Daily Prompt: Trick or Treat

The Daily Prompt says, “If bloggers had their own Halloween and could go from blog to blog collecting “treats,” what would your blog hand out?”

Happy Halloween bloggers. Enjoy my treats.

1. A good backup and restoration for your blog
All bloggers need to backup their blogs, right? You never know when you’ll need it.
Updraft Plus
2. An offline storage for interesting articles you find for your blog
I use Evernote constantly and I can store interesting websites to research articles for my blog.
3. 30 of the best online dictionaries and thesauri
We can all use this, right?
The Best Online Dictionaries
4. A secure anonymous VPN
I use Strong VPN. If you want to sign up, ask me for a referral.
Strong VPN
5. Free storage place for all your online things
I use Dropbox. If I lose everything on my phone or my laptop, it is safely stored and waiting for me.

Black Mold, Toxic Tea

It’s near the end of the rainy season in Nicaragua. Theresa suffered with respiratory problems, a slow heart rate, symptoms of a sluggish thyroid, severe fatigue, insomnia, and a feeling of brain fog. “I just don’t understand what’s wrong with me,” she said. “All I want to do is eat Snickers bars and watch TV. My resting heart rate is 40 beats per minute. Am I going to die? It is so unlike me.”

If you have undiagnosed symptoms like Theresa’s, then you may want to check out Mycotoxicity, or Sick Building Syndrome. Environmental mold, especially black mold, can cause very serious medical and psychological problems. The airborne mold spores take refuge in the body, creating all kinds of havoc. Mycotoxins are also neurotoxins. Simply stated, a poison to the brain. “Controversial evidence suggests that ‘Yellow Rain’ (trichothecene mycotoxins) attacks by U.S. military in Southeast Asia caused thousands of deaths between 1974 and 1981.” ( McGovern, T. W. and Christopher, G.W., Biological Warfare and its Cutaneous Manifestations, telemedicine.org, n.d.). Research has clearly demonstrated neurological damage as a result of their presence.

Scary, right? Fortunately, Theresa is a retired RN. Armed with all her symptoms and the help of several doctors on Ometepe Island, she received blood tests, an EKG, and the diagnosis of Mycotoxicity. Throughout Theresa’s mysterious onset of symptoms, I learned how devastating black mold can be, as well as the harmful health effects of breathing in malicious mold spores daily.

IMG_3773What does black mold look like?
Theresa took me on a hunt for black mold around my house. The picture above is the inside of my porch with the peeling paint as the mold slowly devours the concrete. Outside, growing on the brick is a gelatinous green-black mold.
Theresa lives in an unsealed concrete block house. At the baseboard level inside, she noticed black mold growing and moisture seeping through the cracked walls. For the duration of the rainy season, she had ingested the toxic spores as she slept.
Toxic Black Mold website

IMG_3772What can you do to rid your house of black mold?
Theresa sealed the outside of her walls with a cement covering after cleaning, disinfecting the area with chlorine bleach, and drying. Then, she tackled the inside walls with a solution of vinegar and soapy water.
I have to laugh at the research I’ve conducted because it says to contact a professional mold remover. Well, living in Nicaragua, that’s an impossibility. We have to do it ourselves. What horrifies me is the number of poorly constructed homes in Nicaragua. The poorest of the population live with dirt floors, black plastic walls, and thatched roofs. As money is available for sturdier houses, they buy cement blocks and construct one wall at a time. Only the wealthiest homeowners can afford to seal their cement walls against the elements and the deluge of water during the rainy season.
Asthma is a huge problem in Nicaragua. I’m beginning to wonder if it is a result of Mycotoxicity. Theresa was lucky. Her symptoms led to a correct diagnosis and medicine to alleviate most of the symptoms. There is no cure for Mycotoxicity, but awareness and proper treatment can alleviate most of the health problems…if caught in time.
A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture, and Your Home by the United States Environmental Protection Agency

Please spread the word about black mold, toxic tea. The rainy season is almost over, but precautions for the next rainy season can begin.


