Today was a "Top 20 Day." Maybe a "Top 10." 

I often grade days based on where they rank in the timeline of my life. Marrying Polly was a "Top 1" day. Well, there have been times when it dropped back to a "Top 20" or so day, but it always climbs the ladder back to the top! The birth of Annie and Grady. Definitely "Top 2" days. Now this opens me to the criticism that I put my wife before my kids. No, I just teach my kids that ya' know, sometimes being #2 doesn't suck too badly. And there are many days when you are elevated to #1 while your mom is in the doghouse! 

Today, we got to go on an island tour of what are called "Las Isletas," which means "The Little Islands" in Spanish. When the Mombacho volcano blew up, over 300 little islands were created from the remains of the blast. They are scattered fairly closely to the mainland city of Granada and an easy 2-hour boat tour. FYI...Granada is located on the northern shores of Lake Nicaragua, the 10th largest lake in the world. The population is about...blah, blah, blah, insert Wikipedia stuff here. 

Anyway, Rodolfo, our indispensable guide had us driven to where the boats hang out and we took off. Alex, our "Captain Stubing" to Rodolfo's "Julie McCoy" safely navigated us through the islands while Rodolfo gave us the touristy info. The islands can actually be purchased and many have homes on them. NICE homes. We rode by an island owned by the richest guy in Nicaragua, a Carlos Pellas, who seems to own pretty much everything in Nicaragua. I'm sure you're thinking, "OK...richest guy in Nicaragua. So what? In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king." But this guy has fat cash and his island home was impressive. Socialism works in mysterious ways!

Rodolfo asked me, "Will the kids be scared if we bring a monkey onto the boat?" I told him the kids would be fine, but I asked if would Alex be offended if I crapped my pants on his boat? As good as English as Rodolfo speaks, I'm not sure he understood that a monkey cruising around on the boat might scare the crap out of ME! 

So we cruised up in our little "Love Boat" and Rodolfo started making monkey noises. Did I mention the guy is GOOD? He told me this little island is called "Monkey Island," apparently named by the same marketing geniuses who came up with the jingle for American Family Insurance which goes like this, "American Family Insurance."  See? Not much creativity in North OR Central America. I'm sure Senor Pellas owns the marketing company, too, so what does he care? Anyhooooo...a veterinarian supposedly put the monkeys there in some sort of weird Alcatraz-like fit of simian seclusion, with the intention of creating a safe environment for them. Yep, 'cause we humans always do right by our animal friends, huh?

"Dammit, Thomas! Back on track! Back on track!"


BAM! Spider monkey swings out of a tree and lands on the back of the boat. Now here is something I guarantee you did NOT know about spider monkeys. They LOVE rice and beans. I know! Cool, huh? Alex had brought some and put on the back of the boat. GULP! went the monkey. ADIOS! went the beans and rice, or, "Gallo Pinto" en Espanol. Then, he ate a tomato.

Next thing we know, he's eyeing Grady. Rodolfo said "Be still and just let the monkey go where he wants to." What I heard was, "OH MY GOD, HE'S GONNA ATTACK AND WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!" So, little Cheetah wannabe hops over to Grady and starts snuggling with him. No kidding. He starts petting on Grady and actually hugs him around the neck and puts his little monkey head on Grady's chest. Gotta say, it's about the cutest thing I've ever seen a monkey do. Of course, prior to this, I'd only seen a monkey throw his own feces at a lady at the zoo, but you get my point. 

Then the monkey must have decided that Grady smelled bad and needed a bath. Dude, when a monkey living on a little island decides you smell bad, you need to start using a bit more soap in the shower! So, he tried to pull Grady's hat off, unfortunately attached by a strap around his neck. We got the hat off and Cheetah jumped on his shoulders and started grooming him like in a Jane Goodall kinda way. NOW I felt like a bad parent. Really? A monkey is calling my kid dirty? That's not right. I didn't go over to the monkey's house and make HIS parents feel bad because the monkey can't read or play Soduku. Grady won't cut his hair! What am I supposed to do?

