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!

Part Two: Natives With Netiquette


Globalization, as defined by rich people like us, is a very nice thing… you are talking about the Internet, you are talking about cell phones, you are talking about computers. This doesn’t affect two-thirds of the people of the world.
Jimmy Carter

Part Two in a series of travelers vs tourists. The first part was: Codes of Responsible Travelers. In this post, I explore the problems that arise with sustainable and cultural tourism through the eyes of the indigenous community of Los Ramos.

Ten years ago, we gave our cell phone to Francisco of the Los Ramos indigenous community because we were returning to the states. For generations, this community lacked any means of high-tech communication. Grandpa Cabo announced special events in the community with his ancient bull horn.  With my used cell phone and a tall tree, the people could now climb to the top of the tree to receive a stronger signal…and voila…they were connected to the world. Although, it worried Francisco when his grandmother became trapped in the tree and he had to rescue her…picture a cat in a tree meowing frantically… the cell phone signified a new beginning for this isolated community.

DSCN0694Years later, progress in Los Ramos advanced rapidly. With generous donations, they bought an electric transformer…yes, you have to buy your own transformers in Nicaragua…to run a pump from the well located two miles down a long, sloping, dusty path to the beach. Now, they had running water in Los Ramos. Their lives became a lot easier.

Getting water in Los RamosThis agricultural community continued planting and harvesting their frioles, plantains, and sesame seeds. However, they were losing their young people to Costa Rica and other more cosmopolitan places in Nicaragua. There were no jobs to keep this community intact. Something had to be done to help their young families bring in the hay.

Bringing in the hayEnter sustainable/cultural tourism in Los Ramos. With the help of many knowledgeable and professional tourism people…including my son, Cory, and his good friend Sam…they compiled lists of available resources in Los Ramos, developed 12 cultural tourism programs, created brochures and a website, and perfected their programs with ‘fake’ travelers. Zac, the Peace Corps volunteer, helped them create a budget and worked closely with the community to develop an accounting system.

Front page of BrochureWord spread quickly about the authentic cultural programs in Los Ramos. Los Ramos hired their local son, Ever, as their new tourism director. They have a well-organized system of accounting, preparing, and planning for their programs. Yet, cultural tourism isn’t without its pitfalls. This indigenous community has learned that there is a fine balance between providing authentic cultural experiences and maintaining, yet improving their lifestyles, culture, and traditions passed down through generations.

First, they have learned that marketing their programs requires computers, cell phones, and internet access. Grandma can’t climb that tree anymore to call the world. It’s a dichotomy of development… a clash of cultures. The world was suddenly at their fingertips, if they learned how to boot-up the computer.  They had to quickly become natives with netiquette to run their programs.

Second, they experienced language barriers. More travelers passing through their community, meant they needed someone who could speak some English. Fortunately, Ever has the skills to explain their programs, provide answers to questions, and help tourists limited to English only.

Third, more visitors = more money for the community. More money = more ‘conveniences’ for tourists, as well as their own families. Does providing authentic cultural experiences mean that they can’t buy microwaves, big refrigerators, open an internet café, start a smoothie bar, or buy a big flat-screened TV or iPhone? How do they balance authentic experiences with wanting to offer more comfort and ease for everyone involved in their lives? They are beginning to understand the dilemmas they face. Tourists seek authentic cultural experiences, then they complain about lacking a comfortable mattress, a hot shower, wi-fi, or ice cubes in their freshly squeezed orange juice. Where’s the balance?

Fourth, more money coming into the community always partners with jealousy and power. Host families have to offer safe, comfortable housing for their guests. When non-host families see the money coming into their neighbors’ host homes, they want to become host families, too. Yet, their only accommodations are the pig sty behind their house or the chicken coop. Then, little fights break out, feelings are hurt, and jealousies erupt like the active volcano looming at the top of their community.

Sustainable tourism, in my opinion, is a viable option for Los Ramos, especially considering the alternatives…high rise resorts, where the locals become the maids and gardeners…young men moving to Costa Rica to find jobs to support their families left behind…or cleaning houses in foreign gated communities. I have no doubts that this lovely community will be able to resolve these problems…poco a poco. They are resourceful, creative, and oh…the places they can go with a little help from their friends. This vivacious community of natives with netiquette are learning as they progress to…keep their traditions close to their hearts…proudly share their lifestyles with the world…and most importantly, love their neighbors.

Los Ramos Mi Casa es tu Casa website.
Trip Advisor Reviews

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

Snowden in Nicaragua?


