November 21, 2015: Video Game Day for the Girls

Woke up around six thirty, came downstairs and opened the front door as we are a bit desperate to get a water delivery today as there has not been one for three days now.  Our main water jug is completely empty and we are getting low on the reserve and the fridge is almost out of cold water.  We go through so much water because of the heat and the humidity that running out means that I have to walk to the grocery store and lug a rather sizable amount of water back to the house and even that would not last us for very long.  Water is a big concern here in Nicaragua.

We did manage to get water this morning and we had to deal with beggars too.  By eight we had closed the front door and are just doing without the extra air.  It is unfortunate that we have to approach the problem in that way.  But having it open just ruins the day and leaves us constantly wonder if we look up and see someone if they will see us and come to harass us because of it.

I went to bakery at eight and got bread that Dominica has been wanting for a while and donuts.  She is in love with their donuts.

The girls decided that today was an all day video game day for them.  This is the first time that I can recall them ever doing this.  They started by setting up in the dining room with Octodad.  Within an hour, without any adult oversight whatsoever – either of us was even in the room, Liesl completed the end of the game!  So impressive.  She beat a rather challenging game in just a couple of days.

Beating the game opened up a free play mode which the girls used for a little while.  They also took turned playing Disney’s Tinkerbell game that we just got or them recently.  They really enjoyed that and put in a few hours on it.

They have both been playing Tiny Thief on their iPads recently too.

Dominica and I put in a couple hours working on doing a podcast today.  Most of what we did we decided that we needed to scrap, though.  But we think that we got something that will work.  We are in the process of rethinking our podcasting and blogging approach so have stalled a bit.

Dominica and I felt like a classic movie and chose Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelley in Anchors Aweigh which the girls ended up joining us for and was well over two hours long.  That is a serious movie.

Then we had game night as a family.  Liesl played Back to the Future: The Game Episode 4.  Something was wrong with our saved game and nothing that we did before got saved.  So she played through it all again.  We had put in two hours last time getting to where we had left off.  She did great and she marched right through the parts that we had not played yet too.  By the end of the night she had completed the episode and Dominica had long before fallen asleep, so she missed the whole thing.

Only one episode left for us to wrap up this series!

November 20, 2015: Liesl Can Read

I slept in until seven and found that it was still raining and continued to rain for most of the morning.  It was wonderful.  The air was cool and the light was muted.  It was a great morning.  Nicaragua is so wonderful in the rain.  If only it would rain a lot more.  Like ten times as much at least.

A busy day of posting and writing.  We stayed in today, never went out at all in any way.  Not even a run to the corner store.  Partially because of the rain, it was coming down pretty hard.

We are basically out of water today.  We were getting low yesterday.  No water delivery boys came yesterday or today.  We have some water in the fridge but that is nearly the end of it.  I made sure that our front door was open on the early side today as we could not risk missing them.

GOG’s weekend sale started today and there were six new games that we wanted.  That takes our week total to more than forty!!  We are up to 699 PC games on the online services now.  It is a little out of control.

Luciana asked to make video letters today.  They have talked about doing this for a while but have not actually attempted it.  Today they did a few of them and uploaded them to YouTube.  They had a great time.

The girls slept in, they must have been really exhausted, until after ten thirty and then spent the entire day upstairs.  Both girls have new video games on their iPads and decided that they really wanted to play them today.  Liesl has her first Skylanders game and spent the whole day on it.  We decided to let her skip school because she was so excited (and because Dominica is totally addicted to hidden object adventure games and wanted to spend the day doing that which she did from the moment that she woke up until we went up for family time in the evening.  Twelve hours of them at least!)

The rain stopped for a few hours and returned in the evening and then stopped again.

Liesl and I had had a long talk last night about how they cannot go storming out and do their own thing every time that we have family movie or game night and do not play the game that they had been hoping to play.  Liesl expressed how she felt that we never watch the shows that she want and I explained how she never gets a vote because she does not participate with us so isn’t there.  She came up with the idea of making a voting chart and how to implement it so that every one gets a vote and a turn.

She got up today and set right to work putting together a family game night and family movie night voting chart and solicited votes during the day to figure out what we would be playing tonight.  It was very good, mature problem solving.  I am very proud of her.

I wrote until late then brought the laptop upstairs so that Liesl and Luciana could have game night.  They had both voted for Octodad: Dadliest Catch tonight so that is what was played.  Dominica fell asleep early but I stayed up until one in the morning with the girls so that they could play their game.

Liesl did amazing on the game and is better at controlling the character now than I am.  This is a very hard game to control and her hand eye coordination has gotten really good quite quickly.  But the more amazing thing is that she read every on screen instruction in the game!  She did not need help and I was not even watching her.  She just started doing it.  She declared that now she can read and some of the stuff that she was reading was pretty hard: cafeteria, employee, uniform, messier.  This was the big breakthrough.  Until today she has always said “but I can’t read” and used that as an excuse for not doing it.  But today it clicked and she feels confident in being able to read and really is just zooming through new words with little effort.

