“I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees. I speak for the trees for the trees have no tongues.” ~ Dr. Seuss, The Lorax
This is what the locals on Ometepe Island think of the proposed Nicaraguan Canal Project.
NO to the Canal!
Let me personalize the Nicaraguan Canal Project for those of you who are not familiar with Ometepe Island because personalizing our oasis of peace will give you a better understanding of the ecological disaster lurking like the grim reaper in Ometepe’s future.
This is only the beginning. Keep reading if you love Ometepe Island.
“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
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.
“I take issue with many people’s description of people being “Illegal” Immigrants. There aren’t any illegal Human Beings as far as I’m concerned.”
― Dennis Kucinich
Tito left Ometepe Island on June 9, 2004 in search of a better life for his family. Until he was 24 years old, he lived with his single mother. His father abandoned the family when he was 14 years old and now lives in Costa Rica with another woman. This is the story of Tito’s journey to the United States, as told to me by a local Ometepian.
Tito’s story is ahead. Keep reading.
“We cannot live for ourselves alone. Our lives are connected by a thousand invisible threads, and along these sympathetic fibers, our actions run as causes and return to us as results.” ― Herman Melville
Cause and effect! Choices made, whether good or bad, follow us forever and affect everyone in their path. For several weeks, we have been bombarded with the Central American child migration crisis in the United States. I believe that this crisis cannot be solved without first delving into the causes.
Please read on. Moe ideas about the causes of violence.
“I sat on a toilet watching the water run thinking what an odd thing tourism is. You fly off to a strange land, eagerly abandoning all the comforts of home and then expend vast quantities of time and money in a largely futile effort to recapture the comforts you wouldn’t have lost if you hadn’t left home in the first place.”
― Bill Bryson, Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe
Ecotourism…eco-friendly…permaculture…bio-diversity…sustainable tourism…green…words that have become so popular in the tourism industry, that I wonder if they have evolved into meaningless clichés for the sake of marketing, or if the concept of environmental conservation has evolved into a new trend.
“Each meeting occurs at the precise moment for which it was meant. Usually, when it will have the greatest impact on our lives.”
― Nadia Scrieva, Fathoms of Forgiveness
I don’t believe in coincidences. Life is serendipitous. We have always been lucky in making fortunate discoveries completely by accident. Such was our day today. We rode our motorcycle into Moyogalpa this morning to meet some friends at the Corner House for breakfast. “Why is town a buzz with military carrying AK-47s this morning?” Ron asked. No one knew why. Cindi and Alan passed a motorcade on their way into town to meet us. There were police and military stationed all over the island at the most popular tourist stops. Hmmm….
Robinson will know. He always knows everything. “Robinson, what’s happening on the island today?” I asked when I called him. “President Jimmy Carter is visiting with his family. He just got off the ferry and he’s headed to Santo Domingo for lunch at Villa Paraiso,” he said. This was an opportunity I was NOT going to miss.
I bought some local gifts at the Corner House…a jar of homemade peanut butter ( a perfect gift for a former peanut farmer), a jicote carving, a small jar of turmeric, handmade soap with neem insect repellant, and a homemade gift bag. “Where can I find a note card in town?” “I’ve never seen any note cards, but Arcia’s has some nice postcards,” Gary, the owner of the Corner House responded.
I walked quickly to Arcia’s on my mission as a cultural ambassador of Ometepe Island. Rapidly, I wrote a little note on the postcard welcoming President Carter to Ometepe Island. Then, we jumped on our motorcycles and zipped across the island to Santo Domingo. Forty minutes later we arrived at Villa Paraiso.
Now this is the serendipitous moment: Just as we arrived, President Carter and his family were leaving. I couldn’t help myself…I ran up and hugged him. I didn’t think about the guys with the AK-47s. I just wanted to share my enthusiasm for Ometepe Island with him.
He graciously accepted my gifts and was happy to pose with us for pictures.
When I told him about the homemade peanut butter, he asked Ron many questions about where it was grown and how it was processed…in fluent Spanish!!
Alan took our pictures and was thrilled to shake hands with President Carter.
What a wonderful day! That’s one of the many reasons I love living here. The world comes to us. We never know who we will meet.
Here are some more pictures of President Carter visiting our local museum.
On December 10, 2002, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2002 to Mr. Carter “for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development.” (The Carter Center) He is the perfect person to visit our island of peace. I am so honored to have met him. What a serendipitous day!
