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.

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?

IMG_3378

More expat speed bumps. Keep reading!

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!

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Good Morning Ometepe Island!


Buenos dias, Ometepe Island.

Join us for our morning routine, which is seldom routine.

The ferry is our clock. The six o’clock morning ferry passes by our house, signaling us to start our day.
IMG_0243Time to unlock the porch gates and greet the morning.
IMG_3108It’s a busy morning at the dock…washing clothes, nourishing cattle, and preparing boats for departure.
IMG_3186Ocho has his morning routine, too. Most of the time he drinks from the faucet, but sometimes he prefers the toilet.
IMG_3482Meanwhile, we prepare our strong morning coffee, and if the mangoes are ripe, we make mango smoothies.
IMG_5655What’s for breakfast? The bananas are almost ready.
IMG_3560Time to check out the garden. The peanuts are ready to harvest.
IMG_3375Flowers attract butterflies seeking their breakfast, too.
IMG_3498Yet, seldom do we have routine, leisurely mornings. Occasionally, Ron has to dig out a boa constrictor from our neighbor’s kitchen wall.
IMG_2609And sometimes, we make appointments to watch pigs have sex. lol
IMG_0074

Bathing Rituals


There must be quite a few things that a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them. ~ Sylvia Plath

I am on my way to the states to celebrate my mother’s birthday. Yesterday, she asked, “What are you looking forward to the most?” My response was, “A hot bath with lots of bubbles.” It’s been years since I’ve taken a hot bath. Cold water showers are refreshing in the tropics, yet there is something soothing and relaxing about soaking in a hot tub of water.

I never realized that most Nicaraguans have never seen a bathtub before. When shown a picture of a bathtub, they have no frame of reference and are puzzled about what it could be. I’m not saying that Nicaraguans are dirty. Not in the least. They are meticulous about their appearance and cleanliness. In fact, they often tell me they feel sorry for the foreign backpackers with their dirty clothes and dreadlocks. “Why do you feel sorry for them?” I ask. “Because where they come from it is too cold to take a shower, so they can never get clean,” they respond.

Our big shower in Nicaragua.

Our big shower in Nicaragua.

The most intimate contact between human and water can be found in cherished bath rituals in Japan. Instead of one room dedicated for bathing, the Japanese bath is designed solely for spiritual cleansing and refreshing the body. My host family explained the Japanese bath ritual when I visited many years ago. First, there is a small stool, similar to a farmer’s milking stool, and a ladle for scooping steaming hot water from the deep tub. The bather, sitting on the low stool, vigorously scrubs away the dirt and cares of the day. Then, using a hand-held shower the bather rinses the dirt and soap down the floor drain. Only after the bather is thoroughly cleansed can he or she enter the steaming deep tub. No soaps are used, and the bather quickly immerses into the commodious tub for a few minutes, exits the tub, rinses again with the hand-held shower, and immerses one’s body again in the steamy tub for a long, spiritual soak. Now that’s my kind of squeaky clean!

zen-bathroom-japanese-tubWhen we lived in the Ozark Mountains, we made a bathtub using a metal cow trough since we had no running water or electricity when we lived in our 1952 converted school bus.  We carried water from our hand dug spring, built a fire under the water trough, and waited for glorious, hot, steamy water. Those were the days of blissful bathing!

metal troughThroughout our lives, we’ve bathed in a variety of ways…under waterfalls…in the rain…in lakes…streams…and bubbling hot springs. Yet, nothing beats a hot tub of water where the bathroom is steamy and the bubbles pile up like mountains of frothy snow. Tomorrow, my mother said she’d have the bubbles waiting for me. What more could one ask for?

Happy bubble trails to you all.

 

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: New Life From Above


“The trick to forgetting the big picture is to look at everything close up.” ― Chuck Palahniuk

And, I might add….from above. Mama hen stepped off her nest to get a bite to eat. While she was gone, a chick hatched.

Life is all about perspective. The little chick could have thought this:

The hens they all cackle, the roosters all beg, But I will not hatch, I will not hatch. For I hear all the talk of pollution and war As the people all shout and the airplane roar, So I’m staying in here where it’s safe and it’s warm, And I WILL NOT HATCH!~ Shel Silverstein

Instead, the chick thought this:

“Ready for a new life” ― Sylvia Plath

IMG_2462Meanwhile I thought this:

“If you want a new life,  first give praise for having the old one!”
         ― Stephen Richards

My Husband: The Snake Whisperer


“When a woman teams up with a snake a moral storm threatens somewhere.”
― Stacy Schiff, Cleopatra: A Life

Marina shouted across the fence, “Ron, Ron ven aquí rápidamente! Hay una serpiente en mi cocina.” “A snake?” Ron shouted back. As usual, it was after dark on a Sunday night, and we lost our electricity.  I swear, the weekend electricity guys flip a switch every Sunday night leaving us in the dark for two hours. I picture them snickering and snoring in the Union Fenosa office.
IMG_2600Ron and I grabbed a couple of flashlights and squeezed through the barbed wire fence separating us from Marina’s house. Marina was standing on a plastic chair in her kitchen waving the only light she had…her cell phone. “Quick, help me trap the boa constrictor in the wall,” she ordered. “We’ll kill it tomorrow.” Stumbling around the dirt floor kitchen, we spotted some bricks and covered the top holes in the cement block wall. Trapped for the night! We lent Marina a flashlight and whispered, “Sweet dreams” (because their three grand babies were sleeping) and headed home shaking our heads wondering what the next morning would bring.
IMG_2601Early the next morning Marina shouted, ” Ron, Ron ven aqui.” With machete in hand, she was determined to capture and kill the giant boa sleeping in her kitchen wall. Now, we are not snake killers. If they are not poisonous, we trap them and set them free. Boas are beautiful and they eat rats, which is probably why it was in her kitchen wall. But, tell that to Marina, a protective grandmother. A moral storm was brewing.

