Our trip began at 3am on Jan 3rd. For those of you that don't know, we are spending two months in Central America, in the town of Leon in Nicaragua. We made the decision to come assist an English congregation in this town, and hopefully learn to speak Spanish while we're here. So, this is the diary of our experiences and our impressions of living in a foreign country.
We drove to the Raleigh airport where our good friend, Todd (Hi Todd and Jill!) dropped us off. Cold, windy and rainy. Yuck! Our flight from Raleigh to Miami was uneventful. We arrived in Miami prepared for a 3 or so hour layover. We ate at our favorite breakfast spot in the Miami airport - Sushi Make. They have traditional American as well as Japanese-style breakfast options. It satisfied everyone. :-)
After our delicious breakfast we waited at the gate for our flight to Managua, Nicaragua. About an hour before our flight we were told that our plane was unfit to fly and they were looking for a replacement. (We later learned that there was a problem with the door closing.) It didn't take long but, we were told that we would have to move to a different gate and our flight would be delayed about one and a half hours.
We made it to Managua at 3:30pm (they are one hour behind our time in NC, so equivalent to US Central time zone.) There was a brother from Managua, who drives a taxi, waiting for us. He had the Watchtower magazine in his hand so we knew who he was. Here's a pic of our driver, Norman. (I'm sure you spell that differently in Spanish.)
Driving in a third world country is quite an experience. We learned while we were in Dominican Republic (last year) that things are not as they are in the States. This time we (Lee especially, since he was the one that drove in DR) were happy that we had a local to drive us. First of all, it was about a two and a half hour drive to Leon from Managua. Secondly, the people drive crazy! There are all sorts of vehicles on the road too. From bicycles, carts with donkeys, cars, buses, and of course pedestrians. Our ride was exciting, some of the views outstanding and, most importantly, we made it successfully to Leon. At one point going up the mountain we thought we might have to get out and push! The poor little taxi with all five of us and all of our luggage (which barely fit in the "trunk") was barely moving up the mountain. On the way we saw Momotombo volcano on the shores of Lake Managua. Truly beautiful! Just hard to take a picture of out of our cramped taxi, moving quickly (at that point) and the trees in the way. Here's the best I could do:
The night we arrived we were met at the hostel by our friends here, Michelle and Miguel, and two girls visiting them from VA. We walked down the street to the Bar-Baro for dinner. They said it's their equivalent to Applebee's or Chili's. The food is mediocre and the wait is long. We weren't really too picky. We were just hungry, thirsty and exhausted by that point. (It was about 7pm on Wednesday, remember we woke up at 3am to leave NC? And there's a 1 hour time change.)
We came back to the hostel and crashed! The next morning we were still tired from traveling so, we had a slow morning. Lee made some pancakes (there's batter in the kitchen for everyone to make their own) and we all showered and got ready to do a little exploring. We had some lunch at a local Nica restaurant a few blocks away. We were able to order our food and pay in Spanish. Small successes! And, it was under $5 for all four of us!
Next, we found the grocery store to pick up a few things for our dinner. After our walk (did I mention that there's LOTS of walking?) home to the hostel the boys decided to venture out for their haircuts while Josie and I stayed here to relax. Here's how Josie and I stretch our legs after walking so much. :-)
Thursday evening was the meeting at the Kingdom Hall (Salon del Reino in Spanish, KH for short) in the Guadalupe neighborhood of Leon. We are here visiting an English-speaking congregation. We were told it was about a ten minute walk, with little Josie legs it's about 15 minutes. It's not a bad walk though. After the meeting we walked part of the way home with a group but then we had to walk about 2-3 blocks by ourselves. Since we were new to town, and we obviously stick out as foreigners, we were a little uneasy but, our trip was again uneventful. Thankfully.
Friday morning we were met by our friends, Michelle and Miguel (M and M), to go apartment hunting. We went to an area called to Veracruz, in the Subtiabo part of town. There is a two-bedroom apartment (more like a condo, I think) available starting Monday afternoon. It has AC, electric, gas for cooking, internet, cable TV, linens, kitchen basics, stove, refrigerator, microwave...and maid service included in the $750 price. There is another family visiting that are staying two doors down from us, and there are other witnesses in the area too. It seems that it's really hard to find fully furnished apartments so, we like it, the area, and we didn't want to lose it. So, we decided to get that one. It's a little more expensive since we are only staying for two months. But, they also rent out shorter, and longer term. One thing checked off our to-do list!
