Friday, October 31, 2014

New stuff!

A lot has changed in 6 months, and new exciting things are happening here in Pearl Lagoon. We had two announcements made at the meeting last night that will have a very large effect on the ministry here.

Firstly, there will be weekly Miskito classes starting on Monday, and afterwards every Saturday in the evening. We will be using similar methods to other branch directed courses, i.e. juggling and tossing balloons (yes, it actually has something to do with learning a language).

There is a large Miskito population here so we will have plenty of opportunity to use what we learn. Many people in Pearl Lagoon speak Miskito, but two of the neighboring towns (Awas and Raitipura) are entirely Miskito speaking. Miskito is still a thriving language so there are easily thousands nearby that speak it as their mother tongue and still use it every day.

The second was that we will be holding meetings (the congregation bible study) in Miskito on a separate night in the town of Raitipura! The people in this community have shown great interest in studying and also coming to the meetings, but for them it is a half hour walk, which is partially spent wading through a small body of water. We expect a very large turnout for the meetings. Hopefully the conductor will make it there with dry feet.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

To the skies!

Finally i am back in Pearl Lagoon. Its a been a long and exhausting journey but I have made it safe and sound.

The trip down here was incredible, and the convention was the most amazing one I have been to yet. There were people from 15 different countries in attendance, many of the delegates traveled for days to be there.

Los Angeles
My trip started as usual from Calgary, a late night flight into Los Angeles, California. Upon arriving and collecting my bags however I went to check which gate my next flight would be leaving from only to see the flight number followed by the word "Cancelled" in red letters... You'd think they would tell people about that sort of thing rather than letting them figure out why the plane hasn't showed up on their own. At least they put me on the next flight which would be a day later and covered the cost of the hotel. This did mean however that it was unlikely that I would make it to the convention. after some negotiation however I was able to get on a flight that would land me in El Salvador the morning of the first day, so that I would at least be able to get most of it.

El Salvador is a beautiful place, as we were coming in I could see the mountains poking through the layer of clouds. After landing I was hit by a wave of hot wet air, reminding me that I was once again in the tropics, though San Salvador is significantly cooler than Pearl Lagoon due to the high altitude. As the taxi drove up the mountain into the city of San Salvador we would pass in and out of the clouds. Upon opening my tablet the screen immediately fogged up from the sudden change in humidity. I managed to make it to the hotel and get unpacked just in time for me to make it for the afternoon sessions.
El Salvador
Starbucks, San Salvador

As usual the program was amazing. But it was also encouraging and fascinating to meet brothers and sisters from all over the world who had come to serve in Central America, and to hear their experiences. Everyone there had come so far, and was so excited just to be there. The singing during the program was so intense that even though there were only 900 in attendance they seemed louder than the 8,000 that would be at the regional conventions back in Calgary.

"Keep Seeking First God's Kingdom!" Regional Convention
After the program a group of us went to sample the local cuisine, specifically the legendary pupusas that El Salvador is known for. A brother who had been driving some of us to the convention insisted that we go to one specific "pupuseria". I hadn't been to any so I took his word for it. What I did not realize was that this one was not even in San Salvador, it was more than half an hour's drive outside the city to a small town high in the mountains. I showed the address to the taxi driver and he asked if someone was meeting me there, since it was a long distance. The fare was more than it cost to get from the airport, and about 20 minutes into the drive I started to think "This had better be an amazing place overlooking the entire city on a mountain top or something"...
Pupusodromo #8 with old and new friends

Well as it turned out thats what it was. Although it was dark so I wasn't able to take pictures... sorry. While we waited for the food however some street performers came by and gave us a show.

Ticabus Terminal, San Salvador
The journey back to Nicaragua was also quite long, but at least the bus was comfortable. I managed to get on one of the chartered buses a long with the Bluefields congregation since they were going the same way and knew me from before. It took us about 12 hours and we watched the new video released at the convention a long the way. Upon reaching the border we were taken outside of the bus into a medical office where supposedly we would be checked for Ebola. One of the nurses came in and complained to a man at the front desk that they were understaffed and couldn't get through all the people coming in. Shortly after this conversation our passports were returned and we got back on the bus. Guess we just didn't have the "ebola look".
Our bus from San Salvador to Managua

