Friday, February 12, 2010

Home again

As our friend Eric says "we have definitely won the lottery of life by being born in Canada!"
Going away is exciting but coming home is always a good thing. U.S. customs is ridiculous. These trips always make me really appreciate the things that we tend to take for granted. Like turning on the tap and water actually comes out! or for that matter having a tap to turn on. I can't begin to describe the poverty. We knew that there was a lot of it in Nicaragua but you have no idea until you actually see it first hand and we didn't see the worst of it because we didn't go to the dump in Managua and see the children and families living there. I don't know if I could have handled that. I think you need to build up to it so that you don't have nightmares about those people. Maybe on the next trip we'll go there. There are NGO's who work exclusively at the dump. There is so much need but you can't help them all. We have to concentrate on Cangrejo and the people there for now so that we don't get spread to thin. That's the sad part. The good part is the people are so warm and friendly and the country is beautiful. I would like to go during or just after the wet because I think it would be breathtaking when everything was green and blooming. Going back is definitely on the to do list.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sunrise back North

Ok, too much to think about so i'm just going to ramble.
First, I must say what a pleasure it's been traveling with Dennis and Kris. Kris's Spanish has made thinks much simpler on many occasions, it's almost impossible to find anyone who can speak English here. Without Kris we would have know idea what to order for dinner! Dennis's easy going demeanor makes him the perfect travel companion.
So we've seen the sewing center, got the women excited about getting to work, now they have to find a product and a way to market it to be able to make this sustainable. (we might need to spend a little money here).
Spoken to at least half a dozen different group that are working on projects here in Nicaragua, plenty to be done.
The amount of garbage laying around is amazing, plastic bags and bottles everywhere, the photo above looks quite serene, what you don't see is the "Poison- Keep Out" signs all along the beaches of Lake Nicaragua. It's a sewer!
Dennis mentioned it might be a idea to travel back here next year with a crew to do a face lift on the school at Congrajo. Some paint, shutters for the windows, finish the outhouse, probably 3 hard days for a Northern Crew! Best in January before school starts on February 2.
Also the chance to find a project that we could partner with the Managua - Tiscapa Club or maybe we help with the Santa Rosa club's dental and Eye project!
OK time for a Cafe! Before this trip the only Spanish I knew was Cerveza!

George is right, it has been a real pleasure travelling with Dennis and Kris. Early in the trip someone thought that Kris and I were mother and son, we both decided that this was because we were white and had glasses, but I would be his travel mom any time. Dennis was photographer extraodinare and got some amazing pictures. Between all of us we took over 600 photos,most of them Dennis'. If you get the opportunity I strongly suggest you take the time to see them all. I'm sure you will find it worthwhile and I think they will give you a feel for the country. You might be thinking "oh no, vacation photos" but trust me, these aren't your typical vacation photos. We're waiting for it to be time to go to the airport and I have mixed emotions. The poverty here is overwhelming but the people are so open and friendly. There is definitely Spanish lessons in my future although I did add to my small vocabulary while we were here. I think I like waking up to chickens and dogs rather than trucks and cars. I didn't miss the city sounds. Didn't know where to begin and don't know where to end so I'll leave it at that.
Yes it is hard to believe 2 weeks have gone by....... most definitely a trip of a lifetime. George, Lisa and Kris have made this experience very enjoyable. We have all developed a great camaraderie and certainly travel at the same speed. Well maybe George gets a head start in the morning and Kris turns out the lights but definitely fun times. I was pretty confident travelling with George and Lisa after numerous hockey and volley ball trips over many years. A special thanks to Kris, tough assignment looking after a gringo Dad but he made this trip special for me.
As George said there are our numerous opportunities for us to continue helping these warm and wonderful people. They truly want better lives but have difficulty meeting their day to day existence needs let alone getting ahead. It seems like the majority of visitors here are coming with an NGO to try and provide assistance. It all makes a difference but such a mountain to climb.
I am very anxious to return home now, sitting in Managua airport waiting ( USA could learn some lessons here about security and politeness) and reflecting.
Gee I like this retirement stuff!!!!
Cheers to all, see you Friday morning

