Weekly Photo Challenge: Saturated People of Nicaragua

The Weekly Photo Challenge said to make sure the photos are saturated. Nicaragua has many colorful and saturated people.

Saturated with Music
IMG_4595Saturated with Fun
IMG_4596Saturated with Creativity
IMG_4604Saturated with Patriotism? ( Even my camera got saturated)
IMG_4588The Shoe Shine Boy is Saturated with Exhaustion
IMG_5490Saturated with Homelessness
DSCN0671Saturated with Poverty and Old Age
IMG_4625Nicaragua is the land of extremes of saturation… from the fullness of joy, music, and liveliness….to those inundated with poverty, loneliness, and despair. Be grateful everyday and if you see a need…pay your gratefulness forward.


The Honeymoon is Over

DSCN1264The honeymoon is definitely over! For several weeks, I’ve been out of sorts. I start a project, and frustratingly set it aside. It’s been a month of heavy rain, slow internet, lots of bugs, and a lack of professional services on our island.

I am anxious because our “adopted” dog has a cancerous tumor in his mouth, and the only vet on the island has 35 years of experience, but no professional training. In March, he “operated” on Canejo on top of our septic tank using an old hunting knife and a hot piece of rebar and cauterised the remains of the tumor. The tumor has grown back, and now it’s only a decision about when to put a stop to Canejo’s suffering.

DSCN1263Life has been a bucking bull ride lately. If you have lived abroad for over a year, I’m sure you can identify with my feelings. There are four common stages of cultural adjustment:
I. The Honeymoon
The wondrous initial period of euphoria and excitement…oh how I long for those days of mystery and surprise! I enjoy reading Holly’s blog about her first year of rebirth in Boquete, Panama. Let the Adventure Begin!  In this stage, one feels like he/she can conquer the world. It’s a superficial, tourist-like involvement with the host country, as well as intrigue with both similarities and differences between the new culture and the home culture. In this stage, one has lots of interest and motivation in learning and most importantly…an open-minded attitude.
DSCN1268II. Culture Shock
This is the stage where one feels like he/she is on a wild chicken bus ride though life. Every curve is fraught with danger, small issues become major catastrophes, and one easily becomes stressed-out, frustrated, and may feel helpless to solve the smallest problems. The focus is on the differences between the new culture and the home culture. Stereotypes and prejudices surface. Homesickness and missing family and friends sets in. In other words, the novelty of the new culture disappears in a cloud of fog, rain, or dust (depending on the season).

DSCN1265III. Gradual Adjustment
This is the stage in which one’s perceptions change, when one can hear the church bells toll…and enjoy them…and regain a sense of humor lost in the previous stage. Decisions are made to make the most of one’s experiences. Increased familiarity with the new culture, its logic and values enables one to feel safe, comfortable, and creative. This is a time of deeper understanding and questioning earlier assumptions about the world. Some parts of living abroad are actually better in one’s host country, than in the home country! It’s a time for revelations, changing perceptions, and evaluating a new way of life. Of course, there are highs and lows as adjustments take place gradually.

IV. Feeling at Home
One now appreciates certain aspects of the foreign culture and critiques other aspects. This is the stage of reality. There is no paradise on earth. One adapts and changes accordingly. This is home. One is no longer negatively affected by differences between the host and home cultures. Living and working to one’s full potential is the mantra. It is biculturalism at its best!

 Cultural Stress
Most people living in a foreign culture for an extended period experience cultural stress. I have to remind myself that it is normal to feel overwhelmed and frustrated at times. It is all part of the cultural learning process. We learn through our mistakes. Living abroad is a challenge in many areas: culture, language, values, customs, traditions, and logic.

