What’s in an Expat Fridge?


“Drink from the cup of life, you will be fulfilled.
Yet…
drink from the milk container in the fridge,
and your wife will make you wish that you had drunk from the cup of life.”
― Anthony T. Hincks

I am on a housesitter’s forum on Facebook because it helps me get contacts for good housesitters. Also, as a homeowner, we sometimes get trashed on these sites because housesitters complain that our homes are too dirty, or our fridges are full of rotten, moldy food, or our pillows are too soft or too hard, etc. Sometimes I feel like I have to defend the homeowners.

A housesitter posted a list of questions she asked prospective owners. Most of the questions were reasonable like, “How many pets do you have? Are they up-to-date on their vaccinations? Is the closest town within walking distance?”

But then I read this, “Post a photo of the inside of your refrigerator.”

Hmmm…So I asked why. And she responded,

It’s something we ask after getting surprised one too many times with refrigerators not sanitary in any way, shape, or form. We’re not looking to see what you have per say, as much as the condition you keep your fridge because we’ve found that to be a good indicator as to how clean you keep your home as well. It really sucks when the first thing you have to do upon arrival to a home is spending 4-6 hours cleaning the fridge just to make sure you don’t get food poisoning. Not to mention, quite often the rest of the home is just as dirty. And we aren’t there to be your house cleaners. After experiencing three like that in a row, we now ask to see what the fridge looks like. 

I thanked her for her response and checked her off my list as a potential housesitter.

Although this post isn’t about housesitters, I became curious to know what is inside expat fridges because they do represent a different way of eating and storing food, especially in the tropics.

So, here is a picture of what’s inside my fridge. Notice, it is clean, no rotten food, no mold, nothing that would cause food poisoning. Although, I have to admit that were notorious for keeping some moldy leftovers in our fridge in the states.  But, living on a tropical island has changed our fridge contents and our respect for food drastically. Let me explain why.


1. Sanitary conditions

 Living in the tropics, nothing is sacred to the infestation of bugs that swarm annually. Everything must be sealed tightly and even then, the tiny insects can always find a way to ruin your prized pumpernickel bread you found at La Colonia. All perishables go into the fridge or freezer.

Currently we have an infestation of tiny book lice. Fortunately they don’t like my food, but they are building nests inside my Kindle. ( And yes, they are really called book lice! ) Their only entrance is through my charger hole, so I had to find a way to deter them. After shaking hundreds of tiny book lice gently out the charger hole, I discovered that a drop of neem oil around the charger hole keeps them at bay.

Things rot quickly in the tropics. We experimented keeping our tomatoes out of the fridge or inside. They rotted within two days outside the fridge, and stayed rock hard inside the fridge. Nicaragua doesn’t have a good selection of tomatoes anyway, so we chose to refrigerate them so they would last longer.

All fruit is either refrigerated, processed and frozen, or canned. We freeze mangoes, water apples, Jackfruit, and Suriname cherries from our trees and bushes. We used to make mango jam and salsa and can it, but unless we started at 4 am, the day was too hot to keep the water boiling on the stove for canning.

Milk comes in cardboard containers and when we open it, the container goes into the fridge. We keep our eggs in the fridge, too. I know that is not custom here, but if we don’t put them in the fridge, we need a safe spot so our kitties won’t swipe them onto the floor. They are little rascals like that!  Continue reading

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Bridging Gaps in Nicaragua


The Weekly Photo Challenge is Bridge.

For seven years I have tried to bridge cultural gaps in Nicaragua. One of the most difficult gaps to connect is the lack of reading for pleasure in Nicaragua. So, three years ago I started a children’s library in my small La Paloma Elementary School.

One day, I delivered office supplies to our local police department, and in turn Juan Carlos asked what he could do for me. I had just the thing! “Juan Carlos, how would you like to come to my library and read to the preschool class?” I asked. He was thrilled! And so were the preschoolers. Bridging the gap of reading is fun!

El Castillo on the Rio San Juan River in Nicaragua is literally a horse town. No cars here!  Boats, horses, donkeys, canoes, and a few foot bridges tie the communities along the river. To market to market to buy a fat pig!

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Cuba is More than Havana


“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”
― John Muir

Walking through a small art gallery in Havana, I became mesmerized by this painting. Is this in Cuba? I have to go there! As we discovered, it was Viñales and we visited after we left Havana.

Ron and I both enjoy traveling through cities, but we are really country people at heart and prefer mountains and lakes to oceans and cities. We read that Viñales is the gateway to the Sierra de los Organos Mountains and the Viñales Valley. The valley’s steep limestone hills, called mogotes, draw many rock climbers. We hoped to report excellent climbing conditions to our son Cory, who is a rock climber.

The Viñales Valley offers Cuba’s best hiking, caving, rock climbing, horseback riding, and cycling. Just down a hill from our casa particular, we entered a magical world with trails leading in all directions. The rights to roam and climb are relaxed in this part of the world, so we were free to explore as we tramped under fences, through farmers’ tobacco fields, and climbed steep mogotes to view mystical vistas.

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Fruitful Times


“Don’t sit at home and wait for a mango tree to bring mangoes to you wherever you are. It won’t happen. If you are truly hungry for change, go out of your comfort zone and change the world.”
― Israelmore Ayivor

I love this quote! It really represents our life in Nicaragua. We definitely moved out of our comfort zone 13 years ago when we first moved to Ometepe Island. But now that we have settled into our little boomer nest, we are experiencing fruitful times.

Our last rainy season just ended and what a glorious rainy season we had. The past three years have been exceptionally dry, but now with the abundant rains, we have new fruits popping up everywhere.

