Teaching Opportunity in San Juan del Sur

Image

Don’t miss this exciting opportunity to live abroad in paradise while working with fantastic teachers and students.   San Juan del Sur Day School, located in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua is looking for a highly trained, experienced primary school teacher from the United States or Canada to work part time in a multi-age English immersion class of 18 students ranging in age from 4-8 years old. Fluency or familiarity with the Spanish language is desirable, though not required.  A minimum of a one-year commitment is expected.  In addition to teaching, candidate will have the opportunity to study/improve Spanish, practice yoga, and surf.  Applicants should submit a resume, cover letter, and two letters of reference to the school’s director Julie Speier at julieaspeier at hotmail dot com. To learn more about San Juan del Sur Day School, please visit our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/San-Juan-del-Sur-Day-School/109137455588?ref=ts&fref=ts

Rancho Chilamate’s 3rd Annual Christmas Bucket Drive

Each year, our friends, Blue and Jamie, hold a Christmas Bucket Drive to raise money to fill buckets with supplies needed most by the local communities near their ranch in San Juan del Sur.  The cost to purchase is just $25 and provides a family with 5 gallon buckets with household items that the families would buy with what little money they have. This includes items such as:

  • cooking oil
  • salt
  • sugar
  • candles
  • matches
  • toilet paper
  • laundry soap
  • towels
  • blankets
  • cookies
  • spices
  • soup mixes
  • coffee
  • toothbrushes
  • toothpaste
  •  soap
  • sacks for harvesting
  • and last year we had enough donations to add new machetes to the buckets
  • and about 80 new files
  • PLUS they get the bucket with a lid as well… a very useful tool around the house.

For more information or to donate, please visit their website, Rancho Chilamate.  To see previous year bucket drives click here and here.

Let the spirit of giving begin and happy holidays!

The Trooper

I had some minor [major] car troubles yesterday, while Justin was out of town, and it reminded me of this early experience I had in Nicaragua…

Shortly after Justin and I moved to San Juan, he took off for a weeklong bachelor party in Colombia.  I knew the trip was planned before we even set foot on Nicaraguan soil, but I don’t think I truly believed that Justin would actually leave me sola in Nicaragua just 5 weeks into our adventure, until he did.  Nevertheless, I wasn’t going to be the girl who stood between Justin and his best buddy’s bachelor party, even if it was 1,000 miles away.

We had just purchased our new (old) car – a 1997 Isuzu Trooper, so I drove Justin to the airport in Managua and then planned to drive back to San Juan on my own.  Even now, after 4 years of life here, I can’t believe that I actually agreed to drive back from Managua, on my own, with absolutely no knowledge of Managua, the route to San Juan, or the transit “laws.”  I did it anyway.  Thankfully, our new friend, Baldo, was in Managua the same day and offered to ride back with me.  So after leaving Justin at the airport, I went to meet Baldo at Metrocentro, a mall just 15 minutes away and also a place I’d never been, but was certain that I could find easily.  A mere 4 hours later, I pulled into the parking lot and we were on our way.

I handed the keys over to Baldo, exhausted from my half-day trek around the winding streets of Managua, and we set off for San Juan.  As we neared Rivas, and dusk, our new (old) car began to show signs of distress.  First the interior dashboard lights began to dim and shortly thereafter, the radio stopped working.  Baldo assured me that we were fine, so we continued on our way.  We rounded the corner at La Virgen and embarked on the final passage home.  These days, that last stretch of road takes about 15 minutes to cover, end to end, but 4 years ago, that tiny stretch of highway required a 45-minute commitment thanks to giant potholes and endless desvios (detours).  So, it should come as no surprise to anyone that shortly after we made that turn, the sun set, the car stalled, and our headlights went out.

I encouraged Baldo to pull over – perhaps we could call a tow truck, I suggested.  Baldo just laughed and pointed out that not only were we in the black hole for cell phone signal, but it would be a long wait for Triple A.   Instead, he hopped out, push-started the car, jumped back in and we continued down the highway.  This time, Baldo only accelerated when climbing a hill.  The rest of the journey, we relied on dear old Newton and his Law of Motion, chugging up hills, using the gas, and coasting down hills using sheer momentum.   He did his best to get behind other vehicles (which were few and far between) to light our way home.

To reassure me [and to calm my intermittent hysterics and quiet my naïve mechanical suggestions], for the remainder of the ride, Baldo regaled me with stories of his teenage years.  He’d been in this very situation before, except that when the headlights went out, his buddy walked alongside the car, illuminating their way home with a Bic cigarette lighter.

At one point, the wind picked up, swirling dust into the car, so [naturally] I closed my [electric] window for protection to which Baldo sighed loudly and reminded me that we were trying to conserve the car’s energy, not deplete it.  You can imagine how thrilled he was when, a few minutes later, I began to lower the window to relieve my forehead from the beads of sweat forming across my brow.

