Weekly Photo Challenge: Happiness is Nothing But a State of Mind


“Happiness is nothing but a state of mind which only your thoughts and beliefs could place you in.” ― Edmond Mbiaka

The Weekly Photo Challenge is State of Mind.

Today we went to look at land for sale on the Pacific Coast with our son and soon-to-be daughter-in-law. On the land there was a deep, dry well. It is the dry season and everything is parched, brittle, and brown.

We gathered around the deep well and our dreams began to flow of what we could do if we owned this piece of land. Some would say pessimistically that when the well is dry, it is time to stop dreaming. But, my family believes in dreams and adventure.

Find the thing you want to do most intensely and do it with all your might. When the well is dry, it is only a state of mind that can be overcome with purpose and optimism. Happiness is our state of mind, which we found in the bottom of the deep, dry well.

Where do you find happiness?

Do What You Know


“Learning is finding out what you already know. Doing is demonstrating that you know it. Teaching is reminding others that they know just as well as you. You are all learners, doers, teachers.”
― Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

What do you do after moving abroad when the newness wears off and you feel like everything has become routine? I hear many expats say, “I need to find my purpose here.”

For some, it may take several years to find their purpose. Others never find it and become disgruntled and dissatisfied because their adopted country doesn’t meet their high expectations. I arrived on Ometepe Island as a freshly retired teacher with two children’s Spanish books. Because of those children’s books and 30 years of teaching K-12 and University education majors, I found my passion naturally.

The neighborhood kids came to my house regularly to read the books over and over. It didn’t take me long to find my purpose. I did what I knew the best…teaching. I became a rewired and retired teacher…my own boss…and started a children’s library in my little local La Paloma Elementary School.

I converted a storage room into a library, made bookcases, collected over 2,000 children’s books in Spanish with the help of many generous benefactors, and hired and trained Maxwell to be my librarian.  He took English lessons from me eleven years ago…and when I expressed my need for a librarian…there he was.

I Do What I Know Best


Teachers are master fundraisers.
We know exactly what the students need and how to get what they need. We beg, plead, and seek donations, discounts, and items on sale like professional bargainers. We are marketing marvels…selling the needs of our students to everyone who passes by our classroom doors. Continue reading

The Heart of My Home


“The heart of the home beats in the kitchen and a healthy one beats three times a day” ― Bangambiki Habyarimana, The Great Pearl of Wisdom

 

Good food and a warm kitchen make a house a home. In 2004, our tropical island kitchen lacked what most would call aesthetically pleasing conveniences, but since we were  renting our beach shack in our experiment with ‘pretirement’, we could only dream of the kitchen we would eventually call home.
DSCN1120With only a two-top stove burner and no storage space, we still managed to make our funky kitchen the heart of our home.
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Four Places on Ometepe Island to Study, Love, and Stay Close to Nature


“Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.” ~ Frank Lloyd Wright

On Valentine’s Day we took our friends on a tour of Ometepe Island. Our neighbor has a new touring van, and for $50 for the entire day, he took us to our four favorite places.

First Stop: Charco Verde Nature Reserve

Slowing down to observe nature is an art. By examining the shapes of trees, the colors of the flowers, or noticing the ways a landscape can change over time with different effects of light, always provides me with inspiration in the natural world.

I am fascinated with the study of ethology, or the study of non-human animal behavior…especially the Howler monkeys. On the Charco Verde trails we always see Howler monkeys. Depending on the time of day, they are either swinging gleefully among the branches, howling loudly, or napping peacefully in the tree tops. This morning, they were snoozing.

The cormorants gathered to feed at the edge of the green lagoon, while the goats wandered and bleated along the trails. Butterflies, iguanas, and  hurracas ( like big Blue Jays),  fluttered, fled, and flitted throughout the dusty trails.

It was a beautiful morning to be up close to nature. It never fails us.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Cling Tightly


The Weekly Photo is Life Imitates Art.

Mori Sosen ( 1747-1821) was a famous Japanese painter known best for his paintings of monkeys. I feel that this painting represents the love and care all mothers give to their children, but it can be dangerous when the baby is left unattended for only a minute. Notice how the baby is desperately trying to cling to his mother. Is there a hidden danger in the forest that could separate this little one from his mother permanently?

Mori-Sosen-Japanese-Painter-Edo-Period-japanese-ink-painting-japanese-animal-painting (18)Today in a restaurant, I noticed a tiny Howler monkey wrapped around a man’s neck. Upon closer inspection, the baby monkey had lost or injured his eye. I asked the man if I could take a picture of the baby Howler and he gently unwrapped the monkey clinging tightly around his neck.

