Weekly Photo Challenge: This is Monumental!


The Weekly Photo Challenge is Monument. “Anything can be monumental as long as it’s imbued with a shared sense of importance.” ~Ben

Yesterday a monumental event occurred near Managua, Nicaragua. There was a 6.4 earthquake, along the same fault line that destroyed Managua in 1972. Read more about it here: Nicaragua Earthquake

Last week, our active volcano Concepcion awoke with eight small tremors. This is monumental.

Mountains are earth’s undecaying monuments.~Nathaniel Hawthorne

IMG_7681Should I worry?  I have our kayak ready if we need to make a hasty retreat for the mainland.
Wait! There is one more monumental thing. Read on.

Fli-Fy, not Wi-Fi


I am constantly in search of a stronger wi-fi signal. Living on a small tropical island in Nicaragua is not conducive to FAST internet. Sometimes, it is so frustrating trying to upload or download information. And forget about watching Youtube videos with a 3G dongle. Even with my homemade woktenna, a strong signal is sporadic.

But, I have lots of doves. Afterall, we live in the village of La Paloma…the village of doves. They are everywhere! If this works with pigeons, it’s sure to work with doves. Soon, I’ll be attaching these mini-routers to all the doves in La Paloma. I may need the help of some dove catchers and definitely a large supply of velcro.

Thanks to Samsung’s innovative approach, I should be flying through the internet in no time! If only I can catch those cute little doves.
Happy April first everyone!

Our Visit with President Jimmy Carter


“Each meeting occurs at the precise moment for which it was meant. Usually, when it will have the greatest impact on our lives.”
― Nadia Scrieva, Fathoms of Forgiveness

I don’t believe in coincidences. Life is serendipitous. We have always been lucky in making fortunate discoveries completely by accident. Such was our day today. We rode our motorcycle into Moyogalpa this morning to meet some friends at the Corner House for breakfast. “Why is town a buzz with military carrying AK-47s this morning?” Ron asked. No one knew why. Cindi and Alan passed a motorcade on their way into town to meet us. There were police and military stationed all over the island at the most popular tourist stops. Hmmm….

Robinson will know. He always knows everything. “Robinson, what’s happening on the island today?” I asked when I called him. “President Jimmy Carter is visiting with his family. He just got off the ferry and he’s headed to Santo Domingo for lunch at Villa Paraiso,” he said. This was an opportunity I was NOT going to miss.

I bought some local gifts at the Corner House…a jar of homemade peanut butter ( a perfect gift for a former peanut farmer), a jicote carving, a small jar of turmeric, handmade soap with neem insect repellant, and a homemade gift bag. “Where can I find a note card in town?” “I’ve never seen any note cards, but Arcia’s has some nice postcards,” Gary, the owner of the Corner House responded.

I walked quickly to Arcia’s on my mission as a cultural ambassador of Ometepe Island. Rapidly, I wrote a little note on the postcard welcoming President Carter to Ometepe Island. Then, we jumped on our motorcycles and zipped across the island to Santo Domingo. Forty minutes later we arrived at Villa Paraiso.

Now this is the serendipitous moment: Just as we arrived, President Carter and his family were leaving. I couldn’t help myself…I ran up and hugged him. I didn’t think about the guys with the AK-47s. I just wanted to share my enthusiasm for Ometepe Island with him.
meeting Jimmy CarterHe graciously accepted my gifts and was happy to pose with us for pictures.
gifts for Jimmy(1) 2When I told him about the homemade peanut butter, he asked Ron many questions about where it was grown and how it was processed…in fluent Spanish!!
Ron and JimmyAlan took our pictures and was thrilled to shake hands with President Carter.
alan meets JimmyWhat a wonderful day! That’s one of the many reasons I love living here. The world comes to us. We never know who we will meet.

Here are some more pictures of President Carter visiting our local museum.

President Carter and his family enter the local museum.

                                President Carter and his family enter the local museum.

President Carter and the first lady at the museum.