Clinical Microbiology Review on Mycotoxins

Study on the symptoms and effects of Micotoxicity


The Legend of El Chupacabra

Since we don’t celebrate Halloween in Nicaragua, I am reposting a Halloween post from 2 years ago. Enjoy.

Rewired and Retired in Nicaragua

Legends of bloodsucking creatures are present all over the world and throughout history. Seven years ago, I read in La Prensa that a young man was lost on Vulcan Concepcion. He had attempted to climb the volcano without a guide and was ill-prepared for the dangerous trek. Those foolish enough to scale the 1610 meter slopes without assistance are usually seriously wounded, lost, or as in the case of the 24-year-old Salvadoran, eaten by El Cupacabra.

My English students told me that the guides found his body a week later.  His head was wedged between two rocks, his leg was broken, and an arm was missing.  Luvis pounded her fist on my plastic table when she heard the news and emphatically stated, “It was the Chupacabra.”  “What in the world is a Chupacabra?”  I asked curiously.  They all looked at me astounded because I had never heard of the creature.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Broaden Your Horizons

“Why does every road eventually narrow into a point at the horizon? Because that’s where the point lies.”
― Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration

IMG_1731“Hope is the moonlight filtering through the trees,
Hope is the silent prayer that we make in distress,
Hope is the promise that we make to ourselves,
Hope is the happiness that we visualize,
Hope is the horizon that we reach, if we try!”
― Balroop Singh

IMG_2488“…my heart rides the wind and my thoughts sail away – to a land below the horizon where I know you hide from me…”
― John Geddes, A Familiar Rain

IMG_1650_1“Broaden your horizons. They’re the only ones you’ll ever have, so make the suckers as wide as possible.” ― Jennifer Crusie, Anyone But You

IMG_1606“If we know exactly where we’re going, exactly how to get there, and exactly what we’ll see along the way, we won’t learn anything. ”
― M. Scott Peck


Retirement and Good Living Article

I was asked to write a short piece about our lives on Ometepe Island for a website Retirement and Good Living.  You can check out the article here. The Retirees and the Volcano.

I have to add that I love blogging. I have met so many wonderful people through my blog. Thanks to all my friends, old and new, who have enriched my life beyond my wildest dreams.


Helplessly Mute: A Trip to the Dentist

“Blessed are they who hold lively conversations with the helplessly mute, for they shall be called dentists.”
― Ann Landers

We’ve been searching for professional and trustworthy dentists in Nicaragua for three years. Finally, after excellent recommendations from several friends in Granada, Nicaragua, we found the perfect couple to attend to our dental needs.

Ron had major teeth problems and I needed a thorough cleaning. So, we contacted Dr. Erwin Esquivel Chavez through an email for an appointment. He responded the same day and set up appointments for our dental exams.

IMG_3759Meet the dentists: Dr. Erwin Esquivel Chavez and his wife Dra. Ximena Urbina Ordoez
Website: Clinica Dental Esquivel-Urbina
e-mail: erwinesquivel@hotmail.com
Office Phone: 2552-0664
The oral surgeon,Dr. Gilberto Martinez, aka TITO,
comes every Friday.
IMG_3760Dental Tourism is growing in Nicaragua. Dr. Erwin specializes in oral rehabilitation and implants. His wife, Dra. Ximena specializes in root canals.

State of the art dentistry at its best. Modern, sterilized equipment is provided for every procedure.
IMG_3762Gentle care: Dr. Erwin cleaned my teeth for over 1 and 1/2 hours. He took 5 x-rays and showed them to me immediately on his computer screen. He stopped often to ask if I felt any sensitivity. When my fingers started playing Fredric Chopin’s Polonaise (over the stereo system), he stopped suddenly, concerned that I was in pain. “Not at all,” I said, “I used to play this on the piano.” He was impressed…lol…because it is an extremely difficult piece to learn.
Ron had five teeth extracted by the oral surgeon. Next, he has to decide whether to get implants or partials. Where else can one sit in the office, watch the step-by-step extraction with a detailed explanation of everything in fluent English, and receive HUGS after it is over?


