The Road Not Taken

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

the 1 less traveled by

A move to Nicaragua

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learning Spanish

Container Delivery

Buying a Container in Nicaragua

We liked the idea of an easy office/storage shed by using a container. We had heard there was a surplus of them in Nicaragua so you could get one cheaper than constructing a regular building. We asked around San Juan del Sur and randomly stopped by places we saw containers while on trips away from town, but the quoted prices were much bigger than what we had planned for until a friend of ours came back into town and hooked us up with his contact. We ended up paying about $4,000 for the container with delivery.

Tying chains to the backhoe bucket       Lift Off
    Tying chains to the backhoe bucket                          Lifting the container off the truck bed

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map-of-san-juan-del-sur

Living in San Juan del Sur

Why we live in San Juan del Sur

We have been contemplating buying property and building a rental home here, so this topic has been on my mind quite a lot lately. With a large impending decision like this, I have been weighing the pros & cons of choosing San Juan del Sur as a permanent tie… So, I thought I’d write about it.

When we moved abroad, our plan was to live in San Juan del Sur for the first 6 months and after learning some Spanish and understanding the country a bit more, we’d relocate to the more northern and less tourist town of Miramar. We were told by a friend who had been living in Nicaragua, that because of the large Expat population in San Juan del Sur and Granada, those cities would make for an easier transition. We wanted to live by the ocean, so San Juan del Sur it was! After the 6 months went by in a blurry flash and still flailing at Spanish, we found we had already started making friends and and a life in San Juan del Sur. We made the decision to stay.

We have a friend who runs a surf camp called Casa Sirena Surf Lodge in Miramar, so we visit often. Every time we go an air of tranquility rushes over me. I have a great fondness for that tiny fishing village that is probably today a lot like San Juan del Sur once was. I had to think long and hard about whether purchasing up there would be a better investment and location for our family’s second home. In the end we have decided San Juan del Sur is the most logical spot for us and with Miramar’s consistent surf and a major paved road connecting it to the university city of León and capital Managua, its only a matter of time before its gentle pace will too speed up.

Here are some of the reasons we choose to live in San Juan del Sur:

Beaches are Everywhere

San Juan del Sur is full of uncrowded beaches. In the year and a half of having lived here, we still have not been on every beach. In fact, we went to a private bay for the first time last Sunday for a BBQ with friends. Playa Hermosa

International School

This was a big one for us, as our children grow older the need for education will become even more important. We are confident that not only will San Juan del Sur Day School be around for many years to come, we also love the education Azalea receives there. Because of the large Expat population here, there are even more schools popping up. Titus will be starting at Escuela Adelante next week and I believe it will continue to grow and prove to be a wonderful bilingual school.

Diverse Restaurants & Food

It might sound trivial, but I don’t think I can survive solely on local Nicaraguan food. Here in San Juan del Sur there are different flavors of restaurants opening weekly. Date Night at Jicaro GardenWe have a Peruvian, Indian, Thai, Falafel, Mexican, Canadian, Mediterranean, Spanish, German, and of course North American. We have a few shops that specialize in selling imported food products like alfredo sauce, Franks hot sauce, rice & balsamic vinegar, cheese, cereal, bagels, olives, spices, Doritos, alcohol, dijon mustard, quinoa…things you never even thought about not being available. Our food menu always consists of some Nicaraguan dishes and a healthy mix of flavors from around the world.

English Speaking Spanish Teachers

One of the major reasons we moved to a Latin American country was for our family to learn Spanish. There are not only a plethora of Spanish teachers here in San Juan del Sur, but because of the tourist influence, many have seen the value in learning English. This makes the answers to questions about the rules of the language clearer.

Our House Cleaner Juanita

It has become a priority for us to make sure that our house cleaner, Juanita, never has to worry about finding work again. She has been with us since our first day of living in San Juan del Sur and we care about her, and her family deeply. She treats our children as if they were her own and our children treat her like a member of our family. Juanita is very honest, always removing money out of Kharron’s dirty clothes pockets and placing whatever the denomination is on our counter. She knows where all our valuables are, maybe even better than we do. Whether we buy a property or not, we will somehow ensure Juanita’s future. If we do buy the property, then she will manage our vacation home and her husband will be our “cuiador”.

FriendsTwo Guys Adventures

We’ve met a lot of like-minded people in the one and a half years we’ve lived here. Although most of these people are Gringos, we have also made close friendships with Nicaraguans. When moving to a foreign land, I have found that friends you can trust are even more important than they are at home. When your car breaks down in the middle of the night on a quiet road, you need someone. When you go out of town, leaving your pets for a few days, you need someone. When you’re kids have taken every last bit of your patience, you need someone. Besides the friends we have here, in San Juan del Sur there is an amazing network of Facebook pages. You can ask any question and strangers will give you an answer.

We’ve been here awhile

Navigating a new city is hard anywhere, but doing it in a foreign country and in a foreign language is a daily struggle. We’ve finally started to figure some things out. I can now offer information when someone posts a question on Facebook. We have a mechanics (actually 2), a wood guy, and someone to help with bank runs and other odd, but complex errands. We’ve worked out a network here and starting over is a task to great for me.

