Archive for November, 2010

Can you live without water?

November 27, 2010 5 comments

This is how many people in rural and urban areas get their drinking, and cleaning water in Nicaragua

After about a month of living in Nicaragua, I am starting to understand the difficulties and challenges of those with limited infrastructure.  In Canada, the vast majority of people have access to clean, and continuous running water.  According to most sources, it is at 100% – there is no way this is true, as there are most likely a handful of people that live off the land who do not have running water to their homes.

In Nicaragua, it is much different.  There are not a lot of resources or statistics out there.  I could only find estimations, and those estimations could also be off.  One source on wikipedia, indicates that 84% of urban homes and 27% of rural homes have connections to water.

This is quite staggering, because even if there is a connection to running water, the service is often unreliable, and the cleanliness can be debated.

In rural, and urban areas, many people are forced to fetch their water a few times a week.  Water is usually carried in a 5 gallon bucket, weighing around 45 pounds.  Women, children, and other family members are forced to walk long distances to lakes, or private water facilities to retreive water for cooking, drinking, and bathing.  There are services that deliver water, but in a country where the per capita income is on average $430, it is difficult to afford these services.  Keep in mind, this is the average income….many people live on much less in a year, and the UN World Food Program estimates that the average income is even lower, at $300 a head.

I have experienced some inconveniences with water in the past month – nothing like what people face on a day to day basis:

  • Spending the weekend with friends, and having to fetch water from a water tank to brush teeth, and bathing with a small bucket.
  • Running water at a place I stayed at for 2 weeks only ran for 2 hours every 2 days.  When the water was running, the pressure was so low, that I was forced to shower with a bucket again.  Water tanks on the roof helped alleviate this problem, but the pressure was also unreliable.
  • My permament residence in Managua has running water for 12 hours a day (not 16 as I had previously thought).  We get running water between 11pm and 11am – give or take, depending on the day…sometimes more, usually less.
  • We keep a basin of clean water to cook, and clean with in the back, where our washboard is also located.  This is how the vast majority of people wash their clothes in Nicaragua (nearly everyone).  Washing machines are usually reserved for the wealthy.  Luckily we are fortunate enough to be able to afford a cleaner, who does this manual task 3 days a week for us.
  • After one month, I do not mind cold water showers anymore.  It is actually great for – a) waking up quickly in the morning and b) conserving water – as you learn to wet your body, get lathered up with soap and shampoo with the water off, then rinsing as quick as possible.  Cold showers coming from a shower head with good pressure is a luxury here.

An example of a washboard. This is common in Nicaragua, as we have two in our backyard washing area. Efficient and cheap, it what Nicas rely on for cleaning their clothes

For many people, including people I have got to know, this harsh reality is normal for them.  They do not complain, they just live with their situation.

For a Canadian, who has travelled a lot around the world, I have experienced these situations in a travel sense.  I have never lived for a prolonged period of time exposed to these situations before in my life.  Given the situation that others live with in close proximity to me, I think that my situation is actually quite good.

I am observing many harsh differences between life in Canada and life in Nicaragua on a daily basis.  People learn to live with less, and make the best of a bad situation without complaining.

It makes you think a little bit of how silly we act when our hot water heater fails, or we are without electricity and forced to shower with cold, or boiled water.  Canadians are lucky.  I am lucky.

Categories: Uncategorized

Please take a look – linked fixed

November 26, 2010 4 comments

This is my first attempt at making a video for SchoolBOX.  It is compiled from footage taken from my trip to the school in the dump – Juntos Contigo.  Please take a look, and please give me some feedback.

Also, pass onto friends if you are able to:


Categories: Uncategorized

I have no idea where I live…

November 24, 2010 1 comment

I recently moved into a flat near Metro Centro.  Managua is a different sort of city.  It does not really have an old centre of the city, as most Nicaraguan towns have.  An earthquake hit Managua in the 70’s and everything became shuffled.  It is now hip to live near restaurants and malls. The big mall I live near is Metro Centro.  Being in the centre, it basically means this is where a lot of the roads start.  It is also a landmark for many people.

my house

My House. The kitchen

I am glad I live near a landmark, as I would have no idea how to get home otherwise.  My official address is:

Shell plaza el sol, 1c. arriba, 2c. sur, 1/2c. abajo.

This means that they are using a gas station as a reference point.  I have never heard of a gas station being a reference point in an official address before in my life.  I guess things are just done differently here. 

Basically I live 1 block from the gas station east, 2 blocks south, and one half blocks west.  I don;t know about you, but most people do not need to be trained in orienteering, or carrying a compas to find their house.  It was a nightmare finding it the first time, as there were many Shell Stations in the vicinity.

The address of the other house I was looking at was even worse, they used a church as a reference point, and said it was near where the Pirate Radio Station used to be…

Things are going well in my new place.  I am in quite an international house, living with people from Nicaragua, France, Germany, and Italy.  Everyone is nice, and it is quite social.

I have just set up my mosquito net in my room.  I feel like I am sleeping in a princess bed. 

This Friday, I am off to Matagalpa to do some work for SchoolBOX.  I am really looking forward to this, and will post some pictures later on.

For some more insight into the Nicaragua Address System, check out this link:

Categories: Nicaragua

Nicaragua Observations

November 16, 2010 Leave a comment

Young boy helping his family catch dinner.