                              President Carter and the first lady at the museum.

I hope they enjoyed our local treasures.

                                    I hope they enjoyed our local treasures.

President Carter views the display cases.

                                         President Carter views the display cases.

On December 10, 2002, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2002 to Mr. Carter “for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development.” (The Carter Center) He is the perfect person to visit our island of peace. I am so honored to have met him. What a serendipitous day!

The Carter Center

 

 

 

 

 

The Sky’s the Limit


“Do mistakes and you become a good learner.
Welcome ordeals and you become a good problem solver.”~ Riddhi Sharma

Our SKY satellite TV has been on the blink for a month. Poor Ron! He can’t watch the football games on Sunday and I really miss CNN. Playing detective is a necessary part of life on Ometepe Island. We cut branches of trees close to the satellite dish, checked the cable for tears or scrapes, jiggled the dish, wiggled the wires, and rewired the service box…all to no avail.
The only service technicians in the entire country are from Managua, so we called and put in a work order for them to come to Ometepe to fix our TV. Yesterday, they arrived with the SKY truck.
IMG_0611For two hours they jiggled the cable, repositioned the satellite dish, and checked the service box, while the annoying beeping from the TV indicated that there was no signal.
IMG_0612They moved the satellite dish to a wiggly garden post in the hopes of solving the mystery about why there was no signal.
IMG_0619Hmmm…suddenly the signal was strong and clear. It must be the Neem tree blocking the signal. Three years ago, when we installed the satellite dish, our Neem trees were only a foot tall. Now, they are 25 feet tall. I guess we have to take down the Neem tree. Ron to the rescue with his machete.
IMG_0616Meanwhile, as the sun was setting, Black Jack investigated the SKY truck.
IMG_0622With the tree down, the technicians put the dish back in its original location.
IMG_0623No worries. We still have five more Neem trees on our property.
IMG_0624He repositioned the dish for a strong, steady signal.
IMG_0625And voilà! A strong, steady signal…football games and CNN!
IMG_0627By this time, it was dark and the last ferry had already left for the mainland. “Where are you staying tonight?” I asked. “Can we stay here?” the boss asked. “No problemo!” I responded. I was a little embarrassed because the only problem with our satellite signal was the Neem tree. I felt bad that they had to travel a whole day from Managua, across on the ferry, to solve our problem. The boss wanted to know if there were other people on the island that would like SKY TV, since they were here. I quickly sent a notice to all the expats on the island and received 2 responses by the next morning.
IMG_0628What a great crew! They even offered me a job as the SKY representative for Ometepe Island. It was their first time on Ometepe Island. They slept in our casita, took a quick dip in the lake in the morning, and I gave them the phone numbers of the two expats that were interested in installing SKY in their homes.

The SKY’s the limit, as far as our satellite reception goes. Only in Nicaragua! Have I told you how much I love this country?

Daily Prompt: Trick or Treat


The Daily Prompt says, “If bloggers had their own Halloween and could go from blog to blog collecting “treats,” what would your blog hand out?”

Happy Halloween bloggers. Enjoy my treats.

1. A good backup and restoration for your blog
All bloggers need to backup their blogs, right? You never know when you’ll need it.
Updraft Plus
2. An offline storage for interesting articles you find for your blog
I use Evernote constantly and I can store interesting websites to research articles for my blog.
Evernote
3. 30 of the best online dictionaries and thesauri
We can all use this, right?
The Best Online Dictionaries
4. A secure anonymous VPN
I use Strong VPN. If you want to sign up, ask me for a referral.
Strong VPN
5. Free storage place for all your online things
I use Dropbox. If I lose everything on my phone or my laptop, it is safely stored and waiting for me.
Dropbox

The Honeymoon is Over


DSCN1264The honeymoon is definitely over! For several weeks, I’ve been out of sorts. I start a project, and frustratingly set it aside. It’s been a month of heavy rain, slow internet, lots of bugs, and a lack of professional services on our island.

