Health Care for Expats in Nicaragua


 

 

One of the biggest challenges of living abroad is health care. When we opted for early retirement, we could have continued our group health insurance, but the cost of the insurance would have reduced our pension checks by half. Plus, when we retired, our health insurance was not accepted in Nicaragua. We are too young for Social Security and Medicare. Medicare is not accepted in Nicaragua either. At the time, our only option was to take a risk, self-diagnose, and live cautiously on our tropical island.

Fortunately, Hospital Metropolitano Vivian Pellas in Managua is committed to providing healthcare with international excellence. So, we made an appointment with Arlen Peres, the Medical Tourism Manager, called our faithful taxi driver, and visited the hospital to explore our insurance options.

                                                Arlen Peres, Medical Tourism Manager

Arlen met us in the lobby of the hospital and attended to us like newborn babies. She took us on a tour of the immaculately clean and modern hospital, answered all of our questions with the honesty and professionalism of a Supreme Court Judge, and spoke fluent English. Impressive!

She explained the two insurance plans for the hospital: the Silver Plan and the Gold Plan. When we were trying to decide which plan would be the best for us, she recommended the Silver Plan because it cost less and it would meet our needs until we are 65 years old.

                        The Silver Plan

We filled out the health insurance application for the Silver Plan. It was three pages of general health questions..all in Spanish, which Arlen patiently translated for us. Ron’s Silver Plan is $21 a month. Mine is $18 a month. We could pay monthly or annually. We chose to pay annually and we charged $468 on our credit card for a year of health insurance for both of us!

The Silver Plan offers discounts for emergency room services, medical and physical rehabilitation, laboratory diagnosis and tests, annual preventive health check-ups, intensive care, and operations. The discounts increase after 24 hours, 90 days, and 180 days of insurance coverage. The discounts range from 15% to 70% depending on how long one has had insurance coverage.

Next, we had to have blood tests and urine samples tested for health insurance coverage. Arlen sent us to the lobby where we waited for about 10 minutes while she set up the appointments.

                                                  Ron and one of our friends

                                              The reception desk in the lobby

Arlen returned and took us directly to the admittance booth, where we paid $25 each for all the laboratory tests. Then, she took us to the laboratory for our tests…no waiting! Top notch service! We went to the emergency room for general physicals: weight, height, blood pressure. While we were in the emergency room, Arlen toured us through the offices and operating rooms. They have a kidney dialysis room, where we heard soft music and the TV behind the closed-door. She said the kidney dialysis room is open 24 hours a day and is always busy. I don’t know why so many people in Nicaragua have kidney problems, but it is prevalent.

We met with the doctor for a few more questions and prodding and poking. Then, on to the cafeteria where we had lunch while we were waiting for the results of our lab tests. Thirty minutes later, after we had delicious cappuccinos and chicken burritos, we met Arlen in the lobby with our test results. The best news was that the test results indicated that we had no parasites. Ron had just completed a round of parasite pills because he had a bad bout with parasites the week before. I know the parasites were the result of him eating mangoes that dropped to the ground!

We were finished for the day! Our lab tests and physicals would be reviewed by the insurance director and we would be notified of our acceptance within a week. I have never encountered such personalized attention. Where in the states could one have a personal attendant, who tends to every health need? Not to mention immediate test results hand delivered the same day. Before we left, we asked Arlen how much each operation or procedure cost. She said, “Email me with the specific procedures and operations you may need and I’ll send you a list of the all-inclusive costs.” Can you believe that? No hidden costs? A list of all the costs of the procedures and operations? I’m amazed! Why can’t they do that in the states?

My expat friends from Granada went to Vivian Pellas hospital two weeks ago for their annual check-ups. While they were doing the stress test, they discovered that J had a serious heart blockage. They operated on him that evening and placed 2 stents in his heart. He did not have the hospital insurance, and he had to pay upfront for the operation. He charged $16,500 on his credit card for the total bill. His wife had the same operation seven years ago in the states. She only had 1 stent placed in her heart. Total cost for her? $50,000. What is wrong with the health care system in the states? I won’t rant here, but something is terribly wrong when the same operation costs 3 times as much in the states.