I asked the dentists if they are required to have liability insurance or malpractice insurance and they said that Nicaragua doesn’t have anything like that. So, the savings are passed down to the patients.
1. Teeth cleaning: $45
2. 9-10 x-rays:     $100
3. tooth extraction: $60
4. Ron had 5 teeth extracted, injections to numb his mouth, and stitches: $300 for all of his dental work.
5. Antibiotics and pain pills  $15
total: $460 for both of us
If he wants implants, they will cost $1,200 each for everything. For a partial denture: $300
Nicaragua is generally a cash only society, and the dentists were no exception.

If these same procedures were done in Tennessee, I calculated the cost using this website:
Dental Cost Calculator in the United States

1. Teeth cleaning     $84.71
2. single x-ray          $17.34                 for 10 x-rays    $170.34
3. Tooth extraction   $ 126.82             each additional tooth  $131.87
for 5 teeth  $ 654.30
4. Initial surgical consultation    $84.71
5. antibiotics and pain pills        $80

total:  $1,074.06

One Implant Placement:  $2,407.31
Partial Denture:                $1,544.97

We could have shopped around for a good dentist that would have been considerably less money. For example, Ron went to a dentist in Rivas and had a tooth removed. It cost $25. But, for the comfort, sterile environment, modern equipment, and dentists who speak fluent English, it was worth the extra money. They were wonderful and I would recommend these dentists to anyone seeking dental procedures. In fact, after our first appointment, we stopped at a main street cafe…a very touristy area. Two groups of people overheard us talking about the dentists and came over to our table to ask us more questions. Did I ever tell you how much we love Nicaragua…even when we are helplessly mute!

Also, see my new friend’s blog article Holes in the Head about her experience with these dentists.

Weekly Photo Challenge: The Hue of You

Our lives are like quilts- bits and pieces, joy and sorrow, colored with love.

This morning, we visited a tile factory in Granada, Nicaragua. It reminded me of the quilts my mother used to make. These tiles are a perfect representation of my life, colored with love.

Entering the tile factory

            Entering the tile factory

Blessed are the Piecemakers.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Dwelling in Infinite Possibilities

“I dwell in possibility…”
― Emily Dickinson

Nicaraguans dwell in infinite possibilities for:

Their children

Their country
They dwell in endless possibilities because of:

Their faith
396586_385070561573221_1509122162_nTheir perseverance and strength
IMG_2035Their intimate connection with the natural world. Earth Day celebrations picking up trash in our community.
IMG_6008Their growing belief that education is the key to a better world
IMG_5762and finally, their understanding and ability to blend the old with the new.

We Do House Hunters International!

In February, I received a comment on my blog:

I hope you do not mind me getting in touch. I work for an American property and travel show and I came across your blog whilst looking for people to participate in our popular documentary show and really enjoyed reading about your adventures!

We are currently looking for families and individuals to appear on our show who have recently relocated to new and exciting parts of the world and have an interesting story to tell – and it seems to me you would fit the bill.

I responded to the producer’s email:
One thing I need to mention is that we are not rich expats living in a gated community.  We’re simply adventurous retired teachers. We live a simple, comfortable lifestyle in a small rural community where we are the only foreigners. I think many people that watch your show would like to see more episodes that offer them hope of living comfortably on a fixed income abroad. We are actively involved in our little community and passionate about cultural immersion.

So, a TV crew came to Ometepe Island in May. We spent five fantastic, busy days filming for an episode of House Hunters International.

IMG_20130509_082857The crew was awesome and they gave us many tips for appearing on TV.
HHI - Ometepe 083 (800x600)I had to stand on blocks and bricks all the time.
HHI - Ometepe 074 (800x600)The best thing was filming our cultural immersion experiences. We went to our favorite indigenous community, Los Ramos, where we took the cultural cooking class and made delicious nacatamales.
cookin class copy 2All ingredients are ready.
IMG_20130510_160452Grandpa entertains everyone.
in los ramos copyMarvin, my iron man, is a new star!
IMG_20130509_134645They filmed us delivering my mobile lending library books to a school. It was a very touching scene because the sound man had tears in his eyes as he watched Lupita explore the new books.
delivering books copyRon taught swimming lessons to our local community. They had to do a lot of dry land exercises because the lake was so low.
IMG_2716Then, they walked to the deeper part of the lake to practice putting their heads under the water and blow bubbles.
IMG_2729The crew filmed a very popular swimming spot on the island called Ojo de Agua.
Our last shoot on the island at Punta Jesus Maria. I loved this crew!!!
saying goodbye copy 2Adios Ometepe
IMG_2777Please join us in our adventures on House Hunter’s International, on HGTV, November 7th, 2013 at 10:30 pm EST. The Retirees and the Volcano in Ometepe, Nicaragua.