I have been in Nicaragua for just over two weeks.  My Spanish is starting to pick up, as I am taking 4 hours of lessons a day, and I am also staying in a village in which no one speaks English.

Thus far, I have visited Leon, Granada, Masaya, and a bit of Managua.  I am excited at the prospect of visiting a few apartments on Friday, when I return back to Managua for a few weeks of SchoolBOX meetings.  After these two weeks, I will be heading back to Catarina for two more weeks of Spanish lessons, before I travel up to Honduras and Guatamala for Christmas.

A few things that happened to me:

  • I watched two young boys catch their family dinner by using a small spear and rope to tie up fish in the lagoon while taking my Spanish lesson on Wedneday.  It was pretty amazing their tenacity and determination to catch their family food.  They even showed me how they did it, and I was quite amazed
  • I went to San Juan del Sur on the weekend.  It is on the West Cost, near the Costa Rican border.  For the last 20km,  hitched a ride in the back of a truck – very common in Nicaragua.  Locals are very willing to help.
  • I finally took a few of those schoolbuses that seve as public transportation in Nicaragua.  It brought me back to my days in primary school, except for the people hanging off the side of the bus.
  • I hitchhiked with a friend in a passing taxi.  I found this hilarious, as the other person paid the fare, and this was supposedly completely normal.
  • So many people come from disjointed families.  The majority of people I meet tell stories of numerous brothers and sisters scattered around the country.  I am amazed of stories of 20 or more brothers and sisters from numerous fathers and mothers.  It is very common and accepted.   I will write more about this as I do more research.
San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Hitchhiking to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Hitchhiking to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Categories: Uncategorized

First haircut in Nicaragua

November 12, 2010 20 comments

$1.40 haircut

As part of a field trip with my Spanish teacher today, I went to Masaya.  I had asked the teacher to come with me earlier this week, as I was nervous about getting a haircut without knowing the language. (Note, I will post some pictures when I actually have my home internet working, as I am at an internet cafe at the moment)

This story brought to mind other places in which I have got a haircut around the world.  Whenever you switch barbers, it is quite hit and miss.  (even with hair like mine).  I have received haircuts in the following countries.  (I know this sounds ridiculous):

  • Canada
  • China
  • Vietnam
  • Thailand
  • France
  • Belgium
  • Netherlands
  • Scotland
  • Australia
  • Germany
  • South Africa – I was let in through a security door in Cape Town, as it was in a supposedly dangerous area of town
  • Czech Republic – This was back in 2002, when I was travelling around Europe for the first time.  I went with the owner of the hostel, who also was my translator.
  • Nicaragua (see below)

The Nica haircut made me the most nervous.  I am not sure why this was the case, but I was unsure of the result.  I had prepared myself for this moment, by learning certain words for short on the sides, longer on the top.  I had also carried my passport with me so that I could show the ¨hairdresser¨.

I failed to see the warning signs before getting the haircut:

  • getting a price of less than 1.40 USD for the haircut (30 Nicaraguan Cordobas)
  • 2 minutes into the haircut, the hairdresser asked me to see the picture again, then laughing Read more…
Categories: Uncategorized

Catarina, catarina

November 11, 2010 2 comments
Laguna de Apoyo from Pavillion

Laguna de Apoyo from Pavillion


It is quite a different living in a new country.  I am constantly seeing new things, and having new experiences:

  • Waking up to different sounds – roosters, dogs, latin music
  • Learning Spanish, and being able to communicate with others
  • Realising that that tuktuks backfiring sound a lot like guns
  • Getting used to different foods, and customs – fried pork for breakfast, fried bananas for lunch, fried plantains (delicious), new fruits and vegetables that I have never tried
  • Seeing how normal people scrape by to make a living
  • Experiencing happiness within communities that, by Western Standards, have nothing.
  • Not being shocked by gangs of animals roaming the streets
  • Getting used to Latin American time – today, becomes tonight, which becomes tomorrow, which becomes next week
  • The genuine friendliness of people.

Tomorrow I will be bringing a translator with me to Masaya to get a $1 haircut.  The translator is actually my Spanish teacher, and this will be part of our field trip in the afternoon.  It will be interesting to see how it turns out.  I will post before and after stories of the haircut, as I got this idea from my friend Tom who got a terrible haircut in Egypt.

Categories: Uncategorized

Spanish Lessons in a Lagoon

November 10, 2010 2 comments
Laguna de Apoyo

This is the Laguna de Apoyo - the spot where I had my Spanish lesson on Wednesday

I went to the Lagoon today to have my Spanish lessons.  The Laguna de Apoyo is about 30 minutes by taxi from where I am living in Catarina.  It is absolutely gorgeous.

Today there were no people around, and I took my Spanish courses in between swimming breaks.  The water was really warm, and clean.  The cleanliness of swimming water is difficult to find in Nicaragua for fresh water.  It was beautiful.

After lunch, I took a nap in a hammock for an hour before heading back to the house where I am staying.

Near Laguna de Apoyo

Near Laguna de Apoyo

Random thoughts:
  • Many people carry machetes around here.  Although it may seem scary at first, it is how they landscape, and they use it for their work
  • It is common to fill up your car with gasoline and keep the engine running, I saw this on a number of occasions.
Categories: Uncategorized
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