Our Mini-Super Morphed into Mega!


“It’s easy for Americans to forget that the food they eat doesn’t magically appear on a supermarket shelf.” – Christopher Dodd, American Politician

Our Mini-Super grocery store has changed gradually throughout the four years we’ve lived permanently on Ometepe Island. Guillermo tends to the needs and wants of tourists…meaning we could always find a few spices or Quaker Oats hidden among the bags of rice or the piles of eggs precariously perched in a corner of the store.

But, two weeks ago, our Mini-Super transformed into a Mega Store. It was a magical sight! I was mesmerized by the choices, awed by the shiny wide aisles, and overwhelmed with the selection of shampoos and wine.

Read on.More pics of our Mega Store ahead.

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.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon


During that summer–
Which may never have been at all;
But which has become more real
Than the one that was–
Watermelons ruled.
~ Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle,
John Tobias

The Weekly Photo Challenge is Reflections.

IMG_2018The season of watermelons is upon us in Nicaragua. My neighbor gifts us with a watermelon daily.
Read on. More reflections.

Toad Busting!


“If God had wanted us to be concerned for the plight of the toads, he would have made them cute and furry. ” ― Dave Barry

IMG_3544As of today, call me the Cane Toad Buster.  I walked into my casita to clean it for guests and instead witnessed a scene right out of Hitchcock’s The Birds, except with Cane Toads. Piles of warty, tough-skinned, bug-eyed, poison dripping, big lipped, ugly monsters stared at me from every corner of the room daring me…taunting me…teasing me to bring it on!
Keep hopping to the next page. More Cane Toad facts.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Speculating on Perspective


The Weekly Photo Challenge is Perspective.  Sometimes life is but a dream. What is real? How do we perceive our world? One photo stories from two perspectives on Ometepe Island, Nicaragua.

Ocean waves? Beach grass gently waving along the shore?

But wait! There are more speculating perspectives.Keep looking!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Four Three-Picture Stories from Ometepe


The Weekly Photo Challenge is: Three  In this challenge we are to tell a story in three pictures, increasing the zoom to hone in on the subject.

Hello World

The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it. ~Arnold H. Glasow 

Keep on reading. There are three more story pictures.

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!

A Little Light at the Tunnel’s End


Every decently-made object, from a house to a lamp post to a bridge, spoon or egg cup, is not just a piece of ‘stuff’ but a physical embodiment of human energy, testimony to the magical ability of our species to take raw materials and turn them into things of use, value and beauty.
Kevin McCloud


The Mayans believed that the Jicaro tree grew out of the liberation of the people. They worshiped it as sacred. No wonder, because with a variety of products of the Jicaro, it is possible to feed people and cattle and fuel industry and cars. The tree is striking and unusual. Year-round, it is adorned with lime green oval or round balls, that appear in the least expected places. It is not considered a fruit, but a swelling of the tree’s woody parts.

IMG_3638This hardy tree has been forced to adapt to the harshest environments, thus it thrives in our extended dry season because of its strong, deep roots. Jicaro trees have been described as the vegetable version of goats. They are both strong and resistant, need very little to grow robust, and thrive in places that would be nearly impossible for most species to survive. They are a “tree” and an “animal” for the poor. For with the number of industrial and commercial uses of the Jicaro tree, the impoverished farmers are beginning to see a little light at the end of the tunnel.

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I  chased our neighbor’s egg-eating dog out of our property, when I noticed huge Jicaro balls in our neighbor’s field. “I think I see potential for a lamp shade,” I thought to myself. I found several dried Jicaro balls, carried them across the barbed wire fence, and got to work. First, I sanded the Jicaro, then cut it in half. Packed tightly inside was an ant colony… a tasty treat for our chickens.

IMG_1180Then, I used my Dremel to punch holes in star patterns.
IMG_1181I stained the lamp shade, then used gold, silver, and copper-colored paints to embellish the stars. I added a few whirling comets, too.
IMG_1197I strung some beads in the holes at the bottom of the shade. Finally, I sprayed a protective layer of transparent varnish over the shade. Voila!
IMG_1199Next, I’m making a hanging lamp with Pre-Columbian patterns. A perfect testimony to the magical ability of our species to take raw materials and turn them into things of beauty. There’s always more room for a little light at the tunnel’s end.

Cultural Lessons from the Ballpark


“Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona.”
― George F. Will 

Nicaraguans are passionate about their baseball. Baseball is their field of dreams…a door to batting a thousand…a chance to bring it on home. So, when we had an opportunity to go to our first professional baseball game in Nicaragua, how could I not jump at the chance to play ball?  For me, it was a cultural experience…a pinch hitter slice of life moment. Covering all the cultural bases, I’d go to bat for Nicaraguans any day.

Cultural Lessons from the Ballpark

1. Nicaraguans don’t take rain checks and neither do we.
We arrived at the dock early in the morning to catch the 9 am ferry to Rivas. The game started at 11 am, and we were sure we’d have plenty of time to buy our tickets. Due to circumstances beyond our control, the ferry broke down, and we had to wait for the 11 am Che. Meanwhile, Francisco (our friendly taxi driver), frantically called us, “Deborah, the tickets are almost sold out. I’ll buy your tickets for you.” Perfect! We’d miss the first few innings, but Francisco would save our seats. Later, we discovered that many of the spectators were buying one ticket, then reproducing the ticket at the local copy center.  Nicaraguans definitely don’t take rain checks…but, neither do the gate attendants take fake tickets.

