Jun 2 2009

Nicaragua day 4: Tuesday, May 19, 2009

TerryTerry is the developer for the four houses at Casa Kitwan de Apoyo, on the cliff over looking the lake Apoyo. DQ’s house is a semi attached (Terry owns the other side) two-story house in the middle. To the left is the biggest house currently being rented and to the left is this white two-bedroom one story house that’s on the market for sale @ US$195,000. He lives in a house down by the lake with 7 vicious dogs.

facing the lake entrance n living room

The little white house is on the small side and the layout is simple: the large room in the middle serves as entrance/living room/kitchen flanks by two bedrooms on either side. All three rooms has door that opens to the patio/pool and the view of the lake.

one of 2 bedrooms kitchen area

Each room has a bathroom. The arches that facing the lake are lovely. Wooden frames and doors are just wonderful, adds elegance and warmth to the house.

one of 2 bathrooms street view

The developer Terry is a Chicagoan fm The Windy City. I haven’t visit Chicago, except passing by the O’Hare airport few times. Golfer visits it often.

the poolTo me, Chicago rings up …
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
The Cubs
Da Bear
Michael Jordan
CME, Chicago Mercantile Exchange
great restaurants
Ok … I know what you’re thinking, let’s not forget the red hot Michelle Obama

Over all, Chicago is a little sophisticate with depth.

He’s been living in Nica for the past 7 years. To build the house like this one, it took him six months with a crew of 25. The real estate tax for the house is about US$250 a year and monthly maintenance US$150. He maintained that the Nicaraguans are great workers.
“Don’t you feel a bit bored from time to time?” I ventured a little.
“Oh no. I have friends…”
He mentioned that he may take in a symphony in Colombia. I mistook that he’s going culture and starting an orchestra. The travel time between Managua and Bogotá is bit too long… Did I sense that he treats every interaction with people like an audition [that he’s going to fail]? DQ said he was previously involved in the gambling business in Nica. Hmmmmm…

A city tour was in order for the day.

San Juan de Oriente is a municipality in Masaya, a small town famous for making pottery.

the clean street the show room

The family we visited use the front of the house as store and show room (where our van’s) the side and back as the living quarter and workshop.

sofas dining rm mommy path

The owner’s son (in the video) is the pot maker. The girl is carving/designing the pot.
the girl pots

the kiln
They use the wood (piled high behind the pottery master in the video) to burn the pots in this oven, or kiln in the pottery terminology; hunting down the tree that are affected by the termites because those woods burn the best – juicy tonic? One stone for two birds: good for the forest and great for the art. Pretty neat.me tryingI’ve taken pottery lessons back in Hong Kong. It’s an enjoyable endeavor that I’ve love to do it again should I have time. When the kids were young, I’ve taken them to little me pottery lessons here in town, taught by Roberta, one of my earlier days’ tennis buddies. Geeeeee .. haven’t seen her nor played with her for a long time.water
This vase is their water container for centuries. Now although it’s the refrigerator era, but many are still using it. Juan took a cupful and encouraged us to try it. None of us did – Lou has brought many kind of medical preventions (pills) like Imodium, etc.
I went to the shop next door with more wooden stuffs. And yes, I bought more … A hazard of bringing big suitcase on trips …

home depotThis was a working trip for DQ, she next took us to the Home Deport of Nica: Sinsa in Managua. Driving through the capital, I tried hard to picture what Beijing was like before the bells and whistles were added. Perhaps one thing stood out clearly: we didn’t have gunmen guarding and the petty crimes like theft was rare. No drug/gamble problems and no prostitutes. [Well, then everything are just mushroomed after Dear Chairman Mao gone to the west heaven, … even the syphilis made a vengeful comeback. 矫枉过正overcorrecting.]chairsThe merchandises at the store are Home Depot standard. This chair in the middle, left to the green folding ones bears a price tag of $74. Nica’s currency is Córdoba (NIO), is roughly C$20 equals US$1. My first thought was, wow, C$74 .. a great price. Than I looked closer, it’s in US dollar. Guess it’s the Newman Marcus rather than the Lowe’s.
The store is coolly air conditioned and comfortable. In the middle, there was a group of women dancing to the heart pounding Latin music.

Ten days later, May 30th is Nicaragan’s Mother’s Day, the TV station is recording the pre-celebration that’s sponsored by the store.

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Come on, join the fun.
DQ = Dancing Queen.
So we all danced to the hot Latino beats.
DQ’s tall, 鹤立鸡群, like a crane standing among chickens-stand head and shoulders above others.
The lady in red was a great dancer.

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Then they told me to lay down … taking turn to walk over poor little me …


I was shown … too bad no one wore the c-string 🙁 … ok, change of mind, thank lord they were fully covered!


