As many of you have followed, we have been doing a merry dance to get our visa to stay for 3 years. When you arrive in Nicaragua you get a 90 day visa at the airport for $10 U.S. After the 90 days you can either extend by paying $60 or you can go to Costa Rica for 10 minutes and enter back into Nicaragua. We could have done this, although it means that we have limited access to things such as bank accounts and any other things that necessitate us producing a residency card. We decided to go for a visa for 3 years. I thought it was just us who may have been unorganised or misinformed about what was needed, but in the many hours we have spent in the office of the Ministry of Migration I have learnt that it takes every one many visits, copious amounts of paperwork and endless patience to get the final residency card. The irony of this is that when we want to leave the country we have to go through a process of 4 hours to get an exit visa. The other irony is that as pedantic as they are that you have the correct paper work, the actual documents really have little weight. For example we brought medical reports from our doctors in Australia that included our health history, results of blood tests and chest X-rays. These were not accepted here. Instead we had to go to one doctor who sent us to another, who wrote on a form that we were in good health, and we then had to take this document to the Ministry of Health (pay some money) for them to ratify that it was true that we were in good health. We ended up with two acceptable health certificates without having anyone even asked us if we were well. The question we often ask here is "Why do we have to do this?" And the answer is always "Because you do!".
We have spent a number of weekends in Managua in meetings with the board of directors trying to resolves the best way to face the reality that the project is no longer viable in its current form. This has been quite a shock for us as you can imagine, as this was not ever discussed prior to us arriving. After feeling pretty gutted that we may be home on a plane (even before we get our residence visa) we have worked with the board to look at alternative methods of continuing. On the whole I think it is a better methodology. The future vision will have greater emphasis on prevention involving a more holistic approach. This means the focus of my work will change for a while. When I am clearer about what that means I will let you know.
This all means some very tricky negotiating and supporting as the team goes through a period of transition. As much as we know from previous experience that you can never know what to expect, it does take a lot of emotional energy to continually remain flexible and positive and cognisant that this is the Nicaraguan culture. Sitting with uncertainty is a must for anyone living or working here.
The gripes have now been vented!
We are enjoying the life on the island and both feel very comfortable living in Nicaragua. I am even getting the hang of crossing the road in Managua, although I think I will only drive the ute on the island. The other day we went to visit the honorary Australian consulate in a very very wealthy part of Managua. We entered his office and both Mart and I felt really unsettled. It was as if we have stepped back into the first world. Clean, new, latest technology, interactive white boards, everything that you would expect in a basic office in Australia, but here we just don't see. The crazy thing is that in a space of a two minute drive you are back into houses with dirt floors and tin walls with people cooking on open fires. Always a land of extremes.
Our health is not bad. Mart has had some problems with parasites and our daughter Lili, who is studying tropical health, passed on various tips of how we could ascertain what type of parasite he has. I think I would rather not know and just take the pills. The weather is much cooler now the rain is here and we are able to sleep without the fan and even need to have a sheet on the really cold nights.
We continue on, not really sure where we may end up but with the quiet confidence that there is a place for us to share who we are, and the experiences we bring, to the life we encounter here.
Keep us in your thoughts as we stay positive and find our way forward.