is normal in Nicaragua. Being asked "how much do you earn" or "how much is your rent" is not considered rude) and we explained that we were uncomfortable answering due to a recent break in that had left us a little jaded. An interesting conversation ensued in which he indicated the belief that if someone has a lot and you are in need then stealing it would no longer be wrong! We were gob smacked. Such a huge gap between our basic beliefs and his. No wonder common theft is such an issue here. If they simply don't see it as wrong, then how can you make them stop? And as a foreigner, no matter how little you may have, you are always seen as rich.

Seeing the inside of another culture like this is fascinating.

We have just completed a crazy four days. We had a local Missionary couple for dinner on Sunday. Then Monday we had the Manzanares' (a newly assigned Missionary couple we meet in the States) come mid morning to stay for two days with a friend they had served at Patterson with. We had a delightful time with them, despite losing power half way through a movie we were watching! They took Nikki with them and went on a boat tour of the Isleta's just outside of Granada. She was very sorry to see them go! Half an hour after they left, we had the new C/O and his wife come for lunch. He is American and she is Nicaraguan. We are very excited to have them as the last C/O didn't speak any English so this is a real treat!

The heat is continuing to make life a little more challenging....not heat actually more the intense humidity and lack of air movement. On the upside, the tropical foliage surrounding us, in particular in our courtyard where we can water it, is gorgeous! Service continues to be a delight. Gary had an amazing call, which is now a study, on a lawyer. When he returned he got another young man home instead who is a dentist and also wants to study and when he returned again, got yet another young man (yes all in the same house) who now ALSO wants to study!! Three amazing calls in one house! They all have deep questions and are very serious about finding the answers. The one who is a dentist, Jamie, has also offered to take care of our dental needs for us and the really exciting part of that is that it looks like Gary will finally get some permanent front teeth made up. Then he won't always be losing them or leaving them in weird places for me to find (or sit on). I think he'll actually miss them.

Gary said his first prayer in Spanish last night! We were so proud :)

That's it for now.....oh I could ramble on endlessly but then who would do the laundry????

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Last Night's Visitor.......

Just before we went to bed, Gary noticed this "lovely" fellow in our house, just outside our bedroom. I think he is a Brown Zebra Tarantula......Not a good way to start a peaceful nights sleep. I woke up all through the night feeling like something was crawling on me (active imagination) and checked the bed at least three times with a flashlight.

Just to show it's not all gross creatures (did I mention the scorpion the size of a newborn kitten hiding in Nikki's toys) I have also included a picture of "Fred" our resident iguana who lives in our courtyard and can often be seen on the ground munching mouthfuls of lush green leaves. He is extremely nervous though and moves with incredible speed back up the wall if we move towards him.

We also have a possum but we haven't been able to get a shot out of her yet! So it's not all bad....but come on, a tarantula! You have to freak out a little.........

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

La Boquita Beach

We escaped the heat of Granada for the day at headed to a "new to us" Pacific Ocean beach just over an hour away. Although far less known than San Juan Del Sur it was, we voted, much more beautiful and true to the flavour of Nicaragua.

As we arrived about 6 men came running at our vehicle. That was not bad grammar, they literally ran AT us! The beach is dead mid week so I guess we were treated to the extra attention. They stood in our way and all started madly gesturing, jostling for the closest positions to the car. After getting over the shock and using some Spanglish, we eventually realised that these men were paid to bring customers into the various restaurants on the beach. I use the term "restaurants" loosely as they are basically just open thatched lean to's with sand floors where they will serve you food and allow you to use make use of their shade (and blaring music) for the day.
We settled on one (with the promise of cheap lobster) and agreed to pay some young kids to watch our vehicle. Once in and settled, the price for the lobster went up considerably! After much negotiation and arm flailing, it was brought back down to reasonable price....and let me tell you, it was the best Lobster & Shrimp (which were MASSIVE) that we have ever had (sorry folks back home in Nova Scotia, it's true). It took over an hour for them to prepare it for us. They cook in a little shed over an open fire. The rice tasted like smoke (delicious). The wait was not a problem though as we made good use of the empty beach and the best waves we have ever been in. At one point Nikki & I were rolled under one which really frightened her and bashed up my knee but she was soon back out after a few tears.
The Lobster platters eventually came out. They had been marinated and then cooked with a glorious concoction of garlic, onions, green pepper & celery minced together with a blend of oil and seasonings smothering them. I had 8 shrimp, the size of small lobsters with claws full of meat cooked similarly. Gary had the Lobster & we shared. Debbie & Steve had ordered one platter to share but soon realised it was not enough of this amazing treat and ordered a second one!
We shared the restaurant with a menagerie of animals, including a number of large pigs! It was a riot watching the largest pig dig around in the sand for some scraps and then take herself off down to the Ocean for a roll around in the surf! A family group of Nicaraguan later arrived and were frolicking around in the water, fully dressed in dress pants/skirts and tops! Towards evening a group of surfers arrived providing us with a stunning display of their prowess over the crashing waves.
It was a gloriously sunny, relaxing day. We arrived home in our rented car late in the evening, ready for a week of busy activity. Monday's are our day off and we are making the most of them! We woke up this morning. looked at each other and said tongue in cheek "wonder what the weather will be like today!" Ha. Hot, humid and sunny!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Everyday Life!

