mouseworks: A crop of an orchid shot taken with a Nikon 105 macro lens (Default)
posted by [personal profile] mouseworks at 09:53pm on 04/02/2011
When I got outside after futzing around on line, water from an overflowing sewer line was running in the gutter nearest my house. One of the neighbors said something in Spanish that sounded like a warning and pointed to the water. I took a breath...

Since I'd had to have wiring work done of my house to get two grounded outlets for the computer stuff and wanted to be able to test the wiring in future rentals I might consider, I walked up to the hardware store which didn't have the right sort of AC circuit tester, but which did have modern versions of the double knife switch with two flat wire fuses that had been my original and ungrounded junction box. The hardware store didn't have a circuit tester with a second probe, so I couldn't test grounding with the one they did have for AC.

A box of books I'd mailed out of Virginia on January 5 had arrived with a charge of C$5 for customs. Someone from Direccion General de Servicios Aduaneros, Administracion de Aduana Postal had been through the box, put a list inside describing the contents inside, and then taped it up. Aduana/Customs in Nicaragua wants us to know it cared, just like Homeland Security went through my check on bags and left a note, I suppose. Duty on the box was five cordobas, with cordobas now running 22 or so to the dollar. The box was in transit or Managua for one day less than a month. It still weighed 27 or so pounds, so I got a taxi home.

Got the box up packed and called the guy making my bookcase, asked how that was coming and said the books were now all over the sewing machine but not to rush since I didn't have any cloth. I then asked if his friend the Nicaraguan electrician would want to see what the gringo electrician did to put in proper wiring for computers. He thought that he would (and we're talking about it as wiring for computers, not as any criticism of how the guy wires houses for lights and refrigerators).

One of the books was a book on growing tropical fruit in Florida that I'd saved since finding it about fifteen years ago in a used book store. It also tells what the nutritional components of each fruit is and whether it's for jams and jellies or for eating out of hand. I also had more Spanish books, and a bilingual reader I need to start working through.

After that, I bought honey at the Coffee Growers Coop and crema from my landlord's renting agent who also runs a pulperia.

Then I hooked up the OWC Neptune firewire case and found out that the hard drive inside had died. I think the Seagate drive is under warranty still, but would have some difficulty proving it hadn't been dropped in shipping it here. I took the case apart to get the drive out and will see what the boys at the shop have in the way of replacement drives. If they don't have something I can use or if the problem is in the case (which is older than the current drive), I'll see what the USB external drives look like. I could possible partition one and make a Windows XP partition for the Acer and a Mac partition for the Mini. The Neptune case only works with FireWire, advantages and disadvantages with that.

Note to self -- consider preventive maintenance replacement of the cased external drives every two years, especially if they've been stored without running them for a while.

I shudder at getting inside a Mac Mini, but people have added more memory and larger notebook drives to those.
mouseworks: A crop of an orchid shot taken with a Nikon 105 macro lens (Default)
posted by [personal profile] mouseworks at 05:54pm on 28/01/2011
I want to get certain work done on the house to use the computer more safely (there's no breaker box, no grounding) and wanted to get a circuit for hot water. But today two guys came by to look at the house (with the landlord's agent's mother). It's on the market for US$50K which is more than I would want to pay for it and we'd technically have a month to find new accommodations if it did sell.

I've got a Medrano Express box on its way by sea and have no idea whether anything will happen before that comes, but today was a reminder that I can't count on this place being mine forever unless I had US$40K or so to offer and wasn't facing better offers.

In other news, I am waiting to see if the guy coming in from Managua will have the USB headsets with microphones so I can do Skype phone calls on the Mac. My young friend at the computer store and I attempted to discuss the virtues of Windows over Mac and Linux. I told him I'd run a Solaris machine once but that was mas deficile. Linux no es deficile. I don't think he believed me. The kids in the store looked like high school students and apparently are -- this kid was out in the morning until 3 p.m. There's a whole swarm of them, then two older guys who I think own the store. It's a small but deep storefront, fairly typical of things around here. They do computer repairs, sometimes out in the street. The kids are very different in some ways than US computer kids (more polite and very much still Nicaraguan kids) but the same in other ways (OS arguments).

I'd love to stay here, but that might not be possible. I've had leads on other places, but will wait and see. One person had her office in the building and wanted someone to be around at night in a separate apartment. Haven't checked further to see if that was still available, but selling a house here would probably take at least as long as selling one in the US. Should have reasonable notice, I hope.