 

There are many amazing cities in this beautiful country we live in, but San Juan del Sur has proven to be the best fit for our family. Part Gringo, but still mostly Nica, this town has so much to offer. San Juan del Sur will always and forever remain our second home.

Titus enjoying some cantaloupe juice in his walker.

A Typical Day – After 6 weeks of living in San Juan del Sur

We’re starting to feel pretty settled in our routine here, so I thought I’d write about what a typical week day is like for us living in San Juan del Sur.

The kids have both been waking up pretty early and there aren’t many roosters around our home to blame it on.  It seems Azalea or Titus wake up between 5:30-6am every day.  It only takes minutes after one rises, for the other to wake as well. If Titus is the first, I like to enjoy a little bit of quiet play with him in our bed.  He sleeps in a Pack ‘n Play in our room so I let him wrestle around for a while before picking him up and bringing him in bed.  We usually only get about 5 minutes of quiet time before Azalea comes knocking on the bedroom door.  If Azalea is the first to rise, her loud knock will usually wake up Titus, but if not, it is her morning mission to make sure everyone else is awake in the house. Kharron is an early riser and uses the quiet mornings to get work done, so he can be found at the kitchen table on his computer every morning, including weekends.

I’m not sure what to do with kids this early in the morning and before I’ve had my coffee so I fumble with blurry, sleepy eyes to start a show on the TV.  Some of Azalea’s favorites right now are Annie, Finding Nemo, Curious George, Horton Hears a Who, and Dora the Explorer. Once I have her crazy morning energy lassoed to the TV I open up the home’s accordion patio doors so the dogs can go outside and Tasha can go visit her “friends”.  Rigley with his broken arm, gets leashed to the large wood picnic-style table on our patio so he doesn’t go too far and re-injure himself…again.

Rigley leashed to the picnic table in the morning.
Rigley leashed to the picnic table in the morning.

I either hand Titus off to Kharron or put him in his jumpy that came in our box.  The dogs water usually needs to be refilled, coffee gets made, Titus’ diaper gets changed, and Azalea’s initial hurricane gets cleaned. With a cup of coffee in my hand I nestle on the couch next to Azalea, nurse Titus, and enjoy the slow trickle of caffeine processing in my body.

On a typical day the family all has breakfast together.  We may not all eat the same thing, but everyone sits at the table at the same time. Azalea has been eating A LOT of watermelon as well as peanut butter (with no jelly) sandwiches.  Eggs are also popular for breakfast.  I like to make a smoothie with all the fresh cut fruit Juanita has prepared or have fruit with yogurt and granola. Titus usually has some sort of fruit or ground oatmeal (avena molida) with yogurt.  At breakfast Kharron and I discuss the plans for the day or things that need to get done, while Azalea continuously interjects with silly behavior.

After everyone has eaten and gotten their pjs dirty, it is time to dress for the day.  I distract Azalea by letting her pick out what she wants to wear to school while I choose my own outfit.  I’ve learned a trick of putting Titus on a towel in the bathroom sink while I do my hair and make-up.  The toothpaste is usually distraction enough for a quick application. My hair lives in a ponytail because its too hot for anything else and my creativity runs low in the morning.

Kharron departs for work during this part of the morning routine.  He has an office in town where there is less distraction and he can focus on his job… our only source of income. We all give Daddy kisses and watch him climb on his moto and zoom away. Its about this time too that our pool/gardener arrives. We all acknowledge him with an, “Hola Chilo” and carry on with our morning tasks.

Once I am dressed I focus on Azalea, helping her put on the outfit she’s chosen or trying to steer her in a different direction.  She really only wants to wear three things right now – a brick orange flowered long sleeve dress, her long sleeved Elsa princess dress, or her long sleeve white cotton dress.  Juanita is so efficient that at least two of these options is always clean, but its hot and I don’t want her wearing the same thing everyday so this usually becomes our first battle. After the tears have dried, I manage to style Azalea’s beautiful curly hair in front of the TV while Titus is on the floor next to me playing with some toys.

Azalea in one of her favorite outfits
Azalea in one of her favorite outfits

As I’m just finishing my hair masterpiece, I hear the single beep of Juanita’s family moto notifying us of her arrival and Juanita comes through the front door with a, “Buenos dias.” She picks up Titus and I’m able to race around the house putting Azalea’s second storm away, applying sunblock to everyone, and making sure Azalea has a change of clothes, hat, and extra sunblock (and nothing else) in her backpack.  Juanita keeps Titus while I drive Azalea to school.  She likes the music blasting and all windows down except her’s because it blows her hair too much. Azalea’s school starts between 8-8:30am and I take my time dropping her off.  Its nice to have this time with her without juggling Titus on my hip. We say hello to the teachers and Julie, the director.