There was a time when I thought, “How lucky we are to have the best of both worlds.” We own property in Nicaragua and the U.S. We are legal residents of two countries far apart in their ideological worlds, yet we can overcome these differences and live a culturally immersed life…coexisting peacefully with the similarities that unite us…a collective consciousness of human beings transcending political differences.
Yet, today, after a week of the U.S. government shutdown, I realized that this is not possible…not possible among the citizens of my own country…not possible among the citizens of the world. I am grieving for my homeland, desperately seeking a solution to stop this madness, and feeling quite helpless.
Five Stages of Grieving for My Homeland
1. Shock and Denial: the initial paralysis
My initial reaction was one of politics as usual with checks and balances governing the United States of America. It won’t last long. They will all come to some agreement. I can’t worry about this because I have chickens to feed, sweet potatoes and peanuts to harvest, cows and pigs to shoo out of my property, and life goes on in the campo in Nicaragua regardless of what is happening far away in my homeland.
2. Anger: Frustrated outpouring of emotion bottled up for decades
Living in the campo, on a small isolated island in the middle of Nicaragua, in the middle of Central America, leaves few options to express my anger and outrage about the shenanigans of political terrorists holding my homeland hostage. Thank goodness my internet is working and I have a strong signal…most days. I confess. I used Facebook and other online media sources to express my anger…blaming anyone and everyone for the impasse.
3. Bargaining: Seeking a way out of this mess
Once I realized that there was no way one person’s comments on Facebook or another online media source would make a hoot of a difference, I became obsessed with researching facts to find solutions. My beachfront lawn became a tangle of overgrown weeds, tropical ant hills grew with millions of neglected little ant terrorists… garden produce rotted offending my olfactories, and a huge boil grew on my butt…the result of sitting on a plastic chair in the humid tropics for hours on end researching:
1. What are John Boehner’s motivating factors?
2. The effects of polarized media on political beliefs
3. Who is Ted Cruz?
4. What is a Discharge Petition?
5. Studies of the mindset of Republican and Democrat ideological bases
6. The Hundredth Monkey Syndrome and its effects on changing political beliefs
7. Why a clean CR vote is or is not an option
8. Daily polls on political dissatisfaction
9. Unbiased news sources…of which I could find NONE… Even BBC is biased.
10. Expats and the Affordable HealthCare Act
11. and finally…checking our stocks and retirement funds daily.
4. Depression: Final realization of the inevitable
This morning, I awoke to this statement in the Washington Post by Ezra Klein.
At this point, it’s almost cliché to say Washington isn’t working. But the truth is harsher: Washington is actively failing. It’s failing to craft policies that make the country better. And it’s failing to avoid disasters that make the country worse. It’s nice to imagine these failures are temporary or aberrational. It’s comforting to believe that they’re the result of bad people, or dumb people, or incompetent people. But the truth is more unnerving: The American political system is being torn apart by deep structural changes that don’t look likely to reverse themselves anytime soon. A deal to reopen the government won’t fix what ails American politics. ( Klein, E., The Washington Post, published October 7, 2013).
And, that folks, is the cause of my depression and current state of my emotional upheaval. I grieve for my homeland.
5. Testing and Acceptance: finding realistic solutions that work.
I feel disconnected from my government and worried about our future. I’ll end with a quote from Benjamin Franklin.
“We’ve spawned a new race here … We’re a new nationality. We require a new nation.” — Benjamin Franklin speaking at the Continental Congress, 7 June 1776
Something to think about.
“US fugitive Edward Snowden has abandoned his request for political asylum in Russia after learning he would have to stop leaking intelligence reports, the Kremlin said Tuesday, as the American awaited asylum decisions from 20 other countries.” (Dmitry Zaks, AFP, July 2, 2013).
According to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, other countries in which Snowden may seek asylum include China, Cuba, France, Germany, Italy, India, Nicaragua and Spain. Nicaragua??? My expat home? I’m torn with conflicting emotions if Nicaragua were to accept Snowden.
On the one hand, I believe that Snowden is a whistleblower, not a traitor. A traitor is someone who gives information to the enemy. Are ‘We the People’ the enemy? Don’t we have a right to know about our government’s secret surveillance program, especially if it is ‘We the People’ who are being watched?
Certainly, it is no secret because George W. Bush authorized warrantless wiretapping of international communications after the September 11, 2001 attacks as part of the war on terrorism. In 2005, public disclosure ignited the outrage of the potential misuse of data mining of e-mail messages and telephone call records in the NSA call database. We’ve known about this for years.
