Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Dogs and Baths

This morning my Shitzu, Jeffrey Higgins, took a long await bath. Bathing my dog is not my favorite thing to do. I have a half bath in the 2nd bathroom which is all his. For me, it means bending over to wash him. By the end of the bath, the dog is clean and my back is killing me.

As always, I've been looking for new and different ways to create streams of income. The latest thing I've been looking at is affiliate marketing. I've used Google Ads for a long time but reaching beyond hasn't been something I've invested much time into.

Dog Bath

Today, while checking out possible affiliate partners I ran across a dog bath. Unfortunately, it
is not something I could use since I live in an apartment building but it would be ideal for someone who lives in a house, has a garage, an outdoor space, or perhaps a garage.

This dog bath is raised reducing or eliminating stress to the bath! Ahhh... the things people come up with. I love good ideas... and clean dogs!

Note: The adorable dog with her tongue hanging out is Lola. My daughter, Sophie, got Lola when she moved into her own place. Sophie's dog's personality is totally different from my dog's personality. Both dogs are adorable and shitzus are known to have a wonderful temperament but just like people they are all different. Jeffrey is dignified and regal with impeccable manners while Lola gets into everything and has a tendency to eat things she shouldn't. Sophie went to the pet store and spent a long time meeting shitzus to see which dog would be the best match for her. When she met Lola she knew she had met the right dog for her.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Pure Spa Yoga Gym Granada, Nicaragua

I went to Pure after being rather disappointed with the quality of the massages at the Hotel Spa Granada (no matter the type of massage I ordered - reflexology, mini-massage, deep tissue) all the massages were basically the same) and the attitude of the masseuses (bothered them that I didn't speak Spanish) I decided to branch out to see what else I could discover.

Specialized Immune Support for Travelers

My goal was to find a nice relaxing massage from someone who understood pressure points. Someone who could work out the toxins and knots.

I found a brochure for Pure which offers massage, yoga, spa treatments, etc. The first person I saw was local, Claudia. She didn't seem to mind that I didn't speak English but her massage was pretty much the same as what I received at the Hotel Spa Granada including the 'give me cauliflower ear' crunching!

I decided to go back the next day but to use someone else. Mark, from North Carolina but lives in Central America traveling from one place to another, gave me a massage. I hadn't really wanted a man to massage me after experiencing Jose from the Hotel Spa Granada - who claims to be blind but stares right at you while you change refusing to leave or speak English - but I figured I'd give it another shot.


Hostelworld


Marc was wonderful. He gave an excellent massage with no weird or annoying stuff. He was American so he spoke English and didn't give an attitude because I don't speak Spanish. Nor did he give an attitude about anything else... accept he doesn't massage the face. He didn't give an attitude about it, he just doesn't do it. He sees it as a different entity. Whatever. I really wasn't a deal breaker for me so I didn't care. He also didn't crunch my ears. He had a high level of professionalism and had been giving massages for 4 years or so and had a place back in the States before he moved abroad.

I found out that the cashier (a nice young man) at Pure was stealing from me. I spoke to the owner, Warren, about it who was very relieved the cashier wasn't stealing from him but was only stealing from his customers.


The charge was $30 US and I was charged 862 Cordobas (Nicaraguan money) when I should have been charged 682 Cordobas. I wasn't given a receipt any of the days there until the last day and only after I learned the theft was happening. It can be difficult to get a receipt from someone who claims they can't understand what you are saying.

I suggested to the owner, Warren, that he allow people to pay with PayPal. This way we would pay in dollars and know we weren't being ripped off. He wasn't so keen on that thinking it would be hard to get a person access to a computer. I told him that I had my computer in my bag. Another option would be to allow the customer to pay online in advance to avoid the computer issue. He didn't seem sold on the idea.


Vemma Thirst for healthy hydration


My second suggestion was to write both Cordoba and US dollar charges on the menu so that there was no question about the exchange rate. The owner, Warren, seemed to think that would be a nuisance since he would have to change it monthly.

So basically, it seemed that the owner of Pure was fine with the customer getting ripped off as long as he wasn't. I spoke with the owner on my last day in Granada. Had I stayed any longer I would have found a different place to get massages. I was unimpressed with the owner's interest in solving the problem for customers particularly since he had so much relief that it wasn't himself getting ripped off. It seemed he should have been more understanding of the problem and more concerned for his customers.

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Sunday, October 9, 2011

Massage & Safety at Hotel Spa Granada in Nicaragua

Hotel Spa GranadaSince I am staying at the Hotel Spa Granada a half hour massage, a pedicure, a facial or a manicure comes with each day of my stay.