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Back to Managua

Two and a half blocks on a gravely road and then 300 steps. No wonder the nickname for this place is the stair-master. after doing the laundry we spent the rest of the day on some deserved(we think) relaxation. Eric came by for a refreshment in the late afternoon and told us about his next school project and asked if we would have time to go there on the way to Managua. We will do a slight detour and then stop in the historic town of Granada for a couple hours of sightseeing before ending up in Managua where we will overnight before heading home. It seems like we just got here but it also seems like we have been here for a long time. Looking forward to coming home but also looking forward to coming back. I don't think that the 7 minutes that has been alloted for our presentation will be close to enough time.
I'm going to have to debug my computer, literally debug, their are little spider like bugs crawling all over it! Looking forward to another day of touring, Granada is the oldest city in central america, should be a great day!

Sitting in the Best Western across the street from the airport in Managua. Can't believe I have to go home tomorrow. Trip up from SJDS was uneventful. Stopped once by the hiway cops but nobody asked for a bribe and no tickets, just a little regular harassment I guess. Granada was pretty cool. Oldest city on the mainland of the western hemisphere. You can see the difference UNESCO money makes if you compare it to Old Havana. Same basic layout as every other Spanish colonial time I have ever been to. Main square bordered by a large Cathedral and small cobble stone streets extending out in quadrants in all directions. Stopped on the lake shore on the way out of town, pretty sleepy on a Monday afternoon and wouldn't want to take a dip in the murky brown water. Now it is just killing time till tomorrow AM when we head across the street to catch that dreaded flight home.
Just got up from a fine nap!! Getting back into my routine for when we arrive back home. Actually I have either picked up a bug or breathed too much cooking smudge smoke as my lungs are congested and I sound more like an old man than normal. Not to worry, Sandi I am more whine than ill. The last couple of days have been equal to the rest, just in a different way. Very relaxing time at the pool yesterday and late dinner. Up early to meet Eric and Francisco at breakfast. They had come to say goodbye. Francisco from the barrio in Las Delisica on a bike carrying a small gift for us. You could almost see the tears in his eyes as he thanked us, said goodbye, with his Rotary hat clutched in his hand sitting in very high end resort with his Canadian friends. They deserve and appreciate everything we can help them with.
Ten pictures left on a 2gb card so lots of memories to share. Ditto to Granada and the drive here.Early dinner and then hurry up and wait.
Will be nice to be home this is a wonderful experience.
Small sidebar, yesterday I had my pack on the floor of the bedroom and when I threw it on the bed to pack it was full of ants. Long process to hunt them all down but so far no bites so I think I won!!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Pelican Eyes

It's 6 am -I'm sitting on the main balcony, (there are 3) watching a 4 masted cruise ship slowly enter the harbor, and a shuttle boat ferrying people ashore. Check the weather icon at home -19. Warm easterly trade wind sifting through the tree tops. (sorry started to sound like a cheap romance novel). This has been a amazing experience, Eric is right when he says Canadians won the lottery of life, we take so much for granted, Ok -40 might not be so great but the poverty here is staggering, 70 % unemployment, dirt floor hovels and yet the people are so warm and friendly. Looking forward to next year's trip back here already!

