A Travellerspoint blog

Sounds like San Juan

sunny 34 °C
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It is our last day in San Juan del Sur. We have just moved out of our house and are about to leave for a weekend at the lake. It will be the last weekend of our trip as we are going home in 3 days. Yes, home back to Canada.

I couldn't help but notice the sounds of the morning as I sit here and write this blog. I hope you can hear it too.

The hum of the cicada's undulating in the distance.
Newly downloaded yoga music coming from my laptop
The vroom of trucks and cars slowly passing by
Camarones (shrimp)! Camarones! Camarones!
Klop, klop, klop, klop of a horse and wagon carrying fresh milk.
HONK!! HONK! HONK! The Rivas bus calling for final passengers.
Silence.........................
FRUITA! PAPAYA, PINIA (pineapple), SANDIA (watermelon)!
Honkety Honk

We walked around town and said goodbye to some of our favourite people and places before we boarded a chicken bus for Laguna D'Apoyo.

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Stephanie and Eric from Pan de Vida bakery. You should go there if you are ever in San Juan. They bake everything in a wood-fired oven.

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Kiyoshi is sad to leave his favourite coffee shop, El Gato Negro.

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The lady at the market who makes the most delicious french toast in the world.[/i]

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They don't call it a Chicken bus for nothing you know.

Posted by McNouye 06:12 Archived in Nicaragua Tagged family_travel Comments (2)

Our 100th blog post

Prescholar D'Oro
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While in San Juan, we decided to do a little volunteering. I was hoping that we would actually get involved with an organization and do more, but selfishly, we decided to focus on yoga and surfing instead. Although to be fair, we didn't stay in one place for long enough to contribute anything significant.

Now, calling it volunteering is probably being generous with the term. To us, it was more like taking the opportunity to see what country living in Nicaragua is like. One of the community organizations, Community Connect (http://www.comunidadconnect.org/blog/) set us up with a preschool just outside of town to come for a visit and play with the kids for the morning. So Dave and I put our heads together and over engineered a plan. It consisted of some Salsatots music (latin/english dance music for kids), a limbo rope, fruit, a blender, Spanish library books, stickers and of course, a mango for every child to take home with them.

Following the usual confusion with the taxi driver, we pulled up to the preschool. The driver offered to come back and pick us up at 11:00 so we prepaid him $5 for a $3.50 return fare.

It was awkward at the preschool at first because our Spanish is still pretty weak and the teacher Magdalena spoke no English. But after doing a bit of the Latin Limbo, we were all loosened up and proceeded to have a lovely morning. There were about 14 kids at the preschool between 4-6 years. The preschool itself had very few toys or resources but you could tell that the teacher was very creative as there was a lot of art/lessons on the walls depicting small/medium/large, same/different etc.

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Notice the lack of play equipment in the yard. There was only a metal stand for holding up the neighbor's water tank for the kids to climb on.

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Taro became quite chummy with another little boy his age named Fernando.

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Eleven o'clock rolled around and we waited and waited and waited for our taxi driver Tony to show up. We were not totally stranded in the middle of nowhere, but it was going to be challenging to get a ride back to San Juan with the kids and all of our stuff. By 11:25, we completely gave up on Tony and in doing so, lost a tiny bit of faith in humanity. On our whole trip, we were never taken in, not even once. So, we walked to the highway to catch a bus or a collectivo taxi (taxi that picks up multiple people). Several full taxis drove past and we were told that the next bus came in 2 hours. By about noon, we saw an empty taxi speed round the bend then slam on his brakes to pick us up. You'll never guess who it was! Tony, our taxi driver, here to pick us up and only an hour late. We were thrilled to see him and our faith in humanity has been completely restored.

The Book Mobile

The following day, we took another trip out of town to join the mobile library. The schools in Nicaragua are extremely under-resourced. It appears as if the only funding they get is for the teachers' salaries (which are really low), a building and that is all.

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Notice that there is nothing else in the classroom, just students and their desks.

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Notice no doors on the bathrooms, running water or anywhere to wash your hands. Oh yeah, and no toilet seat or toilet paper.

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Notice no playground equipment or fences.

The Mobile Library is a really cool service where they load up 6 big Tupperware bins full of books into a pickup truck and go out to the rural schools (about 30 in total). They also pick up a woman who brings art supplies to make crafts with the students. They visit 2 schools each morning and bring volunteers like us to read to the kids. Then the students can check out the books and keep them until the Mobile Library returns. It is a very good program which really helps these rural schools.

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In return for some wonderful experiences, we donated $20 to Community Connect. This organization does a few things in the community including running the recycling program. So, our donation went towards making 2 more of this nifty plastic bottle recycling bins.

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Posted by McNouye 13:47 Archived in Nicaragua Comments (0)

Would THIS be good with mangos?

sunny 35 °C

In Edmonton while they are in season there is an over abundance of apples. Every other house has a tree producing some kind of apple with colourful names like crab apples, apple crabs, sweet northern and big white. Despite the names, there is one reason that apples have not taken of in Alberta as a cash crop: they don't taste good. So despite this abundance, the vast majority of Edmonton apples simply rot on the ground to form compost.

