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 :)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Busy, Satisfying Week!

 get just what you need.

We've had a chaotic, exciting week. We're exhausted (in fact today I'm still sitting in my room with the air conditioning going trying to catch up on correspondence, then laundry...gulp!) but feeling better about things.

I gave my first talk in Spanish last week and was well coached by Cindy, the Spanish Sister who was my Householder. She helped me work on my pronunciation and accent. It went off without a hitch and am told that it came across well. I simply felt relieved and had a measure of pleasure in having accomplished it and not given up despite the break in the week before.

The Sunday following this, we had a speaker come for the talk from Jinotepe congregation (where we originally thought we were being sent). An English Couple in their early 30's. They came with another couple here from England who are in Diriamba and a Visiting English Sister who has been in Malaysia for 3 years! Well, five Brits around our age, Gary was in heaven! He invited them all back for lunch (along with the Mosca's so we had 10) and then, as they wanted to do a little sight seeing, we invited them all to spend the night. It was a fabulous time (once all the beds were set up and made!). The following day we went for breakfast together at Kathy's Waffle House, popular with foreigners and then came back and chatted. They left around 1.30. It was chaos but a great deal of fun. So nice to hear all their stories (they'd also been to China) and feel normal for awhile.

This week, the Spanish Congregation is hosting the C/O & D/O for their circuit assembly. We were down to have them for dinner on Tuesday. They speak only Spanish! We invited them and the other foreigners in our group (again, it was 10 of us) for an early dinner before the meeting. I made Chicken Caesar Salad and Garlic Bread and Debbie brought a glorious chocolate cake for dessert. This may sound like a normal meal, but let me tell you, it was no small accomplishment! Finding ingredients here like trying to build a sand castle in the North Pole (okay it's not quite that bad, exaggeration for emphasis :D). They'd never had this kind of a meal before and from the speed they ate and from their comments, we think they really enjoyed it! We were able to communicate with great effort and many charades! It was a real laugh.

Then the next day, yesterday, we met at Bethel at 8 am to go into Managua to have our pictures taken for our residency. As is typical of Nicaragua, we are late getting them because immigrations camera was broken (!!) and then when we went yesterday, the camera was working but now the printer is broken! So we are technically residents but don't yet have our papers. The really great thing was that we were able to meet up with the two sets of Missionaries who were just sent here (they are in the latest picture in the mag) the Manzanares' who we were able to meet in the States before we arrived and the Titmas'. That was really nice, especially hearing how they are settling in and finding their assignments. Ajah had also had her purse taken on a bus and their missionary home has had a recent break in. Theft is simply a real problem here. Lucianna arrived not knowing any Spanish so she too is struggling with language. And no one can pronounce their names either :)

So today, laundry, dishes and a little R&R. Time to catch our breath and clean up. The heat is still scorching as the rainy season is dry (can you still call it a rainy season). We are taking life day by day! Really, what else can you do?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Pictures of the New House

A million thanks for all the e-mails and support we have received.

Here are a few pictures of the new place. It is a step up that's for sure but under the current circumstances we are really grateful that we made the leap. I didn't take a picture of it from the road as I didn't want to go outside and flash Nikki's camera around. It is bright yellow with a little garden at the front, a space for a car and a 10 ft fence with spikes on the top followed by razor wire. We are feeling less vulnerable with each passing day. There are a number of foreign owned homes on the block and collectively they hire a security guard for the street during the day. That also provides peace of mind.

Funny this morning, as I was putting out the garbage, two glue sniffers walked by. One made a u turn and then sat on the road and proceeded to go through the smelly (very smelly, old chicken scraps were inside) contents. I had locked the gate and yelled out "Senior, No!" to which he simply cast me a cursory glance & continued collecting things. The lady across the street smiled at me and gestured that he is a glue sniffer then shrugged. I stood for a few minutes watching him and then went inside. It felt weird having someone go through your garbage. I kept checking back as I was sure I would have a mess to clean up when he was done, but surprisingly enough, he was a tidy garbage picker as when he was done he put all the stuff not worth taking (as opposed to the treasure trove of plastic bags & pop bottles???) back in the bag and tied it back up!! Weird!
So that was the excitement this morning. We are loving having air conditioning again as well as the convenience of being back in town, not to mention the luxury of round the clock water. The picture of the back building is where the three bedrooms are, the master one being on the top floor. They all include large bathrooms, air conditioning as well as walk in closets...we are feeling very spoiled. We are currently all sleeping in the same room until we regain some confidence.
I give my first talk in Spanish tonight. It's a cheat really as one of the local sisters helped me in writing it. I understand everything I say although the pronunciation will prove to be challenging. I'm very nervous. Gary did an excellent job of his reading last week.
More to come........

