As we approach our one-month anniversary of living in Nicaragua, I thought it would be a good time to answer some of the most commonly asked questions we’ve been receiving. Here goes:
How’s the van?
Although we are self-supporting, we did raise money to purchase a 15-passenger van. The camp already had one van, so we just needed to get a second one since we came down with the Izzo family. We were blessed to receive just enough to purchase the van and have the engine fixed before arriving in Nicaragua. (Thanks to our friends at Campo Alegria for taking care of that for us!)
The new van has already gotten through some pretty crazy stuff. It came with an off-road package we’ve already had a chance to test out (although unintentionally!). On our way to the beach one day, we turned down a wrong road (if you can call it that). Let’s see… road or dry stream bed? You be the judge:
At one point, a rear tire was floating in air on aforementioned “road” and Jeff actually had to stand on the bumper to help get us back on solid ground.
Another time, we got a little stuck inside of a parking garage at the mall. Yes, we saw the clearance notices, but who really understands the metric system? And anyway, we got inside the parking garage… it was just getting out that gave us a problem.
We only blocked the exit ramp for a few minutes while Wyeth removed the spare tire from the roof and threw it inside. Meanwhile, I stood at the top of the ramp smiling as sympathetically as possible, “Un momento, por favor. Lo siento.” and trying to ignore the “stupid Americans” line looping through my head.
It’s also carried both families — and then some — to the beach (which we finally found after the “wrong road” incident), church, hospital, school, a crater lake, shopping, and all over town as we adjust to life here. Thank you for your support and help in acquiring it! We can’t wait to welcome as many guests as possible from the US with these two vehicles.
Wait, there’s a mall?!
Yes! There are several malls actually. (You didn’t think we moved to the African bush now, did you?!)
The one with the parking garage is a really nice mall, with several stores like those you’d find in the US — like TCBY, Papa John’s, Buffalo (Wild) Wings, a great sushi place, a really nice movie theater, two big department stores, Benetton Guess, Tommy Hilfiger, Nine West, and Payless. Oh and they are putting in a Cinnabun! There’s another mall called Metrocentro, which has some of those same stores, plus a Burger King, McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Quiznos, Subway, and Sportline. They are very clean, safe, and much like any of the malls we frequent in the States.
How’s your Spanish?
Getting better every day . If you want to do it the right way, you go to language school for a year before moving to another country. But, we choose to dive right in and learn by immersion. That’s fine. Plenty of people have done it this way. Our kids are getting personal Spanish instruction for one hour a day at school, every day! I am doing an online program, and then will start Spanish school at a local university in September.
OK, so how do you live life without knowing the language?
Thank God for Google Translate! I have literally typed a sentence into Google Translate, then showed the response to someone, and then let her type back in Spanish for me to see the English translation. In fact, I’ve had whole conversations like this! It really does help you learn, and is an amazing tool for getting by in the meantime.
Once we got 3G on our phones, having the Google Translate app installed just made life a whole lot easier. We had to take one of the kids to the hospital for a doctor’s visit. Although the doctor spoke English, none of his staff did. The girl behind the counter even used Google Translate (on her own computer) to help explain about the schedule.
What’s it like to drive there?
Well, it’s never dull, that’s for sure. (Oh and the car in front of us here is actually in use, in case you can’t tell… I know I posted this photo once before, but it’s just too crazy not to repeat )
I can pretty much sum it up by saying this: remember the game Frogger? That was good practice for driving here. Add in some horse carts, a funeral procession or two, a bunch of those mini-taxis, and a ton of pedestrians, and you’ve got a good idea of what it’s like to drive here.
In fact, I only drove for the first time today. First, Wyeth went with me, and we drove the kids to school. Then, I went back at lunch time all by myself . There’s a lot to get used to: a 15-passenger van, manual transmission, Spanish road signs, oh and all that stuff I mentioned already… and then later today we actually drove through an entire baseball game being held in the middle of a fairly busy road.
But we survived with only a few snide remarks from the peanut gallery about me being behind the wheel.
Now, driving in downtown Managua? That’s another whole ball game. It’ll take a while before I’m comfortable doing that. In the meantime, I can get to the grocery store, the kids’ school, and most of our friends’ houses, so we’re good.
Speaking of driving, how do you navigate the roads?
Another app saves the day: Google Maps is awesome. There are no real street markers here. You basically have to remember to turn at certain landmarks. This means if you’re new to the area, having a good map is critical to actually finding what you’re looking for.
We’ve been surprised to find the 3G coverage to be pretty great in and around Managua, so we’ve been able to figure out where to go without much trouble. Although, it is kinda funny when you end up on a road that isn’t even on Google Maps… or when the road you’re on looks like it might end, but then — thankfully — it doesn’t…
You really don’t have A/C? Isn’t it wicked hot?
No, we don’t have A/C, but so far it has been tolerable. The warmest months here are March and April, so our bodies will have a lot of time to adjust before we hit that next “spring.” For now, it’s in the upper 70s and mid 80s most days. Once the sun goes down, it usually cools off quite nicely, believe it or not. We do run fans in the bedrooms at night, but that is also to act as some white noise as we adjust to the new “normal” evening sounds.
Tonight it rained, and we actually grabbed light sweatshirts after dinner. I am pretty wimpy about the heat, but I can honestly say I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the weather thus far. There are certainly some hours and even days where it’s just hot. On days like that, the kids fill up on popsicles and break out the hose, then we all sit in front of the fans to cool off for a few minutes. (Or, as my oldest will admit, they sometimes sneak into the computer lab at school just to sit in the A/C.)
What has surprised me more than the comfortable weather are the tropical storms. It will be beautifully sunny and warm, then all of the sudden these huge, dark clouds will roll in.
Within minutes of the rain starting, the roads will be flooded and driving treacherous. Another blessing is these vans have a high enough clearance that we can make it through most such roads without trouble.
Got more questions about life here? Keep ‘em coming for part two…