Medical Emergencies on a Tropical Island


A panga

One would assume that in the case of a medical emergency on Ometepe Island, where minutes count, there would be specific procedures in place..an ambulance..doctors…trained EMTs…a life flight helicopter…rescue equipment…trauma kits…latex gloves…a blood bank…even a simple first aid kit. In reality, very few of these things exist on Ometepe Island.

Imagine a medical emergency where no one understands how to administer CPR, the injured are moved without knowledge of traumatic head or internal injuries, witnesses at the scene of the accident are asked to apply pressure to a profusely bleeding wound without using latex gloves, and victims are transported to a hospital in the back of a police pickup truck. The hospital has no blood bank, no x-ray machine, no defibrillator (AED)…nothing.

Now, imagine the medical emergency happens late at night. The ferries are not running to the mainland. The only way to transport trauma victims is on an open air panga, 45 minutes to the mainland. There are no life jackets, no doctors accompanying the victims, and only flat, hard benches on a boat that can transport 12 people. If it’s raining, everyone gets wet. If the waves are high, victims are tossed and bounced off the hard benches. There are no stretchers, no backboards, no body bags, no medical supplies…nothing. The panga has seen it all…birth, death, and every macabre thing in between.

Once the victims reach the mainland, those that are still alive are taken to the Rivas hospital. If the Rivas hospital is unable to meet their needs, then they are transferred to Managua to the public hospital, Lenin Fonseca. The triage process takes hours and the care received in the public hospitals in Nicaragua is poor, primitive, and pitiful. Family members accompany their loved one into the emergency room at Lenin Fonseca. They are expected to aid in treating wounds, apply pressure for heavy bleeding, and give blood. No one is concerned about bodily fluids seeping from serious wounds, nothing is sterile, and no latex gloves are in sight. Traumatic brain injuries are misdiagnosed and often ignored.

Procedures for evacuation are the same for locals, tourists, and expats on Ometepe Island. The panga and triage system from one public hospital to another does not discriminate against race, nationality, or gender. Therefore, it is imperative to know what steps to take as an expat or a tourist visiting Ometepe Island should a medical emergency arise.

Hospital Metropolitano Vivian Pellas in Managua is a private hospital. It is the ONLY hospital that caters to foreigners, and the ONLY hospital I would recommend in the entire country.

Metropolitano Vivian Pellas Services

Emergency Medical Procedures for Vivian Pellas Hospital

1. Transportation by panga or the ferry to the mainland. To avoid the triage from one public hospital to another ( which, in one case, took 12 hours before a severely injured tourist arrived at Vivian Pellas Hospital) before you leave Ometepe Island call for the Vivian Pellas ambulance to meet you in San Jorge at the dock. Do not get into any other ambulance because they will take you to the hospital in Rivas, then to the public hospital in Managua.
Telephone for soliciting ambulance: 2255-6900 ext. 5152
If you want to request a doctor in the ambulance, it will cost $2 per km. Otherwise, they will only send a nurse to accompany the patient. The cost of an ambulance sent only to a Managua address is $85.

2. Immediately call the 24 hour nurse supervisor of Vivian Pellas Hospital.
Telephone number: 8810-7615
The nurse supervisor will need to know this information:
a. Information about the patient critical or non critical
b. They will need a credit card deposit of $600-$5,000 depending on the services they offer. Have your credit card ready and give them the necessary information.

Transportation Options Off Ometepe Island

1. If a ferry is available, take the victim on the ferry ASAP. It will take one hour to reach the mainland.
2. If you must take the medical panaga, call the police station. Below, is a list of things to have on hand in case of an emergency.
3. There are options to get a helicopter. I’m looking into this option. The cost of a helicopter to Ometepe Island is about $800 rt. However, Vivian Pellas does not have a helicopter pad, or a helicopter, so I’m not sure where they would land in Managua.

Resources for Medical Emergencies

1. Free Ebook download, Where There Is No Doctor
This is an invaluable resource for anyone living in tropical developing countries.

2. Essential Packs for emergency medical situations
Prepare a first aid kit or a trauma kit and keep it handy. This website explains the various kits and the contents that should be in each kit.

3. Keep a small bag handy that includes: information about any medicines you are taking, any allergies to medicines, blood type, credit card information, a cell phone, emergency contact numbers, some local money, a copy of your passport, and anything else that someone needs to know about you.

