Weekly Photo Challenge: A Good Friday

Ron returned from the states yesterday bearing gifts for all. This morning, after completing my outdoor chores, my two favorite girls came to visit. Lourdes wanted to make cupcakes for Semana Santa. So, I sent her to the side porch to see if there were any eggs in the box. “Dos huevos,” she shouted. “Perfecto,” I responded. Just enough for cupcakes. She mixed, blended, and gleefully decorated two dozen cupcakes.

Then, Johnson and his girlfriend arrived. Last week, Johnson came to my house to visit. He pulled a plastic bag out of his backpack and said, “I have a present for you. It is something for your house.”  His gift to me was his Survivor Run trophy mask. “Johnson, are you sure you want to give your trophy mask to me?” I said kind of teary eyed because I was so touched that he would give his trophy to me. “Of course,” he responded as if I had asked him if he wanted a glass of water.

Johnson is the most humble and gracious person I know. He never complains and works extremely hard to better himself. His goal is to be in the 2016 Olympics as a marathon runner representing Nicaragua. Yet, he has no good running shoes. “Johnson, come here,” I said as I directed him to my laptop. “Pick out a pair of good running shoes. I’ll order then online and Ron can bring them back from the states.”

Today, Johnson tried on his new running shoes. They fit him perfectly. I am so grateful that I can do just a little thing to help him meet his goal.

Next, Marvin and his daughter, Lauren stopped by with a warm, delicious bowl of alvimer. It is a traditional Semana Santa dish of sweet mixed fruit. In exchange, we gave Lauren some Mardi Gras beads that Ron found at his sister’s house in the states.

Soon, Cory, Tina, and Sam arrived. It was a hot afternoon. We are on our second day without running water. AGAIN! It was either go swimming or eat watermelon and play spoons. We opted for both. After teaching all of our Nicaraguan visitors how to play spoons, we joined the crowd swimming on our beach.

At sundown, we watched to cormorants chatting with each other. Then, everyone headed home. Ron and I settled down to a light supper of toasted cheese sandwiches. We still don’t have any running water and I didn’t feel like using my bottled water to wash any dishes.

This evening, I voted for my Cradlepoint Entry. I was trying to win a mini-iPad for Ron, but he bought a new laptop in the states. Now, I have a new goal in mind. I’m trying to hep my young friend, Ever, win this mini-iPad. Ever is the head guide in the Los Ramos rural tourism program. He really needs the internet to communicate with tourists interested in the Los Ramos cultural immersion programs. Presently, my son does all the communication. So, if you can find it in your heart to vote for Ever, please go to this Facebook page to vote. You must have a Facebook account to vote. You can vote every 24 hours until April 12th. Thank you so much for your help.

I’m working on my Weekly Photo Challenge post..a day in the life of…while Ron is passed out on the couch watching basketball games.
It has been a good Friday. Full of love, friends, gifts, and fun. It would have been perfect if we had running water! Feliz Semana Santa!

Weekly Photo Challenge: The Future of Water

This week’s phoneography challenge is to freeze a promise of things to come. As we celebrate UN World Water Day, March 22, 2013, I am advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.  Sealed in amber, my phone photos represent a peek at our future of water, unless we take steps to conserve, reuse, and manage our freshwater resources responsibly.

Lake Cocibolca is at record lows. Fishing boats are stranded in mud flats. To complicate matters, we have not had any running water in our homes for four days.
IMG_0078Our beach resembles a moon-like surface. Although we are surrounded by a sweet sea, our water is poorly managed and becoming increasingly scarce.
IMG_0080 2Without running water, we are forced to wade beyond the shallow, warm, algae infested water to bathe, wash clothes, and perform other necessities of life.
IMG_0082Aquatic midges, known locally as chayules, feed on the algae. When the wind blows from the lake, they swarm our house blanketing everything in a dust of carcasses and an odor of dead fish.
IMG_2285We are the fortunate ones. We can dig a well, buy a pump, and build a tower to hold a large water tank. But, most of the locals don’t have the means to buy an alternative water source. They continue to haul water, sometimes for miles with babies clinging to their backs.

