Well, we finally moved to San Juan del Sur, after discussing it again and again for months. I wasn’t happy at first, simply because Managua offered me some kind of useful infrastructure (great supermarkets, useful hospital and medical center, shopping malls, western fast food restaurants etc.) and because I did not want to be one of those 2000 foreigners who come to “exotic” Nicaragua and end up in the most touristic, development-spoilt town in this country.
Also, I get a heart attack every time I stroll along the beach. Simply, because it is ALL FULL of restaurants and bars, owned by some richer locals who still want to jump on the tourist train. They think the closer they are to the ocean the more tourists will come in and eat. However, besides public holidays, I see a nearly empty beach and five waiters standing outside of each restaurant waiting desperately for some guests. And the worst of all: construction hasn’t stopped yet. I ask myself: WHERE DO YOU WANT TO TAKE ALL THOSE CUSTOMERS FROM?
Then, when the high tide comes, there is simply NO BEACH LEFT. Can you imagine a beachfront town, popular for its beach, that has no beach during half of the day?
And a really funny sight are those tourists that sit UNDERNEATH THE RESTAURANTS (which are on stilts, obviously) to get some shade, as on the whole beach there are no trees who would give some lovely natural shade to those poor, white-skinned people.
Meanwhile, young backpackers from all over the world wander the streets in their swim wear, always with a beer in one hand and most of the time embarrassingly drunk, looking for skin cancer and cool beach vibes. At night, they accumulate in the four party locations in town, which seem to try to attract more customers with their awfully loud music (here, everything is open, so noise spreads everywhere).
The ridiculous thing about San Juan del Sur is that it’s a well known location for surfing, but here YOU CANNOT SURF. Where you can surf instead is at the surrounding beaches which are up to half an hour drive away. So tourists pay 30 $ extra per day to get transportation to those beaches and some surf lessons. And everyone who doesn’t own a restaurant here tries to run a surf shop instead, but really, all of those surf shops just offer the very same.
On the other hand, hundreds of old, rich foreigners have their million-dollar oceanview villa built up on the hills by tons of poor workmen from the surrounding villages who get paid a bare 200$ a month – enough to pay basic food for a family, but not more. Then those “rentistas” come with their monstrous, brandnew Toyota Hilux, move in, hire a cook and a cleaning lady and enjoy the wonderful “Nicaraguan lifestyle” while living a life like in Monaco.
Having so many tourists and foreigners around, you would think it is a clean town. Have you ever walked through the mangroves here? Melvin laughed at me when I asked him if you could take a boat ride on the river. “It’s so dirty you shouldn’t even touch the water” he said. All the waste water is directed into that river. And yes, unfortunately also ours. What can I do. I need to live somewhere…
How beautiful must have been this former fishermen’s village, once it was backed by lush tropical forest, invaded by hundreds of sea turtles every year, quiet, peaceful and authentic. San Juan del Sur, you are truly ugly.
Well, I will tell you at least what I like about this town:
- I walk five minutes and I can swim in the sea. I have sand under my feet. Yes, beach is still beach, kind of. It works. It makes you happier than living in a city.
- Being just one of many young half-naked girls, I can walk around in my sexiest clothes even in the middle of the night, alone.
- You can still find a small local market and some small local shops and restaurants, where stuff is quite cheap.
- That’s about it.
Last but not least, do you know how hard it is to seriously work 6-8 hours a day in a dark room, while everyone else outside is having fun, partying, smoking weed, swimming and enjoying the beach? Put a fat man on diet in a candy shop and see if he will get distracted or not…
CHANGE OF PLANS
Well, we finally found out that setting up an accommodation business here in Nicaragua is too expensive if you don’t own a piece of land already or if you don’t have worked and saved your money for 20 years. Total costs to have everything fully running would have exceeded 100,000 $ by far and that’s only including four huts and the most basic infrastructure. So we needed to change plans. We are still holding onto the idea of working with sea turtles and tourists, but without those high initial investments. We thought “if we can’t set up a best-example conservation project and eco-lodge, why don’t we try at least to bring tourists to those few sites which are already in place?”. More information on this will follow soon. We keep fighting for our dream. But we need to adapt to our possibilities and our non-existent budget.
About a month ago, we visited the beach San Diego which is about one and a half hours away from Managua. It must be due to the terrible road conditions that there hasn’t been any kind of major development here yet – well, except for the terrific GRAN PACIFICA something-complex with a golf course, where fat Americans with their wineglass and their cigar stroll along the tiny beach in front.
