Monday, September 30, 2013

House Construction Pearl Lagoon Style

Pat removing wood supports for the base of the wall
Building the family home is a family affair here in Pearl Lagoon. There are no construction companies or architects to call on to help you design, layout and construct your house. Every family member (and any friends you can recruit) have a share in the construction.

There is nowhere local in Pearl Lagoon to purchase bricks for the walls - so you have to make them yourself! So... even before you layout the design of the house the family is usually already preparing tonnes of bricks. Once you have enough bricks prepared the property is cleared and the foundation outlines are sighted, dug and cemented with re-bar. Some homes only have cement walls halfway to the roof with the remainder wood. This is a far less expensive way of building. Other homes have bricks all the way up to the roof.  You will find very few buildings have a second floor.

You will notice in the following pictures that there is very little in the way of PPE worn on the building lot - there are no "work boots" to be seen. Surprisingly, there are very few accidents on these construction sites - there are more injuries that happen at the local bars each week.

 Since we have been here in Pearl Lagoon we have assisted with a couple of "house building" projects. With the Padilla family home we helped with the foundation and laying some of the first layer of bricks.

Preparing to mix cement

Everyone is helping out

Waiting for the cement

Digging so the foundation boards can be put in place

Taking a rest after moving all the bricks

Sticking bricks

Making sure the brick is level

Filling cracks

Filling Cracks

This is the house we are helping with this week. The Blake family has managed to bring it this far by themselves, but now the rush is one to get it finished and have the family move in by the middle of October. Only part of the house will be completed now. The porch, front entrance and third bedroom will be finished at a later date.

Since this picture was taken a few weeks ago the iron bars for the windows have been installed as well as the front and back metal doors.

Preparing the struts.

Removing the dirt in the "tool room"

Welding the struts

Pat taking a break

Putting the struts in place

Taking a rest in the "garden"
 We will post updates as these homes progress.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Nicaragua's National Zoo

Amy Salton and Hayley McKleaine
Guest Post by: Amy Salton (visiting Nicaragua from Victoria, Australia)

Visiting a new country comes with many exciting new sights and experiences; the foods to try, a different culture to experience, the landscape and not to forget new and interesting species of animals you never knew existed. A Zoo affords you the opportunity to see animals that you may never get to see in the wild, so we decided to visit the Nicaragua National Zoo.

The Zoo is privately owned and as such, is always in need of funds to support its operation. They unabashedly charge an admission fee of 15 cords for locals and 100 cords for foreigners. You may balk at this, but putting it into perspective it is still only about $4.00 USD. There’s no zoo back home that I’m aware of that charges less than $15.00. So we were happy to pay for the privilege to enter.

Not too far in from the ticket office is a kiosk selling food, drinks and a few souvenirs, as well as the amenities.  We wandered our way through the Zoo along the mostly cemented pathways, taking the time to watch and enjoy the antics of the unusual creatures we’d not seen before. The layout of the park was quite pretty - there were seats to sit in front of some enclosures and many trees providing shade. There’s also the option of going through a butterfly house enclosure for an extra charge.

The signs on the enclosures describing the animals were all in Spanish. We could understand what most of them were saying but later thought that it would have been nice to have a booklet in English with a map and a translation of the enclosure signs. Since it’s a tourist attraction we would have liked to have seen it be a little more foreigner friendly. After our visit we took a look at their website and seeing that they welcome feedback we made this suggestion.

Overall it’s worth stopping by to have a look at what Nicaragua has to offer in the way of wildlife.

Why don't you come for a visit?

Important Info:
Nicaragua National Zoo is located at Kilometer 16 of the Managua-Masaya road. 
Opening hours: 
Tuesday-Sunday, from 8:30 AM – 5:00 PM (closed on Mondays)

(505) 279 8806 
(505) 279 8782

Enjoy some animal pictures from our day at the zoo:

(all pictures are courtesy of Amy Salton)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

We found Pancho!

Pancho enjoying the beach in Awas
You will never believe it - but Pancho has been found! As you may recall from a previous posting (Pancho has flown the coop!) our pet chocoyo decided to escape from his "birdsitters" while we were in El Salvador. When we returned I called for him for a couple of days thinking that if he was nearby that he would return to us. When he didn't come back we hoped that he had found a new family (bird or human) and that he was happy but secretly I thought that he had died.

Last week when I was visiting a family in Awas I could hear some "chirping" from inside their house and asked them if they had a chocoyo. Miss Ildelia told me that her nephew had found the bird about a month ago in the rice field out by the road to Raitipura (right about the time that Pancho went missing). I asked if I could see him and told her the sad story about loosing Pancho and how we miss him. The room that the bird was in was quite dark and it was hard to get a look at him. My friend and I had a good laugh because of the way he was acting. We kept saying - Oh, it has to be a boy - he acts just like Pancho!

