Thoughts of a Nicaraguan Groupie


violence causesI awoke this morning with the intention of writing about meeting places for a blogger’s travel theme. Then, I saw this quote and my thoughts were quickly diverted to group behavior, a sense of belonging, attempting to understand nationalistic pride, and where the seed of violence originates.

I have several issues with the quote by J. Krishnamurti. Mainly, what is wrong with a sense of belonging? People form groups for numerous reasons: companionship, security and survival, affiliation and status, power and control, and achievement. I believe power, control, greed, and intolerance…especially intolerance… are what breed violence.

I listened to John Lennon’s Imagine, while I was writing this post. In a perfect world, a life without violence is ideal. But, we live in an imperfect world, with unique and varied ideas, beliefs, thoughts, and traditions. We are not all the same, nor can we pretend to share the same beliefs. It is unrealistic to think that we can ever hope for sameness. The best that we can do is to hope for tolerance and understanding in our tumultuous world of differences.

Please keep reading. More about being a groupie ahead.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Relics of the Dead


“Any relic of the dead is precious, if they were valued living.” ~ Emily Bronte

 

Everyday, I walk our beaches and everyday, I find relics washed ashore. Most of the time, the finds are over hundreds of years old…aged Pre-Columbian pottery shards that tell the stories of the ancient ones who lived on Ometepe Island long ago.

Burial urns called zapatoes from Ometepe Island

Burial urns called zapatoes from Ometepe Island

Relics ahead. Keep reading.

Tell the World


The Internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow. ~Bill Gates

 

IMG_3800Two weeks ago, we had a microwave internet tower installed. We spent the last four years, struggling with a Claro modem stick which provided slow, inconsistent, and sometimes nonexistent service. Now, our internet speed is fast enough to stream video and watch Netflix movies and my favorite series, Orange is the New Black.
I’m telling the world. Read more.

House Sitter Haven


IMG_3589We were very fortunate to find Max and Alize to housesit for us when we traveled for a month through Ecuador. Max is from Canada and Alize is from Belgium. They were housesitting in Leon, Nicaragua and posted on a Facebook page for expats in Nicaragua that they were looking for a housesitting gig for a month. They’ve been on the road four years, working online to provide income for their travels.

Keep reading.More tips on choosing housesitters.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Street Life on Ometepe Island


 

The Weekly Photo Challenge is Street Life. Ometepe Island, Nicaragua is a rural, agricultural area with colorful street (or volcanic path) life. Join me on a trip into Moyogalpa with our favorite moto taxi driver.

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More street life ahead.Traffic jam ahead.

Colorism Confusion


“One of my theories is that the hearts of men are about alike, no matter what their skin color.” ~ Mark Twain

IMG_3973I noticed our taxi driver’s arm protector on our way to Ojo de Agua the other day. “How cool is that!” I thought. It’s all the rage with the taxi drivers. Lost in my weird wonderings, I thought I could buy a pair to use on my upper arms. Not only would it hold together my upper arm fat wings, kind of like a girdle for my arm flaps, but my arms would look awesome with the stamped tattoos.
Read on! There’s more colorism confusion.

Expat Speed Bumps


“We could do it, you know.”
“What?”
“Leave the district. Run off. Live in the woods. You and I, we could make it.”
― Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games

Yesterday, we walked to Moyogalpa instead of taking our motorcycle. “Where’s your moto?” many people asked. “We need the exercise,” I lied. There is no way I’ll admit that I am afraid to get on the moto after taking another spill. Wait! Did I just say that I hit a speed bump in our expat life on la isla?

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More expat speed bumps. Keep reading!

Weekly Photo Challenge: What is This Object?


The Weekly Photo Challenge is Object.  Our photographs tell stories, big and small.”
My mother often made things for our Nicaraguan neighborhood. She made beautiful aprons embroidered with roosters, embroidered dish towels, and quilted purses for my local friends. Each time I delivered my gifts, my gracious local friends would give my mother a handmade gift in return. This crocheted gift had us puzzled, until we figured out its use. We laughed until we cried. Do you know what this object is?

For this weekly photo challenge, it’s not the photography that counts, but the story behind it. :-)

                                Pay it forward! It’s the thought that counts.

Guess what this is

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.
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