Then M and M took us to the bank to get more money. They told us that you go to the ATM to get US money out and then walk over to the money changers on the sidewalk, since they will give you a better exchange rate than the bank. They give about 24 cordobas for $1. Lee had the fun job of exchanging the money, with our friend for translation assistance. The men just wave wads of cash around, they have calculators to calculate and hidden pistols for protection in their risky jobs. Our friend said that it really is amazing they actually do that for work since they don't make that much with their good exchange rate. While Lee and Michelle were doing the money exchange Miguel went to buy us a SIM card for our phone. So now we have a Nica phone number.
After those adventures, and two more things checked off our to-do list, we headed back to the hostel. Then out to lunch again. Seems like all we do is eat! This time we went to Asado Pelibuey for a delicious lunch. Grilled chicken with rice, beans, salad and fried sweet fried plaintains (that's the big hot dog looking thing on our plates.) We had three plates and four sodas for about $9. We had a whole plate of food left over. That became our dinner with the addition of some bread from the panaderia (bakery). We got some bread they called pico. It looked like triangular dinner rolls, it ended up being a sweet bread. That didn't stop us from eating it with our leftovers. And, for snack later in the day. In the picture below the one of us at the table is the grill where they were cooking our food, it was directly behind my chair!
During the afternoon we stopped at M and M's house, not where they live but the one they are fixing up to rent. They were digging a ditch from the bathroom to the kitchen to put a sink in the kitchen. The ditch was being dug inside the house! Lee and Josie helped a little with the digging. I tried to give Michelle some assistance with picking colors for the paint. They like bright colors here so she was looking to make it true Nica style with lots of bright colors. While we were standing at the door we saw a funny sight. Several cows were taking a stroll down the road and sidewalk. We had seen them earlier on our walk while they were munching on a few trees on the side of the road. They were skinny cows!
Saturday was our first day in field service preaching. We weren't too excited about the 8:30am service meeting until we realized that it gets so hot in the middle of the day that it is much more realistic to start, and stop, early. Josie and I joined M and M to make return visits to people they have spoken to before. Unfortunately, none of them were home. We had a coffee break where Josie got a limonada and I got a te jamaica. The lemonade is a little tart and the (hibiscus) tea was delicious. Josie ended up splitting both with me since she couldn't decide which she liked more. After that we walked down to the parque central (central park) and informal witnessed to English speaking people we met on the way. We met one family that spoke English, they were from the eastern coast of Nicaragua but sounded like they were Jamaican. Michelle said that they speak Creole English over there, and when they get started speaking Creole they might as well be speaking another language. We spoke to two other women who spoke English, both Nicaraguan but one was visiting family here but she lives in the States.
Here's a pic of our group on our coffee break.
The boys on the other hand had the adventure of going to a rural area with a large group. They got to ride the bus out of town to a poor area. They searched the area for English speaking people. Lee said that he was impressed that even though it was obvious that these people were poor they were all neat & clean in their dress and their hair and teeth were cared for. Another brother in the group said that even if the people only have one set of clothing they will wash it daily so as to be clean. Another thing Lee said surprised him was the fact that even though it was 90 degree,s and there is no AC in the bus, there was no body odor smell in the bus. Obviously there are dirty, smelly people here but, as a whole, they seem to be clean and very friendly. Here's a pic of Levi with one of the other young brothers visiting.
Today is Sunday. We had the meeting at the Kingdom Hall this morning. Lee was enlisted to read the Watchtower. Since we are in an ASL (American Sign Language) congregation it had been a few years since he read a Watchtower at the meeting. You'll notice that the brothers don't wear jackets on the stage. The boys (Lee and Levi) like that. Now they wish they hadn't packed them!
We went out for lunch after the meeting at a little restaurant around the corner from the KH. There were about 20 people and it took a long time for them to get us all served. They would bring out one plate every five minutes or so. So, we ate in stages. It was fun to get to associate with everyone though. The speaker and his wife were there (he's the second brother from the wall on the left side of the table, that's Miguel behind him and Michelle next to Miguel at the end of the table.) The speaker and his wife live in a little town northeast of Leon about three hours away.
Tomorrow morning we move out of the hostel and bring our stuff to our friend's apartment (the family two doors from where we will be moving in.) Then off to the beach for the day! We are excited since it will be our first visit to the beach. When we get back from the beach we'll move into our new little, if only temporary, home.
Much love to all of you!
The Bachman Family
Here's a link to Wikipedia for info on Volcano Momotombo - http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Momotombo