Strategies for Dealing with Cultural Stress:
Listed below are several ways we have learned to deal with cultural stress. Just remember, it is completely normal. Where do I belong in the cultural adjustment stages? Since the stages tend to blend into one another, I am probably between stage 3 and 4. Most of the time, I’m happily adjusted with many expat and local friends. But, occasionally, I do have “those days”. I’m sure you know what I mean. 🙂

1. Make plans to stay in touch with family and friends
Now that we moved my woktenna for a stronger internet signal ( the trees grew a foot or more this rainy season and covered the woktenna!) I can easily keep my schedule of Skyping with my family every weekend.
2. Get into the expat bubble for a change. It depends on where you live, but we are culturally immersed in a small all Spanish-speaking community. Sometimes, I need to visit my expat friends just to regroup, speak English rapidly, and talk about things we have in common.
3. There are several internal supports. First, understand the stages of cultural adjustment, then analyze your situations and your reactions to those situations. Identify your “hot buttons” and ways to manage stress. Finally, identify new ways of thinking positively.
I always tell myself when I’m down that the worst thing that can happen is that I will die. Then, nothing really seems that bad.
4. Travel to a new and different place. It always works to help us get out of a rut. Next week we’re taking a short trip to the La Flor beach on the Pacific coast to watch turtles. Next month, we’re traveling back to the states to visit family. Next year, we are planning a long, 2 month trip to Ecuador and the Yasuni National Park.
5. Physical supports: We eat healthily. We have a thriving garden and 15 varieties of fruit trees on our property. We experiment with new recipes all the time. Our motto is everything in moderation..not too much of any one thing. We get plenty of exercise walking, kayaking, and swimming.
6. Volunteer in your host country. This has helped us tremendously because we formed close and lasting relationships with a variety of local people. Everyone has a talent or a skill to share with others.

I think I’m feeling better, now. I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts about the stages of cultural adjustment. If you live abroad, what stage are you in?



Weekly Photo Challenge: Petroglyph Patterns

The Weekly Photo Challenge is From Lines to Patterns. I can think of no better way to represent lines and patterns than the petroglyphs on Ometepe Island.

When we first moved to Ometepe Island, I thought petroglyph was another name for gasoline.
petroglyphsArcheologists refer to Ometepe as the Island of circles and spirals due to the ancient rock carvings, petroglyphs, carved on the basalt boulders.
petroglyphThe oldest petroglyphs date back to around 1000 B.C. The most common motif is the spiral. Some motifs are highly stylized and intricately carved.
petroglyph fincaOther carvings represent the God of Virility or a very macho man with a great sense of humor.
DSCN1341All of the petroglyphs are found on the Maderas side of the island. Once we found a pig pen surrounded by petroglyphs highlighted in chalk. Now, that’s a creative way to use some petroglyphs.
DSCN1348Following the Fuego y Agua Survivor racers up Maderas Volcano, we spotted an angel-like petroglyph or maybe an alien in a spacesuit?
IMG_1948Returning from our walk to photograph petroglyphs, we discovered the beginnings of a dugout canoe. Just carve out the lines and patterns, and soon you will have a fishing boat.
DSCN1206I hope you enjoyed the petroglyph tour on the Island of Circles and Spirals.
For more information on petroglyphs check out these links.
Culturelink Fieldwork Project
Ometepe Petroglyph Project
Dreaming of the Prehistoric Rock Art on Ometepe Island, Nicaragua



Look How Far We’ve Come

In the lyrics of Shania Twain, “I’m so glad we’ve made it. Look how far we’ve come, baby.” It’s been nine years since we first rented our little beach shack, four years since we bought it, and three years since we have lived here permanently.

Enjoy the song, while you look through our comparison pictures 2004 to 2013.

Our living room in 2004: We lived like Nicas… minimalists. Our living room in 2013: Now, my boomer nest is complete and comfortable, but it was a tremendous amount of work.

Our kitchen in 2004: A tiny space, with few amenities. Our kitchen in 2013: We finally have an oven and a large working space.

Our porch in 2004: Dirt floor, little security. Our porch in 2013: Secure, beautiful outdoor living space where we can watch the ferries pass by our house daily.

Guest bedroom in 2004: YUCK! Would you want to be our guest? Guest bedroom in 2013: We turned it into a small home office. However, now that we have a small guest house, the guest bedroom is in the other casita and our studio and work space will be moved to the room upstairs in the casita. ( Pictures of the guest house coming soon.)

