I made a little video of the sights I see on my morning runs.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
- Robert Frost
I made a little video of the sights I see on my morning runs.
Living in San Juan del Sur for the last almost 2 years, we’ve met many builders and know many people who are building or have built a home here. Some of our good friends are builders and we had hoped to use them for our construction.
I really liked the sustainable building products. We had our first meeting with a friend who is a contractor and is knowledgeable about building this way. He was very helpful and explained to us the general processes, things to look out for, and average square foot price for a Expat builder. Unfortunately after talking to him, it became very clear that we were going to have to find something cheaper. We have a very limited budget and were going to have to spend a lot of time shopping around for something within it.
We started looking into Nicaraguan contractors who speak only Spanish. We knew this would make the processor harder and more complicated, but we really didn’t have a choice, unless we were interested in building only half a house. We talked to some friends who created their own contractor team and have done most of the managing of the project themselves. They have done a great job and their home is almost complete, but this seemed like a lot of work and moving parts. It would be hard to maintain our company Señor Coders and manage at this level.
We had heard about Styrofoam building or Insulated Concrete Forms (I know, the complete opposite of sustainable, right?). There are a few ICF products here in Nicaragua, the two we looked at were Cubitech & M2. We started asking around about this product and checking out job sites where we saw it was being used. We heard the homes went up very quickly and it was an affordable way to build. I was hesitant about building a home out of the same product cheap grocery store coolers are made out of, but I guess that does mean the home will stay cool. When we banged on the walls, they were a bit hallow compared to the solid cinder block walls we were used to in Nicaragua, but we decided to continue to look into this type of building and consider it as an option.
We asked around about Nicaraguan contractors using these products and set up meetings with two of them. We met them both on job sites and talked to the owners of the homes they were building. We agreed quickly that the product was much stronger than we first thought. The contractor explained to us that with cinder block, there is a hollow space in the middle. When you use the Styrofoam products that space is the Styrofoam, then they put 3 inch thick cement on either side combined with welded in deer fencing. One of the construction sites we viewed was a large, 3 story home with ocean view. The stairs, ceiling, floors, and walls were all made out of M2. It was incredible walking through the house and seeing how strong it was. We decided we liked the product and wanted to move forward with this type of building.
We had heard that using different contractors for different projects is the cheaper way to go, so when hiring our initial contractor we only wanted pricing on “obra de gris” (grey work) meaning just the foundation, walls, floor, and roof. It also includes the electrical tubing installed (not the wires) and the tubing for the septic system. We would find another team to do the patio, doors & windows, septic system tanks, to do the closets, cabinets, kitchen island, and an electrician.
After our meetings with the contractors we started discussing pricing. As mentioned, we have a very low budget. Using both contractor’s proposed pricing against each other, we got down to a price we could manage at $269 per square meter. This price meant we should have enough money to complete a 3 bedroom home. Some things we’d have to pay out of pocket and not with our 401k money, but it was doable.
We also hired a supervisor for $20 per week who comes by the property twice a week to make sure everything is being done correctly and that the contractors have accomplished everything they were supposed to in order for us to make the next payment.
Contract signed, we broke ground on Jan 2nd, 2016. To see how the building process is going, check out the video my husband made.
I made an email address for my kids and I send them emails every now and again. Every year I make sure I send them an email around their birthday that captures the previous year and what are life is currently like. Here’s my email to Titus this year:
I’m behind on writing you this email. You turned 2 years old 4 months ago.
We’ve had a fun this year living in Nicaragua. You’ve started going to preschool at school in town called Escuela Adelante. You cried a little at drop-off for the first month, but now you march right in and I have to pull you back for a kiss. I really love the little school you go to. Most of the kids are Nicaraguan who’s parents want them to learn English so there is a lot of Spanish spoken there. It truly is a bilingual school. You have a special connection with your Nicaraguan teacher. You guys always play a game of who owns your backpack. Its in Spanish, “Mia!” “No mia!” “Mi mochila.” “No, mi mochila!” Its really cute. I love hearing you speak Spanish.
Your language has progressed amazingly! You were speaking about 50% Spanish, but then Azalea became your hero and you like to say what she says so you started speaking mostly English. Our house cleaner, Juanita, was worried because she didn’t understand what you were saying anymore. Recently you started speaking more Spanish again and to my surprise, you already can distinguish between who to speak which language to. The cuiador to the development we live in has a daughter who is 9 and a son who is only a few months older than you. You and Azalea hang out with them a lot and I think this has really helped your language.