She played a little Message Quest which I had just downloaded and is pure reading.  She was having such a good time and working so hard on her reading that we let her stay up for at least another twenty minutes.  It is like she is doing school.  I am not sure that any of her school work would be pushing her nearly so hard as reading these games!

We are so happy that our big girl can read now.  She says that she is ready for books, too!


November 19, 2015: No Costa Rica On This Trip

We had to finally rule out the Costa Rica trip, the high cost and the massive border issues going on just made it far too impractical.  The last thing that we want is to get stuck on the south side of the border and have issues getting back home.  And that could easily happen.

It was really hot and muggy today.  I had to sit on the far side of the dining room table to be able to write.

One of the more surprising and upsetting things in Granada is the beggars, and I don’t mean the ones out on the street, those you would see anywhere and I cannot say that I see any more here than I would anywhere else in the world.  I guess if I really think about it there are fewer here than I have seen in Europe and fewer than I have seen in other Nicaraguan cities but no fewer than I would see in the US and not nearly as many as I am used to from Texas or California cities.  So that seems normal.  No, what I mean is the beggars that come to your home and forcibly beg from you while you are in your home in your own space!

This has to be the worst aspect of Granada.  And it is not an occasional thing, if we keep the front door open to let the breeze through, as everyone in town does, we must get an average of five beggars a day.  It could be someone visibly poor – we have learned to recognize the regulars and most do indeed seem pretty poor, or it might just be someone random walking by who sees you and decides to beg.  I kid you not, normal people walking by will just stop and beg opportunistically as if it is the most normal thing in the world.  Imagine commuting to work and seeing someone through their front window eating breakfast and if you catch their eye calling out “can I have a few dollars?”  Then going on your way.  It is surreal.  And then there are the kids.  Affluent private school kids or just any kids will walk up and randomly beg through your windows and doors.  They are just bored kids around town doing this instead of playing, in many cases.  Sure the city is loaded with the poverty stricken, it is disheartening, but these are not the ones that we find coming to our door.  It’s kids in fancy clothes that we know live in expensive houses who attend private schools that just stop by and ask for money when they get bored.  And people don’t just beg, they won’t stop.  You tell them to go away, they will stay.  They will camp out.  They will return.  They will interrupt you while you are working, even when you are on the phone.  They will act like they need water or food or directions, then start saying “one or two” meaning dollars.  Some will even bang on the door and make you come outside to see who it is.  Someone will try to push their way into your home or block the door.

The begging alone is enough to not recommend Granada as a city for long term stays. It is a great city but the high density of expats and tourists has turned it into a beggar’s paradise.  One of the local restaurants has a full page explaining the begging situation, how bad it is and why you can’t give money to the kids and where to give money to help through charitable foundations.  It is becoming an epidemic in Granada because there is so much money to be made by harassing the tourists that people are quitting jobs and kids are dropping out of school because it is better to beg.  The problem is is that it is kids who earn the most money so are often exploited and it leads to the problem that they earn their money when young and by the time that they are teens no one wants to give them money anymore but they have already given up their chances to go to school and have no job prospects anymore – by choice.  There are even rising healthy issues caused by tourists giving away leftover food.  It is the danger of too many rich tourists in a rather poor area.  The disparity causes some serious issues.  It is sad because giving money isn’t the answer, but there are real people needing help, too.  But the ones begging are not likely them.

It’s sad and it is frustrating.  If you visit for a weekend the tendency is to just give them money in the hopes that they go away.  It’s just a day or two, right?  But this is what fuels it.  Then for the people who live here, it never ends.  And it starts to shape the economy.  The kinds of people you need to move into the city to change things start to avoid living there.   The people who actually need to beg and need help cannot be identified and saved.  The money and the assistance moves out.  The poverty increases.  There is no good answer.

This evening the rain came.  It was quite a surprise when we had a massive thunderclap with no warning.  It scared everyone.

The rain stopped for half an hour.  During that time I went to the Quick Stop and stocked up on some items.  They really are getting to know me there.  The manager always laughs and says hello and pats me on the shoulder.  I assume that I am their best customer.

I hit Taco Stop and got us all dinner.  They know me too, even by name.  I don’t have to give them my name when I order!

I got home and tonight we ate dinner and watched The Nanny for a bit.  The girls were overly tired and we sent them to bed early.  We were in bed at a good time too, but after some interruptions I ended up having insomnia for a while again.

November 18, 2015: Trouble Brewing at the Border

Pretty much a normal Wednesday around the Miller household in Granada.  Writing, posting and calls all day.  There seem to be a lot of calls these days.

