First week: Home exchange gone awry and early security issues

We have, in the past, used our home in Nicaragua to exchange for stays in other homes in various cities in the U.S., through www.homeexchange.com (Washington DC, Santa Cruz, New Orleans, Half Moon Bay, San Francisco). The experience has always been very positive. While preparing for a potential global trek, we sent a host of requests for places around the world, including Spain. This yielded a response from a young woman in Barcelona with a very cool loft type apartment, who was interested in exchanging for our home in Granada, some time in June or July. We had no idea what our plans would be for the summer and she was unsure of her exact dates as well, so we invited her to come to the house when it was convenient for her. Either we would be on the road and she would have the place to herself or we would be here and they could use the second bedroom and do their own thing.


As it turns out, She and her eight year old daughter arrived the very day after we moved here… I should clarify that Ben had high expectations that if our paths did cross, it would be nice if she turned out to be a Spanish babe. As luck would have it, that’s exactly what she turned out to be! What are the odds?! An ex model, current TV host in Barcelona, our new Barcelona friend is particularly warm, independent and has a good sense of humour. And, yes, Ben insists I restate, HOT. Not a bad way to kick off our stay in Nicaragua.

Now about the security issue… To give some background, most foreigners take a lot of care to secure their homes because the reality is we are surrounded by people who have a lot less than we do. This always creates issues no matter what country one lives in. We come to Nicaragua with a background of living in Highland Park where we never locked our doors except at night. I don’t think Ben even had a front door key in the years we lived there and I certainly never used mine very often. As a child, living in South Africa, those were the days of old fashioned yet constant robberies, where the tsotsie (thief) used a large garbage bag, filled it up as quickly as he could and made a dash for it. There was not yet at that time in South Africa a feeling of physical threat, just a feeling of invasion and vulnerability.

Fast forward to our first few days in Nicaragua, when in the middle of the night, our Spanish home exchange gone awry calls out “Ben, Peta! Come here!” We stumble out of bed and find that the front door is wide open, the gate is open. Half asleep, we look around and cannot determine what is missing other than the house keys… Thankfully no one had been hurt, as we had all been sleeping at the time of entry. Not a great feeling… The heist was interrupted when the thief opened the door to our guest’s room and she said “perdona?” and he ran out through the front door, same way he came in. The dogs, we had thought, would be good watchdogs (because in HP they would bark their heads off even if someone just walked by the house or came near it). In this case, due to their unease in their new environment, they were sleeping in our room, and slept through the whole incident without so much as a murmur!

Ok, so what did the tsotsie take? Initially, that night, it was rather confusing as nothing appeared to be missing. The TV was still there and we couldn’t understand why it had not been taken. Next morning, Ben suggested we put on some music as we continued to process the robbery… ah problem was, the CD player was gone. Then I looked everywhere for my phone when I needed it… hmm, that was gone. Where was my camera? Oops, they took that too. Oh yes, we just put one of our bikes out, that may have helped for a quick escape. Ah, the brand new DVD player still in the box, to replace the one stolen just weeks before (when house was empty.)

Ok – mothers not to worry – change of gear!! Both being rather nonchalant about material possessions in that we think of them as “stuff”, we realized that we had not double bolted the door or the gate and so had actually made it rather easy for them. The next day, we had new locks put in, changed all the keys, put up a gate at the bottom of the stairs to prevent entry from over the roof (and to prevent Mango from further roof hopping in our absence). We got two cuidadors – guards to sit outside the house from midnight till dawn for a week – mostly to appease our new slightly nervous guest. The drama unfolded mid morning with two policemen arriving to get statements, assuring us they would come back to get fingerprints (we have yet to see them return), but at any rate the word on the street is that people steal for primarily electronic stuff which is easily resold, and do not hurt people they might encounter along the way. Ok, ok, we will lock up the computers and camera.

Week one was eventful and certainly provided the neighbors plenty of good entertainment.

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