Margarita’s Ashes: A Cuban Burial Story


“Death makes angels of us all and gives us wings where we had shoulders smooth as ravens’ claws.” ~ Jim Morrison

Havana’s Colón Cemetery is the second-largest in the world taking up 56 hectares, as well as the final resting place of over two million souls. One of these souls is Margarita, Sandy’s Cuban mother-in-law.

Most tourists visit the cemetery for the historical significance and the funerary monuments, ornate sculptures, and mausoleums. We were privileged to visit the cemetery in search of Margarita’s ashes. Yet, the search led us to an unexpected discovery of how the poor are buried in Cuba.

The varied architectural styles of the graves are a fascinating reflection of the golden age of Cuba. Now, many of the graves are in a state of disrepair because the families fled before the revolution and abandoned the graves of their loved ones.

Those who can afford to decorate the graves of their loved ones embellish the crypts with fresh flowers and small tokens of remembrances. For those who can’t afford the upkeep of the graves, the story is quite different.

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The Best Water Therapy Resort on Ometepe Island


“The water doesn’t know how old you are.” ― Dara Torres

I’ve started water therapy exercises for my knee. I love the feeling of freedom walking in the water. Although we live on the beach and have a plunge pool, neither are suitable for water therapy exercises. We’ve been going to Moyogalpa to swim and exercise in the Hotel Nicaraus pool. Yesterday, they told us that they were going to drain the pool and repair it. Time to look for another pool close to our house.

Hotel La Punta is our new hot spot located a short five-minute drive from our house at Punta Jesus Maria.

img_1570The hotel recently opened, but it is the slow season. Today we had our own private resort.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Framed in Nicaragua


“That’s rule number one for a photographer, isn’t it? Fill your frame?”
― David Cronenberg, Consumed

The Weekly Photo Challenge is Frame.

This is how the world frames itself in Nicaragua.

The sunset is encased in a jar at Playa Gigante.
IMG_1724The staircase is wrapped in colors at the Revolutionary museum in Leon.
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Humans of Nicaragua: Francesco and the Elements


“That man who is more than his chemistry, walking on the earth, turning his plow point for a stone, dropping his handles to slide over an outcropping, kneeling in the earth to eat his lunch; that man who is more than his elements knows the land that is more than its analysis. But the machine man, driving a dead tractor on land he does not know and love, understands only chemistry; and he is contemptuous of the land and of himself.”― John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath 

 

Francesco is a philosopher. I’ve known him for over 12 years, and until I interviewed him for my Humans of Nicaragua piece, I never knew his philosophy of life that binds him to Nicaragua.  He is a man who is more than his chemistry. He is an artist, a master craftsman, a farmer who kneels in the earth to eat his lunch, and a loving father and husband.

Francesco came to Ometepe Island in 2001. He had everything stolen in a hostel, so he stayed until he could recuperate his loses. According to Francesco…
And the rest is history

He’s seen many changes on Ometepe Island since 2001. He said that when he first arrived, he had to find work to replace everything that was stolen.

It was difficult to find people that spoke English, so I stayed and worked in the hostel because I spoke English, Italian, and Spanish. 

My theme for his interview was his new dome home that he built, but I got so much more! I’ve written two pieces before about the beginnings of his dome home and why he had to tear down his other house piece by piece.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Blending Old and New Landscapes in Cartagena


“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” ~ Socrates

The Weekly Photo Challenge is Landscape.

Cartagena, Colombia is a perfect blend of old and new. Known for 6.8 miles of protective walls built around the city, the historic center or Old Town is the soul of Cartagena.
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Stories Behind the Street Art of Getsemaní


“Art is an evolutionary act. The shape of art and its role in society is constantly changing. At no point is art static. There are no rules.”
― Raymond Salvatore Harmon, BOMB: A Manifesto of Art Terrorism

Getsemaní used to be known for drugs and crime, and was far from the cultural epicenter of Cartagena, Colombia that it now represents. Getsemaní has emerged from a complicated past and evolved into a burgeoning barrio complete with a live music scene and an artistic community spirit.