Ron planted several avocado trees five years ago. This week, I noticed one avocado tree blooming and it is beginning to produce baby avocados. Last avocado season there were few avocados. The extended drought took a toll on the trees. But, this should be a great avocado season. It is still early, yet I am finding local avocados in the grocery stores now.

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Last year we had one cacao or chocolate pod on our cacao tree. I was so excited because although the tree is seven years old, we never saw any pods develop. However, the pod cracked and fell off the tree last year. I think due to a harsh dry period. But, this year, we have a couple of pods developing and one is the size of my hand.
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When Mango Trees Hit Back


“Of all the trees we could’ve hit, we had to get one that hits back.”
― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Oh, I love this quote! I remember that scene from the Chamber of Secrets well. It reminded me of our mango tree, one of the five mango trees closest to our house. It is an Indio mango and the fruit isn’t as good as our two Rosa mango trees.

Two times a year, this tree drops hundreds of mangoes on our roof. At the peak of mango season, we fill three wheelbarrows every morning with rotten mangoes. They bounce off the roof in the windy season like a rapid fire machine gun. Bam! Bam! And then they roll off the roof and scatter in the front yard.

We’ve tried everything to stop the almost constant supply of Indio mangoes, except for toppling the tree. It is too tall to spray or blow off the blossoms so the fruit doesn’t produce. And, it is a wonderful shade tree!

Last year, I researched an injection that I could put in the trunk of the tree called a fruit inhibitor. It isn’t a pesticide and will actually sterilize the tree so it won’t produce fruit. There were two problems with this; first, it had never been tried on a mango tree, only walnut trees in the states, and second, although it isn’t a pesticide, the container looked like it was a pesticide, which is prohibited on airplanes.

So, it was back to the old climbing the tree and cutting the limbs that hung over our roof. Jorge to the rescue!
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We’re Leaving Our Babies


We’ve lived in Nicaragua on and off since 2004, and for the past six years we have been here permanently. We decided this year that we are going to wean ourselves off Nicaragua for six months a year. It is time for a change, if only temporarily.

We have had a love/hate relationship with Nicaragua for many years. The hate part is mainly because of the unreliable infrastructure and the brutally hot and dry months. The love part will always be the people.  Yet, as we age, we realize that maybe Nicaragua isn’t the best place for us to age gracefully year-round. After much thought, we decided to scratch our gypsytoes by traveling six months of the year.

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Our sweet bananas are ready to be harvested by our house sitters.

The best of all worlds is possible. Our goal was always to make Nicaragua our home base and travel extensively. But, that has not happened as much as we would like because we  built a thriving life in Nicaragua by planting many varieties of fruit trees on our property, rescuing dogs and cats, and developing a children’s library.

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The baby breadfruit tree needs TLC during the dry season.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: A Tropical Look Up


The Weekly Photo Challenge is Look Up.

Living in the tropics in the rainy season if you don’t look up, you will miss out on some wonderful surprises. Take a walk with me around our finca this morning as we look for new life blossoming in the tree tops.

I love the shade our mango tree provides, but the termite nests and the mangoes dropping like bombs on our tin roof…not so much.
IMG_1681The sour sop fruit is almost ready.
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Chocolate in My Veins


“What is happening to me happens to all fruits that grow ripe.
It is the honey in my veins that makes my blood thicker, and my soul quieter.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

 

I awoke to find three chocolate (Cacao) pods ripening on our Cacao tree. For five years, the tiny blossoms clung to the trunk of the tree, yet never produced fruit. Last year, our grand Pera tree, which was shading our Cacao tree, snapped and fell to the ground scattering ripe Pera fruits in all directions. When Great Trees Fall

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Earth Day Nicaraguan Style


“A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children.” —John James Audubon

This week we are celebrating Earth Day at the La Paloma Elementary School. Because one of the greatest environmental problems in Nicaragua is deforestation and destruction of the Nicaraguan forests, we decided to stress the importance of trees to the elementary students through a variety of fun age-appropriate activities.

The Nicaragua Network reported, ” Logging of the 72,000 hectares of pine forests in Nueva Segovia, Madriz, and Estelí was stopped on Apr. 13 by an order from the Nicaraguan Institute of Forestry (INAFOR). On Apr. 15, government communications coordinator Rosario Murillo announced the formation of a presidential commission to evaluate Nicaragua’s forests which would be led by Attorney General Hernan Estrada.”

We could think of no better way to teach environmental awareness than through Dr. Seuss and The Lorax. Ron hauled a bucket of dirt to the library and filled the cups with the dirt, while Maxwell and I set up the program for the first and second graders.

IMG_1614I found several songs in Spanish from The Lorax movie, downloaded them to a memory stick and played them for the kids using our new projector. We already had The Lorax book in Spanish, but when I was looking for songs in Spanish, I found a video of a woman reading The Lorax and downloaded that, too.

Maxwell introduced the book and asked the children what they thought the book was about. Smart kids! We received a variety of good answers; It is going to be about chopping down trees. It will be about dirty water. I think it is about how to take care of the earth. 

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Weekly Photo Challenge: The Golden Spice of Dinnertime


The Weekly Photo Challenge is: Dinnertime

“Each spice has a special day to it. For turmeric it is Sunday, when light drips fat and butter-colored into the bins to be soaked up glowing, when you pray to the nine planets for love and luck.”

― Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, The Mistress of Spices 

The use of turmeric dates back nearly 4000 years to the Vedic culture in India, where it was used as a culinary spice and was considered to be sacred and auspicious in the Hindu religion. Today, there is a renewed interest in turmeric for its medicinal properties, its golden-yellow dye, and its anti-inflammatory properties.

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