I wanted to split the electric service and get my service in my name, but I might better wait until I'm in more permanent quarters. The woman next door probably doesn't pay any more than I do, possibly less, and I figured that the owner in Miami would be better off selling the place for $40K (don't know how the figures work for $30K) than renting to us for 10 years at circa US $180 a month (US $90 each). Break point seems to be $21.6K for ten years -- worth the same to rent (minus repair expenses). If I had the money, I'd consider making her an offer at US$30K, but I don't. There are other places to rent in Jinotega, but I've gotten to know this neighborhood.
mouseworks: A crop of an orchid shot taken with a Nikon 105 macro lens (Default)
posted by [personal profile] mouseworks at 08:05am on 22/01/2011
One of the things I've come away from the recent robbery and various discussions on line about Nicaraguan crime is that any of us is as safe as our neighbors want us to be and as safe as we're able to read the cultures we're in. I knew that I should have gotten the keys back from my friend, that her boy friend had robbed in the past and was under stress now. Didn't, got robbed of what I hadn't thought to move to friends. He robbed me rather selectively: one pair of commodity boots, but not the handmade boots; the flashlights, but not the kitchen pan worth far more than the flashlights; the parka but no other clothes, and the propane tank (for quick money) but none of the other furniture. I could imagine his excuses for what he was doing.

The other thing I realized is that all my life I'd traded time for the usual middle class comforts, and that most people could barely read one culture, much less several. The easy way is to blackbox all other cultures and classes as dangerous, thus the gated communities, the people who make blanket statements about "the element," who think the Sierra Foothills were ruined by the Hispanics, and all that.

Theft cross cultural or class lines isn't as common as stealing within a culture or class, but it's perhaps easier if the person being robbed sees all of "them" as looking alike.

I've lived most of my life in dodgy neighborhoods and that decision has cost me less than the alternative of living in places that cost ten times what my rent here is, or my rent on Mott Street was. And I'm finding that I don't regret that decision.

And I sympathize with the cultures who have no completely evil humans in their myths rather than the ones who demonize other humans. The Stone Man in the Cherokee myth had to be killed, but in his dying, he gave humans corn.

My thief has given me the makings of a character.
mouseworks: A crop of an orchid shot taken with a Nikon 105 macro lens (Default)
posted by [personal profile] mouseworks at 03:43pm on 21/12/2010
...a stamp in my passport which says I have to pay the Nicaraguan government 70 cordobas (less than $5) for permission to exit the country. I am a permanent resident of Nicaragua for the next five years.

I like it here. Stay out. More gringos would ruin the place. Drunk Bob was mugged in his walker while drunk in the bad neighborhood, so it's really not safe, if you're stupid.
mouseworks: A crop of an orchid shot taken with a Nikon 105 macro lens (orchid)
posted by [personal profile] mouseworks at 12:33pm on 20/11/2010
...marrying the Torchwood University to my Centuries Ago and Very Fast Universe shed Torchwood and picked up the daughter of Diana of the Ephesians, and will be joining other stories with no media tie ins in a collection that will be coming out from Aqueduct Press sometime in the next year or two. Mine editor has re-write suggestions, so the next three weeks will be work on that.

In other news, I've made Nicaragua geek boys very happy by passing around a Doctor Who DVD.
mouseworks: A crop of an orchid shot taken with a Nikon 105 macro lens (Default)
posted by [personal profile] mouseworks at 04:08pm on 23/10/2010
It's been hot today with intermittent soldiers, young vulnerable looking kids with either pistols on their hips or riding in the back of a truck with something larger. Friends tell me there's a base nearby.

We also have cattle being driven through town occasionally, and once touring my neighborhood without a guide. I had one checking out my house. Photos on Facebook.
mouseworks: A crop of an orchid shot taken with a Nikon 105 macro lens (Default)
I will have at least one additional phone call to make and a trip or two to Managua (to Intur to pick up the certificate of approval and to Immigration to get photographed for the cedula and then back to Immigration to get the cedula and the permission to go back to the US to sell my car).
mouseworks: A crop of an orchid shot taken with a Nikon 105 macro lens (Default)
posted by [personal profile] mouseworks at 04:40pm on 21/09/2010
Jinotega is the best mix of Lower East Side and the mountains.

Ex-patriation makes me realize that who I am is contingent on things that I didn't have any control over, and some of the great SF, like Disch's "The Alien Shore," is about the more threatening side of this recognition -- if I'd been born here, my life would have been, or could have been, radically different.

I've been sick and think some of the problem is the pigeons living in the space between the drop ceiling and the roof, so with the advice of my landlord's agent, I'm going to see about evicting las palomas. I'd really like to use a German ex-pat I've had do things before, but the landlord's agent wants to use someone cheaper. We shall see how this works out.

On Thursday, I have to call Managua and find out how my application for residency is coming. If approved, I will have to make the trip to Managua and to Immigration and have my photo made for the cedula. The actual card apparently takes a month to make.

Started a new novel with an old character after throwing out attempts to set something with Vel in the Torchwood Universe. So far, it's notes and stretches of various first person dialogue. Vel joins the modern world and gets special dispensation to have a government fake his passports for him rather than having his family do it.