4. Make advanced medical directives and keep them in a safe place in your house.

Specifically for Tourists on Ometepe Island

1. Keep a small bag with all of your health information, blood type, copy of passport, emergency contact numbers, and at least one pair of latex gloves with you.

2. Contact your country Embassy in Managua immediately.  When you arrive on the island, ask for the phone number of your hostel or hotel and write it down in your emergency contact list. If you should be involved in a serious accident where you are unable to communicate, your hotel can be contacted and they, in turn can contact your Embassy.

Donations

If you are planning a trip to Ometepe Island, these donations will always be welcomed at the local hospital or through our Ometepe Expat group.

boxes of latex gloves                                  CPR mouth pieces
sterile bandages                                          stretchers/backboards
ace bandages                                               body bags ( I know…I know)
life-preserver vests                                     AED defibrillator
climbing ropes/climbing gear…for volcano rescues

You can contact me through my blog if you would like to make a donation of one or more of these items, and I will make sure it gets to the right place.

Part Three: One Step Closer


The Nicaraguan Consulate in Miami

If you research the location of the Nicaraguan Consulate office in Miami, you get three addresses and dozens of phone numbers. None of the phone numbers work, so it’s a crap shoot as to which address will lead you to the office. Tomas, the owner of the Miami Guest House, graciously offered to drive us to the Nicaraguan Consulate. The first address was non-existent, the second address led us to an empty room. Fortunately, we hit the jackpot with the third address. Located in a section of Miami called Little Havana, a string of waving Nicaraguan flags welcomed us to the pink and blue Consular’s office.

We felt as if we were back in Nicaragua. Long lines of people, a waiting room full of crying babies, a couple of people grilling chicken outside the office doors, posters of Granada and Ometepe Island, and one overworked receptionist greeted us. “Proximo,” the receptionist repeated. (Next) After a half-hour wait, we presented our papers and were told to take them next door to copy the packet. We returned to another long line and a half-hour later we submitted our packets, paid $50 in cash only, and were told to return between 1 and 3 pm to pick up our packet.

Starving, we searched the streets of Little Havana, hoping to find a good Cuban restaurant. Tomas told us that the area was called Little Havana, but we wouldn’t find any Cubans in Little Havana. Apparently they all lived in another neighborhood. He was right. We ended up in a funky Chinese restaurant where the menu was in Spanish and Chop Suey came with a tortilla, rice and red beans.

Wandering the streets on two hours of sleep, with bellies full of Spanish Chop Suey, we decided to return to the Nicaraguan Consulate and wait for the authentication of our documents. Two hours later, the receptionist wagged her finger for us to come to her desk. “They should be finished with your papers,” she said. “Let me see if I can find them.” She must have felt sorry for us because I’m sure we looked frazzled and stressed.

The authentication stamp

Our packet of documents was authenticated. We both looked at each other in amazement. “This was too easy”, we said simultaneously. I suspect that all we had to do was to take our original documents next door to have them notarized, certified, and then copied. Florida does understand Latin logic! After three long, frustrating months our documents are authenticated and we can return to Nicaragua for the next step in getting our pensionado visas.

We fly back to Nicaragua tomorrow. I am so ready to return home. Like Paul Harvey used to say….” and that’s the rest of the story.”

 

Part Two: The Quest for the Golden Ticket


The Gold Seal

Monday morning…frantic.. tracking our UPS delivery like a deer hunter… breathing deeply….chewing fingernails ragged….trying to stay positive….exploring options in case the Golden Ticket is delayed…too much coffee…unbearable waiting…waiting….waiting….

After three months in pursuit of a state seal certifying the notary, our quest is over. Below are things NOT to do in search of a gold seal to legalize documents for abroad.

1. Do not copy and notarize your birth certificates. That is illegal in most states. Instead, request at least four certified long form birth certificates for each person.

2. Do not send more than one notarized document to the office of the state’s apostille and certification department. Remember, you only need one certification letter from the secretary of state. If you send them all of your notarized documents, they will be REJECTED. Instead, send one notarized document, preferably the doctor’s statement of good health because it is not a legal document like a police report, an income verification form, or a marriage license.

3. Do not assume that the notary knows the correct way to notarize a document that you will send to the state office of apostilles and certification department. The first doctor’s report we sent to the state department was rejected because the notary did not use the correct notary form required by the State Department of Florida. We spent $44 just in postage fees to overnight the document two times, once for the notarized copy, then again for the redo of the notary’s mistake. Fortunately, we could call the notary into the office because he had started his vacation and was flying to Oregon later in the day. If we would not have been able to find our original notary, we would have had to redo all the documents with a different notary because all the documents need to have the SAME notary.