I’m siding with Snowden on this issue. He is not a traitor, only a concerned citizen who risked his life and his professional career to inform us of the potential dangers of warrantless wiretapping and government surveillance of its own citizens. Let’s face it, we all know that we are being watched, not only by our government, but by the marketing media who records every click, every ‘like’, and every internet move we make in the digital age.
The other day, I was researching metal detectors and protest music. Weird combination, I know, but sometimes in my mind works in mysterious ways. In looking for protest music on YouTube, a little ad at the bottom of the video tried to direct me to metal detectors. What??? How could they possibly know that I was researching metal detectors? Honestly, browser snooping scares me. It unnerves me to think that my every move on the internet is recorded for marketing purposes.
Yet, what frightens me more are the potential problems for Nicaragua. If Snowden were to receive asylum in my expat country would I offer him my guest house as a reprieve from the mad warlock hunt? Impulsively, I would say, “Yes”. I admire his bravery and his tenacity. On the other hand, I imagine this scenario or nightmare…your choice:
Snowden snuggles peacefully under the mosquito net in our guest house, while unidentified flying objects circle the periphery of our property. Strangers disguised as lone fishermen, paddle around the lake wearing night goggles and Google glasses. Economic sanctions by the U.S. prohibit the export of Nicaraguan coffee, gold, and beef. The United States, Nicaragua’s main trading partner who bought 29% of Nicaragua’s exports in 2012, stops trading with Nicaragua. All U.S. expats and tourists are stopped at every border crossing, strip searched and aggressively interrogated. Legal expats can no longer leave or enter Nicaragua without special permission from the U.S. Tourism comes to an abrupt halt. Fear overwhelms the local people struggling to make a living because all trading has stopped. NGOs are prohibited from sending donations and supplies to Nicaragua. Nicaragua, my beloved adopted country, quickly loses all economic gains it has made in recent years.
If Edward Snowden knocks on my door in my little oasis of peace, I’m afraid I would have to say, “Sorry, Edward. I admire your bravery, but I am a coward with too much at risk. Please find another country for political asylum.” For you see, I love Nicaragua more than I admire Snowden’s courageous whistle blowing. Life is all about making informed decisions. Every choice has a consequence whether good or bad, right or wrong, bitter or sweet. Laurie Buchanon says, “The life we live is an expression of the choices we make.” I chose Nicaragua before, and I will choose Nicaragua again. Surely, Snowden understands that individual choices can have global consequences. I wish you the best, Edward Snowden. Safe travels in your search for peace and political asylum.
Today are the Nicaraguan municipal elections throughout the country. Sober voters will march to the polls after church because the government suspended all liquor sales on Saturday at noon. It is impossible to buy liquor until Monday at noon. Too bad because with all of the election day madness in the states…I need a stiff drink!
Last week, I received an invitation to the U.S. Presidential election celebration held at the U.S. Embassy in Managua. The reason I received the invitation is because I am the U.S. Embassy Warden representative for Ometepe Island. Basically, it is a fancy title for a messenger. When the U.S. Embassy has a message for U.S. citizens, they email me the message and I relay it through our expat Google group on the island. It’s just a matter of copy…save…paste.
Yet, I was really excited to attend this celebration and honored to be invited. I started making plans for Ron and I to attend. We needed fancy clothes, new shoes, and a safe hotel in Managua. My friend, Theresa, was going to let me rummage through all of her fancy party clothes since we are about the same size. My baby needed a new pair of shoes. We knew this was going to be a challenge finding appropriate shoes on the island, but we were ready to tackle any and all obstacles that got in our way of attending the gala. Excitement flowed through the air at our house like static electricity.
I emailed my RSVP to the embassy. “Yes, my husband and I will be attending. Thank you so much for the invitation. We are excited to attend.” However, the emailed response I received shattered my plans like a glass machete. “Your husband is not invited.”
But, why? Is there increased security at all U.S. Embassies throughout the world because of acts of terror? When I called the embassy, they told me that there simply wasn’t enough room in the small embassy for my husband. It reminded me of the time we took our small dog camping with us. When we registered, the receptionist asked us if we had any pets because they were prohibited in the campground. “Yes, but he is only a little dog,” I replied.
I’m disappointed. I don’t feel comfortable going to Managua alone and certainly not traveling by taxi at night to and from the embassy. I politely expressed my disappointment and declined the invitation for the U.S. Embassy U.S. Presidential election night celebration. It looks like we will celebrate our own Presidential election day madness here on the island…but, on the upside…we’ll be able to buy beer and rum …wear flip-flops…and shout at the TV…as long as we have electricity. :-)