Don’t Cut Off Aid to Nicaragua!

We are in perilous times. Nicaragua is one of 28 countries to which the United States will be suspending financial aid this year. Quoted below is part of the letter that you can send to your Representatives, Senators, and State Department.

“I would like to remind you that the US still owes Nicaragua an estimated $17 billion in reparations after being found guilty by the World Court for mining Nicaragua’s harbors and committing other Crimes Against the Peace under international law in the 1980s. For a Democratic administration to be even more hostile toward Nicaragua than a Republican administration is simply not acceptable.” ~NicaNet

The article below explains some of the tumultuous background of US involvement in Nicaragua. Good reading!

Thank you for your support and concern.  Here is the link:   NicaNet


War of Worlds

Someone asked me yesterday why I live in a third world country. She spat out the question like she had overdosed on bitter medicine and looked at me with disgust and fear. Puzzled by her reaction I asked, “What is your definition of a third world country?” “Oh, yuck!” she spat. “It’s a country filled with disease and poor people. Who in their right mind would live in a third world country?”

Since I am in the states visiting my mother, these comments occur more often. Either people fear for my life because of all the ‘diseases I could get’ or like my mother, question my sanity. My mother tells people I am a missionary in a third world country. “Mom, you have to stop telling people I’m a missionary,” I reprimand. “I’m not a missionary. I’m not even religious.”  “But, you do so many good things for all those poor people,” she said. “You are a missionary in my eyes.”  I sigh and nod my head. She introduces me to a friend of hers. “This is my daughter. She is…the word ‘like’ is barely audible… a missionary in Nicaragua.” I sigh again and nod my head.

I’m beginning to understand my mom’s logic. If she tells people I am a missionary, then they won’t look at me with fear and disgust because I live in a third world country. My mother solidifies her good reputation with God and her church friends because she raised a missionary daughter instead of an insane one. I can live comfortably in a third world country because I am ‘doing good things’ for all those pitiful poor people.

This conversation got me thinking about the definition of a third world country. Despite ever evolving definitions, most people envision a third world filled with suffering, dying, big bellied, crying, dirty, malnourished babies living with uneducated, extremely poor, emaciated, suffering, crying, dirty, and unemployed family members, who live in fear of a harsh, unbending dictator in a socialist or communist country with AK 47’s pointed in their faces.  Often these visions are accompanied by lots of sobbing and pitiful cries with bony fingers extended, and a malformed or underdeveloped baby clinging to a mother’s dried up breast, begging for milk money.

Now, my definition of a third world country can be summed up in one phrase…a lack of a middle class. In Nicaragua, there are impoverished millions in a vast lower economic class and a very small élite or upper class who control the country’s wealth and resources. What makes the United States a first world country and Nicaragua a third world country? If we use my definition, there are striking similarities. Maybe it’s time to reconsider our definitions and differences among a first, second, and third world country. Maybe it’s time to cast away our stereotypical perceptions and visions of people living in a third world country. Maybe it’s time to dissolve our differences and concentrate on our similarities.

When I ask people to explain their definition of a third world country, often it is expressed in a ranking scheme of economic development with the first world on top ( a capitalist society), the second world, and the third world ( socialist or communist) on the bottom rung. This comparative economic and political ranking is utter nonsense, and in my opinion, the real source of misguided evil that has poisoned our world.

All forms of societies ( first, second, or third worlds) give us food, clothing, a home, language, and the tools of a trade. As members of a society, we all seek comfort in sharing our joys, sorrows, and pleasures with friends and family. We satisfy our personal desires, dreams, and accomplishments through gaining attention and recognition from our fellow human beings. We all want to improve the conditions of our lives. We should be ONE world because we all share the same basic needs and wants.

The definitions of the three types of worlds only increase the gap and divide us as human beings. Attempts to pigeon-hole us into narrowly defined economic and political categories create a war of worlds. Personally, I’m tired of people asking me if I’m a missionary because I live in their warped perception of a third world country. I’m tired of trying to convince people that I’m safe, secure, and happy in my decision to live in Nicaragua.