IMG_11152. Time to play ball!
Nicaraguans are always ready to play ball in the game of life. Crowds never deter Nicas. No obstacle is too big…too overwhelming…too frightening. They are dare-devil risk-takers, scaling fences… hanging from rafters…without a thought of consequences.
The Yamil Rios Ugarte Stadium in Rivas holds…ballpark figure…about 5,000 people. We pushed our way through the throngs to find our cement bleacher seats, only to stand for most of the game. Time to play ball!
IMG_11193. The bases are loaded everyday in Nicaragua.
When the stakes are high, and a chance presents itself to win…Nicaraguans go for the win. Life is one big baseball game. Not only in sports, but in their daily activities, politics, and with positive attitudes…they are winners.
IMG_11244. Nicaraguans get thrown many curve balls, yet they persevere in style.
Nicaraguans are faced with something unexpected or out of the ordinary on a daily basis. They go with the flow in Nicaland.  A family of the Managua Boers was sitting in the boxed seating area. Although, their team was losing, they were having a grand time, laughing, drinking Tona, and blowing the annoying noise makers to cheer on their team.
IMG_11295. Nicaraguans always get to first base with Jesus on their side.
Nicaragua is predominantly Catholic, and they party heavily with their patron saints in each town. So, it came as no surprise to me when Jesus dominated the advertisements at the stadium. Best Western was a close second.
IMG_11616. Nicaragua brings in the heavy hitters to support the local parties.
I wondered what kind of food would be served at the baseball game. Hotdogs, corn dogs, popcorn? Nooooo! The heavy hitter street venders arrived with buckets of cold beer, trays laden with fried chicken and cabbage salad, pork rinds smothered in cabbage salad, plantain chips splashed with vinegar, and refreshing homemade shaved ice with sweet leche dribbling down the sides. With their decorative frilly aprons, the heavy hitters scored a home run with the crowd.
IMG_11477. It’s easy to tell right off the bat, that the Nicaraguans love their children.
Children are the focus of the Nicaraguan society. Mothers, fathers, grandparents, aunts, uncles…everyone…tend to the needs of their children first. Junior and I ate our way through the game. He was fascinated by Ron’s white mustache and tugged on it to see if it would come off. Meanwhile, his parents laughed and gently distracted Junior.
IMG_11418. Nicaraguans love to pitch their ideas.
Since most Nicas live in poverty, they are resourceful and creative with what they have. They play hardball with their bargaining skills. Francisco pitched an idea to us at the ball park. His taxi has over 200,000 miles on it. He needs a new taxi, but cars are prohibitively expensive for most Nicaraguans. “What if I could have someone buy a car for me in the United States and drive it to Nicaragua?” he pitched. “Let me see what I can find,” I said.
IMG_11439. Everyday it’s a new ballgame.
Nicaraguans aren’t easily discouraged. They have a remarkable ability to live in the moment. The Boers were down 16-7, but not discouraged. Their flags waved, their mascots chanted, their drums rolled.
IMG_112310. Nicaragua is in a league of its own.
We jokingly call it “the land of the not quite right.” This vivacious, colorful culture of people have fought wars, overcome adversity, and won my heart. By the way, the Rivas Gigantes trumped the Managua Boers 16-7.This was their first year to play professional ball. Their first baseman, Randall Simon, played for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2003. If you are familiar with him, you may remember the sausage incident.

Rivas Gigantes are headed for the National Championship. I’m root, root, rooting for my home team. Bring it on home Nicaragua…my home.
IMG_1159The LBPN Professional Baseball in Nicaragua website.

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Family Through the Eyes of a Niña


The Weekly Photo Challenge asks us to capture an image of family. I lent my camera to Luvy when her mother returned to Ometepe Island for a short visit. Her mother worked in Costa Rica to support her family for most of Luvy’s young life. “Luvy, take some pictures of your family while your mother is visiting,” I said.

Family through the eyes of a niña…in her words with her photos.
“The night before my mother left for Costa Rica, we slept on the beach together. It was rico.”

DSCN0722“My mother is beautiful. She brings us many gifts from Costa Rica.”
DSCN0750“My brother, my nephew, and I sleep together. They like to wrestle and they wake me up.”
DSCN0751“We have one photo of my nephew, Oscar. He is proud of that photo.”
DSCN0718“Oscar doesn’t like to take a bath. He cries when I pour water over him. This is his favorite truck. I give it to him after I give him a bath and he is happier.
DSCN0621“My Papa is very old. I cook for him.”
DSCN0748“My brother, Julio, wants to be a veterinarian. He takes care of all the sick animals.”
DSCN0626“Julio is very silly. He was very tiny when he was born.” ( Luvy explained that Julio was like their smallest puppy in their latest litter…a runt.)
DSCN0760“He likes eggs. He is very good at finding the chicken eggs in the tall grass.”
DSCN0767“My big brother, Jose, is cool. He likes music, girls, and thinks a lot.”
DSCN0735” Here are my cousins. They live next door. We play together every day.”
DSCN0758“Congreja had puppies. She always has new puppies.”
DSCN0784“Julio took my picture. We don’t have a mirror in our house. I was showing him how to use your camera.”
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