Monthly Archives: August 2012
For the past four years I’ve wanted to get a tribute tattoo in honour of a good friend of mine – Daniel MacMaster. Tragically Danny passed suddenly, quite young and just as he was starting to fully enjoy his life again. The tattoo is very important to me because watching him and his life taught me a great deal about myself.
Dan’s younger brother Jody (Juse) has a striking resemblance to his older sibling and Jody just happens to be one of my best friends so tattooing a picture of Danny’s face on my body seemed far too creepy and possibly homoerotic. “Not that there is anything wrong with that.” (Seinfeld) Instead I chose one of his album covers from the early 90s. It was designed by an incredible painter – Mark Ryden – who has created covers for dozens of bands including Jeff Beck, Aerosmith, Michael Jackson and The Red Hot Chili Peppers.
His album cover is incredibly detailed and I knew that it would be a challenge for any tattoo artist to bring to life on skin. The artist I trust the most gave me my first tattoo five years ago. He actually lives in Switzerland, but is an occasional resident of San Juan del Sur. With my recent move I was hoping to connect with him again for this piece.
Luck must be on my side because a couple of weeks ago when I was at a surf competition at Maderas Beach Salomon appeared out of nowhere. He approached me not because he remembered me, but because he spotted his work – the octopus tattoo on my left arm.
Salomon and I talked for a bit and set up a time to get started. I had been waiting for this tattoo forever, so I was super excited that it was actually going to happen.
Saloman is only in town sporadically and therefore no longer has a shop in town. Instead he works out of a small studio in his home that is hidden away in the jungle near Majagual Beach. Getting tattooed while listening to howler monkeys was definitely a cool experience.
Now that I have seen the shape and shading on my skin I am even more anxious and excited to see the final full color master piece that will be completed in November when Saloman returns to San Juan. Salomon is an amazing artist. I am so happy that I waited for him to tattoo this very important piece.
Cheers Danny – we all miss you, buddy!
With a belly full of food from Elizabeth’s and a gallon jug of water in hand I set out for what would end up being a long, hot, sticky day. Jon and Quinn took me to a few of the rental places that they had looked at when they first arrived in San Juan del Sur. Some of them were no longer available and none of them had wi-fi so we carried on up the road out of town to look at a few others. Some of them were a little rough around the edges and once again none of them had wi-fi.
Jon and Quinn stopped at the Pali grocery store to grab a few things and I soldiered on with my mission.
Two hours, a gallon of water and a bucket of sweat later I arrived back at Elizabeth’s hostel with very little to show for my effort. I was physically drained and to be totally honest, emotionally drained as well. On the up side, I did have a couple of appointments to look at rentals that were coming available over next few days, but nothing I had seen up until this point had made me very excited.
I realized that ambling around the streets without a plan was not working out so well, so I took the search tactical. On day two I started at the street that runs parallel to the beach and walked to the end of the street, went up one block and walked all the way back. I continued this pattern until I had zig-zagged my way across every single street in San Juan del Sur.
By the end of the day I had found two apartments that would work, but neither of them felt right. What to do? Just commit to one of the places so I didn’t miss out or roll the dice and continue house hunting for one more day.
That night I went for a beer at my favorite bar – Republika – to visit with the owner and friend Cory. Cory works at the Remax Real Estate office here in town so I asked him if he had an inside scoop on any rentals not on the tourist trail. He promised to look into a few places for me the next day, but also mentioned a place he just noticed that afternoon.
I have no idea now I missed it because it was not more than fifty meters from where I laid my head at night. Maybe the rental sign wasn’t up when I walked by it early that morning.
It was my third day in San Juan and I went back to meet the landlord Salvador. He had just completed the interior construction of the apartments that morning and proudly showed me around. To avoid a price increase I did my best at hiding my excitement. When you’re white and don’t speak Spanish you’re already at a disadvantage without gushing about how much you like a place.
