Our La Paloma Airport

Update: December 2019

The La Paloma Airport stopped flights in 2018 because of the Civic Rebellion that continues to this day in Nicaragua. The economy is in a tail spin, so there is no telling how long the airport will be closed or if it will ever open again.

Our island was very tranquil, an oasis of peace. In 2003, we often walked along the beach from our house, through a winding, dusty horse path where an old airport strip was located. The runway was built by Cuba, but hadn’t seen any action since the war. The old airport strip washed out every rainy season, leaving holes the size of Mack trucks.

airport and Franchesco's house

In 2009, the path through the old airstrip, led us to Francheco’s new lemon yellow house. Side by side with horses and cattle, we wandered along the path to visit Francheco. IMG_3112Then in late 2009, we noticed a for sale sign on a fencepost at the old airport strip. Uh oh!  Francheco’s house was torn down piece by loving piece…a new airport was in progress. IMG_2060Soon, there was a buzz of activity with surveyors, numbered sticks planted in the old airstrip, and red paint splashed over ancient trees.  IMG_4503Then, the machines came. Big, loud earth moving machines.  It reminded me of The Lorax. For months we awakened to the beep, beep beeping of the earth movers leveling and gouging the old runway. They called this progress in the name of tourism. IMG_4873 Graders, backhoes, and dump trucks arrived by ferry. Experienced workers arrived from Managua. Promises were made to hire local workers and they filed to the new airport office to fill out applications. Sadly, no local people were ever hired to work on the new airport strip. IMG_4844Several months later, the runway was ready for asphalt.  IMG_4809In late 2010, asphalt smoothed and caressed the runway. IMG_5042The fence was installed around the perimeter of the runway to keep out the wandering cows and horses.  IMG_0485Last December, 2012, the custom-house was completed.  IMG_1491 Soon, the control tower will be finished. IMG_1487We’ve heard so many dates for the opening of the airport that our heads spin…2010…2011…2012. But, this is Nicaragua and we run on Tepe Time on the island…slow..no worries…no rush. The time for the grand opening will be sometime this year.  I’m still not sure what to expect when the airport opens, but as always I’ll post the good, the bad, and the ugly aspects of our new La Paloma airport.

A Treasure Hunt: When Life Gives Lemons

“But that is not treasure for us which another man has lost; rather it is for us to seek what no other man has found or can find.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

We were without electricity and water for two days. When life gives lemons, what else can one do, but….go on a treasure hunt. The lake is receding. It’s the dry season and many Pre-Columbian pottery shards wash ashore daily. If the shards wash ashore from the lake, what treasures are to be found embedded in the soft clay and volcanic sand beneath the water? We were determined to find out. Plus, it was a grand way to take a bath. After two days without showers, we were both feeling a little raunchy.

Scooting on our butts in the shallow, murky water was an exercise in patience and touch. This must be what it is like to be blind. We began to differentiate between the volcanic rocks and smooth pottery shards nestled in the clay. Soon Ron shouts, “It’s a turtle! It’s something big and whole. I think I’ve hit the jackpot.”

A few minutes later, after carefully digging around the clay with nimble fingers, he dislodges a whole pot. It was an incredible sightless find. What made it even more remarkable is that there were only a few chips missing from the rim. How did it survive the onslaught of waves and other misfortunes in the shallow water? Many years ago, my young friend and I were walking along the shore and she spotted what she thought was a turtle. To our surprise, it was a Pre-Columbian pottery burial urn, perfectly intact, upside down on the shore. Amazing!!!

I have many unanswered questions. Why are the pottery pieces in the lake? Was the lake much lower at one time and this was where the ancient ones made their pottery? Or, when the Spanish conquistadors came to Ometepe Island, did the ancient ones bury their treasures from the invaders? I have lots of research to do.

