Tola, September 2017
We have a few months in Tola now. We're really enjoying the change so far, and starting to learn more about the area and the community. Its been somewhat challenging being completely immersed in Spanish for the first real time, that is to say being in a Spanish congregation with completely Spanish territory. But at the same time not quite as hard as expected.
We also got cats!
We also got cats!
Their names are Whiskey and Brandy. We adopted them from a sister in Masaya whose cat had kittens. When we got them they were incredibly tiny, but in just two months they have grown very fast. At first they were terrified of everything and wouldn't come out from under the couch, but within a short time they became very social, affectionate and even jealous for attention. They never scratch or bite, and they help keep down the insects like scorpions and other pests like mice and rats.
Getting pets has also brought to light for me some more cultural differences that I wasn't aware of before. I've gone through all the stages of culture shock over again since we moved to Tola, not realizing how deeply different it was here from the Atlantic coast and from my own culture.
For a good while I was just frustrated and upset with everything that was "wrong" but I've come to terms with it now. A lot of the big differences I've noticed lately is in regard to animals. Admittedly, animal cruelty and neglect is a big problem in Nicaragua and its often quite hard for tourists and foreigners to deal with when they see it. But not everyone is completely cruel to them, for the most part they simply have a different view of animals, one very different from that we have in North America. Back in Canada people pamper their animals too much, sometimes treating them better than human children. This is obviously wrong as well, but on the other end of the spectrum.
Its a bit hard to express accurately, but from what I can tell here in Nicaragua people do not see animals as "alive"... What I mean is they don't think of them being able to feel pain or any kind of suffering or pleasure. They seem to put them in the same category as plants. Having a chicken is like having a fruit tree, a dog like a shrub to keep nosy neighbors out.
The idea of having a pet is completely foreign. Pet stores are rare and cater to foreigners who bring their pets with them. Veterinarians do exist but the majority of their work is vaccinating cows and pigs. Of course they are capable of looking after your cat or dog as well.
As I mentioned dogs are kept for security, but when it comes to cats things get really different. Cats are not pets, in fact many see them as dirty animals, some people even having a phobic response to seeing them. One lady said she would much rather have rats in her kitchen than a cat. This may stem from some superstitions or possibly misinformation. We were told by a few people that we shouldn't have cats in the house because their hair will make you go blind.
Now normally I couldn't care less what people think if I have two cats in my house, but it gets hard when you try to find the basic necessities. If someone here has a cat, firstly they do not feed it, they expect it to hunt. So don't expect stores to sell cat food. Then comes the litterbox. Since cats make you go blind no one would ever have one in the house, so obviously they relieve themselves outside. If they get fleas, rabies, or any other disease is the cat's problem. We made our own box easy enough, but getting the sand was hard. We managed to find some bags at the maxi pali in rivas, but they were in the food section (I think the staff actually thought it was cat food). Unfortunately there wasn't much available and the bags were not big enough to even properly fill the box. But we made due.
Then the food. They do sell it in big stores like Pali, but because only foreigners buy it, it is priced accordingly. Cat food costs more than many basic staples for human beings, ranging from $1.50 to $2.00 per pound. Cat litter (AKA grey catfood) is even more expensive.
I'm beginning to understand and accept the differences in thought now though. Its actually quite reasonable that someone wouldn't bother buying food for an animal when they can barely afford their own food, and why buy something for the animal to poop on when you have no toilet paper.
I still find it amusing though when the neighbors or friends come and see our cats and their jaws drop because of their size. The cats are only 4 months old but because they are fed regularly and given parasite medicine and needed shots they are already bigger than most of the street cats.
In other news were looking to move to another house soon. Another cultural quirk of Tola is that everyone has to have a rooster. Even though we made it clear to the landlord we needed a quiet place it seems they spent the rent money on pigs and chickens. My clients are starting to complain so if we stay here I risk losing my job. The place we've found is much quieter so hopefully it will be a good move. Internet is still good though and it sounds like moving our connection to the new house won't be an issue.