I was taunted … by this lady for a long time. It’s pretty scary should she decided to actually drop down …



And … I was mauled … I think this lady is the center of affection from all. She walked over me once then came back for the second helping … double dipper !!

Four years prior to China’s devastating earthquake, on December 23, 1972, Managua experienced its own share of misfortune: the earthquake caused widespread damage and approximately 5,000 of the 400,000 population of Managua were killed, leaving 20,000 injured and over 250,000 homeless. The after shock is still plainly to be seen nowadays. The center of the town had become ghetto.

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Juan said this is the house (white to the left) he grew up, now a hotel. The neighborhood has deteriorated over the years.
now a hotel p1030933

The Footprint museum, Ancient footprints of Acahualinca p1030971 p1030982 p1030979
The footprints were discovered accidentally by construction workers in 1874. The American medical doctor and archaeological collector, Earl Flint, brought the footprints to the attention of the international science community and media in 1884.
There’s high metal fence and the tiny museum charges a nominal fee for taking pictures and videos.
This is pretty odd …
Juan gave a very good presentation. I enjoyed it.

We paid C$40 (US$2) for taking pictures and videos and C$480 (US$24) for admission of 6.
foot footp

museum the church

p1040003The city center. The national museum, the old church and the old presidential palace that’s built or donated by Taiwan government but now no longer in service. The president moved to another house.
hmmmmm …
Hey, here is an idea: Mr. Chen Shui-bian 阿扁仔 could come and live here with his truck load of dirty money? It’ll last him few more life times ..
No good? Then let me think something else …
Meanwhile, let’s head to lunch first.

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The water seller and the little kid who follows us, gently but determinedly putting his little creation into our arms ..

I asked for a local fare. Juan said he’d take us to a local restaurant that’s frequent by lawyers and bankers. Ok ..
very local p1040059 menu p1040054

While the staff was harvesting the food, Larry decided to take on the crocodile. Round One of The Old Man and the Sea … 精神可嘉可奖 … Go Larry Go …

I was a chicken, didn’t do this … wasn’t dressed for it … Juan said they could fix that …

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When it first opened, there was only one cable. For the safety, they added the second cable.
No do. Can not lah 🙂

To walk off the meal, we went to People’s Market. I bought a Crocodile handbag. Why did I buy it? Because I like handbag, and I have space in the suitcase … when I consider to buy a second, Lou walked by and he turned his head away so fast that I worried he might snap his own head. It was that bad taste. So I only waste $$ on one ugly handbag. I was thinking of buying more wooden stuff, but the gangs were filing out.
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Juan showed me his favored type of girls: Asian eyes, dark skinned, short and robust, bit on the chubby side, with smallish boobs.

Ok .. girls ..

The Hilton Princess in Managua is where the action is in the night. Four of us asked Juan take us to the stripe club. The other two volunteered to stay home manning the fort.

On the way to the city center, we started seeing the window washers. There were mostly young kids, girls and boys. One of them had to step on the rim to reach. These hardened kids, everywhere in the third world, are the mostly difficulty to deal with. They are precocity, crafty, some are even sarcastic while trapped in a kid’s body. Not sure to kick their parents or blame the country .. ..

We ended up at Obsesion, a trendy stripe club with huge billboard. It was empty. The club itself was nothing to write home about. A bar at one corner by the door, a low stage in the center with a pole. Seats/sofas with coffee tables scattered around the stage and lined the walls. As soon as we entered, there was a lady dancing with the pole completely naked – the routine for every dancer was the same: come out with little cloth then striped down to nothing for the last few seconds. One of our comrades who acted like a kid who loved candy was letting out into a candy store. He sat down on the table as if was ready to dive onto the stage. The girl came down and gave him a huge.

The next girl was very easy on the eye: pretty face with a slender young body. She’s the best looking one that night.

The Kid decided to have a Close Encounters of the Third Kind. A girl dressed in school girl’s outfit came out. The Kid and she promptly left us.

DQ later asked what had happened.

The Kid: well, we went to the back.

DQ: then what?

The Kid: she took off her bra ..

DQ: and ..?

The Kid: she took off her panty .. and my hands start to move freely.

Hearty laugh.

The Kid: do you need me to describe more?

The Kid: “She told me the room cost US$70 .. so we stayed in the back only.

The kid said he wasn’t sure if it included the happen ending. After a little make out in the back, then came back joined us again, but sat on another sofa.

The Schoolgirl: “buy me a drink.”

The Kid: “how much?”

The Schoolgirl: “US$10.”

The Kid: “let’s go to the back again.” It cost US$10 per song.

The drinks in the club weren’t astronomical: US$10 for five of us, I think 3 were no alcoholic.

We then drove to a gay bar but didn’t stay. There were few gays and a couple of lesbians who were deep into their kissing.

