The Ballad of the Ultramarathon Volunteers

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Every morning at half past three, you could see them arise

lugging water and first aid, rubbing sleepers from eyes.

From spheres of the world, they came bearing shoes,

wearing volunteer t-shirts to spread the news.


Public-spirited philanthropists, that’s who they are,

Carrying water, first aid, and good will near and far.


They climbed the volcanoes with supplies on their backs,

like experienced pack mules, avoiding craters and cracks.

They nourished parched runners with food and drink,

with nary a complaint or blinking a blink.


Public-spirited philanthropists, that’s who they are,

Carrying water, first aid, and good will near and far.


Then came the day at the end of the race,

a bus packed with gringos and racers made haste,

to Charco Verde to celebrate and rest,

camaraderie, good times, and philanthropy at its best!


Public-spirited philanthropists, that’s who they are,

Carrying water, first aid, and good will near and far.

The results of the Fuego y Agua Ultramarathon: Click here.

The Grand Opening of the Pollo Grill

The Pollo Grill

“Una fuego,” Marina shouted over the fence this evening. (A fire) “Yes,” I shouted back.  “Finally.” I’ve begged for a barbecue for over a year. Guillermo was supposed to build me a barbecue, but he never did. So, when Wilmer came out to the house two weeks ago looking for work, I hired him on the spot to build me a barbeque.

We tore apart my brick living room set. I know everyone was happy about that. Last year, I made a darling little brick couch, chair, and coffee table with the leftover bricks from the construction of our houses. I’ve never heard the end of the kidding, but I enjoyed my little outdoor living room. It held up well under the deluge of rain. We found lots of scorpions hiding in the cracks. I wondered what they would taste like barbecued.

Wilmer worked steadily for three days, then he went on a drinking binge last weekend. Always optimistic, I waited four more days for him to return to finish the job…and sure enough, he did. I think he needed money for his next binge. Regardless, the barbecue was finished.

This morning, a chicken laid an egg under my barbecue table, which led Ron to build three nesting boxes for the hens under the table. Congrejo, Marina’s dog, sneaked into the nest on the ground and gulped down the old egg decoy Ron placed in the nest so the hens would know where to lay their eggs. Next time we fire up the grill, hopefully we’ll have fresh eggs to fry. I love a dual purpose barbecue!

Ron built a metal grill out of old purlin, and we were ready to fire up the new pollo grill. To christen our new barbecue, we bought a big hunk of Filet Mignon at the new Maxi Pali in Rivas when we returned from the beach on Wednesday. Fortunately, my friend Billy caught the thief who stole my Filet Mignon on the launcha. He set the bag of meat on the floor of the launcha, turned around to find a seat, and the bag was gone! A little old lady had taken my bag of meat! She was hiding in the corner of the launcha and surrendered the meat peacefully, if not somewhat sheepishly.

The Filet of Mignon was grilled to perfection. We celebrated the christening of the new pollo grill with a fine feast. Maybe tomorrow, we’ll have a grilled omelet if the hens decide to pay forward Ron’s kindness for building them a secure nesting spot!

Windows of the World

I was chatting with a friend on Facebook the other day about my lending library. It is taking me forever to collect children’s books in Spanish. My initial thoughts were to collect several thousand books and start a lending library in Moyogalpa. However, after visiting two lending libraries in San Juan del Sur and Granada, I became overwhelmed with my plan to make a central location for all of the books. Plus, I am retired, with lots of projects, and I don’t want to be tied down to a library everyday.

Instead, I have decided to take baby steps and empower the schools, one school at a time. When I told my friend that I planned to make a mobile cart, stock it with 100 books, and start with one school, she sent me this picture with a note, “Is this your plan?” Sometimes, you just gotta laugh!

I’m going to have Marvin design me a metal bookcase on wheels that will hold 100 children’s books. Presently, I have close to 200 books collected. My plan is to take the cart with 100 books to the school in Los Ramos after I have the books categorized and sorted. Then, I’ll spend a few days in the classrooms, reading books, doing activities, and explaining how a mobile library works. When I have 100 more books, I’ll repeat the process in another local elementary school. Eventually, I’ll be able to swap out the mobile carts, so the schools have a new collection of books.Maybe this burro idea isn’t so funny? Quien sabe? I must have some way of transporting my carts from one school to another across the island.

The name of my mobile lending library is, Ventanas del Mundo. ( Windows of the World) I am always in search of children’s books in Spanish. If you are making a trip to Ometepe Island, please bring a book for my lending library. You can drop off the books at The Corner House, Mar Dulce, or the American Cafe and Hotel in Moyogalpa. Tell them they are for the book lady in La Paloma. Once again, I thank the awesome people who have already donated books. You are opening many new windows to the world of reading for pleasure.

Soon to come, a new page on my blog explaining the mobile lending library with lots of pictures.


Dan Kovalik: The Sandinista Revolution Continues!

Dan Kovalik: Nicaragua: The Sandinista Revolution Continues!.

Many people have asked me about the politics and government of Nicaragua. This article, written by Dan Kovalik, a human rights and labor lawyer from Pittsburgh, PA , explains it all. In my opinion, he speaks the truth.

