San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua
Departamento de Rivas
San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, is a port I have been looking forward to a lot. It is here that the Poudre River Public Library District has its sister library, and here that we will meet Jane Mirandette. Jane has been the big force behind San Juan del Sur’s public library; Jeff knows her, but I’ve met her only once.
The seas are rough and this is the only port during our cruise that does not have the facilities for cruise ships to dock so we will have to be tendered in. Being tendered in means that the ship will use some of its lifeboats to ferry passengers back and forth to the pier.
To our horror the captain announces that because of the rough seas, we may not be able to use the tenders. OH NO!!! We have a big stack of Spanish children’s books, office supplies and three huge bags of chocolates we need to deliver! And, anticipating that empty space in our suitcase, we have promised Mary that we’ll put some of her souvenirs in our bag when going home. After a bit the captain comes back on the loudspeaker and we guess from the tone of his voice that we’re going to be handing out chocolates and pens to all of the passengers. But, he surprises us by announcing that the sailors who took the tenders for test runs pronounce the voyage to shore to be safe. Yippee! Jeff and I scurry around packing up the big backpack. We want to get off the ship in the first wave if we can in case conditions worsen later in the morning and they stop taking people ashore. We get our tender tickets and wait for our numbers to be called.
Success! We get into San Juan del Sur. Jane is going to meet us here at the cruise port. She emailed Jeff early this morning because she saw that there were no tenders and knew what that meant. When she saw the lifeboats starting to arrive she came to the port to greet us.
Well, you know about the ‘best laid plans’ right? We walked back and forth from the cruise port gate down the sidewalk and back again eight or nine times. (And dang if the same vendor didn’t try to sell us the same little whistle every single time. haha!)
Then we split up as there are two different ways to exit the port. Looking back, this was kind of a dumb idea because I really have no idea what she looks like!
After an hour we decided that something had gone wrong and somehow we have missed each other.
Screwing up my courage, I asked one of the port guards, “Donde es la biblioteca publica?” (Where is the public library?) and I couldn’t believe it when I understood the directions he gave me. They were good directions, but we went two blocks too far which we discovered when someone offered us a free tote bag. “Would you like a free tote bag?” I caught myself before saying “no.” What I said was “Oh! English!” and she told us to go back two blocks.
We found the public library and asked the person inside where we could find Jane. He said, “She is at the cruise port meeting some friends.” We told him that WE are the people she is looking for. He takes us to the hotel – turns out Jane owns a B&B in San Juan del Sur – and he calls to let her know we are there. Pretty soon she arrives in a truck with a library employee and a young woman. The young woman, Kate, is doing an internship for her MLS (Masters of Library Science) which she is getting from the University of Colorado, Denver! She arrived only yesterday and is getting her bearings.
Jane gives us a tour of the B&B – very nice! And offers to let us use her free wi-fi, but we want to see the library first. We walk over to the library, still carrying the backpack, that now feels like it weighs 80 pounds. We give Jane the books, office supplies and and big bags of chocolates for the kids, and she gives us a tour of the public library.
Naturally it is small, but they do have five computer stations with free internet, a classroom, and bins of books for their “mobile” libraries.
Poudre River Public Library District employees were down within the last year to help them set up an online circulation system, so this little library is up-to-date! Pokey and Gumby really enjoyed having a few minutes to read. (Jane was excited about Pokey and Gumby and kept setting up photo shoots for them.)
Kind of attached, but not really part of the library, is an area where handicapped children make bags to sell. They are made by repurposing bags that big bags of rice are sold in. Once the decorating and sewing of the bag is finished, the child writes his or her name inside. One of Jeff’s work friends asked him to pick up 5 bags for her. When I see them, I must have one, too! Isn’t it cute?
The three of us walk into town to have lunch. Jane takes us to El Bocadito (roughly translated as “small mouth), a tapas restaurant. In the restaurant we meet two of her good friends and we all order a selection of tapas. But the amazing thing about this restaurant is the waiter. He is drop dead f-ing GORGEOUS. Jeff leans over to ask me to take a picture of the menu AND the waiter! So it wasn’t just me! One of Jane’s friends asks if I noticed the waiter. “Are you kidding me??” I said to her, “How could you NOT??”.Trust me this photo of him does not remotely capture how good looking this guy is.
