Weekly Photo Challenge: My Hard-Working Community


This week, in a post created specifically for this challenge, show us community, and interpret it any way you please! The Weekly Photo Challenge  My Ometepe Island community is composed of hard-working people of all ages.

“Determine never to be idle. No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time, who never loses any. It is wonderful how much may be done, if we are always doing.” ― Thomas Jefferson

Have oxen, will pick up and deliver

                                                 Have oxen, will pick up and deliver

“There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.”
― Beverly Sills

Have sugar cane, will travel.

                             Have sugar cane, will travel.

“Many who are self-taught far excel the doctors, masters, and bachelors of the most renowned universities.” ― Ludwig von Mises

Have boat, will fish.

                                                        Have boat, will fish.

“No one understands and appreciates the American Dream of hard work leading to material rewards better than a non-American. ”
― Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly

Have wood, will cook.

                                         Have wood, will cook.

“Sometimes there’s not a better way. Sometimes there’s only the hard way.”
― Mary E. Pearson, The Fox Inheritance

Have hands, will pick beans.

                                                    Have hands, will pick beans.

“Children take joy in their work and sometimes as adults we forget that’s something we should continue doing.”
― Ashley Ormon, God in Your Morning

Have goats, will raise.

                                     Have goats, will raise.

“All success comes down to this . . . action” ― Rob Liano

Have cart, will collect garbage.

                                          Have cart, will haul your stuff.

“As I tell my children, ‘If you are going to do something, do your best while you’re doing it.”
― Michelle Moore, Selling Simplified

Have puppies, will charm you into buying them.

               Have puppies, will charm you into buying them.

 

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Stories are Light


“Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark. Begin at the beginning. Tell Gregory a story. Make some light.”
― Kate DiCamillo, The Tale of Despereaux

This Thanksgiving we made some light…fishing in the St. John’s River, sharing family stories under the reflecting palms.
IMG_0292We made some light… cooking pumpkin pies and Mama Stamberg’s Cranberry Relish, while sharing family recipes bathed in the moonlight of the draw bridge.
IMG_0403We made some light…traveling together in my step brother’s plane, while singing Christmas songs over the winding rivers 19,000 ft. below.
IMG_0457IMG_0451
We made some light…returning to my mother’s home, and sharing our Thanksgiving stories and traditions of many years ago lit by the fountain across the street from her home.
IMG_0470We made some light… of our blended families, sharing our gratefulness and thanks for the time we can spend together before we all return to our own homes far away. Our doors are always lit…our stories are our light.
IMG_0466Begin at the beginning…share stories gratefully with others…make some light today.

 

 

15 Minutes of Fame


Andy Warhol coined an expression in 1968 when he said, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” I thought I used up my 15 minutes of fame years ago, but I have been blessed with unusual experiences in my life that have kept me jumping on my Gypsytoes.

Enjoy our First Thanksgiving on Ometepe Island from the Project Expat: Recalling Thanksgivings Abroad from NPR.

I wish everyone a wonderful and relaxing holiday season. We’re celebrating Thanksgiving in the states with family. Stay tuned for more Ometepe stories when we return.

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: One Shot, Two Ways


I enjoy taking a late afternoon stroll along our beach near the sweet sea of Lake Cocibolca. Cormorants chatter among themselves, while searching for the prime spot and the best snack before bedtime.

Gargantious Gar


In the evening, as the brutal sun was sinking into the sweet sea for its nightly nap , a freshwater giant was lurking in the shallow waters of Lake Cocibolca. These gargantious alligator gar have few known predators, mainly because the prehistoric relatives of the megafish have tooth-filled mouths and heavily scaled bodies.

