Thursday, January 19, 2017

Nicaragua Part 1: Travel & Sightseeing

Last year Lee took his first "mission vision trip" to Nicaragua with the service group VOSH-Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity. While he was gone I was getting gas one day in the cold winter weather thinking, why didn't I go with him?  I decided that next year I was going to go.  That I did!  And we pulled Clark along too.  We hired my niece, Ila, to babysit for us.  I picked her up on a Thursday and we were off VERY early Friday morning.

Elden told me he wanted to sleep in the girls' room the night before we left. I went in there later that night, thinking he was sleeping on the floor.  I was flustered momentarily because I couldn't see him anywhere.  I turned around and saw this.  I guess he wanted to sleep IN their bed too.  Elden is the only one in our house that has his own room.  The girls are getting too old to share with him and he seems a little too young to share with Clark and Cal.  Plus we got rid of our toy room, so his room houses the bulk of the toys.  Regardless, he doesn't like having his own room. 
Jan 6 2017

Lee and I were up late getting ready for the trip.  That night I realized how many things I could have prepped early instead of cramming them into that evening.  Oh well.  Experience is a great teacher.  I also prepped a couple of meals for Ila so she could just heat them up, plus finished writing out instructions for her and a menu.  Along with other odds and ends, like cleaning up the house, I didn't go to bed till 1am.  We were up at 3:00 am getting ourselves out the door just after 3:30.  The Washington, D.C. temple now does a 6am session the first Friday of every month.  It worked perfectly!  We arrived about 5:45, left Clark in the front entry and headed to the session.  I drove the whole way to the temple too, which is two hours away.  Lee was amazed that I was so awake.  I think the stress of going out of the country gave me lots of adrenaline as I wasn't tired during the drive. Lee and I were even the witness couple.  It's the only session I've been in where there were about 40 guys and only 7 or 8 ladies. Clark read for a little while we were gone and then slept.  We came back downstairs to pick him up.
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I wasn't sure of our timing and making it to the airport, but last minute we decided to see if Lois would take us to the airport so we could leave Lee's minivan at her house.  She lives ridiculously close to BWI, was is super nice. The guys appreciated having a bowl of cereal and it was fun to chat with Lois for a bit before she dropped us off.
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This was funny because of the lines.  Lee had to check a suitcase and the regular customer line was empty...see no line behind Lee.  See the line on the right?  For "preferred" flyers.  Why they didn't just go to the regular line beats me.
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We changed planes in Dallas.  What a shock to see this weather!
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Thankfully our plane really wasn't delayed.  It did have to be de-iced, but other than that all went smoothly.
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The plane from Dallas to Managua, Nicaragua was SO nice.  It was fairly new and the coach seats were nice and seemed bigger too.  It was fun having an individual screen to watch movies.  There was quite a selection too.  Too bad I had recently re-watched Love & Friendship, or I would have watched it again.  I read for a long time then finally watched Ben Hur.
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At customs in Managua!  We made it! We arrived about 7pm.  75 degrees outside!
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We waited a long time at the airport for the rest of the VOSH group to arrive.  There were 8 doctors, 44 optometry students and about 15 or more miscellaneous volunteers.  We thought about just going to San Juan Del Sur by ourselves and not wait for the coach bus and everyone else.  But it was dark out and we decided not to.  Next year though, I think we'll travel more on our own.  Lee served his mission in Nicaragua and Lee and I went back there in 2010.  Now that Lee has two more recent trips under his belt, we are going to be more adventurous next year. (Not sure if I'll go, but Lee is planning on it.  I feel guilty about leaving my kids again for another week-long excursion.)  We three could have purchased round trip tickets for about $1000 total, but we decided to travel with the group, which ultimately cost us an extra $1000.  We definitely will be traveling on our own in the future instead of trying to get flight times that match the rest of the VOSH group.  
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After waiting at the airport for a couple of hours, one gas station stop (thankfully we did stop because we were able to buy water) we FINALLY arrived at our hotel at 1:30 in the morning.  The bus dropped everyone off at one hotel and we walked over to ours.  Lee stayed there last year, so he knew where to go.  Someone was outside waiting for us, so we were able to go to our room right away.