Watching the new Video on the road
My view of the Honduras Countryside
After a night in Managua I was back on yet another bus, this time on the way to El Rama. When I got to the "bus" for Pearl Lagoon which was waiting in Rama, it was already packed to the door with people standing up. Supposedly it had been like that for hours, still beyond me why they don't just leave if they are full. Even more to my surprise I was let on. I would have stood up for the 5 hour muddy roller-coaster ride that followed, but unfortunately it was too crowded to be allowed said comfort, so instead I leaned over the seat beside me with my feet on the floor since there wasn't enough room in the aisle for me to stand upright. people kept getting on until about the half way point and then they started to get off. Finally I had a seat and sort of dozed off or passed out for the rest of the trip. I think this song pretty well sums up the trip.

We didn't get stuck ourselves but had to stop a few times and help other vehicles get out of the mud. There were also a few times that we had to lighten the bus to get through an area, so all of the passengers got off and walked until we were past the rough spot. Understanding Spanish at this point was not to my advantage as I was able to hear the conversation between the driver and his assistant telling the assistant to keep the door closed and stay inside in case the bus flipped over and crushed him. Glad I didn't try to ride on the roof.

In all I made good time in getting back to pearl lagoon where I belong, it only took about 2 days travel with few stops.
Back in Pearl Lagoon

Monday, October 6, 2014

How to make your smart phone work in Nicaragua

If you're planning on moving down to Nicaragua or just visiting you've probably given some thought to what you are going to do about your phone. Many people like to buy an inexpensive pay as you go phone upon arrival. This is a good option as a phone can cost as little as $15 in Nicaragua and you may spend as little as $4-5 a month depending on how much you use it.

There is however another option, if you would like to continue using your smart phone from your home country. Of course this works regardless of where you are traveling, though prices mentioned may vary accordingly.

As you may know, all phones have a chip or SIM card inside. This is what allows your phone to connect to cell networks and make calls/text messages. In Nicaragua you can buy a new one by itself (no phone included) for around $6. You may find however, that this chip looks a bit different than the one in your smart phone. Smart phones generally have a micro SIM card which is much smaller, and the ones you get in Nicaragua won't fit.

On the left in this picture is the Canadian chip I used in a Galaxy S4. On the right is a Claro chip that came with a $16 phone I bought in Nicaragua. The size difference is obvious. Below are step by step instructions on how to make your phone work in Nicaragua, the following procedures are for a Galaxy S4 but the same principles should apply to any phone. The location of the chip may vary.

Step 1: Ensure that your phone is unlocked. When your service provider is the one who provided your cell phone, chances are it is "locked" meaning that it will not accept a chip from any other provider so that you can't change carriers without buying a new phone. There are many videos online and articles on how to unlock a phone. Usually it involves either buying one that wasn't locked in the first place, or paying your current provider a fee (often around $50). The process is very simple and entirely legal, you just pay a fee to be allowed to do it.

Step 2: Remove the current chip from your phone. Usually located underneath the battery, it should just slide out.

This is the back of my phone with the battery removed. Notice the red chip

Step 3: Grab some scissors... I'm not joking. Use your old chip as a guide and cut your new Nicaraguan chip into the same shape and size. You will notice that the gold panel on both chips is roughly the same size, this is the only important part of the chip. The rest is actually nothing but plastic. So long as the gold panel is not damaged the chip will continue to function no matter how much plastic you cut off. If you're afraid of accidentally cutting the metal, use a file to grind away the plastic with a bit more control.

Canadian chip on the left, Nicaraguan chip on the right, after trimming the fat
Step 4: Put the newly re-shaped Nicaraguan chip back in the phone, put in the battery and start it up. If you're doing this outside Nicaragua like I did it will tell you something about no service and you will be spammed with text messages in Spanish telling you about Claro's wonderful roaming plans and how you can win a truck. You're phone is now ready to use just like any other cheap pay as you go phone in Nicaragua. Reload it at a pulperria like normal and you are good to go. By using this method theoretically you can travel anywhere in the world and use the same phone anywhere you go.

*Note that your phone number is contained in the chip, so when you change chips your phone number will also change.
**I am not responsible if attempting these techniques results in your phone exploding and/or phasing into another dimension or otherwise being damaged.

March 23rd 2019

Well we finished our move up higher into the mountains, but then found out the situation was quite different than what we had been told. Wit...