I have no idea whether I can sell the thing or not, but it's fun to be working on something, and be 3,000 feet up and several thousand miles from the nearest dedicated s.f. fan who thinks Science Fiction World has some coherent and perhaps intelligent meaning, and that writing is a job, not who you are.

Who you are is a job -- work is part of it.
location: Sollentuna Hem, Jinotega, using the WIFi
mouseworks: A crop of an orchid shot taken with a Nikon 105 macro lens (Default)
posted by [personal profile] mouseworks at 05:22pm on 12/08/2010
I've been here two weeks and don't have any desire at the present to go back to the US. The city I'm living in, Jinotega, is somewhat like the Lower East Side in the 1960s, early 1960s before that many artists, poets, and writers discovered the place. The locals hustle, doing different things, some illegal (my driver who took a detour by a mariachi cantina in the opposite direction from Jinotega was recently arrested in a drug sting). It has stone laundry sinks in the kitchen rather than tubs and is surrounded by mountains, so there are some differences, but the strong feel of scrambling to do better, to make money, to survive in a strange world (internet and PlayStations are here)is the same. The people here didn't move from the Old Country -- the different arrived here, starting with the Spanish.

Jinotega has the spread between rich and poor that places with raw material export economies and seasonal work have. Coffee and cattle are the money crops here. Picking is seasonal and there's some attempt to find other crops, mainly cocoa, that are harvested in different seasons than coffee. Jinotega is the service town for the district, the equivalent of the county seat, and has the doctors, dentists, furniture and clothing stores, and such that provide the things that people can't grow for themselves.

Food is cheap; thumb drives are insanely expensive ($30 US for a 1 GB thumbdrive). Couple of restaurants and hotels have wifi. And some people ride into town on horses and burros, while behind the front walls, one catches glimpses of some very beautiful modern versions of the local architecture.

I've left my documents with Suzanne's lawyer for the approval and such of the translations of the originals. Then we have to make three copies of everything, and take them to Managua, next week. If this goes smoothly, it will be much cheaper than hiring a Managua immigration lawyer. If not, I'm out a couple hundred dollars. I don't think all the documents are time-sensitive, but if I have to have things redone, I'll be back in DC in December when I go back to sell my car and arrange shipping of my electronics gear and kitchenware, and shoes, and some clothes.

It's 73 degrees F in Jinotega at 5:25 PM.
mouseworks: A crop of an orchid shot taken with a Nikon 105 macro lens (Default)
posted by [personal profile] mouseworks at 10:15am on 08/08/2010
One of my ex-pat friends coined a term for something we've been observing for a while -- humanotourism. She's been working on translating interviews with people from all points on the Nicaraguan political spectrum, including people who've been Sandinistas, Contras, and back to Sandinista (the photo looked like a guy who liked to have fun), as well as a man whose nom-de-guerre was Suicide (because he dragged his gun behind him in adolescent fool-hardiness). Across the political, Nicaraguans tend not to want all that help.

What we see is a group of people, generally larger than the numbers needed to do the task they came to do, taking over a hotel and talking mostly to each other and not to people who aren't in their group, who don't hire Nicaraguans to work with them, or even have Nicaraguans working with them as volunteers, coming in to do something, but not really anything that requires importing Americans and putting them up at the most expensive hotel in town (Hotel Cafe, with rate up to US standards). They make comments about Jinotega (a city of shop and hotel keepers, many female) not being as bad as they expected (it's actually cleaner than most Central American cities) and not having the expected chickens in the street (too many street dogs and cars, much safe to put the chickens in the back yard as my neighbor has done). They have, by God, come to do good to the Nicaraguans, including painting a house, playing music, and building a community center.

Houses here are generally good to go whether they're painted or not -- it's the land of cinder block and brick houses for the most part and the stucco and paint is more decorative than structurally imperative. Feeding people doesn't really deal with the structural problems that causes people to leave their farms and try to make a go of life in Managua, or with good agricultural land being used for export crops. And it doesn't require 18 people to stay in the Hotel Cafe.

Humanotourists feel good and go home to tell wonderful stories about the dirt roads in town, the cobblestone streets, and the gratitude of the Nicaraguan people (who are very polite and patient with gringos).

Housing issues are more complex, too. Food is an inelastic cost (either in the labor of growing it or in having the money to buy it) if a person is to have reasonably good health. Housing can go down to zero (sharing a house) or pretty damn cheap (many farm worker and even farmer houses here are dirt floored, with no running water, latrine toilets. Seeing the poor housing as the thing that needs to be fixed tends to mean that people become house poor in ways that are far more threatening to people's well being than being house poor in most of the US.

It's the tropics. People need shelter from the rain more than from heat or cold.


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