4. Do not assume that when you pay $20 extra dollars for UPS Saturday delivery, that you will receive your package on Saturday. My mother lives in a gated community in Florida. The Saturday UPS delivery guy didn’t know the gate code, so he didn’t deliver the package on Saturday.

5. Do not forget to ask for the UPS delivery tracking number. We used a courier service that is only open on weekdays. They called us last Friday to tell us that our redo document was at the State Department and they requested a $20 fee for Saturday delivery. We never thought to ask for the tracking number. When it wasn’t delivered on Saturday, we could have saved ourselves much grief if we would have had the tracking number.

We are on our way to Miami early tomorrow morning to hand deliver the certified documents to the Nicaraguan Consulate of Miami. They will check our documents, check the certification from the Secretary of Florida, and authenticate our documents. Then, we can fly back to Nicaragua for the next step in the process.  I am hopeful that the most challenging part of the process for residency in Nicaragua is over. Surely the bureaucracy in Nicaragua won’t be as profoundly confusing as in the states. But, then again…you never know. Stay tuned for Part Three.

Part One: In Search of the Golden Ticket


 Oh, you should never, never doubt what nobody is sure about.
~ Willy Wonka

In the beginning

I’m beginning to feel like I’m in the movie, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory…in search of the illusive golden ticket. In our case, we’re in search of the Secretary of State’s gold seal that certifies the notary. I returned to the states in November to start the process for our residency in Nicaragua. After many failed attempts, Ron and I returned to the states in January and started the process all over again in Florida, where they seem to understand Latin logic more than other states. Following is what I have learned throughout this horrific and frustrating experience:

1. Nicaragua is not a member of the Hague Convention. Therefore to legalize documents for Nicaragua, they go through a chain of authentication or certification process. Countries that are members of the Hague Convention receive apostilles for the documents instead of certifications.

2. It all starts with the notary! We collected our documents: long-form birth certificates, proof of income for a lifetime, health statements that say we are of good health and free from contagious diseases, marriage certificate, and police reports. These documents need to have embossed or raised stamps…Nicaragua loves stamps! Then, all documents are taken to a notary, copied, and stamped.

3. It is illegal to copy and notarize birth certificates in most states. So, get several copies of birth certificates to include in packets. Nicaragua wants four packets containing the notarized copies of documents. Believe me when I say, the gold seal will be out of reach if you copy and notarize the birth certificates. That is a BIG no,no!

4. Once your documents are notarized, you will need to either get the County Clerk’s office to certify that the notary is a true and legal notary in that county, or in our case, just send documents to the Secretary of State to certify that the notary is a true and legal notary in the state. Depending on the state that you get your documents notarized, they may need a County Clerk’s seal and a Secretary of State seal. Since we are going through Florida, they only need the Secretary of State seal to certify a Florida notary.

5. This is probably the most important part. Remember it all starts with the notary. It doesn’t matter what state or states your documents are from. It is a chain of authentication, starting with the notary. You will only need ONE letter of certification from the Secretary of State certifying the notary. The individual documents do not need to be certified…only the notary needs to be certified. This was a BIG problem for us. No matter how we tried to explain to the State Department that we only needed ONE letter certifying the notary, they kept telling us, “No, we don’t do it that way.” So, here is a simple way to get your gold seal from the Secretary of State. ( Actually, I’m hoping it is a simple solution, because I won’t know until Monday if it worked.) Only send the State Department one document to be certified. Keep it simple and send the letter from the doctor, which is not a legal document. Have the letter copied and notarized, then send it off to the State Department asking them to certify the notary for that one document. Hopefully, we should receive a letter from the Secretary of State with the state seal certifying that the notary is a true and legal notary in the state of Florida. That is our golden ticket!

6. We chose to use a courier service to deliver our one document to the State Department of Florida. For us, it was cheaper than driving to Tallahassee to get the certification. But, most states have a walk-in service at the Department of Apostilles and Certifications. Our first attempt ended in failure because the notary didn’t use the right form on the document. So, today, we called the notary in from vacation ( he was on his way to Oregon for a week) and had him redo the notary form that was required by Florida.