Yet, one unfortunate menacing-looking behemoth couldn’t contend with Julio and his missile-like aim.
IMG_2569With a swiftly flying rock, he pounded the alligator gar into deadly submission. This toothy giant didn’t have a chance.
IMG_2574This gargantious gar may look fierce, but attacks against people are unknown. Tell that to little 8 mo. old Braydon, whose mother just finished bathing him in the lake.
IMG_2573Julio chopped up the gar with his machete throwing twinkly flying sparks….seriously! Then, the big hunks of meat were distributed among the neighborhood. Some say that gar is a tasty treat, others say that gar is bony and tough. The only fact I know about gar is that the eggs are poisonous to humans if ingested.

Stay tuned for my gar recipe. In the meantime, I think I’m taking a break from swimming in the shallow waters of our sweet sea.

 

 

A Big Fish Story: How to get a Tarpon into Town


“Fish,” the old man said. “Fish, you are going to have to die anyway. Do you have to kill me, too?” ~ Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea

In the wee hours of the morning, the fishermen row their dug out canoes into the sweet sea, where the waters are deep and the fish are plentiful. “Maybe today will be my lucky day,” they pray silently.

IMG_1391This morning, Julio urgently called to us. “Run to the beach! The fisherman caught a gigantic fish in his net.” “Holy mackerel!” I shouted. “No,” responded Ron. “It’s a Tarpon.”

IMG_1342“A Tarpon?” I questioned, for I knew very little about Tarpon and especially Tarpon in Lake Cocibolca. The four-foot Megalops, cushioned between the narrow ribs of the dugout canoe, shimmered like the early morning sunbeams beams dancing on the gently rolling waves of our sweet sea. Its enormous eye stared as transparently as the cloudless dawn, while its adipose eyelid glazed over like a frosted donut, signifying that the fight was over. IMG_1344Tarpon generally weigh 80-280 pounds. “How do we get it out of the boat?” they all wondered. “More importantly,” asked the fisherman, “how do I get it into town to sell it?”

IMG_1350“Look at the mouth on that fish!” Julio demonstrated. Its mouth was as broad as the proposed Nicaraguan Canal, with a prominent lower jaw that jutted out farther than its face, sort of like our Moyogalpa dock. “It must be able to eat a lot of smaller fish with a mouth that size,” I said. The fisherman told us that the Tarpon are night hunters and they swallow their prey whole.

IMG_1356The fisherman wheeled his bicycle through the deep volcanic sand and docked it close to the canoe.

IMG_1360The fisherman strapped the strong, handmade paddles to his bicycle to brace the Megalops for the long ride into town.

IMG_1364Heaving and hefting, they lifted the monstrous, slippery Tarpon onto the paddles. It took several attempts because the fish was as slippery as our neighbor’s sweat beaded forehead after tending to her daily cooking fires.

IMG_1368Then, It was tightly bound to the bicycle, leaving no room for the fisherman to ride, only to push his prize into town.

IMG_1375“We need to carefully balance this monster,” the fisherman warned. Meanwhile, his son  dug out his prize..the eyeball!

IMG_1381Pushing it through the deep and unwieldy sand, they slowly make their way to the hard-packed road.

IMG_1384“Steady, steady,” warned the fisherman.

IMG_1387To market, to market to sell a fat fish..jiggety jigging along the sandy path.

IMG_1388Look at the size of those scales! These scales will make a beautiful pair of earrings.

IMG_1389This fish story has a very happy ending. The fisherman received 5,000 cordobas for the Tarpon, about two months’ wages. His son brought us a huge hunk of Tarpon for Ron’s help. Although they are bony fish and their meat is usually not eaten, we decided to try it anyway. Now, I understand why these magnificent fish are not commercially valuable as food fish, but our three kittens and our neighbor’s dog feasted until their bellies bloated.

I love a happy ending!

Keeping Up with the Tourons


 

 

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The little people of the sea Have sent an answer back to me The little people’s answer was We cannot stand it, Sir, because. ~Paraphrased after Lewis Carrol

Sometimes I worry about the changes and rapid development in Nicaragua, especially for the traditional fishermen along the 100+ miles of Pacific coastline. Nicaragua is blessed with undeveloped, raw coastline. Dotted with colorful tiny fishing villages, the fishermen depend on the sea to make a living. When the roads are developed and tourism explodes, will the little people say, “We cannot stand it, Sir. Please make them go away.”?