I am anxious because our “adopted” dog has a cancerous tumor in his mouth, and the only vet on the island has 35 years of experience, but no professional training. In March, he “operated” on Canejo on top of our septic tank using an old hunting knife and a hot piece of rebar and cauterised the remains of the tumor. The tumor has grown back, and now it’s only a decision about when to put a stop to Canejo’s suffering.

DSCN1263Life has been a bucking bull ride lately. If you have lived abroad for over a year, I’m sure you can identify with my feelings. There are four common stages of cultural adjustment:
I. The Honeymoon
The wondrous initial period of euphoria and excitement…oh how I long for those days of mystery and surprise! I enjoy reading Holly’s blog about her first year of rebirth in Boquete, Panama. Let the Adventure Begin!  In this stage, one feels like he/she can conquer the world. It’s a superficial, tourist-like involvement with the host country, as well as intrigue with both similarities and differences between the new culture and the home culture. In this stage, one has lots of interest and motivation in learning and most importantly…an open-minded attitude.
DSCN1268II. Culture Shock
This is the stage where one feels like he/she is on a wild chicken bus ride though life. Every curve is fraught with danger, small issues become major catastrophes, and one easily becomes stressed-out, frustrated, and may feel helpless to solve the smallest problems. The focus is on the differences between the new culture and the home culture. Stereotypes and prejudices surface. Homesickness and missing family and friends sets in. In other words, the novelty of the new culture disappears in a cloud of fog, rain, or dust (depending on the season).

DSCN1265III. Gradual Adjustment
This is the stage in which one’s perceptions change, when one can hear the church bells toll…and enjoy them…and regain a sense of humor lost in the previous stage. Decisions are made to make the most of one’s experiences. Increased familiarity with the new culture, its logic and values enables one to feel safe, comfortable, and creative. This is a time of deeper understanding and questioning earlier assumptions about the world. Some parts of living abroad are actually better in one’s host country, than in the home country! It’s a time for revelations, changing perceptions, and evaluating a new way of life. Of course, there are highs and lows as adjustments take place gradually.

IV. Feeling at Home
One now appreciates certain aspects of the foreign culture and critiques other aspects. This is the stage of reality. There is no paradise on earth. One adapts and changes accordingly. This is home. One is no longer negatively affected by differences between the host and home cultures. Living and working to one’s full potential is the mantra. It is biculturalism at its best!

 Cultural Stress
Most people living in a foreign culture for an extended period experience cultural stress. I have to remind myself that it is normal to feel overwhelmed and frustrated at times. It is all part of the cultural learning process. We learn through our mistakes. Living abroad is a challenge in many areas: culture, language, values, customs, traditions, and logic.

Strategies for Dealing with Cultural Stress:
Listed below are several ways we have learned to deal with cultural stress. Just remember, it is completely normal. Where do I belong in the cultural adjustment stages? Since the stages tend to blend into one another, I am probably between stage 3 and 4. Most of the time, I’m happily adjusted with many expat and local friends. But, occasionally, I do have “those days”. I’m sure you know what I mean. :-)

1. Make plans to stay in touch with family and friends
Now that we moved my woktenna for a stronger internet signal ( the trees grew a foot or more this rainy season and covered the woktenna!) I can easily keep my schedule of Skyping with my family every weekend.
2. Get into the expat bubble for a change. It depends on where you live, but we are culturally immersed in a small all Spanish-speaking community. Sometimes, I need to visit my expat friends just to regroup, speak English rapidly, and talk about things we have in common.
3. There are several internal supports. First, understand the stages of cultural adjustment, then analyze your situations and your reactions to those situations. Identify your “hot buttons” and ways to manage stress. Finally, identify new ways of thinking positively.
I always tell myself when I’m down that the worst thing that can happen is that I will die. Then, nothing really seems that bad.
4. Travel to a new and different place. It always works to help us get out of a rut. Next week we’re taking a short trip to the La Flor beach on the Pacific coast to watch turtles. Next month, we’re traveling back to the states to visit family. Next year, we are planning a long, 2 month trip to Ecuador and the Yasuni National Park.
5. Physical supports: We eat healthily. We have a thriving garden and 15 varieties of fruit trees on our property. We experiment with new recipes all the time. Our motto is everything in moderation..not too much of any one thing. We get plenty of exercise walking, kayaking, and swimming.
6. Volunteer in your host country. This has helped us tremendously because we formed close and lasting relationships with a variety of local people. Everyone has a talent or a skill to share with others.

