Wednesday, May 29, 2013


As we talked about, every 90 days I have to leave Nicaragua to renew my visa.  Because of my location, it's easier to just jump the border to Costa Rica for a bit.  Usually, I come and go in a day and just hang around the border offices, but this last time (mainly because of the troubles I had during my last visa renewal; see here for a recap) I decided to spend some time in CR.

There was a couple, Ron and Chris Carr, who actually met me through this blog, that I stayed with in Grecia.  They came up to Granada during March (I think) for THEIR visa renewal and gave a me big favor by hosting ME while I was in CR.  The best part is that I was able to be there during the English Special Day Assembly in San Jose, and it was amazing.  They had a speaker named Bro.Curry from Panama Branch be the guest speaker, and he was probably one of the best speakers I've ever heard.  There was this talk he gave about the difference between law and principle and what they have to do with the conscience---wow!

The day after, Chris arranged for me to meet some other single need greater sisters around my age and we lived it up in Alajuela.  I was finally able to get decent meeting/service clothes and most of all SHOES!!!  It's so hard to find tasteful dress shoes here.  It's all just sandals or like prom shoes, so I was able to get three pairs in CR.

Overall I have to say I'm happy I didn't spend time in CR until now because, honestly, I may have never left. It is DEFINITELY NOT a developing nation as is Nicaragua.  It is 1st world all the way, and was an excellent break from "roughing it" here.  Here are the highlights:

  • using a comforter at night (brrrr it was probably 10 degrees cooler than Granada overall)
  • eating strawberries and Cadbury chocolate (found everywhere!)
  • being in a house with a front yard
  • drinking out of the tap (no parasites there)
  • constant water and electricity daily; they only have outages when a pipe bursts or during a storm
  • eating Tex-Mex
  • meeting new friends :)
Click here for more great photos.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Standard fixtures in any religious procession:  vendors and police

Procession I can see from the balcony of my house
So for the entire month of May I've woken up every morning to bombas.  Bombas are like the boom of firecrackers but without the gratification of a beautiful light show to accompany it.  It's literally just a way to make A LOT of unnecessary noise.  Why the bombas?  Well, as it turns out May is Maria Auxiliadora's month so it must be celebrated.

Maria Auxiliadora is to Nicaraguans as Maria Guadalupe is to Mexicans.  She's supposedly the TRUE Mary.  It's interesting to note that while Catholics universally venerate Mary, they don't all venerate the same Mary.  There's a lot of arguments between them as far as who is the true Mary.  

Catholicism in generally has been interesting to observe here because it's soooo different from the Catholicism I grew up seeing.  I'm from a part of Missouri where everyone is either Catholic or Lutheran but I've never seen the Catholics behave as they do here.  For instance, practically every other month is dedicated to the Virgin Mary including processions, private parties to altars inside each home, and a random truck that comes around in the morning at 4:30 a.m. blasting an "I love Mary" song.  December is especially dedicated to her (yes, her, not Jesus) and her supposed immaculate conception.  The celebration is called La Purisima and specifically includes a practice called La Griteria (literally = the screaming).  Groups of trucks full of people drive around at dawn and yell out, "There's no greater joy than the conception of Maria."  Another practice that's different here is that Catholics have evangelizers too.  They are men specifically appointed in the church mainly to visit other Catholics but occasionally they visit other denominations.  There's also a branch of the church called Catacuminos who are the supposed teachers of the church; they say it's their job to teach other members about the Bible.  What's interesting is that many of them don't believe basic Catholic doctrine such as the veneration of idols or the Trinity but feel it's their job to reform the church.  Whew!  They've got a big job ahead of them.

It's also been interesting to see how often these supposed religious celebrations here are so tainted.  For instance, in the procession I photographed above, one of the band members had a beer in his hand.  It's common during Maria Auxiliadora month to have the gay community prepare the Maria altars for the processions.  And you should see how the women dress to follow the processions; it's more like they're trolling for men than honoring a saint.  After every religious service as the congregation lets out they're greeted with tons of vendors selling everything from idols to food to photographs.  It makes me think of Jesus with the vendors in the temple.

Anyway, I just think it's interesting to see that this religion whose name literally means "universal" has become really so divided instead of united as their name suggests.