Plans are well underway for the Special English Convention coming up in October. Steve & Gary have been asked to care for the attendant dept so that should keep them out of trouble as well as some parts that they are involved with. We are really looking forward to the boost. The speakers are Missionaries, Special Pioneers, Bethelites and Need Greater so the quality of the parts is said to be very high....we are so excited!

This Monday was Independence Day in Nicaragua. It is a national holiday so many Nica's had it off work and joined in the festivities here in Granada which included what appeared to be a drumming competition. I don't know how they could stand the main square, dressed in suits in the sweltering sun and humidity, beating their drums like mad! The crowds were immense! We watched from the comfort of our home on the local television station where we were safe from pick pockets! We could hear it the from our courtyard. Nicaragua's certainly love life!
Speaking of which. We invited a group of the friends over for dinner on Saturday night. We had racked our brains as to what we could do that would over come the language barrier and allow all to have a laugh. We came up with bible charades and we were a little worried how they would react to the idea.....! They put us to shame! They threw themselves into it and it was a loud, hilarious game with fierce but friendly competition between the two teams! At the end one Spanish brother, Armando, asked me to put a CD in so he could play a ended up being "we are the champions" at which point his team joined arms and rubbed in their victory by belting it out in their broken English. It was side splitting fun and I said to Gary afterwards that I hadn't laughed like that in months!
At dinner, they were telling us that they eat rice everyday! Even if they are eating Spaghetti (like I had made) they would serve it with a side of rice. They said they don't feel like it is a complete meal without it, that it is cultural and comes from needing to fill bellies with very little funds. There is so much that I have always taken for granted and so much I am learning. They usually eat beans every day too. Not because they like them, but because it is an inexpensive protein. I can't imagine.....partly because I am married to Gary and feeding him beans everyday....well I just can't imagine :)
I was showing Jessie, a sister close to my age with two young girls, around the house. She saw my washing machine and drooled! Before I explain why, let me say that when we had first met Jessie & Armando, we thought they were well to do Nicaraguan's. They are a very attractive young family, always immaculately turned out (he wears cuff links) and some what sophisticated. He works at the local University as an engineer I think. Anyway, as it turns out she told me (from what I understood from her limited English & my limited Spanish) that she has never had a washing machine. It is something they really want though and have been saving for a long time for. She gets up at 4 am every morning so that she can do all their laundry by hand on her concrete "Pila", most of which she also makes herself. She then gets all her house work done by 6am so that she can get her older daughter ready for school and then she goes in service with her 3 year old. She has 8 studies and is planning on becoming a regular pioneer. They have no car, only a motor bike which all 4 ride on together! When they left our house that night, they all climbed on board, like professionals, looking as beautiful as a family out of a Best Housekeeping article and I thought "Happiness is indeed an attitude, a choice, not anything our circumstances themselves should dictate".
We are in the middle of a heat wave here and due to El Nino we are told, we are just not getting the needed rains, just the unbearable humidity. It's like living in a sauna. You almost forget what it's like to be dry. On the upside, I'm sure it's really good for your pores! I'll keep singing my new little mantra "happy, happy happy...."

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Singing "Hot, Hot, Hot"........

