Part I: Will We Return to Nicaragua to Live?


“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
Benjamin Franklin, Memoirs of the life & writings of Benjamin Franklin

One day tourism is booming, my local neighborhood friends are buying taxis, expanding hotels, and competing for wealthier tourists who have recently discovered Nicaragua. Literally, the next day tourism is dead, taxis are repossessed, hotels close, and my friends are struggling to make sense of it all.

People ask us all the time if we will return to Nicaragua. Now that Ron is cancer free (after a long, dark winter of treatment), we think we know the answer, but life altering changes happened so quickly that we don’t trust visions of our future anymore.

I still harbor anger toward the government of Nicaragua. Ron tells me that I have to be careful what I say and write because we have property and a house in Nicaragua. We all know that pent up anger is not good! Therefore, I catch myself directing and projecting my anger toward those expats with vested interests, like businesses in Nicaragua, who say that Nicaragua is safe and everything has returned to normal, while blaming me for their suffering because I post factual articles about Nicaragua’s ongoing crisis.

For me, safety is not the issue. Crime is more rampant because unemployment is high. So, tourists do need to exercise caution when traveling in Nicaragua. I have been reading on the expat forums about more scams and robberies. This one just this week on Ometepe.
But for me, the issue of returning is a moral issue. I cannot support a government that tortures and kills its people for speaking out against human right’s violations.

Believe me when I say I understand their fears and stresses, although I am still bewildered by some expats’ reactions to my posts.  Compound our fear with choosing to leave our home AND a diagnosis of cancer. I get it. We have been vested in Nicaragua for 16 years. We are legal residents. We took the time and effort and found it important to learn Spanish, become legal residents, and fulfill dreams. Nicaragua presented an opportunity for us to become culturally immersed in a small all Spanish speaking community. We jumped…and flew!

Our little beach-front home in 2003 before remodeling, and the day we left Nicaragua in July 2018.

 

Since 2003, we have generously supported our Nicaraguan friends both monetarily and emotionally. In return, the people of Nicaragua have given us their kindness, their time, and their knowledge. Generally speaking, we would trust our Nicaraguan friends over expats in a time of crisis. Throughout our lives on Ometepe Island and Nicaragua, whenever we were lost or confused, our Nicaraguan friends were the first to lend us a helping hand.

This is an old post about our goddaughter’s sixth birthday party in 2005. It explains our love for our Nicaraguan friends perfectly. The Birthday Party

Therefore, in making a decision to return to Nicaragua to live, there are many factors to consider. I have listed them in order of priority.

1.Freedom of Speech, Repression, and Human Right’s Violations

Returning to Nicaragua is a moral issue for me. We didn’t live in a gringo bubble or gated compound. We were immersed in a small rural neighborhood, surrounded by farmers, a local tourism organization, and the local elementary school where I house my children’s library. 

Ometepe was under heavy police presence during the height of the unrest, and though things have cooled down, the Ometepinos are still under constant watch.

Tourists feel uncomfortable at Ojo de Agua. Photo taken in July, 2019.

I chat daily with my local friends. They are afraid to say anything or even wear a blue and white t-shirt for fear of being put on a “list” as a terrorist. Over 500 Nicaraguans have given their lives to protest human right’s violations. 60,000 Nicaraguans have fled the country. Until the country stabilizes, until Ortega is tried and convicted, until the basic human rights of the Nicaraguan people are restored and they can speak and protest freely and openly without fear, until I can speak freely about a repressive government, I cannot morally return to Nicaragua to live.

2. Economy

I fear Nicaragua is headed for a severe depression. My friends tell me how expensive things have become like food and utilities. Their taxis, cars, and rental bikes have been repossessed by the banks because they can’t afford to make the payments. Banks are closing and on Ometepe Island, there are no more ATMs on the Maderas side of the island. Sending money is becoming more difficult. Now, I must not send over $500 to our goddaughter or librarian for fear of them being questioned, harassed or audited by the government.

a recent post by a foreign expat in Nicaragua

3. Convenience

Not everything is crisis related. Truthfully, our time on Ometepe Island was coming to a close before the crisis. We couldn’t decide whether to sell our place or travel more often, so we decided to travel 6 months of the year, and prepare our place for sale in 2018.
Gypsytoes or Stickytoes 

Who wouldn’t want to buy our place located very close to Punta Jesus Maria.

But, before we could sell, Nicaragua exploded in a political crisis. We tell ourselves everyday, how lucky we are not to have burned any bridges. We still had a mortgage-free house in the states and returning was not dependent on selling our house and property. I wonder if that is why some Nicaraguan expats are angry with me and in denial that there is a problem in Nicaragua? They cannot leave…they burned their bridges…they are stuck in Nicaragua with no options.