This morning I went back out to visit Miss Ildelia and Mr Orlando and this time the bird was outside on the wooden railing. As soon as I saw him I knew - it was Pancho! This bird had the same plucked chest and the same bald spot on the head! After a little coaxing he was back on my finger - happy as could be.

So - now we have a little problem. His new family really like him. They run a small tourist business and they like to show Pancho off to the tourists. Also, Pancho now has waterfront living - will he want to come home?Pat and I have decided that we will have to find a replacement for him so that we can bring Pancho back home.

Debbie with Pancho - Awas, Nicaragua

Mr Orlando and Miss Ildelia with Pancho - Awas, Nicaragua

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Bush Medicine - The Leaf of Life

Leaf of Life
Taking Bush medicine is a common practice here on the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua. This isn't the "witch-doctor" type of medicine common in some places but, rather, traditional medicine using leaves and plants.

For the past few months Pat has had a cough. It reminds us of the cough he used to get when we lived in Southern Ontario - his annual allergy cough. He has been ignoring it and it has been getting worse. On Saturday he finally broke down and decided to visit the Clinic here in Pearl Lagoon - but, guess what? The Clinic is only open for emergencies on the weekend and so he came home without seeing a doctor.

It was suggested to him that he try a local leaf (Bush medicine) to try and bring some relief to his cough. He decided to give it a try - so the hunt was on for some "Leaf of Life" which is found in many backyards in Pearl Lagoon. A neighbor was found to have a plant and he gave Pat enough leaves for two days. He was instructed to blend two leaves with some lime and salt and drink it down. Not one to follow directions, he made a slightly different mixture. He took two leaves and blended them with a little orange juice and some Concentrate of Borojo (a local fruit full of vitamins). After just two treatments there was a noticeable change in his cough. He wasn't coughing as much and it was "wetter" - I guess loosening up the "phlegm".

Although his cough hasn't disappeared it is definitely better. We will be searching out some more information on this particular "Bush medicine" and he will likely continue his treatment.

Concentrate of Borojo

Leaf of Life mixture ready to be processed

Bush Medicine ready to be processed
Bush medicine - ready to drink

Sunday, September 22, 2013

House for Rent in Pearl Lagoon, Nicaragua

Are you looking to move to Pearl Lagoon, Nicaragua? We know how difficult it can be to find adequate accommodations in this small community. We thought we would let you know that as of October 22, 2013 the house we are currently renting will be available for new tenants.

The house is very secure and has 3 bedrooms, two bathrooms, large eat-in kitchen and a good sized living area. There is a nice porch and front yard. The back yard is also a decent size with lots of room for drying laundry. There is a hookup for a washing machine inside. The master bathroom has been wired for an on demand hot water shower head (see our post Awww the pleasure of a hot shower)

Our monthly electricity bill has been about 500 cordobas ($21.00 CDN). We don't run an air conditioner but we do have a fan running almost continually. Our municipal water costs are 173 cordobas ($7.25 CDN).

If you would be interested in more information about renting this house, please use the "Contact US" form and we will send you more information.

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Comfort Zone - Budget Friendly Accommodations in Pearl Lagoon

Are you looking for a budget friendly place to stay while visiting Pearl Lagoon? There are several options available, one of which is the Comfort Zone

The Right Side Guide web site ( describes the property in the following way: "Comfort Zone – About a block and a half left of the wharf, down a sidewalk that heads toward the water, right hand side about 20 meters from the street. Small establishment but with new rooms with big beds, ensuite bath and televisions. Martha and Dariel are gracious hosts and detail oriented. Budget to Midrange".

When Dariel showed us around the property he told us that they "treat their guests like family" - isn't they way we all like to be treated? Currently, the Comfort Zone has 4 rooms to choose from.  Two rooms have a double bed with private bathroom that rents for only 300 cordobas per night ($12.00 US), and the other two rooms have a double bed, a single bed and private bathroom that rents for a little more - 350 cordobas per night ($14.00). When we inspected the rooms we could see that they were clean and well maintained.

Martha and Dariel also have a small store where you can find any toiletries that you may have forgotten. 

