Monday, March 3, 2014

Nicaragua - Flying to Nica and Day 1

After years of saving and months of planning Birch and I flew out to Managua, Nicaragua early in the morning on February 22nd.  There is always so much planning that goes into a trip, especially one that does not include the kids.  We were lucky to have Justin and Lauren Fillmore and my parents (plus many others that covered random times that the kids needed care or rides to activities).  It sure does seem to take a village to make a trip possible when mom and dad leave town!

The most common question we were asked when people found out we were headed to Nicaragua was, "Why Nicaragua?"  I started to wonder a bit too after I did a lot of reading online of bad cops, muggings, food that didn't sound good, and tarantula spiders.  Over a year ago most of the Ditto siblings decided it was time to go on another trip together (Feelin' Fine in 2009 - Cruise was our last adult trip together).  We all submitted suggestions of trip ideas and then voted.  Nicaragua won -- mostly because of the adventure possibilities, privacy of the beach, warm climate, and uniqueness of the trip.  The Dittos are such a great group to plan anything with...we all split of responsibilities, vote and then support the final decision, and enjoy being with each other.  This trip was no different!  It turned out to be a week of adventure and fun!!!!

Flight to Managua - Feb. 22nd
Birch and I caught an early morning plane at the Pasco, WA airport and slowly made our way to Managua, Nicaragua later that night.  We had been so busy to the last minute of flying out that it felt wonderful to just sit...sit and snuggle up to my hubby and read books on my Kindle.  I have been struggling with insomnia for about six months now and leading up to this trip it had been really bad and so I was physically exhausted.  Birch relished the time to read and slowly let go mentally of all the responsibilities that he carries on his shoulders daily when we are home.

Upon arriving in Managua and going through customs we were greeted by our hotel shuttle driver.  It was just like the movies where he was standing by the door with a sign reading "Sara Ditto."  I was instantly grateful to Birch for being bi-lingual in Spanish and English.  As mentioned previously I had read how unsafe Managua is especially at night and how important it is to make sure you have a legit driver (to not just hop in a car with any man that offers a ride).  Our driver and Birch seemed to hit it off and soon we were all loaded up and driving off into the darkness of the big city.  I had thought the hotel was just minutes from the airport and so after thirty minutes of driving and turning off into a dark gated area I was squeezing Birch's hand so tight and whispering, "Is he pulling off to kill us?"  We had been warned to leave our wedding rings at home so other than my passport, a visa card and fresh female blood I had little to offer.   What a sigh of relief when I saw the hotel sign before my eyes! 
The hotel staff at Hotel Camino Real was so kind and quickly got us situated in our nice room.  There was quite a party going on outside in the courtyard so we were lulled to sleep with geckos chirping and drunk people dancing.

Sunday, Feb. 23rd
In the morning we noticed that our veranda was surrounded by barbed wire fence.  I'm kind of glad I didn't know that the night before but it did remind me to keep up our guard.
Our hotel shuttle driver took us back to the airport where we picked up our rental car, a small Suzuki.  The next couple of hours we were cruising through little towns trying to make it on time to church in the town of Rivas. 
We had to pull over a dozen times for directions and again I was so thankful for Birch's fluency in Spanish.  The people were so friendly and didn't seem nervous at all when we would pull over real quick and yell out the window for directions.  Whenever we would see policeman (which was often) we did as we had been instructed online to not give eye contact and just drive on.

We made it to church just as the branch was singing the opening hymn, "Called to Serve."  The rest of the Ditto clan had arrived the day before and so this was the first time seeing them.  It was amazing how some familiar faces and song made me feel instantly at home.  Gonzolo, our host came along for the day.

We brought some fun things to pass on to the Young Women, Primary, and Seminary kids.  This picture is of the YW president/Seminary teacher and a few of the young women. 
I love that no matter where we travel in the world we always learn the same gospel doctrine.  In this case I couldn't understand a word but Birch translated a bit and it all sounded real good!
We all piled in our three vehicles and drove to the Christus statue in San Juan del Sur.
It was quite a hike up to the statue but we all made it.
View from the top of San Juan del Sur.  San Juan del Sur is a coastal town on the Pacific Ocean, in south-west Nicaragua. It is located 87 miles south of Managua.
The huge statue of Christ was built in 2008.  It is 24 meters in height.
Holy schmoly WINDY!!

Gonzolo was so sweet to Debbie and always was right by her side for extra support.
Looking up from our restaurant at the Christus statue.

My first meal in Nicaragua.  I learned quickly that the country knows how to cook its' chicken!  So tasty!!
Deena was so brave and ordered the whole fish.  She ate every last morsel!
We enjoyed walking around the town of San Juan del Sur for a bit.

Somehow Birch and I got separated from the main group and soon found that not only did we not know where they were but also that Birch had accidentally locked the keys in the rental car.  Donald, our house chef, had just joined the group to pick up some groceries from the town and instructed Birch to tell me to climb on the back of his motorcycle.  Um...I was nervous as I had just met Donald (and had read all these scary stories about Nicaragua) and found myself clinging to his chest, not being able to understand a word he said, without my husband.
Off we went!  Donald dropped me off at someone's house and I found myself left on the side of the road with two mangy dogs and woman speaking Spanish to me.  She motioned for me to sit next to her and so I did.  About ten minutes later Donald drives up in his motorcycle with Birch wrapped around his waist.  He ran into the house and grabbed a metal clothes hanger and hopped back on his motorcycle.  Birch and I looked at each other in wonder.  We sat listening to mangoes fall from the tree and hit the cobblestone wondering what the plan was.  Fifteen minutes later Donald drives up in our car and told Birch that he was easily able to break into the car and so now we were ready to go up to Casa Ola, our home for the next week.  It was a wild hour or so but Birch and I quickly learned through this experience how wonderful the people in Nicaragua are and that we had no need to be so fearful.
The drive to Casa Ola was about thirty minutes away on a very primitive and BUMPY road.  We were so excited with Donald stopped his motorcycle and motioned up into the trees.  MONKEYS!!!
There were everywhere...little black monkeys in the tall branches of the trees.
Our view of Casa Ola from our private beach.
The evening brought relaxed time in the sun playing Frisbee, soaking up the sun rays, and exploring our beach.

Donald prepared the most delicious dinner and soon I learned that I also did not need to fear the food in Nicaragua.  Slowly all my fears were being swept away with the sound of the ocean.

View from our bungalow window.

The geckos were everywhere but honestly they don't bother me much anymore.  I just remind myself that they are eating bugs.  Birch and I were lulled to sleep by the ocean waves.

1 comment:

Matt said...

Beautiful and amazing! What an experience.