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A normal week in Granada

May 5, 2012

This week has been full of surprises although it was just a normal week of going to school in the morning and working in the afternoon. No visitors or travel.

Esmeralda, my housemate, invited me to a surprise birthday party for her employer, Carol (a Canadian).  I have met mostly Canadian and U.S. expats, but I was told there is a large French expat community although they keep to themselves. Language must be the delineator. The party was a lot of fun and Esme had gotten a gorgeous pink cake. The icing had the greeting using her last name, not Carol.  She asked about that and it turns out that Nicaraguans rarely have a written greeting, just the cake. Her Nica friends said the last name denotes great respect.

The next morning Esme told me that Carol had a break-in at her home overnight and the robbers took her blender and her running shoes. Apparently her computer and other valuables were in her bedroom with her which must have been locked.  Then she had a fender bender – no visible damage, but the other person wanted money. What a birthday!

That was the second break-in I heard about that week. Last Friday I was to meet a new friend, Pat, at Tres Mundos a local community institution and she did not appear at the appointed time so I finally left. I was walking to Mojito Friday and ran into Douglas, a man I met when I first arrived but have not seen for a couple of months.  He told me the house he was managing was broken into the previous night. Somehow they pushed apart the bars in the front window and then pushed in the actual wooden window.  The person had to have been small.  They took his computer, phone and charger, a DVD player, and some other electronics.  Small things they could get out the window. The scary thing is that they took some of these things from the room in which he was sleeping.

It is the poverty here.  These items have street value.  I mentioned that all kinds of things are sold on the street so now I am wondering if some are stolen although they would obviously not be new.  I have not ever looked closely at what is sold in the street market, maybe things are used. Good sport shoes are very expensive here and I am sure those were put to good use. Everyone uses blenders to make smoothies, they are very common. Of course electronics always have value.

By the way, Pat was waiting for me at what she thought was the right place. She was at Neustro Mundo, which is a restaurant.  We met Thursday for dinner at the Garden Café which we both knew.  She left to visit Costa Rica for a few days (and to see a Bob Dillon concert tonight in Costa Rica), then on to Bogata,Columbia.  She heard there was a lot of work for English speakers in Columbia.

Illustration of poverty:  A secondary school teacher makes $200 or less per month and currently they receive a bonus of $30 per month.  They are paid by the government once a month, so by the end of the month no one has any money left. That is why Gallo Pinto (rice and beans) is so popular –cheap and tasty, or why they eat oatmeal for dinner. People who are really poor each chicken feet; you can buy them in the market.  A teacher has to have a university education and they normally have forty children in each class.  They have to buy their own markers and supplies.  The government says they are improving the education of Nicas, but I don’t see how with no supplies and overworked teachers. In addition, students have to wear a uniform to public school and the parent must provide that, so some kids just don’t attend school because there is no money for uniforms. If the parents can afford it (or can get a scholarship) they send their kids to private (Catholic) schools.

I stopped by Julie’s house to pick up a certificate for one of my U.S. visitors who purchased a special ceramic bowl.  While I was there my former maid, Isabel, arrived and I was delighted to visit with her.  Julie is a friend of Isabel’s and she told us about the bats in her house and how Isabel killed one by swinging at it with a broom handle as it flew toward her. What a baseball player she would be!  Now her dog waits in the “sala” or sitting area for them at dusk when they come out. She is able to jump as they fly by and catch them and kill them. Kind of amazing. They live in the roofs here and although she has tried to plug up all the holes they still come.  There are two kinds of bats here –fruit bats which are harmless and vampire bats which suck blood from animals and humans (and carry diseases). There are bats at my house, but so far they are outside and because I have mesh on my windows they cannot get in, but they are up on the roof. The owner told me she had vampire bats here that almost killed one of her cats by sucking its blood at night (it was outside) and she did not realize what was wrong until the vet checked it. Hmmm.

My final surprise was yesterday when I had the chance to go to Managua. Carol and another woman had to run some errands and Carol needed new shoes and a blender. I asked to go along.  We went to a beautiful hardware/house wares store –big like Home Depot but nicer and without the lumber. Then to Price Smart which is like Costco. It is a membership store too with some great deals. Finally we went to a beautiful, modern mall like you find in any U.S. suburb.  Lots of cute restaurants and nice stores. People were beautifully dressed-high heels and dresses, with stylish hair and makeup. Managua is the capital and in this area is like any modern city.

I had a lot of interesting and fun experiences in between studying Spanish and working.  I even had four phone interviews (magic of Skype) and set up a candidate to interview with a client for next week. Life is good.

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