Thursday, April 27, 2017

Throwback Thursday

While we are having a very busy month already with our planned move to Tola, we decided to squeeze in a visit to Pearl Lagoon. Jean's mom had gone through a period of sickness and also had a surgery on her hand, so we felt we needed to go and spend some time and help out around the house.

We started out by catching the circuit assembly in spanish in Ticuantepe. This is the circuit assembly for the Tola congregation so it gave us a chance to meet some of the brothers in our new circuit. Even more exciting, my nephew got baptized. I am still so amazed that my family are here in Nicaragua to stay, and that my own nephew was answering the questions from the platform with "Si" instead of "yes". Right after the assembly my Brother in law gave us a ride into Managua. He insisted on driving us all the way to the bus terminal even though none of us were sure how to get there. We had always gone by taxi in the past. We consulted google maps to plan our route through the city, which gave us a very quick and direct way to get there. Unfortunately Google Maps does not have ALL the information... It didn't send us the wrong way, into any dead ends, or down any one way streets... but it did give us a lovely tour of the ghettos of Managua. We drove fast and kept the doors and windows locked, and we made it to the terminal. My brother in law and family took a different, somewhat longer route along the main highways to get back out of the city.

We were able to get our tickets that same day from the Wendelyn Vargas terminal at the Ivan Montenegro market. The bus would depart at 9:00 pm and travel to Rama overnight. We like this method for several reasons, one being that the night bus is always "express" meaning that it doesn't pick up extra people along the way. The trip took us about 5 hours, our chicken bus rolling through the night like a disco ball. We were in rama by 3:00 AM. Our bus ticket also garunteed us a seat on the 6:00AM panga to bluefields. The town of Rama never sleeps, so we were able to get some good breakfast for about 30 cords each while we waited for daybreak.

Another panga and lots of heavy rain and we were in Pearl Lagoon. The town has changed a little bit since we were last here, but not that much. It is still a quiet, friendly and slow paced town where it is easy to feel relaxed. Everywhere we go people are waving at us and shouting greetings from inside their house. "Ey! Wen yu reach back!?" And things like that. It looks like the rainy season is starting, although it's still fairly dry for lagoon. The entire area is still Incredibly lush and green compared to the pacific right now, due to the atlantic getting regular rains all year.

The congregation is also just as we remembered. Warm, friendly and crammed into a tiny house for the meeting. Although word is that they will be renting a larger house out towards Haulover to accomodate the rapidly growing congregation. Just like before it was so hard to get out the door of the kingdom hall because nobody wants to leave after the meeting.

It all feels so nostalgic being back "home" in Pearl Lagoon, the place we met and were married. We celebrated our 1 year and 6 month anniversary by having dinner at Casa Ulrich, the same restaurant where we went on our first date and where we had our wedding reception, which is still the very best in town, maybe even the best in Nicaragua.

In another post I plan to make a tourist map for Pearl Lagoon much like the ones I made for Corn Island. It will Include an up to date list of hotels and restaurants and also some travel tips, like how to get here and how to evade the town drunks.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Moving again!

When I was younger I wanted to travel and never stay in one place for too long. I wanted to see and experience as many different places as possible. Now I'm tired and moving seems like more of a burden than adventure sometimes... With that in mind we are hoping to become more stable and stay in one place, and more importantly one congregation for a longer period of time. HOWEVER, before that happens we're moving again. I won't say this is the last time and I won't make any claims about how long we are going to stay in our next location because I learned that is something we can never predict. Circumstances change.

We have enjoyed our last 6 months living in Jinotepe a lot. The weather has been great and everyday life here was a lot easier than on the Atlantic Coast. We really, REALLY miss Corn Island though, and if they had reliable internet we would probably still be there. According to Claro's website they do have coverage on Corn Island, but when you go to the office to sign up you are met by three... individuals... sitting down chewing gum, who respond with phrases such as "We no have change." or "Ova there no got connekshan" or even simply "nah".

Anyways... My sister along with her husband and two children have moved down to Nicaragua and we would

like to be in the same congregation as them. They are now settled in the municipality of Tola, which is in the Rivas department. The town of Tola has a brand new congregation that still meets in a private home, and a very large and very responsive territory. After some consideration and investigation of what life would be like in Tola we have decided to move. Hopefully, this move will be more long term.

Our rent will be about half of what we are paying now, although we will have to pay the internet bill and buy furniture, but we still end up saving a lot. Thankfully, shortly after moving to Jinotepe I was able to get a job teaching English, and interestingly now make more money per hour than I ever did working in Canada. I am fairly confident that this is Jehovah's blessing and a reward for not giving up and going to Canada to work while Jean stayed behind. We still have hopes of going to Canada some day to visit if Jean is ever granted a visa, but now it won't be an emergency.

