Día de San Jeronimo

>> Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Today is the official beginning of our patron saint festival and so we don't have school today (and didn't yesterday and probably won't tomorrow, either). The bright teal city hall is decorated to honor Masaya's patron saint, San Jeronimo. He is supposed to be carted around the city so everyone can see him but it's raining so who knows if that will happen. So far our new neighborhood has proven much less festive and thus much more quiet than where we used to live. That's worth celebrating.


A Full Recovery

>> Saturday, September 27, 2008

There is a park and a little league baseball stadium within a few blocks of our house and we've been taking Dora there so she can fetch her ball a few times and then be tired the rest of the day. When she's outside and off her leash she really only has one speed, though, and that's crazy.


Family SUV

After my bike got stolen, I searched for a while and finally found a used one, but it was definitely a fixer-upper. I ended up sinking about $7 into major repairs. It's nice to get to school faster especially now that it's rainy and since the nearest place to buy agua pura is about 6 blocks away I've learned how to balance 5-gallon bottles of water on the bike frame. When not carrying water, Holly is re-learning to balance herself there because she's gotten rusty after three months without a bike.


Bacterial Infection

>> Thursday, September 25, 2008

Holly is sick with some weird bacterial infection, but not the same kind that I know and love. I hope these pills (2x a day for 14 days) make her better. So far mixed results. She has a weird taste in her mouth that is "like letting a malaria pill dissolve on [her] tongue."


Another Mural

>> Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Even though some clever theives ripped the Feliz Cumpleaños Crab off of Holly's bulletin board, it has largely been spared the fate of most murals in the schools. Here's Romel inspecting the damage to one at my school:


The Mural

>> Monday, September 22, 2008

Someone at Holly's school noticed that she had a talent for being manipulated into doing things that she doesn't want to do and asked her to "help" work on a mural commemorating the staff birthdays for the rest of the year. She ended up working on it all alone and worked really hard on it just to spite them: Sadly, my favorite part, the Feliz Cumpleaños Crab©, was shamelessly stolen from the teachers' lounge. Holly claims that the scandal has forced her into early mural-making retirement, but I suspect that in February, we'll have a new mural to show you.


Update Part Three: We Moved!

>> Sunday, September 21, 2008

"I want to come home but there's a potential stabbing outside. I am both intrigued and scared" was the text message Paul sent me a few hours ago from our old house. Just as soon as we moved away, the whole neighborhood seems to have fallen apart. The borrachos must have been on their best behavior to impress Dora and me because now that we're gone, it seems like there is always outrageous drunken debauchery going on. We never had any major problems--mostly battles of will with the neighborhood alcoholics that wanted to sit and/or pass out on our stoop--but we never felt entirely comfortable and decided that when our contract expired we would try to move.

Our last house search took forever, so this time we took a wait-and-see approach. We looked at a couple of houses that were either too expensive or not much of an improvement. It helped, too, that our site-mate John was also looking for a house to live in; he told us about all of the places he found but couldn't afford, and decided that he would move into our old house, despite its flaws, if we left. One of the houses he found for us was right by the baseball stadium, about 5 blocks from the central park, and we moved in 3 weeks ago.

The house is a huge improvement over our old house, both in terms of location and the actual house. The biggest improvements in our quality of life have been that 1) the house has a real kitchen, and 2) most of the house has real ceilings. The ceilings might not seem like a big deal, but the old house only had the zinc roof supported by wood beams. Stuff was always falling from the ceiling so that the floors could never be swept and mopped enough, and there was always a thick layer of dust and dirt on tables, chairs, our bed, and any other flat surface.

Here's a sample of our lovely ceilings looking out to the garage area and our office:Here's our kitchen. We're thrilled to have dirty dishes in the sink because that means we have a sink!
To the right of this kitchen area is our fridge, purified water bottle, and laundry area.This house doesn't have an outside patio, so we have to hang our clothes inside. Part of the roof is clear, though, so it gets pretty bright and pretty hot in there and we haven't had trouble with getting clothes to dry. The bedrooms are on the left in this hallway and you can sort of see one of our bathrooms on the right.The one big disadvantage of a house with ceilings is that we can't hang our hammocks inside. The closest thing we've found to replace them are our sillas pereszosas (lazy chairs). Our new house is in the hammock-making district of town, so we bought the one on the right from some neighbors down the street, and we got to pick out custom colors. They do recline, but it's not quite as nice a La-Z-Boy.And the hammock is relegated to the garage area. It doesn't get as much use as it used to, but it's nice to sit out there when it's raining to watch all the trash float by.
Here is our guest suite and the tijera (scissor) bed:Dora seems to have adjusted quite well:
Now that she's finally finished her eight-week recovery, she's happy to be playing catch and fetch and going on walks. And don't worry--it took her all of about 5 minutes to find a new gaggle of little girls to shower all her cuteness on:
Here's the view from the street. You can see how super-secure the house is; the garage is closed in with bars, as are the window and door inside the garage.Here's the view from Masaya's Malecón (boardwalk maybe?) of the Laguna de Masaya and Volcán Masaya in the background. The Malecón is one and a half blocks from our house:
Overall, we've been very pleased with our decision to move and with the new place. I think it's a little bit closer to the center of town and to our schools, and the neighborhood bus passes half a block from our house to take us to the market. It took no time at all to find reliable places to buy beans, Coca Cola (I feel I should be more specific than just "Coke" after Update Part Two), and we've already befriended the workers at the neighborhood cyber cafés. The neighborhood is much quieter; there are far fewer bombas (loud, exploding fireworks) and fewer people that share their unique taste in music with the whole neighborhood early in the morning. The combination of the ceilings and having houses on both sides of ours also work really well to insulate the house from whatever noise there might be outside. We're pretty sure that we moved just in time since the three-month-long fiestas patronales begin next Sunday; we'll keep you updated as the house gets put to the test as countless marching bands go by.


