Weekly Photo Challenge: One Window of Our Lives


The Weekly Photo Challenge is Window. They are portals into the world’s stories. Glimpses into other people’s lives. Looking out (or into) a window can tell you about where you are — and where you’re not — and mark a particular moment in time, linking you to a physical place. Join me as we peek into one window of our lives on Ometepe Island.

A Barbie doll pink house, a big ole’ cement pila, and a worn window signified the beginning of our quest for a simple and carefree lifestyle culturally immersed with friends and family on Ometepe Island.

IMG_2260When Ron destroyed the big ole’ cement pila our journey began.
knocking out a concrete sinkLight filtered through our window and the only thing we saw was the beauty of things to come.
IMG_2797We pretended we worked in a McDonald’s drive-through, happily dispensing peanut butter sandwiches to our workers through our window. They laughed, not having a clue what we were talking about. Later, we found our sandwiches stuffed in a hole of the Mango tree.
IMG_3080I thought retirement was supposed to be… welI…retiring. Instead, I sanded my soft hands to the bone refinishing the window shutters.
IMG_3118Look! We have a TV!  Steeler football games and a cold Tona after a hard day’s work. What more could we ask for?
IMG_3252As the house progressed, the garden grew. We harvested our first batch of tomatoes.
IMG_3919Then the mangoes began to drop…and drop…and drop. Delicious mango jam is on the menu.
Mango JamThe tropics require drinking lots of water. Ron, I caught you drinking out of the jug again. I won’t nag this time because he built us a pine trestle table in front of the window.
IMG_4044Ron’s table has served us well. Family and friends gather around our table for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and even a game of spoons. The table nestled in front of the window houses my collection of Pre-Columbian artifacts and my lending library books.

My cupcake and cookie buddy and I often gather around the window where she displays her marvelous treats.

Life outside our window involves swinging, watching chickens, and making dough balls to trap rats in the garden.
IMG_0527We added a string of lights around the window for a festive look at Christmas.
IMG_1439Our window constantly changes scenes adding to our contentment on our little island of peace. One small portal of our lives, one giant step toward our dreams.
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Weekly Photo Challenge: The Hue of You


Our lives are like quilts- bits and pieces, joy and sorrow, colored with love.

This morning, we visited a tile factory in Granada, Nicaragua. It reminded me of the quilts my mother used to make. These tiles are a perfect representation of my life, colored with love.

Entering the tile factory

            Entering the tile factory

Blessed are the Piecemakers.

We Do House Hunters International!


In February, I received a comment on my blog:

I hope you do not mind me getting in touch. I work for an American property and travel show and I came across your blog whilst looking for people to participate in our popular documentary show and really enjoyed reading about your adventures!

We are currently looking for families and individuals to appear on our show who have recently relocated to new and exciting parts of the world and have an interesting story to tell – and it seems to me you would fit the bill.

I responded to the producer’s email:
One thing I need to mention is that we are not rich expats living in a gated community.  We’re simply adventurous retired teachers. We live a simple, comfortable lifestyle in a small rural community where we are the only foreigners. I think many people that watch your show would like to see more episodes that offer them hope of living comfortably on a fixed income abroad. We are actively involved in our little community and passionate about cultural immersion.

So, a TV crew came to Ometepe Island in May. We spent five fantastic, busy days filming for an episode of House Hunters International.

IMG_20130509_082857The crew was awesome and they gave us many tips for appearing on TV.
HHI - Ometepe 083 (800x600)I had to stand on blocks and bricks all the time.
HHI - Ometepe 074 (800x600)The best thing was filming our cultural immersion experiences. We went to our favorite indigenous community, Los Ramos, where we took the cultural cooking class and made delicious nacatamales.
cookin class copy 2All ingredients are ready.
IMG_20130510_160452Grandpa entertains everyone.
in los ramos copyMarvin, my iron man, is a new star!
IMG_20130509_134645They filmed us delivering my mobile lending library books to a school. It was a very touching scene because the sound man had tears in his eyes as he watched Lupita explore the new books.
delivering books copyRon taught swimming lessons to our local community. They had to do a lot of dry land exercises because the lake was so low.
IMG_2716Then, they walked to the deeper part of the lake to practice putting their heads under the water and blow bubbles.
IMG_2729The crew filmed a very popular swimming spot on the island called Ojo de Agua.
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Our last shoot on the island at Punta Jesus Maria. I loved this crew!!!
saying goodbye copy 2Adios Ometepe
IMG_2777Please join us in our adventures on House Hunter’s International, on HGTV, November 7th, 2013 at 10:30 pm EST. The Retirees and the Volcano in Ometepe, Nicaragua.