Hurricane Azalea in action
Hurricane Azalea in action

I go straight home and if Titus isn’t already asleep by the time I get there, then I nurse him to sleep for his first nap. Juanita has been making him a bottle or juice from an orange mixed with water.  She rocks him in the hammock to try to get him down for his nap while I am driving Azalea to school.  After he is down I am free to try to converse with Juanita via my crutch, Google Translate.  If we didn’t shop for the week on Monday, then we talk about whether I’d like her to cook lunch and/or dinner that day and if we need anything from the store.  I’m just starting to feel more comfortable with opening our conversations up to topics of life outside our home.  Kharron and I have been trying to learn past tense and these moments with Juanita are like a daily Spanish lesson.  She is very patient with us – politely correcting the pronunciation, accent, or gender of a word when necessary.  She also gives a kind nod when we have said something correctly.

Titus enjoying some cantaloupe juice in his walker.
Titus enjoying some cantaloupe juice in his walker.

While Titus has his long morning nap I spend my time blogging, researching hotels, what is necessary for VISA renewal, scrolling Facebook for what’s happening in our home town, San Juan del Sur, or Nicaragua, text with friends, or do all those little computer busy work I didn’t have time to do while living in the States.  When we first moved in we had cable, but it never really worked so we cancelled Claro and were going to use a new company called Sky, but haven’t gotten around to it yet.  I’m not sure that I want to add it.  I’m sure I would be much less productive during these nap times if I had the option to space out in front of the TV.

Once Titus is awake I nurse him again while reading my latest book on my Kindle.  Then we usually head out to town to go buy bread at the paneria, fresh fish at the acopia, eggs or water at a pulperia, or say hello to our friends at one of the shops.  Its nice to stroll around the town with Titus happily dangling in the Ergo carrier.  Azalea gets out of school at noon, so Titus and I head over there from town.

We are always greeted by Azalea with a shrill of happiness.  We take our time collecting her art work, backpack, and shoes and say “Hasta luego” to her teachers and friends. On the way home we talk about what her favorite part of school was.  She doesn’t quite get this conversation and she usually says something that doesn’t really make sense or happened on a different day, but I figure its good practice.

Once home, Juanita is finishing up lunch and daddy is home sitting at the kitchen table.  We all enjoy lunch together (chicken, fish, or pork with cabbage salad, beans, rice, or plantains. If she doesn’t have too much to do, Juanita will feed Titus so I am free to eat lunch and enjoy the conversation with my family.  We’ve come to realize that Juanita is very funny, so there’s a lot of really bad Spanish and big laughs during lunch.

After lunch Azalea gets to watch a show on TV and Daddy goes back to the office.  Azalea’s been pretty good about her naps so after about 20-30 minutes of TV she’s ready for bed.  She likes to get in pjs for naps and that is always a process.  I turn on the A/C and if Titus allows for it, I read her a quick book.  Once she’s down I nurse Titus and hope for the simultaneous nap. I’ve been pretty lucky these last couple weeks!

Azalea asleep in her "Princess bed"
Azalea asleep in her “Princess bed”

On Tuesday & Thursdays I volunteer at Barrio La Planta Project 2-4:30pm with the Kindergartner classes.  If all goes well, I leave 2 sleeping kids in Juanita’s care.  I have to admit, on the other days of the week I usually read myself into a nap.  I don’t know if its the heat or the the energy it takes to live and communicate in a foreign land, but I am really tired here.  If Titus doesn’t nap when Azalea does, we dip our feet in the pool or go for a swim.

Quiet swim with my little man
Quiet swim with my little man

Once everyone is awake we relax a little, go for a swim, go to the park, get some ice cream, or meet up with friends.

My favorite part of the day is when Daddy gets home from work. Juanita makes dinner for us about 3-4 times per week, so the early evenings aren’t spent with one of us preparing dinner while the other entertains the kids. Azalea has been loving an early evening swim with her daddy or some days we take Tasha & the kids to the beach for sunset.  On the nights Juanita hasn’t cooked, Kharron will cook, or we pick up “street food”, or meet friends at a restaurant.

Sunset at one of the beaches
Sunset at one of the beaches

After dinner I shower with Azalea and bathe Titus in his little tub.  Everyone gets in their pjs and sprayed with bug spray.  We put on one of Azalea’s programs and I nurse Titus to sleep.  Titus has been going to bed around 6:30/7pm.  We spend some time alone with Azalea before corralling her to her room for 3 books and some cuddles.  Her bedtime is about 8pm.  Lately after books and I’ve switched off the lights, we’ve been discussing our favorite part of the day.  Its been really fun to hear what she has to say and share with her what made me happy that day.

Titus in his little tub
Titus in his little tub

Its not long after the kids are in bed that I too retreat to our air conditioned bedroom to read and fall asleep.  Titus has been only waking up once to eat in the middle of the night, so my sleep has recently gotten less interrupted.  Someday soon we will probably move his Pack ‘n Play into Azalea’s bedroom.  Kharron again uses the quiet nights to get work done and enjoy the solitude.

We have a peaceful life here in Nicaragua.