Had a lazy afternoon yesterday. Did some laundry which meant going down to the strip and buying some new t-shirts. Almost blew the budget at US$5.00 each. We then bought some beer and headed back to the room to change into pool wear. Hung out at the pool for a few hours and then back to the room to change for dinner and the super bowl party. Ir you didn't watch the game we're in the same boat. I spent the time people watching because I really don't care much about football -especially American football. Not sure what's on the agenda today. Just relaxing I think. Oh yea almost forgot to add that it's not all fun and games at this hotel. It took us almost exactly 7 minutes to walk down all the stairs from our room to the lobby restaurant last night. I'm going to count them today. There are some costs to get the spectacular views.
Good day at the resort. This is a spectacular resort, although I could feel a little guilty when I stop to think of the places we have been and how people live every day only a few hundred metres away. The meal at the Superbowl party was very nice, a whole roasted pork carved in front of us with appy's, desert (bread pudding) and two for one drinks.The crowd was as interesting as the game. Lucky they gave us a ride back up the hill. Some time at the pool today, try and check in with Eric before we go and then Granada/Managua tomorrow.
Always nice to see the comments......Cheers

Who Dat! Got to watch the sun go down on Peyton Manning and the Colts as the actual Sun set over the pacific ocean. Congrats to the Saints and the wonderful city of New Orleans on their Super Bowl victory. Great location to watch a football game. It is going to be nice to just relax and hang out today. Spend some time by the pool. Maybe go get one more fix of ice coffee and banana chocolate chip pancakes at El Gatto Negro. Maybe figure out how to stow away on the cruise ship in the harbour so I never have to go back to work.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Saturday morning seemed to come very early, the band down the street at Irish Bar were easy to listen to but played loud and late. The outside cooking fire next door smoldered all night and our room was right above. Like sleeping in a mosquito smudge. I sounded like I was 80 years old and had smoked a pack a day for life!! We packed up, had breakfast and walked down to El Gatto Negro to visit Kelly ( our driver to Cangrejo) and wait for cabs. When we left the b&b for Remanso, Donna the B&B owner gave us a little warning to be careful where we were headed. Apparently a bit of a rep for hijackings, home invasions and muggings involving machetes etc. All well though as we have been there and returned. We headed out with a little apprehension, 20 minute cab ride on the same dusty rough rode as Cangrejo. Into a rural subdivision where are hotel/resort was located. we were met by Marco and Melida and there 3 children. (Managua Club) Turns out that Melida's family owns the resort and development area. It had been built 6 years ago, but closed for the past 2 years and only re-opened in the last month. A little run down and unkept but a beautiful secluded beach with surf waves and small bar on the water. Francisco showed us to our rooms and we headed into a large open air dining room for lunch. the area was formerly a large ranch and the whole place is decorated with antiques. The furniture was beautiful wood with 10 to 12 foot long tables, carved sideboards, chairs hutches and many ranch artifacts. Very very impressive collection. The Santa Rosa Rotarions began arriving, Marco was driving them out in shifts from SJDS. Also Max (pres. of Managua club) as the lunch and day at the beach was in their honor. We had a great visit with our new Rotary friends. We learned a lot about their dental/eye care clinics which they have been doing for many years. They were also very interested in our Sewing Centre and we have all promised to stay in touch and try and work together in the future. We spent the remainder of the afternoon visiting, walking the beach and even managed up ended in the surf. at the end of the day the Santa Rosa group headed back to SJDS as they fly home Sunday. We watched the sun set on the beach with Marco and family. Once again very spectacular. I am not sure how many sunset pictures I have but they just seem to get better and better. I am going to close off now and let someone else finish up the evening.
I have to comment that the reception we have received here has been exceptional. The world of Rotary is truly a wheel. Everyone is and wants to be connected and we all have the "service above self" attitude. Marco and Melida and there family were wonderful hosts. They shared their stories, appreciation for our help and their love for Nicaragua with us openly. as well they were very keen to learn all they could of Canada. George's hunting and boating pictures left them with mouth's dropped!! Great people!!