Water facts in Latin America and the Caribbean
1. 32 million people without water access in Latin America and the Caribbean
2. Sewage from less than 14% at houses is treated at sanitation plants.
3. Major financial constraints restrict the abilities of national and local governments to address all of the water needs simultaneously.
4. Many major lakes and river basins are under great strain from growing populations and decades of agricultural run-off, including Lake Cocibolca, the 11th largest freshwater lake in the world.
5. The periodic effects of the changes in the Pacific ocean current, known as El Niño, alternately brings large-scale droughts and more severe storms. ( We are in a drought period, now. Two years ago, we had severe storms that flooded the lake.)
6. Transboundary water issues require diplomacy and management models that can provide rational water allocation, while respecting country sovereignty. Costa Rica and Nicaragua have battled over water rights to the Rio San Juan for decades.

What can you do?

Take action, spread the word, and create an awareness of the future of water.


Battling Bugs

Chayules…swarms streaming…clusters congregating…gnats gathering…masses mobbing
My house is overflowing…jam-packed…filled to the rafters…overrun with chayules.
To complicate matters, we haven’t had any running water for two days now.

This is the price of paradise. Living lakeside creates some challenges: Chayules are my number one challenge. Two times a year, when the wind shifts and blows from the lake, millions of chayules hatch. They live for 3 days and cover every surface. Nothing is sacred. Nothing is out-of-bounds.

They are relatively harmless little gnats if you don’t mind breathing, eating, and sleeping with them. Lacking running water, the rinse water for my dishes is now a swimming pool of gnats. I had chayule flavored coffee this morning, as I picked them out of my ears and nose. Unable to cook, I ate sandwiches on the beach yesterday. Oddly, they weren’t swarming on the beach…only in our houses.

My neighbor’s kids spent the day at the beach. They helped me gather trash that had washed ashore. We played and bathed in the lake. Marina started a fire on the beach and cooked rice. It was a pleasant afternoon, as long as we stayed out of our houses.

But, when darkness blanketed our beach community and we turned on the lights in our homes, the chayules were unforgiving. Fans swirled the gnats like little tornadoes. A whispering buzz filled our homes, warning us of an impending attack. Babies cried. My cats swatted the gnats relentlessly. There was no escape until the lights went out.

At seven o’clock in the evening, La Paloma was dark. We all sought refuge under our mosquito nets ( those of us who have mosquito nets). When I awoke this morning, all was eerily quiet. Mountains of dead chayules dotted the floors. Carcasses clung to the walls and spiderwebs like curtains.

It’s time for the leaf blower. Living on the beach is challenging at times. Yet, I’m determined to make the best of it. We’re going to invest in a water tank and a pump. It’s easier for me to deal with the chayule attack than to live without running water.

You are probably wondering why we continue to live here. Honestly, the challenges of third world living have made me a better person. I’m more flexible and less stressed… more giving and less greedy…more tolerant and less unforgiving. The intangible qualities of life attract me. Soothing…speculative…mythical qualities. Sometimes it’s like living in a fairy tale.

Well, back to reality. It’s leaf blower time! Maybe today we’ll have a dribble of water. The price of paradise. Is it worth it? You betcha!

Three Little Kittens

Last July, we had a rat problem in the garden. We didn’t want to use poison because we have ten free-range chickens, plus all the neighbors chickens and other critters come to our gringo house to graze.  Instead, we contacted a friend who lives in Granada to see about getting a cat.

We consider ourselves to be dog people, and we weren’t too familiar with the ways of cats. We only wanted one cat, but things didn’t work out that way. “Will you take two kittens?” Carol asked. “They are brother and sister. Poor babies were thrown in the Granada dump,” she pleaded. I relented. What’s one more kitten?

A few days later, the foster mom of our two kittens called. “I just got another kitten about the same age as the brother and sister,” she said. “They love one another. This little kitten was thrown over a wall in Granada and left to die,” she pleaded. I relented again. What’s one more kitten?

When the kittens were old enough to be spayed and neutered, our foster-mother took them to a free clinic in Granada operated by Donna Tabor. See her blog here with heartwarming stories.

