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Culture Shock in Canada

1 small bottle of water – $3
18 bottles of beer – $40
Haircut, color & brow wax – $170
Sushi – $40
A few groceries – $57

Cha-ching…cha-ching…cha-ching!  

It was day 4 of my 1st trip home to Calgary when I officially started to freak out about how much money I was going to spend during my 5 week stay. If I continued at this pace the MasterCard was in for a serious beating.

After spending 8 months in Nicaragua it didn’t take me long to figure out what I had missed most in Canada.

1.  My Nephew Aiden – How sweet it was to be reunited with my adorable 11 month old nephew Aiden. From camping, to going for walks, to seeing Aiden through his 10 & 11 month birthdays, to reading Llama, Llama Wakey Wake over and over again and being there as he learned to crawl the time I spent with him was definitely the highlight of my trip.

– Day 2 in Calgary with Aiden

Moyie Lake, British Columbia - Canada

– Hangin’ in the Hammock Swing – Moyie Lake, British Columbia

– A rocking chair & a shirt from Nica for Aiden

2.  My Girlfriends (especially my sister) – Getting together with my special gang of girlfriends and being able to pick up right where we left off was a great feeling.  Heart to heart talks with my sis was something I think we both needed.

– Good Times with Girlfriends @ Melrose Bar & Cafe

Canmore, Alberta - Canada

– My sister Sally & I  – Canmore, Alberta

3.  Shopping I know my stores and I know my sizes. I know where to find the best deals on my favorite products and I love a good sale. Planning my visit at the end of the summer season was a good move – EVERYTHING was on sale. I so miss being able to get good quality clothing and the products I love at great prices.

– Aiden was such a good little shopper!

4.  The Food – $40 on sushi (for one sitting) was a bit expensive, but I gotta tell ya, it was worth every penny. Strawberries, blueberries and Activia yogurt were part of my daily diet.  And although not technically classified as food, I couldn’t seem to get enough 5 cent candy from Mac’s.

Joey Crowfoot - Calgary, AB

– Mmm! Tuna Sashimi Salad

5.  My Hairstylist – Cassidy from Ca Va Bien rocks! After 8 months without a real haircut it felt great to have my hair cut & colored by a professional I trust. Now if only I could convince her to move to Nicaragua.

6.  TV – Specifically the Slice channel. I have to admit I watched quite a few episodes of Say Yes to the Dress and What Not to Wear and even caught a couple of episodes of Intervention Canada while I was home.  Hey – don’t judge me! 

As we pulled into the driveway at my sister’s house on July 26th I felt like I had never left. Aside from Aiden, not much had changed.  

But after spending two months in Calgary – 10 months after departing on a Nicaraguan adventure with nothing but a couple of suitcases, and my husband Gord – I realized I’ve changed.

I’m thrifty now. I’m more laid back. I’m less concerned or caught up in the minor details of day to day and I’ve realized not everything has to be perfect. I don’t need a fancy house, or a designer handbag to make me happy. More importantly, I realized just how special time spent with family, friends and loved ones is and how much it means to me.

My cousin Nicole & I – Canmore, Alberta

– Chowin’ down on hot dogs! – Eau Claire Campground – Kananaskis, AB

Unfortunately all good things must eventually come to an end.  

– Almost packed & ready to go!

– Just minutes after this photo was taken tears started to flow.

Saying goodbye sucks, but as the plane left the runway in Calgary – 285 days after my Nicaraguan adventure began – I was more excited than sad. This time I wasn’t leaving home – I was going home.  

A Road Trip to Esteli

Approximately 2.5 hours after leaving Leon, making only one wrong turn along the way,  we arrived in the town of Esteli and easily found the central park. Finding a place to lay our heads for the night warranted a bit more effort, but we eventually stumbled across a decent B&B called Hostal Santa Maria. 

For a rate of $15 per night we were quite happy with our little room with “private bathroom”.

Our cuarto was super clean (much cleaner than my feet) and had a comfy bed with good pillows. I was quite excited about snuggling up under the thick comforter that night, much more so than I was about Gord going number two behind the green and yellow shower curtain.

It wasn’t until we registered and handed over our money to pay for our room did we realize that the nightly rate was actually $15 per person, not $15 per night. Not nearly the great deal we originally thought it to be, but we decided to spending the night just the same.

Later that afternoon we took some time to wander around and explore the streets of Esteli. The town was busy and bustling, but not nearly as fast paced as Leon.  The cooler temperatures we felt were a welcomed change from the extreme heat we’ve been experiencing in Leon. 

This being my first visit to Esteli with the afternoon light just right and a fully charged battery in my camera I was anxious to find some new and interesting subjects and objects to photograph.  