It was always my intention to also have longer massages along side my massage or treatment that came with the room.

On my first day, I had a half hour 'mini-session'. It was fine. Nothing special and nothing that really felt like it had an added benefit - meaning I didn't leave Hotel Spa Granadafeeling any more relaxed or rejuvenated after the massage than before it. I decided to not decide for or against the hotel massages until later. I decided that it was entirely possible that I was just rather pent up and it would take time for me to relax and unwind.

Hostelworld

On the second day, I went back for a one hour massage by the same lady. It was to be a half hour of a 'mini-session' and a half hour of reflexology. It ended up being the same thing I had the evening before accept with a little bit of foot rub attached, plus ear crunching.

Ear crunching is when they take your ear and crunch it. You can hear the cartilage crunching. This is not okay. It can cause cauliflower ear. It's not like the masseuse asks first and it's not like you know it is coming so by the time you're ready to say, 'Hey, don't do that'. They've moved on to something else.

Get Your LiLash!

It seemed very much like this lady had a problem with the fact that I don't speak Spanish. I've been to several countries. Is her suggestion that I only travel to countries where I speak the language? If so, there is a lot of business Nicaragua would not get because many travelers do not speak the language, nor do we wish to learn it for an 8 day vacation. I came to relax, not to get scorned by the people I am paying to pamper me.

KEEN Footwear - Alamosa Hiking Shoe

There is a 'blind man' who also gives massages at the school. I decided to go to him next. The lady had a bit of an attitude and didn't use strong pressure. Basically, going to her felt like a waste of time and money. My assumption was that the man would be able to do a deep tissue massage.

I did a one hour deep tissue massage with him. He didn't leave the room when I changed and laid down. I was not comfortable with this. Especially since he initially turned around but as soon as I started taking my clothes off he turned around and seemed to be looking straight at my body through his dark glasses. After working on my shoulders he ripped the towel off my bottom in an exaggerated fashion then took an oddly long amount of time to start working on me again. So, I turned my head around to see what was taking so long. He had something in his hand facing down toward my body and as I turned to see what was going on he quickly jerked it away in the opposite direction. I felt uncomfortable with his actions, to say the least.

The 'blind' man's massage was no better than the woman's massage no absolutely no more helpful. I really didn't feel tense or like I was having a hard time relaxing. It just felt like the massages weren't good or useful. At the end of the massage the man told me that I had a lot of problems in my shoulders, that I had terrible posture and did not take care of my posture. I said, "Uh huh, that's why I got the massage." Oh, so he could feel the tension in my upper back. So, why didn't he work on it? Working out the tension was exactly why I was there. Hearing that my posture sucked was not why I was there. Nor was the ripping off the towel incident or the ear crunching or eye smooshing.

I decided not to go back. Sometimes free just isn't worth the time spent.

Compare the amount of groceries needed to meet the nutritional value of Vemma

The next day I went to a place called Pure. They have a gym, offer massage and an array of other things. A lady named Claudia gave me an hour long massage. She was okay. Really, not better than the others at the Hotel Spa Granada. She smooshed my ears. I'm likely to have cauliflower ears after those three masseuses. Sometimes it felt like they just didn't like foreigners so it was a passive aggressive act on their part. Claudia did not speak English but that didn't seem like an issue. The other two didn't speak English either but they were noticebly annoyed that I didn't speak Spanish.

I decided to go back again the next day. I had an American man, Mark, give me a 90-minute deep tissue massage. He was wonderful. I told him that I was in Nicaragua to relax and was hoping to work out any tensions that might be stored up in my body through massage. He had his own business in the States where he did massage. He would close shop and travel around Europe for a couple months then go back and work again. Then, he came down here and has been here for a somewhere between a few months and maybe as long as eighteen months. I think he finds this lifestyle to be much cheaper but prefers Europe. Although, he didn't like France. He liked Holland best but stayed out of Amsterdam for the most part due to how touristy the city would tend to be.

$99 LiLash and LiBrow Sale



Marc was great. I set up another 90 minute appointment for today. His hands were in tune with the body and he knew what he was doing. I felt like he was working tension out of the muscle and finding the sore spots. Well, except for the neck. Maybe he'll be able to work on that today.

Hotel Spa GranadaIf I come down here again I will probably stay at the Hotel Granada, not the Hotel Spa Granada. The Hotel Granada has a larger pool and the doors to the rooms look much more solid and not like it was take a credit card to get in the room. In my room, the doors don't meet the wall so people can just look through and see it. Also, I was going to the bathroom and when I came out someone was running out of my room and the doors to the room had been opened. A mop was holding one of the doors open so I knew the maids had Hotel Spa Granada massageopened the room (without knocking first) but when the person ran out of the room I became uncomfortable especially since my closet door had been opened where all of my valuables were. Now, even if just going to the bathroom I make sure the closet door is locked and all my valuables are put away or bring them into the bathroom with me.

