It appears we are open!

My long suffering friends (yes they are that here as well as in the UK) helped me out by being guinea pigs prior to our first paying guests. They test – drove the pool, the food, the ambiance, pointed out the still protruding nails, the wobbly boards and the things the construction crew left behind. There was no ribbon cutting, no big party, just a gentle welcoming of guests. First a trickle and then a flood as I offered local residents the deal of a lifetime to get the ball rolling and get everyone used to the day to day machinations of a hotel. And it appears we’re open!

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So, what happened to Karen’s Island?

Well, let’s just say that I went through the biggest period of stress I think I have ever experienced. And that really is saying something! I lost the will to write – apart from lists and lists and lists of what needed to be done. Opening a hotel it appears, isn’t easy.

My A team of staff had to learn, amongst other things how to lay a table the English way. Now this is hard enough for Americans, but for Nicaraguans who have never been to a restaurant, it must seem ridiculous – and I’m having it no other way.

I wanted everything perfect for opening – silly me – and spent a lot of time being frustrated and on the verge of tears (I think some of my staff felt the same).

Gone was the happy go lucky party girl Karen. This was a dose of reality.

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Linens and stress

NEVER. I repeat NEVER EVER try to getsomething in through customs in Nicaragua. My linens sat at customs for weeks even though we had someone to “help” us get them through. Each day there is a new excuse, each day I have to pay more for storage. I paid at the beginning to hurry them through – hahahahahaha. We ended up giving a dollars “gift”   to extract them before the office closed until next year. It was a celebration to finally have them here.

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A typical day

5.45 am – get up, put the coffee on (doing some research on the best variety). Check UK mails. Shower. Back to the computer for UK work and check in with the early birds in Costa Rica.

8.30 am to 9ish – Claudia (administration) and now Fabio (her husband and Tour Guide) arrive.

9.30 qm – either – meet in the Garden Cafe for a trip to the island where I go between awe and terror for a couple of hours. OR – stuck at the computer chasing down beaurocracy, swearing a lot, in between speaking to the UK / doing emails. OR in a car on a never ending trip / search for fixtures and fittings in markets, stores, shopping centres.

Lunchtime – usually whilst on the move or for a  treat El Garaje or the Garden Cafe or leftovers if I’ve cooked.

Either computer work, more shopping, afternoon island trip, meeting with suppliers, more swearing, a feeling of impossibility, hassle Matthew and Ben. Time is running away.

6pm (ish) – thoughts of going to the gym have evaporated into  the need to slump on the sofa and usually continue working on the computer, catching up with stuff I left earlier.  Making long long lists of things that need to be attended to (Lists are good – they calm me). This time with a beer or glass of wine. Whip up some pasta, watch some mind numbing TV and bed by 10.

What happened to the party girl? Has she grown up?

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Catch Up

This is probably the time I should have been blogging like crazy, telling you of the highs and lows and details of the last month before opening. But I have been exhausted and the last thing I want to do after a day running around and stressing is sit back at my computer. Rather a cold beer and a bit of R and R. So, I thought I’d give a rough precis of my life in the last month (has it really been a month? My has time flown).

Hans came over for a couple of days and we (he) set a date for opening – December 16th. We have our first guests coming for definate over the holidays but will be ready to open 16th (say it enough, it becomes true). We have an uphill journey and the pressure is on.

My quest to learn Spanish had a brief up when I started dating a Spanish guy who spoke no English but in true Karen fashion, I lost interest and found I didn’t have the time or energy to give it any attention (Spanish and the guy!)

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Shopping, stressing, rollercoaster

I arrived back and as usual arranged an immediate trip out to the Island which took me on a ride to the top of the rollercoaster. It is going to look magnificent. The planting that has been done really shows it off, things appear to be coming along at a fair pace (as I need it to be to have any chance of opening any time in December (December 42nd currently…)).

That night it was Kim’s birthday and I did what any sensible person recovering from a long haul flight and day that began at 6am would do – went out and had some fun(rather too much I think!). There was dancing on the bar(not me) and everything!

This led, nor suprisingly the next day the downhill rollercoaster ride. I had so much to do on a thick head, including, after working in the early hours UK style, an all day trip to markets, supermarkets, wholesalers, computer shops in a desperate attempt to find more stuff. Hot bothered and frustrated.

Finally, our kitchen arrived, along with all the things we asked to either cancel or to be delivered to another address for safekeeping. And then the penny dropped. After being given architect’s plans, coming over, measuring, checking and agreeing the plans, they still managed to send the wrong sized equipment. So, I had to watch as walls were knowcked down, at the same time as the finish on the outside of the pool was being chippped away as it would dissolve into the water. CRASH!

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The smuggler, or the day I was a yoga mat mule.

I have been told many many times that it is difficult to import into Nicaragua with things hanging around and disappearing from customs, never mind the import duties, so the idea was simple:

I fill up some large holdalls with my Eco Yoga mats specially bought from the UK, along with various other items – games, Tea pots, chopsticks, bottles for shampoo and soap, salt and pepper pots etc. Oh my the weight. And thank you BA. I have to say that one bag was so heavy the conveyor wasn’t able to move it! Would they put it on the next plane or would the baggage handlers strike due to dangerous work?

Well, the bags and I make it to Managua and I load my trolley up high and watch many many hapless  people get turned back to be given the search and tax treatment by customs. I feigned an absolute ignorance of the Spanish language (mind you that’s not far off) and when asked (in English ) what was in my bags I did a sun salutation to help in the description.  And the moral of e story? Act crazy and they wave you through!

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Stop Press

The reports back from the press trip were very positive from the PR person, Sharon. Turns out she took someone from NatGeo and the New York Times (no pressure!) and Chris, Matthew and Ben were top hosts and made the place sparkle. Well done the boys!

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A brief flit through London

GOOD GRIEF it’s cold! I’ve forgotten how to dress. What a shock!

So, just over a week in London and I manage to fit in a football match (1-0 to us – sorry game though), my friend Luigia’s birthday (what a hoot – reall Cockney Knees Up), World Travel Mart (HUGE travel conference – hung out on the Nicaraguan stand), meetings for Key, top notch food, a day unwell, a catch up close friends, and the reason for returning – to be with my Father when he went to have his cataract operation which have to say was a resounding success – it’s a miracle of an operation. Phew – exhausted!

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Now where was I?

Backtracking slightly as, as per ,have been incapable of keeping this up to date. Days pass in a flurry of highs and lows and the inability of office workers to work at anything other than their own pace which is supremely frustrating to a Londoner. This coupled with things being in stock one day in the wholesaler and never seen again and the trudge round markets trying to find things that are exactly as I envisage (I wish I wasn’t such a perfectionist) can be quite trying.

Building is coming on but I’m terrified things won’t be ready. I’m really excited at the fact that we have the new US PR company coming over but it’s the week I will be in London and how the hell people will transform a building site into a piece of art, I really don’t know…

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