Weekly Photo Challenge: The Inside Scoop on Corn Island

The Weekly Photo Challenge is Inside. Our trip to the Corn Islands in Nicaragua provided me with many opportunities to get the inside scoop on Corn Island.

From inside one island, to another. Looking out the ferry window. Adios Ometepe.
Keep reading. There’s more scoop.

Weekly Photo Challenge: A Treasured Heart

The Weekly Photo Challenge is Treasure. In a new post created specifically for this photo challenge capture something you treasure.

Happy Valentine’s Day from Ometepe Islanda treasured oasis of peace which captured my heart.

                                       “One love, one heart, one destiny.”
                                         ― Bob Marley
Don’t stop yet, there’s more!

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.

Moments of Bliss This Holiday Season

“One instant, you’re just a regular Joe, schlepping through your mundane life, and then suddenly – what is this? – nothing has changed, yet you feel stirred by a grace, swollen with wonder, overflowing with bliss. Everything – for no reason whatsoever – is perfect.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

This busy holiday season, I have become acutely aware of those tiny, fleeting moments of bliss. They restore my sanity, alleviate my stress, and fill me with a sense of wonderment and gratitude…no matter how quickly the moment passes.

Everyday since we’ve returned from the states, we’ve had a houseful of visitors. Now, don’t get me wrong…I enjoy company and take delight in sharing our stories and playing with the kids, but I have so much to do this holiday and little time to do it. When I do get a moment of soulful solitude…it’s blissful.
IMG_0392Ron and I have a running argument about cutting the grass. He likes the wild, untamed look, where I prefer the low landscaped look mainly because I don’t like to be surprised by all the creepy crawlies that bite my feet when I’m wearing flip-flops. Julio came to cut our grass with a machete the other day and Ron said, “Don’t cut the grass under the banana plants because the long tufts sway in the wind. They’re really beautiful when the wind blows.” So, I learned to compromise when I spotted a golden tuft of grass near the lake fluttering and dancing in the breeze. Another blissful moment!
IMG_0654An Osprey was diving for fish over the lake. I glimpsed freedom perched on his wings. It dawned on me that I am as free as the Osprey…I can fulfill my passions without interference. What a blissful moment!
IMG_0360A friend of mine once told me that when I see the litter in Nicaragua as a thing of beauty, then I have arrived. We jokingly call all the colored plastic bags hanging on every tree branch, “Nicaraguan flowers.” I experienced a moment of bliss watching the shreds of plastic bags twinkle in the setting sun. I guess I have arrived.
IMG_0550I don’t often have roaring belly laughs, but yesterday when I was in the park, I spotted the peeing boy fountain wearing new attire. Belly laughs are blissful!
IMG_0691Christmas shopping is stressful. I used to take pride in avoiding all shopping malls over the holiday season. Now, we have no shopping malls and life is simple. Yesterday, I had a moment of bliss while watching the handmade Christmas tree stars sway over the town.
IMG_0688I’ve been in a tizzy trying to make Christmas cookies for everyone in our community. Fortunately, I have lots of helpers, but it is still nerve-racking because all directions need to be in Spanish, and I have to teach them how to use a mixer, a microwave, an oven, and my icing bag with all the different attachments. Lourdes was whipping icing and whirled the green icing all over my kitchen walls. But, there were several moments of bliss, when the cookies came out of the oven. The smells of cookies right from the oven…blissful.
IMG_0672I wish you all to be swollen with wonder, stirred by a grace, and overflowing with bliss this holiday season. No matter how fleeting the moment…life is perfect!


View our House Hunters International Show

If you missed our episode of House Hunters International, click this link to watch it. I published it unlisted on YouTube, so you won’t be able to find it by doing a search on YouTube. Enjoy! This was so much fun to make.

House Hunters International: The Retirees and the Volcano on Ometepe Island

Weekly Photo Challenge: A Grand Homecoming

“Every traveler has a home of his own, and he learns to appreciate it the more from his wandering.”
― Charles Dickens

The Weekly Photo Challenge is Grand… a magical, special place…the “wow” factor.  After a long stressful trip back to the states, returning to my special island in the middle of a sweet sea, in the middle of Nicaragua, in the middle of Central America is a grand homecoming.

Boarding the ferry for the hour-long trip across the sweet sea, I peek at our active volcano, Concepcion, about 10 miles away.
IMG_0483Ometepe…how I’ve missed you! I zoom in for a grand view.
IMG_0479My island home! How majestic! How grand!
IMG_0492The waves splash against the ferry window, blanketing me with a warm breeze. How refreshingly grand!
IMG_0501The clouds over Concepcion paint a grand vista.
IMG_0506Only 30 more minutes! I’m so excited. It’s a grand, magical island.
IMG_0511Is the airport near our house open yet? I’m anxiously awaiting the grand opening.
IMG_0529The little launcha chugs past our house. Isn’t she grand?
IMG_0514“Almost home,” I shout excitedly as we pass our house.
IMG_0543Life on Ometepe Island is priceless! What a grand homecoming!

Tonight is the Night

HHI on TV  2Although we won’t be able to watch our House Hunters International episode until we are in the states next week, we hope you can watch it. Enjoy the show, and if you find that you are really embarrassed for us, don’t tell us. LOL

I have lots of stories to tell. They are patiently waiting for me to hit the publish button on WordPress. Stay tuned for “Tito Crosses Over: The life of an illegal immigrant” and many other stories. I’m not sure how often I will be able to post during the month of November, meanwhile, enjoy the show.