Sorry for the lateness of this post. There are a number of contributing factors. My best excuse is that our computer has crashed and we are reduced to begging Nikki for time on hers....and she, we have discovered, she is not good at sharing :/ We thought we had done so well with her....

The pictures are not even particularly fitting for the blog I am writing, we are also down to begging for use of her camera since our good one was among the things stolen...and as I have mentioned, that doesn't work very well for us......One is of the local high school band marching; one is us with Debbie out for the day swimming; one is a common sight here, a horse wandering around looking for something to eat; one of Gary on one of his studies that Nikki took (I think he simply got in the way, she was shooting for the bird in the cage!) one of Gary on our patio; one of Nikki cooling down in the courtyard and finally, one of Gary sick last week in bed (he took his temperature constantly. Nikki & I were killing ourselves laughing, poor guy.)

Another factor has been the over whelming heat that makes you want to do nothing but sit very still and not think too hard. I wonder if it, along with the high humidity, may have contributed to our computer giving up on life. One of the local friends in the group told us at the meeting for service this morning that yesterday was one of the hottest days on record. The rainy season has simply failed to be rainy, so far. Today with the humidex we were at 114 degrees! And it felt it. Without, we were still at 97. The sweat literally runs down your back in streams while you just stand there, so you can imagine the effort it takes to walk in service! I even googled "sweaty upper lip" yesterday as it is the first time in my life that this is happening to me. I notice it on every one. It feels awful and I was hoping to find a way to combat's not a good look for me! Then again, neither is the wet patch on my butt & back!

It feels shameful to complain though as we have this lovely home to come back to and at least have AC in our bedrooms. One of my studies is a school teacher and I noticed this week that her father is a MD as his Diploma was on the wall. Yet they live in a house with no windows, only a front door to let in breeze, no ceiling, only the bare hot tin roof and certainly no AC. In fact I have never even seen a fan. Electricity here is prohibitively expensive and most people can barely afford lights, let alone "luxuries".

Our English group is growing and was described recently by the Branch as "stable" which is very satisfying for all of us here. Our Sunday meetings have almost doubled in attendance over the last couple of months with about 1/3 of the attendance usually being Bible Studies. Being in a group presents some unique challenges and we are learning so much and being challenged in ways we never imagined. It's been a tremendous learning curve for us as a family.

We rented a car for a number of jobs we had to do in the city over the weekend and it was heaven. It made us feel human for a couple of days. It was our first time really driving here and it went well. We now have our Missionary Visas (Cedulas) which are valid for a year...and to be honest at this point that is what we are shooting for. A year. Then we will re-evaluate. We are watching carefully how everything affects Nikki.

We started back to our home school schedule this week which felt really good. We really do enjoy it and I learn so much (who knew there were 5 kingdoms for all life to fit into??) so it brings us really close and we have a laugh. Gary was really sick last week with a high fever but he seems to be much better this week, it was a discouraging start to his year of pioneering though.

Boring stuff this Even the glue sniffing garbage pickers have been missing in action this week no doubt due to the heat. Bring on the rain!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Laguna De Apoyo...Finally!

We finally made it for a swim in the incredible Laguna De Apoyo, a sleeping imploaded volcano heated with thermal vents.

Located about 15 minutes from Granada, the scenery as you wind your way up the volcano and then as you take the sharp dip down into the rim, is gorgeous, with distant views of the colourful buildings of Granada in the far distance. We arrived to the sounds of monkeys and soon were able to view them high in the canopy, a family of three Black Howler Monkeys. The baby was adorable and very curious about us, from the safety of his mothers back. The Dad yelled at us the entire time.

We enjoyed the Laguna using the facilities of a rustic resort. The waters were warm and clear and due to the high mineral content, left our hair and skin feeling incredibly soft. You have about 7-10 feet of rocky shore and then the bottom dramatically falls away and slopes down to darkness. The bottom of the Laguna has only recently been reached showing a depth of 200 meters, the lowest spot in all of Nicaragua.

We thoroughly enjoyed our day of relaxation and swimming. Escaping the heat of Granada was a treat, we were actually chilly at the restaurant overlooking the Laguna where we stopped on the way home for a bite. Nikki enjoyed playing with the resident 7 month old parrot. A beer here is 75 cents. Gary & I shared a jug for $1.50! After all, swimming is hard work :)