“US fugitive Edward Snowden has abandoned his request for political asylum in Russia after learning he would have to stop leaking intelligence reports, the Kremlin said Tuesday, as the American awaited asylum decisions from 20 other countries.” (Dmitry Zaks, AFP, July 2, 2013).

According to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, other countries in which Snowden may seek asylum include China, Cuba, France, Germany, Italy, India, Nicaragua and Spain. Nicaragua??? My expat home?  I’m torn with conflicting emotions if Nicaragua were to accept Snowden.

On the one hand, I believe that Snowden is a whistleblower, not a traitor. A traitor is someone who gives information to the enemy. Are ‘We the People’ the enemy? Don’t we have a right to know about our government’s secret surveillance program, especially if it is ‘We the People’ who are being watched?

Certainly, it is no secret because George W. Bush authorized warrantless wiretapping of international communications after the September 11, 2001 attacks as part of the war on terrorism. In 2005, public disclosure ignited the outrage of the potential misuse of data mining of e-mail messages and telephone call records in the NSA call database. We’ve known about this for years.

I’m siding with Snowden on this issue.  He is not a traitor, only a concerned citizen who risked his life and his professional career to inform us of the potential dangers of warrantless wiretapping and government surveillance of its own citizens.  Let’s face it, we all know that we are being watched, not only by our government, but by the marketing media who records every click, every ‘like’, and every internet move we make in the digital age.

The other day, I was researching metal detectors and protest music. Weird combination, I know, but sometimes in my mind works in mysterious ways. In looking for protest music on YouTube, a little ad at the bottom of the video tried to direct me to metal detectors. What??? How could they possibly know that I was researching metal detectors? Honestly, browser snooping scares me. It unnerves me to think that my every move on the internet is recorded for marketing purposes.

Yet, what frightens me more are the potential problems for Nicaragua. If Snowden were to receive asylum in my expat country would I offer him my guest house as a reprieve from the mad warlock hunt? Impulsively, I would say, “Yes”. I admire his bravery and his tenacity.  On the other hand, I imagine this scenario or nightmare…your choice:

Snowden snuggles peacefully under the mosquito net in our guest house, while unidentified flying objects circle the periphery of our property. Strangers disguised as lone fishermen, paddle around the lake wearing night goggles and Google glasses. Economic sanctions by the U.S. prohibit the export of Nicaraguan coffee, gold, and beef. The United States, Nicaragua’s main trading partner who bought 29% of Nicaragua’s exports in 2012, stops trading with Nicaragua. All U.S. expats and tourists are stopped at every border crossing, strip searched and aggressively interrogated. Legal expats can no longer leave or enter Nicaragua without special permission from the U.S. Tourism comes to an abrupt halt. Fear overwhelms the local people struggling to make a living because all trading has stopped. NGOs are prohibited from sending donations and supplies to Nicaragua. Nicaragua, my beloved adopted country, quickly loses all economic gains it has made in recent years.

If Edward Snowden knocks on my door in my little oasis of peace, I’m afraid  I would have to say, “Sorry, Edward. I admire your bravery, but I am a coward with too much at risk. Please find another country for political asylum.” For you see, I love Nicaragua more than I admire Snowden’s courageous whistle blowing. Life is all about making informed decisions. Every choice has a consequence whether good or bad, right or wrong, bitter or sweet. Laurie Buchanon says, “The life we live is an expression of the choices we make.” I chose Nicaragua before, and I will choose Nicaragua again. Surely, Snowden understands that individual choices can have global consequences. I wish you the best, Edward Snowden. Safe travels in your search for peace and political asylum.

Snowden in Nicaragua?

Please Vote for Me!


Sigh! Ron’s laptop died. Living in the tropics with electronic equipment is always a challenge. The heat and humidity wreak havoc on expensive electronics, not to mention the bugs and dust that invade every little crack. Creativity and vigilance is the key to successful maintenance of our electronics. But, even with constant care, sometimes our electronics just bite the dust. Protecting Your Electronics in the Tropics

When I was in the states, I bought a CradlePoint router for our 3G Claro dongle so we can have wi-fi. Since we have a volcano in our backyard blocking the tower to a strong signal, I had to put on my thinking cap to funnel the signal to the tower.  My Woktenna

Now, I’ve moved our woktenna outside under our roof for a stronger signal.
IMG_2211
Several days ago, I received an email about a CradlePoint contest. They are looking for unique ways that people connect to the internet using their CradlePoint router. I don’t think one can get more creative than our woktenna setup. Plus, if I receive the most votes in the contest, I can win a mini-iPad for Ron. I’m having a difficult time sharing my computer with him. lol

If you have a Facebook account, would you please ‘like’ the CradlePoint Facebook page, then vote for me?  VOTE Here

This will only work if you have a Facebook account. Click on the link above. “Like” the page. Then you will see a place to view the entries. Click on ‘view the entries’, find a picture of my woktenna. Click on the picture and it will take you to a place to vote.