Here’s a sampling of what I saw:

A Potential Place to Live

Iglesia de San Francisco

Cowboys

A Colorful Baby Bird

Wall Murals

The city of Esteli may not be a photographer’s dream compared to the colonial cities of Leon and Granada, but as you can see I had no trouble finding the interesting subjects and objects I was looking for.

The majority of day two of our Esteli trip was spent exploring Somoto Canyon.  To read about our experience click here.

We decided to spend night two at Hotel Cualitlan.  We rented one of their cabins at a nightly rate of $40 USD.  A full breakfast was included. 

Although there wasn’t really anything extra special about Hotel Cualitlan our cabin was clean, quiet and comfortable and we had a good night’s sleep.

With all the exercise we got from exploring Somoto Canyon we had worked up an appetite. Ranked #2 on Trip Advisor we opted to try Pullaso’s Ole steakhouse.  My chicken, beef, shrimp and chorizo sausage kebob was cooked very well.  The meat was tender, juicy and very tasty.  Gord’s flank steak was perfectly grilled to medium rare as requested.

Before making our way back to Leon on Sunday we took a drive up the hill through Tisey Nature Reserve. As you can see the view was pretty awesome! If you look closely at the photo (top right) you can actually see a Volcan Telica.

We really enjoyed our 1st road trip in the Galloper and are looking forward to wherever our road trip travels take us next!

One Month’s Living Expenses: Leon, Nicaragua

When Elisha and I decided to move to Nicaragua we knew that we would need to be on a budget – and believe it or not it was something we had never done before.

Elisha’s budget was always based on spending any extra cash that she had, while I saved whatever extra money I felt I didn’t need.  That being said we have always lived below our means and have never been extravagant people.

Although we’ve been told by a few people that a budget of $1,200 USD per month in Nicaragua is quite high this is the amount we agreed upon.  

We figured it would take some time to find out which restaurants, markets, shops and grocery stores would have the best deals and accepted the fact that December and January would be “learning months”.  We weren’t surprised to find out that were were over budget for the month of January.  

Total expenditures for the month came in at $1,201 USD.  

We learned a few things things this month and have decided to make a number of changes.

First and foremost, we are going to prepare more of our own meals and have fruit on hand for breakfast.  When we reviewed our detailed spreadsheet of the month’s expenses we realized we ate out 3 meals per day, more often than not.  Although the nearly 50 meals we had out were cheap ($280 USD), they weren’t necessarily healthy for the waistline or the budget.

Another change will be our drinking.  Apparently we’ve been celebrating because not a day went by in January where we didn’t have a cerveza or two.  Even though our total expenditure for alcohol was just shy of $160 USD, we will make a couple of changes here as well.  We plan to cut back some and be smarter about where we buy our liquor.  Instead of paying 100 cordobas for a 375 ml bottle of rum, we will buy the 2 litre combo pack at Pali for 189 cords. And instead of paying 18 cords at the grocery store for a 355 ml can of beer we will buy a case of 12 litres at a cost of only 36 cordobas per bottle.

We spent $205 USD on groceries.  With a commitment to eat in more often we expect this amount to go up slightly for the month, but since we’ve figured out the best places to shop we aren’t expecting a huge increase.

$32 USD was the amount we paid to purchase a cell phone and talking minutes for the month. For February we have purchased a package that cost $7 USD that should last through to the end of the month.  $60 USD went to Amazon and iTunes for books, music and iPAD apps.  $30 USD went to transportation (bus and taxi fares). We spent $52 USD on a nice dinner out to celebrate our 5th year anniversary.  We enjoyed a delicious meal with 2 appetizers, a main course of filet mignon, a nice bottle of Italian wine AND pecan pie for dessert.  A great night out and worth every penny we spent!

Monthly recurring fixed expenses include $300 for rent and $80 for Spanish lessons. Besides a few random incidentals, this is what we spent our money on for the month of January. 

Although our friend Glyn lives on $300 a month (and thinks we are living the life of rock stars and drinking champagne every night) we happen to think we did a fine job with our first attempt at following a budget!

Near Perfect Packers

Initially Gord and I thought we would have a significant list of items that we should have left behind in Canada, but after some contemplation we have come the conclusion that we are actually deserving of the title,“Near Perfect Packers”.  

If you missed our post on “What We Packed in Our Suitcases” and would like to read it now click here.

As we packed up for our move from Poneloya to Leon we decided to leave a few things in storage with Carlos at Hostal El Pulpo.  Although our warm weather clothing will come in handy once we head up to the mountains, we definitely don’t need jeans and hoodies here in Leon.  Our linens will be used again when we get a place of our own, but for now, they too are in storage.  We aren’t sure when we’ll be using our snorkel equipment but are still happy we packed our masks and snorkels.