Look How Far We’ve Come


In the lyrics of Shania Twain, “I’m so glad we’ve made it. Look how far we’ve come, baby.” It’s been nine years since we first rented our little beach shack, four years since we bought it, and three years since we have lived here permanently.

Enjoy the song, while you look through our comparison pictures 2004 to 2013.

Our living room in 2004: We lived like Nicas… minimalists. Our living room in 2013: Now, my boomer nest is complete and comfortable, but it was a tremendous amount of work.

Our kitchen in 2004: A tiny space, with few amenities. Our kitchen in 2013: We finally have an oven and a large working space.

Our porch in 2004: Dirt floor, little security. Our porch in 2013: Secure, beautiful outdoor living space where we can watch the ferries pass by our house daily.

Guest bedroom in 2004: YUCK! Would you want to be our guest? Guest bedroom in 2013: We turned it into a small home office. However, now that we have a small guest house, the guest bedroom is in the other casita and our studio and work space will be moved to the room upstairs in the casita. ( Pictures of the guest house coming soon.)

House from the side in 2004: It definitely had potential. House from side in 2013: Lots of indoor and outdoor living space.

Back of the house in 2004: Hardly any trees and no garden. Back of house in 2013: Now we have a huge, thriving garden behind the house and dozens of fruit trees and shade trees planted.

What I miss about the old house. I loved this rancho. It was a large gathering spot for community activities. Maybe we’ll build another one someday. That’s the great thing about living here. We have control over what we can build at a fraction of the cost of building in the states. Our imaginations are limitless. :-)
our rancho

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: Walk First (At a Turtle’s Pace)


Lisa, of Zeebra Designs and Destinations, posted a quote by Don Getz who said, “Learning to draw before you paint, is like learning to walk before you run.” How true! But, I am going at a turtle’s pace…slow and steady. My Casita de Tortugas needs some new turtle paintings, so I unpacked my paints and brushes for a new challenge.

Marvin and I designed a turtle out of my Pre-Columbian pottery shards and plastered it above the door of the casita last year.
IMG_1096When Marvin’s daughter, Lauren, came to visit, we opened a new box of permanent markers and drew turtles on the curtain, which hangs on the front door. I discovered that both Lauren and her father are very talented.
IMG_2585The finished entrance! What do you think?
IMG_2592Since we are moving the bedroom downstairs, and my new art studio will be upstairs, I am enjoying decorating the Casita de Tortugas. Yesterday, I started painting a turtle to hang on the bedroom wall.
IMG_3249Today, I finished the turtle…I think. I used a metallic copper paint to embellish some of the turtle scales, but it doesn’t show up in the picture. Hmm..maybe I’ll add just a few more highlights. So, Lisa…I have a question. Once it is done to my satisfaction..since I’m working at a turtle’s pace…what do I put over the paint to protect it? Or do I need to put a finish over it?
IMG_3252Next, we’re painting the casita walls a soft golden color. Ron’s creating shutters for the windows out of PVC pipes and I’m covering them with canvas. Of course, I’ll be painting some turtles on the canvas, too. I’m moving at a turtle’s pace, but, hey…I’m retired…no deadlines..no worries…and no stress. Life is good, retirement is better, living abroad is priceless.

 

 

Raising the Water Tower


Five Tips for Raising Water Towers

1. Think creatively. When one lives on a primitive island that lacks cranes and pulleys, it helps to think outside of the well when raising a tall water tower.

IMG_2514

2. Be Positive. Marvin said, “Don’t worry! I’ve raised water towers many times. I never use machinery.” Also, it helps to be a good boss using clear directions.
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3. Have a basic knowledge of physics. Plus, it helps to have strong ropes, thick gloves, and many strong men.
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4. Know when to let go and NOT to let go of the ropes. It could save lives.
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5. Celebrate the raising of the water tower! Gaseosa! Coca Cola!
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Enjoy the video of Marvin Raising the Water Tower. It was an amazing feat of strength and ingenuity.

The Water Tower from Debbie Goehring on Vimeo.

