There’s no place like home when house sitting in a region rocked by civil unrest and demonstrations.
We’re house sitting in Nicaragua and while the house sit is great, the civil unrest, arson, kidnappings, assassinations and looting are having an impact.
“There’s a 12 gauge in the closet”
We often plan our house sitting well in advance, up to a year, but the downside of long-term planning is that things can get weird.
Last year, we accepted a house sit in Nicaragua, about 1 ½ years in advance. Oops.
7 weeks before our house sit was to begin, the people of Nicaragua began protesting.
Now into late June, the protest has become much more.
What the world media call “civil unrest”, most normal people call a revolution.
In all but name, it’s a civil war and if our waiter’s to be believed, it’ll end “when he’s dead”.
What’s Going On?
On April 19, 2018, the people of Nicaragua began to protest a change to social benefits.
Now, at the start of August, there’re over 300 confirmed dead and many more “missing”.
There’re a lot of guns on the street, and barricades made from street paving stones are everywhere.
The local police station has a fabulous barricade because, word has it, some of the good guys are bad guys.
During our time here, we’ve experienced: food and gas shortages, empty bank machines and price inflation. We’ve also had moments of worry, anxiety and yes, fear.
In the first week of the house-sit, the Mayor’s Office was burned out, 27 people were reported to have died, and fighting was reported in at least 5 different cities.
There’s no tourism, expats have left, and a very poor country is about to get much poorer.
If nothing else, this promises to be a unique experience.
Are You Still Coming?
To be fair, we knew the situation, and the owner gave us an “out” option.
10-days before we were to travel, she emailed and said: “we’d understand if you don’t want to come.”
We did think about not going.
The situation’s fluid, there’re some bad things happening and there is a risk.
We’ve heard a few things, but the news is that in the area we would be going to, everyone there feels safe.
Our homeowners have lived there for 12 years and had no feelings of insecurity or lack of safety.
Louise, to balance the debate, says we should go because:
- we had committed to go
- all the sources we checked said Granada was fine and there had been no violence there
- our contacts on the ground say it’s “in a bubble” they won’t let anything happen to a world heritage site
- “it’ll be our first revolution”
The homeowners were fantastic, warm and welcoming and took us around town, introducing us to Miguel and Janice our local contacts who were of amazing help to us.
There were people on the streets, it was busy and noisy, as it should be. No signs of the gathering storm.
We’d planned on a 4-day hand-over, but on the morning of day three their driver called and suggested they leave immediately to avoid what may happen tomorrow.
The homeowner, before leaving, tells me:
“There’s a 12 gauge and lots of shells in the closet.” Comforting.
Not a Normal Tuesday – The Bubble Bursts
Today is the first day of our house sit.
The driver was right, our little city in a bubble is no longer immune to the violence.
Fighting, gun-shots and mortar fire began downtown at 5 AM. We’re about 2 miles away, but the sound carries.
The tension is palpable… even up in our local barrio people are walking faster, getting to where they need to go as quickly as possible. Not the same languid pace of the days previous.
We are in continual contact with Miguel, who is at ground zero in the city, and he keeps us informed of where the barricades are and where the fighting is.
The live news stories show both the devastation and the locals out in droves cleaning up with shovels and wheelbarrows.
No government help, just people helping people.
By the time things settle early Wednesday, a 14-year old boy is dead, the mayor’s office has been gutted by fire, the open market has been shut down by thugs terrorizing the locals, and many stores have been looted.
The looting was done by two groups: the bad guys and the locals.
The bad guys loot to hurt business and for personal financial gain while the locals loot to protect the business owners who’re friends and family.
Today, Wednesday, the locals brought back everything they’d taken. The stores were quickly re-stocked and most of the businesses survive. Turns out it really does take a village.
We’re Not Alone
Our friends, Dick and Jane, are here.
We’ve visited and stayed together on a couple of house sits. They’re a bit out of town so safer in one sense, less safe in another.
Dick and Jane live about 15 minutes away but, due to roadblocks, it has at times taken them 2 hours to commute, so right now visits are rare.
We’ve learned of a woman house sitting alone on an island. She’s almost out of food and the local store has little, there’s no cooking gas to be found, and things are looking tough.
People are coming onto her property at night and taking food from the trees. Her food supply is in jeopardy and conditions for her are much more challenging than ours. Not surprisingly, she’s worried about her safety.
She contacted the owner – a sweetheart of a guy it turns out – who told her “you’ve got to stay, you can’t leave.” What does she do?
She made sure the animals had care, communicated with the owner and, like any reasonable person, she left. Well played.
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