Thursday, December 14, 2017

Granada, mi amigo!

Sorry for the delay here! We’ve been busy exploring!
Oh, Granada! Where to start... First off Granada is an old town originally occupied by indigenous people then “discovered” by the Spanish in the 16th century. There are amazing old massive Catholic Churches that have seen a lot of things(burned in various uprisings, pillaged, etc.) which give them a stunning patina. The colonial houses are beautiful  with vibrant paint colors, open air gardens in the living spaces and amazing tiles. They sit in rows with shared walls made of mud, straw and cane(all of the homes you see in the pictures have mud walls, it’s crazy!) and all have iron bars on all the windows and doors with unique designs. We are staying at an Airbnb in a massive room in an old colonial that has been restored and well taken care of. I feel like every time I sit down here I look up at a beautiful view of sun and plants. The family that lives here has been here for about 5 years from the States. They have 3 young boys 4, 6, and 8 and they run 2 restaurants in the city. They  have been amazing hosts! Lee has been enjoying their kids book collection and playing chase with the boys and Grant loves all the commotion. We spend our days wandering through the streets on little errands and playing in the pool. We went on a tour of Mombacho Volcano and saw some amazing bugs and some monkeys. We went out on Lake Nicaragua on a little boat(panga) and puttered around the little islands that were formed when the volcano we visited blew. Granada is small and very walkable as long as you watch your step for holes in the side walk and can leap over the muck in the gutters. Lee is an excellent gutter hopper! I think the grey color of the water motivates him to make the leap! Everyone is very friendly and the city feels very safe. I’m regretting not spending more time on my Spanish before the trip but I’m becoming a fast learner! Luckily the hosts here help out with planning our bigger tours and so far we have been able to get by. Grant is very popular and everybody stops to touch him and pinch his cheeks saying”Gordo” and “guapo”. It’s pretty cute. Lee got a fanny pack stuffed with toys from his wonderful teacher Eleonore when we left Seattle and he wears it everywhere! He carries toys, some candy and some money I gave him in there. I had an idea to find something we could bring on our trip that Lee could give people and settled on bringing a couple boxes of those little plastic wrapped candy canes. Tommy thought it was silly and they would have cheap candy canes here but it’s been a huge success! We haven’t seen a single candy cane here and Lee carries a few in his fanny pack and hands them out to kids he meets. The kids are so pumped when they get one, it’s been really cute! Nicaraguans know how to celebrate! When we first arrived there were parties and parades everyday leading up to Dec.8 which is know as Purisima. A day(more like weeks) that they celebrate and honor Mary. All day and all night they let off fireworks, called Bombas that sound like we are in a war zone. There is an alter of Mary on wheels that they cart around from house to house on a different street every night. At every house they pull her up to the door, a brass band of about 6-12 members plays some songs then bombas are lit, then off to the next house. It’s so loud! The evening she is scheduled to come down your street everyone sits outside and the street shuts down with venders selling fruit, candy, ice cream, balloons, all sorts of things. It’s wild! On the day before Purisima the churches put out elaborate Mary alters with fresh flowers and balloons and at 6p people go up to it and yell. It’s hard to find out wtf they are doing but it’s loud and more bombas are lit off. On Purisima there is a parade, more bands and bombas all culminating at a large park. We skipped that one(this partying every night for Mary is exhausting) but every taxi, motorcycle and horse carriage was headed that way! The next night was another party parade called Hippica. I’m not sure how it relates to Purisima but it’s cowboys on fancy dancing horses in another parade with brass bands. Our hosts blocked off the front sidewalk of their house and invited friends ove. We all sat outside and watched the party/parade and had bbq. The next night our kids were invited to the neighbors house for a children’s Purisima celebration. The kids here at the house assured Lee that it was worth going to because you get a bucket full of candy so off we went. The front room of their house was cleared out and filled with plastic chairs facing an alter of flowers and balloons honoring Mary. Lee sat and sat and sat either the other kids waiting for the thing to get started with patience only a promised bucket full of candy could garner. Grant was less into sitting so I was up with him trying to keep him entertained and the hostess kept saying we are just waiting for the music when I would look like I was leaving. There were about 20 restless children and the same amount of restless adults. Finally, in hustles a trumpeter, a tuba player, and two drummers. Of course! A brass band! A woman goes up to the alter says some prayers the brass band plays and people sing along more prayers are said, more brass band songs then the hostess as the band continues starts handing out buckets full of candy, plastic bags with pink rice juice, beach balls, cotton candy and more candy to all of the kids. It was bonkers! The band played the kids were showered in things for about an hour then we were outta there. Lee might think twice next time he’s lured with a bucket of candy! The nightly bombas and celebrations continue but we are a bit partied out! We went to the Nicaragua butterfly reserve which was absolutely amazing. We have been going to every bakery in the town to find the best cake to get for Grant for his birthday. Yesterday we went to see the lava in the Masaya volcano. We’ve heard there are only 3 places on earth you can see lava and this is one of them. We went up to the viewing point just as the sun set so we could see the lava best and it was amazing! You peered over the edge of the crater of the volcano into a vast pit with a massive pool of lava churning at the bottom. It made a deep roaring noise and had plumes of steam and smoke rising out of it. Crazy! Other then big trip we just wander around this little town and check things out like the port, the market and the quirky houses. We leave here at 4am Saturday morning to take a long drive then a boat ride down the RĂ­o San Juan through the jungle. Love you all!! Oh! And sorry about the photos. I have no way to edit them or change their order on here. I also can’t get all of my photos to show up so check back I’ll try to add more!






















