Poco y Poco


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Little by little, we improve our beach cottage. The great thing about living in the tropics is that we don’t need much indoor space. Most of our living is done outside. Lourdes, our 10-year-old neighbor said, “I want to come to your house and sleep in your grass.” A lawn is a novelty in these parts. Usually, the locals machete all the grass and weeds around their houses down to the bare, sandy soil.

Our hammocks are swinging in the gentle breeze. Come visit us sometime. We will even let you roll around in our grass.

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We’re Official!


Our residency cards

After a year of frustration, gathering documents, and bureaucratic nightmares in the USA, we are finally legal residents of Nicaragua. We went to the Office of Immigration in Managua on Monday and picked up our cedulas.

Actually, the process was easier in Nicaragua, than in the USA. Once we submitted all of the paperwork, it was only a matter of waiting, waiting, and more waiting. We paid 5,900 codobas each for our cedulas at one window, had our pictures taken in another small cubicle, and they delivered our cedulas to another window.

Our cedulas are good for five years. By the time we are ready to renew, they will probably change the rules again. Was it worth the hassles? For us, yes because we own property in Nicaragua. It gives us a little more security and just makes the process of living in Nicaragua a little easier. We are no longer perpetual tourists. ūüôā

Come to the Other Side


 

 

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I’ve been in a bad mood lately. I ranted on Lonely Planet about the buzz word “eco-friendly” after I recommended Finca Mystica as an eco-friendly place to stay. A poster checked out my link to Finca Mystica and commented that Finca Mystica didn’t seem to be eco-friendly because it didn’t have composting toilets and solar power. I responded, “I am sure that you can find many eco-friendly locals who would be glad to let you use their outhouse and they may even throw in a cheap chicken coop for your eco-friendly visit.”

Not very nice of me. I attribute my bad mood to the motorcycle accident we had on the way up the steep, rocky road to Finca Mystica. Our bike stalled halfway up their driveway. Ron always told me not to put my feet down…and I listened like a good rider. The bike tipped over and I landed in a pile of rocks. Fortunately, I landed on the fattest part of my body, so no broken bones. Unfortunately, I have a gigantic bruise on my backside in an array of colors.

Poor me! Ron is rolling his eyes as I write. “Always get back on the horse,” he said. “Maybe someday, but never to the other side of the island again,” I threatened. The road was recently paved to Balgue, but not to M√©rida, where Finca Mystica is located. As soon as we took the Y in the road to the right and the pavement ended, I knew I was in trouble. “Just let me walk,” I pleaded as we bumped and swerved to miss the rocks springing up like weapons of mass destruction planted to warn eco-friendly tourists that paradise comes with sacrifice.

Finca Mystica is a beautiful place. Ryan and Angie were awesome hosts, but my visit was tainted with my fear of getting back on the horse to get to the other side of the island the next day. I refused. Norman, their local taxi driver shuttles people back and forth three times a day. “How do you travel this road three times a day, Norman? Don’t you get shaken baby syndrome from the constant rattling and jostling? How long does it take you to make one round trip? How many tires do you have to replace in a week?”

I discovered the answers to my questions when Norman took me home the next day. I left with Norman at 8:30 am and he dropped me off at a friend’s house in M√©rida. We spent a few pleasant hours visiting, walked to a restaurant and ate delicious grilled fish, then Norman picked me up at the restaurant to deliver me in comfort…or so I thought… home. Just a few minutes away from the restaurant, my stomach began to gurgle. “Hmmm,” I thought. “I hope I don’t have to find a bathroom quickly.”

Every bump in the road caused me to panic. Not only was I worried about my stomach cramps, I was sitting on my swollen and bruised butt. “Norman, how long will it take us to get to La Paloma?” I asked with trepidation. He said that we should be there in about an hour. First, we had to stop and look at a piece of land for sale in M√©rida. A new friend of mine wanted to see the land before Norman dropped her off in Balgue. I sat impatiently in the car for 30 minutes listening to my stomach rumble and groaned with each impending stomach cramp.

An hour later, after getting lost, picking up several passengers and dropping them off in Santo Domingo, we were finally on our way to the other side of the island…home, sweet, home.¬† I sighed in relief, until a fellow walking along the side of the road whistled at us to stop. A flat tire! I jumped out of the car and rushed to the closest bathroom, which happened to be a little cement cubicle at the tire repair guy’s house. It wasn’t an eco-friendly outhouse. Thank God for a flush toilet! But, there was no water in the tank.

Ten minutes later, I sheepishly exited the cement block enclosure, thanked the family gathered around the cubicle, and prayed that they would put water in the tank to flush it without looking at the contents. I heard them laughing as we pulled away with the newly inflated tire. Near the La Paloma airport, my cramps intensified. “I can hold on,” I told myself. “We’re almost home.” And then came the ominous hissing. Another flat tire.

