So many ways to disagree

I was reading, well, skimming, but realized little of it is about Nicaragua and most of it is about personal attitudes. I think there is a lot of good discussion there but I feel it better than I put my personal attitude here.

The thread is full of what appears to be different interpretations of Nicaragua. No surprise. If we sat down with my neighbor who has lived within 300 meters of my house for over 80 years and whose dad's house was less than 5 meters from my house, we will hear a very different story of Nicaragua than if we sat down with Daniel Ortega, Carlos Pellas or, well, any of a number of Nicaraguans who have lived under different conditions.

I have studied Nicaragua for 30 years and lived here for almost nine. I know a lot of things about Nicaragua but it is only a small sample of the picture. I can tell you something like "don't expect the Enitel customer service person to know what they are talking about" or "if the person in the bank says X, go back the following day and ask a different person the same question and you are likely to get a different answer" and be correct. What you do with that information is going to be what matters.

Some people will say "that's not right" and try to fix it. In general, they will become frustrated. Some will just accept it and go on with their life. Then there is the group that will try to make some sort of change. This post is for that group. The group that is willing to adjust their goals to fit Nicaragua and the frustration level they can deal with.

Here are some basic tips. They actually apply most anywhere but some people seem to think they should not apply in Nicaragua.

  1. If the word "fix" is in your idea, you are probably on the wrong track.
  2. For all so many reasons, short-term gain usually wins out over "a change for the better". Learn to work with it. (And if you think that only applies to Nicaragua, look at the Wall Street games in the US.)
  3. If you aren't here it is unlikely you have any clue what will and what won't work. This not only applies to individuals but to NGOs.
  4. All too often, this modified saying fits: "Give a hungry man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a hungry man to fish and you will have a hungry man who knows how to fish."
  5. Expect change to take generations, not months or years.
  6. 99% of the time, an example is better than a theory.

To take one discussion point from the other thread, let's talk about books. We can jabber about their availability, what would change if they were more available and such. We can come up with what we see as a fix and build a project around it. It might work. On the other hand, for a small personal investment we can make some books available to a few people and see what happens.

If your response is "that isn't what should have happened" you are probably on the wrong track. On the other hand, if you see what happened as a way for you to learn about Nicaragua, you have potential.

Good luck.

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Sr Fyl Me gustó Mucho

Nothing can replace the knowledge that experience brings to our lives. As you said for many that come to Nicaragua and are surprised or frustrated or amused and some upset for not getting the expected result, a change of attitude and or approach will do wonders. Coming to Nicaragua, should be appoached the same way as when you go to a swimming spot that you´ve never been to before. You ask those that are there already in the water, where the shallow and deep spots are and where the rocks are too, And sometimes before you dive head in first a little wading in the water could save you from a world of grief. By your words it seems that you´ve done your homework and know your way around the pond enough to enjoy a good swiim.

Good Advice. Reality

all too often intrudes into dreams of social change, leaving the "do-gooder" (and I use that term in the most positive sense, not as a denigration) frustrated and angry.

The day to day life for many Nicaraguans is an endless challenge to keep fed, clothed and adequately housed. You don't appreciate that until someone has scrambled to serve you a cup of coffee in their shanty. Then you begin to understand the common thread of humanity in all of us. But, humans need more than just existence - they need art, literature, beauty. The simple intervention of providing a child a book at the appropriate time might initiate a series of events that would change her life for the better.

The reality is, the book might wind up in the outhouse, used for a lesser (in your opinion) -- but still important purpose. You just have to accept that.

If you're frustrated and angry, you're doing it wrong.

If you're frustrated and angry because your help wasn't accepted, you're in danger of becoming Che Guevara yammering about the Revolution Means Love while shooting people. Or the Japanese raping Nanking because the Chinese weren't happy to be liberated. Or the US squad that murdered women and children in Vietnam.

What generally a middle class or upper middle class person means by "they need art, literature, beauty" is that "we need to impose our standards for art, literature, and beauty on those poor benighted people who read Harry Potter novels and listen to ." Jinotega has art, literature, and beauty.

There's a decent musical culture here -- when my friends and I were coming back from a hike, we passed a house where someone was playing Andean flute music (and not on a record player). Do they play Bach? Mheh, probably not. I happen to like Bach quite a lot, but if people like other things, fine. Perhaps pianos aren't the best instrument to own in the tropics.

The big debate where I used to teach was between the "Oh, the people have their own culture" vs. "The people need saving from this low brow crap." I think both sides of the debate are wrong. I like the Nicaraguan wackiness of mixing Andean flute music with American pop music and whatever else. Different arts fit into different cultures. Most people anywhere, however poor, have something in their lives that works for them. If they need to, they'll steal some gringa's saxophone.

