Coming Home?


“There is a kind of madness about going far away and then coming back all changed.”~ Gypsytoes

Madness describes my feelings about returning home. I haven’t written on my blog for months because what can I say that hasn’t already been said before? With mixed emotions we left Nicaragua mid July. I don’t want to go into all the gritty details of the move. Instead, I want to try to explain the emotional turmoil I have felt since returning home.

Where is home? We have no idea. People say that home is where the heart is, yet my heart is broken for Nicaragua and for the United States, thus I can’t honestly say I am anywhere close to home at this point in my life. The week we arrived, we bought a car and drove to Canada. 5,200 miles later, we have returned to our rented house in the states where we have a little bedroom. Thank goodness we didn’t burn any bridges and our good friends who rent our house feel comfortable letting us stay for a while.

We gorged on fresh berries, sweet corn-on-the-cob, spinach, and fig newtons, treats we could never find in Nicaragua. But, it didn’t satiate our quest to find our home in this mad, mad world. We could have stayed in Canada for 6 months without a visa, but winter was approaching and although I love the idea of snuggling under down blankets and knitting fuzzy warm socks…our bodies are acclimated to a hot, hot climate. We would never survive a winter in Canada.

From thriving cities like Montreal and Quebec City, to the countryside with lush fields of vegetables, to quaint fishing villages in Prince Edward Island, we drove through awe-inspiring vistas. Everything was so neat, orderly, and clean! So unlike the place we called home in Nicaragua.

We asked each other everyday, “What do you miss about Nicaragua?” Not surprisingly, the answers were always, “Not much.” Leaving Nicaragua I was washed with relief, yet drowning in lingering anger about the Ortega regime and disillusionment about people in general.

It is the process of grieving, I understand that, but everything changed so quickly. One morning we were living in the heyday of Nicaragua, the pinnacle of success, then the next day the country collapsed. It is still unbelievable to me.


Now that I have had two months to process leaving our home in Nicaragua, I am still trying to sort out my feelings. Some days I am overwhelmed with anger. The violence and murders have slowed down, but things are not normal in Nicaragua. Tourism is dead, the economy is collapsing, thousands of Nicaraguans have fled the country. Repression, torture,and imprisonment are the new norms.

I feel guilty because we had options to leave Nicaragua when so many don’t have any options. I am angry because the people are suffering without jobs. I am outraged at the atrocities that have occurred. I am heartbroken for those who are imprisoned and tried in a kangaroo court without a lawyer because they marched and protested for a better life and their human rights. I am appalled at the torture of innocent people. I am puzzled by the reactions, denial, blame and indifference of some people living as guests in Nicaragua. I am alarmed at the repression and fear this regime has instilled.


Although the dark days hang like a repressive cloud over Nicaragua, I have no regrets about the many years we lived immersed in the culture. My only regret is that I had planned on turning my “Let’s Get Real about Nicaragua” series into a book. Now, that series is only a sad reminder of the way things were.

My grief for Nicaragua will slowly diminish, but probably never completely disappear. That is a part of life, right? I have never been one to feel totally helpless about any situation. I help where I can, and will continue to support my children’s library and my librarian. I thrive on activism and a realistic viewpoint of life.

The revolution in Nicaragua was a tipping point of our lives. Will we ever be able to call Nicaragua our home again? At this point, I doubt it. I can’t live in a heavily repressed country where we have no freedom of expression, where fear dominates every action, where trust is venomous, where corruption is rampant, and people are disempowered and castrated for speaking the truth.

Will we ever find a place to call home again? Maybe not. We’ve changed too much. We’ve experienced too many things in our lifetime…good and bad. An untethered lifestyle fits us now. We have no bills, no responsibilities….and a passion for travel.

Our lives are an open road. We are planning our new adventures to Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Mexico, Colombia, and Curacao for the winter and spring.

Thanks for being so patient with me. Life took a big turn for us, and it will take me a while to adjust to life on the road again. But, we are ready and open to more freedom in our lives knowing that our home and pets in Nicaragua are well-loved!

 

67 thoughts on “Coming Home?

  1. I haven’t been able to find the post with the reasons for your leaving Nicaragua. If I’ve missed it, would you please tell me where to find it? If you haven’t said so, might you consider writing an entry about it or even just a few sentences in reply to this? But if it’s something you can’t post publicly, my email address.

    We are considering retirement to Nicaragua. Your perspectives have been most helpful to us, and you reasons for leaving will have an impact on our decision.

    Thanks so much.