In fact, there were two other tourism businesses along the whole kilometer-long stretch of beach: an eco-lodge (with at least some vegetation in front, hoooray!) and Mind the Gap Nica, which is a place to drink some beer, enjoy some beauty treatment and volunteer with the local community (yes, a kind of creative business concept). Talking to those three (now really happy and lucky) Americans who own this place made us realize two things:
- Life is not fair. Those three have never even seen a sea turtle or wasted their time and money working with them, but after just two months of opening up their business they were asked by a local NGO if they would like to run a hatchery on their property – soon they will get trained and live the dream that we are having for years already!
- We need to stay optimistic. Talking to those cool, laid-back and optimistic kind of people really helps sometimes. Just remembering the words “Don’t listen to anyone who doesn’t know about your type of business but tells you how to do this and that” and “Just go fucking do it. Most people who fail do so because they fear the risks and don’t dare to go forwards. Just do it and it will work”
Well, the guy who said this had two businesses back in the US which provided him with a steady income while settling in in Nicaragua, which made it far more easier than in our case, but hey! I got a little bit more optimistic at least.
OUR LIFE RIGHT NOW
So how is our everyday life right now? I am at home, working and taking care of my cats, while Melvin still tries to find a permanent, well-paid job. Sigh. Many business owners here in San Juan del Sur offer spontaneous jobs without a contract, so that they can kick the new employees out again anytime the work load gets less. Then, some restaurant owners yell at their employees because they don’t manage to bring in the non-existent tourists and who else would be blamable for this. Then, some other business owners pay little more than 100 $ a month for a full-time, 6-days a week-job. Seriously? (we pay already 60 $ a week for pretty basic food for two persons)
So we are still waiting. At least THERE ARE some job offers here compared to Managua. But the right option is still missing. I am frustrated.
Our apartment is pretty small. And it only has one door, no window. So to get some kind of daylight and at night some kind of fresh air, the door is open 24 hours. Unless we leave, of course. I really feel like in a hotel room. I have a TV, a desk, a bed, a small kitchenette and a tiny bathroom with a wonderful shower head. Sand gets in all the time. Just like being on vacation.
The great thing is to have our own kitchen!!! In Managua we shared it with other people. Now I really appreciate being able to cook whenever I want and what I want, without having others observe and comment on my awful cooking skills.
A CAT LOVER’S TRAGEDY
We came to San Juan del Sur with three cats. Kit and Kat were joined by Twix, a younger kitten that had lived on the streets of Managua before. After basically living with us for a month, stealing KitKat’s food and making friends with them, we decided that Twix is now part of the family. Not being used to humans, it was quite a struggle to get her settled in, but after some weeks of special Dani-attention she started to have herself petted and touched without running away!!!
Those three cats made my days. They were fabulous together. Especially Kat and Twix became real close friends, while Kit stayed with me all day long, telling me how much she loves me.
Then we got them sterilized. Barely anyone does this here. I don’t know why. Is it because it does cost 40$? Or because the patients need special attention for two days afterwards? I was ready to keep those three for the rest of their lives, and I wanted them to stay my little babies forever, never giving us unwanted kittens and experiencing motherhood (haha, that sounds a bit weird).
Just two days after the operation, Kat (the black one) went missing. She is simply GONE. We were gone with the car for 4 hours in the afternoon and when we returned, there were only two of them left. First we thought Kat had gone on a little adventure and got stuck or lost somewhere. We looked EVERYWHERE. Every morning and every night. We put up posters throughout town, offering a high reward, in case someone found her in his backyard or restaurant.
By now, we are pretty sure that she simply got STOLEN. She was THE MOST BEAUTIFUL CAT. Many had told us how beautiful she is with her big eyes and the nice colouring. She was now sterilized, something that most people don’t want to pay for. And most probably, the cats were sleeping in our open front yard, making it easy for someone to take her away. As far as I know my cats, they don’t go on adventures in the middle of the day, and Kat would have never left without being followed by Twix.
I know that most people don’t understand my pain. But I love those cats just too much. Maybe you could compare it to a mum loving her baby, even though they’re animals. But they are MY BABIES.
And Kat was the one I truly wanted from the day she was born (we took Kit, her sister, so that there’s two of them and Twix just jumped in half-way). The worst is to not know 100% what happened. And to imagine that she is dead somewhere, or living in a household where they don’t give her special food, a proper cat toilet and all that love and attention I gave her.
Sigh. I hope my other two cats are safe at least. Don’t try to mess with me, San Juan del Sur.
To not have this blog post end with a sad story, here are two photos of El Ostional and the sunset in La Flor Wildlife Refuge, when we were waiting for the arribada to happen – but we only saw five turtles altogether. Still enough to keep our little turtle-lover hearts up and running.