(Note: there are new pictures, but they follow the previous blog. I can't seem to get the pics to stay w/ the new entry, so just scroll down.)
Barely two weeks after arrival and a schedule of sorts has developed. We are now firmly on Nica Time, meaning in bed by 9:30pm, up by 5:30 or 6, not counting of course the frequent middle-of-night calls to arm by the posse of neighborhood dogs fiercely, or at least noisily, defending their turf. They've stopped barking at us, however, so we are inclined to cut them some slack. The goddam roosters, however, are relentless, as well as time-dyslexic, beginning their infernal crowing hours before dawn. We have been eating a lot of chicken, however, which in addition to being delicious, appeases my desire for revenge.
Work on the house began Monday, much to Pat's irritation. Well, there was this wee bit of miscommunication...and "We'll get down there, get the house done, then see what we can do with ourselves." was meant to include a month or so delay prior to actual construction...but Edwin had cleared his calendar for us and needs the work, so Pat found himself spending Tuesday & Wednesday painting innumerable purlings with anti-corrosive, by hand, because not only do they not come pre-painted, there are no power sprayers to be found. One benefit was that he was able to choose bright yellow, his favorite color, resulting in what will be a very cheerful view from inside. The plan now is to complete work on the roof and then take another mini-vacation, this time to Leon and Chinandega, up in the NW, near the Pacific coast more or less.
Last Sunday we rented a friend's crew cab pickup (yes, rented. Nothing for free down here, even among friends, especially those with chronic cash flow issues.) and took the entire Rivera clan (10 of us) over to San Juan del Sur (SJDS) on the Pacific side. Imagine, if you can, a small, intimate, lovely little fishing town. Now, imagine word of its natural beauty and welcoming atmosphere has leaked out and the place is growing at unparalleled speed, with housing developments, rampant real estate offices, coffee shops, souvenir kiosks, and they just keep coming. Perhaps this will not be such a stretch for some of you reading this…. anyway, this is SJDS today. It's still charming, and the beach, curved around a large horseshoe bay, is lovely. As long as you face the sea and don't look around at what's going on up in the surrounding hills. But we ignored our peripheral vision, kept our money in our pockets (everything now priced for Gringos; I went to buy Pat a t-shirt to swim in and came back empty handed after finding nothing for under $10. Jacqulin, Edwin's sister-in-law went on her own and came back with one for $2…) and had a great day. The water was actually much calmer than at the lake, allowing actual swimming and floating. (Although I missed our spectacular view of Omotepe Island. All that endless blue gets a bit dull.) Edwin hired a panga, a long boat with rows of benches, a canopy, and a small engine, to take us on a 30 min. tour of the bay, around all the moored fishing boats and yachts. On the way home we took the back road through and by all the mansions and newer developments, side by side with shacks and farms, most of which had Se Vende (for sale) signs posted in prominent spots. No doubt someone will come along, wave an inappropriate wad of cash and hey presto, the future site of Gringo Bella Vista.
Pat and I did slip off to fulfill a craving for local lobster tail, our one splurge (the family thought we were nuts). Managed to choose from a long row of nearly identical beachfront, thatched roof places, found a table by the edge, and sat back to enjoy feeling like idle turistas. That is until Pat turned around and spotted the TV supported from a pole in the center of the place, on which were clearly visible tiny figures running across a large expanse of green in pursuit of a spot of rolling white. Abandoning me to the view, he plopped himself at the nearest table and proceeded to watch as Chelsea trounced Nottingham (ok, I'm just winging it here—I have no idea who was playing but they were British and one team was ahead 3-1.) Only the arrival of the food brought him unwillingly back to the table, but fortunately it was damn good. Ceviche, two large tails, salad, rice, and two fresh papaya juices. I think it came to $14, a shocking amount when most of our meals out around here average $3-7, for considerably more food. But worth every sinful bite.
With the taste of fresh mariscos still lingering, I headed to the local mercado in search of shrimp. We brought down a couple tubs of Thai curry paste, and after a couple disastrous attempts to make our own coconut milk, were ecstatic to find tins of it at the Pan American Supermarket behind the Texaco. So, the mercado. I did take some pics of the external bit, but it's not until you duck inside and begin crawling through the dark, cramped, twisty corridors that you know you're not in Kansas anymore. I would have liked to take a picture or two, but figured once the flash-blindness wore off, any chance I had of not being taken for a tourist would also vanish. Just a few feet from the entrance I found a stall with a few aluminum pans of what appeared to be mackerel, and strings of the small (3-4") black crabs from the lake that are mainly used to flavor soup. I asked the disgruntled woman behind the shelf if she had any shrimp. "No." Do you know when you might have shrimp next? "No." Is there anywhere else in the mercado to buy shrimp? "No." Well ok then. Gracias, and off I go. Maybe, oh, seven feet away was a second fish stall. There, an even more disgruntled looking woman was industriously peeling a pile of smallish, but glisteningly fresh shrimp. She was talking to another woman, but when I approached she asked what I wanted. "How much are the shrimp?" "Seventy pesos a pound." (About $3.50) "Ok, I'll have 2 lbs." She gets off the stool, goes to a freezer, and pulls out a 5 lb block of frozen shrimp. She explains I'll need to buy all of them as they are clearly impossible to measure out. "Can't I buy some of these fresh shrimp?" "No." But then the other woman says, "Why can't she buy these?" "They're for ceviche. Gringos don't eat ceviche." I interjected, "Umm, actually we do…yeah, we really love that ceviche. In fact, that's exactly what I was planning to do with these shrimp here, make ceviche." She narrowed her eyes, clearing suspecting I was, as Pat might say, taking the piss. But I smiled sweetly and held out 140 cords. She had no choice. And the wee shrimp made for an excellent curry.