Thursday, December 7, 2017

Liberia, Costa Rica!

We made it to Granada! It’s been a long couple days of transit. I find all the hustle and bustle of airport, bus stations and transport stressful. Keeping track of two kids, our things, the time, where we are supposed to be and when in another language is about the max of my multitasking skills. The flights to LA then onto Costa Rica were easy. The kids did great. Tommy had to assist a gentleman who collapsed in the back of the plane while he was in the bathroom with Lee. They made an announcement that they needed medical help but Tommy couldn’t open the bathroom door because the guy was on the ground in front of it. He squeezed out and left Lee in there so he could help the guy. We were seated in the back right next to him and once things calmed down a little, the flight attendant rescued Lee from the bathroom. He was just in there playing in the sink and was soaking wet when he got out. The flight attendants were impressed with Tommy’s handling of the situation and offered all the free drinks we wanted and gave us a little goody bag of things they seemed to have scrounged together; a million of those biscoff cookies, a travel bourbon, and a chocolate bar. It was pretty great. The guy was ok and they wheeled him off the flight at the end. We saw him being wheeled through customs looking like he wanted to throw up. Customs and immigration was fast and uneventful, the perk of a tiny airport. We got outside to the humid air and found a taxi to take us to our supposed hotel. The driver seemed to know where it was so I was hopeful. He said traffic was bad today because of a carnival “of lights”. He dropped us a block short of the hotel(which took us an embarrassingly long time to realize) and as we walked up there were 3 fire trucks in front and the street beyond was shut down and lined with people. We checked into the hotel which I was glad existed and was nicer then I thought it would be, put our things down and we’re out to the parade route in time for the procession of fire trucks, the bombero band and what would be the loudest marching bands for the next 6 hours. It was amazing! It just kept getting louder and the marching bands got better until it reached a fever pitch at about 10:30p. The route was lined with a million families and everyone was having a great time. We were exhausted and tried to go to bed at about 9 but the bands and the jubilant crowd wouldn’t allow it. Finally it died down and we were out.
We had to catch the Ticabus from Liberia to Granada and after a mediocre breakfast of beans, rice and eggs at the hotel we set out for the ticketing office. We fumbled through asking about getting Grants passport registered since he didn’t have a ticket and eventually got it together. There was a lot of conflicting info, the bus station is down that way, the bus station is down the other way, the bus comes at noon, the bus comes at 4:30... it was hard to know who to listen to. The 4:30 bus made the most sense and we walked by the bus station to make sure it was there. We had time to kill so Lee jumped on the trampolines in the park and we watched horses and bicycles gathered for another parade. This one was starting earlier and we never figured out the connection between the horses and the bicycles. It was another massive affair though and all the kids who were watching were dressed like cowboys and girls, it was pretty cute. We gathered our things and made it to the bus station. Got some more mixed up info from the security guard and the place was crazy! Buses pulling up and loading every few minutes, people going everywhere, ticket lines to every little town and us! Finally our bus pulled up, not in the station but out front(wtf) and we hustled in. It was a plush greyhound style number with a driver and an assistant. All the seats were full but it seemed so calm compared to outside! It took us about an hour to get to the border and as we pulled up to the exiting Costa Rica office it