Our Visit with President Jimmy Carter


“Each meeting occurs at the precise moment for which it was meant. Usually, when it will have the greatest impact on our lives.”
― Nadia Scrieva, Fathoms of Forgiveness

I don’t believe in coincidences. Life is serendipitous. We have always been lucky in making fortunate discoveries completely by accident. Such was our day today. We rode our motorcycle into Moyogalpa this morning to meet some friends at the Corner House for breakfast. “Why is town a buzz with military carrying AK-47s this morning?” Ron asked. No one knew why. Cindi and Alan passed a motorcade on their way into town to meet us. There were police and military stationed all over the island at the most popular tourist stops. Hmmm….

Robinson will know. He always knows everything. “Robinson, what’s happening on the island today?” I asked when I called him. “President Jimmy Carter is visiting with his family. He just got off the ferry and he’s headed to Santo Domingo for lunch at Villa Paraiso,” he said. This was an opportunity I was NOT going to miss.

I bought some local gifts at the Corner House…a jar of homemade peanut butter ( a perfect gift for a former peanut farmer), a jicote carving, a small jar of turmeric, handmade soap with neem insect repellant, and a homemade gift bag. “Where can I find a note card in town?” “I’ve never seen any note cards, but Arcia’s has some nice postcards,” Gary, the owner of the Corner House responded.

I walked quickly to Arcia’s on my mission as a cultural ambassador of Ometepe Island. Rapidly, I wrote a little note on the postcard welcoming President Carter to Ometepe Island. Then, we jumped on our motorcycles and zipped across the island to Santo Domingo. Forty minutes later we arrived at Villa Paraiso.

Now this is the serendipitous moment: Just as we arrived, President Carter and his family were leaving. I couldn’t help myself…I ran up and hugged him. I didn’t think about the guys with the AK-47s. I just wanted to share my enthusiasm for Ometepe Island with him.
meeting Jimmy CarterHe graciously accepted my gifts and was happy to pose with us for pictures.
gifts for Jimmy(1) 2When I told him about the homemade peanut butter, he asked Ron many questions about where it was grown and how it was processed…in fluent Spanish!!
Ron and JimmyAlan took our pictures and was thrilled to shake hands with President Carter.
alan meets JimmyWhat a wonderful day! That’s one of the many reasons I love living here. The world comes to us. We never know who we will meet.

Here are some more pictures of President Carter visiting our local museum.

President Carter and his family enter the local museum.

                                President Carter and his family enter the local museum.

President Carter and the first lady at the museum.

                              President Carter and the first lady at the museum.

I hope they enjoyed our local treasures.

                                    I hope they enjoyed our local treasures.

President Carter views the display cases.

                                         President Carter views the display cases.

On December 10, 2002, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2002 to Mr. Carter “for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development.” (The Carter Center) He is the perfect person to visit our island of peace. I am so honored to have met him. What a serendipitous day!

The Carter Center

 

 

 

 

 

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Joy


“Old friends pass away, new friends appear. It is just like the days. An old day passes, a new day arrives. The important thing is to make it meaningful: a meaningful friend – or a meaningful day.” ~Dalai Lama

The Weekly Photo Challenge is Joy.  “The years’ end is a perfect time to look back at the year-that-was and happily forward to the year-that-will-be.” Blissful joy to me is a blending of the old with the new.
On my walk to pick Jamiaca flowers this morning, I noticed beautiful Jamiaca flower leaves trapped in the rusty old barbed wire fence. A joyful blending of the old and the new makes a meaningful day for me. I hope your day overflows with joyful and meaningful experiences.

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Women’s Soccer in Nicaragua


“Soccer isn’t the same as Bach or Buddhism. But it is often more deeply felt than religion, and just as much a part of the community’s fabric, a repository of traditions.”
― Franklin Foer, How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization

Las Divinas de Los Ramos

Las Divinas de Los Ramos

This year, the indigenous community of Los Ramos on Ometepe Island started a women’s soccer team. Twenty-two young women ages 12-31 joined Las Divinas. And, oh how divine this team is! Their lack of uniforms, soccer shoes, and proper equipment didn’t hold them back. They ran in bare feet and practiced with a homemade goal constructed with a large PVC pipe, while onlookers held their babies and cheered for this determined group of women.