Art? People here paint as much as people paint anywhere. People do rather interesting things with their back yard plantings, and one tiny house in Barrio German Pomares is rather intriguingly decorated. It's just that nothing is beige and tasteful by Harsh Anglo standards. They're probably more engaged in doing rather than consuming than many in the US. Guatemalan weavers are even more engaged in doing art rather than consuming industrial design (the weaving traditions were destroyed rather deliberately here).

Agricultural people and small business owners tend to play more music and make more art than factory workers or hotel staff -- some control over one's own time is rather critical for being able to do art rather than just consume it. is an example of someone who did rather amazing things coming from a very poor background. Obviously, the right things can happen and a child leaves poverty for a better life. Just as obviously, he's one educator going back to widen the base of educated Africans and this will take time.

If you get angry and bitter, the charity has been all about you.

Rebecca Brown

Somebody Probably Gave Him

a book at some early point in his life, and it opened his eyes to a bigger world than he knew:

" . . . is an example of someone who did rather amazing things coming from a very poor background. Obviously, the right things can happen and a child leaves poverty for a better life. Just as obviously, he's one educator going back to widen the base of educated Africans and this will take time .. .

What's the difference between this guy and some little girl in Nicaragua? Give her a book and she might wind up at Brown (much more eclectic crowd, I've never been impressed with Harvard, especially after "Barry" went there).

" . . .If you get angry and bitter, the charity has been all about you . ." The charity is always mostly about you; frustration is part of life unless you have an endless supply of Xanax. So is anger, at the right time.

>>>And now I find I can't bring my baby grand to the "tropics". I'm becoming more frustrated, angry, and bitter by the minute! It's NOT fair!

Um, the local mission school had a slot and his older brother

...refused to go. He went instead. I'm not sure he could read at that point.

What was the difference for that Masai boy was that he wanted to learn and the school was available. For a lot of the very poor here, up until the FSLN regained control, the poorest couldn't afford school.

The thing that's struck me, and perhaps others, is that when white people didn't get their way at Customs, your first assumption was that Nicaraguan Customs was stealing their stuff. Maybe you're projecting your dishonesty to Aduana when it wasn't the case. Twice. Do it a third time and I hope Aduana goes over your stuff with three sniffing dogs and a couple of their hardest assed and most honest agents and figures anything you're claiming as a gift is something you're going to sell because that would be the way I'd figure it.

Rebecca Brown

Going to school now and then

¨For a lot of the very poor here, up until the FSLN regained control, the poorest couldn´t afford school.¨Before, during the Sandinistas, and everything in between then and now with the Sandinistas again in power public schooling has always been free. Also there were always, and still are, people that are so poor that they can´t afford to send their kids to school because that kid is needed to work as soon as they can fend for themselves. If you don´t believe me go to the mercado and the fincas and you´ll see. Their parent¨s parents did it, and on and on. It´s a very old and disturbing cycle that the government of turn, as those governments before this one, doesn´t know or doesn´t want to fix. Let me say that during Somoza´s time, and this I know for I lived in Nicaragua during those times and I was raised by my very poor mom, one of the main reasons why then, as now, the poorest couldn´t and can afford to send their kids to school is because there aren´t enough jobs and those that have it their salary can barely put food on their table today as back then. Same disease and same worthless remedies. then as now. Nothing new under the Nicaraguan sun.

My understanding that fees were charged during the Neo-Liberal

...period. Don't know, wasn't there then, just read it. A finca owner I know says that half his work force signs for their wages with an X.

One of the reasons people don't try to improve their positions in some societies is that they run into some rather ruthless attacks if they challenge the local power elites. They know they can survive as their parents did and their grandparents did and have family support if they accept their lots in life. Moving away, to somewhere that values what you know rather than who your people are, is scary. Sometimes, they'll do this after military service (one of the factors that got my father off the farm, besides hating farming). And sometimes, the kid from the poor family does well enough to bring back enough that nobody can treat him badly because of his people.

The rich tend to assume the sort, the high and low of their society, is fair. I don't believe that it is completely fair and I believe it becomes more unfair over time. Fortunately, engineering and computer jobs depend far less on who your people are and more on what you can do. A bridge isn't going to hold up better because of who your grandfather was.

I've seen one of my street vendor's kids with a project for school, so maybe that's working out for them.

The Italians and French had similar peasant families up until the mid-20th centuries -- I don't think the situation is forever.

Rebecca Brown

Our lorita in Jinotega

Don't know, wasn't there then, just read it.

Pure unadulterated F$LN mierda, spoon-fed to you by fellow travelers like NicaNet and Toni Solo.

Much like, within 6 months of taking office, the regime "eliminated" illiteracy. Or, after two years, reduced poverty by 50%.

Or any of 100s of other pieces of propaganda which you seem to take as gospel because it fits your $ucialist mindset.


