3 buildings


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We used to live across the street from the first house; it’s not in a great neighborhood or anything, it’s just close to the beach. I don’t think anyone lived there full time, it was probably a Managuan family that partied there occasionally. The second place is near the park. I like the “fully secured porch” setup; you have added security for your house and you don’t have to take the chairs in at night. The last place is probably unfinished, but that can be a perpetual state around here and doesn’t mean no one’s living in it.

Price of beer in a bar: Routinely varies between US$0.98 to US$1.57.

Song currently stuck in my head: Sometimes Things Get, Whatever (Deadmau5)

I knew sooner or later I’d find myself asking for cocaine around the local markets. This is kind of a coke heavy town, the local demand fueled by eager participants in the hard partying backpacker scene. I haven’t been to “Sunday Funday” (video), but people who love it and people who hate it describe it in pretty much the same terms and it sounded like a fast trip to dull molars. I can almost forgive the Europeans, for whom drug possession is generally a minor, ticketable offense, but the North Americans should have some idea what kind of penalties they’re looking at. I’ve always been told they don’t feed you in Nicaraguan prisons; you’re on your own. A lot of expats make “prison buddies” quickly, a safety net agreement that says “I’ll bring you food and get you a lawyer if things go unexpectedly horrible and vice versa”. So when I wandered into the local market and mispronounced an inquiry in Spanish about “powdered cacao”, there was some context. The words for cocaine and cacao are close enough in both languages that I figured this was likely to happen eventually. When it did, when I poked around the market stall, leaned in and asked in confident Spanish “Do you have any powdered cocaine?” three old women’s jaws literally dropped open and continued to gape.

After 2 beats they laughed hysterically as I backpeddled. I thought about cracking a joke about needing powder, specifically, because I’m classy, but even if my Spanish were up to it (it’s not), they would lack the cultural understanding of the American view that cocaine is glamorous, but becomes dirty and shameful when you mix it with baking soda and buy it by the chunk. I’m glad they saw the humor in the situation, though, because I’d have been much less comfortable if they’d thought I was really looking for drugs and admonished me (or, worse, tried to hook me up). You don’t want to be known as the guy looking for coke at the market and this goes double if you actually are a guy looking for coke. You know, now that I think about it, I ended up getting a great price on that pound of powdered cacao in a market with notoriously aggressive gringo pricing. Maybe this is a solid bargaining technique; perhaps they were too floored to remember to bleed me.

Speaking of ground cacao, Nicaragua is a “superfoods” paradise. I don’t necessarily ascribe much value to the “superfoods” tag, this usually just means food with some high concentrations of specific vitamins and minerals but costs more than a commensurate amount of a more common source. I can drink 3 ounces of expensive pomegranate Juice instead of 6 ounces of cheap grapefruit juice? Why the sudden need for efficiency? You weren’t getting fat off of all that broccoli, there’s no need to eat less of it. Here it isn’t superfood, it’s just food and you buy it at the market, often in bulk. If memory services, Chia seeds cost me around US$0.13/tbsp in Leon and I bought the afore mentioned pound of raw cacao for US$2.35. There’s a ready made business model for a Nicaraguan Smoothie chain in The US; as I’ve pointed out these people have been smoothing everything in sight for generations. The supermarkets are small but they have a significant amount of shelf space dedicated to powdered shake additives. Tamarindo juice with chia is damn good, and I’ve never seen it on offer at Jamba Juice.

I’ve also been drinking raw milk here, pretty much daily. The Girlfriend said this concerns her parents, both of whom are medical professionals, and mentioned botulism. I assume something got lost in that particular game of telephone, because I was under the impression that botulism needed an anaerobic environment to exist (or, at the very least, come into existence). Thus far I haven’t had any digestive issues that I can attribute to the milk and I’m drinking about a liter of it a day.

San Juan’s Day


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2014-07-05 07.37.32

I wrote previously about what to expect from a street festival in San Juan Del Sur and here are a couple of pictures. These were taken early, when things weren’t quite swinging yet, but the party went late into the night. The last photo is the local pool hall. Billiards are popular in Nicaragua.