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Adapting to Climate Change


Poor rural people are the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change in Central America. On Ometepe Island, we live on ecologically fragile land and the locals depend on agriculture, livestock, and fishing to make a living.

An increased frequency of uncommon weather patterns has had a wide impact in Nicaragua. This year, for instance, we had an uncommonly dry rainy season. Drought has ravaged farmers, prompting a spike in food prices, as well as water rationing throughout our regional water supply area.

We usually have running water every other day for half a day. This morning, the water pressure was strong enough to fill my washing machine and run a load of clothes  (for the first time in two weeks), but I had to start the washing machine at 5:30 am. It’s a good thing I’m an early riser, because at 9:00 am the water stopped.

Although we have no control over the climatic changes, we do have control over the water supply in our house. Marvin to our rescue! He’s constructing a six meter water tower in our back yard, with a maximum capacity pressurized water tank at the top. That way, even when we don’t have electricity, we’ll have water running throughout our house.

Once the tower is complete, we are going to run a water line to our neighbor’s house, too. I can’t imagine living with three small children under the age of four without access to water. These pictures represent a big change in the making for us. By next week, we should have a steady supply of water for two families.

 

We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby!


We spent the past week painting three rooms in our house. It’s not an easy task remodeling or building anything in Nicaragua. The environment is harsh, termites ravage wood, everything is done by hand, and supplies are limited. But, we’ve come a long way in the two and a half years since we’ve lived here permanently.

IMG_1660 Our couch is still in Marvin’s workshop. When it arrives, I’ll hone my upholstery skills. Then, I’ve designed a glass and iron coffee table for Marvin to make. IMG_1662 The kitchen is slowly coming together. I’m designing kitchen cabinet doors that are punched tin, allowing air to circulate. IMG_1663Ron made me a sewing table. My library books are waiting to be delivered to several schools next week. Looks like I’m going to be very busy, but that’s the way I like it.

IMG_5966Most of our living is done outside, so we have a large wrap around porch for our hammocks and rocking chairs.

Before Construction

8Our pink living room.

10My pink den and workroom.  15The pink kitchen. YUCK!

Our House Through the Years

12003-2004 when we rented our little beach shack for a year.  22009 when we bought the beach shack. Renters had painted it Barbie doll pink, inside and out. IMG_1295Our house today. Whew! It tires me just looking at all the work we’ve done. I think it’s time for a mini-vacation. So, we’re off to the beach for a few days. See you soon. :-)

Our La Paloma Airport


Our island was very tranquil, an oasis of peace. In 2003, we often walked along the beach from our house, through a winding, dusty horse path where an old airport strip was located. The runway was built by Cuba, but hadn’t seen any action since the war. The old airport strip washed out every rainy season, leaving holes the size of Mack trucks.

airport and Franchesco's house

In 2009, the path through the old airstrip, led us to Francheco’s new lemon yellow house. Side by side with horses and cattle, we wandered along the path to visit Francheco. IMG_3112Then in late 2009, we noticed a for sale sign on a fencepost at the old airport strip. Uh oh!  Francheco’s house was torn down piece by loving piece…a new airport was in progress. IMG_2060Soon, there was a buzz of activity with surveyors, numbered sticks planted in the old airstrip, and red paint splashed over ancient trees.  IMG_4503Then, the machines came. Big, loud earth moving machines.  It reminded me of The Lorax. For months we awakened to the beep, beep beeping of the earth movers leveling and gouging the old runway. They called this progress in the name of tourism. IMG_4873 Graders, backhoes, and dump trucks arrived by ferry. Experienced workers arrived from Managua. Promises were made to hire local workers and they filed to the new airport office to fill out applications. Sadly, no local people were ever hired to work on the new airport strip. IMG_4844Several months later, the runway was ready for asphalt.  IMG_4809In late 2010, asphalt smoothed and caressed the runway. IMG_5042The fence was installed around the perimeter of the runway to keep out the wandering cows and horses.  IMG_0485Last December, 2012, the custom-house was completed.  IMG_1491 Soon, the control tower will be finished. IMG_1487We’ve heard so many dates for the opening of the airport that our heads spin…2010…2011…2012. But, this is Nicaragua and we run on Tepe Time on the island…slow..no worries…no rush. The time for the grand opening will be sometime this year.  I’m still not sure what to expect when the airport opens, but as always I’ll post the good, the bad, and the ugly aspects of our new La Paloma airport.