Update Part Two: The Drug Bust

>> Thursday, September 18, 2008

A couple of weeks ago Holly was walking to catch the bus at 7:00 am about a block away from our house but there was something happening in the road. A big plantain truck was stopped with two men sitting on the curb and a few police around, but otherwise no action. She got in a cab since her bus's route was blocked.  She asked the taxi driver what was up but he had no idea and told her that there was a sporting event or a car crash. By the time she returned from school, things were starting to get more interesting:
It was a drug bust!  The men sitting on the curb were the drivers, the ninjas were the narcotics officers (masked so they couldn't be identified and hunted down, we guess), and the plantains (usually useful for yummy snacks) in this case were concealing a lot of cocaine in the bottom of that truck. 

The two drivers just sat on the ground all day while the police counted the cocaine. In the morning I think they were ashamed and tried to cover their faces, but by the evening they were just lying on the ground napping, probably exhausted from having spent all day in the sun handcuffed with zip ties.  All of the police officers in Masaya were there, so we have no idea who was left to stop the rest of the crime.  Fortunately, most of Masaya's residents congregated at the drug bust at one point or another during the day, so I guess they were where the people were.  By the end of the day, there were Toña beer tents set up to shield the police from the sun, then big lights so they could continue counting past dark.  By 8:30 that night (13 and a half hours after I first saw them), they were finally putting the drugs into their police pickups to be hauled away.

The newspaper La Prensa had a good story the next day with tons of great pictures. Holly was a little too afraid to offend the ninjas, but luckily their photographer felt no such fear:

To the left you can see the Eskimo that was on our street:
The rest of the La Prensa photos are really great... there's a photo gallery

The paper reported that there was 1,700 kilos of cocaine, which if this report is true would mean that there was $187 million worth of drugs literally one block away from us. I think that the truck was probably passing through Masaya to avoid the police-heavy Pan-American highway that's farther west, then supposedly the plan was to drive to northern Nicaragua and then fly the drugs somewhere else. The eventual destination wasn't known but most people suspect los Estados Unidos

We saw the drugs being loaded into the police trucks to go into Managua, so we assume they made it into the evidence room.  We're still waiting, though, to for a fritanga to open up in front of Masaya' police station serving every plantain dish you can imagine (and trust us, there are a lot).

In a legitimately unrelated update stay tuned for Part Three: We Moved.


Update Part One: Vacation and Dora

>> Monday, September 15, 2008

I realize now that it's been two months since posting something, because that's when we went home for vacation. We took Dora with us with visions of parks and tennis balls dancing in our heads. She flew with us in the cabin (she was just barely small enough) and was really good. My favorite travel moment was when the customs screener in Managua arrogantly stuck his hand into Dora's travel crate even though we warned him that there was a dog inside. He felt around, got a terrified look on his face and jerked his hand back which was immediately followed by her head popping out jack-in-the-box style. Otherwise it was an uneventful trip--I think we heard one whimper on the plan but it was totally justified because our ears were popping, too.
The first morning Dora woke us up at 7 to go to the bathroom, so we went to the yard (grass!) and I waited. A dog in a neighbor's fenced yard started to go nuts and she got a little scared and tried to run and get away. She ran behind some tall grass at the edge of a retaining wall but didn't know that it dropped off. She fell about 3 feet but landed really awkwardly and started to cry loudly. Dora has a penchant for the dramatic, but we knew this was something serious; she kept crying sporadically until we got her to the vet when they opened about an hour later. 

It turns out that she fractured her leg on the growth plate and that it would have been too complicated to fix at that vet's office. Our choices were to take her to a mega-vet in our same city for surgery or to drive a couple of hours away to the University of Missouri where she'd receive 24-hour student care that would improve her chances of a full recovery. We made the drive and then went back home and worried for the next two days.  We went to pick her up and were surprised that 1) she didn't have a cast (two screws and a pin instead) and 2) her leg was totally shaved and she had a big Clydesdale-style poofball on her foot.
The doctors told us that she would have to recover for eight full weeks. She was only allowed to be out of her crate if she was eating, drinking, using the bathroom, or under direct parental supervision. We're now four days shy of the eight week period and as far as we can tell she has done really well. It's hard to keep her from running, playing, and whining to go on long walks again. We think she's had a full recovery; she doesn't limp or favor her leg at all and seems ready to play and run and jump at full speed as soon as we'll let her.  I'm not sure what this picture says about Dora's recovery but it's pretty cute:
Dora kept us home more than we had planned during the vacation, but we still managed to do the things we wanted while we were there. Barack Obama made a surprise visit to our hometown, and we took that as a sign and made sure we got tickets to go. We had great seats and Obama's glory shone upon us and it was good. 
We also had enough time this trip to see family, friends, and the Cardinals.
Coming up next in the three-part series of updates: The Drug Bust. 


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