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2014-06-28 17.34.44

From the top, the bakery between the park and bus stop has typical Central American bakery fare, perhaps above average. I think they sold me one of those small loaves in the left (your left) half of the case for ~ US$0.60. Next up is a plate of shrimp in garlic sauce from La Lancha, across from Elizabeth’s or a block East of the bus stop. It’s a great deal at US$5.88/plate. And last is a ~14″ pie from Mauricio’s San Juan Pizzeria. He has a second location on the beach, about 2 blocks away.

Price of beer in a bar: US$1 happy hour specials abound, some of them will only end up costing you US$1.
Song currently stuck in my head:

So my place is a US$350/month (all in with periodic cleaning, laundry, internet and all other utils, which are not dependable in this town) 1 bedroom with no real living room.  My kitchen has an oven, which is kind of rare and unlikely to see use this month, a microwave (I used the one in the shared kitchen once and the owner insisted I take it to my apartment), a medium sized fridge… all and all I rented it for the location, amenities and kitchen.  The “indufoam” mattress and the wonderful onsite landlord are unexpected bonuses. Living in a vacation destination is like living in Manhattan; you overpay for tiny amounts of square footage and abridged facilities with the intention of enjoying your time out; a capsule hotel with a nice courtyard would probably suffice, or the Nicaraguan equivalent, a hammock with a locker. Still, this would be a tight fit for the The Girlfriend and I together.  I looked at a 2 bedroom sublease for $350 and they were willing, impromptu like, to throw in water and electric at that price so it shouldn’t add to much.  That would have been plenty of space; enough to accommodate a visiting guest or two.  There was no view to speak of, but a bit of yard and a porch big enough for 2 hammocks and some chairs. Adding internet would be the biggest additional expense. The place we used to rent has increased in cost by 33%, from US$300/month to $400 (+ all utils).

There used to be ramshackle buildings in town, often in the process of falling down, where you could get a liter of cold beer for US$1.65 and similarly economically priced food.  One in particular was caddy corner to Casa de Oro and was a wonderful place to enjoy a couple of plates of fresh grilled tipica and a bottle or two of icy beer on the streetside porch; no music, no traffic, just cool evening air and the sound of surf if it was particularly stirred up that night. I loved it; it had a distinctly Caribbean vibe. It’s the one place that I really miss this time around, but it certainly seems like anything even resembling it is gone. I haven’t re-explored the area along the river, over by The Crazy Crab Disco, but it seems like in-town SJDS is no longer a place for your average Nica to hang. The only remaining economical beach bar from our last time around has been overhauled and now has tablecloths (though the seasonal vendors in tents that pop up along the beach during holiday weeks/weekends still cater to Nica crowds).

Property in-town is at a premium; geographically it’s bordered by an Ocean, 2 steep hillsides and a river, so there’s only so much town to fill.  The wide open (though sloped) area over the hill to the South is beginning to developed; roads are carved, some power lines run, a small handful of nice homes are in place. The views are terrific, especially if you can angle a line of sight down the Southern coast towards Costa Rica. I’ve heard lots go for about US$40k. Survivor is in town, filming another Nicaragua season or two, and confounds any conclusions I could draw about how tight the rental scene is since they tend to eat up quite a chunk of the local availability.

Loose Moose


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The Loose Moose is a tiny bar in town that’s constantly packed. I never drank there, but not because I have anything against it.

Beach Time


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2014-06-06 18.08.21

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This is the in-town beach here in San Juan Del Sur. When I first saw it in 2005 (or something) it was disgusting. There was an oil sheen patina covering the sand up to the high tide line, which is also where the trash that washed in collected. No one got in the water. In 2007 the situation was much improved and now it’s nicer (and more populated) every time I visit.

I think I cropped the unconscious Nica and rum bottles out of the last one effectively, but if you’re brightness is cranked you might see something I missed.

Also notice that one of the trees in the first picture is growing through the roof.