Thursday, November 19, 2009



Day 6 of my stay in Nicaragua and not a great deal to report so far.The folks who own this beautiful little hotel are most gracious and are treating me very well.
So far, I´ve learned a great deal about the area and met a few interesting people .Tony lives next door and has been here for about 4 months. Like me he has 4 kids in their 20´s and has been divorced or separated for quite some time.The other day we went to the beach with another friend of his Steve, who owns a beautiful house overlooking the bay at San Juan Del Sur,is married to Jasmine a Nicaraguan who has lived in the states for many years.Since my back is still quite an issue for me to deal with I was quite content to troll the immediate shoreline. I could still feel the tug of the tide pulling on my delicate spine. They, however spent at least 2 hours surfing back and forth on that perfect little beach and I was enjoying this first foray into warm water beach life. As I sat there alone watching the serrated V line of the sun dappling the bay under the canopy of a little thatched hut I thought to myself, how many times I´d seen this picture in other people´s vacation photo albums and now here I am! I´ve spent 42 of my 59 years on an island so I´m familiar with beach living but this was quite different from the UK or Vancouver Island.I´ve spent relatively little of that time in the water on any of the northern beaches I´ve lived by. Another thing I have to take care of is my skin like everyone else. So far,I´ve not burned myself and that is a difficult thing to avoid here as the sun shines all day every day.You cannot avoid it.I imagine by the time I leave here I´ll be suitably tanned but it won´t be from sunbathing ala sitting on the beach burning.
It will be from just walking around in and out of the sun with copious scoops of 30plus suntan lotion slathered all over my poor defenseless northern white torso.

Today is the first day I´ve not gone into town for coffee at El Gato Negro Book Store.Rob and Kelly are friends of April,Valerie and Brandon, owners of the hotel where I´m staying.....
......and they have been here for about 4 years now.The Gato Negro is a meeting place for locals and expats alike and likely as not I will meet someone in there from somewhere else just like me.It´s about 4 kms into town and Sergio has been my trusty driver to and fro.We have mini spanish english lessons as we go and neither one of us can understand the other but usually something positive comes out of the attempt at mutual comprehension.
It has been extremely windy for the last 2 days.Unlike Victoria,it blows from east leaving the air dry and the smell of the ocean unnoticeable unlike Victoria. Last night it rained leaving the cobbled streets of downtown San Juan del Sur looking quite irridescent in the pale streetlights.

Being as this blog is primarily about the relationship between living as a transplant recipient and travelling in poorly developed countries, I´d like to point out that so far I haven´t felt ill in any way ie. no temperature or serious stomach disruptions but....the water here is fairly safe to drink as we´re on a well .However,the water has a great deal of calcium so.... I´m sticking to bottled water for the most part.
Besides April,Valerie and Brandon,I´m the only one here so I´ve discovered that I´m learning a thing or 3 about myself with regards to looking for something to do and having nothing to do in the process.I´m used to The North American External Stimuli Syndrome so I´m attempting to let things go and allow the time to pass as it does here ....naturally...The rhythms of the day are totally synced to the rising and the setting of the sun.So that´s how folks here live...Up with the dawn and retiring with the early evening sunset.It is pitch black by 615pm and the sun doesn´t take long to disappear once it hovers above the horizon.
So, my plan is to stay here til next week´s end then perhaps jump on a bus and go to Granada which is about an hour or so away. After that,jump on the Tica Bus and go to Panama through Costa Rica.I have about 65 days down here and by the time I get home to Victoria where I have a couple of months work waiting for me I should be acclimatised to this strange and wonderful part of the world.
So far I haven´t seen any scorpions but when the wind blowes you have to watch out for them dropping from the trees so, every night I must shake out my bedding to make sure one hasn´t snuggled in to keep me company...They apparently pack quite the sting as I´ve been told but not necessarily deadly. Although, for me and my immune system I could have a fairly negative experience if I should come into contact with one. The Geckos are our friends however and they make a peculiar smooching sound like someone blowing a kiss! The other night I was typing away after dark in the office here and one just appeared on the wall out of nowhere right in front of me. They´re so fast!They scoop up all the bugs crawling about the place although, I haven´t seen any more bugs here than I would on any hot night in Canada...guess that´s the reason why...and no mosquitos at all so far!