Vivian Pellas Hospital has a website, but when we checked for information, the website was outdated. I talked with Arlen about the website and she told me that someone had hacked into the website. They had to put up the old website until October when the new website will be completed. Here’s a link to the old website: Vivian Pellas

If you are an expat living in Nicaragua, or a potential expat, please feel free to contact me for more information about Vivian Pellas Hospital. Nicaragua is advancing daily in health care for expats. It is reassuring to know that excellent, affordable health care is available in Nicaragua.

 

 

 

 

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A Parade of Adjectives


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   The Independence Day
Parade of Adjectives

numerous          young             passionate          proud
thundering         melodic           raspy                   loud
sparkling            metallic           curved                round
orange               black               red                     brown
macho               gay                  feminine             straight
two                    four                 six                       eight
lively                  eager              delightful              mute
wide-eyed         handsome       adorable              cute

Cost of Living


Today is our second anniversary of living on Ometepe Island permanently. I have never done a cost of living analysis. Please keep in mind that Ometepe Island is a small, rather primitive island in the middle of a huge lake, in the middle of Nicaragua, in the middle of Central America. This breakdown of costs on la isla varies from the cost of living elsewhere in Nicaragua.

Our monthly expenses:

1. Utilities
a. Electric – anywhere from $20-$50 monthly. We don’t have an air conditioner. We do
have a washing machine, a refrigerator, ceiling fans, and floor fans.
b. Water- $7 a month. This is an estimate, because our water meter is covered with 2
feet of sand from the flood 2 years ago. They can’t read our water meter.

2. Internet
a. We have a 3G Claro dongle. $23.30 a month.

3. TV
a. Sky Satellite TV- $37 a month. We purchased a satellite mainly to watch the Steeler
football games.

4. Groceries
a. We have a huge garden and a vegetable truck that comes to our house every Friday.
But, we do like some of our favorite gringo foods like peanut-butter and chocolate
chips. As an estimate $200 a month on groceries.

5. Propane and Gas
a. We bought a new Pulsar 180 motorcycle for trips around the island.$2,500 We only fill
up the tank about once every 3 months. $25
b. We have a propane stove/oven and we love to cook. Our tank lasts 3 mo. $16

6. Transportation
a. We walk, kayak, or take our motorcycle around the island. When we travel off the
island, about once a month, it depends on where we are headed. If we go to
Managua, we usually hire our favorite taxi driver $60 round trip. I would estimate
monthly transportation $100 and that’s on the high side.

7. Entertainment
a. We don’t spend much on entertainment. Our entertainment is visiting friends,
swimming or kayaking, and the rare times we eat out. $30 a month

8. Travel
a. This is probably our biggest cost because we love to travel. We try to
take a trip once a month. $500

9. Pets
a. We have 10 free-range chickens, our neighbor’s dog ( who has adopted us because
we feed him), and soon we’ll add 3 kittens. Cost of food for pets- $20 monthly.

10. Health Insurance and Medicines
a. We are rarely sick, but when we are, we try holistic methods and natural teas and
remedies, first. You don’t need a prescription to go to the pharmacy. If we need
antibiotics or other pills, we go to the pharmacist, explain our symptoms, and receive
one pill or a packet of pills. Then, we return home, research the medicine before taking,
and start the regimen. $5 a month
b. Vivian Pellas hospital in Managua caters to expats. They offer two types of health
insurance for their hospital. The silver plan is $26 a mo. per person. The gold plan
is $46 a mo. per person. Our expenses: $52 for both.

11. Housing Costs
a. We bought a manzana of land that had an old beach shack on it. We have beach front
property. We remodeled our house- $12K and added a small two-story guest house/
garage for $6K.
b. The average home rental on Ometepe Island is from $150-250 per month.