Comfort Zone - Pearl Lagoon, Nicaragua
The Comfort Zone is nothing fancy but is a safe, clean, comfortable option for your visit to Pearl Lagoon. Give them a call at: 8829-7113, 8659-3557 or 8632-1037

Comfort Zone, Pearl Lagoon - room with double bed

Comfort Zone, Pearl Lagoon - room with double and single bed

Grocery Store - Comfort Zone, Pearl Lagoon

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Buying Beef in Pearl Lagoon

Chopping up the beef
I'll start off by moaning - It was far easier to buy beef back home! All I had to do was walk along the refrigerated case and displayed before me were different, recognizable cuts of beef - steaks in all their varieties, brisket, short ribs, roasts - all neatly packaged and labelled. Oh, how I miss those days!

Since our move to Pearl Lagoon we have been eating only ground beef - the reason being that it comes is 1 lb frozen packages. That changed this week. We passed by a shop that was busily "chopping" up a recently slaughtered cow. This started a conversation about how we miss eating beef and wouldn't it be nice to have some.... Since we were going in the opposite direction of home we didn't buy any meat but the idea had been planted....

Later in the morning I found a fellow selling some beef - carrying it around town in a large plastic can on a wheel barrow. I took a look at it and it was still fresh and there was no smell so I inquired how much per pound - only 40 cords per pound ($1.65 CDN).  I took out two pounds of meat and hurried home to put it in the fridge.

So far, our experience with Nicaraguan beef hasn't been that successful -  it can be pretty tough.  So I looked up a marinade to try and "tenderize" it and put the cubed meat in to soak. Even with marinating over night we found the beef chewy - not one of our favorite meals that we've had here. I still have another pound of meat in the freezer and have decided that a "slow" cooking method might make it more tender - so I will likely put it in the slow-cooker and hope that the electricity doesn't go out! If that doesn't work I guess we'll be sticking with ground meat!

Chopping up the beef in Pearl Lagoon

Garlic Beef with rice and carrots

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Shrimping Season is here again in Pearl Lagoon

Shrimp drying in the sun
Shrimp fever has hit Pearl Lagoon! How do I know? Well, you can tell by the smell in the air!

Whole families are getting in on the act. The process to prepare the shrimp for sale is simple, but very laborious - so it's a good thing that it only happens twice a year. The financial rewards though are big - especially for a small community like Pearl Lagoon - so many families turn their small homes into "mini shrimp processing plants".

The whole process starts with the local fishermen heading out to sea and coming back to port with boat loads of shrimp. On a good day they will bring in about 100 buckets of raw shrimp. Each bucket holds approximately 35 lbs of shrimp - so they catch about 3500 lb of shrimp that need to be processed as quickly as possible. They either process the shrimp themselves (together with their families) or sell it for others in town to process.

Stirring shrimp - Pearl Lagoon, Nicaragua
Shrimp drying in the sun - Pearl Lagoon, Nicaragua
Step one in the process is to wash the "buckets" of shrimp which is usually done right there in the lagoon.The next step is to cook the shrimp in a salty brine. They use freshwater to cook the shrimp with lots of salt added so that the liquid is REALLY salty. Once the shrimp is well cooked it is hung to drip dry. Next the shrimp is spread out on plastic sheets to dry in the hot sun. Sheets of shrimp are every where - on the roads, in front yards, back yards, walkways - any available space is taken up with sheets of drying shrimp. As the shrimp is being baked dry by the sun it is necessary to "stir" the shrimp so that there are no "wet" patches that could spoil the quality of the finished product. A batch of shrimp, left in the sun, will be thoroughly dried in about 4-5 hours.

The dried shrimp is gathered up and put into sturdy bags. Now comes the part that most kids really enjoy - "whopping" the shrimp. This is when the bag of shrimp is repeatedly banged onto the ground to separate the shell from the meat. After a good whopping, the shrimp is sieved and sorted in order to remove any shells, stones, leaves or other debris so that you are left with a nice, clean - hopefully bright pink - dried shrimp ready to be packaged and sold to the local buyer for shipment to other parts of the world.

"Whopping" the shrimp - Pearl Lagoon, Nicaragua
"Whopping" the shrimp - Pearl Lagoon, Nicaragua
What is the going price for top grade dried shrimp? Those who are processing the shrimp hope to receive 50 cordobas a pound for their labors - approximately $2.00 US. One bucket of raw shrimp will yield only 3 lbs of processed shrimp and therefore most families will purchase 20 buckets to process at a time. Their net gain for their labors will be in the neighborhood of $120 US per 20 buckets of raw shrimp. Since the average monthly income for a family in Pearl Lagoon is less than $250 US you can understand why so many families see the processing of shrimp as a terrific way to boost their income.

Sorting dried shrimp - Pearl Lagoon, Nicaragua