House from the side in 2004: It definitely had potential. House from side in 2013: Lots of indoor and outdoor living space.

Back of the house in 2004: Hardly any trees and no garden. Back of house in 2013: Now we have a huge, thriving garden behind the house and dozens of fruit trees and shade trees planted.

What I miss about the old house. I loved this rancho. It was a large gathering spot for community activities. Maybe we’ll build another one someday. That’s the great thing about living here. We have control over what we can build at a fraction of the cost of building in the states. Our imaginations are limitless. 🙂
our rancho

Weekly Photo Challenge: A Look Inside Our Finca

“We can see a thousand miracles around us every day. What is more supernatural than an egg yolk turning into a chicken?” – S. Parkes Cadman

IMG_2462“There are no [hummingbirds] in last year’s nest.” ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

hummingbird nest                   “To every cow its calf; to every book its copy.”~ Irish Proverb
IMG_6033Princesa delivers Napolean…with a little help from her friendly vet.


“The so-called miracle of birth is nature getting her own way.”~ Camille Paglia


IMG_6066“Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in[side] the heart.” ~ Kahlil Gibran

My interpretation of what’s inside for this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside.  Inside our finca on Ometepe Island, Nicaragua.


I Wish For to Have Happy


Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions. ~ Dalai Lama

IMG_3441Francisco’s 81-year-old grandfather, Don Cabo, is one of the happiest people I know. When Francisco visited us last week he said, “Oh, I have many problems. I wish for to have happy like my grandfather, Don Cabo.” Then he told the following story about his grandfather’s ancient bull horn.  (Told in Francisco’s words to me.)

The Bull Horn

DSCN0694My grandfather is the happiest person I know. He never get angry like my grandmother. In December, Mayans come to visit us. They stay in our houses. My grandfather was very happy to share his life with them. He played his old bull horn for the Mayan people. He like to share his customs with the Mayans. The Mayan people enjoy my grandfather. After the Mayan people go back to their country, my grandmother look for the bull horn and discover that it was lost. She tell my grandfather and they look in all the places for the old bull horn. My grandmother discover that the Mayan people take the bull horn and she become very angry. But, my grandfather, the happiest person that I know say, “I am so proud.” “Why are you so proud for the Mayan people take your old bull horn?” my grandmother shout in very angry voice. My grandfather say, “I am so proud that the Mayan people put value on my old bull horn to steal. There are many things they could have took, but they choose my old bull horn, which is of great value to me. For this, I am so proud.”

I wish for to have happy like my abuelo,” said Francisco.

“Me, too, Francisco,” I responded. I was touched by his story. There was a lesson to learn here. For happiness does not just appear. Instead, it springs from our actions and our attitudes about life. Don Cabo understands happiness. He understands compassion, lives a positive and giving life, and enjoys every minute of every day. I hope the Mayans are happy with his ancient bull horn. ( I printed this photo for Don Cabo. I took it in 2005 when we attended his granddaughter’s birthday party.)

Be Happy Today! 🙂

The Happiest ( and Saddest) Countries in the World

Dreamers Turned Doers

“Dreamers are mocked as impractical. The truth is they are the most practical, as their innovations lead to progress and a better way of life for all of us.”
― Robin S. Sharma

We are constantly looking for new ways to do practically everything in our rewired and retired lives. Researching  practical innovations that would help to make a better way of life for all of us, I found these amazing things on the internet. Click on the navy blue link to read more about these dreamers turned doers.

John Lennon glasses

1. A New Way to See the World
My neighbors need prescription glasses, but they are very expensive. This new technology injects fluid into the lenses and by rotating the dials, you can achieve the perfect prescription without a costly eye exam.

ear phones2. A New Way to Hear
Robinson had a horrible motorcycle accident a year ago. As a result, he lost most of his hearing in one ear. A delicate operation is needed to reposition the tiny bones in his ear, but there is no guarantee this will work. Using bone conduction technology originally developed for military special ops, these headphones transmit vibrations directly from your cheekbones to your inner ear, bypassing the eardrum.

edible glasses3. A New Way to Drink
Plastic bottles…a huge problem on Ometepe Island. These edible glasses are made from pectin, a gelling agent derived from fruits, the cups are surprisingly durable, and Briganti hopes they’ll help replace disposable plastic. We could definitely use these here!