12. Miscellaneous Expenses
a. Gifts and volunteer projects- $50 a month
b. Repairs and costs for other things we need don’t happen on a regular basis. For
example, I am researching gas-powered weed eaters because I am sooo tired
of using a hand sickle or a machete to mow our lawn. I can’t find what I want
in Nicaragua, so I have to order it online and have it sent to my mother’s house.
Then, when we return to the states to visit, I can pick up my purchases and bring
them back to Nicaragua. Yearly cost is about $500

13. Nicaraguan Residency
a. This was a one time cost. Overall, I would estimate that we spent $2,000 on
getting our residency. That includes lawyer fees, translations, and all costs in the
states and Nicaragua. It does not include flights to the U.S. to gather documents.

With our monthly teaching pensions, we figure that we can spend $55 a day. We rarely spend that much daily. When we are able to collect our Social Security, we will have double the income…which means more traveling for us. Our goal was to have a home base in Nicaragua and travel for several months of the year, especially during the wickedly hot months of March and April.

Overall, as an estimate our monthly expenses are: $1084. In reality, they are usually much less. We’ve lived comfortably on $500 a month with no entertainment and no traveling. It just depends on our wants and needs. I hope this gives you a better understanding of the cost of living on Ometepe Island.

Waiting for the Parade


Nicaragua became an independent nation on September 15, 1821…or so they thought! The Act of Independence, recognized by a representative of the Spanish crown, meant that Spain was finally out of the picture.  Yet, with the ink barely dry on the Act of Independence,  Nicaragua wasn’t truly independent until April 30, 1838.

Since then, Nicaraguans have fiercely protected their dreams of a free and sovereign nation. For example, when William Walker, a crazy filibuster from Tennessee, declared himself President of Nicaragua with the idea to annex the region to the United States, national groups with opposing viewpoints united against Walker’s threat. A bloody battle ensued at Hacienda San Jacinto and on September 14, 1856 the filibuster was defeated.

It seems to me that Nicaraguans are always waiting for the parade of dignity, respect, peace, and sovereignty. Today is Independence Day in Nicaragua. 153 municipalities celebrate with school parades and national rallies. On the eve of Independence Day, Rosario Murillo said, “These are times of dignity, peace, unity for prosperity, blessing and construction of victories. Everyday, there is heroism in the battle against poverty, illiteracy, improving health, education or saving lives in emergency situations such as in recent weeks. All these environmental crises, activation of volcanoes, tectonics plate, the activation of a climate we can not predict, all that is what we are living from the formidable spirit of the Nicaraguan race that knows of struggles and honor.”

Look closely at these faces waiting for the parade. They are the faces of formidable spirits that know and understand struggles and honor.

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Facebook for Expats: Friend or Foe?


As an expat, I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. There are days that I gratefully turn to Facebook to solve mysterious Latino customs, or sift through mountainous responses to my questions with the help of my local and expat friends. Other days, I threaten to unsubscribe, cutting myself free from the time-consuming burden of ‘liking’, ‘defriending’, ‘befriending’, ‘hiding’, ‘status updating’, and ‘sharing’.

According to HSBC’s 2011 Expat Explorer Survey, a majority of expats use Facebook as their social network of choice. Even in countries where only 3-4% of locals use Facebook over half of expats are on the site a couple of times a week.

I confess that I am an Expat Facebook junkie. Awareness is the first step to overcoming an addiction. Honoring my newly found awareness, I have compiled a list of Facebook friends and foes for expats.