Recently with revitalization, this once seedy neighborhood has become the coolest, most authentic, and colorful part of Cartagena. These murals represent new issues that are plaguing Getsemani, such as racial segregation, gentrification and increasing tourism. I was in photographer’s heaven. Join me as we roam the vibrant street art of Getsemaní while the art unveils itself.

IMG_1159Amazing portrait of a homeless man who sleeps on the sidewalk below this wall.
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Opening Doors in Cartagena, Colombia


“I feel very adventurous. There are so many doors to be opened, and I’m not afraid to look behind them.” ― Elizabeth Taylor

Two of the best reasons to live in Nicaragua are the low-cost of living and location, location, location. Since we are centrally located to many areas of the world and we don’t spend a lot of money to live comfortably, we can pursue our passions for travel.

We just returned from Cartagena, Colombia. What an amazing cosmopolitan city it is! We booked a cozy apartment in the walled Old City through Airbnb, Martha’s Place. Leaving our little hobbit door in our loft bedroom, we explored the old and the new from one vibrant door to another.

Let's open some doors together to this marvelous city.

Let’s open some doors together to this marvelous city.

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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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Antigua, Guatemala vs. Granada, Nicaragua


“Cities were always like people, showing their varying personalities to the traveler. Depending on the city and on the traveler, there might begin a mutual love, or dislike, friendship, or enmity. Where one city will rise a certain individual to glory, it will destroy another who is not suited to its personality. Only through travel can we know where we belong or not, where we are loved and where we are rejected.”
― Roman Payne, Cities & Countries 

Both Antigua, Guatemala and Granada, Nicaragua are charming old colonial cities that for many years were the political, religious, and economic hearts of Central America. How do these colonial cities compare? You may be surprised to discover that there are more similarities than differences.

There are a handful of both dormant and active volcanoes close to Antigua. You can see several of them from any vantage point in Antigua. The most popular volcano destination is Vulcán Pacaya. It is always in a near state of eruption with plumes of volcanic gases, steam, and occasional flashes of glowing red lava.

There are also several dormant and active volcanoes one can see around Granada, too. Mombacho Volcano is one of the most popular dormant volcanoes due to its location only 10 km from Granada, its diverse cloud forest, and its four craters. On a clear day, you can see our magnificent active volcano on Ometepe Island, Vulcán Concepcion. Masaya National Park is a short drive from Granada. Easily accessible, one can peer into the steaming crater of this active volcano where political dissidents and prisoners were once thrown.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Living Without a Door


The Weekly Photo is: Door

Two years ago I completed a Weekly Photo Challenge: Opening Colorful Doors

Yet, for this photo challenge, I am taking the opposite approach. What would life be like living without a door? You see, my neighbors are adding to their small dirt-floor house. Yesterday, I crawled over the barbed wire fence separating our properties to see the progress on their addition.

There are many ‘firsts’ in this addition, and they proudly showed me around their two new rooms. It is their first cement floor, their first barred windows, and their first cement block walls waiting for a smooth concrete finish.

IMG_8520But, they have run out of money, so they are going to live without doors until they can afford to have doors made. It may be a long wait because one strong handmade door will cost them several months’ pay.

“A door is an everyday thing, yet is often a symbol — of a beginning, a journey forward or inward, a mark of one’s home, or even a step into the unknown.” Yet, I wonder what life will be like living without a door? I can’t imagine life without a door…it’s a leap for me to step that far into the unknown…a journey of faith and trust extending outward in the world.

They live without so much as it is: no running water in their house, no gas stove, only a wood fire for cooking, no indoor plumbing, and an outhouse. Yet, they are always happy!
Marina even added a touch of color by attaching plastic flowers from Don Jose’s funeral to her new barred windows.

IMG_8523Do doors symbolize a new beginning, an opportunity, new possibilities, or potentials? Not for this family!
IMG_8525For this family, living without doors demonstrates their openness and trust between their inner and their outer world. They are so proud of their accomplishments in building this addition. All of their extended family members helped to build it…kind of like an Amish barn raising. I’m proud of them, too.

What do you think living without doors would be like? Have you ever met someone who lived without doors in their house? I’m curious to hear your thoughts.