I think I’m feeling better, now. I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts about the stages of cultural adjustment. If you live abroad, what stage are you in?

 



 

Dreamers Turned Doers


“Dreamers are mocked as impractical. The truth is they are the most practical, as their innovations lead to progress and a better way of life for all of us.”
― Robin S. Sharma

We are constantly looking for new ways to do practically everything in our rewired and retired lives. Researching  practical innovations that would help to make a better way of life for all of us, I found these amazing things on the internet. Click on the navy blue link to read more about these dreamers turned doers.

John Lennon glasses

1. A New Way to See the World
My neighbors need prescription glasses, but they are very expensive. This new technology injects fluid into the lenses and by rotating the dials, you can achieve the perfect prescription without a costly eye exam.

ear phones2. A New Way to Hear
Robinson had a horrible motorcycle accident a year ago. As a result, he lost most of his hearing in one ear. A delicate operation is needed to reposition the tiny bones in his ear, but there is no guarantee this will work. Using bone conduction technology originally developed for military special ops, these headphones transmit vibrations directly from your cheekbones to your inner ear, bypassing the eardrum.

edible glasses3. A New Way to Drink
Plastic bottles…a huge problem on Ometepe Island. These edible glasses are made from pectin, a gelling agent derived from fruits, the cups are surprisingly durable, and Briganti hopes they’ll help replace disposable plastic. We could definitely use these here!

Fresh Paper4. A New Kind of Paper
This would be a boon for our small agricultural island. The inventor is partnering with nonprofits in developing countries to ship FreshPaper to some of the roughly 1.2 billion people in the world who lack refrigeration, including small-scale farmers in India and Africa who sometimes can’t sell their crop before it spoils.

drones delivering mail 5. A New Way to Deliver Our Mail?
A company called Matternet has tested unmanned aerial vehicles, or “drones,” in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, where it hopes to help deliver medical supplies and food to areas that lack reliable roads. Now, this would be fantastic, since we have no mail delivery on Ometepe.

  taking a course online 6. A New Way to Take Free College Courses

I used to teach online graduate level education courses. The greatest thing about teaching online was that I could do it from anywhere, even wearing my PJs. I’ve signed up for a course with Coursera. With 300-plus free online courses — Moralities of Everyday Life,  Archaeology’s   Dirty Little Secrets, Women and the Civil Rights Movement — all taught by professors at 62 of the world’s top schools, including Yale and Stanford, the Web site Coursera reads like the course catalog you wish you’d taken advantage of in college. The company’s goal is to allow every person in the world access to an Ivy League–caliber education — without the frat parties and calculus requirement.

vaporizers  7. A New Way to Quit Smoking
Cigarettes are really cheap in Nicaragua. If you are thinking of quitting, new studies show that using a vaporizer, or e-cigarette, is as effective if not more so, than using a nicotine patch.

Cacoon-hanging-tree-house-1-640x6448. A New Kind of Tent
 I’m not sure how practical this would be, but it is very cool. I wonder how difficult it would be to make?

Gringos: The People from Off


“Are you offended when we call you a gringa?” my neighbor asked.
“No. Actually, never,” I said. She surprised me when she asked because Nicaraguans have a totally different perspective of the word offensive than ‘gringos’.

It never occurred to me that gringo/a was an offensive term in Nicaragua because Nicaraguans define a person’s characteristics, nationality, and race with descriptive words like “gorda/o” (fat), “gordita/o” (chubby), negro/a (black), gringa/o (a foreigner), or “chele”     ( light color skin).