Facebook Friends

1. Connections
I make Facebook friends with people all over the world. One of the great things about living on Ometepe Island is that the world comes to us. We may live on a small island, but it is a world-famous Biosphere Reserve drawing thousands of tourists every year. Sipping my mocha latte at the Corner House Cafe, I make international connections with like-minded people almost everyday. Once we establish a face-to-face connection, my next question is, “What’s your Facebook name?”
2.   Information Gathering
Lacking vets, biologists, seismologists, geologists, and ornithologists, and practically all other special ‘ists’ on our island, I turn to Facebook for answers. I can post pictures of injured animals I find, seek identification of snakes, fish, and other creepy crawlies…and I always receive an immediate response to my questions from my Facebook friends.

Before Facebook, I joined forums, such as The Real Nicaragua and NicaLiving  seeking answers to questions pertaining to a potential or a new expat. I discovered that these forums always get dominated by aggressive, territorial types who make every thread into a chest-puffing exercise. I’m not surprised that people are getting sick of them. At least on Facebook you can block out the people who don’t add any value to information one is seeking.

Help me! What should I do for this injured bird?

My neighbors call it a Coral Negro. Is it poisonous?

This caused a ruckus on our beach today. The locals are afraid of this fish. Why?

3. Technology
Facebook is free! That’s a big plus for expats. It has a user-friendly interface, making it possible to post videos and pictures, chat with friends instantly, and promote my blog about compassionate cultural immersion and volunteer projects with one simple click. I’ve even turned on my teenage neighbors to Facebook..but, with a price. Check out the foes of Facebook technology.

4. Maintaining Family Connections

Our families are spread out all over the USA and Canada. I enjoy seeing the latest photos of newborns (especially baby toes…I love baby toes!), family reunions, travels, and heartwarming discussions of our families’ adventures through life.

Facebook Foes

1. Connections

Really…how many Facebook friends can one have and still be attentive to their posts? It takes up so much of my time scrolling and responding and trying to be a good Facebook friend, when I should be raking mangoes instead. I’ve continued my routine from my Gringolandia days… morning coffee and Facebook first. But, living in the tropics, I really need to change my routine. If I rake my mangoes and attend to my outside chores any later than 9 am, I’m a heat stroke victim.

See what I’m talking about?

2. Information Gathering
Yes, Facebook is a wonderful source of news and information. I have hundreds of pages and groups that I ‘like’. But, let’s face it, during an election year in the USA, the political posts are annoying as hell.  Battles ensue daily. If I feel the need to respond to a particularly offense political post, which I OFTEN do, I have to spend the time fact checking, wading through propaganda, and exploring the media for an unbiased article. We ALL know that’s impossible. I try to ‘hide’ posts that get my blood boiling, but even that doesn’t work most of the time. I ask myself, “Why do I bother?” I live in freakin’ Nicaragua, a socialist country. *sigh* I really need to rake my mangoes! The fermentation and the sickening sweet aroma of rotten mangoes is making me sick as I fact check.

3. Technology
I thought I was opening the world to my teenage neighbors by helping them join Facebook. Instead, my house has become an internet café. My impoverished neighbors don’t have computers, let alone internet. What was I thinking?

Is this really progress? What have I done?

Plus, my internet connection is spotty. I had to make a special Woktenna to hold my dongle. Sounds intriguing doesn’t it? Check out my post, here. My Woktenna.
I feel like a pusher and I’m addicting them, too. Naturally, when they joined Facebook, they have to check it, right? Sometimes, they come to check their Facebook at the most inopportune time.

Sometimes, I lie to them. “No hay internet hoy. Talvez manana.”  Then, I sneak onto Facebook…and have it all to my own. Shameful, right?  I’ve resorted to lying to my impoverished neighbors…all in the name of Facebook.

4. Maintaining Family Connections
I have to choose my status updates carefully. Not many of my family members were overly thrilled with us retiring in a ‘third world country’, or at least their perceptions of a third world country. I can’t post that Ron has parasites because he doesn’t wash the mangoes that drop to the ground. I can’t post that I had to wash and dress a dead gringo because there are no funeral directors here. Nor can I post that I’m afraid the volcano in our backyard is going to erupt any day now because it’s long overdue. They would worry. And, besides, they never read my blog, only Facebook.