Eventually, we rolled [quite literally] into town, stopping at the Texaco to charge up the Trooper’s battery for the final push up the giant hill in Pacific Marlin, where we were staying with friends.  Barely in the door, I burst into tears, cursed Justin and our dear Trooper, and fell into a dead sleep.

The following morning, I rose early in an attempt to get a jump on the day and a jumpstart for the car.  I walked out the door only to find a flat tire and decided it was the Trooper waving her white flag in surrender.  I laughed to myself, turned around, walked back inside the house and gave her a nice 7-day rest.  Because a Trooper she is.

Activities in and around San Juan del Sur

When my parents visited us in San Juan for the first time in early 2008, they both commented that it is a beautiful town, but they didn’t know how to access the various activities our pueblo claims to offer.  So, this post is for you, Mom and Dad.  Enjoy!  And FYI – this is really just an expanded list of Rancho Chilamate’s A to Z Guide, with the exception that all of these activities are within 30 minutes (más o menos) of San Juan.

Horseback Riding with Rancho Chilamate

Canopy Tour with Da Flying Frog

Take Surf Lessons with NSR, Chica Brava, Casa Ariki

Visit La Flor Wildlife Reserve to see the Olive Ridley Sea Turtles

Visit to surrounding beaches (Marsella, Maderas, Playones are all about 25 minutes north and Remanso, Yankee, Hermosa, and Coco are between 10-40 minutes south)

Practice Yoga at Zen Yoga Studio or Nica Yoga

Get a massage, mani/pedi, and more at Spa del Sur, Bonnie Lassie, or Pelican Eyes

Go Sailing with Pelican Eyes or Nica Sail and Surf

Go Deep Sea Fishing or Spear Fishing with Aquaholic

Play a friendly game of Paintball

Try Kitesurfing on Lake Nicaragua

Learn Spanish

Volunteer with Comunidad Connect, Barrio La Planta Project, A. Jean Brugger Foundation

Join the annual Howler Mountain Bike Race (seasonal)

Play Frisbee Golf

Take a Helicopter Tour over Playa Ocotal or Playa Hermosa

Rappel from the Lighthouse

Real Estate Tour with Justin at Aurora Beachfront Realty

Hike to the world’s second largest Jesus

Rent a Kayak from Kyle’s Kayaks, found at Pau Hana Restaurant

Try to Stand Up Paddle Board (SUP) in the San Juan Bay

Tour San Juan on an ATV

Itinerary for a 10-day trip to Nicaragua: Lake/Beach/Volcano Style

Justin and I have been fortunate to travel a decent amount of Nicaragua while living here.  Every trip we take, I deign to say it was my favorite, until the next one comes along.  I have documented various sojourns throughout the country in previous posts:

Purisima in Leon, Leon Viejo, Volcano Boarding, PoneloyaGranada, Granada IsletasOmetepeCorn IslandsEsteli, Condega, Miraflor, and TiseyJinotegaLaguna de ApoyoMasayaTolaMontelimar

But I am often asked for ideas for a solid 7-10 day vacation for first-time visitors to Nicaragua.  Though this particular itinerary may not reflect all of my favorite locations, it is a good first primer on the country.  Check back later for further itinerary ideas.

Airlines flying to Nicaragua:
American Airlines, via Miami
Continental Airlines, via Houston
Delta Airlines, via Atlanta
Spirit Airlines, via Ft. Lauderdale
Taca Airlines, via San Salvador
Copa Airlines, via Panama City

Upon arriving in Managua, you will want to have a shuttle or a car rental available.

Shuttle Companies Servicing San Juan del Sur Area:
Iskra Travel
Adelante Express
Pelican Eyes Resort

Rental Car Companies
At the Managua Airport
In San Juan: Dollar, Alamo, Classic Cruisers 

Should you arrive in Managua late at night, I highly recommend spending the night in a hotel.  If you want to stay near the airport, try:
Hotel Camino Real

Unless you have a lot of shopping needs (i.e., you’ve bought a home here and need to furnish it, buy sheets and towels, etc), I recommend skipping Managua altogether.  It is rather chaotic and not very tourist-friendly.  Upon departing Managua, your vacation truly begins!

For an itinerary, you might consider the following:

Day 1: Arrive in Managua early afternoon, 45-minute transfer to Granada. Granada is a beautiful little city and always a favorite of first time visitors. It has the brightly painted buildings, the horse-drawn carriages, etc.  Relax at hotel pool, wander city in the evening. Stay at Hotel Plaza Colon or Hotel Dario 

Day 2: Take Panga Tour of Isletas on the Lake Nicaragua in morning, relax in afternoon.  Good chance of seeing Howler Monkeys here.