Juan said when he first started 6 years ago as a tour guide, when the tourists asked to meet girls, he claimed he didn’t know what did they mean. So he took him to regular bars. Five nights in a row.

When the hunting yielded no result, the tourist got mad.

I found that was bit obscured. For Juan is 34 years old and pretty worldly, he spent lengthy time in Florida when his father, a medical doctor was doing his AID research in the USA.

Juan is a knowledgeable chatty guide. It’s a joy to have few conversations between none stop BSes.

Nicaragua is the largest country among 7 Central America nations. The Panama Canal was to be built in Nica after the failed attempt by the French.

According to Stephen Kinzer’s 2006 book Overthrow, in 1898 the chief of the French Canal Syndicate (a group that owned large swathes of land across Panama), Philippe Bunau-Varilla, hired William Nelson Cromwell (of the US law firm Sullivan & Cromwell) to lobby the US Congress to build a canal across Panama, and not across Nicaragua.

In 1902, Cromwell noticed a 10-cent Nicaraguan postal stamp, produced by the United States’ American Bank Note Company, which erroneously depicted a fuming Momotombo volcano. Momotombo was nearly dormant and stands more than 160 km (100 miles) from the proposed Nicaraguan canal path; yet the stamp had taken advantage of a particularly volcanic year in the Caribbean. Cromwell planted a story in the New York Sun reporting that the Momotombo volcano had erupted and caused a series of seismic shocks. Thereafter he sent leaflets with the above stamps pasted on them to all U.S. Senators as witness to the volcanic activity in Nicaragua. On June 19, 1902, three days after senators received the stamps, they voted for the Panama route for the canal. For his lobbying efforts, Cromwell received the sum of $800,000.[8]

I asked if the Nicaraguans are regretful [of the canal not being built in Nica]. Juan replied, no.

“The government is very corrupted. The profits would have been lined the politicians’ pockets anyway. The Nicaraguan men love to drink, gamble, and watch cockfight.”

On Paraguay president, Fernando Lugo the former priest turned president, his secrete kids came out in doves.
Well, it wasn’t a shock at all. An open secrete.

Only the puritanical Americans made it big deal, headliner, front page.

Ha ha ha, very funny.

We talked about Alberto Cutie, the popular Miami priest who eventually opted for his girl friend over the god whom he suppose to devote his entire life to. Nica is predominantly catholic. But Juan said they’re losing business to other fancier religions.
On the way back from San Juan del Sur, we passed by a rather serene area which locals called Baby Factory. The hourly hotels or love hotels lined the road.

Making change to adapt, to keep up with the demand.
Juan was baptized at very young age.

And having a free election does not mean democracy.

Day 5

May 26 2009

Nicaragua day 2: Sunday, May 17 2009

cimg4287Very good morning to you all..
Few rosters woke me up early in the morning, it was only 5am for Pete’s sake. Did Zhou Bapi 周扒皮 live in Nica too 🙂
*in PJ*
Wow .. the view from the bedroom is spectacular.
I rubbed my eyes ..
rolled out of the bed
went downstairs
I wasn’t the first one who got up ..
unwashed face
unbrushed tooth
unkempt hair
Who cared?
We were all basking in the soft morning glow ..
the golden hue ..
the dews ..
the mango ..
the coconuts ..
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Couple of Ocean Sixers went to hunting .. .. and soon returned triumphantly, fully loaded with mango and coconuts ..

Coldwell Banker Real Estate as well as Century 21 have presence there..

Lou's busy at work cimg4298 cimg4324 05-17-mor-13

Her house is lovely, woody, Mahogany is everywhere.

My little dingy Casio camera wasn’t good enough, so Lou let me use his spare one. The pictures taken from now on are from his Panasonic Lumix with Leica lens.

The entrance to DQ’s house

Thou shalt love thy neighbour

The neat road between the haves vs haven’ts is paved by hexagon bricks, “Somoza stones”, after the dictator who bought them from himself by the millions.

one of the better ones ..

The other side of her house faces the commoners, the plebs .. she and the expats hire a night watcher. My gut feeling tells me that the Nica is relatively unspoiled, people are nice and don’t yet know the common ills that plague our modern society. Bernard the Madoff is a light years away for them.

First thing first: heading to Jockey Club for couple sets of tennis.
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Group pics .. watching Larry to sweat it out there .. The club has a lap pool but was abandoned, what a shame! A local family was in the pool, a lady with few kids. Not sure they were the caretakers’ family or the club member. The two tennis courts were paved with bricks, was fine to play.

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We headed to downtown Granada.

The food ..

The busy market is just couple of blocks away from her downtown home Quinta Granadina. All those one story homes reminded me of siheyuan in Beijing: monotonous from the outside but behind the closed doors, there are quite another world, with elaborated layouts/courtyards and stories.