When I returned from the states a few noticeable pounds heavier, my neighbor said, “Oh, tu estas linda y gordita.” (You are pretty and chubby.) I’ve learned not to take offense to these words of description because they are not meant to be malicious or mean-spirited. They are simply a way to identify someone…nothing more.

This morning, I found this video, Why Costa Rica Hates Gringos-Explained. He describes gringos as only people from the United States. However, most Nicaraguans refer to anyone from another country as a gringo. In fact, I think our Arkansas neighbors could have called us gringos when we lived in the hollows of the Ozark Mountains. Most locals referred to us as “the people from off”, mainly because of our different customs, way of talking, and ‘otherness’  ( described in the article Who, Exactly, is a Gringo? linked at the bottom of the page).

Although I agree that some foreigners act this way, I find that more people from off tend to be compassionate, optimistic, and friendly.  He makes the term ‘gringo’ sound ugly and offensive, which is no surprise because he’s from Gringolandia, where the tiniest error is assumed to be offensive and politically incorrect. Although there is a grain of truth in what this ‘gringo’ says in his video, one has to look at it from the perspective of a Nica or Tico, not a person from the United States or a person from off.

Generally, most Nicas don’t think that way, and I suspect that most Ticos don’t either. In Latin America, it is all about saving face. Nicaraguans avoid confrontations with people from off. They don’t want to offend anyone because they don’t want to be offended. They will go out of their way to give you directions. Even if they don’t know the directions, they make up something to please you. They don’t want to appear stupid. If they don’t understand your Spanglish, they will try to avoid you, so as not to embarrass you or themselves.

Here’s a good example of avoidance to save face. The other day, the meter reader rode by our house on his bicycle. He stopped at our neighbor’s house for the umpteenth time to deliver our electric bill. “Marina, why doesn’t he deliver our electric bill to our house?” I asked. “Because he doesn’t understand you when you speak Spanish,” she said. “But, you understand me,” I said. “Quien sabe?” ( Who knows?) she laughed as she threw up her hands in amusement.

Honestly, Nicaraguans don’t have the same perceptions of the word “offensive” as we do. Julio was watching a movie with us and someone said, ‘honky’.
“What does honky mean?” Julio asked. “Well,” I tried to explain, “It’s used by an African-American to describe a white person.” The next day, a young foreigner walked by our beach. Julio shouted across the fence to me, “Honky on la playa,” while laughing hysterically because we usually shout, “Gringo on la playa.” Julio forced me to explain that honky may be interpreted as an offensive racial slur in the United States. He looked at me with a puzzled expression, not having a clue what I was talking about. To this day, he still shouts, “Honky on la playa” because he likes the word to describe a foreigner better than the word gringo. Oh! What have I done?

Take a look at this video below while you’re listening to Honky Tonk Badonkadonk, then read the article below. I would be very interested in reading your impressions and thoughts about what is considered offensive in Latin America vs North America. Maybe I should add a disclaimer at the bottom: The opinions expressed within this post are the sole opinions of the author, which may or may not hold true for all readers. :-)

Who, Exactly is a Gringo?

Born Out of Necessity


Necessity is the mother of taking chances.
~Mark Twain

Satisfying one’s basic needs..and a few wants..while living on a primitive island in the middle of a huge sweet sea, in the middle of Nicaragua, in the middle of Central America can be quite challenging at times. Many things on Ometepe Island are born out of necessity due to lack of reliable infrastructure, transportation, and supplies.

But, that certainly doesn’t stop the creative and motivated people who live here.

I. Shelter
With our gift of two bags of cement for Christmas, our neighbors made a new addition to their kitchen. Shade is a necessity on our beach….always. Homemade ladders and handmade metal reinforced columns help to complete our casita.