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Homestead has Been Violated.....

Sad to say, the day before we moved out of our waterless, scorpion homestead, we were broken into. There is a very long story to it. I will keep it brief. Sorry I won't be including photos...they got the camera :(

We had found a new home in town and had arranged for Nikki to spend the night with friends so that we could take her room apart. We were very excited! Gary & I went into town to pay the deposit, sign the legal papers and then treated ourselves to a lovely late lunch with wine & delicious food. We picked up the rental truck and headed home. I was busy trying to talk Gary into going for a drive, we were childless and with vehicle, I wanted to enjoy a few minutes. Let me back track a little to say that we had been a little nervous as when we were away someone had cut the wires to our security lights and the landlord hadn't fixed them. We had some concern that we were being set up for a break in. We were moving our within the week of this. Back to the present, thankfully Gary over rode me on slipping off for a little fun and we went straight home.

As we approached the house, we noticed that the gate was open. We thought perhaps the landlord had opened it, then as I jumped back in the truck after closing them, I noticed a carving knife on the driveway....weird, I jumped back out to pick it up, it was one of ours! We then noticed my lipstick a little further up, then my heart stop as the realization set in, we had been broken in to in the middle of the day (it was about 5 pm). Thankfully this all took about 5 minutes, likely helping us to avoid a confrontation. We raced up the driveway in the truck (it's a long one) and saw ALL the gates around the house were open. We could then see through to the house, all the doors, all 3 were broken open and the front window screen was destroyed and the bars damaged from a crow bar. At this point we realised that our lives were worth more than anything in the house so we quickly locked all the doors and lay on the horn.

We called anyone we knew who knew English and some who spoke Spanish too so they could call the police & house owners. We waited until the first group of friends arrived (with Nikki as it was them she was staying with) before we entered the house. It was an awful experience. So violating. We had obviously disturbed them in the act as one of them, who had been sitting on our couch going through a suitcase, left his motor bike helmet as well as his sun glasses. We searched and discovered about $2000 worth of good had been taken (camera, ALL my jewelry, large screen TV, DVD player, IPod etc) they had been sitting on my bed, on my pillow sorting through our files, missing the lap top that I had hidden underneath. Thank goodness....that was the thing I worried most would be taken.

The police eventually arrived and were surprisingly quite good, they even finger printed the helmet and back door which had been rammed in with brute force despite the locks and bolts in place. We hired a security guard for the night as after much discussion it was decided it would be impossible to move early with a major festival in town shutting down the roads. It was also unsafe for us to stay there, the thieves had seen to that. EVERY door and lock on the house and surrounding fence had been destroyed. We finally fell to sleep late that night, grateful guests at our friends house who graciously set up air mattresses for us on their living room floor.

Opinion is that it was organized criminals with some money behind them who were likely planning on taking everything but we had returned home too soon. Our moving may have moved them to action early. We had obviously been being watched....creepy! Gary called one of his studies who is a really great guy with a rough background to ask him to keep an eye out for our things on the street. We'd be willing to buy them back. It kills us that our nice stuff will sell for next to nothing. Some of it is simply sentimental.

So we are in the new house, but feeling very vulnerable. Thing have not been going well for us.....we feel like Job :) We are not going to make any decisions for the next little while until we are no longer feeling emotional. We don't want to leave and we really don't feel like there is any danger to us physically and we will certainly be more on guard now. We are going to take it one day at a time. It just hurts very much to have lost so much of what little we had here with us. And to know that someone was evil enough to be watching us in order to violate us!

So that is the story this week. Gary begins Regular Pioneering September 1st (all well) which has been a goal of our family for so long, it will be a real sense of joy! Nikki and I start home schooling then too and my plan is to regular aux until we get a feel for how much I can take on at once. I'm spinning a little right now :)

I will post pictures of the new house once I find Nikki's camera and borrow it. She had it with her (thank goodness).


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Zip Lining.......

When anyone comes for a visit, a zip lining canopy tour of Mombacho is at the top of our must do list. What an incredible experience. Even the journey there on the worst excuse for a road we have ever seen, was a real rush. The slow winding climb up the volcano through thick gorgeous jungle is alone worth the money. The zip lining was the icing on the cake. I was concerned that Nikki wouldn't be able to do it. It proved to be both physically & mentally challenging. But she was better than me (when am I going to get used to this) and swung through the trees like Tarzan....

