The Season of Thieves

                                                       The thief!

Tis the season of thieves.  We were repeatedly warned. “Lock your doors! Bring everything inside at night,” they cautioned. The bandits enter silently in the wee hours of the morning, before the break of dawn. We were on high alert, ready for any robber who would vilify our sanctuary…or so we thought.

Early in the morning, as I was taking a shower, I spotted the thief in the garden. He was a pugnacious, omnivorous, and fearless intruder. His sentinel was perched in the closest mango tree warning the thief of a possible predator in the distance. The sentinel signaled the thief with one high-pitched alarm call. As I approached silently, armed with my camera, the guarding magpie frantically warned the thieving Urraca with a series of 3-6 shorter notes.

The Urraca, with a belly full of our ripe papaya, made a rapid getaway, heading for the safety of the highest mango branch. The Urraca earned its reputation honestly. It is the Spanish name for magpie, derived from the Latin word furax, which means “thievish”. The Urraca has a tendency to collect and hoard shiny things, sort of like the TV show, “Hoarders: Buried Alive.” I also learned that it has a voracious appetite for fruits, especially papayas.

Santiago and I were rocking on the porch yesterday, resting after cleaning the coconut trees and burning out wasp nests. He recounted the legend of the Urraca after I expressed my frustration with the large, loud, and obnoxious birds. “Did you know that during the time of Jesus, the Urracas could talk?” he asked. “No,” I responded surprised. “Did they speak English or Spanish?” I joked.

According to Santiago, whose father is a preacher, the Urracas and the parrots were the only two species of birds that could talk. When the Jews crucified Jesus  and he was hanging on the cross, the Urracas tried to steal his crown of thorns for their nests. As a result, God punished them by removing their ability to talk because he wasn’t very happy with the obnoxious birds…like me.

Santiago stacked a bunch of coconut fronds at my front door. I’m going to make a coconut frond scare crow to put in the garden. I’m not hopeful that it will deter the pugnacious birds. We’re still on high alert. Our neighbors were right…tis the season for thieves. Only our obnoxious intruders steal our papayas.



Goodwill to All

“Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”
Mark Twain

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Mark Twain was right. Naked people have little or no influence on society. That’s why the Goodwill stores were invented. Did you ever wonder where your donated t-shirts go, and the stories underneath them? Nicaragua has bundles of stories behind your donated t-shirts. What makes your donated t-shirts so humorous is that people in most third world countries have no idea what they say.

For example, walking through the market in Rivas, Nicaragua, I spied a man wearing a t-shirt that had an arrow pointing toward his belly with the words, “Baby Inside.”  Poor guy, if he only had a clue, he would have destroyed his machismo.  The same day, I spotted a woman naked from the waist down,swaying and weaving through the market with a bright red t-shirt that said, “I Love NY.”  “Ron,” I shouted,” What’s wrong with that woman?” “I think she’s drunk,” he replied. “She must have had a helluva night in NY.”

When I read the t-shirt on the driver of our local chicken bus, I drew attention from my ruckus laughter. The front said, “What do you call a woman with PMS and ESP?”  The back said, “A bitch who knows everything.” Exiting the bus, I said to the driver, “I hope your wife can’t read English.”

The other day, Jose, our gardener, stopped by for a visit. He was wearing a t-shirt that said, “I put out on the first date.” Try explaining that in Spanish to a shy, proper church going Nicaraguan.

When Marina invited us to her house for fish soup, her son, Jose, was wearing a McDonald’s employee shirt. He served me my fish soup and I couldn’t help but ask, “Can I have fries with that?” He didn’t understand my joke and I didn’t have the heart to explain it to him. He was proud of his t-shirt.

Walking down the street in Granada, I spotted a young Nica man with an East Tennessee State University t-shirt. “Wait, wait,” I commanded. “Can I take your picture?” Puzzled, he leaned against a colorful wall, and I snapped an awesome picture. That fall, when the faculty door decorating competition took place for Homecoming weekend, I blew up his picture to poster size and pasted it on my classroom door with the headline, “All over the world, ETSU celebrates homecoming.” I won second place in the door decorating competition that year.

My favorite t-shirts are the ones with familiar locations. I’ve seen a Belle Chere t-shirt on Ometepe Island. When I stopped a little boy riding his bike wearing a Belle Chere t-shirt, I asked, “Where did you get that shirt?” He pointed to the second-hand store across the street. How cool is that? Ron and I attended the Belle Chere music festival in Asheville, NC for years. Belle Chere came to the island, if only in t-shirt form.

So, the next time you drop off your used t-shirts at a Goodwill store, think of the stories underneath them. You never know who will be wearing them next. Clothes may make the man, but only if the man can understand the words printed on them.


Come Fly With Me

                         The new airport runway

Early in the morning, every morning, I hear the graders and the bulldozers working on the new airport. I’m keeping a photo essay of the progress. Once a week, I walk our beach path to the airport to take photos. This photo is about a month old. It looks like another walk is in order.

Tourists will be able to fly from Managua, San José, and maybe other places directly to Ometepe Island in 2012.  It has its pros and cons. It’s too soon to tell. Honestly, the only advantages for us are that if the volcano blows, maybe we can make a quick getaway, and if we have a medical emergency, we can fly directly to Vivian Pellas Hospital in Managua. I’ll keep you all updated on the progress.