Courtyards in Nicaragua

The Garden Cafe. Good food at reasonable prices. The tables are under the roof to the right and left of the photo. This courtyard seemed unusual as it had more plants and dirt than any others we saw.

Courtyards are a necessity in Nicaragua (and should be elsewhere as well). The air in the courtyard flows into the rooms which surround it and help to keep the temperatures tolerable.

All of the courtyards that we saw were full of lots of plants and sometimes a fountain or pool. They were very pleasant to see and to sit in.

My only question about this practice is that it means that the majority of all land is covered by impervious cover (concrete, asphalt, buildings, etc.) so I’m not sure how much of an issue rainwater runoff is.

Here are just a few of the many ones we saw. In the pictures we took from the bell tower, you can see that almost the only plants you see come from the courtyards.

Animals on the Road In Nicaragua

Pigs on the road.

In another post I briefly talked about animals on/along the roads in Nicaragua. They may be tethered or may roam freely. I’m told that the owners keep an eye on them and bring them back in every night. Theft is not an issue according to the guide who talked to us about them.

Here are just a few of the animals that we saw roaming freely. I didn’t have a chance to get a picture of the cow in the middle of the road as we were riding in a vehicle but it didn’t want to move until the driver honked the horn! Here are just a few animals we saw on the road.



Shipping a Package to Costa Rica

We are finding out the Costa Rica is very big on bureaucracy and paperwork. In Nicaragua I could purchase generic xanax and ambien over the counter…in fact the xanax was under the glass of the front counter. Not sure the rules on those drugs in Costa Rica but I can tell you that supplements are very strictly managed.

I ordered 4 supplements which I can easily purchase at Natural Grocers and most any health food store. I used eVitamins, an online store with a good reputation that knows how to ship to Costa Rica and what can be shipped…or so they said. They apparently didn’t include the itemized invoice which was easily remedied.

Finding where the package was held was not easy and took several attempts. I have actually seen my package and have a photo of the items AND paid my import fees. But I have to get permission from the Minister of Health to get the supplements. That required a trip to a different place.

Once I got to the Ministerial de Salud building and finally got to the right office I was given a form to complete which wanted to know what the products were for and found out that I need a prescription from the doctor which is less than 3 months old! (And I had to write a short letter requesting that I get approval to receive the items.)

I got the RX in less than a day and made another trip to the Ministerial de Salud (I tried to see if I could just fax the papers/forms but couldn’t get anywhere with that…may have been partly a limitation of my Spanish but I don’t really think so since the word “fax” is the same in English and Spanish).

At this point in time I paid a little over $50 for shipping from the US, $70 plus tip and lunch for almost all day use of a driver I met via Uber, and about half that again for the second trip with one more trip needed. It takes 1-30 days to get approval (as of 6/6 I am on day 8). I could pay for one way of the fare for someone to fly here from Houston and bring things to me!

I could let the package be returned to the US; I’ve been able to get a couple of the products (Bach Rescue Sleep spray and a lesser strength Vitamin D-3) at a local GNC store but that doesn’t help with the other two products, one of which has been prescribed for me by 2 different physicians over the last 6 or 7 years so I¬†know I need it and I am now out of it.

So if you are thinking about coming to visit, let me know; I’d love for you be bring me some products. I’ll happily reimburse you and promise not to take up much luggage space. Of course if you are reading this blog I’d probably love for you to come visit anyway.

Will other countries be different? Who knows? I haven’t been successful in finding out rules in advance for a given country. Stay tuned…


Nicaraguan Art-Humor?

During one of our outings while we were in Nicaragua we went to a nice market in Catarina which is near Granada. The place was clean, neat, and not crowded while we were there. You could purchase all kinds of things there, including art work. I got a kick out of the ones below. These folks know how to multi-task!

Other artwork we saw in a restaurant at Charco Verde Reserve and other places can be seen here. You can see that the style is somewhat similar. A few of the images are just to show you who the artist is.



Zoo Ave

Zoo Ave is not your ordinary zoo. It is devoted to animals that need rehabilitation or can’t survive in their natural habitat. Their most famous animal is Grecia, a toucan whose beak had been damaged by maltreatment. With the upper part of her beak missing, there is no way she could pick up food and eat. A prosthetic beak allows her to function!

None of the other animals had obvious issues although one owl seemed to have a wing that didn’t fold up properly.

There were all kinds of animals. Lots of birds, including the beautiful parrots, ocelots, several types of monkeys, iguanas, crocodiles, caimans, one boa constrictor, tapirs, etc. It was interesting to see how many of a given animal had been returned to the wild.

It took 3 hours to tour the zoo so there was lots and lots to see. You can see all of the pictures by clicking here. (Let me know if you have any problems viewing the pictures.)

Nicaragua-A Surprising Country

We spent about 10 days in Nicaragua, mostly in historic Granada (more on that in another blog) but also a few days on the island in Lake Nicaragua as well.