Thank you so much for helping me. It’s neck and neck. You can vote once a day until March 22. Please help me win a mini-iPad for my dear computerless husband.

Facebook for Expats: Friend or Foe?


As an expat, I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. There are days that I gratefully turn to Facebook to solve mysterious Latino customs, or sift through mountainous responses to my questions with the help of my local and expat friends. Other days, I threaten to unsubscribe, cutting myself free from the time-consuming burden of ‘liking’, ‘defriending’, ‘befriending’, ‘hiding’, ‘status updating’, and ‘sharing’.

According to HSBC’s 2011 Expat Explorer Survey, a majority of expats use Facebook as their social network of choice. Even in countries where only 3-4% of locals use Facebook over half of expats are on the site a couple of times a week.

I confess that I am an Expat Facebook junkie. Awareness is the first step to overcoming an addiction. Honoring my newly found awareness, I have compiled a list of Facebook friends and foes for expats.

Facebook Friends

1. Connections
I make Facebook friends with people all over the world. One of the great things about living on Ometepe Island is that the world comes to us. We may live on a small island, but it is a world-famous Biosphere Reserve drawing thousands of tourists every year. Sipping my mocha latte at the Corner House Cafe, I make international connections with like-minded people almost everyday. Once we establish a face-to-face connection, my next question is, “What’s your Facebook name?”
2.   Information Gathering
Lacking vets, biologists, seismologists, geologists, and ornithologists, and practically all other special ‘ists’ on our island, I turn to Facebook for answers. I can post pictures of injured animals I find, seek identification of snakes, fish, and other creepy crawlies…and I always receive an immediate response to my questions from my Facebook friends.

Before Facebook, I joined forums, such as The Real Nicaragua and NicaLiving  seeking answers to questions pertaining to a potential or a new expat. I discovered that these forums always get dominated by aggressive, territorial types who make every thread into a chest-puffing exercise. I’m not surprised that people are getting sick of them. At least on Facebook you can block out the people who don’t add any value to information one is seeking.

Help me! What should I do for this injured bird?

My neighbors call it a Coral Negro. Is it poisonous?

This caused a ruckus on our beach today. The locals are afraid of this fish. Why?

3. Technology
Facebook is free! That’s a big plus for expats. It has a user-friendly interface, making it possible to post videos and pictures, chat with friends instantly, and promote my blog about compassionate cultural immersion and volunteer projects with one simple click. I’ve even turned on my teenage neighbors to Facebook..but, with a price. Check out the foes of Facebook technology.

4. Maintaining Family Connections

Our families are spread out all over the USA and Canada. I enjoy seeing the latest photos of newborns (especially baby toes…I love baby toes!), family reunions, travels, and heartwarming discussions of our families’ adventures through life.

Facebook Foes

1. Connections

Really…how many Facebook friends can one have and still be attentive to their posts? It takes up so much of my time scrolling and responding and trying to be a good Facebook friend, when I should be raking mangoes instead. I’ve continued my routine from my Gringolandia days… morning coffee and Facebook first. But, living in the tropics, I really need to change my routine. If I rake my mangoes and attend to my outside chores any later than 9 am, I’m a heat stroke victim.

See what I’m talking about?

2. Information Gathering
Yes, Facebook is a wonderful source of news and information. I have hundreds of pages and groups that I ‘like’. But, let’s face it, during an election year in the USA, the political posts are annoying as hell.  Battles ensue daily. If I feel the need to respond to a particularly offense political post, which I OFTEN do, I have to spend the time fact checking, wading through propaganda, and exploring the media for an unbiased article. We ALL know that’s impossible. I try to ‘hide’ posts that get my blood boiling, but even that doesn’t work most of the time. I ask myself, “Why do I bother?” I live in freakin’ Nicaragua, a socialist country. *sigh* I really need to rake my mangoes! The fermentation and the sickening sweet aroma of rotten mangoes is making me sick as I fact check.

3. Technology
I thought I was opening the world to my teenage neighbors by helping them join Facebook. Instead, my house has become an internet café. My impoverished neighbors don’t have computers, let alone internet. What was I thinking?