Mark said the Bearded Monkey Hostel and the Oasis Hostel both have good reputations although the Bearded Monkey is currently going through some changes and has had to shut down the bar area.
PetWellbeing.com is the trusted source for your pet's natural health care.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Transportation Between Managua and Granada

bus from Managua to GranadaFrom my hostel in Managua, the bus was only a couple blocks away - apparently, a couple of rather dangerous blocks to walk... but only a couple blocks nonetheless.

Once on the main road there was a bus which which cost 20 cordobas which is the same as $1 US dollar (actually slightly less). The bus felt safe and the people were friendly. It was not a large school bus but a smaller, newer bus. No air conditioning. The windows were open. In fact, the doors were open, as well. A man would hang out of the moving bus attempting to lure passengers. Honestly, it seemed quite expedient.

The buses move like hell on wheels. A bus racing down the road beside our bus had a police bus from Managua to Granadasiren. It definitely was just a regular old bus but I guess that was the horn or just used for effect while the buses sped as quickly as possible within inches of each other and often arms out the window.

I think the ride was something like 40 minutes. I very much enjoyed the joy ride. It was quite an amazing experience. I love speed and a slight, albeit rather safe, thrill and taking the bus between Managua and Granada was just that. The bus was full. For about the first 15 minutes or so I had to stand which wasn't really an issue at all. It was best that I had no luggage. There really wasn't anywhere for it and it would have proven terribly inconvenient if I hadn't lost it along the way. No need for all that sort of worrying.

bus from Managua to GranadaHonestly, I'm looking forward to the ride back from Granada to Managua except for the fact that I don't know how to get to the airport once back in Managua. I will look it up. I would guess the bus from Granada might stop at the bus terminal. I'm fairly sure I catch a bus to the airport from there. I'd love to see the new cathedral in Managua but due to how unsafe I hear it to be I'm not entirely sure it's a good idea to spend a moment longer than need be in the city.

Open Market in Granada, Nicaragua

Open Air Market Granada, NicaraguaToday, I visited the Open Market in the city of Granada in Nicaragua. Perhaps I'm spoiled. I've been to many open markets.

For years, my local open market was the Farmer's Market on Third and Fairfax in West Hollywood. Posh. Clean. Fabulous. In my late teens and early twenties my sister and I would meet there for Belgium Waffles. The Grove is now adjacent to the Farmer's Market.

When we lived in Antibes, France we often shopped at the large open market at the end of the street where we lived in old town. It is another very well known open air food market in the Open Air Market Granada, Nicaraguaoldest part of town, very quaint, about a block from the Picasso Museum and a couple blocks from the Port. Snobby, rather unfriendly. But hey, it's France. What did you expect.

There's a cool open air market in the Italian port town of Civitavecchia which has a little of everything and some of the best beef jerky I've ever had anywhere... well, beside at road stands in Texas. Those were the best!

Brugge, Belgium as an absolutely lovely Christmas Market that Sophie and I have enjoyed on two separate occasions. Strasbourg has one but it's overly crowded resulting in a nightmare experience. The Christmas market in Monte Carlo is enjoyable and the one in Cannes is quaint with some very nice woodwork by a true artisan who is perhaps a little a little on the kinky side. It's amazing what he is capable of creating. The Christmas Market in Nice is fine, as well. Oh! The Christmas Market in NYC was actually very nice with a lot of original craftspeople selling their goods. It was much better than I had expected. Sophie and I went there for the first time this past Christmas. I'd be happy to become a repeat visitor of the NY Market. Of course, the Open Air Market is Santa Monica is incredible. I really like the little market in the Pacific Palisades. It's not quite the circus as the Farmer's Market in Santa Monica but it still has everything one might want... even a little tranquility!

The open air market just off Las Ramblas in Barcelona is fantastic with tons of fresh juice mixes and everything you can possibly think of. It's clean and always a friendly, touristy sort of place where lots of shopping happens.

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Open Air Market Granada, Nicaragua
The market here in Nicaragua was actually not really a place I wanted to shop. Plus, I can never figure out how much anything costs. No signs. No prices. Oftentimes prices are in $US dollars not Cordoba, the local currency. And, in all honestly, often the prices in US dollars are more than if I were to buy it back in the States. Things are way over priced and not worth it!. The souveniers aren't worth bringing home. Well, maybe nothing is except my experience via a blog and a few photos. I went into an art gallery that is more like the local city art association where anyone can put up their work. Lithographs (10x14) for $60 US. Are you kidding? Even if a local is good in the States he's going to have a hard time getting that much for it. In the States, if you want it to sell and if you are still trying to make a name for yourself, try $15-45 US.

