Friday, June 1, 2018

Current State of Affairs, Nicaragua

Nicaragua, mi Nicarag├╝ita…

have you heard there’s strife happening now in my second, lovely home? without fluff and too much of my opinion, here’s the scoop:

 In mid April, peaceful Nicaraguan citizens took to the streets to protest President Ortega's ( 1985-1990, and 2007-present) ‘social security reform’ that reduced benefits while raising taxes, especially on the middle class.The government responded with police repression—killing 38 people in the first week of protests.

That was just the beginning of the uprising. Since then, Nicaraguans have continued to protest the dictatorship of Ortega & his wife Rosario Murillo on a daily basis, countrywide. 

Now, the travesty is worsening. People have been denied the right to peaceful protest, denied access to information (news sources have been temporarily blocked, news outlets attacked, and one journalist killed,) and denied access to healthcare, as victim are refused medical attention in public hospitals and state health officials deny autopsies to those killed by police.

The police are out of control, shooting indiscriminantly into crowds in cities all over the country.
This is the first time that i’ve learned the word “tranque” (barricade), as young protestors have fought back at government police, armed with AK-47s, by tossing coke bottle molotov cocktails from behind paving stone barriers. 

Solidarity used to be a word we’d joke about seeing as a famous communist word, used in the campaign and regime of Ortega. Now, the citizens of Nicaragua appear united in demonstrating solidarity against the oppressive government. 

The violence continues. this past weekend, during a peaceful mother’s day march, with at least 15 dead and 79 were injured by government police and supporters.

According to the Nicaragua Dispatch, we know that Nicaragua’s Conference of Bishops, the mediators of the National Dialogue, released a statement saying Dialogue cannot restart because the government continues to repress and assassinate people, denying citizens the right to peaceful protest.

Also from the Nicaragua Dispatch, new reports of government sharpshooters using high-calibre Dragunov sniper rifles. There are more than 100 dead, 1000 injured in less than two months, and the situation is worsening. People have been murdered, with no consequence. Hundreds have been arrested, or gone missing. 

There is looting and vandalism, which, to me, is an obvious effect of an erupting lawlessness, encouraged by the fact that government police seem to be targeting the wrong people- those not committing a crime by walking in the streets.

This week, in addition to other fluff, Ortega’s Foreign Minister Denis Moncada claimed the following on behalf of the Ortega government: he denied government responsibility for violence (guys- there is video documentation). He accused protesters of being terrorists themselves (and implied a conspiracy aimed at destroying security of Nicaraguan families). He also said that reports and news sources trying to blame the Ortega regime for violence are defamation and part of a criminal conspiracy to intimidate and terrorize people and hand over the country to organized crime while destroying the image of Nicaragua.

Sadly and unsurprisingly, tourism is tanking; the State Department has upgraded their travel advisory for Nicaragua to a “Level 3: Reconsider travel due to crime and civil unrest.” Nicaragua is a beautiful country of lakes and volcanoes and kind, gentle people.  it saddens me for the state of the country that so many people i love are deeply affected by this tragic dictatorship’s turn for the worst, in so many ways.

I don’t think there is an end in sight, and there are definitely horrors still to come from this government. Ortega can only rule by domineering oppression for a finite amount of time. There are vague CNN posts about this topic, and many news sources are in Spanish only and marginally publicized. Hopefully, the UN, US State Department, or Organization of American States (OAS), can help with policy changes. The latest press release I saw from OAS talks of electoral reform from 2017. What these outside government agencies will do, and how can I help force their hand? I’m not sure. 

But I do know that there are heartfelt, angry, hopeful Nicaraguan citizens, women and men, for us to support. 

To become more aware, and help in how you can, follow Nicaragua Dispatch on facebook/, and keep your eyes peeled for news on your local sites, and share, share, share. 

I don't have any personal photos of what's going on currently, but wanted to add some photos that capture why Nicaragua holds a special place in my heart. 


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

In Your Eyes...

working with "pitufos" always make me smile.. .
(note the matching sneaks)
coming soon: ball caps and chef coats!

Peter Gabriel had no idea what he was getting himself into. 

