"DuFord...does what few nonfiction writers can do. His words transport us to another world."
--Lynn Peterson, BookReview.com

"I consider this little book an exceptional, fun read and highly recommend it."
--Kaye Trout,
Midwest Book Review


IS THERE A HOLE
IN THE BOAT?
Tales of Travel in Panama
without a Car

Order Now from Amazon.com
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"DuFord...does what few nonfiction writers can do. His words transport us to another world."
--Lynn Peterson, BookReview.com

"I consider this little book an exceptional, fun read and highly recommend it."
--Kaye Trout,
Midwest Book Review


IS THERE A HOLE
IN THE BOAT?
Tales of Travel in Panama
without a Car

Order Now from Amazon.com
Amazon.ca
Amazon.co.uk

It Came from a Nicaraguan Showerhead

taying odor-free proved to be a challenge in Nicaragua. When a Nicaraguan hotel advertises their showers as having hot water, what they really mean is that an electric contraption taped/tied/strapped to the spigot heats the chilly pipe water before it falls on you. You can already see where this is going: all that water and all those dangling wires make for a frighteningly thrilling way to clean tropical slime-sweat off your neck.

However, in a country where passing cars on blind curves competes with getting gored in the face by bulls as the most popular recreational activity (silly me, I used to think it was baseball!), battling heater coils seems so entry-level. Hereís to being stuck at square one:

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Managua water sure was cold. So I figured I had to flick one of the switches on top of the device. Thatís when I found out that the labels are all in Portuguese. Hmmm, could these have been remnants of some little-known Portuguese invasion of Nicaragua in 1728 where the conquistadors bathed the natives before they slaughtered them?

The "Quente" setting, whatever that was, wasnít working out, so I cranked it up to "Super Quente," but only succeeded in electrocuting myself on the box, which just had to be made out of metal. Freezing under the cold water turned out to be a better idea.

On the bus to the mountain city of Matagalpa, I couldnít tell whether the smoky smell that wafted around the bus was coming from slash-n-burn farming or my still-simmering pancreas. But the Matagalpinos, who survived the constant abuse of the Contra war, find a little juicing from a showerhead to be the least of their worries.


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When I was offered a room boasting the above device, I figured it was a little too difficult for my skill level, so I asked, "Have you got any more rooms?" And thus the finicky gringo finally settled on a room with the below heater housed in merciful plastic.

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It came with another Portuguese quiz. I canít wait to return to Portugal, where I probably have to take a semester of Norwegian in order to open up a bottle of aspirin.

Neither setting (one called inverno and the other verao) yielded hot water. Then I figured out that the water was running too fast through the coils to get hot. The trick: first, turn on the water full blast. This causes the coils to switch on, and the flickering bathroom light verifies that the box just came alive with 220 volts. Carefully turn down the pressure and find the minimum to keep the heater on. Find the magical zone.

The water never got hot, just a little warm. But I didnít get electrocuted. So that means I won.

Just as I was becoming fluent in Portuguese, the clever plumbers of Granada gave me a shower heater with pictograms instead of words.

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Perhaps this obsession with staying clean is misguided. After all, the countryís preferred kitchen and bath deodorant sports a curious brand name:

Nicaraguan kitchen deodorant


Thatís right. Whatís missing from your kitchen and its greasy cabinets? A little terror. Fruit-scented terror. Potpourri terror (how insidious!). That should take care of it. Maybe a roach colony living under the sink beats suicide bombs after all.

Thankfully, you donít have to take a shower to see how tuna is sold in Nicaragua.

Tuna for sale in Mataglpa, Nicaragua



And sardines.

Sardines for sale in Matagalpa, Nicaragua


I just thought youíd like to know that. In case youíre curious, the girls are dancing for God. And the cans of fish are lent-ready. Thatís because Holy Week and Easter are coming up, and the city of Matagalpa knows that the best way to butter up your God is with offerings of hotpants and lemon-flavored sardines. I must have missed that passage in the Bible.

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©2008 Darrin DuFord. To reproduce content, request permission here.