Friday, December 6, 2013

The Slow Pace of Beach Living - San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Everyone decided to stay close to home on Monday to give Renda & Ralph, the owners of Park Avenue Villas, our farewells, as they were off on their journey back to the states for the holidays.  Billy, Linda, Mike, and Betty, all from the same hometown in Texas as Renda & Ralph, also departed with them in a van that would take them to Camano Real in Managua for a night's stay before their flights on Tuesday morning.

But on Tuesday, 6 of us, Louis, Mandy, Renada, Wayne, Mike and I, all decided to take the chicken bus to Rivas.  Renada and Wayne hale from Vancouver, BC, Canada and arrived the day after Thanksgiving and will be here for a month also.  A wonderful addition to our fabulous synergy here at Park Avenue Villas.

Rivas is the closest larger town of about 80,000 to here.  The bus was scheduled to leave from the center of town somewhere around 9:20am ish.  Ours finally began to leave town about 9:30am.

One thing we find very amusing throughout Latin America is that the bus leaves its appointed bus stop in town but would literally drive a few yards and would stop to pick up people.  Odd that they wouldn't just walk a few yards themselves to where the bus was sitting for a half hour.  And, this continues all the way through town so it takes quite awhile just to get out of town. LOL

These are truly "chicken busses" that are old discarded US school busses and are jimmy rigged every which way to accommodate their needs.  Ours had a rope out the driver's side connected to a bull horn that he would blow every time we got close to a bus stop.  These busses are also used for grocery deliveries to people along the way.  The driver would only slow down, but never stop, as the young man standing at the door of the bus would open it up, hand out the goods, and quickly take the money for payment.  Later, when back in town, they would deliver the money to the individual stores where the goods came for.  Quite an honor system!

The bus quickly became standing room only with people crammed in as much as they could because the busses don't run that often.  An elderly lady got on and I got up and offered her my seat.  The smile she gave me made me happy to be a "good Gringo".  I was then "paid back" when 2 young women skootched together in their seat and offered me a corner with huge smiles!  Then when the lady got off, she went out of her way to beam at me again and squeeze my hand. Sure felt good to do the right thing!

This is actually a practice that we saw most in Panama without hesitation.  The elderly and women with babies always were given seats by others. The honor and respect that they were shown was to be admired.  We haven't seen it as much elsewhere in Latin America though.

So after an hour, we arrived at the bus "terminal", where we all got off.  It's really only a dirt loop that is right in the center of the Mercado.  A very busy place with anything and everything you can imagine!


But on this trip we had a "mission".  Mandy had been given the charge of going to the Plastico Tienda to buy a huge bag of candy and about one hundred pencils.  Since Mandy had only been to Rivas once before and with a group of Expat Ladies on their day out, she was not quite sure where the store was.  She only remembered that it was close to the Dollar Store.  So off we went on this mission to find these stores.  Easier said than done!

We did meandered through the Mercado first though since we were already there and needed to relish the experience.  I even bought nail polish remover, which is so plentiful and inexpensive here.  Seems like every other "shop" is for women's products of all kinds including hair, nails, shoes, tops, etc.

Trying to sight see together with 6 is not an easy thing to do, so Wayne and Renada decided to split off and we would just all meet back up at cocktail hour back in SJDS on the veranda.  A very good decision for everyone, as it's truly painful when everyone has different shopping habits.  So glad we all "get it" and no one had their feelings hurt.

So the remaining 4 of us wandered the streets asking everyone who would listen to us both in Spanish and in English, where the Dollar Store and/or the Plastic Store was.  We came upon a guard at one store and decided to ask him. Well, he spoke English better than we did!! LOL  I certainly didn't expect that but we have found so many here have spent many years in the US and speak fluently.  It just feels out of context and plays with my brain because I'm trying so hard to speak and think in Spanish.