I’ll continue to sigh and nod my head when my mother introduces me as a missionary in Nicaragua. Her perceptions of the world were set a long time ago and there is nothing I can do to change her mind or change her viewpoints. But, that doesn’t mean that I can’t plant seeds…little seeds of discontent with the crisis we are facing in the world today. One little seed, tenderly planted in the minds of the young…maybe we can become one world without war…compassionate world citizens. It’s a start.

I Spy…

“Travelers are always discoverers, especially those who travel by air.” ~Anne Morrow Lindbergh


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I’ll be in the states for two weeks celebrating my mother’s birthday, shopping in air-conditioned grocery stores, and showering with hot water. Enjoy the slideshow of my eyes without borders. Only one question remains…what the heck is in the Saudi Arabian cargo plane?



We’re Almost There!

                   The Office of Immigration in Managua

After living in Nicaragua for a year, our friend Bill would often say, “You’re almost there.”  “Where?” we would ask. “Wherever you want to be,” he would respond. Since beginning our quest for residency in Nicaragua, Bill’s zen like comment is ringing true. We’re almost there. Residency in Nicaragua is almost complete.

We went to Managua today to visit the Immigration Office. Everything was stamped and approved for our pensionado visas. It was only a matter of waiting for them to issue our cedulas. (Nicaraguan IDs)  We were warned that immigration would probably follow procedures and issue us receipts for our cedulas, instead of the real IDs. What that means is that we would have to return in 3-8 weeks to pick up our cedulas.

However, there was always a chance that we would be issued our cedulas. Nicaragua is in a constant state of flux..rules change daily. Without expectations, we waited in a long, hot line to talk with the immigration officer. He issued us the receipts and told us to come back in July for our cedulas. There was no point in arguing; we knew to expect a long wait and several trips to Managua.

                       Our little paper receipts for our residency.

These little slips of paper with the red stamps are important. Now that we have the receipts, time stops. We no longer have to cross borders every ninety days, and we can open a bank account in Nicaragua. I’m sure there are other advantages to having the receipt, but for us, the biggest advantage is that we are now legal residents of Nicaragua. It simplifies life in Nicaragua when we have official residency and all those little stamps. Nicaraguans love stamps!

I’m on my way to the states for two weeks. The next time I fly out of Nicaragua, I’ll have my cedula and things will change again. First, I won’t be hassled about not having a round trip ticket back to the states. In January, I flew on a round trip ticket from Managua to Miami. At the ticket counter on my return flight, they weren’t going to let me board the plane because I didn’t have a ticket back to the states. No matter how much I tried to explain to them that this was the second leg of my ticket and I lived in Nicaragua…they kept asking to see my Nicaraguan residency card. I pulled out the stacks of documents I had and explained that the reason I came to the states in the first place was to gather all the documents for Nicaraguan residency. That seemed to help and I was released after a chain of phone calls and allowed to board the plane.

When I have my cedula, I’ll have to pay $10 to leave Nicaragua, but I won’t be charged $10 to enter Nicaragua. My border crossing days are over. I am relieved, excited, and proud that we have been persistent and tackled the bureaucratic nightmare of paperwork and golden stamps. Life is good, retirement is better, residency in Nicaragua is priceless.

Meet Napoleon

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Another miracle on the finca. Napoleon was born at 3:30 pm on June 5th. We have been anticipating the birth of Napoleon for a week! Tuesday morning, Marina came over to our house to borrow my cell phone because she didn’t have any minutes on hers. “Princessa is sick,” she said. “I think she is going to give birth today. I am very nervous.”

Marina called the vet first. Then, she called everyone she knew to come and celebrate the birth of Princessa’s calf. “I’ll be the photographer,” I commented. I’ve helped to birth thirteen babies and a litter of piglets. However, a calf was a new experience for me and I opted to watch instead.