Sunday, November 15, 2009


October.20th ....29th

Chicago,Kentucky Tennessee and back to Chicago

My 10 days in the states were 10 of the most painful days I have ever experienced.Barring my transplant or being caught in a burning wreck I can´t imagine ever having worse pain.
The first week in Chicago or...more precisely Rockford Illinois afforded me very little opportunity to get out by myself and explore the local town...I had recently been diagnosed with severe arthritis in my right hip and was told in no uncertain terms that I would need hip replacement therapy and sooner, rather than later, a mere 6 days before leaving on a trip which was to take me from Chicago to Tennessee and then down the mighty Mississippi to New Orleans where I had booked 8 days banging nails for Habitat For Humanity.I had planned a total of 3 weeks and sadly, none of these plans were to materialize in the way I had intended. My trip was to be cut short by 10 days just so that I could come home and get some physio and much needed hot tub time.
No trip to New Orleans and a very painful week reminiscing with my cousins and their family in Rockford with no outlet for explorations of any sort...As a matter of fact, even a trip to the local grocery store caused me so much pain that when I took more than 20 steps ,I would have to stop and lean against a wall for at least 5 or 10 minutes before the pain would subside.This ordeal went on for about a week and I was not enjoying this at all.
On Friday, Oct.23rd my cousin Doreen ,her husband Chuck and I left for Florence Kentucky where we were to pickup 2 of their
daughters..Bethanie,who lived there and Carrie ,who was an airline pilot for CONTINENTAL. Here we were to stay the night at a hotel suite and then journey on the next am to Oak Ridge Tennesse where we were to have a reunion with my aunt and uncle and another cousin Sydney and her husband Paul. Now, I hadn´t seen any of these cousins for 40 years and we had been out of touch for much of the ensuing time. Our families had drifted apart and it fell upon me to find us all and help in getting us back together.It was a relief to discover that my cousins all felt the same way. As children we had been very close and the last time we had been together was in 1970 when everybody looked a whole lot younger and we had our whole lives yet to live. Tragedy had befallen both our families as a cousin Greg, a mere 3 months younger than me had been struck down in a car accident 21 years earlier. My father had died 17 years earlier and before he died he had told me he wanted me to get in touch with this side of our extended family. As it was, my father had no siblings and the matriarch of the family my aunt Doreen was the closest he had to a brother or sister growing up...I had no sisters but had 4 great cousins,3 of who were girls who had been just like sisters to me.
There was however a bittersweet component to all of this reunion stuff. My cousin Sydney had inoperable cancer and the prognosis was bleak. The entire day of Saturday was a holy day though as we reinserted ourselves back into each other´s lives,forgot about past differences and forged a new an meaningful blueprint for the future.
So this day of all days Oct.24th 2009 turned out to be a special one indeed where every word uttered had a spiritual patina shading the conversation. After 40 years I was to get only a few sacred hours with my beautiful cousin Sydney and her mother and least for now.
The rest of the weekend was a mirror image of the first half and after 1443 miles we pulled into Chuck and Doreen´s driveway. I had been away exactly one week and it was then that I decided to go home early and attend to my ailing back.
Fortunately for me and.... well... everyone else in the family too...Carrie being a pilot, was able to buddy pass me back to Seattle through Houston the following Wednesday.

The night previous to my departure though Chuck and I treated ourselves to a Bob Dylan concert at the local arena...The Rabbi of Rock,the Shakespeare of Pop was in fine form...doing his rock stance with his tiny little stache and his torreadorean chapeau just like the true rock n roller he´s always been and treating us to about 25 of his greatest of oldest and newest songs.His band was fantastic with Charlie Sexton on guitar and another fine gentleman the name of Larry Campbell also on guitar. Most of the time he spent behind his keyboards but he came out for a few tunes with his guitar and harp.His version of Highway 61 Revisited this time out was unbelievable ...I had never heard this song done this well before and believe me,I´ve heard many versions done well by him and many others before. A fine finale to 10 days that were many things to me. Painful in more ways than one....I must hand it to my fine cousins Chuck and Doreen whom we affectionately have always called Tinker. They showed me how a family should relate to each other in the face of adversity and tragedy. All members of the family extended and otherwise daily communicating with each other with the utmost of respect and care and love...and the goodbye to Paul and Sydney from the driveway was one of the most genuinely hearfelt goodbyes I have ever experienced...i truly love you guys and I´m so grateful for having reconnected with you all.
Coming home was uneventful and the pain had subsided probably by 50 percent or so and I was now getting ready for this part of my journey which i´m now experiencing without any pain to speak of, no painkileers and no cane!
Upon my arrival at the Clipper dock on a cool rainy Thursday morning in Victoria I was met by my beautiful friend Lorraine who is planning to meet me here after Christmas for a few days...

My heartfelt thanks to Chuck,Tinker,Bud ,Doreen,Sydney,Paul, Christie, Britton, Bethanie, Peter,Carrie, Jamie........