Honestly, what I'm learning from this trip is that the American economy has been depressed for so long that it is simply not cheaper or... dare I say, worth it, to travel abroad. Our country, the US, is beautiful with a multitude of variations from city-to-city and state-to-state. People need to make a living and sell things at prices that will sell. Yes, some people price high, but there are plenty of incredibly talented artists in the States that sell original artwork for prices that are affordable. They can do this because they are prolific and good business people.

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Open Air Market Granada, Nicaragua


Americans aren't made of money. We don't appreciate going to a foreign country and being ripped off. We can stay at home and deal with Wall Street and the government if we want that!

I've attached some picture from the Open Market in Granada, Nicaragua. I didn't buy anything. There was always someone who worked there rushing past me impatiently, annoyed that I was in their way. On that note, I held my bag close and didn't stay too long. Honestly, is that the best vibe for a place to give tourists if they want us to spend money. I was ready to spend. Show me prices, a smile and that you're not annoyed that I'm there and perhaps my purse strings will loosen up a bit.

A note to Americans: If you're looking for a cheap, different vacation you might try camping locally in a National Park or National Forest. Or, Gatlinburg, Dollywood, Mt Rushmore, The White House and the National Monument, Big Sur, Devils Tower, The Redwoods, Custer Park, Key West, Walden Pond, Martha's Vineyard, Cape Cod, Faneuil Hall, Niagara Falls, Times Square, The Met, LACMA, Smoky Mountains, The Art Museum (Gerhy) at UofM, Mall of America, Junkman's Daughter, Frick Museum, Hearst Castle, Balboa Island, SeaWorld, DisneyWorld, Alligator Alley, The Flinstone Park, The Jolly Green Giant Statue, the Huge Dinosaurs, Cadillac Ranch, Vegas, Aspen, Mammoth, FL's white sandy beaches, CA & OR coastline/PCH HWY 1, Lighthouses along HWY 95 ... you get the idea. (Sidenote: I've been to all the above except Niagara Falls and Dollywood).

I've been to 25 countries. I've spent a decent amount of time in several of them. I speak from personal experience when I say we've got a country worth visiting at affordable prices. My hotel room here is $49 US nightly. You can get a fine place in the States for that which would probably be much safer. Couch surfing, hosteling and camping are always options, as well.

I understand Nicaragua needs the tourism, but honestly, so does America. I'm simply not impressed enough with what other countries have to offer at this point to want to spend my money elsewhere right now. My country needs my support. I can pick and choose and make sure I'm spending my money in places that appreciate my business rather than shops that are jerks. I've always been happy to make that distinction. At this point, it's time to start picking and choosing countries as well.

If a country thinks Americans are a bunch of suckers to be ripped off at highway robbery prices than I'd rather just not go there.

Nicaragua has a very decent amount of tourists from different parts of the world. There were three Germans swimming in the pool allllll day yesterday and today. I met a very nice German girl on the plane over here. The dollar isn't as high for those with Euro. Maybe they will enjoy Nicaragua more than someone like me.

All's well that ends well.

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Open Air Market Granada, Nicaragua
Remember: The problem wasn't that Nicaragua was a poor country. In fact, it was a nice change to be somewhere that wasn't built up and fairly pretentious. The problem was that the prices were at least as high or higher than in the States for things that weren't nearly as valuable. Nicaragua is the second poorest country behind Haiti. For a country so poor to charge prices that are often higher than what is found in the US simply doesn't make sense to begin with and it certainly doesn't make sense to pay more for a decrease in quality, value and comfort. If the reason to travel to Nicaragua is to find quality, comfort and service at a good price then not finding these things takes away the advantages of traveling to the country. Supply and Demand. If we can get something as good or better at home for the same price then why go elsewhere? Hopefully, the vendors of Nicaragua will realize that it might be more fruitful to lower the prices to a reasonable profit level to entice more visitors and thereby filling their own pockets even more and perhaps with additional likelihood of return visitors.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Hotel Spa Granada - Day Two

Hotel Spa GranadaI slept great last night after going to bed around 9:00pm which is extremely early for me as I tend to hit the hay shortly before the sun comes up.

The room had air conditioning which I only used for the first half of the night. Conveniently, the air conditioner has a remote so I didn't need to freeze instead of getting up to turn it off or be bothered with getting out of bed.