Sports, in general, are great motivators to help people around the world to connect with one another and become united. The community of Los Ramos recognizes the potential for soccer to help improve their young women’s lives through fostering teamwork, teaching the importance of hard work, dedication, and cooperation with others. They believe that the humble beginnings of The Divine Women’s Soccer team can effect positive social change in their community, as well as play an important role in the fight for gender equality in Nicaragua.

I would like to help this team buy uniforms and equipment for their next soccer season. With your donations, we can help them fulfill their dreams of a brighter and divine future for women in the Los Ramos community.  They have compiled a list of needed items, the costs, and where they will buy their uniforms. Any extra money received, once the goal is met, will go to purchase soccer balls, nets, and other equipment these deserving young women will need.

Here is the YouCaring donation page: The Divine Women’s Soccer Team

All donations will go directly to The Divine Women’s Soccer team. I’ll be sure to update you with pictures, team scores, and profiles of some of the women that you have supported. Thank you so much in advance for your generosity.

A little information about Nicaraguans and the internet:
The soccer coach visited my home several times, and gave me a carefully compiled list of what they need, the costs, and the places where they will buy the soccer uniforms and equipment. He also compiled a list of all the women, their ages, and showed me all of their identification cards. Then he said, “Can you put this on the internet for us?” I silently chucked to myself because they don’t understand how the internet works. It’s a mysterious miracle to them. In exchange for a bag of beans, two watermelons, and lots of hugs and thank yous, I said, “I will be glad to put your soccer team on the internet for you.”

Women’s Soccer Exchange
Our Women’s Soccer Team
Soccer Without Borders in Nicaragua

Christmas Traditions…Bah Humbug?


“Just because something is traditional is no reason to do it, of course.”
― Lemony Snicket, The Blank Book

I’m not one for holding too many traditions. We had a Christmas tree until Cory graduated from high school, then we ditched the live tree mainly because we ran out of room on our property to replant our Christmas trees.  My Christmas tree ornaments, which I so carefully bought over many years, are still stored in our garage in the states. Bah Humbug, some may say, but, honestly it simplified my life and I could concentrate on the really important aspects of the Christmas holidays like visiting family and friends and baking cookies.

Below is my Bah Humbug list of Christmas traditions we’ve discarded for a simpler life, or we have been forced to discard because we live on a tropical island far from the mainstream:

1. Presents: I used to make all my Christmas gifts. Each year I had a new theme: batik, gift baskets, homemade dog and cat biscuits, those little mason jars filled with layers of brownie mix or hot chocolate, homemade jams, Scherenschnitte pictures and frames,        which means paper cutting in German, watercolor paintings, and gift bags from our travels around the world. Now, I bake cookies and give them to all our friends and neighbors on Ometepe Island. It is a real treat because most of my friends don’t have ovens and ( if you can believe this) they have never eaten a chocolate chip cookie.

2. Shopping: I was never one for going to the malls in December, and I only attended one Black Friday event. The invention of internet shopping became my sole way to shop for Christmas presents. I love Amazon, but even that is something I can only dream about in Nicaragua. 

3. Decorating the house for Christmas: Oh, the collection of snowmen, those little ceramic Christmas trees, nativity scenes, wreaths, and hopelessly tangled Christmas lights and icicles I have given away in yard sales. This year, my 10-year-old friend, Lauren, made me a wreath to hang on my door out of Styrofoam cups. Since I wanted something a little twinkly to add beside the wreath, I took four used rum bottles, steamed the labels off, added some water, green and red food coloring, and set them on my porch railing beside the hanging wreath. It adds a festive touch to my entrance when the tropical sun shines through them. However, it confuses my hummingbirds. They’ve been buzzing around the red bottles with a puzzled and very determined look.

4. Christmas cards: I gave up that tradition long ago when the cost of a stamp was more than a small homemade gift. We don’t have mail delivery on the island, so that settles any thought of buying Christmas cards… which I’ve never seen here anyway.