7. Once we receive the GOLD SEAL from Florida, then we can take the completed packet to the Nicaraguan Consulate in Miami, FL. We’re flying to Miami next Tuesday. We found an inexpensive guest house on Flagler Street ( try to find an inexpensive place to stay in Miami! Whew!) near the Nicaraguan Consulate. We plan to hand-deliver our documents. The cost is $50 for same day authentication. The Nicaraguan Consulate only needs to see the GOLD SEAL from the Secretary of the State of Florida to authenticate our documents. Apparently, each of the six Nicaraguan consulates in the USA have copies of the gold seals in their states of jurisdiction. Florida goes through the Nicaraguan consulate in Miami. In November, I used a notary in Pennsylvania, thus if I would have obtained the illusive GOLD SEAL from the Secretary of State of Pennsylvania, I would have had to send my documents to the Nicaraguan Consulate in NY.

8. Make sure you have plenty of time for everything! First, all the original documents are dated. In our case, they were dated November 1st. That means, we have 6 months to get our authenticated documents from the USA to the immigration office in Nicaragua. Once the USA process is complete, then it will take 3-4 weeks for our Nicaraguan lawyer to have all the documents translated into Spanish, and 4 copies made of everything including all the pages of our passports and 6 photos each. Once all the packets are finally delivered to immigration, time stops. As long as our documents are delivered before the end of April (that’s when they expire), we are in good shape.

9. Be patient. Everyone will tell you something different. There is a way to work around the bureaucracy, but it requires patience, fortitude, and a lot of luck!  Remember, it starts with the notary. Choose a state where they understand Latin logic. Your documents do not need to be individually certified…only the notary needs to be certified. Make sure you have plenty of time because your documents expire in 6 months from the date they are issued. If you let your documents expire, you have to start ALL over again. It gets expensive traveling back and forth to the states, so be forewarned of all the problems you will encounter and have plenty of time for correcting mistakes, sending documents to the right place, and having them returned REJECTED, only to find another way to work around the problem.

10. Part two will start when we receive the GOLD SEAL from the State of Florida. Keep your fingers crossed for us…it’s been a long, stressful journey..but I’ve learned a lot about the process. I’m searching for the Golden Ticket and as Willy Wonka says, ” Oh, you should never, never doubt what nobody is sure about.”

Haiku Wind


In fury I sought
to outrun the wind, but I
scattered like pollen

High waves high wind

 January and February are typically months of strong winds. Off go the chickens, rudely forced from their night perches like tipsy dancers on an oil slick. Leaves tremble, trees once sentinel straight, bow to a demanding commander. High waves toss glass and pottery shards on the wind-swept beach, while volcanic sand blasts the shards to a brilliant sheen.

The Che is tossed like a toy boat

Howling winds invade the ferries and launchas like assaulting pirates. The Che is tossed around like a toy boat, resulting in a broken ramp when the hinges and chains were snapped like shoestrings. All transportation to and from Ometepe Island halts, stranding tourists and locals. Businesses waiting for deliveries, run low on supplies. Angel, the ice cream man, can’t deliver my ice cream sandwiches because they’re stuck on the mainland. The vegetable truck postpones a trip to our house until they refurbish their supplies. Plantain truck drivers nervously pace the dock hoping the overflowing truck full of plantains can be sold on time.

Our road stops beyond our house. Our neighbor needs a boat.

The beastly erosion ravenously eats away at the shoreline devouring everything in its path. Cradled in exposed clay banks, ancient treasures abound. Footprints of the wind flatten the sugar cane fields. A sail of a dugout canoe flies pregnant and engorged with wind. Sandinista flags flap with national pride. Green and pink plastic bags ( Nicaraguan flowers) drift on currents and collide in tangled splashes of color like an impressionist painting. The wind scatters swarms of complaining mosquitoes, while children shelter their faces grateful for the respite, yet teary-eyed from the blinding invasion of sand, dirt, and grit.

Nothing is sacred, nothing remains the same after a wind storm. The wind is a champion chameleon. ever-changing as it passes by, with the ability to make the earth bend to its forces, plead for mercy, and eventually surrender to its changes.

My only hope is that we can leave the island on Wednesday for our flight back to the states. If not gone with the wind, we’ll be seeking shelter from the storm.

 

My Top Tips for Living Abroad


“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” – Mark Twain

DO IT FOR THE RIGHT REASONS
I’ve met many foreigners living in Nicaragua with ‘escapism mentalities’. I’ve found that it is impossible to escape from one’s troubles by moving abroad. They are bound to catch up with you, no matter where you are living. Carefully consider your motivations when relocating for the long haul. Pedophiles, cults, and those on the run from the law are NOT welcomed in Nicaragua or anywhere in the world.