I had two massages this morning after breakfast. The carrot-orange juice was delicious as was the coffee. There is a ton to eat. Breakfast is from 7:00am - 12 noon. It is all you can eat. Granola. Fruit. Fresh bread. Cheese. Omelet. Yogurt. Bananas. And much more. They have a grill, so basically, just ask if there is something you want. Breakfast is free for those who stay at the hotel and $6 US for anyone else.

Apparently, coffee is free all day for guests which I did not know Hotel Spa Granada Nicaraguayesterday as I was charged for it several times. Today, it is free.

My massages were very nice this morning. I'm always at a loss with tipping here. Yesterday I tipped $3 US dollars for a free massage that came with my room but would have cost $12 US. Today I was out of small bills in US Dollars and only had 50 dollars in Cordoba which is only $2.20 in US money but I'm told they don't tip here at all so hopefully that will do. I have another appointment this evening for an hour long deep tissue massage. I've gone to the bank and have restocked on Cordoba.

Did I mention that this trip was Sophie's Birthday trip? I probably did. In any case, it is but she decided to stay in NYC with her friends. I'm glad she didn't come. I didn't feel safe in Managua and am only really beginning to feel safe here in Granada today. I read that the police in Nicaragua stop women traveling who look to be between 16-30 to check for prostitution rings. I think it would be much more difficult to travel with a girl within that age range than to travel on my own. Many of the Wood Staircase Hotel Spa GranadaAmerican local men seem to act as though women traveling on their own are fair game rather than assuming the women are just traveling and experiencing different cultures. I met a man who had been traveling with his wife (from the States) he said, "Men are pigs!" Apparently, he hadn't been to impressed with the treatment of women by the men - he assessment in no way seemed to be speaking of local men but rather the way men treat women down here in general.

I met several Americans this afternoon while out and about. There is a street by the large yellow cathedral - on the left hand side if coming from the Hotel Spa Granada - where I ate lunch at Cafe Margarita. The service was very friendly. The Chicken Quesadilla was delicious although I thought I had ordered a chicken enchilada. Honestly, it doesn't matter. I enjoyed the food and the restaurant. They also have rooms. I'm guessing it is fairly inexpensive to stay there. In fact, there are many hostels in the area and several just a block or two to the right of the yellow cathedral on the same street. I'd guess it would be hard to find a room for more than $8 US and it would not be surprising if the rooms were as little as $4-6 US.art hotel spa granada

I met a boyfriend and girlfriend from Minnesota. They spent the past 5 weeks in Belize. They had rented a house or an apartment for the month in a town and left after two weeks from pure boredom. From there they went to San Pedro which they much preferred and found to be no more expensive. Overall, the couple found Belize to be equally as expensive as the United States.

Next, I met a lady who owns a bar in Costa Rica. Well... she doesn't really own it but it is now in her name and she is working toward owning it. It holds 20 people and is on the water. She's been in Costa Rica for 11 years but is originally from Canada. Apparently, prices in Costa Rica have skyrocketed in the past 5 years. She is here with a friend from Atlanta, GA who is visiting her. Her friend has had an amazing amount of plastic surgery which went well with her little summer dress and nearly platinum blond hair.

I hit the open air market today on the advice of the Minnesotans. By the way, all four people I met were very happy with Granada. Apparently, Granada is the nicest city (town?) in Nicaragua.

pool hotel spa granada

Buying Nicaragua Honey

Since honey can help a person build an immunity to a local environment I've decided to pick some up.

It cost $4 US for an 8 oz. container at the Hotel Spa Granada where I am staying. In all honesty the price is comparable or more than what I would pay in the States, even NYC where I can buy a 5 lbs jug for $19.99. I'm not complaining but do think it is noteworthy particularly when the cost of living is so far from equal.

Apparently, honey is one of Nicaragua's exports. Buying local honey - no matter where you are - will help decrease allergies to local pollens.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Hotel Spa Granada - Day One

Today is my first day at Hotel Spa Granada. I found it on Yahoo Travel's Best Boutique Hotels around the world. It looked cool and Sophie wanted to experience a different culture.

The hotel grounds and rooms are lovely. The furniture and art are perhaps not the best and sometimes limited in execution but the idea is nice. Sometimes it feels like the styles are a miss match. This is not something I mind. So pieces work very well together and with the overall ambiance. Sometimes, it just doesn't work well. Nonetheless, the pool and garden paths are lovely. There are many adorable statues and pieces of art or woodwork that add some lovely character.

The owner is sitting a few tables away from me and has been on the phone for quite some time. He seems to have several money issues with several different people. It also appears he has billed someone $1700 when the going rate is $1200, so they will need to 'make a note of it and remember it for next time." The owner is an American man probably in his 40s.