Coastal fishing villages are often isolated, making them difficult to visit. We’ve seen the changes new roads have brought to San Juan del Sur, and soon-to-be ‘touron’ (Our son’s nickname for environmentally unconcerned tourists) infested Playa Gigante. The once charming fishing villages are overrun with tacky tourist shops, vegetarian restaurants, camera laden tourists, and surf boards and kayaks heavily chained to embedded metal poles. What will happen to the little people of the sea, whose homes and livelihoods are transformed into a concrete jungle for tourons?

Las Penitas is a short 30 minute bus ride from Leon. It is situated around a small natural harbor, which provides a safe haven for the fleet of fishing pongas. Fascinated with the daily activities of the local fishermen, we watched with trepidation, as the fishing pongas jumped huge waves to enter or exit the protected harbor. The harbor disappears at low tide, leaving dugout canoes and pongas stranded in the sand flats until the next tide rolls into the harbor freeing the boats.

Sipping our morning coffee, we eavesdropped on the conversations of the fishermen’s families waiting for the catch of the day. They discussed the cost of school supplies and beans, while chastising their children because they had taken the wooden slats off the bottom of the metal cart used to carry the fish to market. The children flopped the splintery wooden slats into the water and used them like boogie boards until the first fishing ponga sailed over the crashing waves into the harbor.

Entranced by the smells of fresh fish, the sights of salivating dogs circling the mooring pongas, the whispered swishing sounds of the frayed nets hauled to shore, the flash of sharp blades filleting the fish, and finally the raspy voices of rapid fire negotiations, the fish exchanged hands from sea to fishermen to market, as we watched the traditions of fishermen passed down generation after generation.

What will happen to the little people of the sea? Will they say, “We cannot stand it, Sir. Please make them go away.”?  Or will they passively resign themselves to keeping up with the tourons? Only time will tell.

 

 

 

Life is a Beach


“My life is like a stroll on the beach…as near to the edge as I can go.” ~Thoreau

 

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Ron’s Passions


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For those of you who know Ron, you also know that his passions are fishing and gardening.  If you come to visit us, generally you’ll find him puttering around in the huge garden in our back yard.  If he’s not there, he’ll be in the front yard, fishing.  Our little La Paloma beach house is the perfect setting for Ron.  The early morning sun rises above Vulcan Concepcion spreading its tropical rays on his mounds of fruits and vegetables scattered throughout the half-acre garden.  The fence is dotted with wild purple morning glories and vibrant yellow flowers resembling an old English country garden watercolor painting.  In our front yard, Lake Cocibolca waves her gentle fingers beyond our front doors tempting Ron with her aquatic delights.  Life couldn’t be more perfect, or more picturesque.

With a year round growing season, Ron has experimented with a variety of fruits and vegetables.  His cucumbers, papaya, green beans, sweet potatoes, black beans, black-eyed peas, oregano, and greens are bearing now.  It’s been a constant battle, though, with the neighbor’s chickens, the nematodes, leaf-cutter ants, and yesterday, the wild horse that got in the garden and ate the leaves off his banana tree.  The only consolation was that the horse manure landed exactly in the right spot.  The neighborhood kids were here playing baseball yesterday and they forgot to close the front gate.  This morning, Julio spotted the horse and he and his four bony dogs chased it out of the yard.