The best part about wandering is that you get to see allot of town you might not wander through.  We walked up and down and around and back and forth getting many different directions.  Once we ended up at the main square, we all decided to find a place to eat lunch.  Along one side of the square was a Pizza Hot restaurant -- get it?  Pizza Hot vs. Pizza Hut? It turned out to be quite a nice spot with decent pizza. 

A beautiful church and I think that's Wayne and Renada on the stairs. Just noticed that! lol

A ruin of an old historical building in the center of town.

Oh boy! Someone's going to have a party with that piñata they are holding!

The main square cathedral.

Main square park.

Someone chose this color and painted all the trim brick around the walks this color also.  Quite colorful!

Not sure what to think of this fountain.  Handing geese on the pole and Christmas lights all around.

Louis, Mandy, and me!

This is the baseball stadium. BB is very popular here!

 From there we were off and running to fulfill this mission.  Following the directions that we got and getting confirmed by others, we felt we knew exactly where we were going.  As soon as we entered the front door, Mandy confirmed that we had the right place.  Turns out the candy bags are sold for filling of the piñatas, which hung everywhere and are so colorful. 

Then around the corner to the Liberia, which is not a library (bibliotheca) but a stationary store. We gave Mike the job of asking the owner if we could get a discount on the 100 pencils because it was for the children in SJDS.  She gladly obliged without hesitation and the price dropped from 1.75 cords to 1.6 cords ($.07 to $.065/each).

So we accomplished our total mission of buying a HUGE bag of assorted candy and 100 pencils for the total of $13.65!  The story of why we were on this mission:  Every year, Ralph plays Santa for the children in our town at the park next to the complex and, he and Renda, give the children small gifts. An item of important use and a few pieces of candy for their pleasure.  Only this year, Ralph and Renda will be in the states for the first time over the holidays in many years.  Soooo, since the tradition MUST go on, Louis has been given the duty of playing Santa. 

Since a dark Christo is widely acknowledged and revered in Latin American, he'll pull it off nicely!! And, I'm sure his HoHoHo will be in fine tune! I only wish we were going to be here to see it. Somehow I think Louis will get as much, if not more enjoyment out of it than the children.

Getting back to our day in Rivas, after we made our purchases, each coupled climbed into a bicycle cab for 10 cords ($.40) to be taken back to the Pan American Highway where the Maxi Pali grocery store is.  After doing a bit of shopping for things we can't get in town and running into Chad, all 5 of us headed out to find a taxi to take us back to SJDS. 

Quickly I was able to hale a cab only to find out that he wanted twice as much ($20 vs. $10) to bring us all home.  We declined and continued to stand on the side of the highway looking for a cab.  Another one was not so quick to come.  And, it the heat with food bags, it got old quickly. 

Looking at the intersection just down from us a bit, Chad noticed a local tour van that was definitely heading to where we wanted to go.  So Mike ran down to ask them if they would take us.  The driver wanted $25 but Mike was able to get him down to $20, so we took it.  Even though we were paying the same overpricing we at least had a van with plenty of room for each of us and the grocery bags plus air conditioning.  The other taxi was very small and we would have been packed in like sardines with 5 of us and grocery bags.  So all in all, we felt good about our decision.  It's all relative, isn't it?

I was looking forward to Tuesday afternoon because Nancy and Bill Mattox were coming down from Granada and staying at our complex.  We had met them when we went back for our weekend of parties.  Turns out they are the winners of the International Living contest and all of their expenses were paid for for a full month to experience Granada. 

They are delightful people from Arkansas and we have allot in common.  What's great is that they blended in with our "family" here so effortlessly.  So everyone was present and accounted for at cocktail time on the veranda that evening. The group grows, then shrinks, then grows, then shrinks as short termers come and go.  But while they're here, we share so much information and a wealth of knowledge that each of us takes away and files into our expat data bank.  We all pass it forward, gladly.

The tall ship Star Flyer graced us with their presence on Tuesday.

Wednesday brought plans for our second time of the community BBQ, which we were all looking forward to.  During the day, we each went our separate ways enjoying the delights of SJDS.  The day also brought us Vicki and Tim Morales.  They are here on their visa run from Jaco, Costa Rica and run a medical tourism company.  Much valuable medical information was shared all around.