For about 40 seconds, the monkey picked through Grady's hair looking for bugs and stuff. Fortunately, he found nothing and I think Cheetah looked a bit disappointed. He finally spotted Annie and hopped over into her lap. Annie was in love right away, but unfortunately, she didn't get the head-cleaning treatment. I think the monkey could tell that Annie is usually MUCH cleaner than Grady. The monkey did sit on her lap awhile but then decided it was time to head back to Monkey Alcatraz. Apparently, "visiting hours" were over.

We got some good video of the head-cleaning and I'm sending it to America's Funniest Home Videos. MUCH stupider stuff than our video has won $10,000! 

I had mixed emotions about the monkey shampoo. Admittedly, it was very cute and very funny. But, I think most monkey head baths are pretty funny...right up until the time the monkey decides to rip your face off. Like I've always said, "Monkey games are all fun and good until someone loses an eye, an ear, a nose and some hair."

We ended our tour at a little bar on an island that had a Macau, a bar and a big pool overlooking the lake. I think the bar has the same pool cleaner as we have at our house here! But did I mention the bar? 


Part 2 of Top 10 Day!

That night, we decided to go out for dinner! Hoooray! I'm enjoying Nicaraguan food, but I wanted some true-blue, down home, honest-to-goodness food from America! So, we went to a neat looking Mexican place, of course! 

When you eat at an outdoor table at a restaurant in Nicaragua, you have to expect street merchants. Here's a list of the vendors who came by during our 2-hour dinner: A middle age couple singing and playing guitar and maracas, a teen playing a flute, 3 ladies selling hammocks, 4 ladies selling cigarettes and gum, 4 dogs selling nothing, and countless kids trying to sell us the aforementioned trinkets made from palm fronds. 

I had the genius idea that if bought a palm frond cricket from the first kid and left it on the table, the vendors would think, "Well, those nice white folks have already bought something and generously supported the Nicaraguan economy! We shall leave them be!" 


What our purchase did was signal every vendor from here to Utah that we were suckers willing to buy a cricket made from palm fronds. "Bring on the hammocks!" "How about a flute tune? SURE!" "Bracelets just $1!"  

DIGRESSION TIME...but there's a point.

The other night after dinner, we stopped at an ice cream place. Two minutes later, we had bought a palm frond flower from a kid. $1, but we paid with a banana split. One happy kid. But word spreads quickly among the palm frond selling clan and soon there was another kid. Then another. Then another. Next thing you know, we had bought ice cream for a bunch of kids until I was out of Cordobas, the local currency. We got pictures, Annie and Grady were laughing with the kids making fun of their Spanish and the store owner was glad to see us helping the kids. Then we bought the hammock mentioned earlier. Total cost: $12.

Now we return to our regularly scheduled blog.

So...one of the kids we bought ice cream from the other night shows up at our table to sell another flower. So we bought that one to keep the others away. Then he makes Polly a heart. Then he just stays. Here's the fun part. While we waited...and waited...and waited...for our food, Annie and Grady taught him how to play Uno. They had a great time trying to figure out how to communicate. Lots of pointing and laughing. Scott helped Alejandro with the rules and got to practice Spanish. 

We avoided the evil eye of the female owner. We figure she is protective of her place and doesn't want to encourage the local kids from bothering the customers. Or worse, stealing from us. Polly asked the waiter if it was OK, and he said it was.

So, the kids played UNO, ate chips that we gave them and we waited on dinner...and waited...and waited. But it was really great seeing Annie and Grady, speaking no Spanish, figuring out how to play a game with kids who spoke no English. We bought another cricket, "griso," and sent them on their way while we FINALLY ate dinner. 

Yep...that was a "Top 10 Day."


6/21/2012 01:54:17 am

Well now if that doesn't teach Annie that there is really no point to bathing than nothing will. Monkey sure was cute and could potentially be worth $10,000. I did notice that monkey did not in fact sit on your lap-too much cologne maybe? I loved the dinner story and the waiting and waiting for the food as well. See there would not have been enough time for UNO if the food came too quickly! Enjoy!


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