So, there you have it. My friends and foes of my love/hate relationship with Facebook. I’m curious to hear from other expats. How do you feel about Facebook?

The Mangroves


 

 

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I decided to try something new. I subscribed to the Weekly Writing Challenge on WordPress. This week, the challenge is Stylish Imitation. Weekly Challenge here. Dr. Seuss has always been one of my favorite authors. So, in honor of Dr. Seuss, I have attempted to imitate his style in writing The Mangroves.

The Reserva Natural Isla Juan Venado is a 22 kilometer stretch of mangrove swamp in Las Penitas, Nicaragua. Ron and I took a three-hour tour through this incredible mangrove swamp. The variety of birds, turtles, and other wildlife awed me. The entire ride, reminded me of Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax and the need to protect this fragile area. Unfortunately, my camera’s batteries went dead half way through the tour. Isn’t that always the case? Hopefully, my words, in delirious imitation of Dr. Seuss, will portray my feelings about the need to protect this nature reserve. Enjoy!

The Mangroves

Way back in the swamp, where the mangroves still grow
and the land is still soft,
and the tides ebb and flow,
and the songs of the Green Herons go kuk, kuk, kuk, kuk…
the tides come twice daily and cover it with muck.

And I first saw the mangroves!
Born of thick, glutinous mud!
Whose aerial roots breathe with large pores in and out
Roots snorkeling and twisting for miles all about.

And, under the mangroves, I saw a brown bas-i-lisk
A Jesus like lizard, walking on water enjoying the frisk
as it darted about, eating insects, taking risks.

From the brackish waters,
where other plants cannot grow,
sprung fish nurseries and turtles,
swimming playfully below.

But those Mangroves! Those Mangroves!
Red! Black! and White!
They must be protected,
from Global Warming and blight!

Anchoring their stilt-like roots
between land and the sea,
Mangroves shelter wildlife,
and give food to you and me.
When the sea churns and wails
and the swells surge ashore,
the Mangroves, like policemen,
protect us…and more!

I felt a great calling,
an awakening, a start
I must tell the world!
We can all take a part!

With so little known of the future
it’s important to say,
You’re in charge of the mangroves,
the fish, and the bays.
The bas-i-lisks, and Green Herons
are depending on you
to monitor and protect them
and see them grow true.
Their lives…they are fragile!
Be gentle and watch
as they flourish, and breathe,
and gain strength…and don’t rush!

For life is uncertain,
we must all be aware
of the connections in nature
and the lives that we share.
We depend on one another,
through thick and through thin,
With your help… together
we can be whole once again.

 

An Unseasoned Ground Surfer


I am unseasoned when it comes to earthquakes, but on Wednesday, September 5, at 8:40 am, I encountered my first ground surfing experience due to a 7.6 magnitude earthquake off the Pacific coast of the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica. I felt awkwardly inexperienced, while watching my neighbors calmly balance their babies and young children in their arms, waiting patiently for the deep waves of the temblor to pass. I stood ..uneasily.. in awe of these expert ground surfers, for they have experienced many earthquakes and volcanic eruptions on Ometepe Island.

Unfettered by the newness of the experience, I was eager to explore and share my feelings about the earthquake. I wondered what kind of Teutonic plate collision was the cause of my uneasiness. I wondered why I still had an eerie feeling of a loss of equilibrium 30 minutes after the 20 second quake; I wondered if it would happen again.

I found an interesting article by geoscientists, who retold the story of one man’s experience during the 1950 Nicoya Peninsula earthquake.