But, I digress. Conveniences. The older we get, the more challenges we face with the lack of conveniences. The quirkiness became old. We were ready for reliable utilities, more transportation options, a library, and free shipping from Amazon.

4. Stimulation

One of my most popular posts is Pros and Cons of Living on an Island. 

Ometepe from above.

 

It still holds true today. Social life with others was limited. We wanted to go to a library and read, or audit classes at a university. We had the seven year itch of “been there…done that”. It was time to move on.

5. Medical Care

This is the biggie! Ron found a lump in his neck in November 2017. In May of 2018, he had it biopsied in Nicaragua. When the results were in, we couldn’t get back to the mainland because of political violence in Rivas, so our friend called the doctor for the results. Fortunately, or so we thought, it was benign. The doctor diagnosed it as a pleomorphic adenoma and said it should be removed soon because it could become cancerous.

We couldn’t travel to Managua for an operation, again because the roads were blocked and the doctors were fleeing Nicaragua because they were deemed terrorists if they helped any protesters. So, we decided to leave Nicaragua and return to the states to have the lumps removed and wait to see what happened in Nicaragua.

Medical care in Nicaragua was always difficult for us because we had to travel to Managua to see a doctor we trusted and who had the proper equipment. Now, with the violence, the doctors we really liked fled Nicaragua to Costa Rica. They still haven’t returned and I doubt that medical care is like it was pre-crisis. I am not sure how many doctors remain and how good can they be if they refuse to help the opposition?

Now we have Medicare in the states and when Ron’s neck tumors were diagnosed as throat cancer, we traveled 10 minutes away from our house to excellent medical facilities where Ron was admitted into a clinical trial for mucositus during radiation (and he was the only patient the doctors had ever seen who experienced no sores or throat pain from the radiation), and he received excellent treatment and was cancer-free in two months.

6. Climate

Climate change is wrecking havoc with Nicaragua. We have noticed many traumatic weather events in Nicaragua. Fires, floods, landslides, droughts, intolerable heat seem to be more prevalent. The aquatic mites, called chayules, swarm more often around the lake. The wet season is not predictable like it used to be. Farmers have a hard time deciding when to plant and harvest their crops. There are more insect infestations and molds on the coffee plants and blights on the bananas. It must be very hard to be a farmer with climate change.

Presently, there is an epidemic of Dengue in Nicaragua. When we tell people we had Dengue, Zika, and Chikungunya, they wonder why we lived in Nicaragua as long as we did. Chikungunya still hits us with bouts of arthritic pain, three years later. Mosquito borne diseases are practically unavoidable in Nicaragua. Let’s hope the vaccine for Dengue is approved soon!

Check out my post, You Know You Have Chikungunya When…

So, if you were wondering if we will return to Nicaragua to live…the answer is probably no. It is time for us to move forward with our lives. We are going to travel more, laugh more, and live with more gusto and compassion.

We’ve accomplished our dreams in Nicaragua. I have no regrets. Now, we are free to roam the world and return to our home in the states whenever we get tired of traveling.

It took me a year to overcome my identity crisis. I am no longer Rewired and Retired in Nicaragua, so my next post will be my last one for this blog. It has been a great run! Thank you all for your support and love.

Stay tuned for Part II: How you can help the people in Nicaragua. And there are many ways to help without actually visiting the country, if you feel the way I do.

Also, stay tuned for my new blog… My Teeth Dropped Off the Charles Bridge~Tales of Travelers Beyond 60.

32 thoughts on “Part I: Will We Return to Nicaragua to Live?

  1. I have loved your blog and look forward to the new one. You are so good. My wife and I have passed a great deal of time over the years in Nicaragua beginning in the mid 80s. We have so many Nicaraguan friends still there and abroad. All are greatly and negatively impacted by the events since April last year. Very sad, hard and painful. Our best wishes to you and your husband on your new path.

    • Thank you, John. Change is very difficult, but we are making the best of life. We are in Budapest and traveling through the Balkan countries for a couple of months. There is so much of the world to see. I have no loyalty for Nicaragua, only my local Nicaraguan friends and families that I continue to support.
      Dengue is rampant in Nicaragua right now. At least 6 people have died. Such hard times for the people. 😢

  2. I have loved your blog and look forward to the new one. You are so good. My wife and I passed a great deal of time over the years in Nicaragua beginning in the mid 80s. We have so many Nicaraguan friends still there and abroad. All are greatly and negatively impacted by the events there. It is a sad, hard business. My heart is with you and your husband and the Nicaraguan people. Thanks

  3. Of course I back any decision you make; when one goes against the ‘gut’ feeling and listens to others’ advice, there are often complications. It’s happened to me countless times – until I realized that I needed to obey my own self-counsel, even when it whispered. Many times that ‘little voice’ has kept me from extreme danger – the landslide/mass grave at Lake Atitlan was the most sobering – I didn’t know why, but my entire body ‘felt’ in danger….