The next day was a "free" day, Saturday.  We took our time at breakfast and stopped at a couple little shops to buy water and food for Sunday. The breakfast was included in the price of the hotel.  They had some yummy options!  We stayed at Barrio Cafe.  They also have rooms, making it a "hotel".
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Barrio Cafe is actually a popular place to eat in San Juan Del Sur.
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The eating area is to the right of this picture.
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The stairwell up to our room.
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Our room was the last on the right.  Clark is on his way up to the balcony where there is a couch and two hammocks.
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It's a cute room with two queen beds.
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Clark's bed with the entry door on the left.
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The closet/bathroom
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Our view from upstairs at the cafe.
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Our view from our small balcony.  Across the street is the SUPER FRUTTO gelato.  Really yummy and we went there three times I think.
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The balcony.
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Clark forgot to bring sunglasses so we bought him a fake pair of Oakley's.  We'd be surprised if they were real. He and Lee later got a hat too as they both forgot to bring one of those too.
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The front of the Barrio.
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The Pacific Ocean was about a block from our hotel.  A pretty view.
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Clark loved this car.  I told him it would be a great first car! Well, if it ran well with out the rope.
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We later took a walk up to the Christus Statue. 
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We made it to the top.  It's not a very far hike, only over a mile there.  The last part is very steep.
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An awesome view!
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On our way back down an American couple stopped and asked us if we wanted a ride back into town.  We wanted to go on another excursion that day so we took them up on the offer.  The lady said that her dad bought a house in San Juan Del Sur years ago and that's how she started visiting Nicaragua.  Her dad has since passed away.  The guy is from Kentucky (it didn't sound like they were married, not sure) but two years ago he and his brother drove all the way from Kentucky in his truck, hauling a boat.  I could not believe it.  He said he would never do it again.  I asked about owning a house in Nicaragua and they said if we did we would need to hire a guard to the house wouln't get looted.  They said if someone stole a fridge out of a house, that would be a year's worth of wages that they wouldn't have to work for.  A guard I guess costs about $200 a month. Crazy, right?  Not sure if we'll ever own property down there, but I am definitely planning on making many trips to Nicaragua.

Next we caught a bus to Rivas.  Our timing was pretty good.  As the trip went on the bus became very crowed.  The seats barely hold two people comfortably.  Not too long into our ride Lee, Clark and I were all sitting on one seat.  And then lots of people were standing in the middle.  You have to experience the local means of travel while down there! But these buses are cheap which is nice, though slow.  They keep stopping to pick up more people because they more people they get on, the more they make.  The bus was stopped about half way to Rivas by a policeman.  He wanted to see passports of foreigners.  Funny enough he just checked people that were white.  No other Hispanics to see if they were from Costa Rica illegally, for example....
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Once in Rivas we got a taxi to San Gorge.  We ate lunch there later afternoon and sadly ordered too much. We didn't have much time as we caught a boat to the island Ometepe, that is in the lake Nicaragua.
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The boat ride is about an hour long.
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Ometepe has two volcanoes on it.  Lee and I spent a night here from our last visit together.  We stayed at a cute resort type place. 
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On the boat I chatted with a German young man that travels the world.  He was telling me how people from the USA should become more international.  I told him we traveled in our country a lot.  It's just so expensive to travel world wide and bring kids along.  He stays at hostels, so of course it's cheaper for him.  It was kind of funny because he repeated a few times the name of a website to find hostels.  I could not understand him.  Lee figured out what he was saying, and of the words was "world".  He couldn't say it.  For some reason I thought that was funny, but told him to not worry, I would have AWFUL German. 
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We pulled in to the town of Moyogapla about 15 minutes late--4:15.  After finding out what time the last boat left for the day we took a moto-taxi on a drive around town. 
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A fun nativity in front of the local church.
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I think we saw at least 4 yellow churches in Nicaragua.  I do love all of the colorful buildings there.
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After the moto-taxi we walked to the Pali--a brand of grocery store.  Walmart actually owns them.  We were able to use the bathroom there, bought popsicles, then walked back to the boat.  It left at 5:30 so our time on the island was very short. Lee served here for the last 3 months of his mission, so it was particularly fun bringing Clark here, albeit short.
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We made it back to San Gorge around 6:30 and it was dark.  A guy offered a good price to take us all the way back to San Juan in a taxi, so we did that.  That was nice.