Is this really progress? What have I done?

Plus, my internet connection is spotty. I had to make a special Woktenna to hold my dongle. Sounds intriguing doesn’t it? Check out my post, here. My Woktenna.
I feel like a pusher and I’m addicting them, too. Naturally, when they joined Facebook, they have to check it, right? Sometimes, they come to check their Facebook at the most inopportune time.

Sometimes, I lie to them. “No hay internet hoy. Talvez manana.”  Then, I sneak onto Facebook…and have it all to my own. Shameful, right?  I’ve resorted to lying to my impoverished neighbors…all in the name of Facebook.

4. Maintaining Family Connections
I have to choose my status updates carefully. Not many of my family members were overly thrilled with us retiring in a ‘third world country’, or at least their perceptions of a third world country. I can’t post that Ron has parasites because he doesn’t wash the mangoes that drop to the ground. I can’t post that I had to wash and dress a dead gringo because there are no funeral directors here. Nor can I post that I’m afraid the volcano in our backyard is going to erupt any day now because it’s long overdue. They would worry. And, besides, they never read my blog, only Facebook.

So, there you have it. My friends and foes of my love/hate relationship with Facebook. I’m curious to hear from other expats. How do you feel about Facebook?

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly


Happy anniversary to me. My blog is one year old today. In honor of my first anniversary, I have created a list of the good, the bad, and the ugly things that have taken place in Nicaragua since July 2011.

THE GOOD

  • My philosophy of compassionate cultural immersion is spreading world-wide
  • Health care programs are improving on Ometepe Island for the expats.
  • My mobile lending library for the elementary schools is expanding monthly
  • Newspapers, TV, and schools are educating people on litter removal and the effects of pollution on their environment in Nicaragua
  • Ometepe Island became a digital island in February 2012 with over 5,000 One Laptop per Child computers donated to all of the elementary schools
  • Sustainable tourism programs are increasing for local communities, offering new jobs and enabling self-sufficiency
  • Our major construction is completed and I have a comfortable nest
  • New Bread Fruit, Jack Fruit, Avocado, Grapefruit, Neem, and other fruit trees are growing rapidly on our property along with Ron’s thriving garden
  • We completed the process of residency and are now legal Pensionado Visa residents of Nicaragua
  • An Ometepe Expat Google group now connects all of the expats on Ometepe Island.
  • The local grocery stores on Ometepe Island are catering to the tastes of expats. Now, we can even place an order online for Hugo’s grocery store and they go to Pricemart in Managua at least once a month. My frig is stocked with chocolate chips!
  • The new airport is almost ready for business. There are pros and cons, but I like the convenience of the airport..I can walk to it from my house.
  • My Spanish has improved tremendously. I can make a dentist appointment over the phone, order pizza delivery, and call our taxi driver. Talking on the phone in Spanish has been difficult for me, so this is a major improvement in my life.
  • The following link is a PDF and the latest progress report of Nicaragua.
    Progress Report of Nicaragua

THE BAD

  • The USA denied Nicaragua the transparency waiver. Its denial will cost the Nicaraguan people $3 million in aid for the next fiscal year.  Read more about it at this link:   Witness for Peace
  • Pierre Doris Maltese, the dangerous cult leader of Ecoovie, is still in Nicaragua. However, powerful people are now aware and much progress has been made to gather evidence and deport him from Nicaragua.
  • The electric and water is still erratic. Much needs to be done to improve the basic  utility infrastructure on Ometepe Island before they open the airport.
  • Health care for the local people on the island needs a major overhaul. My opinion is that instead of a new airport, they should have built a new hospital.
  • The Capuchin monkeys, not native to Ometepe Island, are being held hostage with little food on Monkey Island near Hacienda Mérida. They have attacked  and severely mauled at least seven tourists. More on this later, once I do more research.

THE UGLY

  • My friend Bobby took his life in Granada, Nicaragua in December. I am still dealing with the grief of his unknown despair.
  • Jerry died of a sudden heart attack in April. If only we would have had access to a defibrillator, it may have prolonged his life.
  • Ian and Jose ( young men) both committed suicide three days apart last year.

The total number of good things happening within a year outweighs the combined total of the bad and ugly… at least in this forever optimistic blogger’s voice. Thank you wonderful blog readers. You are the reason I write. I travel throughout Nicaragua; it leaves me speechless, then turns me into a storyteller.   Here’s to many more Nicaraguan stories next year. Life is good, retirement is better, telling stories of my life on an island in the middle of a huge lake, in the middle of Nicaragua, in the middle of Central America is….well, priceless.