GET REAL
Sure, we all want to move to a tropical island, but before you jump, do the research. If you’ve never traveled abroad, how do you know where you want to live? Ron and I traveled the world for 15 summers searching for our ideal retirement spot. We narrowed our search to two countries: Brazil and Portugal, and Central America. We joined chat groups, visited expats, talked to locals, and explored the culture of each area. Make a list of your  needs, ask specific questions, and be ready to scratch the countries from your list if they don’t meet your needs.

PLANNING IS IMPORTANT, BUT DOING IS BETTER
Once you’ve chosen a place abroad…jump temporarily. The first time we moved to Ometepe Island, Nicaragua, we quit our secure jobs, sold our cars, gave away all our winter clothes, and left our house and our aging pets with our son. In an adrenalin rush, we jumped into a new life for a year. I call it our grand experiment with ‘pretirement’. We knew two Spanish words, ‘si’ and ‘no’. Yet, if we would have spent the time planning for our retirement and learning Spanish, I doubt that we would have ever had the nerve to jump. Living abroad could have been a distant dream, instead of a mysterious reality. Throughout our year of ‘pretirement’, we learned everything we needed to know to return to the states and set goals for our real retirement on Ometepe Island. A few words of caution: Don’t burn any bridges. Life is unpredictable. It can change in a minute. Leave your options open.

BE COMFORTABLE
In our experiment with ‘pretirement’, we lived like Nicas. We rented a little beach shack that contained four plastic chairs and one plastic table, two beds, and a two-burner cook-top. The only difference between us and our neighbors was that we had a refrigerator and a flush toilet. Spartan living was fine for a year, but when we returned and bought our little beach shack, I wanted a comfortable, yet simple nest. We remodeled our shack to blend in with our surrounding environment…nothing fancy because crimes of opportunity are abundant between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’. We have a huge year-round garden that supplies us with all of our vegetables, 14 varieties of mature fruit trees, and all the comforts of home. Comfort and practicality are my mantras.

TWEAK THE ATTITUDE: LOSE THE TUDE
You ain’t in Kansas anymore! Your way isn’t the only way! You are a guest in a foreign country. Be respectful. Lose the negativity. Learn the language. Integrate and immerse yourself in your new surroundings. Volunteer in your area of ability without being overbearing and arrogant. Get to know your local neighbors. Life is so much more enjoyable once you lose the tude.

APPRECIATE THE DIFFERENCES WHILE CHERISHING THE SIMILARITIES
Life is not ‘us’ against ‘them’. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard expats say, ” You can’t trust any of ‘em. Keep everything locked up, buy a gun, and never let a local come into your house.”  I’m not naïve. I understand that bad things happen everywhere in the world. Yet, I refuse to live in paranoia and fear and lock myself away from the culture in some gated gringo community. As I’m writing this, our 2-year-old neighbor is napping on my couch, while his uncle is sitting at our kitchen table practicing his English with Ron. I want to live humanely and compassionately in Nicaragua. I would trust my life with our closest neighbors and I know they feel the same way. Sometimes I just don’t understand why so much energy is expended fighting our cultural differences, instead of cherishing our human similarities.

PRACTICE PATIENCE AND LEARN TO LAUGH AT YOUR MISTAKES
Be forgiving and loving with yourself. In learning to speak Spanish, I have made many embarrassing mistakes. For example, once I bought bread stuffed with pineapple for our construction workers. Instead of asking them if they wanted bread with pineapple, I asked them if they wanted bread stuffed with penis. I’ve wished people a happy new anus, instead of a happy new year. We all had a good laugh, and they helped me correct my Spanish. Practice patience. Life moves at a different pace. If someone says they are going to come to your house at 2 o’clock, they may arrive at 4 o’clock, or maybe not until the next day. It’s best to learn to live in the moment and avoid expectations of the future. Easier said, than done. :-)

Ron and I are on our way back to the states for two weeks. We are in the process of applying for our residency in Nicaragua. I’ll try to post about our experiences throughout the application process. It’s bound to be another adventure! Stay tuned and please be patient with me.

The Archeological Richness of Ometepe Island


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On my daily walks along the volcanic beaches of Lake Cocibolca, I often find shards of history washed ashore, remnants of the ancient ones who settled Ometepe Island during the first migration, about 10,000 BC.  Hunks of broken stone mortars and pestles and primitively carved tools embed themselves in the black sand telling the tales of the rich lives of the Chibchas and Tiaguanacos indigenous tribes.