was getting dark and started pouring rain. The bus drivers assistant takes all the fees from the passengers and tried to keep everyone accounted for and in line, he was working his butt off! Then back in the bus about 5 minutes to the Nicaragua enterance. They gathered everybody’s passports into a garbage bag(this is one of those situations where you just have to blindly trust people, putting the adventure in adventure traveling!) and called all the people from Central America off the bus. That left us and about 4 other people wondering what was going to happen. Then we got called off to haul our baggage through customs and out the other side where everyone else was waiting. I will say that customs is very lax in CR and Nicaragua. You put your stuff on a conveyor, but not everything just whatever is big or what you want to put on there and it goes through a mostly ignored X-ray machine and you pick it up and keep going. It seems that women with children are very prioritized here. I love as waiting in the regular immigration line and a lady with a baby grabbed me and took me to a shorter line with a little picture of a pregnant lady, lady with kids and old people. How considerate! As we all waited in the rain for the passports another lady had the bus driver let all the women with children and elderly wait on the bus. We waved to Tommy standing in the rain. Getting through the border took about 2 hours. Finally passports were handed back and we were on the road again. They played a movie on the bus “First Dog”, it was dubbed in Spanish but Lee loved it(it was terrible but Dolly Parton did the soundtrack!). It ended just as we pulled into Granada. It was late, getting a Taxi was easy. We found our spot(after some u turns) and the caretaker was at the door to meet us. We Wales in and it was stunning! We found our bedroom and passed out. Side note, my boys are amazing travelers. They know how to hustle when I say hustle and stay close when I need them to. Lee can find someone to play with no matter the language barrier and Tommy and I know our limits and how to communicate. It’s pretty awesome.



















Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Glitch!

Buenos! I’m having trouble uploading photos to the blog so I will publish the few days I wrote about when I figure it out! I thought I’d let you know we made it to Granada and it is beautiful! So far the adventure has been magical! I can’t wait for you to see and read about all of the exciting things that have already happened. I hope to have the problem worked out by tonight so stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

NICARAGUA!


We are almost off! Two months seems like a long time but I know when we get back it will feel like the whole trip never even happened so I'm trying to put it in perspective!

Here's some questions I've been getting about the trip and the answers in case you are curious.

Why Nicaragua?
My first thought for the trip was to try and stay in the same time zone. Lee was amazing at adjusting to the time in India but, he talks now. This limited us to the Americas. I really want to see all of South America one day and spend more time moving all over the various countries but I didn't feel 2 months was enough for that. Then we looked at Central America. We cannot afford Costa Rica or Belize which leaves Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua left on the list. We ruled out a few based on political unrest and crime problems and settled on Nicaragua.

Two Months?! HOW?
Tommy and I are really lucky to have amazing jobs. He gets about a month vacation a year and he has to plan it over a year in advance. So we decided that this years vacation he would take in December and next years in January. This allows us a two month window of off time every two years. I'm working part time and am required to work a certain amount of hours quarterly. I have been able to schedule those shifts in the two months of the quarters we aren't traveling.