Whew, is it hot in here? hahaha! (BTW, there is NO way, I would trade my wonderful, gorgeous husband for him!)
After lunch, we get a personal tour of the city. This woman knows absolutely everyone and everyone knows her. I swear we could go no more than 30 feet without meeting a friend. Of course she’s lived here about 17 years. And last year Jane received Nicaragua’s “Ex-patriot of the Year” award!
Jane is trying to sell us on moving to Nicaragua instead of Costa Rica.
We begin by visiting a school of which she is also the benefactor. There is a charter school in San Juan del Sur that teaches English, but only the wealthy children can afford to attend – Jane has started the same kind of school, but for the street kids. Isn’t that great?
We pop in on a class of a dozen first or second graders who are learning their numbers and addition in English. They are eager to show off. The teacher asks them, “How many students are in our class?” The answers, shouted out in little voices, ranged from 9 to 12. Watching the kids was great fun.
This school also has a preschool. The room was painted in bright, cheery colors. There were toys in the room, too: a dollhouse, some Legos, many stuffed animals – Jane told us that these are the only toys many of these children have to play with.
There are more children who want to attend, but the school doesn’t have enough teachers or supplies. Jane said sometimes when the children are in class, a parent will sidle up to the door to try and learn English as well. The importance of and need for education here is incredible. Children (and parents – who may be illiterate in Spanish) wanting to learn and for them not to have that opportunity is mind boggling.
Time to see more of the city. We pass a local market and learn that apples are very expensive here as they must be imported.
We walk to El Gato Negro (Black Cat) bookstore and coffeeshop. I buy a bag of Nicaraguan coffee and stick it in my now very empty backpack. Jane warns us as we wander through the small bookstore that if we take a book off the shelf and sit down to look at it – we’ve bought it! Good to know. There are some very cool cat paintings on the walls…I don’t know if they’re for sale or not, but they are neat.
Next we go to a restaurant/bar called “Dave’s Wave” (free wi-fi here, too). Jane points out the bookcase; this is a book shelf she has set up and stocks so people in the community have easy access to reading material. She really is amazing.
Walking on, down a sidewalk, we see a street artist’s paintings propped up against a fence. This is the guy who painted the cats for El Gato Negro! I stop to look; of course, Jane knows the guy. He tells me, putting his hand on his heart (a gesture of respect) that he will sell me anything at a very reduced rate because we are with Jane. I explain that a painting won’t fit in my luggage (and I don’t think Jeff is crazy about the cat paintings) and pass on his very kind offer.
Soon we are walking along the main drag when she stops in front of a large building. This is also her property. She rents two bottom units (one on the left and one of the right) on the ground floor to commercial tenants. The center of the ground floor is the lobby of her condo rentals! She takes us up to see one of the condos on the top (4th) floor. This building is across the street from the ocean – what a great view! And the condo itself is really nice. Remember the street artist? Jane commissioned him to do all the paintings that hang in the building.
We’ll need to keep her B&B or condos in mind for future travels. (If you are interested in her contact info, let me know.)
We make our way back to the library where a friend picks the three of us up and drops us off at Jane’s house. She has a very cute house with a wonderful view. All for $500 a month (and you can flush the toilet paper!)
It is getting late and we need to get back to the ship – and we never did get to use any free wi-fi! Jane calls one of her staff who takes the three of us to the cruise port. I’m sorry for the day to end. She is so inspiring!
Back aboard the Island Princess, we relax and in the early evening go downstairs to listen to the string quartet. They have become our favorite entertainment.
The show in the Princess Theater tonight is Jeff Peterson who is a comedian/magician. I am NOT a magic fan, at all, but his helper is a cute little dog and I enjoy seeing her performance. After the show, we swing by the Wheelhouse Bar for happy hour. During happy hour you buy one drink and get the second for a dollar. Jeff gets two Seawitch beers – that is Princesses’ own brand. Back in our cabin he puts the beer in our refrigerator and we hang out on the deck watching the ocean roll by until it is time for bed.