Last September, we became full-fledged cat people. Our cats have adjusted to life on Ometepe Island. There is never a dull moment with Black Jack, Queenie, and Ocho.


The Island of the Widows

Chichigalpa is a small community rarely visited by tourists. Located 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of Managua, Nicaragua, it is home to the Ingenio San Antonio, where the sugar cane is industrially processed, and the National Liquor Company, where the famous Ron Flor the Caña is produced.
Chichigalpa copy

Although most of the land in this municipality is covered with abundant green reeds and manzanas of sugar cane fields, there lies a dark, sinister side to Chichigalpa. Nicknamed “The Island of the Widows”, 2,500-3,800 sugar cane workers have died within the past ten years. Of the 250 families living in Chichigalpa, more than 100 women have lost their husbands to chronic kidney failure, a disease that paralyses kidney function by preventing the body from eliminating waste and excess liquid from the blood.

This documentary was produced by La Isla Foundation whose goals are to facilitate research to identify the cause of the CKD epidemic, raise public awareness of this epidemic, and organize a public health intervention to support affected workers, as well as to prevent future generations from becoming ill.

Most of the widows have gone through the pain of watching their husbands, sons, and brothers die in a painful agonizingly slow process. If they are unable to find work to support their fatherless children, they take the machete and enter the cane fields bathed in chemicals that might have killed their husbands.

There is no cure for CKD. Presently, the research indicates the cause may be a result of the accumulation of chemicals from the aerial sprays seeping silently into their water supplies. No one knows for sure.

Below are several links to articles with information about the plight of the sugarcane workers in Nicaragua. If you would like to become involved, please visit the last link, La Isla Foundation. Let’s spread the word. With a concerned and informed international community, we can reverse the plight of the Island of the Widows.

Chronic Kidney Disease: ‘Silent Killer’ may have multiple triggers

In Nicaraguan sugarcane community, workers stare death in the face.

Mystery kidney disease decimates Central America sugarcane workers

Ed Kashi in Nicaragua

A Cycle of Death

La Isla Foundation

Weekly Photo Challenge: Hora de Almorzar

The weekly photo challenge is all about lunchtime. Check out the weekly photo challenge HERE. All of the photos, except the vegetable truck, were taken with my new-to-me iPhone 3Gs. It’s lunchtime on Ometepe Island, Nicaragua! Everyone helps to prepare lunch, the largest meal of the day for a Nicaraguan family.

The vegetable truck comes to our door every Friday. We choose the freshest veggies, all homegrown on the island.

Don Jose, our 78 year young neighbor, hacks away at our fallen tree with his machete. Our neighbors need firewood to prepare lunch.
IMG_2212Stephen gathers our sweet mangoes, while his grandfather cuts firewood. The mangoes will make a tasty dessert.
IMG_0047Meanwhile, Dustin snacks on a juicy jicote, similar to a plum. ( I had to retouch this photo. Dustin wasn’t wearing any underwear or pants. jeje)
Our chickens wait in line to lay eggs under the pollo grill. We never lack fresh eggs around the finca.
IMG_0072Rafaela isn’t neglected either. She’s neighing for a fresh carrot from the vegetable truck.
IMG_0057Black Jack, one of our three rescue kittens, inspects our produce. “Anything good to eat here?”
IMG_0066The avocados will have to wait for tomorrow’s lunch. They aren’t quite ripe. But, the tangerines are ready!
IMG_0067Don Jose stokes the fire. Lunch is almost ready. “Hora de amorzar?” the kids ask.
IMG_0069Lunch is almost ready. A big pot of gallo pinto, a fresh egg omelet, and lots of handpicked fruit. Everyone helps prepare lunch in Nicaragua. It’s my favorite time of the day, the hora de almorzar.


Please Vote for Me!