“Norman, I can walk home from here,” I said. “No,” he replied like a Sandinista soldier firing an order, ” I will fix the tire and take you to your house!” With no bathroom in sight, I hastily made my way to a sparsely clad bush vacated by twin calves….a very eco-friendly move.¬† Another 30 minutes passed, along with much grunting and groaning and we were finally home. Ron was waiting for me at the door. Rushing to our flush toilet, I gave thanks for running water and a plump cushion of fat that protected me from a disastrous trip to the other side of our eco-friendly island. Come to the other side? It will be a long time or at least until the road is paved before I make that trip again!

 

Status Symbols: The GPS of Social Navigation


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Francisco and Julio asked me if I would buy them shoes when I visited the states last month. The requests are always the same….shoes and cell phones. Walking the sandy paths throughout the island, my curiosity got the best of me when I encountered dozens of wandering soles mixed with bastura (trash) resembling an unappetizing salad of discarded status symbols. I began to think about how we come to value different things. Is there a hierarchy of bling bling? Are shoes and cell phones the essential elements motivating young Latinos to improve their lives and create a higher social position in their communities?

When I taught high school in the states, I was often chagrined when the students paid more attention to things…iPods, iPhones, brand name clothing and footwear, instead of their academic studies. It was hard to fault them.¬† I, too am fascinated by expensive and sophisticated bling bling. I find it amazing and puzzling that two divergent cultures of young people place high value on similar things. What happens when different cultures with different values desire the same things?

While I don’t have specific answers to why, I do believe that it is important to create connections among the things that we value in divergent societies. If the youth in the states and Latin cultures both value shoes and cell phones, collectively we may be able to come up with some answers about human beings and things. The answers may inspire us to work toward unity, instead of division and teach us that collectively, we should encourage positive international relationships among all countries, all races, and all political ideologies.

Status, as defined by possessions, is nearly as essential as food, water, and shelter. Once our basic needs are met, we spend our money acquiring symbols of status..bling bling to enhance a better position, the GPS of social navigation. My teenage neighbor, Julio, lives in a shack with a dirt floor, 3 light bulbs, and no running water, except for a hose attached to a city water line. Yet, fancy name brand tennis shoes represent success to him, and along with success, comes respect. In turn, respect means that others will look up to him, and thus his fancy tennis shoes increase his self-esteem providing the impetus to work harder and the drive to improve his lot in life.

The wandering soles along the sandy paths inspired me to search for ways to increase unity in our troubled world. Maybe shoes and cell phones will be the connecting force that will unite the young people throughout the world. We are all wandering souls, searching for ways to improve our lives,  increase our self-esteem, and better our positions through the hierarchy of bling bling. Can shoes and cell phones be the connection to save our world? Who knows, but it is worth investigating the connections.

As a post script: Ron and I had a philosophical debate about my article. He feels that using status symbols to connect the youth of the world is shallow and deceptive. I disagree. I say, take what you can get to emphasize our similarities. We all have possessions we use as status symbols. The problem is in denying that we elevate our positions in society through the use of possessions.

Ron wants me to answer the questions I asked. For example, why do two divergent cultures value shoes and cell phones? Is it a status symbol only for the poor in both cultures? Instead, I chose to take a different direction in my post. I stated that I don’t have specific answers…it would involve more research. Instead, I decided to emphasize the connections and the relationships among the youth in two cultures and the hierarchy of the things they value the most….namely shoes and cell phones.

“Why don’t you emphasize the importance of a good education to increase their self-esteem and improve their positions in life?” Ron asked. “Get real, Ron!” I replied.” I’ve been a teacher for 30 years. If you had the choice of receiving an A+ on a test or a new iPhone, which would you chose?”¬† “Point taken,” he replied.

Moooove Over


                                  Cows on Ometepe airport runway~ Cindi Pearlman

Growing up in Pennsylvania, we were always on the lookout for deer leaping across the highway. Last summer, Ron and I counted twenty-three dead deer when we passed the Welcome to Pennsylvania sign. Splayed along both sides of the interstate, they reminded me of a massacre of enormous puffed wheat balls.

One of Bobby’s most infamous stories was the time the Paxeo shuttle took him to the Managua airport to catch an early morning flight.¬† A pregnant cow wandered into the path of the shuttle. Life in the fast lane for the pregnant cow came to an abrupt end that morning. The airbag erupted and the cow’s head flew through the windshield. Covered with blood and burns from the airbag, Bobby caught another taxi to the airport where the attendants looked at him in horror. They put him in first class and attended to his wounds, even offering him a change of clothes and free drinks.¬† Paxeos didn’t charge him for the trip, then offered him future discounted fares to the airport.

