WITH 27 YEARS FINALLY A CAT MOMMY 

People who have seen me around cats before know that I LOVE them. But I never had them as a pet myself. Now, living in Nicaragua with a high kitten supply and low animal welfare standards, it was the right time for me to finally get my very own kittens. With just six weeks of age the two were transferred from Melvin’s hometown to the big city. Here, they have stayed in the patio and kitchen ever since, which – with all the people, furniture and plants around – is a huge semi-outdoor playground for them. They are running, whirling and playing around, meaouwing, eating, sleeping and being indefinitely adorable.

Having cats in Nicaragua – some observations

Here, you can find maximum five different types of dry cat food and two types of wet food, but the latter only at one certain supermarket. This one certain supermarket also is the only one which sells cat litter. If you ask for a “cat toilet” or “cat litter”, many don’t know what you’re talking about. The cats here simply go outside to poop, nobody keeps a pet in their house. A cat cage? We had to look in six pet and veterinarian stores all over Managua before we found one. It seems that such specialized items for the well-being of cat and cat-holder are not very common here. Melvin says I spoil my cats anyway, giving them pure meat instead of leftovers and rice, cuddles and love and toys.

I’d prefer to have a wild mix of cute cat and turtle hatchling pictures in this blogpost, but for now, I can only serve you with Kit and Kat.

 

INSIGHT OF THE MONTH: 23 YEARS IS A GOOD AGE FOR HUMANS BUT A BAD ONE FOR CARS

“Heyyy, let’s buy a car that was produced only five years after I was born. Isn’t that old, after all, huhhh… and it’s running, it’s running at least”

Baaaaaad idea. Well, I didn’t exactly want to buy such an old car when I arrived in Nicaragua two months ago, but regarding our highly uncertain future here I didn’t want to invest all my personal savings into a car which I won’t even officially own as an immigrant on a tourist visa. Considering our options and realizing that old cars ARE still quite something worth here, our black beauty seemed to be a good catch. The motor sounded fine, everything was kind of working, done.

Since then we had some awesome hour-long fun rides all across the Pacific Coast, from the South to the northest North, passing difficult terrain and straining our all-wheel drive. But once in a while, we got stuck on an unpaved road because the clutch wasn’t working anymore or the car suddenly stopped running. Local mechanics and wannaby-mechanics helped us out and we always returned back home safely.

But then we decided for an allround-check at a garage. After a three-day inspection, they gave us a list of maybe 30 things that need to be repaired. They said “You should start with the life-threatening things like breaks and clutch – then slowly go on with the other reparations. Cause if you do it all at once, you might get the feeling it wasn’t worth buying that car“. So we had the life-threatening things repaired for a breathtaking 500 US$ – which is about what I earned in the whole month. The final recommendation was to sell the car and to look for a newer and safer option. “Don’t take this car on long journeys, don’t run fast and don’t go on difficult terrain, otherwise it could be dangerous” they said. Well, but long journeys and difficult terrain are exactly what we need a car for.

So we decided to sell it. For a price that wouldn’t make me lose a lot of money but which is considered way too high by the few who already showed interest. It seems that this car was the worst decision of my life. I love the sound of its motor and I love to make a 4-hour ride to a precious beach which might be ours in the future, but I hate it because it’s terribly old and breaking down all the time, and it makes me waste my money and time.

 

HOLIDAY WITH PARENTS AND POACHERS

My parents flew over for my birthday to see me, get to know Melvin and get to know my future home. We visited the famous tourist-town Granada, the artisan market in Masaya, the spectacular bubbling-lava volcano, did Canopy in the middle of the capitol and had some dinners in restaurants which me and Melvin would usually only see from the outside.

 

Then me and Melvin went on a short trip to his hometown Ostional, where we would meet my parents again a few days later. This time we went to the beach every night where I was able to witness the turtle situation there for the first time since Melvin had told me about the crazy poaching practices nearly one year ago.

The best place to poach turtle eggs is right next to a hatchery

So THERE IS a hatchery in Ostional run by a popular Nicaraguan NGO. But usually there is no one working there, and if so, then it is poorly managed. This time in late June, the hatchery project was not running. I don’t know the background: did the NGO abandon it because of mismanagement or low interest, or because the costs got too high?

Anyway, Ostional sees quite a lot of nesting activity year-round by Olive Ridleys. For the past three to five decades, however, the beach experienced a 100 % egg loss. Poachers are full-time professionals or fishermen who need some extra income when the sea is rough.