Sigh! Ron’s laptop died. Living in the tropics with electronic equipment is always a challenge. The heat and humidity wreak havoc on expensive electronics, not to mention the bugs and dust that invade every little crack. Creativity and vigilance is the key to successful maintenance of our electronics. But, even with constant care, sometimes our electronics just bite the dust. Protecting Your Electronics in the Tropics

When I was in the states, I bought a CradlePoint router for our 3G Claro dongle so we can have wi-fi. Since we have a volcano in our backyard blocking the tower to a strong signal, I had to put on my thinking cap to funnel the signal to the tower.  My Woktenna

Now, I’ve moved our woktenna outside under our roof for a stronger signal.
Several days ago, I received an email about a CradlePoint contest. They are looking for unique ways that people connect to the internet using their CradlePoint router. I don’t think one can get more creative than our woktenna setup. Plus, if I receive the most votes in the contest, I can win a mini-iPad for Ron. I’m having a difficult time sharing my computer with him. lol

If you have a Facebook account, would you please ‘like’ the CradlePoint Facebook page, then vote for me?  VOTE Here

This will only work if you have a Facebook account. Click on the link above. “Like” the page. Then you will see a place to view the entries. Click on ‘view the entries’, find a picture of my woktenna. Click on the picture and it will take you to a place to vote.

Thank you so much for helping me. It’s neck and neck. You can vote once a day until March 22. Please help me win a mini-iPad for my dear computerless husband.

Phoneography Challenge: Where’s the Wi-fi?

The timing was perfect for this phoneography challenge because I just brought back a new-to-me iPhone 3s from the states. Since I had uploaded the Instagram app, I was on a search through our tiny neighborhood for a strong wi-fi connection. Our internet is painfully slow at our house.

First, I stopped and asked some neighborhood kids playing in the sand on our beach. “Donde esta wi-fi?” They just looked at me with puzzled, dirty faces.
IMG_2102The whistling boy on his bicycle was waiting for the fisherman to return. “Donde esta wi-fi?” He thought I wanted to learn how to whistle.
IMG_0016The kids were playing soccer at Puesta del Sol. “Donde esta wi-fi?” “Aqui! ” they all shouted across the soccer net. But the internet café wasn’t open until 6 pm.
IMG_0019Perhaps if I get more minutes on my phone, I can use my 3G to upload my photos. So, I ambled down the sandy path to our local pulperia. (tiny grocery store)
IMG_0029Oh no! It’s never closed! Where is Carla?
IMG_0028Carla’s mother came out to greet me, but she didn’t have a clue how to sell me minutes for my phone. She thought her photo was feo (ugly), but I love this beautiful, hard-working woman.
IMG_0032I turned around and headed home. Maybe my internet will be strong enough to post my photos taken with my iPhone.
IMG_0033Uh-oh! Marvin is welding our casita roof. I’ll have to wait until he is finished because our electricity fluctuates too much when he uses the welder.
IMG_0042So, I guess I’ll rake mangoes until the internet café opens. It’s a beautiful day in our tiny neighborhood. A great day to practice taking photos with my new-to-me iPhone.


Three Eggs in a Box

A popular TV show in the states asked Ron and I ( actually, the producer found my blog) to make a casting video. No, It isn’t “Honey Boo Boo”, but I think it would make a fine “Green Acres” episode. 🙂  I’m not sure if anything will ever come of it, but it was fun to make.  The requirements were to smile, show lots of energy and enthusiasm, and start the video in a beautiful location. Well, I definitely exuded play acting enthusiasm when I screeched, “Three eggs in a box!” However, we did get the beautiful location at the beginning. And, I learned how to embed a Vimeo video using a shortcode.  I hope you enjoy our production, which I call “Three Eggs in a Box.”

Weekly Photo Challenge: I Once was Lost but Now Am Found

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

In our last trip to Playa Gigante, I got lost in the expanse of the beautiful desolate beach.
DSCN0727Yet, hidden beneath my feet and within the broad expanse, were wondrous details.
IMG_5433Ancient trees told tales of weathering storms and drifting among the high seas.
IMG_1740Their branches pointed to places they yearned to return, as they whispered harrowing tales of long ago.
IMG_5437Barnacles clung to a new life.
IMG_1738Flowers and gently sailing leaves landed silently in tide pools, floating peacefully.
IMG_5434Snails left trails of tears as they meandered through the sand.
DSCN0733The amazing grace of this wondrous miniature world saved me. I lost my place in this huge world, but found it again through the miracles beneath my feet.  I was blind, but now I see.