II. Transportation
What do you do with a broken Jet ski? Of course, you make it into a fishing boat. Mechanics rebuild motors in the ferries with spare used parts, while a creative entrepreneur designs a tandem bicycle out of used bicycle parts to rent to tourists. Handmade carts haul wood for cooking fires and the ferry transports a mummified horse for the local rodeo.

III. Utilities
Tall water tanks supply gravity fed water during water shortages and everyone is an electrician when the lines get tangled or we need 220 v. Just hire a neighbor to climb the pole to fix the electricity in the neighborhood.

IV. Flood Insurance?
In 2010, while we were building our house, the lake rose to the highest levels seen in 60 years. It rose into our yard and washed out our road. Materials had to be carried on our heads as we sloshed through the lake. We crushed old roof tiles for a stronger road bed and hired a tractor to deliver bricks. The tractor got stuck, but with the help of many strong men and several attempts, we were able to push it out of the lake to get the bricks to the house. There is no such thing as flood insurance, so this idea was born out of blood, sweat, and tears to build our house.

V. Communication, Banking, and Free Luggage
My woktenna was born out of a need for a faster internet…and it works great! I even won third place in a contest for the most creative way to get online. Have you ever seen a tent bank? Born out of necessity, this bank opened in a tent until construction was completed on their new bank. Disgusted with paying high prices for your luggage on airlines? I needed a way to transport my books for my lending library, thus my homemade travel vest was born…and it’s free. I can waddle through airports with 40 pounds of books in it..no questions asked.

VI. Creative Outdoor Living
Aware of crimes of opportunity, we can’t leave hammocks or other lawn furniture outside unprotected. In fact, I got lazy and left a hammock outside two weeks ago, and it was stolen! Sigh…but that’s another story. With leftover bricks, I made outdoor furniture. The workers building our casita were so impressed with my outdoor furniture, that they made a mini-brick ferry.

VII. Health

Walter, our local mosquito exterminator, fumigates the houses with his homemade fumigator gun. Johnson lifts weights made of two tin cans packed with concrete.

Necessity is the mother of invention. That holds true on Ometepe Island. It involves taking risks, but great things are born out of necessity.

 

Timeout for Art: Teachers


“Because teachers, no matter how kind, no matter how friendly, are sadistic and evil to the core.”
― Heather Brewer, Eighth Grade Bites

Normally, I wouldn’t post a sarcastic quote about teachers, but this is different. Walter White was a milquetoast chemistry teacher who broke bad when he was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. He turned to crime by producing and selling methamphetamine with a former student in order to leave his family financially secure when he died.

Breaking Bad is a popular television drama series, and I am addicted to this show. Walter is: a protagonist turned antagonist, a nerdy middle-aged high school Chemistry teacher turned murderous drug lord, a villain seeking redemption by ignoring his past sins, and a monster because he has rationalized it all.

Shrouded in his crystal meth, Walter represents our dark sides. I often ask myself, “What would it take to break bad?” A terminal illness? A diseased brain? A fight with a family member? Do we all have the potential to break bad? How would I respond if I was diagnosed with a terminal illness?

IMG_3388 2 Breaking Bad brings out the best and the worst in me. The best, in that I can ponder the philosophical questions about life….the really important questions like; Are we human only because of chemical equations in our brains? When is it justified to kill another human being? What baggage do we carry on the road to redemption? What governs my life choices? Is it emotions, personal motives, or consequences of my actions? Without memories are we still human?

On the other hand, Breaking Bad can bring out the worst in me. I can rationalize poor decisions, react impulsively out of revenge, justify my wicked thoughts by blaming others, and cuss like a hurracca when my feathers are ruffled.

Simply put, I’m human. My dark side stays safely tucked away most of the time. Unlike Walter White, I don’t expect to break bad anytime soon. But, the potential is there. When Hank (Walter’s brother-in-law) confronted Walter and said, “I don’t know who you are anymore.” Walter responded, “If you don’t know who I am, then maybe the best course would be to tread lightly.”

Here’s to treading lightly, enjoying each day as it comes, living fully and compassionately, and keeping that dark side safely tucked away!