Remember when I blogged about opening our new restaurant here along the beach? And I was busy, stressed? THAT WAS NOTHING. Since then, we’ve hit the ground running, with big, super VIP events, that made me want to laugh, cry and hurl (do people still quote Wayne Campbell?). I’m tired. beat. it’s been too many hours, too many days, so many special requests and new projects arising! 
 But I’m smiling. I’m actually having a blast getting my butt kicked here at work.

I've been blogging elsewhere- check it out:



 This morning, I came into the kitchen and saw one of my dishwashers kneeling on the ground, with a cook standing over him. It appeared as though she was helping him get something out of his eye. Rather than intrude, I let them be, but was eyeing them, asking around... and sure enough, she was- apparently, Fadel had a bit of “trash in his eye.” But she appeared to have a utensil. A soup spoon? I immediately tense and get a little concerned- is she scooping out his eye? Internal panic... but I calmly walk over, and he begins to get up, I ask if everything is okay. It is. But there's something kind of white around his eye. And I ask, why not just stand over the sink and wash your eye out with soap?

 Josefa replies, well, Calley, I did wash his eye out, with “leche de pecho.”
No words. I’m speechless. speechless. Apparently she had squeezed it onto the spoon... I can't go into it. Wow.
 Just when I think I’ve seen it all... bienvenidos a Nicaragua.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Wowza. So much has happened since Thanksgiving.

Some news:
The restaurant moved two days before Christmas. To an amazing new location about 200 yards away from the old restaurant, right on the rocky shore of the Pacific Ocean.
dining room at sunset
It’s been a long project for the development project and the finishing touches are still being completed.

From Christmas to New Year’s, basically, the entire country takes a vacation. Hilarity ensues (she says with a fake laugh) as every day had major snafus that can’t be fixed because no one, including the contracted construction crew, is around for the holiday. I couldn’t document the chaos because I was so busy, but also, at the end of the day, I was just too exhausted to rehash what had just happened and was just thankful for another day to be complete.
At least one big ticket item was problematic daily. As if on cue, this normally happened right about 7pm each night. The extractor hood above the grill shorts, the kitchen fills with smoke and it seeps into the dining room, the only person with a key to the panel is on vacation, the gas convection oven had been misappropriated for propane and turned food sooty, we had power failures, refrigeration failures, generator mishaps...
making dinner rolls in the dark with a headlamp
The size of the kitchen is enormous. In fact, it took a few days to adjust. In our old location, we all became accustomed to having everything within arm’s reach, and keeping our legs fairly still... but, well, I've been going through Icy Hot like it's pure-sugar-coca-cola. Part of the solution for maintaining the giant kitchen & restaurant and having the best service possible has been to add 13 new employees!
the "before"

"after": what a happy staff!

plus, as always, a few of the same old problems, like:
I had a short staff meeting that included the statement: “no picking your nose.”
I just redid the original music selection after one awkward night at the bar, when I heard some artists now on our “do not play list:” (yes, I know people at karaoke want to know how will I know (if he really loves me), but it just sets the wrong mood for our paying guests:
N'Sync, Phil Collins, Celine Dion, Madonna, Wilson Phillips y "soft rock de las ochentas," Whitney Houston, Christina Aguilera, Kenny G, Rod Stewart, Britney Spears, Aerosmith

Admist the chaos and too many hours of working, I took an evening to personally cater a wine pairing dinner for my boss and 11 other guests at a gorgeous house atop a ridge here at here at the Ranch. It was a really needed and refreshing change of scenery. I was chatting with a few guests saying, "It's so nice to get a night off!"... and felt good about it until they retorted: "Cooking a 4 course dinner for 12 with wine pairings is a night off?"
hmm. good point. But, I made it through! We all did! we all did (slightly somber, relieved fade to black with a herman cain slow smile). This month has been a little slower gearing up for a very busy February.

here are some fun facts:
We have a restaurant name! La Finca y El Mar
(highlights our simplicity in clean, local and ingredients fresh from the garden and ocean)
We have a new sous chef! Nick is an American, who is a great counterpart!
We have a Toyota Hilux for the restaurant! piiiiiimp!
We have a new, updated, “Calley-esque” menu coming next month! hint: homemade pastas!
We have a salamander, a pizza oven and 3 walk in coolers!
Keyner walking out of the kitchen
with our first bar food orders

We’ve got a blog to showcase our daily specials, especially great for guests and residents in the area:

I had a wonderful holiday season, and look forward to a whirlwind 2012!

ps: vote herman cain!