The one and only thing we figure we should have left behind was the misting system we purchased online before we left.  It’ll be great to have once we get settled into a place of our own, but seeing how that won’t be for awhile to save on weight and space in our luggage we should have left it behind.

As surprising as it may seem there isn’t any one particular thing or things that we didn’t pack in our suitcases that we feel we should have. A couple of things that would be nice to have include a sharp kitchen knife, my Spanish workbook, our bathroom scales (so we know when to lay off the gallo pinto and cerveza) and bug spray with deat.  

All in all we are patting ourselves on the back for a packing job well done!

The Wheels on the Bus Go ‘Round & Round’

Without thinking twice the lady in the seat in front of me drops her plastic Fresca bottle out of the bus window.  To my left I can see Volanco Momotombo. The air is filled with the smell of smoke from the burning palms; it’s the “smell” of Nicaragua. A pop song I recognize (but can’t recall the name of) is blaring from the speakers.  

As the bus slows to pick up more passengers, ahead in the distance I see a herd of 50 or more cattle blocking the road.  The driver approaches slowly, honks the horn and plows through the herd, nearly missing a few of the lazy ones.

Two seats ahead of me a Gringo lady with heavily black lined lids cuddles with her little white dog; he seems to be enjoying the ride.  She’s seated with a local guy.  This is the 2nd time I’ve seen this couple while traveling on the bus and I wonder what their story is.  

The windows are down, but the breeze blowing in is balmy. The frequent stop and go motion of the bus makes me feel nauseous and a little bit dizzy.  Finally, we arrive at our destination. As I stand up the back of my legs are sticky with sweat and I think to myself how crazy and amazing it is that I am living in Nicaragua!

A Walk About the Town: Poneloya, Nicaragua

We received feedback from a friend that we needed more pictures on our blog.  Ask and  you shall receive!  These photos were taken this afternoon as Gord and I took a leisurely stroll around town.  We hope these images paint a bit of a picture of what it’s like here in Poneloya.

Gord posing in front of our favorite store where we purchase 1 litre bottles of Tona.  They are perfect for sharing.

A shot of the street just a few steps down the road from our place.

Master and Student enjoying a game of Checkers.  

Nicole and Nancy Just Hangin’ Out

These little girls came running out of their house as soon as they saw us with the camera. They were very anxious and excited to have their picture taken.

They grabbed another little  friend to get in the next shot.  She wasn’t quite as excited about having her picture taken as the others.

Nicaragua’s Next Top Model

Where the river meets the ocean;  a great spot for swimming.

Poneloya, Nicaragua

Collecting Firewood “Nica-Style”

This little piggy’s name is Lolita!

…and this little boy waited patiently to have his picture taken with his pet piggy!

Poneloya’s High Performance Future Athletes

A short video clip I shot while we were out for a walk about town this afternoon. Enjoy!

One More Reason to Drink Beer

Most of us don’t need yet another reason to drink beer, but here’s one for you anyway.  

The story goes like this…

Nadia, Elisha and I drank liberal amounts of beer during our first four days in Nicaragua. Nadia’s boyfriend Steve doesn’t drink, which actually scares me a little.  In my experience anyone who doesn’t drink at all is usually religious, a recovering alcoholic, in serious training for something or has something to hide. I’m not sure which (if any) of these categories Steve fits, but none the less, he DOES NOT drink.  

I thought Steve looked very healthy drinking huge fresh made juices every day so I began to think maybe he was in training. Then when I saw him praying so vehemently to the white porcelain God I figured  he must be one of those religious fanatics and then suddenly he turned around and shat on his God with more venom than any evangelical preacher I’ve seen on TV. Confusing?!?

Steve told me he has only had 8 drinks in his entire life – so alcoholic is out.  This leaves me to believe he is hiding something.  I do know one thing – after spending 2 days on the throne – it certainly isn’t his dignity!

The moral of the story is:

Just drink the beer – it’s obviously good for you!

Sky Box: A Familiar Place

It seems as though most of our vacations use Houston as a jump off point and Sky Box becomes our home away from home for a few hours…anyway.  Today, as we begin our Nicaraguan Adventure we find ourselves back here with our friends Nadia and Steve.  

Nadia was at our wedding in Costa Rica when Elisha and I first discussed this crazy adventure.  Now she’s here with her guy Steve who is taking his first trip south.  Steve tells us he doesn’t like heat or the water, so we will see if we can win him over after some time at our little beach house in Poneloya.  

 

We are excited and a little nervous to get to Nicaragua and get started with our adventure, but I think that’s a good sign.  

 Who wants to always live in their comfort zone anyway?  

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