In the past I have been involved in valiant attempts to rescue apples from the garbage by making something “useful”. Pies, jelly, fruit rollups, dried apples, apple sauce, canned apples, candied apples, apple crisp etc are all ways of trying to make something useful out of an inherently useless fruit (albeit the best we can grow in e-town). During these times I have yearned for a more tasty fruit, a starting ingredient that actually had some value on it's own instead of depending on sugar to pull you through.

Enter the mango tree. The house we are renting has a huge mango tree next door with some branches flowing over onto our yard. The few branches on our yard have produced a couple hundred mangoes since we have been here the last few weeks. And while I am happy to have a much more palatable starting fruit, it is still challenging to put this much fruit to good use.

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Maybe we should feed monkeys the mangoes

We started with trying to peel each one and serve it on a plate like you would in Canada. This ultimately proved too time consuming since they are relatively small and don't have a lot of fruit on them. We then moved to the “mangosicle” where you peel the fruit, stick a fork in it and let the kids eat around the pit while holding the mango with the fork. Mango blender drinks are pretty tasty too.

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Yummy yummy mangosicles

As you can imagine Audrey has also been doing her fair share of cooking with the mangoes. Mango salsa, mango salad, Thai mango salad, mango pancakes, mango carrot dip, mango pasta sauce, and mango meatloaf have all been featured on the menu in the past week. We have been giving them away to people (though many people also have a surplus). The kids have been eating their fair share of consuming them but is is challenging to find homes for twenty or so mangoes each day.

Anyone have any good recipes to share? Keep in mind we don't have an oven.

Posted by McNouye 19:54 Archived in Nicaragua Tagged family_travel Comments (2)

Getting there (and back) is half the fun

sunny 34 °C

In my ideal world I would head out surfing at 6:30 or 7:00, surf for an hour or two and be back by 11:00 just in time to hang out and eat lunch with the Audrey and the boys. But the tides change and since the surf beaches are out of town I need to catch a shuttle with one of the local surf shops out to the break.

Shuttles typically consist of a jeep, van or pickup, any of which are loaded with boards on top and up to ten passengers piled inside. They then drive twenty or so minutes out to a nearby beach, let you surf, and then drive you back. They all operate on “Nica time” which basically means they come back whenever the guy driving gets tired of surfing and is ready to go back.

Yesterday, as I was boarding the shuttle with my favourite crew, one of the girls asked if we could be back by 1:00 since she needed to call work to check in before leaving to a place with no phone service. We all assured her that the tides would be too low by noon to bother surfing so we would make it back no problem. Our driver Cocky, agreed that we would be back in time. I asked him about the condition of the LandCruiser since it had had problems with the rear drivers side wheel two days ago and was assured that it was taken care of. So off we went.

At about 12:15, after a couple hours of surfing, everyone started making their way back to the car exchanging stories about a somewhat mediocre day of surf. Then we started looking for Cocky. Once it got to about 12:45 we started honking the horn and waving our arms and he came in from surfing. The last of the boards were loaded and we were off. A little late, but off.

Five minutes into our trip and there was a big cluck from the rear driver's side tire and Cocky came to a stop. He jumped out, took one quick look at the tire and picked up his phone to call home base. After waving his cell phone around in search of reception, he started walking up the hill to find a signal.

Fifteen minutes later Cocky returned and started removing the surfboards from the car. And we waited.

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And waited.

At 2:00, the tortilla/bean combination that I had offered everyone earlier had become more appealing to the rest of the passengers and they were quickly devoured. And we waited.

Just before 3:00 the support car showed up. They quickly greeted everyone with cold beer to go around and a joint, presumably to take the edge off people eager to get home. Though we were grateful for both there was no lighter for the later leaving us only with beer. The support crew jacked up the car and as soon as they had it high enough they pulled the tire off. I was thinking, “hmmm, I didn't see them take off the lug nuts,” so I looked at my friends and they all had the same puzzled look on their faces. No lug nuts meant that clunk was the tire wobbling back and forth and Cocky put it together as soon as he looked at it.

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Yeeha, our rescuers have arrived!

How long were we driving with no lug nuts? Great question. I have no idea, but no one was terribly surprised or checking the road for the missing ones which leads me to believe this may have been an anticipated problem. They quickly removed a nut from each of the remaining wheels and affixed the new tire then mumbled something about aluminum rims as if the rim somehow magically unscrewed the lug nuts and tossed them aside. We re-loaded the surf boards wondering why they had been removed to begin with and we ready to roll.

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Fear and Loathing in Nicaragua

Now that we were all set, the support car drove away leaving us gringos to wonder why the fully capable car drove off to leave the gimped car full of paying passengers to pull up the rear. Fortunately the car functioned just fine and got us there in one piece just before 4:00.

Just in case you were wondering, I will be heading out with the same crew tomorrow. Nica style.

Posted by McNouye 08:41 Archived in Nicaragua Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

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