An Open Letter to the Chinese


Ometepe and the ChineseThree weeks ago, a Chinese delegation representing the proposed Nicaraguan Canal came to Ometepe Island. They measured land south of our new airport in La Paloma, including Punta Jesus Maria, a sacred and lovely point of land, which served as an indigenous trading port thousands of years ago, and now, is a must-see tourism locality.

Wang Jing has complete sovereignty and power to exercise dominion over all areas along the proposed canal route. He does not have to ask permission of any mayor, the expropriation of land is at his whim, and he will not have to pay taxes.
Please read on and SPREAD the WORD!

The Nicaraguan Canal: Digging with a Needle


 “Getting money is like digging with a needle, spending it is like water soaking into sand.” ~Japanese Proverb.

          The Proposed Route of the Nicaraguan Canal

canal route copy
I may be naïve, but I subscribe to the idea that nobody is making strategic decisions about the Nicaraguan Canal Project. I’ve followed the Nicaraguan Canal Project for two years, now. The talk is grand, but the transparency surrounding the canal is nonexistent.

Keep reading.There’s a great video ahead.

Casita de Tortuga


Our Casita de Tortuga is clean and ready for more friends and family. We originally built the main structure with a small bedroom on the second floor and the bodega, or garage below. Then, our son and all of his friends came to visit and they had to come to our house to use the bathroom.

We needed another bathroom…and quick! Unable to build a bathroom on the second floor, we decided to build a small addition behind the bodega structure. Afterthoughts are never good, but we made the best of it.
Keep reading. More pictures ahead.

The House Whisperer


“A man builds a fine house; and now he has a master, and a task for life: he is to furnish, watch, show it, and keep it in repair, the rest of his days.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

My husband is a fine house whisperer. This morning, our washing machine broke for the sixth,  seventh, eighth time. Ron ordered a special part from the United States and I brought it back for him, but when he tried to put the part in the machine, it didn’t fit. Because he is a man of many talents, he creatively patched the new part and made it fit. It’s not like we can return the items we order from the U.S.

One of the biggest things we’ve learned in living in Nicaragua, and especially on a small island, is that we have to rely on ourselves to be the handyman and woman. Locals will tell you they know how to do electrical and plumbing work, but we’ve found their skills to be sadly…and sometimes, horribly lacking…like the time our workers plumbed our new bathroom, and we turned on the water for the first time. Water sprayed everywhere.

IMG_3850 Keep reading. There’s more.

The Workers of Ecuador


“No society has any right to forget its workers, because they are the real heroes of the society!”
― Mehmet Murat ildan

 

Toil…labor…exertion…effort…industry…service. We all work. We burn the candle at both ends…go the extra mile…pull our own weight…buckle down to the task at hand. The workers in Ecuador are no exception.

In the beautiful parks throughout Ecuador they sweep…cook…paint…guide…sell delicious fruit juices…and entertain.

More workers ahead. Keep reading.

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.
IMG_2746
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.