So imagine this: every ten meters along the beach a poacher is sitting or standing on the edge of the water, shining around with a white spotlight and waiting for a turtle to come ashore within his “area of supervision”. Once a turtle is spotted, the poacher RUNS towards the creature, lifts her up and PUTS THE TURTLE UPSIDE DOWN ON HIS BACK. He then carries her a few minutes across the beach to a sandy area with favourable digging conditions next to the abandoned hatchery, called “el ponedor”. He then lets the turtle do her thing and once all eggs are laid, he carries her a few meters away from the nest. While the poacher digs up the eggs, the turtle – as stupid and awesome they are – follows her mechanism and does her covering and camouflaging dance before going back to the sea. The poacher then sells the eggs right away to a middleman who is already waiting at the hatchery.
This is the case every night, with every single turtle that comes ashore.

According to Melvin, the turtles on this beach are used to this high level of disturbance. Some, so he says, emerge from the water and hold still, waiting to be picked up, as they think this is how the whole thing works because they never crawled up to the vegetation themselves!!! For me – having learned how sensitive turtles are to movements, noise and light – it was unbelievable until I saw it with my own eyes. So let’s conclude that the best place to see turtles is Ostional in Nicaragua, as they are literally carried to you.

The poacher said to me “I do this because there are no jobs here in Ostional. If I could work in something else, I would do it. I don’t want to harm the turtles” And I ask myself: what is the real problem in Ostional? Is it the poorly managed hatchery project, the lack of jobs or the ever high demand for delicious sea turtle eggs within the community? And how could you change something here?

I also wonder why there are still so many turtles coming to nest if they have been poached for numerous decades already. Melvin says the population did slightly decrease. But usually there should be more than a slight decrease.
I think it might be because a lot of turtles come from the neighbouring kind-of-protected beaches of the wildlife reserve La Flor. But one thing is for sure: as long as there is no significant drop in nesting numbers, people will not be willing to protect the turtles. And I cannot even judge them. I wonder if the locals from Ostional have ever seen hatchlings in their life?

DREAMS ARE STILL DREAMS

In May we had an excellent start and visited four different beaches whit unprotected turtles and cheap land available. But we haven’t found the “very perfect spot” yet: the better the offer (that means a bigger lot for less money) the more uncertainties, “if’s” and “when’s” there are. Most of the secret beach spots are not available for purchase. A lot of good land is sold already. And at most of the near-empty beaches they told us that “soon they will build a big hotel here“, right next to our potential lot. If you want to live close to a town or major tourism development, it is awfully expensive, and if you want to live off the beaten track, you have to fear about accessibility, phone coverage and water supply. Then most of the beaches do have a hatchery already – but usually it is poorly managed and there is still a lot more capacity for protection.
Even if the conditions will not be perfect – I am confident about our capability to adapt and to get creative – wherever we will end up, we can make something out of it.

But then we got slowed down by the car incidents and the decision to buy a new one – it might be a few more weeks until we are on the road again to visit more potential beaches. I miss it already!
And this is the smallest concern, as once we have found the perfect beach, we need to find a way to finance it all. Let’s say: after two months we are still at zero. Meanwhile, I fear that other people buy up the available lots or that other hotel owners start a hatchery project. We certainly cannot wait for many more years if we want to set up an authentic and greatly needed Conservation Lodge with lots of nature and few competition around it.

 

WHAT ELSE HAPPENED

Melvin finally cut his hair! And it looks great. He likes it as well. I don’t have to fear the dreadlocks any more.

We were discussing about moving to Ostional or San Juan del Sur as Melvin didn’t find a suitable job here in Managua and didn’t like the city at all. However, he recently started working at the garage close-by. We don’t know yet if it’s a good deal and if he’ll be happy in the long run, but we’ll have to wait and see.

We found a new favourite series on the Internet! “Shameless”, it’s about an alcoholic father, an absent mother and their near-abandoned six kids. The oldest girl has to take care of the whole family. The series is packed with comedy, drama, illegal practices, absurd situations and weird romances. Not having a TV turned out to be great!

The Union and Metrocentro are the shopping paradises in Managua ever since. Here I nearly feel like in Germany.

Living in a hot country made me even more addictive to ice cream. “Dos Pinos” is my favourite. Too bad that a 5 US$ jar only lasts for two nights.

The cats destroyed nearly all the plants in the patio garden, which they also use occasionally as their toilet. But nobody has kicked us out yet. Fingers crossed.

 

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