We bought 1.74 acres of land in Sept and we’ve started building a 3 bedroom house and a small studio/cabina G’ma is building. We spend a lot of time at “the property”. You love being there. There are a ton of dirt piles for you to play with your toy tractors in. You and Azalea find sticks to play with. Daddy & I love watching you guys play with things you find in nature. We hope to build 3 more cabinas, then one day sell it as a bed & breakfast…or maybe we’ll hold on to it, you never know.
A typical week day is that you kids wake up around 6am. We leave the house for school around 8am. We take Azalea to her school bus stop first, then get you to school around 8:30am. I work with Daddy, go to the gym, or do errands while you’re in school, then pick you up at 11:45am. We either run errands together, go to the park, or go home for a little bit before picking Azalea up at 12:45pm. Daddy comes home everyday at 1pm for lunch. The only thing we can get you to eat these days is tortilla with peanut butter. You call it “tortilla maní”. You and Azalea usually watch your tablets while Daddy, Juanita, and I eat. Then at 2pm your nanny, Grethel (pronounced Gretel) comes and Daddy & I go check out the progress on our property, then go to work. Juanita goes home for the day at 2pm. You nap most of the time Grethel is with you, from about 2:30pm to 5pm. I get back at 5pm and after you wake up we usually play with the neighbors until it starts to get dark or I need to start cooking dinner. You got a bike for Christmas, so now you & Azalea both have bikes. You just started being able to get the peddle all the way around and you are so proud of yourself! Daddy gets home around 6:30pm most days and we eat dinner together. You might as well be a vegetarian so you usually either eat another tortilla with peanut butter or possibly rice or pasta. Sometimes you’ll have soup. The only meat you will eat is chicken on the bone or bacon. Daddy and I trade off giving you and Azalea a bath together. Daddy is the one who reads you books and puts you to bed. Its a special time he gets to share with you. Also when I put you to bed it takes an hour. You make me get in your crib and lie down with you, sing you songs. Sometimes I fall asleep with you. We’ve been trying to get you in bed around 8pm, but some nights its as late as 8:30pm or 9pm if we went out.
We had a very mellow birthday for you this year, especially after last year! We just had Grandma Moo, us, Juanita’s family, and the Nicaraguan neighbors come over for dinner and cake. It was nice having a small party with the local people who love you. You and our friend’s son, Gasparcito have the same birthday so you had a big party at your school. You got your tablet as your big birthday present and it was perfect timing for you.
About you – You are still the happiest person I know besides your father. You have such a great smile, its the best thing to wake up to. You would rather run than walk anywhere, but you still enjoy “uppy” when we’re in town walking around. Sometimes you’ll walk yourself and we play “salta” and jump over every crack in the sidewalk. The only shoes you will wear right now is your sister’s pink Crocs. I was going to buy you something like them, but in a “boy color”, but I decided to just let you rock them. Why not? You’ve also gotten really good on Azalea’s pink scooter. You whiz around the resort by our house called Surf Ranch. We just got you a cool mohawk helmet. Speaking of, you have had a mohawk most of your life. I just recently cut the back off just to try something different, but you’re definitely a cool kid. You love saying, “Hola” out the window to strangers we pass in the car. You can be shy at first, but when you warm up, you know no strangers. You are a handsome little guy, and people love interacting with you. You are pretty much potty trained for poops, you like to bring your tablet with you, or a toy and take your time. You tell me, “Go away Mommy.” when I come to check on you.
We have a really special relationship, you’re a bit of a Mommy’s Boy right now and I think sometimes it makes your dad a little sad that you’re always calling for me, want to be on my lap, want me to put you to bed, read you books, etc. But from what my friends say, that’s normal. Personally I love our close bond. Living here in Nicaragua where I don’t have to work full time I’ve been able to spend a lot of time with you and really enjoy watching you grow. We play together and are goofy every day. I love you so much and I tell you all day, every day.
I’m writing you this email while sitting next to your dad at the office, he says, “Whattup?” We share an office with a friend named Sean and he says, “Hey.” You are surrounded by so many people who love you near and far.
Love you my Little Buddy,
When I travel, I like to see the traditions of the place I am visiting, so seeing a cockfight was on my list. These are held on Sundays, rotating the two ring locations on the road to the South beaches. We had tried to go once before, but after spending the day figuring out which location the fight would be at, then being told, “Mas tarde” (later) for hours, we were finally told that they were not going to happen that day. It took awhile before we felt we could spend another day trying to achieve the same goal, but when my parents recently came to town, we thought it was a perfect excuse for them to babysit.
Here’s a the video I made:
Hey Little Woo,
Its January and the windy season has begun and with the initial winds comes random itchiness from the Pica Pica. Translated to mean Itch Itch, this irritation is is due to vine called Mucuna Pruriens that is prevalent on the Caribbean side of Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and other tropical countries. Used in some itching powders, the course hairs on the pods contain the proteolytic enzyme mucunain which causes itchiness.When the rain stops and the pods of this vine begin to dry out, the tiny fibrous hairs catch wind and sail throughout those countries.