Neither of which I've read, actually

What's even funnier is all the people who hate socialism passionately retiring to a country where the FSLN (not all socialist either) has been a major political force since 1979, in or out of power.

Rebecca Brown

Forget the piano

Instead learn how to play the marimba, all in good fun OK.

Would Like To

learn marimba, really like the sound.

Hardest Assed And

honest ...aduana . .. agents.

I checked the list

for "honest aduana agent" but it wasn't there.

" your first assumption was that Nicaraguan Customs was stealing their stuff. . .." Let's take a survey; anyone assuming the sentence immediately preceding is probably true, please lift your right hand from your keyboard . . .OK, that's all but one.

And it wasn't just white people, I think a Nica posted about walking away from a $20 package after being hit with $60 duty. I'm SURE his abandoned package went directly into the incinerator.

Does Nicaragua HAVE three drug sniffing dogs? I'm not a druggie, so don't know what the point of the dogs would be, even if they exist.

Can these dogs sniff out seeds?

That was me.....

that left the package at Aduana. I would much rather let them steal a $7 dress for my little girl, a $2 bag of candy and 9 .25 cent 1/4´´ pvc fittings than pay another thief $60 in taxes. Although, you may be inclined to think I am Nica because of my handle Nicafish, I am not. I am an Aquaculturist that lives in Nicaragua hence the name.

Did you actually ask why the charges?

My experience with Aduana has been fine except for the one time when a package weighed more or less than the weight listed on the manifest. Correos in Jinotega told me that I could either go to Managua and not pay duty but show them the full purchase order, or we could read them the PO over the phone and I could pay US $124 for the package. This may have been a fine for B&H's mistake (and they'd sent me the wrong tracking order so this was B&H having a bad day, unusual for them). I figured that it was worth it to me to pay the $124 into the Correo/Aduana account than to go to Managua. I understood what the problem was and while that might be an over-reaction on Aduana's part to B&H's mistake, I can also understand their concern that something either had gone missing or had been added when the package was in the US. What I'd ordered was worth more than US $124. It was also my second shipment in less than six months, so that might have also played a factor.

I've brought in a number of things so far and that was the only somewhat problematic dealing with them (cameras apparently are duty-free -- and I've brought in another camera lenses and a smaller shipment of SD cards and cleaning gear since and only paid a handling fee of C$4 per package).

I'd consider someone asking me to pay cash in hand to expedite my shipment or overlook things to be corrupt.

I understand that people with significantly larger shipments have had trouble with Aduana, but I don't know anyone other than Al who has posted about this and nobody has given details. Other people appear to have gotten their household goods without any trouble.

Recently, I got something like fifteen cotton dishtowels, three packages of popcorn, four hummingbird feeders, and a finger puppet (now next door) for yet another C$4 in handling costs. My friend had listed everything she'd shipped, and Aduana did their own inventory.

I suspect that it's possible that some agents are corrupt, but I would, based on my other experiences, assume this guy wasn't representative.

Medrano Express -- things I _think_ I put in and didn't list disappeared, but Medrano Express may have been responsible there since Aduano holds things up if the list doesn't match the contents. Everything listed showed up. No duty needed to be paid as all items were household goods, books, and clothes. Books I mailed here -- no problem. Books other people mailed here -- no problem. Three B&H camera shipments -- only the one problem but I was given a choice of going to Managua to be able to pick it up no pago. Books and CDs from Amazon -- no problems, couple of shipments there. Hummingbird feeders and all the extras -- no problem and there wasn't even a tracking number associated with the shipment. I'm currently waiting for Season Three of White Collar from Amazon.

Maybe tomorrow I will have someone hold me up for US $60 for my DVD of White Collar, but I wouldn't call that a typical experience. and I'd be asking a friend to look into it for me.

Rebecca Brown


Everyone who buys online must pay taxes. The Directorate General of Customs (DGA) decided in March of 2012 to suspend the tax exemption applied to orders below $ 500 because of the abuses being committed by some traders, according to the Chamber of Commerce of Nicaragua (Caconic).

Todo el que compre por internet debe pagar los impuestos correspondientes. La Dirección General de Servicios Aduaneros (DGA) decidió en marzo pasado suspender la exoneración fiscal que aplicaba a las compras menores a US$500 debido a los abusos que estaban cometiendo algunos comerciantes, según la Cámara de Comercio de Nicaragua (Caconic).

See anything on the auction list you like?

Some things appear to be duty-free

My Cameta order was in June and all I paid was the C$4 processing fee. Everything was declared properly.

Books have always been duty free. I'll find out about DVDs soon enough :).

Rebecca Brown

Once again

thanx for the factual information.

"You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality." Ayn Rand

Interesting list

Amazing how much used clothing there is. Beyond that, it looks like the popular import item is a TV.