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Semana Santa 2013: San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

The place we now call home – San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua – just so happens to be one of the most popular places for Nicaraguan youth to party during Semana Santa. 

Rooms (with only cushions on the floor for sleeping) rent for up to $75 USD a night.  Vendors line the streets. There is no shortage of cheap beer, rum, knock off sunglasses or inflatable toys.

One of the local restaurants has set up a temporary Tip Top chicken franchise. Morning, noon and night we see Nicaraguan men passed out on the sidewalks and streets.  

Girls in booty shorts and bikini tops represent Heineken, Victoria Frost, Flor de Cana, Tona, Claro and Movistar.

As we sit in the Heineken tent and sip 30 cord ($1.21 USD) green frosties a group of special forces police – clad in black -march together in a troop of six. Rifles are strapped to their backs and they carry hand guns in holsters on their hips.

Convoys of Nicaraguan families have set up camp on the beach. The bay has become a place to bathe and use the toilet.  Avenida del Mar reeks of urine. Beach parties rage on until the wee hours of the morning. The techno beats can be heard all way to our house, which is more than three blocks away.

This is San Juan del Sur during Semana Santa! 

Chocolate Charlie & The Gang

For anyone that thinks that Elisha and I are care free and always ready for adventure I have a story to share with you. It goes like this…

On February 9, 2012 I received an email from a blog follower.  It read as follows:

“My name is Cameron, fellow Canadian. 5 years ago some friends and myself bought a beachfront lot with a beat up house on it (sight unseen).  Up until now nobody has been able to go down there and check it out.  My wife and two young daughters 4 and 6,  plan to drive to Poneloya in mid-March and stay as long as we can.  3 months or so.”

Cameron went on to ask us if we could take a look at the house for him as he only had pictures from when the house was purchased.  His pictures showed a house that was rough around the edges.  What we saw was a few walls, no roof and a lot of garbage. I guess what Cameron didn’t know was how hard the ocean and heat is on homes that close to the sea. We replied to his email explaining that the house was in pretty bad shape, but we didn’t include any pictures.

Fast forward to yesterday…

Elisha and I were visiting our friend Carlos in Poneloya when we decided to go for a stroll down the road. 5 minutes into our walk and we see a guy up the road a bit waving at us and calling my name.  Oddly enough, this isn’t the first time someone we have never met recognized us from pictures on our blog and flagged us down on the beach in Poneloya.

This time it turned out to be none other than our fellow Canuck, Cameron Yee.  We learned that him and his wife Ashlie have been on the road for three weeks, traveling with their two children Lila and ChynaMae in a big diesel van that they have nick-named Chocolate Charlie. They started their journey from their home in Oregon and have traveled through the United States, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras to arrive here in Nicaragua with their two daughters.

When Cameron and Ashlie saw the house they were shocked and a little dismayed at the state that it was in.  Their daughter Lila, ever the optimist declared,

“It’s beautiful Mommy!” and then ran toward the beach with her sister in tow.  

It became abundantly clear that Cameron and Ashlie would need to switch to Plan B and find somewhere else to stay.  Normally this would be easy, but since we are in the middle of Semana Santa celebrations every hotel, hostel and rental home is full.  The short term solution is to park inside the gates at Carlos’ place Hostal El Pulpo, run an extension cord to an air conditioner in the van and camp out.

Over the last couple of days we’ve had an opportunity to spend some time with the Yee’s.  As you would expect they are easy going and a lot of fun.  Their girls are super cute and excited to try new things.  

Less than an hour after landing on the beach ChynaMae spotted a huge Brahma cow, not too far from where she was building her sandcastle.  She took off running after it with her Mom, running behind her.  She eventually got close enough that the cow noticed her – stopped and swung it’s head around – and stared her straight in the eye. That was enough to stop her in her tracks. Mae’s selective hearing finally tuned in to her Mom’s calls and she turned back and ran for the water.  This should give you a bit of a glimpse into the girls’ personalities and why they are so much fun to hang out with.

The Yee’s will be connected to the world again soon via a Claro 3G rocket stick.  If you’d like to read more about the adventures of this super cool and fun family check out their Nica Bound.

Personally, we can’t wait to see where their adventure takes them next!

Claro vs. Movistar

So we became a little more Nica today.  We decided to invest in our first Nicaraguan cell phone.  I say our first because to really be Nica you need two cell phones.  There is actually some good logic behind this dual phone principal.  Calls within your own service provider are nearly free but to call someone using the other provider it is the same price as calling Canada.  When someone gives you their number here they always write down their provider as well so you know which one of your phones to call them from.

Since we are slowly working toward being Nica we decided to start with one phone.  So which provider to go with.  We have Claro internet but the Movistar prepaid plans look better.  In the end we decided to go with Movistar because that is the main line that Carlos uses and he will be the one that we call the most, so off to a Movistar dealer we go.  

On  the way to the cell phone store we stopped at the bank to change some USD to cords.  And yes this picture is actually how it is done.  Not in the bank, but on the street in front of the bank.  There are no lineups here so we are back on our way in no time at all.  The only thing left to do was choose a phone.  

I know that in Canada most of you are IPhone snobs and think that Blackberry is so three years ago.  Well, here in a developing country Nokia is still king and I haven’t even seen an IPhone.  We didn’t need anything high tech, but we didn’t want the cheapest piece of no name junk on the shelf either. There were about 50 phones on the wall and someone who only speaks Spanish, who is more than willing to tell me about all of them.  I don’t understand much but pretend that I do and then just point at one.

I know all of the techno geeks reading will need to know the exact model or your curiosity would eat you alive, so as to not disappoint here you are – Nokia 1616.  The phone plus SIM card, plus enough minutes for the month, plus tax rang in at a staggering $580 cordobas.  Divide that by 22.8 and you have $25.44 USD all in.  There is also a bonus of having one Movistar friend to call free for the first month.  Since we only have a handful of Nica friends our minutes should last a long time.

Sweet!  A text just came from Movistar.  If we buy $50 cord in minutes today they will multiple that by 5 for free.  I have no idea how many minutes that even gets me but it sure sounds like a bunch.  I’m on way down to the store to jump on this deal faster than a fat kid on a Smartie.

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