Fresh Paper4. A New Kind of Paper
This would be a boon for our small agricultural island. The inventor is partnering with nonprofits in developing countries to ship FreshPaper to some of the roughly 1.2 billion people in the world who lack refrigeration, including small-scale farmers in India and Africa who sometimes can’t sell their crop before it spoils.

drones delivering mail 5. A New Way to Deliver Our Mail?
A company called Matternet has tested unmanned aerial vehicles, or “drones,” in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, where it hopes to help deliver medical supplies and food to areas that lack reliable roads. Now, this would be fantastic, since we have no mail delivery on Ometepe.

  taking a course online 6. A New Way to Take Free College Courses

I used to teach online graduate level education courses. The greatest thing about teaching online was that I could do it from anywhere, even wearing my PJs. I’ve signed up for a course with Coursera. With 300-plus free online courses — Moralities of Everyday Life,  Archaeology’s   Dirty Little Secrets, Women and the Civil Rights Movement — all taught by professors at 62 of the world’s top schools, including Yale and Stanford, the Web site Coursera reads like the course catalog you wish you’d taken advantage of in college. The company’s goal is to allow every person in the world access to an Ivy League–caliber education — without the frat parties and calculus requirement.

vaporizers  7. A New Way to Quit Smoking
Cigarettes are really cheap in Nicaragua. If you are thinking of quitting, new studies show that using a vaporizer, or e-cigarette, is as effective if not more so, than using a nicotine patch.

Cacoon-hanging-tree-house-1-640x6448. A New Kind of Tent
 I’m not sure how practical this would be, but it is very cool. I wonder how difficult it would be to make?

Guide to Taxi Service in Nicaragua

Nicaraguans undergo a strange personality change behind the wheel of a taxi. In every other setting in Nicaragua, aggression and speed are frowned upon. The Nicaraguan mantra is, “Manana” or “Tranquilo”. But, put a Nicaraguan in the driver’s seat and he portrays all the calmness of a hooded bandit in a lynch mob.

I shouldn’t be so hard on the taxi drivers in Nicaragua, but it took us many drivers before we found one that we can trust with our lives, our possessions, and our pocketbook. Apparently, there are no standard rates, nor do the taxis have meters. So, how does one know how much a taxi ride should cost in Nicaragua? Below, you will find my guidelines for getting a taxi in Nicaragua, but first a little about my favorite taxi driver, Francisco.

Francisco is our local taxi driver. Since we don’t have a car, nor do we want a car in Nicaragua, Francisco takes us everywhere. The first time I met him, he offered us a ride in Rivas for 10 cordobas. We had just turned down a $10 taxi ride to the ferry…a little over a mile, and I was hot, tired, and angry with the taxi drivers in the market for trying to rip us off. When I asked for Francisco’s telephone number, he handed me a crumpled Winnie-the-Poo sticker from his son’s backpack and scribbled his number on it. After that, I was sold on Francisco’s warm smile, his honest taxi service, and his safe and tranquilo attitude.

I wanted to help Francisco increase his business, so I offered to make him some business cards. Since my biggest complaint is that we never know how much a trip will cost, I convinced Francisco to put the prices on the back of the card. As a result, Francisco is the first taxi driver to have his prices on a professional business card and his service has increased daily.