Thoughts about the country, people, culture:

  • The drive from the border to Granada was mixed. The road was excellent and there wasn’t much traffic. Lots of green spaces on either side of the road and you can see Lake Nicaragua and Ometepe Island shortly after entering the country.
  • Poverty is also obvious very quickly. Small houses, yards are mostly trees like banana and coconut, no grass yards. Animals are loose and when I say loose, they often graze their horses, donkeys, cows, and pigs on the side of the roads. Usually tethered in some way on the busier roads but not always.
  • The people are generally happy despite their poverty. One thing we did was tour an after school program that is one of the poorest neighborhoods in Granada. The administrator giving the tour (school and neighborhood) said that the kids always come eager to be there (they get a meal, play, and instruction appropriate to their skill level) and they are clean, well groomed, and in clean, pressed clothes. This is despite the fact that they usually don’t have indoor plumbing at their houses! They seemed happy to be at the program and most of them were outgoing and engaging.
  • Poverty is very evident once you get a few blocks from the central tourist areas, especially in the neighborhood of the program where the streets and floors in most of the houses are dirt, houses are often made of pieces of tin, and I even saw one house made of boxsprings from old mattresses as the exterior walls and tar paper on the interior. I didn’t get a picture of that but I do have a picture of a gate using a boxspring.
  • The country is very poor, the second poorest in the western hemisphere after Haiti. We saw homes made of odd pieces of tin or wood, one even made of the box springs of mattresses with tar paper on the inside. Dirt floors are not uncommon in the poorer areas.
  • Despite the poverty, people are very clean, neat, well groomed, and in clean/neat clothes. They are generally happy.
  • Horses, cows, donkeys, and pigs are often loose to feed on the roadsides. They are sometimes tethered, sometimes totally loose and may even be in the roadway itself. Their owners bring them in nightly and there doesn’t appear to be a problem with theft.
  • Murder rates are very low in Nicaragua (unlike Honduras) however theft is high. We didn’t have any problems but we were told that the poorer locals feel like that if they steal from someone who has things, they need the things and the owner will just go out and replace it…so what is the problem?!
  • It is extremely hot and humid; just now coming into the rainy season which will cool down the afternoons.
  • During the war there were no schools for the children. Now they go half days, I believe it is small children in the morning and older kids in the afternoons. Teachers are not well trained either. Both things are going to work against improving the lives of the citizens for sometime to come.
  • Below is a picture of steps in Granada. It is our new motto!

Monkeys-Los Monos

We only saw one lone monkey scurry down a branch in the shadows of a tree in Costa Rica but in Nicaragua we saw a number of them…2 kinds.

The first group was on the Islet Tour in Lake Nicaragua near Granada. There are 365 islets (big enough for at least a house if not more) formed from the eruption of a volcano long ago. One of those islets has 4 spider monkeys.

The monkeys are quite used to tourists in the boats coming and feeding them so they are easy to see. We did an afternoon tour so they weren’t hungry (and we didn’t know to bring fruit for them anyway) but I understand that during morning tours they are even more visible.

The second group was at Charo Verde Reserve on Ometepe Island. Those were Howler monkeys and I’m not sure how many we saw, at least a half dozen. They were above us in the mango trees, taking a bite out of the fruit and throwing it down to the ground (reminded me of the squirrels and our peach trees at the house in San Antonio.

The monkey we have seen the most of is Mona the Common Marmoset at Finca Soley. She gets her own posting as soon as I get a good video of her activity.

Sinai in Spanish

When we got to the hotel on the island we asked the person who handles everything (a staff of one this time of year) to recommend a place to eat. She said to go to “sen a nae ee”. She said there was a sign and that it was quite close.

So we took off down the road and turned right (but did she say left or right???) and walked a block or two and turned back. On the way back, we saw this sign:

We got most of our meals from there. It is totally open inside and very rustic. Food was “ok” but generous and cheap. Here is the first meal we got, fortunately there were tons of leftovers. Other meals were a more reasonable size.

Golden-Mantled Howlers in a Mango Tree

What howler? Look left of center and see the two tone brown? That is a howler monkey.

We are walking a trail to the beach at Charco Verde Park on Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua when I see that a few mangoes are dropping out of the tree. Otherwise there are no sounds, at first. Then I hear movement to one side, high in the tree. We crane our necks around until we finally see a howler monkey. Eventually I see at least eight. There could have been more, but most of them were taking a siesta and it was easy for them to blend in. Their deep voices can be heard up to 3 miles away.

Range: Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala
Weight: Males up to 21.8 lbs. Females up to 16.8 lbs.
Height: Males – 20″ to 26.6″; females – 18.9″ to 24.9″
Prehensile tail: 21.5″ to 25.8″
Social structure: live in groups of 10-20 individuals and at puberty leave the group to join another