Tola is an interesting place, very different from other parts of Nicaragua in regards to landscape and climate. It is part of the area known as the "Emerald Coast" of Nicaragua. Right now in the dry season it looks very dry but has a lot of trees and large forests. The town itself is quite small, I'm not sure what the population is but its bigger than Pearl Lagoon and smaller than San Marcos. For some reason it reminds me of some small towns in Saskatchewan that we would drive through on the way to visit my grandparents when I was a kid. Maybe its the kind of trees or the way the countryside looks.

In other news, as a new feature of my blog I will now start including videos when I can. You may notice that a few older posts have had video clips added to them. On my same Youtube Channel you can find some other random videos that I have uploaded that are not related to any particular post, Some sights from Corn Island for example, and also some silly/stupid things I did for fun. (bottle rockets)

Here is a link to the channel:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChr_gi6q-sCFl40y8M0BWJw

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Cost of Living

The number one question that people want to know when considering a move to another country is always "What does it cost to live there?" Well recently I was discussing this with my family and we were looking at some online tools that show cost of living. At least with Nicaragua, there seems to be no agreement between online sources on what it costs to live here, also when you ask people who are here that question the answers vary greatly. Some say you need more than $1,000 US a month, whereas others say that with $100 you will have money left over at the end of the month.
Of course, people's expectations of comfort and their lifestyle have a lot to do with this. Obviously Nicaraguans who make $150 a month with a full time job are not starving, but they also rarely pay rent. Anyways, in order to make these calculations easier, I have made this list of real prices of every day things here in Nicaragua. With this information you can make your own budget and figure out for yourself what you would actually spend in Nicaragua.

The food prices are taken from our own grocery receipts from Pali, which is the most common grocery store in Nicaragua, its a branch of walmart and all the locals go there for nearly everything. Prices are in Cordobas and USD

Ramen Noodles -------------- 7.75   - $ 0.26
Head of lettuce --------------- 15.00  - $ 0.50
1lb rice ------------------------ 11.00  - $ 0.37
1lb beans ---------------------- 14.00 - $ 0.47
1L of Milk -------------------- 27.50 - $ 0.92
1lb Carrots -------------------- 9.00  - $ 0.30
1lb Potatoes ------------------- 13.00 - $ 0.44
1lb Onions -------------------- 11.00 - $ 0.37
1lb Tomatoes ----------------- 7.00  - $ 0.25
Avocados indv. --------------- 30.00 - $ 1.01
Bottle of wine ---------------- 130.00 - $ 4.37
Loaf of Bread ---------------- 37.50  - $ 1.26
Big package of cookies ----- 44.00 - $1.48
bag of chamomile tea ------- 3.00 -  $ 0.10
Pineapple jelly --------------- 21.00 - $ 0.71
Tang package ---------------- 5.00 -   $ 0.17
1 lb garlic -------------------- 55.00 -  $ 1.85
1 lb flour --------------------- 12.50 -  $ 0.42
1 lb cane sugar -------------- 10.00 - $ 0.34
200g sea salt ----------------- 3.00 -  $ 0.10
6 pack of local beer --------- 126.00 - $4.26
bag of coffee ----------------- 99.00  -  $3.33
bag of pasta ------------------ 7.50    -  $0.25

All of these prices include the sales tax in Nicaragua which is 15% on everything. Most stores include it in the price so you won't even notice it. Here are some prices of other things that we have paid in the past.

Rent:

2 bedroom house in the city
furnished
internet/utilities included
$300/month (reduced after long term)

1 bedroom apartment in the city
furnished
internet/utilities included
$250/month

2 bedroom house in a small town
unfurnished
water/electricity included
$140/month

Internet:

Claro (the worst internet provider on the face of the earth)
$30-$70 per month depending on speed. (0.2 mbs download to 10 mbs download, upload speed is capped at 1 mbs for all packages)
The only reason to ever use claro is because there is no other provider in many parts of the country

CooTel (patiently waiting for them to set up in Carazo and Rivas)
$20 per month OTE (over the air, 1.5 mbs)
$25-110 per month fiber optic (2-20 mbs)

Taxis

In most parts of Nicaragua, Taxis charge a flat rate stipulated by the government. Some towns they are allowed to negotiate, like San juan del sur and Managua, in these cases the price may be according to your skin color and how lost you look. Prices are per person.

Most parts of Carazo, Rivas, Granada, Masaya - 10 cordobas ($ 0.34 US)
San Juan del sur - around 30 cordobas ($1 US)
Managua - 50 cordobas average, 80 if going across the city ($2-4 US)

Hopefully these numbers can be useful for you to make your own calculations of what it costs to live in Nicaragua. Of course rent can vary from one town to another by quite a bit, but Pali for example is the same everywhere.




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...