With a mirror, flashlight, and a ladder, Ron spotted the boa near the top of the hole. He tried pouring warm water down the hole to flush out the boa, but it only aggravated the enormous snake and it retreated farther down. So, Ron chipped a small hole in the cement block, found his tail and started p-u-l-l-i-n-g.
IMG_2603Meanwhile, Adioska was screaming, Marina had her machete in her hand, and Don Jose was comforting his grand babies. This picture is priceless. You can just feel the fear!
IMG_2604But, Ron kept p-u-l-l-i-n-g. That was one strong boa!
IMG_2606Success! Isn’t it a beauty! Marina rushed forward with her machete. “No, Marina,” I explained. “We’re not going to kill it. We’ll put it in a sack and take it far, far, away from your house.”
IMG_2608Marina wasn’t sure. “You’ll take it far away? she whimpered. “Certainly,” we promised. Meanwhile the boa was getting restless. It tried to wrap around Ron’s arm and he lost his grip on the boa’s head. It only bit him once. Jose ran forward with a big sack, and Ron dropped it comfortably into its temporary home.
IMG_2609I have no fear of losing my life – if I have to save a koala or a crocodile or a kangaroo or a snake, mate, I will save it. Steve Irwin
IMG_2615
“Stephen, do you want to see the boa?” Ron said reassuringly. But, Stephen ran for his life in the opposite direction. “Dustin, do you want to see the boa?”  Dustin took a few tentative steps toward the sack. He peeked in and soon wanted to touch it. Maybe a new snake whisperer is born.

Ron took the wiggling sack to the new airport. Just as he set the sack on the ground to release the boa, a big, fat rat ran across the path. “Perfect,” Ron told the boa. It looks like it’s lunch time.

Have you seen the movie, Snakes on a Plane? Let’s keep our fingers crossed that we never hear the quote below. LOL

From the movie, “Snakes on a Plane” : Neville Flynn: [TV edit] Enough is enough! I have had it with these monkey fighting snakes on this Monday through Friday plane!

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.

 

 

Three Little Kittens


Last July, we had a rat problem in the garden. We didn’t want to use poison because we have ten free-range chickens, plus all the neighbors chickens and other critters come to our gringo house to graze.  Instead, we contacted a friend who lives in Granada to see about getting a cat.

We consider ourselves to be dog people, and we weren’t too familiar with the ways of cats. We only wanted one cat, but things didn’t work out that way. “Will you take two kittens?” Carol asked. “They are brother and sister. Poor babies were thrown in the Granada dump,” she pleaded. I relented. What’s one more kitten?

A few days later, the foster mom of our two kittens called. “I just got another kitten about the same age as the brother and sister,” she said. “They love one another. This little kitten was thrown over a wall in Granada and left to die,” she pleaded. I relented again. What’s one more kitten?

When the kittens were old enough to be spayed and neutered, our foster-mother took them to a free clinic in Granada operated by Donna Tabor. See her blog here with heartwarming stories.

Last September, we became full-fledged cat people. Our cats have adjusted to life on Ometepe Island. There is never a dull moment with Black Jack, Queenie, and Ocho.

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Hora de Almorzar


The weekly photo challenge is all about lunchtime. Check out the weekly photo challenge HERE. All of the photos, except the vegetable truck, were taken with my new-to-me iPhone 3Gs. It’s lunchtime on Ometepe Island, Nicaragua! Everyone helps to prepare lunch, the largest meal of the day for a Nicaraguan family.

The vegetable truck comes to our door every Friday. We choose the freshest veggies, all homegrown on the island.
DSCN0825

Don Jose, our 78 year young neighbor, hacks away at our fallen tree with his machete. Our neighbors need firewood to prepare lunch.
IMG_2212Stephen gathers our sweet mangoes, while his grandfather cuts firewood. The mangoes will make a tasty dessert.
IMG_0047Meanwhile, Dustin snacks on a juicy jicote, similar to a plum. ( I had to retouch this photo. Dustin wasn’t wearing any underwear or pants. jeje)
IMG_0049
Our chickens wait in line to lay eggs under the pollo grill. We never lack fresh eggs around the finca.
IMG_0072Rafaela isn’t neglected either. She’s neighing for a fresh carrot from the vegetable truck.
IMG_0057Black Jack, one of our three rescue kittens, inspects our produce. “Anything good to eat here?”
IMG_0066The avocados will have to wait for tomorrow’s lunch. They aren’t quite ripe. But, the tangerines are ready!
IMG_0067Don Jose stokes the fire. Lunch is almost ready. “Hora de amorzar?” the kids ask.
IMG_0069Lunch is almost ready. A big pot of gallo pinto, a fresh egg omelet, and lots of handpicked fruit. Everyone helps prepare lunch in Nicaragua. It’s my favorite time of the day, the hora de almorzar.
IMG_0070