Monday, March 31, 2014

The Kolden Report: Nicaragua! March 31, 2014

Hello, kids!

When we last met, Jim and I were in Billings to catch the early flight out with our "bootleg" welder for cousin Jay in Nicaragua. 

The alarm rudely rang at 0245 and I looked out the window at a full force blizzard.  Every car in the parking lot was deeply coated in heavy, wet snow.  MANY inches of heavy wet snow.  Not knowing if our flight would even be able to leave, we continued readying ourselves. 

I had packed summery shoes to wear in Nicaragua since temps there were at 90 above, a far cry from the sub zero temps here in Montana.  But, wading through the snow to the car,  in my Mary Jane's, didn't seem so smart!  I decided that I was going to wear my down coat to Nicaragua.  Thoughts of the flight that went down in the Andes flashed through my mind. 

We swept the car off, loaded up and made our way up the hill to the airport.  Jim unloaded our luggage and waited with it while I parked the car and slogged back to the terminal in my summer shoes.  Check in was a breeze, although the bag with the welder cost extra since it was over weight.  We were relieved to know that our bags were checked all the way to Nicaragua. 

I breezed through security but of course Jim set off alarms and was soon wanded and wiped.  By the time TSA was through with him, I had rounded up his shoes, wallet, etc and was waiting for him.  Relief set in, knowing this was the last hurdle we'd face today, other than connections. 

Soon, the flight board showed our flight as "delayed".  We eventually boarded and deicing began.  Nervously, we watched the time.  If we missed our connection in Denver, we were likely going to be delayed a full day.  Time would tell!

We departed in a flurry of snow.

Day, breaking  mid air.

Miraculously, we touched down in Denver at a gate very close to our next departure and we just made our connection.  On to Houston!

We had a bit of a hike in Houston although it could have been worse.  At least we were in the same part of the airport!  We found our gate and Jim settled in while I went in search of food.  It had been a very long time since we'd eaten!  Subway called our name and I soon returned with sandwiches and free water given way in the airport.  I saved a bottle since they had pictures of President Obama on them and were being given out in celebration of Black History Month.    We were soon joined by a Canadian and her daughter who were also headed to Granada.  They  had also been up for many hours in catching their flights and they regaled us with stories of life in Granada. 

They were headed for their home in Granada that had been rebuilt by Robert Mellin, husband and father to the traveling pair.  Robert Mellin is also a New Foundland, CA professor.  See the home here:

Soon, it was time to board and as we stood in line waiting, I saw the wildest pair of cowboy boots EVER.  The toes were superbly pointy and had to be at least 5 inches past the end of the man's foot!  If it hadn't been so rude, I'd have taken a photo.  The elder Nicaraguan gent next to us pointed out that those boots were good for kicking "_ss" and we all laughed.

Several hours later, we were on the ground in Managua, Nicaragua.  I immediately found the bathroom and stripped off my wool socks and sweater.   We had to proceed through customs, pay a tourism fee and then get our bags.   We knew to tip the luggage attendant as he pulled our bags from the carousel.  And he took us straight to the xray machine with the welder.   The welder barely got into the machine before it was flagged for hand inspection.  Both bags were flagged!  Our luggage attendant loaded the bags back on his cart and we made our way to an inspection area.  I had no idea what was about to happen but I hoped it did not mean jail time!

I watched as the first bag was unzipped.  Staff asked "who's bag is this?"  I stepped forward.  Others were busy rifling through both of our suitcases and speaking rapidly to one another in Spanish.  Much gesturing occurred and eventually I was asked what it was?   I explained that it was a welder but that it was not mine, that we had brought it to our cousin who had a finca (farm).  Then, they wanted to know the value.  I told them I didn't know and gestured for Jim to come assist me.  (He had been standing a ways away, watching.)  He also told them he didn't know the value and we made a guess.  A supervisor was then called to the scene and she asked who's welder it was.  I again told her mine.  She asked to see my passport and immediately commented on my "nice name".  I took the opportunity to explain to her that it was my Great grandmother's name.  The tone suddenly shifted.  She produced a form, filled it out, added my name to it, told me the welder was worth $450 and to sign on the dotted line, which I did.  We were then let go and we moved through a one way sliding glass door to find cousin Jay waiting.

As soon as we exited the building, warm summer night air greeted us.  Bags were transferred to Jay's pickup and we were off!  It was strange to see the Nicaraguan road side stands, still open in the darkness.  After maneuvering through a maze of streets and roads, we were at Jay's house above Apoyo Lagoon.  Jay threw open the doors to the place and we sat on the lanai and enjoyed the faint twinkle of lights around the lake.  We made it!

The next day, we were able to get a good look around.

I was enamored of the local art dotting the casa.

This one loosely translated means:

Here lies my soul...
hungry for love
    you left me

Love at first sight.  (Masaya Volcano, dead ahead).

Local pottery.

SHUT the front door!

Colors of spring?

We're not in Kansas anymore!  (But we sure would love to have a Nica plate.)

Fly by.

Railing reverie. 

After a hearty breakfast and volcano grown Las Flores Nicaraguan coffee, we were off to Granada.  The ride in broad daylight was eye opening.

Home sweet home.

Meager existence.

Laundry in the jungle.  (Looks like the clothesline is attached to the outhouse.  Which is guarded by the chicken.)

Out to pasture.  (Most horses appear thin such as this one but their coats don't reflect total starvation as you'd expect.  We did see some high powered horse flesh but that was the exception rather than the rule.)

Uphill both ways.  (Most have no vehicle.  If they are lucky, they have a bicycle or a horse and cart or money for a taxi.  They carry their firewood ,  food and water.  )

Hacienda.  (You never know what is behind the walls).

"Wednesday super green savings"  (Grocery store....where things are sometimes lost in translation?)

Roadside lovelies. 

Welcome to Granada!

Vintage wheels.

"Complete prescription only in Prague"  (But this is Granada?)

Brand new hospital.  (Doesn't look like much for the outside but you never know.)

Serious security.  (Apparently this is necessary as theft is rampant due to crushing poverty.  If it's not protected, it's going to be lifted.)

I can't help but wondering what is behind the walls?

Love the security spikes on this fence.

"Streets of Granada."  (Notice the man lying on the low red wall?  He is the cuidador - protector, caretaker and guard of this property.  Not to be confused with "owner".)

Margina's flowers.

Shadow shapes.


House across the street.

Sit a spell.  (Love the bright colors and tile floors).

Decorative iron.  (There is much in Granada, apparently a skill that has been passed down for generations.)

Tourists ARE welcome.  (They know which side of the bread is buttered for certain.  The gringo side!)

Heavy haulers.  (Many still cook over a wood or charcoal fire.  Perhaps these folks are selling wood or laying in a good supply.)

Universal language.  (Delicious!)

School.  (I hope there is no fire....)

MUCH more to come!


"We have it in our power to begin the world over again."  - Thomas Paine

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