1. Not having bats hanging from your ceiling.
2. My kids having all the pencils they need for school
3. Leftovers
4. My 77 year old mother not having to sell hammocks in the street
5. My 6 and 8 yr old not having to make palm leaf flowers on the sidewalk for $1
6. My sweet wife being able to speak Spanish so well. I've actually never taken that for granted. It's pretty cool to hear her do it!
7. Air conditioning set at 78 degrees by the "Finance Nazi."
8. Kids in clean clothes
9. Squeaky hardwood floors
10. My job

1. Apparently, it's quite common for the open-style homes here to have a bat or 2 hanging around in the rafters. There's good and bad to that. The good part is that many bats eat insects, so they keep the insect population down. The bad part is that these are not those kinds of bats. These bats eat fruit which they go out and find, bring back and proceed to hang upside down and eat. Strangely, they just eat the inside and just drop the outside wherever they may be. Newton's Law of Gravity applies equally to bats and therefore, the remains of their dinner falls down onto...everything, sofa and floor being the best target. Better fruit than poop, right!

2. Today was our first day volunteering at a school down the street. Scott is taking language classes there for 2 weeks and the rest of us are going to volunteer at the "school" there. It's called Casa Xalteva and it's a program for kids to learn and play in the morning before they go to actual "school" in the afternoon. There's a church attached to it, literally and figuratively, and they work together to try to help kids in the morning before they go to school in the afternoon. To start the day, the kids all got to color or draw and while they had plenty of colored pencils, many were broken or worn down. Not many erasers. Grady accidentally broke a pencil and one of the kid's eyes got really big like he has just crashed mom's car. If we were home, Grady could have run upstairs to his room and gotten 1 of the 200 pencils he has fastidiously sharpened with his electric pencil sharpener. Not so here. We are buying pencils for the school.

3. At dinner now, we purposely leave food so we can wrap it up and take with us. Not to re-heat and eat later, but to give to the kids we see in the street who come up and ask for money or food. This is an impossible situation: You would love to feed them all but you can't. And if you feed one, you are suddenly surrounded by 100. It's not a matter of what you can afford. It's logistics, time, supply, etc. Regardless, it's frickin' heart-wrenching and there's no other way to describe it. We're going to buy bags of food from street vendors to carry and then give out.

4. We bought a poorly made hammock from an old lady. Not because we need or want a poorly made hammock, but because we can't imagine our mothers having to sell hammocks door-to-door at 8 pm at night.

5. At all times of the day and night, there are countless children roaming the streets selling...everything. A popular product is the handmade trinket made of what looks like palm stalk. The kids charge $1 and will quickly make you a cricket, flower, heart, etc. It's amazing how quickly they make these things and how good they are. But it would be better if they were making them in school as part of an art class instead of trying to make money to live. 6-year old children should not be supporting families, but we know it's life down here. We now own 5 assorted hand-made palm stalk art pieces. The crickets are the coolest!

6. This would be a much different vacation without Polly around to speak for us. We could make do, but it would be VERY daunting. I'll try to remember how impressed I should be when people come to the US from other countries and speak English. In our schools, kids don't start trying to learn a foreign language until high school. Uh, have you ever tried teaching a high school kid to speak ENGLISH well, much less a foreign language?? Until we commit to having them start in kindergarten, Americans will never be bi-lingual. And who needs to learn a language to communicate with the rest of the world when you can take...Driver's Ed??

7. Polly and I sometimes have a "disagreement" over the air conditioning setting at our house. She likes it at 78 degrees while I would prefer 72. Why do I bother? I know I won't win. I can't even remember the last time I actually TOUCHED our thermostat. That being said, after living here, 78 degrees on the A/C sounds pretty good! Note: The place we're staying has A/C in the bedrooms and it feels great! Cooler than in my own house! Take THAT, Finance Nazi Polly!

8. My kids have clean clothes pretty much at the start of each day. What happens to them later is a far different story. But we are blessed with a washer and dryer and the ability to put clean clothes on Grady and Annie. We haven't seen any children here running around naked, but we have seen plenty of clothes that may have never been washed. We went on an island tour and saw women washing clothes in the lake. Next time Annie and Grady complain about clothes in any way, I'm taking them to Kennel Lake with a load of laundry and putting their butts work!

9. We have an older house in Illinois. Some of the hardwood floors squeak and you have to tip-toe in some places so as not wake the kids or Polly. They do not share the same concern for MY sleep! In Nicaragua, it is not uncommon to see makeshift homes with dirt floors. And yet, the hardworking moms will still fastidiously sweep the floors to clean them as best as possible. This is the kind of pride I think we could use a lot more of back home.

10. Sometimes teaching gets tiring. There's whining. Fussing. Arguing. Confusion. And that's just from the STAFF! Throw in students and it can be REALLY tough! But today, I watched a man my father's age going through a trash dump picking out cans to sell for metal. I saw a woman washing clothes in a lake. I saw a man 35 feet up walking on rafters roofing a house in 90 degree heat and 85% humidity. We have a housekeeper at the house we're staying at who is raising 4 kids on her own. The owner of the house said that if I gave her a FIVE dollar tip for the 2 weeks she's here, she'll be very happy.

My school has heat. My school has air-conditioning...sorry, Polly. My school is clean and safe. The staff is professional and cares about the kids. I'm pretty sure I'm done complaining about any difficulties I might experience at work.

SO...enough deep stuff for now, how 'bout it?

Today, we found a place where we could make our own cigars! At Dona Elba Cigars, they handroll about 1000 cigars a day for consumption all over the world...or at least upper Nicaragua and the U.S. They have a big picture of Arnold Scwarzeneggar on the wall smoking one of their cigars. They let Annie and Grady roll a couple then we bought some to take home. Grady and Annie insisted I smoke one by the pool that night, so I was happy to oblige. Ahhh...Suave! Not "Rico Suave" that's completely different. Suave means "smooth." It was funny watching Grady try a couple puffs. As soon as he sucked in some smoke he blew it out super fast. I'm pretty sure I don't have to worry about him smoking anytime soon. I don't smoke, but hey, when in Rome!

No more for today! I have the next post to catch up on!


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