We Learn That We Don’t Have Real Problems and Get Married Again.

House sitting in Nicaragua has given us a healthy dose of perspective.  All the things we believe are problems in Canada really aren’t.  With a break in the action, we act like tourists and get married by a flower.  (Old Nicaraguan tradition meaning we commit only to another year).


Anthony Bourdain is Gone, and I Don’t Care

We learned today that Anthony Bourdain has passed.

A celebrity dies, and social media is full of expressions of sadness.

The world needs a bit of perspective.

On Mother’s Day, Nicaraguan’s have parades and this year, the parades featured families and random assassinations.

In Managua, shooters killed or wounded more than 30 people.

A few weeks later, also in Managua, a man knocks on a door.  He’s a sniper and wants to go on the roof to shoot people. The homeowner says not on my roof.

The man, denied his chosen perch, gets some friends.

Police are a Target – Photo BBC News

They make certain no one can escape from the house and set the home ablaze.

They guard the house to make sure nobody can help the people trapped inside.

6 dead including children.

The word you’re looking for is terrorism.

Learn more at BBC NEWS

Maybe, Maybe

If you haven’t yet read, truth is the first casualty of war. Certainly, social media isn’t to be trusted.

Just yesterday, in one of the Facebook groups for expats, a post read: “The President has approved the killing of gringos”.  What a stupid post. I’m no longer a member of that group.

The word on the street from the locals, generally more reliable, is that the military is coming to our neck of the woods and that could be either good or bad.

There’re a few groups involved so things are confusing.  The police are absent hiding behind barricades, the paramilitary groups are pro-government and seem to be doing a lot of shooting. 

Blockade guarded by paramilitary – Photo BBC News

The military has stood on the sidelines but maybe they’ve decided to protect the people, or not.

Maybe it’s the beginning of martial law. Maybe it’s the beginning of full civil war.

Maybe they don’t come.

Maybe, maybe, maybe.


Rumors, Facebook and Stress

The greatest challenge of this house sit is trying to figure out what’s right, true, wrong or false.

One social media group had a post saying that Wednesday there’d be no power and “something bad” would happen Thursday.

Nope, didn’t happen.

Protester on barricade – photo BBC News

Another said the grocery stores were looted, oops, no, they weren’t, but another one was.  Also, not true.

Last night the city water was supposed to be turned off, which again, didn’t happen.

This restaurant is open, let’s go, oh, nope closed…try another that’s “supposed” to be open, no joy.

Emotionally, it’s a roller-coaster ride.

To be fair social media sometimes get things right.

Today, a Facebook post detailed kidnappings from inside a church, in one of the other towns, an altar boy is shot dead. This time, sadly, it was true.

How much can people take before the tipping point is reached?  A lot.


Revolutionary Economics: Cash is King

If you’re going to house sit during a civil war, buy as much food as you can as often as you can – especially if you don’t need it.  More, as they say, is better.

Prices are going up at the corner store at an alarming rate.  What cost $80 last week, cost $105 this week.  Supply and demand lives.

Troubling financial news: we’re having problems with our bank cards and they won’t connect with our bank in Canada. How interesting.

Miguel, our go-to guy, drives us around town looking for any bank machine that will work.

We go 0 – 5 before we get to one that has cash.  As a bonus, our cards work!

We take out much more than we need: $5,000 Cords, the local currency, and $400 USD in case we need to quickly leave the country.

Always have USD on hand as they take it everywhere in Nicaragua, and in case the economy topples, we have cash to get out.

We have three evacuation plans in place:

  • Plane, if the airport is open;
  • car, if we can avoid the barricades and get to Costa Rica,
  • or boat, which is the last route open to Costa Rica if we need it.

We think the US dollars will get us farther than the local currency because the border guards are just as corrupt as the police.


Everything Changes and “Normal” Returns

Just when we thought things couldn’t get stranger, everything changes. Thursday, the paramilitary showed up in our town.

National Police – Photo BBC News


14 trucks filled with heavily armed men. They’re armed with (among other items) grenade launchers and automatic weapons with silencers.

They’re here to remove the remaining blockades.

They’ve brought bull-dozers and trucks to remove the paving stones and free up the flow of trucks with food and gas.

They take the barricades down and within 1-hour, the locals begin putting them back.

Today, the streets are filled with people and everyone’s making plans.

We Act Like Tourists: Finally

We plan to spend a day at a Volcano lake and take a late afternoon tour to a different, active volcano.

We’re also planning a day of boating through the islands and have accepted an invitation to the weekly gringo luncheon.

All our plans succeed, we behave like tourists, and for a few days, we enjoy the illusion of safety.

A leisurely day boating through the islands – Photo HSW


We almost forget we are in the middle of a powder keg that can go sideways at any minute.

The president is showing no signs of giving in and neither are the people.

With a return to what appears as “normal” activity, there’s a bus-load of gringos taking a day trip to Managua for shopping.            

Louise, Dick and Jane are joining them for the 60 minute bus ride.                  

Turns out that today, more problems in Managua spooked the bus driver so they took the scenic route, a 12 hour round-trip “because it’s safer.”

Nothing’s normal, safety is an illusion, anything’s possible.


Lessons Learned

As Canadians, we take political and social stability for granted.

Our problems are things like traffic congestion, it’s raining, and I can’t see the doctor until tomorrow.


Graffiti accusing the police of genocide. Photo HSW

This is in stark contrast to the Nicaraguan people who need to worry about being shot by a sniper, being kidnapped, or having their home burned by the police or paramilitary roups.


We learned from the Nicaraguans that we have no problems.

No matter how bad the situation became, the Nicaraguans didn’t back down and are facing the adversity with courage and strength.


They’re going to need it because there’s no way this gets better before this gets worse.


In the End…

While the home was comfortable, the uncertainty from day to day, if not hour to hour, was the most distressing part of this house sit.

We never knew if we were safe, we couldn’t know what was around the next corner, and if we did, there’s nothing we could’ve done about it.

If you’re planning on house sitting during a civil war, keep a low profile, have a lot of cash on hand, buy food whenever possible and keep your sense of humor, you’ll need it.

We’re grateful to the locals who provided so much support to us, and for our friends, Dick and Jane without whom the experience would’ve bordered on insane.

Neither of us was injured, the home survived, and we’ve got a powerful story to share with family, friends and the house sitting community.

House sitting during a civil war is not for everyone and you can add our names to that list.

We won’t do that again.


Key Information:

It’s illegal to comment – positively or negatively – on the Nicaraguan government if you’re not a citizen.

With this blog, it’s unlikely we’re welcome back.

All names have been changed to protect our friends from possible harm and/or jail.

Many of the photos are from the BBC News Service and we make no claim of rights or ownership.

Taking pictures had to be done sneaky, sneaky and getting caught meant risk of jail – or worse.

<< Back to blog archive