From a dusty funeral to a posh hilltop resort villa! Our time in Nicaragua is quickly running out. It seems like we have been here quite a while and yet not nearly long enough. The resort In Remanso was nice but fairly secluded. Besides Marco and Melida and their kids, once the Santa Rosa Rotary group left in the afternoon, we were the only ones around. A little spooky at times. Especially after hearing some of the stories various people told us about crime in the area. By contrast our resort in town has a guard in our neighborhood carrying a side arm. That being said I had a great time last night playing with Marco And Melida's youngest daughter while George showed their teenage son pictures of a past hunting trip. Marco Jr was pretty impressed by the size of the Moose.

Going to enjoy a pig roast and the Super Bowl tonight and probably a lazy day by the pool tomorrow. Then it is back to Managua with a stop to tour the colonial city of Granada along the way. Can't believe we are going back home on Wednesday.

Except for the stories that it might not be that safe I could have spent a couple of days just vegging at Remanso. Melida and Marco were unconcerned about safety. They said they and their children loved coming there and that it was a very safe place to let the children run free. I guess it's all whose perspective you're seeing it from. It was a little eerie being the only ones there; sort of like a ghost town. I'm not complaining about coming back to town and the luxury hotel. It has 4 different patios on 2 levels, 3 bathrooms, all with showers plus an outside shower and aview that goes for miles no matter which window or patio you look out. I will be sorry to leave on wednesday and it will certainly be on my list of coming back to places.

After reflecting back on the Remanso Hotel, all I can come up with is Hotel California by the Eagles, "you can checkout anytime, but you can never leave". It was a little unnerving, might have felt safer if the guard was a head taller then me instead of a head smaller, and if he was carrying a defender not a flashlight. The afternoon with the Santa Rosa Rotarians was great, they were very interested in our project and we have a bottle of Wine being sent to us for the Auction! During their project they tested and fitted 1500 people with glasses and did 350 tooth extractions. Dennis and I were both a little apprehensive about asking the Managua Rotary club about partnering on a future project, (they only have 20 members) but they were very excited about the chance to work together and very thankfully for the work we had done with the sewing center.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Friday/back from Managua

Got back to SJDS and George, Dennis and I went to get stamps, souvenirs and groceries for supper while the chef rested up. We went to the top of a cliff at the edge of town under a giant statue of Jesus to watch the sun set and then came home for supper. It was delicious even though Kris tried to feed us some of the tuna raw. We're off to Playa Remanso for a Rotary gathering this afternoon.

Had a highlight day yesterday, first phone call home! Very nice to hear your voice Sandi and that all things are well. Hi to you Stephen, sounds like your looking after your Mom real well from a distance. The view from the hill above SJDS was spectacular, 360 degrees of ocean beach and country side topped off with another great sunset. Back to the b&b where Kris treated us to a wonderful meal, some nice wine and a great visit. The guests here were all gaping at meal Kris prepared with 2 fish, some veggies and of course a little wine saute. Interesting guests, a young couple from Australia, mid aged couple from Vanc. here to escape Olympic fever, and a mature couple backpacking here for a few months from Eastern Canada.
On the move again today, hoping the beach resort is nice.

Cooked for the first time in awhile Friday night. I am sure it was just the wine or maybe the trip up to visit Jesus but inspiration came pretty easy when I opened the bag of random vegetables that I asked Lisa to pick up for me at the Mercado. Tuna crusted with cashews and coriander seeds, mackerel braised in a salsa rojo, a salad of carrot and squash with fresh guacamole. I also did a ceviche of tuna with orange and basil but I was the only one that would eat that beautiful tuna the way it is meant to be, raw! Loved the other guests at the B&B gawking while I cooked. Comments like "looks like somebody is a professional" and " you cook so clean" go a long way to pad my already enormous ego.

Map update

Sitting having a coffee and waiting for everyone else to get up and started messing with Goggle Earth. I couldn't map the exact route but it's probably pretty close. The amazing thing is that it's less than 20 Km into the sewing center. Remember this was a 1 hour drive and 45 minutes on horse back., So I guess the Sewing Center isn't technically way out in the jungle, but believe me, it's way back in the jungle! You can get a closer look by clicking the map above.