The sky dawned dark and cloudy on the morning of October 5, 1950. It was rainy season along the Pacific coast of Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula. In scattered coastal villages, farmers and ranchers gathered along the shoreline waiting for the cargo launch to arrive from the port city of Puntarenas. Their ox-carts were full of freshly harvested corn, ready for shipment to the mainland. Near the village of Garza, Don Daniel Ruíz Matarita was riding on horseback along the beach with several other men. The horses were skittish, and the nearby rainforest echoed with the roar of nervous howler monkeys. Suddenly, without warning, the ground heaved violently, trees and branches toppled over, and the beach exploded with geysers of water and sand. “Earthquake! We’re done for!” shouted one of the men. Their horses bolted in terror, throwing the riders to the ground. Huge chunks of rock toppled off of nearby cliffs, crashing into the water with a tremendous splash. Certain they were doomed, the men prayed for salvation. When the great earthquake finally subsided, Don Daniel and his companions were amazed and thankful to be alive. As they stood up and looked around, they saw that the ocean curiously had withdrawn from the bay, leaving a wide expanse of barren rocks, seaweed, and flopping fish. Seizing the moment, the men snatched up handfuls of sea bass, content at least that their bellies would be full in this time of disaster. In the days following the earthquake, Don Daniel recalls that the sea did not return as they had expected. He heard stories from others that the same thing had happened all along the central Nicoya coast. Don Daniel remembers one place where the drop in sea level was particularly obvious, a rocky headland known to local fisherman as “La Raspa Nalgas” (The Butt Scratcher). Prior to the earthquake, it had been impossible to get around this rocky point on foot, as it was under water at even the lowest tides. But, after the quake one could walk around the headland without entering the water, indicating a drop in tidal levels near a grown man’s height. Don Daniel recalls that it took nearly four decades for the ocean to reclaim its former level, quickly during the first few years, then slowly thereafter. High tides now reach further inland in many places than they did before the 1950 earthquake. (Marshall, 1991)

The Pacific coastline off the Nicoya Peninsula, September 5, 2012.

Just like the 1950 earthquake, the tide rolled out and the beaches were expanded by at least 30 meters. Maybe the man in the photo is gathering the flopping fish for his dinner.

In my search for the type of earthquake which caused my uneasiness, I encountered many new terms such as: subduction Megathrust, subduction trench, tsunami generating earthquake, and sudden geomorphic changes.

The Nicoya Peninsula is unique because it is one of the few landmasses along the Pacific Rim located directly above the seismogenic zone of a subduction megathrust. Due to its proximity to the subduction trench, the Nicoya Peninsula is particularly sensitive to vertical movements related to the earthquake cycle. (Marshall,J., Cal Poly Pamona University, 1991)

Can someone explain in laymen terms what this means?

Illustration: U.S. Geological Survey

Since I am a visual learner, this simple illustration  explains how the subduction trench (area where the plates are stuck together) ruptures when one plate slides over the other ( a Megathrust), releasing pent-up energy, and causing major expansions of beaches and tsunamis ( sudden geomorphic changes). Simple, right? There were several tsunami watches broadcast, but they were canceled later that day.

Now that I understand the dynamics of a Megathrust earthquake, I am still curious about the feeling I experienced..that of a loss of equilibrium and a minor balance disorder. Standing outside our house for the 20 second duration..which, by the way felt like 20 minutes, I felt a deep wave rolling beneath my feet. I spread my legs apart to gain a sense of balance. I was slightly nauseated and dizzy. This was ground surfing in all its horrific glory. I wasn’t afraid, only disoriented and awed by the power of the swaying ground waves rolling gently below me at a depth of 23 ft. Why did this annoying dizziness continue for about 30 minutes after the quake?