Saturday, November 14, 2009


November 14th 2009 400pm

Here I am finally in CentroAmerica a long long way from Victoria where it´s cold and rainy. It took me 52 hours to get here having journeyed through Seattle,Houston, Managua and finally my current destination of San Juan Del Sur...
I would like to go back to where I left off upon my arrival in Chicago as there is a few things I´d like to talk about my visit there but I will come back at a later time ....
Right now though the last 36 hours have been an extremely visceral experience...Even though I don´t yet know the language I´m already thinking in Spanish!!I am picking things up daily and with my knowledge of French and latin I find it quite easy to understand the written word...Speaking and listening to people talk is another matter though...I am truly a stranger in a strange land.
The trip from Houston to Managua was fraught with a mix of anxiety,fear hope and a serious case of¨"What the hell am I doing now at this point in my life".
Just before arriving I couldn´t help but notice how few lights there were on the ground as we were descending the night sky...I had just spent the better part of 3 hours talking to a Born Again Christian who tried to put the fear of God into me and I must admit it gave me a slight sense of foreboding...
Going through customs was a checking of luggage...( and I realized I wasn´t a young hippy anymore trying something dodgy at a border crossing) I was just an older man traveling to a third world country with all his papers in order so I really had nothing to worry about....
The big shock was stepping outside from an air-conditioned airport.The heat was quite opressive even at 900pm and the cacophony of taxi drivers and other transportation types along with the spanish chatter of most of the disembarking travelers was quite overwhelming...
I was being picked up by the Holiday Inn Shuttle and after about 15 minutes of wondering what the hell I was doing he found me and we were on our way.
Half an hour of driving through the Managuan slums brought us to an oasis of North American style tranquility. Now, I was ready for a native experience but not yet please...I had been travelling for 26 hours and although I´d had a good night´s sleep in Seattle I was still fatigued, not least from the stress of not knowing what was going to happen next.
Now ,even though I was in a third world country I certainly couldn´t tell by the prices that were presented to me from check in to breakfast the next morning; $80us for the hotel and $12 dollars tax!Then the next morning my buffet breakfast was a whopping $16! I was glad to be getting out of there by 10am, but my excitement was shortlived as my ride to San Juan Del Sur didn´t show and still hadn´t shown by 200pm...I kept trying to get a hold of my hosts and finally by 245pm I did...They thought I was coming on Saturday!..Quite clearly my emails had said Friday the thirteenth and as it turned out the hotel calender also said the same thing.So, after 7 hours of daring not to leave the hotel for fear of missing my ride Ramon showed up and we were on our way...and let me say that in no way was I upset about the experience...I just kept saying I was on Nicaraguan time now and this was the type of inconvenience one put up with here on occasion.
The ride from Managua at rush our was as I said before quite a visceral experience...The sight of 8 year old Nican kids juggling at intersections as well as all types begging in so many different ways was quite unsettling.I don´t think there is unleaded gas there yet and the smell on the road was headache inducing.The buses were all packed right out the doors and the bus stops were packed from one end of the street to the other.There were 3 wheeled taxis and bicycles everywhere.By this time I had heard so much spanish as I already said was starting to think in spanish and had no idea what I was thinking!
The ride to the hotel took 2 and a half hours and the sounds of the cicadas in the trees as we whizzed by at 100kms. an hour were quite noticeable. Also the traffic rules were generally diregarded by most and I noticed that when we approached oncoming traffic the cars and trucks would turn ON there high beams!
We arrived at the hotel at 730pm last night (Friday) bloody but unbowed and I have to say that Ramon my driver was excellent all the way...aggressive when need be and just the opposite when danger was present.I had a wonderful dinner of chicken cashew stirfry and 2 beers whent to bed with absolutely no idea of where I was or what I was about to see the next morning with my own 2 eyes.Now I´ve taken a bunch of pictures but so far my haven´t figured out how to upload them to my blog so we´ll have to wait until I figure it out or find someone to lend me a hand.
My hosts are a family originally from San Diego who´ve lived in Mexico and Nicaragua for most of the last 20 years...April and her son Brandon and April´s mother whose name escapes me at the moment...They have the most beuatiful boutique hotel on the outskirts of San Juan Del Sur comprising of 11 rooms and a restaurant.When I arrived it was dark and had no idea where we were situated but this morning I stepped outside and was greeted by the site of the most beautiful bay down below and off in the distance.The buildings are a Southwestern style of bright blues yellows and orange and my digs are small and austere (blues ,yellows and tiles everywhere) but everything I need while I´m here: kitchen ,sitting room ,bathroom and bedroom (furnished)...
So this brings us right to this moment in time-345pm on Saturday afternoon.The temp is about 90 plus and humid...I´m overdressed but would rather avoid a sunburn thank you very much...I think I´m going to go look for some expats and have a beer......
More about my trip to the states next.....