Day 3: Transport to San Juan del Sur in the morning – possibly stopping at Mombacho Volcano for a hike before heading to San Juan.  You will need a solid half day for this excursion.

Days 4-7: Stay in San Juan del Sur.  Click here for further ideas on activities in San Juan.  Stay at Pelican Eyes Resort and SpaPosada AzulVillas de Palermo or rent a house from Vacation Rentals Nicaragua.

Days 8-9: Visit Isla de Ometepe, on Lake Nicaragua, home to Volcan Concepcion and Maderas.  You can access Ometepe via a ferry from San Jorge, a town located just outside of Rivas and appx. 30 minutes from San Juan del Sur.  The ferry takes about 1 hour to get to the port at Moyogalpa.  Taxis and buses are available at the port or you can arrange for a private transfer ahead of time.  Once there, hike the San Ramon waterfall, ride horseback to the Ojo de Agua (a natural swimming pool), kayak on the istian river, and rent bicycles to explore the island and visit the museum in Altagracia, home to view pre-Columbian Nahuatl Indians petroglyhps.  Stay at Hotel Villa Paraiso or Totoco Eco Lodge

Day 10: Depending on what time and date you plan to depart, you could stop in Masaya on your way out of town.  There is an artisan market there and/or you could drive up to Masaya Volcano.  There is no hiking involved with this volcano.

The itinerary allows for flexibility.  Some prefer to skip Ometepe altogether or visit the island before relaxing at the end of your trip in San Juan.  For people with more time, I would also recommend a visit to the colonial city of Leon, located approximately 3.5 hours north of San Juan.  For extended vacations, consider going further north to Esteli, Jinotega, Matagalpa, Somoto.  Don’t forget to pack your sunscreen, bug spray, camera, and bathing suit and have a great time!

La Costanera

Slow but steady progress is being made on Nicaragua’s Coastal Highway Project making the border with Costa Rica all the more accessible.  “La Costanera” will eventually be a paved road stretching from Montelimar in the north to the Costa Rican border to the south, a total of approximately 131.5 kilometers running close to the coast line, following most of the existing dirt road.

Photos (taken June 26, 2011) below show a 4 km stretch of road, paved with “Somoza Stones” (named for the former dictator who owned all the concrete factories) between San Juan del Sur and Playa Coco, to the south.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Comedy of Errors, Which is Our Life in Nicaragua*

San Juan del Sur is a colorful town and I’m not talking about the buildings, though that is also true.  No, I am referring to the people: the colorful and often crazy-ass people.

On Sunday, after a lovely anniversary weekend with my darling husband, I rolled our car into a cement wall and broke the rear windshield.  It was certainly unintentional, but entirely my fault just the same.  Justin, meanwhile, was waiting for me at Bambu Beach Club with a specially prepared dinner, courtesy of our wonderful chef friend, German Eric.  Yes, we call him German Eric, not because there are other Eric’s in town, which there are, but simply because he’s German and thus deserving of the distinction…I guess.  There are plenty of other people in this town with similarly obvious and/or wonderful nicknames, including Irish John, Irish Peter, oh and Irish Paul.  There’s Yoga Larry, Bitchin’ Bill, the Chicken Lady, T-shirt Kathy, Hot Carl, the list could go on…

But that’s not who I’m talking about either…I am actually addressing the mentally distraught crazy people in this town.  Judge me for my lack of political correctness and empathy, but it’s true.  As my dear friend Sarah put it, “San Juan imports crazy people, remember.”

Today, not 24 hours after we got our car back from the mechanic with a glistening new rear windshield, someone threw a rock through it and broke it again.  Someone out for vengeance?  Nope.  Someone trying to break in and steal our radio…oh wait…that was stolen last year, so no.

I found out after Justin messaged me “guess who just smashed our rear windshield?”  Naturally, I assumed he was joking since we had just repaired the thing yesterday.  “Please tell me you are kidding,” I wrote back.”  “I am NOT kidding,” he says “Naked Guy.”

So, in typical Facebook-Dependant Style, I posted incredulously…”sooo…just repaired a broken rear windshield yesterday. Had the car for less than 24 hours and today, crazy guy in the street threw a rock at it and broke it.  Seriously? Really need to catch a break here…”  Those who live outside San Juan or Nicaragua replied quickly with “oh no’s” and “that sucks.”  One friend even suggested that I throw a rock back.  But those who live within the walls of this colorful little town inquired, “is the crazy stone-thrower back??” and “was it the semi-naked blond or the tall dark one??”  In a small town of just 18,000 people, we actually have such an array of certifiable residents that it wasn’t clear to anyone which crazy guy I was talking about.  “Always something interesting,” said George.