A Walk into Town

My friends are visiting from the states. We decided to walk into the port town of Moyogalpa yesterday to eat supper at the new Argentinian Grill. Enjoy my slideshow of our walk into town from our house. My next slideshow will include a tour of Moyogalpa.

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Chicken Nation

“People who count their chickens before they are hatched, act very wisely, because chickens run about so absurdly that it is impossible to count them accurately.” ~ Oscar Wilde

Two hundred and forty million pounds of chicken are produced in Nicaragua. Children as young as four years, are taught to pluck chickens with their mothers and siblings. In their teens, they display their machismo by chopping the head off the chicken with a sharp machete. Nicaragua is, indeed, known as Chicken Nation.

The symphony of roosters crowing awaken us at dawn. Hens descend from their mango tree perches at the first ray of light. Their little social flock forages through my neatly raked pile of mangoes, pecking and clawing the mangoes to shreds. They gaggle, cluck, and peck their way through our lives on the island. We are always surrounded by chickens.

Can you find the eggs?

One or maybe several hens laid eggs in a nest of barbed wire. Clever! The other day, I found a single egg that had been laid behind my broom on the porch. That’s what I call ‘giving back’.

The King of Chicken

Juan, pictured above, is the king of chicken in Nicaragua. Some say that he is the largest cock of the trade. Respected by some and despised by many, he reportedly sells six thousand pounds of imported U.S. chicken on “bad days.”

In my opinion, U.S. chicken cannot compare with Nicaraguan chicken. It is juicy, tender, and tasty. However, Juan doesn’t agree. Strictly a business man, he juggles supply and demand like a pro, driving down the cost of all chicken sold in Nicaragua. Only time will tell if the chicken controversy pecks holes in the business confidence. As the Nicaraguan’s say, “Renounce a friend who covers you with his wings, and destroys you with his beak.”

In Nicaragua, chicken is king! Daily life revolves around chicken. They gather eggs like an Easter egg hunt, hack off heads with sharp machetes, and pluck feathers as rapidly as a speeding bullet. There are chicken buses, chicken kings, cock fights, and cock mafia. Now, you have a little better understanding why Nicaragua is a chicken nation.



Ding Dong! Avon Calling

The Avon Boy

“Bueno…bueno,” the Avon boy called out. I think I’m his best customer because he is usually here everyday trying to sell me more Avon products. “Leviton, I don’t need more Skin-so-Soft, or anything today,” I reply. “Bueno,” he responds. “I’ll return tomorrow.”

It reminds me of the time we were in Morocco. They ushered us from one rug store to another. The vendors flipped out rug after rug until they toppled over one another like the princess and the pea. The mint tea flowed, the rugs swayed like flying carpets, and the vendors did not understand the word “NO.” We had to buy a rug to leave the country!

Leviton returned today with his stack of Avon books. He displayed the perfume pages and shoved the perfumed stickers in front of my nose to entice me. I had to buy something, just to get one day of peace. So, I chose more Skin-so-Soft and a toilet paper roll holder. Skin-so-Soft is good for repelling insects. I guess one can never have enough Skin-so-Soft when living in the tropics.

School starts next Monday. I’m thinking that I won’t see my Avon boy very much. I have enough Skin-so-Soft to last me the rest of his school year. But, it is nice to know that I can order Avon products on Ometepe Island. Who would have ever guessed? Ding dong…Avon calling again, and again, and again.



See You At The Races

Uncle Johnson with sleeping nephew Stephen

Ultramaratón Fuego y Agua takes place on Ometepe Island on February 18-19. Johnson, our 26 year-old friend, has been training for this grueling race since he won the 50 K race in 2009. At 4:00 am in 2009, the 50 K runners gathered at the starting line. An explosion of fireworks signaled the start, and the runners sprinted into the darkness; but, Johnson was not among them.  A few minutes later, two very confused runners arrived at the empty starting line. Johnson and another girl immediately took off in pursuit of the other runners. Ironically, Johnson had never raced in his life and he won with a time of 6:31.

A champion was born! Today, Johnson continues to hone his athletic abilities. A very talented and natural athlete, Johnson is serious about training. He is on the trail at 4:30 am every morning. Then, a quick breakfast before he starts work in the plantain fields at 7 am. In the evening, he takes to the trails, again. He is an amazing and very determined athlete.

Jose's marathon trophies

Jose, our neighbor, won the 25 K in 2009. Jose had never been in a race, either. Neither Johnson or Jose had any formal training before the Ultramaraton Fuego y Agua. I believe this race opened new worlds for these two talented runners. They both joined a runner’s club and often travel to race in Nicaragua and Costa Rica.

The Race Map

This map exhausts me just looking at it. I can’t imagine racing up and down two volcanoes! This year, Ron and I are volunteering to help the children in the 5 K race on Sunday, February 19th. I am really looking forward to it.

Ultramaratón Fuego y Agua   Check out the website and if you are going to be on Ometepe Island February 18-19, I’ll see you at the races!