Our friends and neighbors have generously supplied us with sweet potato cuttings, peanuts, basil, mint, and other starter plants.  Ron has tenderly nurtured carrots and beets for months now, but so far, they refuse to grow.  Some people have told us to pee on the plants, but that hasn’t solved the problem.  There are so many mysteries to tropical gardening.  The volcanic soil is rich and sandy, yet it lacks certain nutrients.  For example, Ron’s tomato plants were growing tall and spindly like something out of Jack and the Bean Stock, so one of my former English students told Ron to try pouring milk in the soil.  Instead, he mixed up the liquid calcium supplement I bought from the traveling pharmacist, and it worked like a charm. Now, they have been attacked by nematodes, so he had to sterilize the soil and plant them in buckets to prevent another nematode onslaught.

Ron’s garden is dotted with avocado trees, papayas, eggplant, peppers, cantaloupe, and garbanzo beans.  Between the rows and circles, Ron machetes the tall grass to make mounds of compost.  It’s a never-ending job.  But, in the process, Ron has lost over twenty pounds.  Today, he was showing me his arms and his machete arm appears to be twice the size of his other one. He’s becoming a real pro with his machete…. a sign that he’s fitting into this primitive, macho world of ours.

Although all the neighbors like to visit Ron’s garden, it’s really puzzling that no one has a garden of their own here.  We can’t understand why they don’t garden.  There are large fields of tobacco, plantains, coffee, rice, beans, and sesame seeds, but no family gardens.  We haven’t figured out if they lack the initiative or the know how, or both.  Don Jose, our closest neighbor, sometimes doesn’t have enough food to feed his family, yet he has a big garden spot behind his house that is overgrown with mango trees, lemons, and other tropical fruit trees.  One of the locals recently told us, “We like to pick and we like to eat.”  That’s very true.  Maybe they just don’t know how to dig and plant.  Fruits are so abundant here and easily obtainable.  If we want lemons, mangos, oranges, coconuts, hot peppers, or other fruits, we walk outside and gather them off the trees or the ground.

When Ron gets tired of gardening or macheting, he grabs his fishing pole and heads to the lake.  The lake near our house is very shallow and sandy.  Although, the Guapote ( the big, fat fish of the lake) are generally found in the more rocky, deeper areas, he’s been successful at catching smaller, silvery fighting fish that jump into the air about six feet. The Munchaca are harder to eat because they have lots of little bones.

His fishing pole is still a novelty in the land of long fishing nets.  Strangers walking along the shore will often stop and stare at Ron casting his line into the lake.  They’re sort of befuddled with the unusual contraption and don’t know what to make of it.  One day, Ron took his electronic fish finder to the lake with him and you can’t imagine all the fuss that it created.  For the past week, Cory and Sam have been flying a spider man kite. The end of November and  December are the windy months…excellent kite weather.  With lots of creative ingenuity and third world materials, they  attached the kite to Ron’s fishing pole and tested it out at the beach.  As a result, we’ve learned many new Spanish words like… tail, kite, wind, and crash and burn.

Ron is also the household chef.  I’m glad that he enjoys cooking because it gives me more time to write.  Like his fishing pole, a cocina man “kitchen man” is a novelty on Ometepe and I suspect in all Latin American cultures.  The neighbors are in awe when they see Ron in the kitchen preparing a meal.  Several years ago, when I asked my English student boys how to prepare plantains or other exotic fruits and vegetables, they gave me blank stares.  They had no idea what takes place in a kitchen.  The cocina is an alien world full of frilly aprons, smoky fires, squawking pigs, and crying babies.  I gave them a writing assignment one day.  “Go home and write the recipe for your favorite meal, in English.”  They had to interview their mothers and translate the recipes into English.  Not many could do it and the recipes I got were useless because they don’t use measuring cups or ovens.  The recipes were hysterical with words like, drain the blood, gather the wood, use a fistful of oil, and locate a chicken egg.

So now you have a little peek into my amazing husband’s life.  He’s definitely a keeper!!  I’ve seen these young Nica women eyeing him and smiling seductively at a gringo who likes to cook, fish, and garden and I may have to swat them away with my twig broom.  Life on Ometepe suits him well.  As the neighbors say, “He’s a beddy goot man.”