As Blue added, it “does make you wonder….I think those of us that live here have a line item in our budget ‘Nicadness’ which includes damages by crazy naked people, voodoo doctor requests etc.”

With little faith in a response or action, Justin made his way to the police station to report said crime.  In a surprising twist, they told Justin that they were aware of the problem, they’d received more complaints this week, and they were looking for the window smasher.  They even said they’d take him to a hospital in MGA to get some help.  Then the policeman added, “you should have just beat the shit out of him and thrown him in the estero (estuary).  At the very least, as Cesar put it, “These guys need to find a new hobby.”

[* kudos to Julie for the fitting title]

A brief follow up to our bad car karma – while the mechanic was working to repair the second broken windshield, he managed to smash our rearview mirror…

A Slice of Reality: Getting Pregnant and Giving Birth in a Foreign Country

I sliced my finger on the lid of a spaghetti sauce can last night which sent me into a tailspin of panic.  Though painful and bloody, the cut was seemingly benign.  Nothing that a few stitches and a tetanus shot couldn’t take care of.   Yet my reaction was Oscar-worthy, rivaled only by the time I was dumped by my college sweetheart and slipped into a 2-month depression.

Since our move to Nicaragua, I’ve fallen down concrete hills, stepped on stingrays, and boarded down a volcano and survived, all of which resulted in memorable scars of our journey in Nicaragua.  So why was this latest notch on my bedpost of injuries invoking such anxiety?   The answer – I’m 5 months pregnant. 

Justin struggled to understand my hysteria.  As he fumbled thru the house in search of Band-aids and Bactine, I sobbed into the blood soaked towel wrapped around my finger and fretted about the possibility of a trip to the local Centro de Salud.  Having only been there once before for an anti-parasite prescription, I conjured up visions of rusty needles and disgruntled nurses.

My already pregnancy-laden hormonal thoughts had spiraled out of control into a place of utter fear that had very little to do with my finger and much more to do with this looming birth.  What if I went into labor early and couldn’t make it to Managua in time?  What if I had to give birth at the Centro de Salud.  What if I went to the Centro de Salud for this cut and they prescribed me something that could ultimately harm this developing baby inside me.  If Justin couldn’t find the Band-aids, how was he going to find the hospital in Managua, two and a half hours away?  What if, what if, what if?

As a self-proclaimed control freak/hypochondriac, pregnancy is bound to cause some level of anxiety in an expecting mom.  DSM-IV diagnoses aside, Pregnancy can cause moments of anxiety in any mom.  Mix it all together with a birth planned in Nicaragua, with Spanish speaking doctors, thousands of miles from family and you have the perfect recipe for an all out freak out, which is exactly what I did last night.  The finger will heal, with or without stitches, but what will happen to me and more importantly, to this baby that I have already been waiting 5 months to meet?

20 Weeks

Our original plan was to live in Nicaragua for a year, evaluate our experience, and then perhaps move back to the States, get desk jobs, set up home in an insanely expensive Boston suburb that we couldn’t afford and procreate.  Well, that was my plan.  But, as one year crept into two, both Justin and I began to discuss the possibility of having children abroad.  I wasn’t getting any younger and the economy in the States wasn’t getting any better.   After reviewing numerous birth scenarios (go home now, get jobs, get insurance, get pregnant; get pregnant here, get on a plane back to States for delivery; get over it and just do it), we decided to ignore the one piece of advice that my physician father tried to impart on us during regular visits, “just don’t get pregnant down there.”  Four months later, I was pregnant and we were overjoyed. 

By that time, we had met with one of the top OB-GYNs in the country at Vivian Pellas Metropolitano Hospital, discussed a prenatal plan, and witnessed some of our best friends, here in Nicaragua, get pregnant and give birth to happy, healthy babies.  Just as in the States, my OB here recommended the regular battery of pre-natal tests, exams, and vitamins. Moments after we watched the tell-tale pink line develop, we were on the phone to my OB discussing necessary appointments and ultrasounds.  Since that day, we have received top-notch care that rivals the assistance that my sister has received at state of the art Boston-area hospitals.

So, you know the old adage that “women have been giving birth to babies, alone in the middle of fields since the beginning of time”?  Well, it’s more or less true.  And more importantly, women have also been having babies in Nicaragua this whole time.   Giving birth is an incredibly natural life event.  You can prep all you want with doctors and specialists, but ultimately, this little creature is going to enter the world on her own terms at her own pace.  And that, she can do anywhere. 

Later that evening, after my finger was carefully washed and bandaged, Justin quietly offered to pack my “hospital bag” so that we are ready to hit the road when labor begins.  With more than 4 months to go until the arrival of Baby Fahey, I’m thinking that maybe Justin really will be able to find the hospital after all.