Even we humans are affected with disorientation, giddiness, nausea, uneasiness and feelings of impending calamity prior to and during a quake. Scientists suggest that this is the result of human sensitivity to ground waves, and to electrostatic effects  (including the Serotonin Irritation Syndrome or Serotonin Hyperproduction Syndrome) and electromagnetic forces. In other words, observations have shown that we humans are sensitive to the Earth’s nervous system impulses, too.( Pasichnyk, R. M., http://www.livingcosmos.com/earthquakes.htm)

So, I discovered there is a name for my weird feelings, a syndrome! Some reports indicate that people have an aura before another earthquake…a feeling of unease, a little nausea, and dizziness. I awoke this morning, two days after the earthquake, with these same symptoms. Maybe I’m answering my third question…Will it happen again? There is a “green alert” issued for Nicaragua today. See report here: Green Alert

I’m not sure exactly what a “green alert” means, but if my wooziness is any indication, I may have become a more experienced and seasoned ground surfer. Expect the unexpected….I’m moving my fragile treasures to the floor.

Important update to the Green Alert: I knew it wasn’t my imagination!  Nicaragua’s Capital Prepares for Major Earthquake

Sweet Entrepreneurs


Life is uncertain.  Eat dessert first.  ~Ernestine Ulmer

Two new bakeries opened last week in Moyogalpa. Neither of them have names, yet. One specializes in caked donuts, fruit pies, and pizza. The other one specializes in glazed donuts, whole wheat bread, and cupcakes. I am so darn excited! I’m having a hard time controlling myself! I’ve waited years for someone to make donuts on the island.

Our little island is changing rapidly. In Moyogalpa, we now have four banks with four ATM machines, three bakeries, and two grocery stores with lovely owners who will order anything we want.

Living here is like stepping back in time, where small family owned businesses are the rule, not the exception and the sweet entrepreneurs tempt one to eat dessert first. Now, that’s my kind of living!

 

Keeping Up with the Tourons


 

 

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The little people of the sea Have sent an answer back to me The little people’s answer was We cannot stand it, Sir, because. ~Paraphrased after Lewis Carrol

Sometimes I worry about the changes and rapid development in Nicaragua, especially for the traditional fishermen along the 100+ miles of Pacific coastline. Nicaragua is blessed with undeveloped, raw coastline. Dotted with colorful tiny fishing villages, the fishermen depend on the sea to make a living. When the roads are developed and tourism explodes, will the little people say, “We cannot stand it, Sir. Please make them go away.”?

Coastal fishing villages are often isolated, making them difficult to visit. We’ve seen the changes new roads have brought to San Juan del Sur, and soon-to-be ‘touron’ (Our son’s nickname for environmentally unconcerned tourists) infested Playa Gigante. The once charming fishing villages are overrun with tacky tourist shops, vegetarian restaurants, camera laden tourists, and surf boards and kayaks heavily chained to embedded metal poles. What will happen to the little people of the sea, whose homes and livelihoods are transformed into a concrete jungle for tourons?

Las Penitas is a short 30 minute bus ride from Leon. It is situated around a small natural harbor, which provides a safe haven for the fleet of fishing pongas. Fascinated with the daily activities of the local fishermen, we watched with trepidation, as the fishing pongas jumped huge waves to enter or exit the protected harbor. The harbor disappears at low tide, leaving dugout canoes and pongas stranded in the sand flats until the next tide rolls into the harbor freeing the boats.

Sipping our morning coffee, we eavesdropped on the conversations of the fishermen’s families waiting for the catch of the day. They discussed the cost of school supplies and beans, while chastising their children because they had taken the wooden slats off the bottom of the metal cart used to carry the fish to market. The children flopped the splintery wooden slats into the water and used them like boogie boards until the first fishing ponga sailed over the crashing waves into the harbor.

Entranced by the smells of fresh fish, the sights of salivating dogs circling the mooring pongas, the whispered swishing sounds of the frayed nets hauled to shore, the flash of sharp blades filleting the fish, and finally the raspy voices of rapid fire negotiations, the fish exchanged hands from sea to fishermen to market, as we watched the traditions of fishermen passed down generation after generation.

What will happen to the little people of the sea? Will they say, “We cannot stand it, Sir. Please make them go away.”?  Or will they passively resign themselves to keeping up with the tourons? Only time will tell.