    • Hello, CNH. Excellent question and I will try to answer with the current reasons we left Nicaragua. About a year ago, we came down with the 8 year itch. Although we loved many things about Nicaragua, we lacked stimulation. We built our houses, grew our gardens, and I started a children’s library. We began to feel a “been there,done that” attitude. We were in repair mode ( things broke daily) and life was too predictable and less exciting. That is why we started traveling at least 5-6 months a year. We were going to put our house and property up for sale, but we decided to wait until the beginning of 2018 and repair, paint, and get our place ready for listing.
      When we returned from Uruguay and Argentina at the beginning of April 2018, we had contacted an electrician and a roofer to work on our electricity and put a drop roof in our house.
      But 3 days after we returned, everything changed in Nicaragua. The revolution began! I won’t go into detail..do a search for Nicaragua and you will find many comprehensive articles about the plight of the Nicaraguan people who have been denied their rights to freedom of speech. At the Mother’s Day march in Managua, the Ortega regime stationed snipers on the roof of the baseball stadium. 31 marchers were killed that day. Now, over 510 people, mostly young university students, have been murdered, thousands have been imprisoned, tortured, and kidnapped, never to be seen again.
      The country is in crisis. Well, we couldn’t sell our house in the middle of a revolution, and for 3 months we were sequestered in our house. My husband found a tumor in his neck and we had to go to the mainland for a biopsy. The results of the biopsy were ready a week later, but we were advised not to go to the mainland because it was too dangerous. Police and paramilitary were shooting people in Rivas. So, a friend of ours called the doctor for the results. Fortunately, it was benign, but the doctor recommended that we have it removed as soon as possible. That presented another problem because the hospital we use, Vivian Pellas, is located in Managua where there was major violence. Also,many of the doctors and nurses were fired for treating protesters.
      We decided it was time to leave Nicaragua. We were fortunate that friends of ours, who recently moved from Managua because of the violence, rented our house and adopted our pets. We left July 19th.
      Since Oct. 1st, Ometepe Island has been held captive by police and paramilitaries. Many tried to escape by taking boats to the mainland, or they escaped to the volcanoes because there is a list of 100 people who were involved in organizing peaceful protests who are wanted for “terrorism”. Some of my friends were able to escape, many are hidden in their houses, afraid to leave. The repression at this time in Nicaragua is unbelievable. It is a simmering pot ready to explode at any time. Most businesses are closed, tourism is dead, those who can afford to leave have left. 23,000 Nicaraguans are in Costa Rica. People have no jobs and what little savings they have are quickly used for basics.
      I wish I could say things are getting better, but they are not. The economy is in ruins.If you follow any expat forums on Facebook, you won’t see or hear much because as foreigners, we can be deported for saying or doing anything against the government. I don’t post anything on Facebook about the heavy repression and the loss of lives for fear of repercussions to my local friends. No one trusts anyone!
      I haven’t written much about this on my blog because I am heartbroken. I send money to our goddaughter and my librarian and I fear that a day may come soon when they will be denied foreign help. A new terrorism law was passed, and anyone can be accused of terrorism for sending money, feeding protestors, or carrying the Nicaraguan flag. It is beyond horrible and I cry daily!
      So our main reasons for leaving Nicaragua are medical and a revolution that I fear will end badly.
      I don’t know if this will help you decide about moving to Nicaragua, but my advise is to wait. If you know a family or have local friends, send them money if you can. They are starting to get desperate. Help them get passports so they can leave the country. Donate to groups who are feeding families and trying to educate children. Sorry to write such horrible news about my beloved country. I fear for the people, talk to them daily, and help where I can.
      I am going to write a post about the repression on Ometepe Island, but I must wait until the paramilitary leave the island, and it looks like they are still “hunting humans”. It makes me physically sick to say that! Please keep Nicaragua in your thoughts.

  2. I have enjoyed your blog for a number of years. Thank you for the post. My heart goes out to you in your loss. We have a long history with Nicaragua and many close friends there who are passing through great tragedy now. We grieve for them, as well as for the developing tragedies of ongoing processes here in the US and around the world. I hope that you and all of us find peace. Love your travel photography and honest words.— John

  3. Susan and I spent 7 weeks in Colombia last winter and we loved it there. Medellin is a very attractive city, but we most enjoyed the small colonial towns: Jardin, Filandia, Barichara, Salento

  4. Take some time to get to know Cambodia. We loved it there and could imagine spending an extended stay
    Phnom Penh is a very appealing city (even though we aren’t city people) and we really liked the beach life in the area around Sihanoukville.