When I signed in they manually swiped my credit card and asked me to sign it without a price attached. I was not comfortable doing that. They said that they would fill it in when I left - which would also be the time I should sign it, I said questioning their approach. I agreed to sign it but only with a crossed out zero in the dollar amount. You can't just give someone a blank check. And now hearing the owner complain about problems he is having with other customers and workers only adds to the question of weather or not they are on the level when asking for an signed credit card slip with no price entered in.

Earlier today the weather was perfect for swimming and laying out for a moment. It was also nearly stifling hot. Now, it has rained and there was a cool breeze which has allowed for a pleasant tranquility.

I was supposed to have Wifi in my room but the signal is too weak so I have to go to a common area.

According to Wikipedia, hotel rooms go for $10-35 per night. I'm paying $49 per night. Wifi would be nice. I know in other parts of the world that might be cheap but the car that backfired for the 5th time and not for the first time today is also not in other parts of the world neither is the lack of safetly felt here. Apples and oranges cannot be compared.

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Water & Cashews in Nicaragua

So, I had some tap water and cashews about an hour ago and now I feel sick. The last few cashews tasted kind of weird so I'm inclined to think it wasn't the water plus the lady at the hotel (Hotel Spa Granada) said the water is fine to drink. That being said, who gets sick from cashews?!? By the way, the cashews were local as well. I'm in Granada now.

Everyone says don't drink the water in Mexico but I haven't heard that about Nicaragua... not that I've ever heard much besides the problems from a few decades ago.

According to WikiTravel, drinking the water in Nicaragua is not a good idea. Lonely Planet states that drinking the water in Nicaragua is generally okay. Nonetheless, I still feel yucky and wish the lady behind the counter hadn't discouraged me from bottled water. Maybe they were out of it?

Note: I met a man in town that got very sick from the cashews. He said they nuts are washed in the creek and that the creek water isn't clean. I haven't had any more cashews during this trip and have had some water. I'm still not sure I should be drinking the water. It probably takes a little while to adapt to it but bottled water is not always readily available and the humidity and heat is rather intense down here in Nicaragua.

Managua Backpackers Inn (Very Unsafe!)

Well, I needed a place to crash for my first night in Nicaragua. My flight didn't arrive until 12:14 am and from everything I've read it is not safe to travel at night.

I paid in advance to have a taxi meet me at the airport and did not leave the glass doors of the airport until I saw my name on a piece of paper staring back at me. I was the second person through customs and had no problems with the passport check point although it seemed odd to pay a $10 fee to get through. This was a new one to me. Everywhere else I've travelled simply stamps the passport without a fee. Actually, police corruption is why I didn't end up renting a car. I read that it wasn't worth it and that public transportation was pretty good.

Managua Backpackers Inn

The glossy-eyed man that picked me up at the airport didn't speak a word of English and had had enough to drink to where we more like glided along the road in a boat with a rickety sound. If this evening experience was any indication of typical respect for the laws of the road then it is barely necessary to slow down at all for a red light. We certainly stopped for none of ours.
I enjoyed the ambiance. It was raw and completely unrefined. Although, I did try for several minutes to find the buckle to the seat belt, to no avail.

Once at the hostel, we rang the doorbell for several minutes before the girl who was working the night shift woke up and responded to our racket. She completely slept through the phone ringing quite loudly as we found ourselves quite impressed to hear it so clearly from the street.
Several minutes later, I parted ways with the taxi driver whom I had pre-paid via the hostel and through PayPal earlier in the evening. The receptionist was groggy and seemed to know the written number nine and the word PayPal which was enough for her to understand I had already paid for the room so she showed me a bed on a top bunk where I will soon find myself cuddling my ever so tiny travel bag.

Apparently, there is a breakfast and transportation to Granada. Hopefully, I will keep my belongings long enough to make it to my destination!

Ants are crawling everywhere in this hostel. Perhaps it's just how it is here in Nicaragua. Perhaps I'll need to get used to it. It would be nice if my hotel was not ant infested, but whatever. I'm sure it will be fine. There is a pool here. Since I don't have a lock for my locker I don't think I'll use it. But there is also a pool at my hotel in Granada, so if it is warm enough hopefully I will be able to swim. The weather is very muggy and damp.