The dinner turned out just as wonderful as we all ate our filet mignon that just melted in our mouths.  Only this time, we brought out the long table and we all ate together on the veranda. What a wonderful time!

Nancy being happy!

Kim, Chad, Mike, Mandy, Louis, Wayne, Renada, Nancy & Bill.

Mike and I had contacted a gentleman, Berman Gomez, who had advertised in the Del Sur News about his Bi-Lingual tours.  We wanted to investigate a tour to the island of Ometepe, which has 2 volcanoes on it and is larger than the island of Hawaii.  Turns out Berman was going to be in SJDS that evening, so he came and did a presentation to all of us after our dinner.  On the spot, several of us made plans to go the next night to the Sea Turtle reserve about an hour south of here and we will be going to Ometepe next Monday for a long full day.

That evening after dinner, Louis and Mike, went over to Republika to play Texas Hold 'em.  Chad, Kim, Mandy, and I followed a bit later to watch.  When we got there, Mike was sitting at the bar not playing but Louis was deep into the game but only had a few chips left.  Mike had decided not to play at all because they said the game would probably go until 11:30-midnight.

We must have been a good luck charm for Louis because he was down to his last chips but started winning and before we knew it, he was rolling in them!!  And, by the time we all decided to leave and pack it in for the night, he was going gang busters.  Looked like it was going to be there awhile.  Turns out he came in 4th so wasn't in the money round.  And, finally got home about 12:30am.

Berman showed up with the van at 7pm Thursday evening and 6 of us piled in - Vicki, Tim, Nancy, Bill, Mike and me.  A nice hour's ride through a whole new area of the countryside.  Even though it was dark, you could see how heavily the vegetation was with trees forming a canopy over the road. Quite beautiful in the dark.

Upon arriving, we went up to the station house where there were bags full of sand.  These were nests that they had uncovered to protect from poachers since turtle egg soup is quite the delicacy here even though it's against the law now.  As the babies hatch, they get released at night to the sea.  We were very fortunate to have about 18 that had hatched that day and we got to hold them before we all went down to the beach to release. An awesome experience!!

Video of holding the baby:

They just wouldn't stay still!

Just precious!

 We were also hopeful that we would get to see mother turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs.  Unfortunately, that didn't happen.  It hadn't happened for a few nights and the protectors were getting worried as they didn't know why they weren't there because the conditions were right.  They have had as many as 27,000 come in one night.  I can't even imagine what that would look like.  As the turtles are very sensitive to light, we couldn't take photos with flash.

We walked the dark beach up and down looking but to no avail.  We also saw armed guards with AK47's walking the beach looking for any signs of poachers.  Fortunately, we didn't see any of those either.  But we did get to witness Berman finding a nest and digging down so we could hold and see the eggs.  So very fragile and soft!  And, very warm!  What an honor to have this experience.

Our day was spent today saying good byes to Vicki and Tim, who were headed off to Granada. It wasn't in their plans but they really were surprised at how much they liked Nicaragua so they decided to extend their trip.  So know that feeling!  That's why we're here after having made a day visit last spring.

It was also time for Nancy and Bill to move on up the road to Rancho Santa for 2 more days.  This is part of their International Living arrangements.  Actually, several of us wanted to catch a ride with them and go visit the development this afternoon to see if it was where any of us would consider living.  However, when I called to see if we could all hitch a ride in the van, I was put through the ringer.  They forcefully encouraged us to spend at least one night and to be prepared to have a discussion with them before coming as to our financial wherewithal before they would give us an "appointment" to come tour their facilities.  What a turn off!  Nope, not the kind of place I want to live.

Mike's in the pool cooling off, I'm finishing up the blog and heading to the shower to prep for cocktail time and another great evening in this beautiful place called Park Avenue Villas in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua.  Really liking our life here and glad you're taking this journey with us.  Until next week and another blog update....Hasta Luego!

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