Search Term Funnies


If you have a WordPress blog, you are probably familiar with the search term statistics. They are keywords that people have typed into a search engine, like Google, to arrive at your website. Below are some of my favorite search terms people have used to find my website and my response to each one. How in the world they found my blog, I’ll never know. :-)

….sam concepcion toilet
No, your mother was wrong. You can’t conceive by sitting on a toilet seat.
….how to build naked brick house in tropical climate?
First, take off all your clothes.
….bra throw away
Only in the tropics.
….she is peeing on me
Huh?
….chicken willy otter
The sky is falling?
….foot swelling and red now turning blue
Cut it off.
….are latex gloves transported by truck or airplane
Neither…only by boat here.
….how to prevent leaning against the wall
Lay down.
….need morphine nicaragua
You need help.
….drawing owl winxs
Do owls wink?
….take the bull by the horns
Do you know how to perform the Heimlich on a bull?
….rewirement and retirement
Kind of catchy!
….what is the strongest pain medication I can get in Nicaragua?
Another search for drugs? Come on…get real.
….big sweaty fishermen
Are you fantasizing about my husband again?
….composed dolphin baby prints
Do you mean decomposed?
….gas station aluminum car parts
This one has me stumped!
….nicaragua ugly women
No ugly women here.
….pizza delivered in nicaragua
Yes, it’s true!
….ship a refrigerator to nicaragua
Why?
….retired avon products
They are all sold in Nicaragua.
….dunkin donuts in nicaragua
I wish!
….can you buy percocet in nicaragua
OMG! Another one.
….what kind of birds are bugs afraid of
Big ones.
….ignorance of our culture
That’s really stupid.
….will nicaragua let us citizens live there
They let us live here.
….ugly drag queens
Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.
….how do I tear down my washing machine
One nut at a time.
….recipe for sweet potato thang
First, buy a thang at your local store.
….hairy upper lip girl
Does this mean I need to take hormones?

In completing a thorough analysis of my blog search terms, I have come to the conclusion that I know very little about my audience. Their interests vary from food, to drugs, to comedy, to health (or lack of health)… from fantasizing, to “how to” articles … from fear of tarantulas, to fear of retirement…from dreaming, to doing….from living to dying. The interests run the gamut, which tells me…keep writing and keep wondering. Life on a tropical island, in the middle of a huge sweet sea, in the middle of Nicaragua, in the middle of Central America is never dull. I wonder why?

Protecting your Electronics in the Tropics


 

Living in the tropics has many advantages; for one, I’ll never have to shovel snow again. However, living on a tropical island poses many problems for electronic equipment. There is high humidity, dust, sand, and a variety of heat-seeking bugs that would love to invade our TV, computers, and surge protectors, and make a new home for their eggs.

I’ve removed thousands of ant eggs from my surge protector, my neighbor discovered a family of lizards nesting near his sound component in his TV, and once, a rat peed on my keyboard frying my motherboard.  It’s a never-ending battle, one that requires vigilance and constant cleaning. Oh, one more thing to bring to the tropics, ant traps that you can buy in Lowes. They are really helpful. The ants go into the little boxes, and take the liquid back to their nests. It has reduced the ant problem significantly in my house.

My biggest problem is guarding my electronic equipment from electrical surges, spikes, and brownouts. If our neighbors are welding, our electricity is low. If it rains, we can usually expect a blackout until the storm passes. Brownouts cause a quick death for electronics, so I had to research the best protection.

Cyber Power..note voltage is 109v, neighbor is welding.

Meet Cyber Power CP1500AVRLCD, my constant companion in the electronics world. It is a Universal Supply System that displays real-time system vitals, protects against brownouts, and offers battery backup in the event of brownouts or total power loss. As soon as I turn it on, it displays the voltage, which is hardly ever 120v. in the campo. Today, our neighbor is welding *sigh* so our voltage fluctuates between 105v and 110v. But, I have no fear, because Cyber Power regulates the voltage with its built-in battery and keeps the voltage at a constant 120v. The Cyber Power System is the king of the campo.

Inexpensive cool tray that my laptop sits on.

Another helpful gadget for the laptop is an inexpensive cooling tray. When my laptop is on, the cooling fans are always running. My laptop tends to run hot anyway, so it helps to keep it cooler. In addition, I clean the fan filters of the laptop regularly.  They get clogged with dust, dirt, and stray ants.

Next post, I’ll discuss other handy household items to bring that are unavailable in Nicaragua or poorly made.