I have met three people so far. One at the airport and two here at the hostel. The first was a German girl who will be staying for free at a hostel she will be working at in a surf town. The second is a hippy-type dude who lives in Jacksonville and is from North Carolina. I sat next to him at the airport but didn't talk to him until after he arrived here at the hostel and got through the language barrier with the receptionist. He didn't fair as well. Although he had paid a $2 deposit on HostelWorld to reserve his bed, he still ended up giving the lady at the desk (who is currently sleeping on the couch next to me) a $20 bill which will or won't get worked out in the morning. And the third is the Polish girl who spent the summer working in NYC then traveled to Honduras and Panama without incident only to get mugged right outside this hostel my 6 little guys at eight o'clock in the morning.

Wish me luck... the kind of luck that means I will wake up with my computer and other belongings still with me.

So morning came and I met a few of the guys on the hostel who all seemed fairly cool. Lots of longtime travelers who had been on the road for months or years. One guy was living off his California Unemployment Insurance which the State of CA keeps conveniently extending. He was coming off of spending 7 years in the military based out of San Diego. Now he's a long bearded hippie not wishing to answer questions. Either he's on the run or is paranoid from too many drugs. In the meantime, he was nice enough and a group of us walked over together to the other hostel for breakfast.

Before parting, the owner of the hostel said that it was perfectly safe to walk over to the second hostel for breakfast. I told him that the Polish girl had told me her story explaining that she and a male friend had been mugged by some 6 local kids. The owner gave further detail to her story stating that the kids were between the ages of 11-16 and sniff glue to get high. All of sudden he seemed fairly well acquainted with the boys and who they were. When I asked, he said that he did not know the boys. He informed me that I was staying in a poor country where people don't have anything and that makes tourists a likely target.

Okay, so let me get this straight. Was the backpackers mugged because they were rich tourists or because the boys were glue junkies looking for their next high or thrill.

Basically, the owner of the Managua Backpackers Inn was a pompous, middle-aged, full-of-himself, blowhard with a condescending patriarchal attitude. He said I should expect such things in when traveling. I told him it wasn't my first pony ride.

He said that's why he had lockers. I asked if he had locks for the lockers. He said, "No!". Not knowing they had lockers without locks meant that I didn't bring a lock. Trust me, I have them and often bring one just in case. But even so, hostels usually sell locks... just in case.

The owner of the hostel had told the Polish girl that they would bring over breakfast in the morning to make sure everyone was safe. NOT! Basically, the guy bullshits every chance he gets and simply feels that one traveler to the next will never know the difference.

The Polish girl had told me that she had heard that muggings were quite common outside the hostel. The owner said that this was a one-time incident and had not happened before. The boy who worked the desk said that if you turn left (for breakfast) as you leave the hostel you'll get mugged but if you turn right it might be okay. The owner said that the kids know that tourists are there so they are targets. By the way, how did the owner know the age of the kids and that they sniff glue if he wasn't there when she was mugged and if he didn't see the mugging.

My honest opinion of this hostel is that it is terribly unsafe and the owner couldn't care less. The guys were very cool to wait for me and to make sure we all walked together. Nice group of nomads.

One of the reasons I picked this hostel was for the pool. I asked about it and was told not to swim in it because it wasn't safe and would make me sick. There was a sign near the pool which said not to swim in it, as well.

So to sum it up, the hostel had ants everywhere, no lockers with locks, a rude indignant owner who seemed to blame his guests for being there and being tourists if they happened to get mugged. My favorite line was, "You have to expect it!" Really? I've traveled a lot. I don't ever 'expect' to get mugged. In fact, I do my best to be a safe traveler and everything possible to avoid getting mugged.

He spoke to me as though I had never traveled before and as though I simply had no clue that Nicaragua was a poor country. He informed me that I was in the safest part of the city. His entire property had gates around it, the windows were barred and the backyard and roof had bobbed wire. What exactly do the bad areas look like?

I strongly suggest staying anywhere else. Honestly, it might be cheaper to give the glue sniffers $10 and a couple bottles of glue. I'd bet they'd be more grateful and loyal for the contribution then he was!

Packing for & Traveling Light in Nicaragua

Packing LightOne 12.9 pound travel bag that fits in front of my seat on Spirit Air is all I packed for an eight day trip to Granada, Nicaragua to celebrate my daughter's 20th birthday.
To bring more luggage would cost more ($20 each way) and make me look more like a tourist during my travels in Nicaragua.

I suppose if I really felt the need to have additional luggage I'd spend the money on it but, generally speaking (unless on a cruise), I really only wear one or two outfits most of the time anyway. So, this time around I have simplified my life.

Back toward the end of August I visited my daughter in NYC. I was traveling the day of the Packing for Nicaraguahurricane. Both my inital flight and my transfer flight had been cancelled. I knew arriving to NYC within a timely manner could be an issue. In fact, I knew it could take days.
Sophie and I wear the same size. My solution was to pack books instead of clothes. So, that is what I did. It ended up working out perfectly. So I thought I would try it again on this trip, albeit with the clothes and without the books this time around.