    Kipling’s ‘If’ comes to mind, “If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you – and make allowance for their doubting too…” well, not all men doubt you, but it’s hard when even one offers a harsh retort, and harder when the suggestions are born out of ‘what they think is best for you.’

    I’ve been in two-week immersion of observing the Brown Wood Rails and emerged with amazing observations. Now it’s time to work on the apt. Am at the library to load pages and read off line – yours I will read again tonight.

    Love to you both!
    Lisa

  4. Right, so I remembered some things that might interest you-all. I’m leaving out the urls so whatever spam filtering you have won’t nuke this before you even see it, but these are easy to find via a search if you should want to follow up on them.

    (1) Liz Carlson’s “Young Adventuress”, a travel blog, but not like all the others. Really great, and I hate travel blogs. She now lives in New Zealand and has been all over Europe, which might be relevant to your interests.

    About: “I started this blog around seven years ago in 2010 when I was getting ready to move to Spain to teach English and procrastinate on life. I’m sure you can relate. I thought my path would take me to graduate school to become a medieval history professor (raises eyebrows). Instead I turned out to be a professional nomad (read: hobo). My parents are, of course, thrilled.”

    (2) Shivya Nath’s “The Shooting Star”, another travel blog, but hey, it’s good.

    Recent post: “Travelling to Iran? Things to Know Before You Go.” A place I’d like to see. Apparently it’s possible to enter from India, without any telltale entries on your passport, in case you ever want to get back into the U.S.

    About: “While I carry a convertible backpack for convenience, I like to stay in experiential accommodations (think homestays), seek local experiences and don’t believe in counting every penny I spend. I like to go slow, get under the skin of a place, spend time with locals and experiment with the local cuisine.”

    (3) “German Tourist” aka Christine’s “The Big Trip”, mostly about backpacking, but she’s also been nearly everywhere, including making a canoe trip down the Mississippi River, and recently did a long solo trip in Patagonia. Lots of Europe-related insights.

    Recent post: “Europe Diagonal: The idea of this hike is the result of a quick look at the map: I have already hiked across Europe from East to West and from North to [South], which can be seen as a vertical and horizontal traverse of the continent. So what is next? A diagonal! Ireland to Greece!”

    About: “I used to be a responsible hard-working German citizen and even a successful career woman for many years. I drove a nice company car, had a secretary and a good salary. I liked my job and was quite good at it. Back then my friends called me Christine. At age 36 I got fired – and although I didn’t see it like that back then, this was the best thing that could have possibly happened to me. It gave me the chance to go on my first long-distance hike, the Pacific Crest Trail in the US. After 2 weeks on the trail I knew that this was what I had been looking for.”

    (4) “Take a Hike Photography” at “The Trek” (thetrek.co)

    Also about backpacking, but they’re doing a series on Kyrgyzstan, which might be inspiring to at least think about. There are probably some tours for those who don’t want to spend weeks hiking. Great photos to ogle.

  5. Lovely and honest post, and it gives me so many mixed feelings! Really sorry to see this fantastic blog come to a close, but we’re looking forward to the new one and to finding out how your teeth dropped off the Charles Bridge 🙂

    I’ve seen a few of the comments you’ve gotten on Facebook from disgruntled biz owners, and it’s hard for me also to understand how they can stay and continue to support such a repressive government and such complete disregard for human rights. But I think you hit the nail on the head when you said many of those folks don’t have a choice, financially. Like you two, we have options if we ever need to leave a place. It must be tough to be stuck, and to be so committed that you can’t leave, regardless of what happens politically in your country of choice. So I guess I have a certain amount of sympathy for those folks, but lashing out against you for standing by your convictions will never help their cause.

    Anyway, we are so looking forward to meeting you next year! Stay tuned for a Facebook message about that . . .

    • Susan and John, we are really looking forward to coming to Colombia again. I have needed some closure for our lives in Nicaragua. After a year of reflection and much worry and stress over many things, I feel lighter and much better about saying goodbye to my home and blog about Nicaragua.
      Change is incredibly difficult. It took a year to sort out my feelings and find a new direction. As for those disgruntled business owners, they have their own paths to follow and I can’t be bothered by their criticism of me. It feels wonderful to be able to let go! Hugs to you both!

