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.

This month, Fuego y Agua Ultra Marathon racers donated the proceeds from their annual Beer Run to our La Paloma Elementary School.
fuego y agua copyTeachers have excellent shopping skills. We understand how to divide school supplies equitably among all the students, find age-appropriate materials, and buy quality materials that will hold up under much use and abuse in the classroom.

Our shopping trips to the mainland are unique. We have to take the ferry across the lake and go to many small stores to find the best prices and the supplies we need. It is always a long day of shopping. Hauling our supplies back to Ometepe Island takes strength, fortitude, and a variety of transportation including taxis, boats, and hopping rides in the back of pick-up trucks loaded with farmers and their bags of fruit going to market.

Teachers are aware, tolerant, and respectful of the needs of others. We understand the need for discreetness when buying uniforms and other supplies for underprivileged children. We distribute them privately so as not to create attention or cause envy among the other more fortunate children.

Teachers are the Masters of Ceremony. We hold assemblies, distribute school supplies, and believe me when I say…we enjoy every minute of it. We are all actors at heart and prepared for a performance on a moment’s notice.

We attend graduation ceremonies, shake hands, and there is always a lot of hugging. We love to hug.
IMG_9614Teachers know how to decorate their classrooms creatively. We are motivators, crowd movers, and masters of planning and organization.
IMG_1164Most importantly, we thoroughly enjoy being around people of all ages, genders, races, and nationalities. We are a diverse and tolerant group of educators who have learned how to ask for help in many ways…in many different languages. We have the ability to compassionately direct our classrooms with a variety of volunteers. We LOVE volunteers.

When you have retired abroad and the moment comes when you ask, “What can I do? I’m bored.” My advise is to do what you know. We all have unique skills that we can use to help others. Living in Nicaragua, I have learned that it takes a village to raise healthy, happy children. I am proud to pass on my skills to my local community, as well as to learn from others. It is true! We are all learners, doers, and teachers.

A special thanks to Fuego y Agua for their generous donations, to Laura and Ernesto for their donations for school uniforms, to Joe and Go for Hope for their donations of a new roof (the strong winds blew the roof off the library several weeks ago) and a safe for our library equipment, to Martha for her donation of a projector and supplies for our first aid kit, to Judy and the Red Oak Elementary School for children’s books and donations, and to our many volunteers who graciously give their time to read to the children and do special projects. Without YOU, this would not be possible. Hugs for everyone!!!

Do you do what you know? What are your passions?


29 thoughts on “Do What You Know

  1. Hi I have just returned to the UK after 3 months at The Little Cob House of Matagalpa, it is a library and so much more. Sounds very similar to your situation. I wish I had found your blog when I was in Nicaragua as it is full of common sense and the reality of living in Nicaragua. Thanks for your insights, I will keep reading.

  2. I loved your tribute to teachers as well as seeing your creativity and just-plain-hard-work and community spirit in action. I can’t understand how some retirees and exports might complain of boredom as I’ve seen this chapter in my life as a great gift of time to pursue the things I’ve wanted to do for so long. So far our retirement plan has left no hint of boredom but we have hopes to volunteer in our new adopted country when our travels slow down…

    • Thanks so much Anita. Retiring abroad has been the greatest gift for me, too. I have time and energy to do what I see needs to be done…with the help of many, many people. I couldn’t ask for a better place to retire. The needs are great, and I can help in so many small ways. Boredom….what IS that all about anyway?

  3. Debbie- beautiful and accurate description of the true heart and soul of a teacher… Your community is fortunate to have you and you are fortunate to have them… Some things are meant to be. Bless you all 💖💕🌟

      • That’s a blessing. You and I probably found new paths at good moments in time. After I retired from my school district, I spent a year as a volunteer coordinator for a supplemental reading program for kids K-2. It seemed like a great way to help struggling readers to get a leg up … but time in crowded classrooms ultimately made me feel very sad. It seemed the joy of learning was sucked out of the classroom and replaced with systems that were “proven” to engage all students with rote drills. I didn’t continue the next year- it was too heartbreaking… very much not my philosophy for learning.