When the Chorotegas tribe arrived in the sixth and seventh centuries, they improved the stone-working techniques, added creative embellishments to the ceramics, and carved mysterious symbols on the volcanic boulders      (now known as Petroglyphs) plopped into the fields from eruptions of Vulcan Concepcion.

Intricately painted shards, in the shapes of birds, faces, monkeys, and other animals wash between my toes harboring the secrets of the Nahuas, the indigenous tribe that arrived in the ninth and tenth centuries.According to legend, the Nahuas were led to our sacred island after a series of collective dreams that guided them to ‘two hills’ majestically jutting from a small island in a sweet sea.

Significant evidence indicates that Ometepe Island became a trading port. In the middle of the tenth century, the Mayas arrived with gold figurines, jade, and other exotic trade items. Once the Mayas discovered La Isla de Ometepe, they decided to settle down and expand the art of ceramica production.

The cultural history of Pre-Columbian pottery on Ometepe Island is sparsely documented. Nicaragua lacks a major structural network that would support significant funding from outside sources to study and record the archeological finds. Instead, small museums record the archeological history of the island, with little to no funding sources.

The El Ceibo Museum is a fine example of a small museum on the island, founded by Moises Ghitis. Over 1,200 examples of Ometepe’s Pre-Columbian heritage are highlighted. Most of these pieces were discovered on Moises’ finca several years ago. El Ceibo Museum

With the increased emphasis on tourism in Nicaragua, and particularly Ometepe Island, major efforts are taking place to protect the cultural heritage of the island. New laws enacted make it a crime to remove and sell Pre-Columbian artifacts. Educational programs in the schools emphasize the importance of protecting and preserving the historical pieces.

I am so very grateful to see the archeological richness of Ometepe Island taken seriously. With more funding for museums, educational programs, and increased awareness through various media sources, Ometepe Island can preserve their unique cultural heritage.

How can you help preserve and support the archeological richness of Ometepe Island?

1. Take only photos and leave only footprints behind.
2. Report any archeological finds to El Ceibo Museum or the other small local museums on the island.
3. Respect the cultural heritage of Nicaragua. The country is in the beginning stages of protection and environmental awareness. Many of the local people do not understand the importance of preserving and protecting their heritage. Help spread the word.
4. Provide funding and support for the educational programs and museums. If you enjoy visiting archeological sites on the island, show your support by making a monetary donation.
5. Volunteer. There are many volunteer options available if you are interested in preserving the unique culture of Ometepe Island. This is one of the best.
Ometepe Petroglyph Project

If you are interested in learning more about the archeological history of Nicaragua, below are two good links. If you are aware of any other books or websites, please let me know. It is slim pickings in the archeology and ceramica world of Nicaragua.

The Nicaraguan Ceramic Pottery Exhibit
Museums and Galleries of Nicaragua

 

 

A Molotov New Year


The Molotov Scarecrow

You’ve probably heard of the Molotov cocktail, but I doubt that you’ve heard of a Molotov scarecrow. The Molotov cocktail originated in the 1930’s during the Spanish Civil War. General Francisco Franco’s Spanish Nationalist army threw the incendiary weapons at Soviet tanks. Upstaging the Spanish Nationalists, the Nicaraguans devised an ingenious method to usher in the new year.

Munecos

A boisterous tradition is to ‘burn the old’ year. Old men, called muñecos, are crafted and stuffed with gunpowder. The dolls are adorned with vices, such as cigars, cigarettes, and guaron ( homemade moonshine). The old men are hung in the streets, and when the new year arrives, they burn them. All of their vices explode in a flame of glory. It’s a spectacular good riddance to the old year!

Next year, I’m going to slightly alter the tradition. I’m going to design a muñeca ( an old woman doll). I have a year to think about stuffing her with my vices. As Cory says, “No more resolutions, just live the dream.”  It sure sounds easier to blow up my vices immediately, instead of making New Year’s resolutions that I’ll probably never fulfill.

Happy New Year everyone! My hopes and wishes for all are to follow your chosen path, but don’t stop too long to debate on whether you’ve chosen the right direction. Someday, our paths will come to an end. In the meantime, gently tend to the needs of your path, live with passion, explore with love, and let your vices explode into a million tiny pieces.