The largest apartment was already rented out, but the small one on the second floor wasn’t. With one bedroom, one bathroom, a small kitchen and a living room it was perfect for me. The monthly rent includes electricity, gas, water, cable TV, a small LED TV and wi-fi all for less than half what we were paying in Granada.
I showed up at 9 o’clock the next morning to pay my rent just ahead of another couple that took the third and last apartment. Their first choice happened to be my apartment, but luckily I beat them to it.
Special thanks to Cory for helping me find this place. It it weren’t for him I might still be aimlessly zig-zagging the streets of San Juan del Sur in search of the perfect place.
Since Elisha and I arrived in Nicaragua 8 months ago we’ve managed to live in 5 different towns. Our Nicaraguan expat adventure began in Poneloya and from there we moved to Leon. The next city we called home was Granada and then we were off to the spend some time at Apoyo Lodge in Laguna de Apoyo. And finally here I am in San Juan del Sur searching for yet another rental.
A couple of months in each location has allowed us the time needed to see past the tourist scene while figuring out the true flavour of each town. That being said 2 months (or less) in a each place was not nearly enough time for any one place to feel like home. Eventually we both want to settle down in one place, but for now we’re looking forward to spending some time in Nicaragua’s tourist playground.
The fact that San Juan del Sur is a tourist hot spot means that there are lots of places to stay, but unfortunately there are few options that actually meet our needs. Most monthly rentals here are vacation homes with rates starting at $100 plus per night or Nica style homes that are quite “rustic” and somewhat undesirable.
With Elisha back in Canada visiting family for a month I’m left to house hunt in San Juan del Sur all on my own. Lucky for me our friends Jon and Quinn have been living in San Juan del Sur for the past three months. During that time they’ve come to know the little ins & outs of the town and were more than happy to fill me in on all they’ve learned about Nicaragua’s favourite beach town.
When I arrived in town Jon & Quinn introduced me to the family that owns Elizabeth’s Guest House. They helped me get set me up in a private and comfortable room so I could take some time to find an apartment.
Just as they had done with Jon & Quinn, Elizabeth and her family took me in like one of their own. In fact, it was my first night in town when Elizabeth’s husband Orlando decided to get me drunk on rum.
The next day I woke up feeling a little rough, but fortunately Elizabeth fed me and nursed me back to health. I’m sure glad she did because I had some work to do – it was time to begin my San Juan De Sur house hunting mission!
“Is it safe there?”
And the second ever popular question was,
“What about health care?”
About a month ago we posted an article about doctors, emergency services and hospitals here in Nicaragua. Although our family doctor is well trained, inexpensive to visit and readily accessible when we go to see him – there is always a wait.
But lucky for us if we happen to have a minor ailment we have the option of going to one of many pharmacies. Surprisingly many pharmacies in Nicaragua even have a doctor on-site available to do quick consultations.
In Granada our pharmacy of choice is Farmacia El Rosario. We’re not sure who Rosario is, but Manuel the pharmacist speaks English very well, and more importantly knows his business.
Each time Elisha & I have gone to see Manuel he listens attentively while we describe our aliment in detail. He’ll ask a question or two before walking to the shelf to get what we need. He usually comes back with a couple of choices to discuss with us. He gives us the facts, lists the pros & cons of each medication and helps us make an informed decision on which is best for us.
Although Manuel’s not a doctor he has been in the business long enough to have seen just about every type of ailment come and go through his pharmacy. His hours are great and he always greets us with a welcoming smile.
What’s even better about Farmacia El Rosario? No waiting room! In fact, there really is no room. If you take one full step off the street you are standing at the counter.
Many of the drugs we have purchased at Rosario’s would require a prescription if purchased in Canada, but here in Nicaragua just about everything can be bought “over the counter”. The costs of common medications are much lower than in Canada or the United States with the more complex meds priced similar to what you’d pay in Canada. All tablets are sold per pill. If you don’t need 50 Gravol – that will expire before you ever use them – you can buy just two.
Although we haven’t had any major medical mishaps since we left Canada 8 months ago we can now say with confidence that health care in Nicaragua is still not a concern.