  4. You all are doing a marvelous service of love in your village. I love your travel vest with pockets for books. 🙂 After 4 years we have yet to become bored, but then again we became totally immersed in the needs and happenings in our small village, not only for our Ecuadorian neighbors but also the expat community. Hugs from Ecuador 🙂

  5. beautiful post! i am one of those lucky ones and can not remember the last time i was bored.. for me, there are not enough hours in each day or days in each week for the many things i’d like to accomplish! i am grateful at this moment to have a short quiet time online so i can see what’s happening w/you.

    hope your pain is better – my fingers sometimes contort w/spasms, but then they’re fine again in a minute or so…


  6. I call that ….service work….. you are servicing children with your knowledge, time and creativity…. and not expecting anything in return monetarily.
    Giving back is essential in moving forward and growing as a human being
    How interesting that your path has led you to a country and area where your expertise has already changed the lives of many children whom will “”grow on.”””… and remember how they were treated with the special education they received from your creations.

    your bored when your self-centered and believe the world is all about you…
    time for these “”””boring people “” to get their ,,,groove on and open their minds , but mostly their hearts and souls!!!

    Life is not all about money , and me , me and me and more money,,,certainly those whom supposedly retired there and are still,,,,looking for their “purpose” will figure out that its all about,,,,,servicing others.

    Upon my future move there ,I would love to offer my services as a photographer… and my specialty is photographing children ,,,which you can view on a very cool video I wrote and of course shot ..

    all the kids ,,, on my photo webpage called …”””SIMPLY MAGICAL””””
    Iv’e shot kids fashion for years in NYC and Miami, etc.( preteens, teens,adults, families)

    I have many galleries so tune in to the “”kids fashion”” , covers , and many other videos, skip the wedding preview beginning of my web page and go to GALLERIES….

    Aside from shooting destination weddings that are booked by my rep in Miami and events, I will be shooting for various organizations ,,( as a service work,,,) and intend on doing hands on service work as well.

    Please keep me in mind!

    As one of my favorite people in the world said…..



    -Mother Teresa

    • Oh Heidi, your 4 comments made me laugh. Sometimes, if you are using another device, your comments have to be approved. They were all waiting for me to approve, except for the two short ones that you must have written on your laptop or regular device. So, I deleted all of them except for your first one. Sorry you had so much trouble posting.
      I love your photography, especially your shots of children. You have a talent to capture their essence. I doubt that you will ever say, “I’m bored.” You have many talents that I know you will put to excellent use in Nicaragua. Thanks, my friend.

  7. I’m sure teachers are needed for the kids. You fit in great doing that and have lots of experience in that area. I agree we are all learners, doers and teachers of something, or perhaps several things. Doing what you know is good advice and would keep the boredom at bay, if an individual becomes bored.

    • Hi Sunni,
      February has been an exceptionally busy month for me with visitors, school starting, and other pressing deadlines. I think I am busier now than when I was working full-time. I said to Ron the other day, “How did I work two jobs, come home, make dinner, clean the house, and help our son with his homework?” It all seems impossible to me now. Boredom is not a word in my vocabulary…never has been.

      • Good for you! I’m never bored either. Too busy to be bored. I often ask myself the same thing about working, cleaning, cooking dinner, etc. I wonder how I ever did that myself when I was younger and working full time.

  8. Much appreciated, especially since one of my goals in moving to Panama is to be able to teach ESL. My secondary motivation in wanting this is to learn as much Espanol as possible from my ‘students,’ even though I’ll be the student in many cases. Thanks for the affirmation, and keep up the good work. It’s wonderful when people find their bliss.

    • Let me tell you that the easiest way for me to learn Spanish was to teach ESL classes. We helped each other and I learned how difficult our English language is for Spanish speakers. I think Spanish is a beautiful language and so descriptive in unique ways. For example, when a woman gives birth it is called “da la luz” …give the light. Isn’t that a beautiful way to describe birth? Good luck. You will be amazed how much you will learn, as well as how rewarding it is to teach. Plus, you will make many new friends and be accepted into their families as good friends. 🙂

  9. Hi, its Laura from Canada again………weeks ago you were asking for info regarding setting up a hospice. There is a new hospice set up in the Leeward Islands, in Antigua. It was started by Agnes Meeker, she would not mind me using her name. Its on the grounds of the old hospital. Whats really exciting now is that there is a Atlantic Rowers Challenge and the last rowers are coming in now…..the proceeds from our Antigua Rowers, the Wadadli team, the proceeds are going to the hospice. Everybody is quite excited about all of this….its runs as a non profit organization. Its called the st. Johns hospice. YOu can find it on line and on facebook……..if you want to get some ideas. She is now in her late seventies, and has stepped away from the day to day administration. She is also writer and historian…..look her up…..thanks Laura.,

I'd love to read your ideas and thoughts below....

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.