  5. Re: Wintering in Medellin

    I read if one stays in Colombia for over 158 days during any calendar year Colombia considers taxable all of your worldwide income.. I am not an authority; however, you might check it out. I read nothing but good things about Medellin. Flights to Panama are inexpensive. They allow tourist 180 days with no problem about taxes. Happy travels.

  6. Oops… when we visit a country inevitably our hearts are enveloped by the friendship, love and kindness we seek out. Those Nica people are still there but the shadow of the dictator and his partner casts an appalling reality over the country. We still stay in touch with our friends there but all we can do is convey our love from afar. Sigh….
    It was wonderful to meet you folks last winter. And your ‘home’? Well, home is also where the mind is, not just the heart. As travelers you will find many homes and we know you’ll take the time to find the beauty in all of them. When we’re on our cycling trips, occasionally Heather will say, “I’d love to live here.” I reply, “You are living here honey.” …. so, this winter we will be at our place in Central BC. How brave. Firewood is in, tractor is ready to push snow and we’re going to make the best of being at this home by visiting friends and doing fun stuff. Please know you are always welcome in our home. Don’t come in winter though. If you come when it’s not frigid it can be your home too.
    Love and hugs, Chris and Heather

  7. I’ve missed experiencing your feelings through your writing — thank you for sharing again. I feel blessed to have experienced even a small slice of your life and of Nicaragua as it was during that brief time at the Spartan race. Please visit us in Guanajuato, Mexico, or Plymouth area of England. Huge hugs to you both.

  8. Reverse culture shock is a challenge when I’m back in the USA, but it must be extremely difficult when the ‘goal’ of returning to your adopted country is not the best option. The earthquake somewhat placed me in a similar dilemma, but it must be to the tenth power for both of you…

    Of course new doors and windows will be opening for both of you, and later all of the mystery puzzle pieces will make sense. You are both survivors – upper-case letters – your brave example, will inspire others – or will give them hope.

    Thanks for the update! With love, Lisa

  9. I have not done much blogging myself this year and reading just a few other blogs here and there, so your post comes as a total surprise. I can only imagine the tremendous amount of emotional work it must have taken to come to the decision to leave Nicaragua and then make all of the necessary preparations to actually follow through. I feel sad for you, even sadder for the country. Life is so precarious all around the globe right now and change is the ever-present constant. I am curious to follow your process of traveling until you finally know where you want to make your next home. Blessings for the journey there….

    • Annette, yes life is precarious all over the globe. As we were packing and giving away our lifetime of possessions on Ometepe, I couldn’t stop crying. Not so much because we were leaving, but because where in the world is it safe anymore?
      If we stayed in the states, I would become active in politics. Yet, I have no desire to stay here. It is a “been there, done that” attitude.
      Not many of my friends and family were aware of what was happening in Nicaragua. I tried to post on Facebook, but I had to change my name and be careful not to post on any public forum because the government was and continues to repress freedom of speech. We could have easily been deported for speaking our thoughts.
      So, we move on. Thanks for your thoughts, Annette. Hugs.

      • Please post occasionally here. I have a feeling that what you are going through is not unique to you. There are 65 million refugees in the world today and who knows how many people who are disenchanted with their country of birth and looking to relocate. After the election, a friend of mine who felt very threatened because of her background and religion was looking at other countries. We literally went continent by continent to see where she would feel welcome and could practice her profession. There were so few places…she is still looking but narrowing things down.

  10. A very powerful post. Wow. To see life just turn and change like that so quickly is unimaginable. I too feel so sad for the people who can’t leave. That they are stuck in a repressive place. I sincerely hope things get better there. It is such a beautiful country. All the times I get so angry and disgusted about our own administration here, I remind myself although it is bad and there are lots of bad things, at least we still have some freedom.
    Your thoughts about a home intrigue me too. I feel grounded where I am yet crave to travel and live all over the place. We can’t now but I hope we can someday. Thanks for this beautiful post. I look forward to all the next ones you write! 🙂 Take care and so glad I got to meet you both when I was there. 🙂

    • Nicole, I feel so bad that I have neglected all my blogging friends’ posts for several months. I was a nervous wreck with the uncertainty of what was going to happen next.
      My thoughts exactly about the U.S. I kept telling myself that at least we won’t be deported for speaking our mind, but then again it is that white priviledge which is a whole new post.
      I feel relieved that we could leave, and eventually, we will settle down into a routine of traveling. So far, it is exhausting. We need to practice pacing. Lol
      Thanks for your loving comments. Hugs.