Day of the Dead in Nicaragua

“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”
― Mark Twain

November 2nd is Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) in Nicaragua, when the cemeteries fill with family members decorating, cleaning, and painting the crypts of their loved ones. It’s a time to celebrate the dearly departed. Theresa and I walked to the Moyogalpa cemetery early this morning with flowers for our dead friends. We passed people with hoes, buckets of paint, brooms, and flowers…lots and lots of flowers.

IMG_3785The grave sites are picked clean of all weeds and the soft volcanic soil is raked. Then, they wash the crypts and apply a new coat of paint. Finally, family members and friends place beautiful flowers, little handmade skeletons, candy, and other bling-bling on the graves.

We walked along the paths admiring the variety of decorations, the arrangement of flowers, and the beautifully tiled and painted crypts. Even the poorest families, who couldn’t afford to make a crypt, lovingly placed flowers over the hills of dirt protecting their loved ones.

Theresa and I were looking for Jerry’s grave, the only foreigner buried in the Moyogalpa cemetery. We hadn’t been back to visit the cemetery since Jerry’s burial, so we couldn’t remember the exact location. Roaming workers directed us to the spot under the large Jicote tree shading his beautifully tiled crypt.
IMG_3800After a little chat with Jerry, and placing some flowers on his grave, we searched for Jose’s grave. “Excuse me,” I asked, but can you help us find Jose’s grave?” “He died 3 years ago. He was 24 years old and he worked at our house.”  Friendly and helpful Nicaraguans helped us search for Jose, but there were hundreds of Jose’s in the cemetery and we didn’t know his last name.   Some said he is buried in this dirt covered grave, but we didn’t know for sure. I placed my flowers beside the grave, and told Jose how much I missed him.
IMG_3805It was a lovely dia de muerte. R.I.P Jerry and Jose.


Black Mold, Toxic Tea

It’s near the end of the rainy season in Nicaragua. Theresa suffered with respiratory problems, a slow heart rate, symptoms of a sluggish thyroid, severe fatigue, insomnia, and a feeling of brain fog. “I just don’t understand what’s wrong with me,” she said. “All I want to do is eat Snickers bars and watch TV. My resting heart rate is 40 beats per minute. Am I going to die? It is so unlike me.”

If you have undiagnosed symptoms like Theresa’s, then you may want to check out Mycotoxicity, or Sick Building Syndrome. Environmental mold, especially black mold, can cause very serious medical and psychological problems. The airborne mold spores take refuge in the body, creating all kinds of havoc. Mycotoxins are also neurotoxins. Simply stated, a poison to the brain. “Controversial evidence suggests that ‘Yellow Rain’ (trichothecene mycotoxins) attacks by U.S. military in Southeast Asia caused thousands of deaths between 1974 and 1981.” ( McGovern, T. W. and Christopher, G.W., Biological Warfare and its Cutaneous Manifestations, telemedicine.org, n.d.). Research has clearly demonstrated neurological damage as a result of their presence.

Scary, right? Fortunately, Theresa is a retired RN. Armed with all her symptoms and the help of several doctors on Ometepe Island, she received blood tests, an EKG, and the diagnosis of Mycotoxicity. Throughout Theresa’s mysterious onset of symptoms, I learned how devastating black mold can be, as well as the harmful health effects of breathing in malicious mold spores daily.

IMG_3773What does black mold look like?
Theresa took me on a hunt for black mold around my house. The picture above is the inside of my porch with the peeling paint as the mold slowly devours the concrete. Outside, growing on the brick is a gelatinous green-black mold.
Theresa lives in an unsealed concrete block house. At the baseboard level inside, she noticed black mold growing and moisture seeping through the cracked walls. For the duration of the rainy season, she had ingested the toxic spores as she slept.
Toxic Black Mold website

IMG_3772What can you do to rid your house of black mold?
Theresa sealed the outside of her walls with a cement covering after cleaning, disinfecting the area with chlorine bleach, and drying. Then, she tackled the inside walls with a solution of vinegar and soapy water.
I have to laugh at the research I’ve conducted because it says to contact a professional mold remover. Well, living in Nicaragua, that’s an impossibility. We have to do it ourselves. What horrifies me is the number of poorly constructed homes in Nicaragua. The poorest of the population live with dirt floors, black plastic walls, and thatched roofs. As money is available for sturdier houses, they buy cement blocks and construct one wall at a time. Only the wealthiest homeowners can afford to seal their cement walls against the elements and the deluge of water during the rainy season.
Asthma is a huge problem in Nicaragua. I’m beginning to wonder if it is a result of Mycotoxicity. Theresa was lucky. Her symptoms led to a correct diagnosis and medicine to alleviate most of the symptoms. There is no cure for Mycotoxicity, but awareness and proper treatment can alleviate most of the health problems…if caught in time.
A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture, and Your Home by the United States Environmental Protection Agency

Please spread the word about black mold, toxic tea. The rainy season is almost over, but precautions for the next rainy season can begin.


Clinical Microbiology Review on Mycotoxins

Study on the symptoms and effects of Micotoxicity


Retirement and Good Living Article

I was asked to write a short piece about our lives on Ometepe Island for a website Retirement and Good Living.  You can check out the article here. The Retirees and the Volcano.

I have to add that I love blogging. I have met so many wonderful people through my blog. Thanks to all my friends, old and new, who have enriched my life beyond my wildest dreams.