Guide to Taxi Service in Nicaragua

1. How much should a taxi ride cost?
A good rule of thumb is to plan on paying around $10 for every 20 kilometers.
Distance calculator in Nicaragua
2. Never get in without agreeing on a fare. Period!
Since none of the taxis in Nicaragua have meters, it is very important to agree on the   price before getting into the taxi. Make sure the rate is per person or for more than one person. Does it include luggage? We’ve made this mistake several times and ended up paying 4 times the normal fare. I hate to be taken for a fool. If you are only going a short distance, from one street to another in the same town, ask for a collectivo. A collectivo generally has a standard rate in town and they will pick up and drop off many passengers.
Standard rates for collectivos in Rivas are: 15 cordobas per person
In Granada: 10 cordobas per person
3. To put your luggage in the trunk or not?
BF ( Before Francisco), I never put my luggage in the trunk of a taxi. If I was going to have a big dispute over the agreed upon fare when I got out of the taxi, ( and you probably will at one time or another in Nicaragua) I wanted to have all my luggage with me. If your luggage is in the trunk, it is easy for the taxi driver to hold your luggage for ransom during a dispute. Plus, I always carry my laptop in my day pack on a longer trip and I don’t want to subject it to over 100 degree temperatures in the trunk of a taxi.
4. Have the proper change.
The story of our lives in Nicaragua. Don’t go anywhere without the proper change. It always amuses me when a taxi driver requests a $15 fee and when you arrive at your destination, and hand him a $20 bill, he looks at you shocked that he is supposed to make change. Usually, after a little argument, I give up and tell him it’s a tip. It’s not worth the hassle. Bring small bills and give the taxi driver the exact change. On another note, I always give Francisco a tip, but that is not the norm in Nicaragua unless you have an amazing taxi driver. More chances than not, you will be overcharged just because you are a foreigner who doesn’t know any better, and I consider that the tip. It may be calloused, but I’ve learned the hard way.
5. Check the condition of the taxi before getting in.
I’ve ridden in some literal death traps in Nicaragua. The doors don’t unlock, the windows don’t work, the tires wobble…oh the tales of horror. Unless you know the driver or have a recommendation for a good driver… if the car looks unsafe, don’t get in. There are plenty of other taxi drivers in large cities. Just say, no!
6. Just say, NO!
It’s perfectly fine to be aggressive and just say, NO, especially if you get a strange feeling. Some taxi scams in Nicaragua:
The buses aren’t running scam.
You are on your way to the bus station in a crowded market to catch a bus. A taxi driver yells,” Where are you going?” You respond, “Granada.” The taxi driver says, “You just missed the last bus to Granada. There are no more buses today. I’ll take you, cheap.”
Taken to an isolated spot, robbed, and dropped off in the middle of nowhere scam
You are waiting in a market for a bus. A friendly local strikes up a conversation with you. “No need to take a bus,” says the local. “I’m waiting for my friend who is a taxi driver. He’ll take you to Granada after he drops me off.” You get in the back of the taxi, and your local friend gets in beside you. Then, the taxi driver picks up another person, who gets in the backseat on the other side of you. You are driven to an ATM and forced to withdraw money…usually at knife point or sometimes by gun point. Then, you are forced back into the taxi, driven to an isolated spot, beaten and sometimes raped, and thrown out of the taxi.
I really hate to scare you, but these incidents have happened often in Nicaragua. In both cases, JUST SAY NO! Walk away. Trust your intuition. If something doesn’t feel right…just say NO!
7. Get the directions in Spanish
You will be lucky to find a taxi driver that speaks English. If your Spanish is poor, always get the directions to your location in Spanish. Most hotels and hostels have brochures or business cards with their addresses printed in Spanish. Grab one and stick it in a safe place. After a night out on the town, you can simply hand the taxi driver the card or brochure and tell him to take you there. If you want to do a day trip to another place, ask your hotel or hostel employee to write the directions for you in Spanish and you can hand it to the driver.
8. Ask your hotel, or a local friend for recommendations for a taxi driver
Hotels and hostels want customers to return, so they will usually have taxi drivers available that they recommend. Always ask them for recommendations. The only bad experience we had in this area was my last trip back from the states. We stayed at the Best Western Hotel across from the airport in Managua and Francisco was to return to pick us up. My flight was canceled at the last-minute to Nicaragua, Ron was waiting for me in Managua at the hotel, and his Spanish was poor. So, he asked the desk attendant at the Best Western to call Francisco for him and tell him to pick us up the following day. The desk clerk called Francisco, but he told Francisco that my flight was delayed and not to pick us up. Ron wasn’t aware of what the desk clerk told Francisco and the desk clerk was hoping for a commission from his taxi driver.  The next day at 11:00am we were waiting for Francisco. Thirty minutes later, Francisco wasn’t there, which was very unusual. A few minutes later, the phone in our hotel room rang and it was Francisco. He asked me how we were getting back to Ometepe because the desk clerk told him not to pick us up. I was furious. Francisco arrived an hour later and I told the desk clerk about the incident and said he just lost two good paying customers. We will never stay there again.