I have introduced Dominica to modern hidden object games. Somehow, after having played them years ago, she was very unaware of what they were like now with voice acting, detailed stories and such more like other kinds of adventure games.  She has been getting more and more into the hidden object genre the more that she investigates it.

This evening Dominica sent me out to find the Tika Bus station in Granada so that we could figure out how and if we are going to go to Costa Rica to hang out with Paul and Karen this week.  The week is going by quickly and we have not managed to figure anything out yet.

It was about an hour of me walking around and searching before I found the place.  I went in and got the scoop from the guy working there.  Going to be about $250 and we could leave at either 7am or 1pm.

I checked in at the bakery on the way home but they were out of what we wanted.

I got home and we discussed the bus and other travel options.  We are considering taking a taxi to the border.

We went to do some quick research because Dominica wanted me to be versed as to all of the details necessary for crossing the border as Costa Rica does not make this particularly easy and then we saw the news….

Just our luck that on the very day that we want to go to Costa Rica from Nicaragua that there is a humanitarian crisis going on and thousands of Cuban refugees attempting to make their way from Ecuador and Panama, through Costa Rica and up through Nicaragua would be trapped at the border blocking the roads.

Apparently something like two thousands refugees had made it to Nicaragua and had been turned around and sent back over the border and are now causing issues in Costa Rica and the border is essentially closed.  So if we make any plans or take the bus we might get stuck too.  So we had to rule things out for tonight.  We are going to reevaluate the situation in the morning.  But we are not going to attempt the seven in the morning bus no matter what.  So holding tight until then.

These are the kinds of travel surprises that you are a bit more likely to run into in Central America.  We would never have guessed that something like this would affect us going to visit friends this week.

Everyone got showered and dressed and tonight we are going out for dinner at a nice hotel that I have been wanting the family to go to for a month – Hotel La Merced Real by the ancient church right down the street from our corner to the south.  Dominica and the girls have actually never been there and don’t even know where it is!  I had stopped by last night and checked the menu and felt confident that they would have food that we would like and that the girls would eat.

We got to the hotel restaurant around six, about forty five minutes earlier than the main dinner crowd in Granada, from what we can tell.  We were the only table there, which was a little surprising.  The view was nice, they open everything up and you are basically sitting outside looking at the old church across the street, La Merced.

This turned out to be one of our best meals yet in Nicaragua yet!  The service was absolutely excellent, for starters, and the food was all amazing too.  We ordered mozzarella sticks for the girls (they translate them as mozzarella fingers here) and he recommended chicken fingers as a meal instead and we asked about fish fingers and he said that they did not have them but ran into the kitchen and the chef said that he would make them for the girls special!

Liesl just LOVED the fish fingers!  She devoured them and skipped eating everything else so that she could have room for them.  Luciana loved the mozzarella sticks too.  Both girls ate really well tonight.  I had a good salmon fillet.  Dominica was the big winner this evening, though.  She had a tropical fish dinner that was completely amazing, some of the best fish ever.  It was something like sole covered in plantains and fried with a tropical fruit sauce over it.  Amazing.  So delicious.

It was just an awesome meal.  Everyone’s food was awesome and the service was great and the venue was great.  No one came in to eat the entire time that we were there, it was our restaurant for the evening.

After dinner we came home, which was a short walk straight up the street, and then set up in the bedroom and played Octodad for quite a while.  The girls love this game.  It is incredibly challenging for them because of the controls which actually makes it really good for them.

After the girls were done and went to bed, Dominica and I played Episode Four of Law & Order Legacies.

November 17, 2015: On the Phone

We lost power for just a few seconds this morning, enough that I figured that I would just get up.  That was just after six.  Dominica got up early today, too.  She made coffee hours earlier than we normally have it and by nine this morning we had polished off a twelve cup pot already!

It was very hot and bright today.  Although we are noticeably adjusting to the heat.  We are not suffering from it anywhere near as much as we were a month ago.  Our month in Panama and our first month in Nicaragua are conditioning us.

I did a bit of writing and posting today and was on the phone for several hours.  It felt like I was on the phone nearly all day, in fact.  Mostly with Art and Danielle.

Liesl ended up having a breakdown this afternoon when it came to be time for her school.  It was so bad that she had to be put down for a nap and no school time for her today.

I went to the corner store to get us some supplies tonight.  Just a few things.  The air was really clear and there was a great view of Mombacho looming over us on my walk.

I wrote until ten thirty.  Liesl came down and pointed out that we had five lizards hanging out around the pool tonight, that was a new record for us.

Tonight Dominica and I played Episode Three of Law & Order Legacies.  It continues to be pretty good.  We were done long before midnight and ready for bed.