5. Trips to see the Christmas lights: At the Bristol Motor Speedway, they have a fantastic collection of Christmas lights and scenes. What made it so cool was that we could drive our car around the speedway to see all the light displays. Now, very few homes have Christmas lights, and the ones that do are only lit up for a short period because 1. Electricity is expensive here 2. We don’t want to take our motorcycle out after dark because there are too many obstacles on the dirt paths and the few paved roads. 3. When electric demand is high, those who have the power ( literally) ration our usage. For example, there was a huge techno concert the other night. The surrounding towns were cut-off from electricity so the techno concert could go on without missing an eardrum shattering beat.
speedway in lights

Ometepe Island still maintains its simplified Christmas traditions. Here are a few.

Church is still very important. The Virgin Mary statue is paraded around town for La Purisma for the first eight days of December accompanied by loud firecrackers and pipe bombs.
IMG_0685Nativity scenes abound…but where is baby Jesus? Traditionally, the manger is empty until Christmas Eve, then baby Jesus is tenderly placed in the manger.
IMG_0684Traditional handmade gifts are given…twig brooms, arts and crafts, fans, hats to shade one from the tropical sun, cloth dolls, handmade baskets and toys, and always lots of fruits.
IMG_0681Nacatamales..the traditional midnight Christmas Eve dinner.
IMG_0786Beautiful Christmas cakes adorn special parties.
IMG_0712Gift giving is traditional, and the gifts are usually given at midnight on Christmas Eve, but they open their gifts in private because they don’t want to embarrass the humble gift giver. Below are some of the gifts we received this year…bread fruit, lots of watermelons, underwear, socks, jewelry, a Christmas wreath, and precious Pre-Columbian pottery that my friend, Mitchel, dug out of a construction site where he was working.

In return, I keep up one tradition…my annual Christmas cookies. It seems fitting to me to continue this tradition because homemade cookies are scarce in Nicaragua, and I love sharing a tradition I have held for many years with my island friends and neighbors.
IMG_0725I hope your holiday is overflowing with family, friends, and lots of sweet things this year.

Moments of Bliss This Holiday Season


“One instant, you’re just a regular Joe, schlepping through your mundane life, and then suddenly – what is this? – nothing has changed, yet you feel stirred by a grace, swollen with wonder, overflowing with bliss. Everything – for no reason whatsoever – is perfect.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

This busy holiday season, I have become acutely aware of those tiny, fleeting moments of bliss. They restore my sanity, alleviate my stress, and fill me with a sense of wonderment and gratitude…no matter how quickly the moment passes.

Everyday since we’ve returned from the states, we’ve had a houseful of visitors. Now, don’t get me wrong…I enjoy company and take delight in sharing our stories and playing with the kids, but I have so much to do this holiday and little time to do it. When I do get a moment of soulful solitude…it’s blissful.
IMG_0392Ron and I have a running argument about cutting the grass. He likes the wild, untamed look, where I prefer the low landscaped look mainly because I don’t like to be surprised by all the creepy crawlies that bite my feet when I’m wearing flip-flops. Julio came to cut our grass with a machete the other day and Ron said, “Don’t cut the grass under the banana plants because the long tufts sway in the wind. They’re really beautiful when the wind blows.” So, I learned to compromise when I spotted a golden tuft of grass near the lake fluttering and dancing in the breeze. Another blissful moment!
IMG_0654An Osprey was diving for fish over the lake. I glimpsed freedom perched on his wings. It dawned on me that I am as free as the Osprey…I can fulfill my passions without interference. What a blissful moment!
IMG_0360A friend of mine once told me that when I see the litter in Nicaragua as a thing of beauty, then I have arrived. We jokingly call all the colored plastic bags hanging on every tree branch, “Nicaraguan flowers.” I experienced a moment of bliss watching the shreds of plastic bags twinkle in the setting sun. I guess I have arrived.
IMG_0550I don’t often have roaring belly laughs, but yesterday when I was in the park, I spotted the peeing boy fountain wearing new attire. Belly laughs are blissful!
IMG_0691Christmas shopping is stressful. I used to take pride in avoiding all shopping malls over the holiday season. Now, we have no shopping malls and life is simple. Yesterday, I had a moment of bliss while watching the handmade Christmas tree stars sway over the town.
IMG_0688I’ve been in a tizzy trying to make Christmas cookies for everyone in our community. Fortunately, I have lots of helpers, but it is still nerve-racking because all directions need to be in Spanish, and I have to teach them how to use a mixer, a microwave, an oven, and my icing bag with all the different attachments. Lourdes was whipping icing and whirled the green icing all over my kitchen walls. But, there were several moments of bliss, when the cookies came out of the oven. The smells of cookies right from the oven…blissful.
IMG_0672I wish you all to be swollen with wonder, stirred by a grace, and overflowing with bliss this holiday season. No matter how fleeting the moment…life is perfect!