Monday, May 6, 2013


I claim the seat with the coconut next to it!  The little one is saved for Brenda :)
I've been waiting for May so I could finally post about my F.A.B.U.L.O.U.S. trip to Corn Islands, Nicaragua.  Look, I don't mean to brag, but....ok, I'm's fabulous and I feel fabulous for going there!  If you are as obsessed with beaches as I am, you have to get yourself there RIGHT NOW!  I'm going to go through my trip a bit so you can see what's to do there and how much it might cost you.  (If you want to skip all this and go straight to the photos, click here.)  I went with my friend Miia (Finnish) who currently lives in Belen around Rivas.  She's going back to Finland in July to get married and said before leaving Nicaragua she just HAD so see Corn Islands; and guess who she invited to join her?!  Moi!

We left about 6am from Managua on La Costena airline.  Their costs never change; roundtrip to Corn Islands is always $160 + tax and you travel on a small 40 passenger plane.  They make a brief stop in Bluefields to drop off and pick up and then travel another half hour to Big Corn Island.  Funny story....the majority of our 40 passengers got off in Bluefields leaving about 8 of on the last leg of the flight.  Of us 8, 5 of us had no luggage when we landed.  Sooooo Nica!  Anyways, absolutely everyone from the airline employees to the port authority to our hotel said they constantly lose luggage and not to worry, it always comes on the afternoon plane 4pm.  And it did!

So anyway, after we landed on Big Corn, we took a $1 taxi ride to the port where we booked a 140cordoba ($5.71) panga ride to Little Corn Island.  The panga is a small, open-air boat which takes about a 15 minute ride to the smaller island twice a day.

Little Corn was amazing.  There's about 1500 permanent residents on the island which are a mix of foreigners who've started hotels, local blacks, and Miskitos.  I absolutely loved seeing black people again!  And then having them open their mouth to hear that amazing singsong Creole English!  The island allows no motorized transport so it's really calming and small.  We checked into Carlito's Place ($30/night) to see our little cabin on stilts.  We had 2 beds with mosquito nets and fans and a private, basic bathroom.  We were literally 20 steps from the ocean!

All the websites are correct in the fact that almost every day the electricity goes off and you REALLY have to watch your freshwater consumption but really, when you're frolicking in the surf, does all that matter?!  You also DEFINITELY need to bring a flashlight because there are no lights at night other than stars.

The water is turquoise and crystal clear.  And who knew there was a living reef RIGHT off the coast?  We paid $15 apiece and got 2 hours of snorkeling at 4 dive sights.  I wish I had had an underwater camera because it was amazing!  I saw literally every type of coral I'd ever heard of PLUS nurse sharks PLUS angels rays.  They really do look like angels when they swim.  Click here for more information on snorkeling/diving options on the island and to see some great underwater videos.

We also hiked around the island one afternoon.  It turned into quite an adventure when we figured out the beach doesn't go all the way around.  That would've been ok if maybe we had decided to wear shoes on our hike and not do it at 3pm.  Let's just say being on the uninhabited side of the island crossing a mountain in bare feet while the sun sets and I have no flashlight was NOT my idea of vacation.

Did I mention we ate a ton of seafood?  Shrimp or lobster or fish EVERY DAY!  And the prices were really reasonable for them....maybe $5-15 a plate.  We also had coconut something with every dish...either fresh at breakfast, coconut bread for snacks, or shrimp cooked in the milk.  Soooo good.

Four days was definitely not enough time there.  I really couldn't get enough of that beautiful surf and water.  And I was really happy with our lodgings.  Although the Little Corn Beach & Bungalows are more popular and a little more refined, you're still essentially in a stilt house with just the basics just paying $50 more a night to do it.  All I can say is that if you can get there, do it!  Soon!

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention the best part.  There's no JWs on Little Corn right now.  No KH no nothing!  We were able to do a lot of informal witnessing because when we mentioned we were Witnesses they asked, "What's that?".  So if you're looking to serve as a need greater in a virtual paradise, here's your chance.


Now that April is over it means the 30 day A-Z challenge is over too yeah!

Frankly, it was really a challenge for me to keep up with blogging every day but Sunday.  You probably noticed some of those posts with 11:30 pm time posts yikes!  Mix that in with a 10 day vacation and a 2 day sickness and well, let's just say the "scheduling" feature of Google Blogger came to be my best friend.

But at the same time, I felt really proud to be able to let people know about my new home and got a lot of encouraging and helpful feedback/comments.

I have to admit it was hard for me to keep up with others' blogs, and I know that's selfish of me.  Some of the themes just seemed ridiculous and others were CLEARLY not staying on topic.  I did find some good ones, though, that I'm following now.

I'm not sure if I'd do it again, but I'm happy to have survived the challenge.