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As we were lingering in the house (three bedrooms), a group of six girls walked by – originally from Michigan now living/working in New York – looking for the hotel they had reservation. They walked around the block twice but failed to find their hotel. Clay told them this house’s for rent, so they walked in, and loving it. DQ charged them US$60 per night for the entire house.

The living room, dining room and kitchen are open-air style. The bedrooms are conventional enclosed with bathrooms and a/c. Washer and dryer are out door too. dsc_1228 p1030188 bedroom living room
Big deal to plugging down 3 Andrew Jackson.

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Next door to her house is an Internet Cafe.

where to .. a bmw

Masaya marketWe headed to Masaya market for lunch and shopped there too. The little castle looked pretty neat. The fish soup was good. The bill came for 8 of us was US$122. Cohiba cigar with Cuba printed on the label cost US$25 for a pack of 25. Again, they take US$. I bought a fun table and few pieces of wood jars. One of them was broken: me, Irene, never look/check .. and would never learn. I’m too old .. you can’t teach an old dog a new trick 🙂
Shouldn’t the vendor tell me that? I think they should.
If wasn’t for the group was waiting, I would have gathered more junks.
Thank lord I showed my junks to Juan: he spotted the broken and glued jar that was intended for Pumpkin..


First thing you should know when visiting a volcano: park your car facing the exit .. just in case.

Come to think of it, how useful will it be? Will the four wheels out run the lavas?

The smell of sulfur, like rotten eggs smell from the hydrogen sulfide at Masaya Volcano was strong.

At the top – Bobadilla Cross, DQ climbed to the pole in no time.

“The view is great ..”

So .. we asked a Dad to do the same. I was bit worried: the Dad didn’t look as fit as DQ .. but he complied without hesitation.

dsc_1328The sign reads ..
Welcome to the Trail
Lookout Bobadilla Cross
This is an active volcano that offers adventure tourisms. So that to visit this viewer that has 177 steps you assume the risk.
the sign reads ...We suggest you
Time for stay is 15 to 20 minutes.
When gases affect, leave the area.
If you have health problem don’t climb up.
This viewer has a capacity for 20 people.
Students climb up in groups of 20 with a teacher.
Kids less than 12 years old must be accompanied by an adult.
By your security this lookout can be closed any time.

According to Wikipedia, Masaya Volcano is a Shield volcano located 20 km south of Managua, Nicaragua. It is Nicaragua’s first and largest National Park, and one of 78 protected areas of Nicaragua. The volcanic complex is composed of a nested set of calderas and craters, the largest of which is Las Sierras shield volcano and caldera.
the family
After the photo, Lou climbed up and reciprocated ..

The parents said very little, to themselves and to us. They might not be English speakers. The son needed to be coaxed into the picture. I thought only my kids are allergic to photo taking .. guess it’s universal children disease 🙂 and we parents have camera totting syndrome.

was I laughing or crying? dsc_1347
Was I laughing or crying? Very amusing.

The last event of the day, before dinner (food, under any circumstances, would not stay far from my mind .. Nainai used to say .. 吃货 .. and I don’t suppose it’s a compliment) was to visit DQ’s little hide out, her island – La Isleta de Phoebe.

her little paradise

Lake Nicaragua (Lago de Nicaragua) is the largest lake in Central America, has sharks, sawfish, tarpon, and least 16 species of endemic cichlids.

Bull shark is known for entering freshwater elsewhere around the world. It had been presumed that the sharks were trapped within the lake, but this was found to be incorrect in the late 1960s, when it was discovered that they were able to jump along the rapids of the San Juan River (which connects Lake Nicaragua and the Caribbean Sea), almost like salmon; the journey takes as little as 7-11 days.

the drink

It has 365 islands – mostly owned by Americans/Canadians. The water taxi took us to her island in about 10 minutes. Some island owners have their own speed boats.

SF a well-developed island monkey her neighbors

The largest island in the lake has 40,000 residents, a commune.

the escape boat on her island

The year around owners of the islands cable in the electricity, pipes in the water and the sewage goes into the lake.

the shark

I jumped into the lake in no time, intended to swim to few islands. But the water was too warm to swim. Ok, it’s my third excuse. The most on my mind was the sewer. The shark was the distant second.

The sky was getting darker. The cloud ruined our opportunity to watch a specular sun set.

Larry didn’t catch a fish. But we managed to buy few, 7 Tilapias for $1 and made soup out of them. Nainai used to lightly fried the fish and then boil with radish. Before we left, we asked the taxi driver take us to another island to buy couple of hens that grow the old fashion way. The two skinny things cost $10. How did we eat them?

More pictures on FB .. few more pix .. Day 3