Grieving For My Homeland: An expat’s political musings from the campo

IMG_3644There was a time when I thought, “How lucky we are to have the best of both worlds.” We own property in Nicaragua and the U.S. We are legal residents of two countries far apart in their ideological worlds, yet we can overcome these differences and live a culturally immersed life…coexisting peacefully with the similarities that unite us…a collective consciousness of human beings transcending political differences.

Yet, today, after a week of the U.S. government shutdown, I realized that this is not possible…not possible among the citizens of my own country…not possible among the citizens of the world. I am grieving for my homeland, desperately seeking a solution to stop this madness, and feeling quite helpless.

                                    Five Stages of Grieving for My Homeland

Talking Heads, Silent Hearts

                                                       Talking Heads, Silent Hearts

1. Shock and Denial: the initial paralysis
My initial reaction was one of politics as usual with checks and balances governing the United States of America. It won’t last long. They will all come to some agreement. I can’t worry about this because I have chickens to feed, sweet potatoes and peanuts to harvest, cows and pigs to shoo out of my property, and life goes on in the campo in Nicaragua regardless of what is happening far away in my homeland.

2. Anger: Frustrated outpouring of emotion bottled up for decades
Living in the campo, on a small isolated island in the middle of Nicaragua, in the middle of Central America, leaves few options to express my anger and outrage about the shenanigans of political terrorists holding my homeland hostage. Thank goodness my internet is working and I have a strong signal…most days. I confess. I used Facebook and other online media sources to express my anger…blaming anyone and everyone for the impasse.

3. Bargaining: Seeking a way out of this mess
Once I realized that there was no way one person’s comments on Facebook or another online media source would make a hoot of a difference, I became obsessed with researching facts to find solutions. My beachfront lawn became a tangle of overgrown weeds, tropical ant hills grew with millions of neglected little ant terrorists… garden produce rotted offending my olfactories, and a huge boil grew on my butt…the result of sitting on a plastic chair in the humid tropics for hours on end researching:
1. What are John Boehner’s motivating factors?
2. The effects of polarized media on political beliefs
3. Who is Ted Cruz?
4. What is a Discharge Petition?
5. Studies of the mindset of Republican and Democrat ideological bases
6. The Hundredth Monkey Syndrome and its effects on changing political beliefs
7. Why a clean CR vote is or is not an option
8. Daily polls on political dissatisfaction
9. Unbiased news sources…of which I could find NONE… Even BBC is biased.
10. Expats and the Affordable HealthCare Act
11. and finally…checking our stocks and retirement funds daily.

4. Depression: Final realization of the inevitable
This morning, I awoke to this statement in the Washington Post by Ezra Klein.

At this point, it’s almost cliché to say Washington isn’t working. But the truth is harsher: Washington is actively failing. It’s failing to craft policies that make the country better. And it’s failing to avoid disasters that make the country worse. It’s nice to imagine these failures are temporary or aberrational. It’s comforting to believe that they’re the result of bad people, or dumb people, or incompetent people. But the truth is more unnerving: The American political system is being torn apart by deep structural changes that don’t look likely to reverse themselves anytime soon. A deal to reopen the government won’t fix what ails American politics. ( Klein, E., The Washington Post, published October 7, 2013).

And, that folks, is the cause of my depression and current state of my emotional upheaval. I grieve for my homeland.

5. Testing and Acceptance: finding realistic solutions that work.
I feel disconnected from my government and worried about our future. I’ll end with a quote from Benjamin Franklin.

“We’ve spawned a new race here … We’re a new nationality. We require a new nation.” — Benjamin Franklin speaking at the Continental Congress, 7 June 1776

Something to think about.