Meanwhile, I continue to collect the variety of tools, shards, and other incredible pieces that wash ashore. I’m thinking of donating the whole pieces to our local museum. I recognize the need for protection, preservation, and education of these precious artifacts. They do not belong to me. After all, the fun is in the treasure hunting and seeking what no man has found or can find.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Love as a Dove

“We must combine the toughness of a serpent with the softness of a dove, a tough mind and a tender heart.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

IMG_5009High in the rafters of our porch, pairs of doves return during their mating season to display their affection and faithfulness, their love for each other..for doves mate for life. These emblems of love represent our lives on Ometepe Island for several reasons.

First, the dove is a traditional symbol for love and peace. I like to think of myself as a messenger for peace, spreading the word that tolerance and fairness is possible in this troubled world of ours.

Second, we live in the tiny community of La Paloma, which in Spanish means ‘the dove’. La Paloma is a model of peace and understanding. We blend our cultures successfully in our community; I feel that we represent a microcosm of how humankind should respond to one another in our troubled world.

Finally, Ron and I are committed to sharing our lives together. We have been married 37 years…a commitment of love, faithfulness, and trust that is sadly lacking in our troubled world today. Spread your wings..love as a dove..and go with peace and understanding…for that’s what love is all about.


Weekly Photo Challenge: Embracing Beyond

Come to The Edge

Come to the edge.
We might fall.
Come to the edge.
It’s too high!
And they came,
and we pushed,
And they flew.

Christopher Logue

Flying back and forth from Nicaragua to the states, I enter the great beyond of space where boundaries disappear…where there is no ‘us’ or ‘them’.  I am mesmerized..teased into seeing beyond my small world of routines and schedules that control and ease my fears of the unknown…the great beyond.

Bathed in the rays of the setting sun high above the clouds, I reassure myself, ” I am capable. I lack experience in this situation, yet I can trust myself to do the right thing.” I am learning to embrace the beyond.

bonita puesta del solAt first, the clouds look impenetrable. But, as I move forward to a new destination, I glimpse patches of earth, lush green fields, crazy quilts of tiny houses, and bright blue pools of water.  The new zone eases my fears. I am reassured and comforted. The sun of experience and knowledge rises, parting the clouds, showing me the path to take. I am learning to embrace beyond.

the earth from aboveI replace the fear of the unknown with curiosity. There is magic in this sunrise. I see the mists of Avalon, the ruins of Atlantis, the tall ship silently sailing through the clouds. I am learning to embrace the beyond.

mas puesta del solThe dark night of my soul bursts forth, clarity envelops me. I am reassured and comforted, for I have jumped…and I fly. I embrace the beyond.


Weekly Photo Challenge: The Lightness of Being

Illumination by definition means a source of light or spiritual and intellectual enlightenment. Nicaragua has blessed me with both. I walk the path of lightness of being, appreciating every illuminating moment, for chances are I will never experience these awakening moments again.

IMG_2214The Pre-Columbian pottery radiates duality with present and past shimmering within the ancient vessel.

IMG_1774 I am flushed with rays of light behind a waterfall on Ometepe Island.

treesThe late afternoon sun casts a surreal brilliance on the trees in the lake.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe sun slips through the crevice in Somoto Canyon, Nicaragua  illuminating my precious son’s feet.

IMG_1281I light a candle in loving remembrance of friends who once walked with me in a lightness of being. For I believe that I only have one life to live, and that which occurs in life occurs only once and never again…thus, the lightness of being. Spread the light!



Weekly Photo Challenge: Resolved

“It’s not that I mind getting old,” my mother confided, “so much as my mind’s getting old.”

IMG_1583I am paddling in uncharted waters. My eighty year old mother sits idly in the boat gripping her small suitcase containing her precious jewelry. “Where are we going, Debbie?” she asks. “I’m not sure yet, Mom,” I answer as honestly as I can. ” I’m trying to find a safe, comfortable place where you will be happy and content.” Five minutes later she’s forgotten and we repeat the conversation again..and then again..and then again, until she tires and falls asleep.