Road kill is prevalent on every highway and road in the world, but what are the statistics on runway kill?¬† With the Ometepe airport near completion, I wonder about the cows that cross the runway. How many animals have been hit by planes? According to the International Civil Aviation Organization, “Runway incursions are today one of the major factors affecting flight safety. Animals on the runway are a particularly pervasive problem at many airports.”

In March 2012, an airliner hit two cows while landing in Venezuela, killing both bovines and damaging the landing gear and the flaps on the plane’s left-wing. Below are a few other accidents with cows on the runway:

  • In 2005, a herd of cows was hit by an Air France Airbus A330 carrying nearly 200 passengers while landing in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. Following that incident, local authorities began arresting stray cows and holding them until their owners paid a fine.
  • In 2011, an Aviastar Twin Otter carrying 30 people hit three cows while landing at Komodo Airport in Indonesia. The front of that plane suffered damage and the cows were killed.
  • And in 2008, the wing of a British biplane clipped a cow while making an emergency landing, an incident which was caught on video. The cow was not injured. Unbelievable!

Watch out Ometepe bovines! Mooove over when those big ole’ planes sweep down to our island. Keep a moooovin on or you may be my next meal of runway kill.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly


Happy anniversary to me. My blog is one year old today. In honor of my first anniversary, I have created a list of the good, the bad, and the ugly things that have taken place in Nicaragua since July 2011.

THE GOOD

  • My philosophy of compassionate cultural immersion is spreading world-wide
  • Health care programs are improving on Ometepe Island for the expats.
  • My mobile lending library for the elementary schools is expanding monthly
  • Newspapers, TV, and schools are educating people on litter removal and the effects of pollution on their environment in Nicaragua
  • Ometepe Island became a digital island in February 2012 with over 5,000 One Laptop per Child computers donated to all of the elementary schools
  • Sustainable tourism programs are increasing for local communities, offering new jobs and enabling self-sufficiency
  • Our major construction is completed and I have a comfortable nest
  • New Bread Fruit, Jack Fruit, Avocado, Grapefruit, Neem, and other fruit trees are growing rapidly on our property along with Ron’s thriving garden
  • We completed the process of residency and are now legal Pensionado Visa residents of Nicaragua
  • An Ometepe Expat Google group now connects all of the expats on Ometepe Island.
  • The local grocery stores on Ometepe Island are catering to the tastes of expats. Now, we can even place an order online for Hugo’s grocery store and they go to Pricemart in Managua at least once a month. My frig is stocked with chocolate chips!
  • The new airport is almost ready for business. There are pros and cons, but I like the convenience of the airport..I can walk to it from my house.
  • My Spanish has improved tremendously. I can make a dentist appointment over the phone, order pizza delivery, and call our taxi driver. Talking on the phone in Spanish has been difficult for me, so this is a major improvement in my life.
  • The following link is a PDF and the latest progress report of Nicaragua.
    Progress Report of Nicaragua

THE BAD

  • The USA denied Nicaragua the transparency waiver. Its denial will cost the Nicaraguan people $3 million in aid for the next fiscal year.¬† Read more about it at this link:¬†¬† Witness for Peace
  • Pierre Doris Maltese, the dangerous cult leader of Ecoovie, is still in Nicaragua. However, powerful people are now aware and much progress has been made to gather evidence and deport him from Nicaragua.
  • The electric and water is still erratic. Much needs to be done to improve the basic¬† utility infrastructure on Ometepe Island before they open the airport.
  • Health care for the local people on the island needs a major overhaul. My opinion is that instead of a new airport, they should have built a new hospital.
  • The Capuchin monkeys, not native to Ometepe Island, are being held hostage with little food on Monkey Island near Hacienda M√©rida. They have attacked¬† and severely mauled at least seven tourists. More on this later, once I do more research.

THE UGLY

  • My friend Bobby took his life in Granada, Nicaragua in December. I am still dealing with the grief of his unknown despair.
  • Jerry died of a sudden heart attack in April. If only we would have had access to a defibrillator, it may have prolonged his life.
  • Ian and Jose ( young men) both committed suicide three days apart last year.

The total number of good things happening within a year outweighs the combined total of the bad and ugly… at least in this forever optimistic blogger’s voice. Thank you wonderful blog readers. You are the reason I write. I travel throughout Nicaragua; it leaves me speechless, then turns me into a storyteller. ¬† Here’s to many more Nicaraguan stories next year. Life is good, retirement is better, telling stories of my life on an island in the middle of a huge lake, in the middle of Nicaragua, in the middle of Central America is….well, priceless.