Where are you staying?
Everywhere! We've booked a couple airbnb's and some hostels but are hoping to be pretty mobile. We are not driving while we are there so we will take buses and taxis and maybe even a boat or two. Nicaragua has the pacific coast are which is surf town beachy vibes. A Caribbean coast that butts up against dense jungle with some pretty dreamy looking tropical isles. Then a mountanous central area with massive lakes, volcanos and a few big cities. We are hoping to see it all.

You're taking the kids?
Yep. We got all of our travel vaccinations and we are ready to check out some Nicaraguan playgrounds! I'm excited to do kid things there and find Grant a first birthday cake. We are insanely privileged to be able to take trips like this and share the world with our kiddos. Sometimes it means not having all the fancy things at home, working extra and traveling on a shoestring budget but it's what we love to do making it an easy trade off.

We ship on early Saturday and spend the first night in Liberia, Costa Rica(in our only hotel! I booked it online and has since seemed to have disappeared...website gone, no email, so we will see what happens!). Then we take a bus across the border for a couple weeks in Granada, Nicaragua!

Here are some helpful maps and I'll try to keep this as updated as possible!

Map of Nicaragua





















Sunday, January 25, 2015

Home Sweet Home

We made it! After 24 straight hours of travel we are back in our cozy little house. Lee did amazingly well on the flights. He slept through most of the first 4 hour leg then we were able to keep him happy enough on the 14 hour leg where he didn't scream once until we landed in Seattle. He then proceeded to lose his shit as we taxied to our gate. Not bad. We are trying to get back to normal sleep pattern and it's going marginally. Luckily Tommy's mom who has been taking phenomenal care of Jacques, Cleo, the chickens and our house while we were away was around to feed us and ease us back into our world a bit. 
We had an amazing trip. I had a lot of apprehensions going into it, mostly about the baby. What if he doesn't sleep, what if he gets sick, what if he...?! None of it happened and if it did we could have managed it. I'm glad we did the trip despite knowing all the what ifs and we had a great time. I learned a lot about traveling with a baby! I had some successes like packing the perfect amount of diapers. Only had 4 left over. Pack light and be portable, it always pays off(and no I didn't need more then 2 pairs of shoes). Toms are the best travel shoe for anyplace warm. I wore them all over Kenya and all over India. They pack small, are comfy and surprisingly tough. Always bring two hats for the baby. Ask the locals. People are more then happy to help but can't do a thing if you don't ask. Always eat at the kinda sketchy restaurant. There's a reason it's busy. And be curious. 
Lee smuggled back a meat tooth and meat tooth 2.0! Customs didn't even check. I think he grew a little too. Ok, time to take a nap. Thanks for joining us on the adventure! 



Back surrounded by his toys! 
We bought this awesome brass slide bolt as our souvenir. It's called a Kerala lock and was on a lot of the old buildings we saw. We found one at a hardware store and needed it. Now we just need a place to put it! 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Final Few

Another couple days of relaxing in Varkala. We visited the good lunch spot in town again, lounged on our porch and had tea & cake, played in the sand and swam in the sea. Had great dinners with our kiwi friends who we will never forget and fell asleep to crashing waves. The last two days the sea has been tumultuous. Massive waves relentlessly booming onto shore. We've stayed out of it just playing in the sand or the foam, it's pretty scary. You'll see someone swim out then 5 minutes later come stumbling back to shore. The water is a little bit colder but otherwise the weather hasn't changed. The locals don't know much more then "it's not a good day for swimming", but seem to imply they get events like this periodically. 
We get a taxi to the airport at 1:15a to catch our 4:30a flight to Dubai which takes 4.5 hours. Then the 14.5 hr stretch to Seattle on Emirates again. Lee has been getting another tooth(the one next to his meat tooth) and it's been making him uncomfortable and fussy. I'm a little uneasy about the long flight but we'll get through it. Tylenol seems to help a little. 
Overall it's been an amazing trip, we're planning our next adventure already!