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: On the First Day of Christmas


For The Weekly Photo Challenge: This week, we want to see photos that focus on one thing. Here is my interpretation of  “On the First Day of Christmas” Nicaraguan style. Instead of “On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me, a partridge in a pear tree: “On the first day of Christmas Nicaragua gave to me….

One hummer humming

                                                       One hummer a humming

One cormorant a flying

                                                     One cormorant a flying

One champion cock a fighting

                                                 One champion cock a fighting

One parrot a mimicking

                                              One parrot a mimicking

One pink chick a preening

                                                    One pink chick a preening

One heron a fishing

                                                        One heron a fishing

One owl a dizzy

                                                             One owl a dizzy

One hurracha a robbing

                                                           One Urraca a robbing

One black bird a injured

                                                       One black bird a injured

One nest a tweeting

                                                            One nest a tweeting

And a chicken in every Christmas pot

                                             And a chicken in every Christmas pot

Happy holidays to everyone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Does Your Looking-Glass Reflect?


“The world is a looking-glass, and gives back to every man the reflection of his own face. Frown at it, and it will in turn look sourly upon you; laugh at it and with it, and it is a jolly kind companion; and so let all young persons take their choice.”
― William Makepeace Thackeray

IMG_0634I have often wondered why mirrors are a prized possession of the poor in Latin America. We all have mirrors, but in Nicaragua mirrors are a luxury. They are very expensive and there are many mirror salesman that travel the dusty, cow manured roads in search of buyers for their precious portals. My neighbor has a large, faux gold framed mirror in her living space. It hangs high on a dilapidated wall, the only shining adornment in her dirt-floored shack… if you don’t count the picture of Jesus beside the TV, which is wobbling against the cement block wall.

In the Mesoamerican culture, mirrors were used as a portal to another realm. I imagine them gazing into this mysterious portal, unable to interact, yet performing time-worn rituals to call forth the gods of love, health, and riches. This venerable tradition evolved from their early beliefs that the smooth surface of water could be used as a potent tool for divination, seeing the unknown, portals to the sacred caves, conduits of the supernatural forces, and as synonyms for the power of the sun. Before mirrors, bowls of water were used to examine the reflections of sick children. If the child’s reflection was dark then his soul, or tonalli in Nahuatl, had escaped from his body. I wonder, were the ancient ones frustrated because they couldn’t enter nirvana…constantly chanting “Beam me up, Scotty?” Or, were they satisfied in the powers of divination only with the ability to see the unknown?

This novelty of reflection continues in my little community. Peering into the mirror, the children let out a burst of giggling glee. They have the same reaction when I show them the digital photos I’ve taken. Then, I begin to realize that for people who have next to nothing, a mirror is an unattainable luxury. I am dumbstruck. It is hard for me to imagine a world where self-reflection is an unattainable luxury.

IMG_0651 But, mirrors, as well as digital photography, can change that. They enable the poor to see the world through different eyes. I experience a moment of pure bliss in watching the children look at their reflections in the mirror and on my camera. They laugh at it and with it, considering it to be a kind of jolly companion. Pity and sympathy for their impoverished lifestyles vanish with the revelation that they are truly happy. This family chose to look at the world with optimism and joy. The world is their looking-glass, and gives back to them the reflections of their triumphant faces. This simple moment changed my perspective of poverty. Their looking-glass reflects hope for this troubled world in which we live. 


                                     What does your looking-glass reflect?
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View our House Hunters International Show


If you missed our episode of House Hunters International, click this link to watch it. I published it unlisted on YouTube, so you won’t be able to find it by doing a search on YouTube. Enjoy! This was so much fun to make.