Living abroad has challenged us, especially since Ron and I both have elderly mothers. We make frequent trips to the states and count our blessings each time we return simply because we can share our love, our stories, and our histories. But, there will soon come a time when we will no longer be able to share those bonding memories. Those tender moments are scarcer, which saddens me.

There is no one-size-fits all manual for new parents, because every child is different, and the same applies to caring for an aging parent. In one year’s time, my mother has moved from a three-story house, to a condo in Florida, to an apartment in a retirement center. No wonder she asks me constantly, “Where are we going, Debbie?”

This year I am resolved to help her get comfortably settled and surrounded by family..those who know the stories and can jog her memory with humorous tales of long ago. “Remember when Dad got a new shop vac and you were styling your hair in the beauty shop, Mom?” “Yes, I remember that,” she says. “Well, do you remember that you were wearing a silk scarf around your head when Dad showed you the power of the shop vac?”  She starts to laugh recalling the incident, “Yes! He sucked the silk scarf right off my head and into the shop vac.” Those endearing moments, tales of years’ past..those are the moments I want Mom to experience again. They can only happen when surrounded by family.

Most Nicaraguan family units are large, with eight or more people living together under one hot tin roof. The Nicaraguan household is typically augmented by the presence of grandparents, aunts, uncles, an orphaned relative, a daughter with children of her own, and always accompanied by dogs, chickens, and a few pigs. Extended family members take care of their own. They even lack a word in their vocabulary for retirement home. The concept of a place where the elderly are removed from the family unit is alien and strange to most Nicaraguans.

Family members celebrate a birthday.

Family members celebrate a birthday.

Although Nicaragua is out of the question for Mom ( Her needs are greater than our island can support), we do have plans in the making where she will be surrounded by loving family. She’ll soon be living with my brother and his wife and their chocolate lab, Lena.

So, as I paddle my boat in uncharted waters, the next time Mom asks, “Where are we going, Debbie?” I’ll soon be able to answer, “Home, Mom. We’re going home.” I am resolved!

Confessions of an Expat Shopaholic

Thank God we’re living in a country where the sky’s the limit, the stores are open late and you can shop in bed thanks to television.  ~Joan Rivers

What if we don’t live in a country where the sky’s the limit, where the convenience of consumerism, e-commerce, marketing tactics, and the psychology of shopping are distant dreams of a past life? I’ve returned to the states for two weeks with a list of items to buy that are impossible to find in Nicaragua. My brother has graciously, and a little begrudgingly, offered to take me shopping today…January 2nd, a day renowned for its sales after Christmas.

Psychologists have defined six universal mental rules of thumb that are evident in shoppers. The Psychology of Shopping  The one my brother doesn’t understand is Scarcity, which is understandable because unless one lives abroad in a third world country, scarcity is an alien concept. 

Screen Shot 2013-01-02 at 8.07.13 AMLiving in Nicaragua, I believe that less is more. We consume less with the added bonus of more creativity. Live and Learn Abroad to Boost Creativity  Yet, there are certain products no matter how creative we are, we cannot reproduce. For example: Bayer Aspirin, Motrin, acrylic paints in small craft bottles, a Norelco hair clipper, and an Otterbox cover for my iPhone.

The psychological reasoning behind scarcity makes sense to me. I do place more value on those things which are scarce or non-existent in Nicaragua. When I was living in the states, I was never a shopaholic. Everything was readily available through internet clicks, and  short trips to the mall or department stores less than 5 miles from my house. I’ve never been a compulsive or impulsive buyer, but returning to the states and seeing the abundance of ‘things’ we have here, overwhelms me with an irresistible urge to shop.

I’ve mapped my itinerary, eaten a hearty breakfast, and promised my brother that if he takes me shopping, I’ll buy him lunch. My list has 22 specific items, yet I have a tendency to get side-tracked in the world of accessible consumerism. Wish me luck because I’m going to need it!

P.S. I love my brother and sister-in-law, especially for indulging my expat shopaholic tendencies! Thank you from the bottom of my expat shopaholic heart.