The fairly intense itch lasts only a couple minutes, but the more you itch, the more you spread the invisible hairs around and drive them deeper into your skin. Once a spot has shown some relief, it is usually not long before another spot on your body is ready to be itched. These tiny fibers get everywhere! Clothing I haven’t worn since the winds started will be covered in them. My bed sheets, car seats, bras, and yes, even underwear!
While the fibers dusts swirling about San Juan del Sur can be highly irritating, I hear that to actually touch the dried bean pod is excruciating and lasts considerably longer. No thank you!
My husband has put the first part of our building process to video. Take a look of what we have accomplished in the last few weeks.
At 18 months, I decided it was time to wean my son off the boob. Well, actually before we moved to Nicaragua, Titus’ US pediatrician suggested that since we were moving to a foreign country, that I breast feed him for at least this long to ensure he was getting enough vitamins, nutrients, and disease fighting substances.
Since he is my last baby, this event was bittersweet for me. I had been preparing myself emotionally for “The Ache” for months, as Sarah Bessey so eloquently put it in her article, “In Which I am Learning to Live with the Ache“. Some nights I loathed the experience, especially when I had to excuse myself from a social gathering so I could go isolate myself in his room and quietly rock him to sleep while breastfeeding. But I have always been thankful that I was able to produce enough milk to sustain both my kids for the first year of their life. Breastfeeding forced me to slow down, look into their eyes, touch their skin tenderly, and hold their tiny hands.
As with Azalea I gave myself a month to completely wean. Titus was feeding usually 4 times a day, so I planned on just dropping one feeding a week. This had worked well with Azalea and I was able to transfer her to milk out of a sippie cup with extraordinary ease. I worried Titus would be a bit more of a problem since he wasn’t a huge lover of milk and never used a pacifier.
The first two days went great. My plan was to drop one of the afternoon nursing sessions, whichever naturally seemed easier, but both feedings dropped in the first two days. The morning and night time feedings were a bit more difficult. I continued on & off with these two, and sometimes the before nap feeding for the next 8 months.
For me, I found that when I was only nursing him once or sometimes twice a day, it didn’t seem that important to me to cut him off anymore. The pressure was lifted. It didn’t have to be a well thought out plan with a definitive ending. Some mornings if he woke up early and I wasn’t ready to get up, I’d nurse him in bed, trying to get a few more minutes of sleep. Our nanny put Titus down for a nap several days a week, so I was off the hook for a lot of those feedings. Then Kharron, wanting to spend some extra time with his son after being away at work most of the day, began being the primary bedtime parent for Titus. On those nights he got a bottle of milk with Daddy. On the one or two nights a week Kharron was tired, had something else he needed to do, or I wanted to spend some quiet time with my Little Man at the end of his day, then I would give him a bottle of milk and when that was finished, nurse him to sleep.
Recently one night after I gave him the bottle and he asked for “Boo boo” I declined. My heart melted when he replied with a sad little “Why?” But as a mom, I felt like we were both ready. His long body draped across mine was starting to get awkward and harder to hold comfortably to my breast. If not held just right his head would not hit the wood of the rocking chair and his legs would roll off of mine. I whispered to him, “Its time” and he settle into the crook of my arm and fell asleep.
Three weeks ago I breast fed for my last time. I hadn’t realized it was the last. There was no special moment of taking it all in, a mental note, a saying goodbye to this motherly duty. As much of a task this sometimes was for me, I will have “The Ache” for those quiet moments him & I shared. I know that its okay to ache, its part of real life. It means I’m loving my life, loving it enough to notice the transitions.
Azalea’s school, San Juan del Sur Day School, has been studying prehistoric times. They’ve learned about cavemen, fossils, and dinosaurs. The teachers of the classes for kids ages 3-5 decided to take a trip to Parquesaurio de Nindirí to see the local park that had 5 dinosaur statues in the grounds. I jumped at the opportunity to volunteer to chaperone.
We took the one and a half hour trip in a rented big, air conditioned van. It was a great field trip! This community park is open to the public with no entrance fees, and has the added bonus of these giant dinosaur statues. It is situated about 30 minutes outside Managua, so a great stop if you are making the trip to and from Managua to San Juan del Sur or other more Southern towns. I also hear that the dinosaurs light up at night!
My husband has been annoyingly videoing every part of the process of digging our well on the property we bought in San Juan del Sur. After finding water he made this amazing video documenting the journey in reverse order. He is now forgiven for my irritation.