    • Karen, thank you so much for asking. I have never had a donation button on my blog. Maybe in the future, I can add one. I am a one-woman show as far as the library. It takes so little to support my librarian and the teachers. This is the 4th year for the library, and this year I got free internet for the school. I would like to take up a collection to buy the teachers a laptop for their classrooms and then my librarian can train the teachers how to use technology in the classroom.

  11. Beautiful, heartfelt, and yes – sad – post. Having followed your journey from Nicaragua here and on Facebook, we can sense your grief but can only imagine what it must really be like to have to leave the home you love, under such awful circumstances. Ever the pollyanna, I can’t help but feel that the situation there will be resolved somehow and you’ll be able to return someday. In the meantime, we look forward to following your upcoming adventures and (hopefully) meeting you in Medellín!

    • Susan, thank you for your sweet Pollyanna reply. 😘 I can’t even begin to venture a guess as to when things will be back to normal. But, we are both looking forward to a new chapter in our lives.
      And I know we will see you in Medellin this winter. We are so excited!

  12. I imagine that you have a feeling of going backwards at times with your return to the States while you weigh your options and decide your next steps. And I certainly understand that you’ve been going through the process of grieving for your friends and adopted home as Nicaragua goes through this upheaval. For certain, a piece of your hearts will always remain in Ometepe. I think one of the biggest positives of being both an expat and a person who loves travel is that you know already that “home” needn’t be a place that’s permanent but rather a place where you feel comfortable and secure. For now, you have no need to commit to any one place and time so perhaps the uncertainty of not having a clear path to follow will turn out to be a positive experience. And, should your paths take you to Portugal Debbie, please know that we have our door open. Anita

    • Awww, Anita you always know the right things to say. Thank you for that. I am such a planner and Ron is exactly the opposite. So, this winter I will try to experiment with “winging” it. Yikes! It makes me anxious just to think about traveling without specific plans, but I am going to jump without fear. Portugal is on our list for next year for sure.

  13. Thank you for posting, we were concerned having heard what was happening in Nicaragua. Take your time to grieve for your adopted country then go and explore the world. If you ever head down to Ecuador again, give us a holler, we have a guest room. God Bless, may you have safe travels..Love and hugs from San Clemente, Mary y John

  14. We were so lucky to experience Nicaragua at it’s best and also live on your little island in the good company of your lovely pets. We will always remember fondly our time there. You are now having another fabulous adventure and we love your pictures. Keep it coming. Hope to see you somewhere in the world. Hugs to you both.

    • Hola Johanne and Doug. You were very fortunate to experience Ometepe at the peak of tourism. Now, most places are closed and I heard there are one or two backpackers coming. It is going to take years to recover. So sad for the people whose jobs were in tourism. Cappy has two female companions and Ocho and Queenie are adjusting to new dogs. They are happy, which is all I want for them, although we miss them terribly. Someday, somewhere we will be walking down a beach and run into you both! That happens frequently to us! Lol

  15. I think anyone associated with Nicaragua understands your feelings. It is a chapter in your book of life and every now and then you will revisit the pages. We are all looking forward to reading your next chapters ! Very exciting future awaits you !

  16. Yes, there may be a book in all those years on Ometepe and writing a book can be cathartic and allow you to move on, yet writing a book requires a lot of time looking back and sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is to focus on the present and future. I wrote a book about my first year in Nicaragua, 2008. I didn’t publish it because it is hard to write about the culture here or the things that happen without sounding negative. I didn’t want to be a part of the ex-patriot negativity that is so pervasive. I have been here 10 years. I have a Nica family. I have been an employee and owned a business, lived on a farm and in the city. I can say with complete confidence… the country is spectacularly fucked up in so many ways… its getting worse… there is no light on the horizon… and there is nothing I can do about it. Yet, life goes on, and the love of my family and the simple pleasure of daily living on beautiful island are enough reason to stay. Lucky for you since I’m living in your house… jaja.

    • Oh Chris! I wish you would have published your book. I am sure it would have been a best seller. 😘 I have always said that I was going to write a book about the expat stories I have collected. There are some doozies! But, I knew I would have to leave Nicaragua if I wrote my “Expat Novelas” and not come back! Haha!
      And yes! We are so lucky to have you and your family living in our house! Muchisimo gracias mi amigo.