House Hunters International: The Retirees and the Volcano on Ometepe Island

Weekly Photo Challenge: My Hard-Working Community


This week, in a post created specifically for this challenge, show us community, and interpret it any way you please! The Weekly Photo Challenge  My Ometepe Island community is composed of hard-working people of all ages.

“Determine never to be idle. No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time, who never loses any. It is wonderful how much may be done, if we are always doing.” ― Thomas Jefferson

Have oxen, will pick up and deliver

                                                 Have oxen, will pick up and deliver

“There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.”
― Beverly Sills

Have sugar cane, will travel.

                             Have sugar cane, will travel.

“Many who are self-taught far excel the doctors, masters, and bachelors of the most renowned universities.” ― Ludwig von Mises

Have boat, will fish.

                                                        Have boat, will fish.

“No one understands and appreciates the American Dream of hard work leading to material rewards better than a non-American. ”
― Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly

Have wood, will cook.

                                         Have wood, will cook.

“Sometimes there’s not a better way. Sometimes there’s only the hard way.”
― Mary E. Pearson, The Fox Inheritance

Have hands, will pick beans.

                                                    Have hands, will pick beans.

“Children take joy in their work and sometimes as adults we forget that’s something we should continue doing.”
― Ashley Ormon, God in Your Morning

Have goats, will raise.

                                     Have goats, will raise.

“All success comes down to this . . . action” ― Rob Liano

Have cart, will collect garbage.

                                          Have cart, will haul your stuff.

“As I tell my children, ‘If you are going to do something, do your best while you’re doing it.”
― Michelle Moore, Selling Simplified

Have puppies, will charm you into buying them.

               Have puppies, will charm you into buying them.

 

 

 

Holiday Gifts from Nicaragua


shop localLiving in Nicaragua, Christmas shopping gives me a new outlook on the importance of shopping local. Buying local stimulates the economy, creates new jobs provided by local businesses, reduces the environmental impact, and nonprofits receive greater support. Although Nicaragua is still in its infancy in high-tech shopping online, there are  a few websites devoted to selling their products from Nicaragua.

Enjoy the list I have compiled and Happy Local Shopping.

1. Masaya Market-Handmade Gifts  One of the few websites where you can buy online.
2. Sexy and Sexy 
One of Nicaragua’s first online-only stores. Warning: This is an adult erotic supply website. Leave it to Nicaragua to develop a virtual sex shop as a way to help innovate the way the internet is used in Nicaragua.
3. Vidalife Granada  This website focuses on shopping in Granada, Nicaragua. Check out the directory of services.
4. Una Buena Chica Nica  A Facebook page displaying her fine local crafts in San Juan del Sur.
5. Empowerment International  Give a gift of education for impoverished Nicaraguan children through this wonderful organization.
6. Nicaraguan Cultural Alliance   a U.S.-based organization that works to support the arts and community development projects in Nicaragua.
7. Fabretto   Fabretto’s mission is to empower children and their families in Nicaragua to reach their full potential and improve their livelihoods through education and nutrition.
8. Nica Nelly  Purchasing pottery, hammocks, Nicaraguan coffee, and other crafts from NicaNelly directly benefits the artisans from Nicaragua who take pride in their craftsmanship.
9. La Esperanza Granada  Give a gift of educational supplies that will last a lifetime.
10. Opportunity International  Shop in the Ojala Store The Ojala brand represents the creativity and potential of Nicaraguan microentrepreneurs

In addition to these online stores and NGOs that support local craftsmen, below are a few resources from Melissa, an expat friend who has lived in Nicaragua for 10 years. Thanks Melissa for the pictures and contacts.

eggnog

An awesome locally made eggnog, with or without rum. 8-404-1816 for info on where to get in Managua.

nativity scene

From Pesebres, hand-carved jicaro shells, and baby Jesus is in a cradle made from pine needles from Cusmapa, terranica.artesanos@gmail.com

chopping block

An early Christmas gift made using gorgeous woods by Crearte. Maria and Gerardo Gutierrez run the place and have a shop in Masaya. gerardojoselopez16@hotmail.com

Again, happy local shopping this holiday season. If you have any additional links for Nicaraguan products, please add the link in a comment below.