  6. I’m not in your league, but I have learned a lot from stopping by to take a peek at your blog from time to time.

    I’m still glad that at almost the last minute, I decided that it would be better for me to try Ecuador than Nicaragua. It was matter of realizing that there was a huge difference in infrastructure, and climate, and of finding a larger expat community in Cuenca, Ecuador than in places like Granada or Estelí, Nicaragua. And I also found that I couldn’t get a straight answer on anything from the Nica attorney that everyone recommended.

    So far it’s been pretty good here in Cuenca, though I’ve bounced back and forth between Ecuador and the U.S. a few times since late 2012, and also feel ready now to do a little more than going for walks and having lunch, while I’m still healthy enough to do some things.

    But the weather here is stellar. No bugs. And it’s cheap enough. And I’ll always want to keep coming back.

    I’ll watch for your new blog. You’re worth reading. Thanks.

    • Thanks, Dave. We love Cuenca! We almost thought of moving there, too. No bugs is a big plus. Haha. Now that we are out of Nicaragua, I wonder why people still want to move there. I have no loyalty to a country that tortures and murders its citizens for speaking out.
      The country is a mess, The infrastructure is unreliable, the economy is crashing, unemployment is high, and the costs are rising for everything. Why would people consider immigrating to Nicaragua when there are so many more beautiful and more reliable countries in which to live?
      Maybe we will see you sometime in Ecuador. We will be in Medellin, Colombia for a couple months next winter. Now that we free, we are going to travel. We are headed to Croatia and the Balkan countries in a few weeks. Hugs to you!

  7. I don’t think you need to justify your decisions to anyone. Your commitment to the local people and your generosity were obvious from the 1st post I read. Good luck in all ventures … and teeth off the Charles Bridge? Great suspense building! Can’t wait to read it.

  8. The Somoza dictatorship lasted for decades, and I think the Ortega dictatorship and police state is similarly entrenched. There will be no democratic freedom or justice for people here in the near future. And yes, the economy is in a tailspin, consumer prices are rising with added government taxation and many Nica families are in serious trouble… all of that is true. Yet, for the expats who are retired here, like me, and have pension or investment income from home, life goes on much as before. Eneida, Andrea and I enjoy living in your little lakehouse, far away from all the madness of Managua. The place could use a bit of paint to brighten up the exterior. We were thinking of sky blue with white trim. Jaja.

  9. We see many changes in Panama also after living here for 6 years. Not nearly as drastic as what you experienced. The biggest problem most see in Panama is “Corruption.” It exists at all levels and it will be very difficult to change as it has become a way of life.

    • You are so right. When we returned to the states, I cried for days. I kept asking myself, where in the world can we live where there is no corruption, turmoil, and peace? What I have discovered is that there is no paradise anywhere. We make the best of our lives wherever we string our hammocks. That is why I never want to call anywhere home again…in any country. I just want a base from which we can continue to travel and experience the best that the world has to offer. Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

  10. We are so glad we got to meet you at your lovely home. We wish you and Ron the best. It is a tough call if we will return and breaks our hearts to hear of the suffering. We really want to organize and support the health clinic in Moyagalpa after they were so kind to me when I needed medical attention. Contact us if ever in Washington state…we welcome you.
    Verne and Mary Rainey

    • Verne, on my next and last post, I am going to make a list of ways you can help the people of Nicaragua. I will make a list of responsible organizations that need your support. The hospital in Moyogalpa is a great place to donate supplies. A friend of mine had lots of ace bandages, knee supports and braces she couldn’t use anymore. She gave them to me and I donated them to the hospital. They would be very appreciative. It was great to meet you. I think of you often. Thanks again.

  11. A wonderful, honest, caring post. As always. If you travel toward the Midwest, look me up. And I can’t wait to read all about teeth dropping off the St. Charles Bridge! Yours? Ron’s? Random stranger’s? The questions!

    • Katie! Oh, how I miss you! After Ron’s PET scan and he was cleared, we went to Arkansas. It had been 22 years since I had returned. Our 1952 school bus house on our property was crushed and burned. The only thing left was the motor peeking out from some tall weeds. It felt so good to reconnect with Liz and everyone. It was as if we had never left and we could pick up where we left off. I know I will feel the same way when we return to visit our friends in Nicaragua. Thanks for your kind words. Hugs.

  12. So sorry, we have all lost with our love for Nicaragua. Spent six weeks there several years ago and missed seeing you but dropped off books for your library.
    Doug and Lynn Gordon

    • I know what you mean! I have always had a love/hate relationship with the country of Nicaragua. But, the people…well, they are not their country and are very special to me. It breaks my heart to see them suffering and repressed. Thanks so much for helping my little library. It is still going strong and is a safe haven away from the madness of the country.

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