  17. Please get in touch if you are ever in Austin, where you will have a place to stay with us! Thank you for this tender read and the window that you have given us into your time on Ometepe

  18. Hola de nuevo,
    The gipsy in me has told me to go further south, so when I learned of the currency devaluation in Argentina I decided against leaving Oaxaca Mexico for Central America for the winter. I already know Colombia Ecuador and Peru and soon I will know Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and probably Bolivia tambien. Me alegra saber que ustedes dos aún viven el sueño!

  19. Thank you for posting this. I’m sure it was and has been a difficult time for you and yet you shared it. I wish you peace, health, and happiness where ever you spend your days.

  20. I checked your blog last week, too. I hear resiliency in your words. Glad you have choices.You made such a difference in so many Nica lives.

  21. Welcome back Debbie. Home is sometimes with the people: your friends and family and not so much with the geography. Take care, Bruno

  22. Glad to know of your whereabouts. I too, feel terrible about the repression in Nicaragua where I have visited many times. I think I know how you feel about not having a home or you can’t go home again. I was recently living and working in Pachuca, Mexico and had to make the decision to come back to the States. Maybe there is no “home” for me anywhere, have to wait and see. Just letting you know I share some of your feelings. Living in New Mexico right now and if you are ever in the area

  23. I’ve been thinking of you guys. I even checked your blog last week thinking perhaps I’d missed the email notifying me of a new post. I’m glad you’re safe. As a former resident of Ometepe I have a bit of understanding of the empty place in the heart that the island and its people once filled. I’m not sure if one ever truly finds home once so many places have had that title. I think joy and contentment are perhaps more achievable and I wish them both for you. Blessings, A former gringa from Balgue

    • Hola Sheri! Oh, it is wonderful to hear from you. You understand exactly how I feel. That hole in my heart will always remain. I still feel like we are in a fog of uncertainty about where to go and what to do. But, at least I am not waking up with dread and uncertainty of living in Nicaragua. Ortega has vilified Nicaragua. Such a horrible shame on our beautiful adopted country. 😢
      Joy and contentment are definitely more achievable. I am working on it!
      Sending love to you and your family.

  24. I am saddened to read your post. Ive been traveling to Ometepe for the past few years and purchased land a year ago in hopes of spending more time there.
    Friends on the island continue to plant trees on my property in hopes I will return, and I will I trust things will get better.
    I am not ready quite yet to give up on the island I grew to love.

    • Gaz, never give up hope. Eventually, Ometepe will return to its former glory, but it will take time. Some of my expat friends who still remain say that they actually prefer Ometepe without many tourists. It is kind of like when we lived there 14 years ago. Tranquil, relaxed, and simple.
      Unfortunately, many Ometepians put all their eggs in the tourism basket, and now they are suffering without jobs. That is the saddest part.
      Keep planting those trees!

  25. I will miss your commentary on life in Nicaragua. You provided a real world check on the rosy accounts provided in many retire-abroad articles. Life there was not easy, but you seemed to enjoy the challenges and worked hard to make a positive impact on the island. The story arc of your time in Nicaragua is a cautionary tale to those who dream of life in a place like Ometepe. There is a book in there someplace. Good luck in your future travels.

    • John, thank you for your realistic viewpoint. I tried for years to tell everyone that Nicaragua and particularly Ometepe is not paradise. It was challenging…everyday. I know that we are at the point in our lives where we are too old for all those challenges. We like consistent electricity and running water, the ease of transportation, organization, a clean environment, and a society that is less obvious about corruption. I don’t think we will find that in developing countries.

  26. OH MY GOD , IM CRYING FOR ALL MY FRIENDS STILL THERE, YOUR PHOTOS ARE BEAUTIFUL OF COURSE .MY MOM AND I LIVE IN PUERTO VALLARTA, MEXICO WHERE IM IMMERSED IN LEARNING SPANISH, …MUY DIFFICIL!!!
    AND VENTURE IN OCTOBER TO OUR NEW HOME IN AJIJIC , 6 HOURS NORTH….. ANOTHER, NEW CHAPTER ….WE LOOK FORWARD TO IT AFTER BEING HERE IN P.V . FOR 6 MONTHS……TIME FOR ….NEW…!!

    PLEASE COME VISIT US IN AJIJIC ON YOUR JOURNEY TO MEXICO…. MI CASA ES SU CASA! YOUR ARTICLE WAS LOVELY AND SUPER SAD .I PRAY FOR THE PEOPLE THERE,

    AND PRAY FOR PEACE ….WORLD WIDE.
    HEIDI

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