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Humans of Nicaragua: Wilber’s Story


“The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.” ~B.B. King

How does one choose between an education and food for one’s family? It is difficult for me to understand from my secure, economically stable, and knowledgeable world. But, choosing to provide for one’s family instead of going to school is a commonplace decision habitually made in most developing countries throughout the world.

The power of education or the power of family? It is almost impossible for me to imagine that this choice has to be made.  Yet in Nicaragua, it really isn’t a choice for the poor; instead, it is a way of life. Food or education? Medicine or education? Low paid unskilled labor or education? The poor do not choose. That is a myth that I am beginning to understand from living in Nicaragua.

Without an education, it is difficult for me to understand how people function in a literate, high-tech world. According to UNESCO Institute for Statistics, the adult literacy rate is the percentage of people ages 15 and above who can both read and write with understanding a short simple statement about their everyday life. In Nicaragua, 78% of the population is literate. Literacy chart comparing 215 countries.

It is almost impossible to imagine what it is like to be illiterate, unable to read or write words, and how terrifying and confusing the world must seem. Five years ago, this was the bewildering world in which Wilber lived. He knew very little about education and even less about the literate world surrounding him.

When Wilber was nine years old, his father ran off with another woman leaving him to care for a sick mother and his younger brother. He quit school and applied for a job as a farm hand on Ometepe Island.

“The farm owner said I was too tiny to work, but I convinced him to hire me because I needed to support my family.” ~ Wilber

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Fuego y Agua Survival Run 2016


“The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.”
― John Bingham, No Need for Speed: A Beginner’s Guide to the Joy of Running 

Ron and I volunteer every year for the Fuego y Agua Survival Run and Trail Races. The first week in February is my favorite time of the year because I witness dedication, perseverance, strength, endurance, stamina, courage and GUTSINESS all in one amazing week. 

This year’s Survival Run was BRUTAL. Racers contended with 90+ degree heat, carried 30 lbs. of plantains up and down a 5,500 ft. volcano, ran for two hours holding a live chicken, maneuvered through the cloud forest at night carrying 20-ft bamboo poles, caught fish, and climbed trees…all within a span of 25 hours.

When we arrived at the pre-race events Friday morning, 60 survival runners from around the world gathered to compete. They divided into teams for the pre-race events and organized their team members into those who dug holes with their bare hands, those who made rafts, and those who searched for puzzle pieces in a giant plantain field.

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Let’s Get Real About Packing and Moving to Nicaragua


“I hear there are people who actually enjoy moving. Sounds like a disease to me – they must be unstable” ~ Jan Neruda, Prague Tales

 

When Ron and I finally decided to move to Nicaragua, our first question was, “How do we get all of our stuff there?” I had a brilliant-to-me idea. I contacted the cruise ships to see if it was possible to book a one-way trip from Miami to San Juan Del Sur. Then, we could unload all of our stuff from the cruise ship, hire a truck or van to take us to San Jorge, and board the ferry to our new-to-us shack we purchased on Ometepe Island. It was the cheapest option I could find, as well as sounding like a lot of fun. For a few days, we would have a floating storage locker in our stateroom on a giant cruise ship.

Cruise ship in San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua

Cruise ship in San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua

“Sure, that is possible,” said the first booking agent. She proceeded to tell me how it could be done and I thought…this is so easy. I am brilliant.

I contacted a second agent to ask about luggage limits. She said there were no restrictions. Again, I told myself, this is genius!

But, the third agent must have had a bad day when I asked her if there were restrictions about what I could pack. “Can I bring a trunk with my pots and pans and is there room in the stateroom for our kayak?” I asked.

“Why would you need to bring pots and pans? You can’t be cookin’ any beans in your stateroom,” she snarled. So, I had to tell her that we were moving to Nicaragua and we wanted to bring several trunks with our possessions.

“This isn’t the Grapes of Wrath and it sure isn’t a moving company, so find another way to move!” and she hung up on me. Back to the drawing board!

The way I see it, there are three options for packing and moving your stuff to Nicaragua. So, for my monthly Let’s Get Real series…

                  Let’s Get Real About Packing and Moving to Nicaragua

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How to Get Absentee Ballots for U.S. Citizens


Voting-Quote-1My husband and I have always exercised our right to vote in local, state, and national elections. Even as expats, we continue to vote for we believe that “the ballot is stronger than the bullet.”

With important elections in the United States now upon us, I want to explain our process of receiving absentee ballots and voting from Nicaragua.

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