Pat & Debbie, visiting from Canada, were great companions and we had a hoot. We heard (but sadly failed to see) the howls from the 10,000's of Howler Monkeys that make this jungle their home. We saw an incredible array of colourful butterflies and some fruits and foliage that we have never seen or heard of before (we even tasted some). Gary was unimpressed with my technique (after I hit a couple trees)....but I can't blame him as after two lines on my own of which I failed to brake and rammed into the poor guy on the other end, Freddie, the poor guy trying to catch me suggested for the next couple of lines I ride with him. Riding on his lap was much more comfortable :) The hardest part for me, and perhaps the rest, was the 65 ft drop off the last platform that we had to repel down. It was such a great experience and I cannot even begin to do justice to a description of the views!

It was a gorgeous day. It comes for us in the middle of a very busy week as tomorrow we are off to finally purchase the Hyundai Galloper that we have been hanging our nose over. Yesterday we also settled on terms for a new home in Granada. We upped our budget and the place we found is gorgeous and safe. It offers tons of room for company....this time with 24 hour water and even air conditioning. It is right in the heart of Granada which allows for a great night life and perfect for pioneering. We move (again) Saturday. Very excited...but exhausted at the thought :/

Life is good in Nicaragua and we have enjoyed seeing friends from home....and the goodies they brought us (Nikki once again has shorts to fit her!) The weather continues to improve as the heat abates and the rain and breeze pick up. We had lunch the other week at the Missionary Home which was not only delicious but also extremely encouraging. We received some much needed hints and tips on making life in a third world country work for us. We have begun to see that difficulties that don't kill certainly help to improve you. And we can certainly use that :)


Friday, August 7, 2009

Ahhhhh.....Corn Island! Paradise Found! (Part 3 of 3)

Okay, now I'm going to need to shut up and just let the pictures show you. Absolutely heavenly! We honestly did very little except relax, swim and a little snorkeling. To be honest, there is not much more you can do on this tiny island in the middle of the ocean. Not even eat (again, no grocery store. There isn't even any little stores to wander through. And the food was not particularly tasty...except perhaps the lobster & shrimp).

Again, we had found a hotel on line that looked really good and had good write ups...but turned out to be a horrid mouldy dump. We spent an hour or so doing a circle of the Island (a good way to see everything) on the only road they have and checking out all the hotels as we have now learnt that you just can't go by the hand book. Again, the only decent place to stay, which was also the most expensive was an incredible place called Casa Canada....owners from guess where?? It was beyond beautiful and is of itself a reason to visit this Island. Anywhere else it would be hundreds of dollars a night but here and with a little negotiating on Gary's part we got it for under a $100.

I can only say look at the pictures to see what it offered. It consists of 21 or so cabins right on the ocean with views like nothing I have ever seen before!

Gary, Nikki & Steve spent a lot of time down at the little beach area in front of the hotel looking for beach glass and stones. They came home with a treasure trove of goodies, refusing to leave any behind. The pool is called an infinity pool and is designed to look like you are swimming right in the ocean and it really does. Surrounding you are palms trees swaying in the constant breeze and 180 degrees of water view from up high. The grounds are manicured with fountains and greenery and the sound of the crashing waves is a constant reminder of where you are. It was the perfect place to relax and regroup.

Okay I didn't do a good job of shutting up....but I could have said so much more.

After 4 glorious days we were ready to leave. Unfortunately the tiny plane (the picture of us getting on) we were on going home was filled to the brim and they waited with the doors shut and no air on in the stifling humid heat on the runway for a few minutes too long....and I had a panic attack....claustrophobia that I usually manage to control. It was awful. The first one I have EVER had. I yelled for them to stop, when blinding panic over took my control, as they began to head down the runway, which they did. They turned to take me back but I told them not to because, then what? I knew I had to get off the Island and this was the only way.
My friends and a little Nikki hand came to the rescue. Debbie gave me a pill (which took about 1/2 hour to kick in) and Steve offered me his head phones. I sang kingdom songs in my head as we took off....but still had horrid panic rising in my chest & throat threatening to overtake my tenuous control. It was awful. I thought I was going to start screaming and that they would have to do an emergency landing...where I don't know. It was one of the hardest thing I have ever had to battle in my life. I didn't think I was going to get it under control. But after about 1/2 hour the little pill kicked in which took the edge off and I did accounting in my head with my eyes closed. It was the longest journey of my life. My poor family and friends were so concerned, as was the pilot (poor guy) who kept turning around to look at me at which time I would smile and give him the thumbs up (faker). So now I am looking for ways to deal with that if it ever happens again. I think once it happens to you, just the fear of it could make it happen again in a tight space like that. I need to learn to control it better. Even writing about it now is bringing it back to the fore.

