This is a little joke my husband, Kharron, and I have about what is needed to get anything done in Nicaragua. Its not always 2 stores that is needed, sometimes its only 1 store, but 2 people. The general rule is that you will not find what you need in one place by just yourself searching. You will need to speak to a local who either knows where or knows a person who can get it, but once you have it you will need to find a store that will put it together/on/fix it…
Having a “guy” seems to date back to the 1980’s when food shortages were rampant in Nicaragua, a biproduct of the Sandinista government controlling the price of most essential items. A black market or “bisnes” were created and industrious people in the busier cities hired themselves out to wait in lines for the wealthier or became “drivers” who’s sole purpose was to find what their employer was looking for. These men were and still are worth every penny. (*Blood of Brothers: Life and War in Nicaragua by Stephen Kinzer)
The first time we experienced this two-stores-and-a-person phenomenon was prior to us even moving. We had a friend who was already living in Nicaragua so we asked if he might be able to find us a car, so we didn’t have to spend our first week running around scrambling for a car. He obliged and found us an affordable 4×4 SUV. Being an American and not having residency in Nicaragua, he could not own the car himself, so he put the car title under his girlfriend’s name.
We purchased a generator at PriceSmart (equivalent of Costco) two days after we landed. We had done our research and knew that power outages were a major problem. Kharron works as a software developer and it is very important that his access to internet is uninterrupted. Once we were moved into our first home we struggled with connecting our generator to the already wired system. When a home is properly wired, once there is a power outage, you only need to switch a lever to change the power source and turn on the generator. We needed the correct cable in order to plug into this system. One weekend day the family drove around Rivas, stopping at every hardware store (ferretería) to find the correct cable with 110 plug on one end and 220/240 plug on the other. It finally became clear that we would need to buy the 220/240 at one store and the 110 and cable at another. We then hired an electrician back in San Juan del Sur to wire the parts together. In this case, it would have been much easier to hire a “guy” to do all this running around for us, returning with a completed product.
Soon after we moved and once Kharron got an office outside the home, he decided to buy a motorcycle. This way he could get to work easily without me having to get both kids in the car to take him & pick him up from his office. We do not have residency (yet) so we cannot own a motorcycle. Luckily Juanita was happy to not only walk us through all the stores in Rivas that sell motorcycles, but also put the moto Kharron selected in her name as the owner. There are several engine checks that are needed immediately after purchasing a motorcycle, for this we used Juanita’s husband, Vicente who rode the moto the 45km back to Rivas, waited while the checks were completed and returned with paperwork and receipts. All for $8.
Most recently we needed 2 new tires for our SUV. Already having made some connections, we have a “guy” we now go to for all things related to car. So we paid Happy (yes, that’s what he’s called) because he knows someone who goes to Managua and can buy decent tires at a good price. Of course Happy nor his “driver” installs tires, so we had to go to a vulcanizadora (tire repair shop) to have the purchased tires placed on our vehicle. The most popular one in San Juan del Sur seems to be Vulcanizacion “Las Pampas”.
Once you understand and embrace this process, its really beneficial. You don’t need to do anything but pay a few bucks to a knowledgeable and trusted local once they have delivered your commodity. In return, you’re helping someone make a honest living.