Back at home the Friday we traveled to Nicaragua, it started to snow a little.  School was two hours late that day.  They received a little more snow and went sledding yesterday. 
Jan 7 2017

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Last picture of Haley before she tripped in the parking lot, fell on her teeth and broke two permanent ones.  Pool Ila was a little stressed about it all and finally got a hold of us at our restaurant that night where we had wi-fi. 
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This is Shanna goofing off, not when Haley fell.
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Surprisingly nothing happened to her face at all just her teeth, poor girl. Ila had Haley show the Bishop on Sunday her teeth, he's an orthodontist.  We needed to get them fixed, but it didn't sound super dire, so we waited till we got back to the states so Ila didn't have to deal with it.
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Some teeth pieces.
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That night at the restaurant I spied something gross...sea cockroach.  Gag me!
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This restaurant was right on the beach...well, where we sat more of a balcony on the beach. 
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The ocean waves.  It was fun eating there, though we also felt bad about Haley. Thankfully that was the only big mishap that happened while we were thousands of miles from home.
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We walked around that night and got ice cream at the gelato place by the Barrio. We ran into some people Lee met last year at VOSH.  It was fun meeting them and chatting for a moment.  One lady told us that she toured the new temple in Connecticut with her sister and thought of Lee while she was there.  Very cool!   And random, we spied an Audi from Nevada.  Wonder if they drove down or shipped their car...
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On Sunday we stepped out onto the road outside the cafe right at 8am.  We fasted that weekend, which actually made it nice so we didn't have to worry about food for breakfast and lunch. We were almost to the church building but thankfully saw the sister missionaries and chatted with them.  The building was under construction so they were meeting at a house.  A wonderful miracle for the day.  They told us where to go.  Oh, and on the way over we got a good price for the taxi AND when the policeman stopped us on the way to Rivas he just said hi and let us go.
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We were there pretty early, but this place filled up.  There are four sets of missionaries there!  Two or three from the states too.  Clark was able to pass the sacrament which was neat. I really struggled in Relief Society.  The lady was giving a lesson based off an Ensign story or a conference talk.  It was nice and warm and I had no clue what they were saying, though I think the lesson was about Gordon B. Hinckley.  It was funny because she would not let up on questions.  She kept asking her questions till they were answered.  One question she asked at least three times, and several times repeated stories so people could answer her questions.  Kind of funny.  Clark even went to young men by himself!  I wasn't surprised after our summer of travels, visiting lots of different wards.
Jan 8 2017

After church, and changing clothes, we headed to the school to set up the clinic.  It's about a 6 or so minute walk from the cafe to the school. All the chairs had to be taken out of the classroom and lined up outside.  The school is a square shape with a courtyard in the center.  At the bottom of the square is the fence and entry.  Then the rest of the square sides are classrooms.
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Clark and I helped bring in glasses to the dispensary and sort some frames as well.
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One girl found a scorpion in Lee's clinic room!  She thought the piece of paper folded up was trash...
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Lee's clinic!  Though he did rearrange it. He had six students, 2 translators and three "guards" helping him.
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He was in clinic one. 
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They had food at the clinic--pizza and some other stuff.  We took some pizza and pop home and ate after we broke our fast.  I should have taken a picture, but they had pizza there with tomato sauce, and a drizzle of oil.  That was it for toppings.  So weird!
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Clark was very happy to break his fast.
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While we were there we bought big water bottles and smaller water bottles.  Clark got an extra huge one one day.  The kids at church and school are into flipping water bottles and I think he wanted to show off his extra large-water-bottle flipping skills. 
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We took a walk around town that evening and saw this little hermit crab, and its "footprints".
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Clark loved seeing the different vehicles around Nicaragua.  Toyota makes a Hilux truck that they don't sell in the US. 
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We also walked up to the Pelican to look around and see some views.  So gorgeous up there.  If we eventually bring all of our kids they have a house type place that will sleep all of us, which is terrific.  The Pelican is so pretty.  It's actually called the Pelican Eyes...kind of creepy, but I guess appropriate for an optometrist, right?!
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We also chatted with the kids that evening.  Time to rest up and do our first day of clinics!

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