At 1:30 pm, Princessa was in heavy labor. I googled “how long does it take a cow to deliver a calf” and according to the site, the new calf was due within an hour or two. The vet arrived just in time. He gently pulled on the calf’s hooves and Napoleon popped out like a big ole slippery seal.

Sometimes I feel like I’m living in the old TV series, Green Acres. Farm living is the life for me!  I am proud to report that Princessa and Napoleon are doing well. Princessa is full of milk and baby bull Napoleon is a happy camper.

Next, we’re going to learn how to make cheese and yogurt. Stay tuned for the Gringa Gourmet..NOT  recipes.

La Paloma Litter Bug Exterminators

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June 1st is Children’s Day in Nicaragua. To create an awareness of environmental problems, Danelia Ponce at Puesta del Sol organized a trash pick-up morning for our local elementary school.The La Paloma Litter Bug Exterminators removed a ton of garbage from our little beach community.

Garbage is a huge problem in Nicaragua. Laughingly, we say that the green and pink plastic bags ditched all over the roads are the national flower of Nicaragua. Within the past six months, Nicaraguan media has made a concerted effort to expand an awareness of the problems with trash. It’s simply a matter of education and more resources for reusing and recycling.

One of the first impressions of tourists visiting Nicaragua is the astounding amount of basura….garbage.  Empty plastic bags that once held juice, water, or food are tossed out of the chicken bus windows without a thought.  Plastic soda bottles line the streets and dirt paths like AWOL soldiers. Blown out flip-flops embed themselves upright in the sandy roads, almost as if they were tenderly planted. Bits and pieces of clothing dangle from exposed roots and branches of trees like Christmas garland.

Women with twig brooms religiously sweep the garbage out of their yards and into the streets. During the dry season, the trash becomes a foundation for a sturdy road bed. When the rainy season begins, rivers of trash wash to the lake where the garbage bobs and floats around until a strong wind deposits the stinky accumulation on a local beach.

It’s a never-ending cycle of garbage bobbing, floating, planted, pitched, and buried in this country. It’s going to take time. New ideas have to be introduced slowly and consistently in Nicaragua. Several years ago, a group of volunteers worked on a recycling project in Moyogalpa. They placed recycling centers around town with neatly decorated signs specifying what kind of garbage should be placed in each metal container. Week one was great… the garbage found its respective place in each metal barrel. Two weeks later…plastic bottles mixed in the organic waste barrel, and plantain stalks shared the barrel designated for plastic. One month later, the barrels were one picked up the garbage. Two months later…the metal barrels were stolen. So much for that good idea!

The La Paloma Litter Bug Exterminators are proud of their community. Danelia’s mother, Dona Soccoro was the queen of the trash collection. “Someone needs to educate the people,” she ranted. That’s what we are all trying to do…poco y poco. I liked the statement from the article below, ” That saidthe people of Acahualinca live in communities as vibrant and complex as any, and while they do face harsher environmental and economic conditions, this does not define who they are.” Well said and so true. Education is the key. Little by little!

Here’s an excellent blog article describing the Batahola volunteers encounter with trash.

Daily Wonders

Usually life is a mystery in the “land of the not quite right”. Here are a few of my daily wonders.

1. I wonder why the electricity cuts off at 6 pm every night for 15-30 minutes.
2. I wonder if I’ll have enough electricity to do a load of wash in the morning.
3. I wonder how the first banana tree grew since it doesn’t have seeds.
4. I wonder if our little neighbor kids know that we can’t speak Spanish fluently or if they think we’re just stupid.
5. I wonder when my chickens sneeze (and yes, they do sneeze) if it always means they have a cold.
6. I wonder how Ometepe Island will change when they complete the new airport.
7. I wonder whose dog/horse/pig/chicken/cat/cow/bull is in our yard nibbling our mangoes.
8. I wonder if we will ever view life as “normal” again.
9. I wonder if we are “normal”
10. I wonder if I’ll ever stop wondering about life in Nicaragua.