So anyway, we are home and rested. What a wonderful trip. We are now off today to look at another house. We know that moving again is not an option, it is a necessity. Being away helped clear our heads. You can't live without water like this. Not if we want to last here. So the search is underway.......

Bluefields (Part 2 of 3)

We took our taxi to our previously booked hotel which had been described in the Nicaraguan Handbook as "spotless with a cheerful restaurant and a lovely front veranda". HA!

But first before I jump ahead, chatting with our cab driver (a Caribbean fellow, born in Bluefields and never left!) it turned out his Mom had been a witness and had died 10 years earlier from lack of blood. Wouldn't have happened today but the means just weren't available to save her. Anyway, he was lovely and when he heard where we were staying, grimaced! Not good. We quickly found out was a dive! What is considered "spotless" in Bluefields is NOT what we consider spotless. The hotel & rooms were dingy, smelly and nasty. What to do. We called him (he'd given us his cell) and he took us to what we now know is the only decent hotel in Bluefields (but also the most expensive, American prices, owned by an American) called the Oasis. And it was. Beautiful with views out over the water and really good security. He even negotiated reduced rates for us (although still twice what we had hoped to be paying). What a nice fellow!

Bluefields is a little wild. And not pretty. It is completely isolated from the rest of the world/Nicaragua and goods have to be brought in by plane or boat as there are no roads going to it. There is little law here, if any. No grocery store (wish we'd brought more food with us) and very few decent places to eat. And you do not want to go out at night! Everywhere we went, even in the day, people asked us outright for money. Debbie waved at a pretty little girl, about 4, who came out of her house and she immediately stuck her hand out for money! The Bay is brown and it is very dirty around you, causing someone to say to us that it should be called Brownfields not Bluefields.

But the Assembly was amazing. People had arrived from all over the isolated East Coast. Travelling by any means possible to get there. Some had taken a 12 hour journey over land and water, through terrible storms and rapids to get there. About 20% were Need Greaters and Special Pioneers who had been assigned to these difficult areas. The peak attendance to this English Special Day was 199. What a joy it was to all meet and be able to chat about experiences and simply connect. The Bethel speaker (who you can see in the picture grinning in the photo over Gary's shoulder & the photo at dinner that night) stayed with a local family. They are a British couple who originally came here as Need Greaters, then Special pioneers and now he is the home Overseer at Bethel. The home he stayed in was in a swampy area. They had to walk a wobbly plank just to get to it. He said they spent the humid night under a hot mosquito net listening to the mosquito's trying to find a way into them. Poor guys looked exhausted.
There was one baptism, a woman from an area called Pearl Lagoon who is now the first baptised publisher in that area...and she over came alot to do so! She was there with her three children! The area she is in is only accessible by water and the only other witnesses in the area are a Special Pioneer couple from the States who look like they are 12 (likely in there early 20's) who were recently assigned there and are holding the "meetings" in their very humble home. The Circuit Overseer and his Wife were lovely, telling Gary & I some stories from their circuit travels, like how to get to one congregation they have to travel by horse for 7 hours and in the wet season the horses are often over their knees in mud!!
It was over too fast....but now we were heading for another tiny plane....for a few days R&R in incredibly beautiful Corn Island.......

The Flight (Part 1 of 3)

I don't even know where too begin. So I'm going to do a couple short blogs with lots of pics (since that's much more interesting anyway.)

Our trip to The Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua was like going to a completely different world. It was a real adventure which started with a 1 1/4 hour ride on the smallest plane I've ever been on. And I tell no lie when I say that the pilot slept for most of the journey! I could tell, I was sat right behind him. The views were incredible as we flew low enough to see everything. The co pilot appeared to be in training and was confused when we arrived at our destination in the middle of a lightening storm. He woke the pilot who then pointed out to him where the runway was.......

We arrived in Bluefields in the middle of a tropical down pour and were greeted with umbrellas which promptly turned inside out in the wind. It was HOT though so who cares if you get wet! The electricity was out so we showed our passports (why we're not sure since we were still in the same country) to the guard who struggled to read them in the dark and then wrote the numbers in a spiral notebook (no high tech computers here!). Every airport we went through charged us an exit tax (to help pay for electricity???) of just over $2 each. Very odd. A throng of taxi drivers and baggage carriers descended on us the minute we walked out the doors. Very confusing. We again lost our luggage to two men who we thought were our taxi drivers (we needed two since there were 5 of us) but turned out to be guys looking for a tip. Drat!

So we had arrived in Bluefields for our Special Assembly Day.....