Overall, we are fortunate to have found a wonderful and trustworthy taxi driver in Nicaragua. I consider him to be my friend, as well as my taxi driver. I hope these tips are helpful and I haven’t scared you. It’s always better to be knowledgable about the taxi service in Nicaragua or you could be in for a wild ride! 🙂

Below are a few interesting links to articles about taxis in Nicaragua.





Weekly Photo Challenge: An Unusual POV

“The most fatal illusion is the settled point of view. Since life is growth and motion, a fixed point of view kills anybody who has one.”
― Brooks Atkinson

Can you tell the top from the bottom of the tree?

My sweet Princesa drooling over mangoes. princesa copyMy awesome son and his fiancé taking the photo.
Cory and Tina copy


Down at the Bottom, We, too, Should Have Rights

I know up on the top you are seeing great sights, but down at the bottom we, too, should have rights. “Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories” ~ Dr. Seuss

Seven arribadas, or turtle arrivals, occur on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of Nicaragua each year between July and January. They lumber ashore by the hundreds and sometimes thousands to lay their precious eggs. Throughout the world, there are seven species of sea turtles. Five of the species are found in Nicaragua: Green Turtle, Hawksbill Turtle, Leatherback Turtle, Loggerhead Turtle, and the Olive Ridley Turtle (called Paslama in Nicaragua).

Although these incredible arribadas are a sight to behold, they are fraught with danger… not for tourists who witness the egg-laying marathon, but for the five endangered and critically endangered species of turtles in Nicaragua. The adult sea turtles have few natural predators, mostly sharks and killer whales. Fish, dogs, crabs, seabirds, and other predators prey on eggs and hatchlings. Unfortunately, more than 90% of the hatchlings are eaten by these predators.  This is survival of the fittest in all of its glory…munching to the top of the food chain in a fragile ecosystem.

Yet, the most dangerous threat to the endangered sea turtles is the human species. The problems experienced by the turtles are mostly related to the poverty in Nicaragua. Indigenous communities have inherited the traditions of hunting for turtle eggs ( considered a delicacy and aphrodisiac in Nicaragua), and poaching turtles for meat. The major problem on the Pacific Coast is illegally selling the turtle eggs for public consumption.

Three other problems that contribute to the decline of turtles in Nicaragua are: fishing nets in which turtles may get trapped and drown ( fishing nets, called reds, are the main way to fish in Nicaragua), the destruction of their natural habitat due to accumulation of trash the turtles may ingest, or deforestation, which can indirectly threaten sea turtle nests, and the use of turtle shells, leather, and calipee ( the cartilage of the turtle used to make a popular soup) to make jewelry and other products.

Yet, all hope is not lost. Down at the bottom, the turtles on the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua are gaining rights. At the beaches of La Flor and Chacocente, protection of the sea turtles and their environment is managed by civil organizations and the Nicaraguan army. It’s all about changing attitudes. The World Wildlife Fund conducted studies comparing money generated from selling of turtle eggs and other turtle products, and money generated in tourism from the turtle arribadas. It was no surprise that the money generated from tourism was three times that of selling turtle eggs and other turtle products.

For three years, Ron and I have searched for a turtle arribada. We’ve walked miles along  dark, rocky beaches without spotting one turtle. This year, it’s going to be different. We’ve researched the arribada times according to the lunar cycle and found the perfect place to watch the turtles. At the end of September, between the last quarter and the new moon, we are going to Playa El Coco. I’m hoping for a massive arribada, but one turtle will make me happy. 🙂  Wish us luck!

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