I am wearing jeans, a belt, tennis shoes, socks and a basic sleeveless black top. I carried on a raincoat with a sweat jacket within for warmth... and hurricane season. In my back are 10 decks of flashcards, a laptop + cord, phone + cord, camera + cord, wallet, make-up case, two pair of reading glasses + cases, a 6'x3' grey cotton scarf, thin black socks, flip flops, a floor length black skirt, black leggings, a long sleeve dark grey basic cotton top and a bag for all the cords and my passport.

what to pack for NicaraguaUnfortunately, I forgot the sliced roast beef and provolone I had purchased to eat before catching the flight and am now completely starved as a result without a morsel in the hostel (Managua Backpacker's Inn) to eat. Ahh, I just ran into a sweet Polish girl with pasta who has mugged at 8am the other morning while walking from the other hostel to this one. I am now eating pasta with a content tummy surrounded by ants. She met a man who didn't pay an extra dollar to keep his luggage with him. It was all stolen. I guess he was really traveling light after that! I think I will sleep in my clothes and use my small bag as a teddy bear in hopes of not losing anything.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Allergies and Local Honey

Twice a year Sophie has her seasonal cough. It's a deep, rough cough that always gets me plenty worried and always leads her to say in her sweet little voice, 'Mom, it's just my seasonal cough'.

Well, we're full into allergy season as we watch the pollen float freely though the air and reports on my mail serve claim this allergy season may be worse than most... yet, neither the kid nor I are having issues. Strange, right?

I recently read that local honey can make you less susceptible to allergies. Both Sophie and I have been having a ton of honey over the past few weeks or so. It seems most likely that our allergies have taken a back seat as a result of the large doses of local honey we've been eating. Sophie actually has no cough at all. Very strange for this time of year.

This past week, between the two of us without trying we've managed to polish off a 5 lb jug of local honey. We don't use other kinds of sweeteners (ie. cane sugar, agave, raw sugar or any of those other really bad substitutes).

Honey is great in coffee and tea, on pancakes, cereal, toast, etc.

Just thought I'd put it out there.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

My Birthday & My Kid with Jodie Foster's Beaver

During last night's Q&A at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, Jodie Foster was asked how an unknown writer could get someone like Foster to look at her script. Foster's new film, The Beaver, was written by a 1st time unknown writer which was sent to Foster by her agent and which had been listed as one of the top 100 unknown (or unmade? something like that...) scripts. In short, Foster said, if something is good it'll rise. That perhaps she was a little naive in this area but she believed that talent can prevail.


It's like I tell Sophie, there is always room for people who are good at what they do! Don't worry about the competition. If you're good, you're good and there is always room for people who are good at what they do!


Foster said that casting, funding and making an independent feature film is difficult even for an 'A Lister' like herself. As a director she is just so pleased that she has made it that it doesn't really matter to her if people go to see it. She said that every second on the screen she wanted there and she is very satisfied with the end result.


Foster is beautiful, talented, vulnerable. wears her life, soul and heart on her sleeve and considers her work to be therapy.


Foster enjoys making 'delicate' films. She has been offered big movies to direct but is quite content making small films. She finds some people easy to both direct and act with while with some other actors it becomes a more arguous process.


When I used to envision what motherhood would be like I could never see past the toddler years. But if anyone would have told me that I would spend my 44th birthday at the Film Society of Lincoln Center with my 19 year old daughter for an 'Evening with Jodie Foster' I would have approved. It was an ideal evening which soothed my soul and positively influenced, inspired and invigorated my child.


As far as the the title of Jodie Foster's new film. She loves it, loves saying it and loves joking about it. She seems to keep everything in perspective and to be a woman who has learned from both what she has done in her life as well as what life has dealt her and given to her. Basically, she's a woman of substance and character who seems to live beyond her fears to achieve the dreams that she can imagine and we are all blessed to experience.


I remember when I was a kid and Tom Sawyer came on TV. There was this strong, opinionated, fearless girl taking on Tom. She was my idle. I'll never forget how cool Becky was. To know Becky is the Coppertone Girl, the totally cool daughter in Freaky Fridayl and the woman who made last night's The Beaver and so many more in between simply puts a smile on my face! Always her own girl. Now her own woman. Strong headed. Graceful. Always the professional and simply a wonderful role model for those who follow. There is a certain sense of happiness and comfort with this knowledge. Some people trying know their actions matter and live their life accordingly. We need more people like this in the industry because what we program and create is what we share with the world.