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.

Touring Ometepe Island


Travel makes one modest, you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.~Gustave Flaubert

We’ve had company most of the month of February. I love when friends come to visit because it gives us an opportunity to tour them around the island and visit places we haven’t explored thoroughly. It also makes me appreciate what a tiny, yet beautiful place we occupy in the world.

We usually hire one of our neighbors to take us around the island. Luis just bought a new Suzuki 4 door vehicle. He will take us anywhere we want to go and his cost is $60 for the day. He says the more tours we take the sooner he will own the car instead of the bank.

Since we’ve lived on the island for over a decade, we know the places tourists like to visit. This February, we toured familiar places and one new-to-us place. Join me for a tour of Ometepe Island.

First Stop, El Ceibo Museo

It has been years since we visited the Pre-Colombian pottery museum. Named for a giant Ceibo tree at the entrance to the long dusty road that leads to two museums, the Pre-Colombian pottery and the coin museum, this is the place to learn all about the pottery excavated on Ometepe Island.

Along with the museums, they have added a hotel, pool, and a new restaurant/bar, where we were treated to shots of cojoyo: a potent fusion of corn, rice, pineapple, and sugar, made on the farm. The indigenous people of Ometepe had consumed it for generations. Our guide poured the syrupy liquid into shot glasses made from black bull horns. We drank it like tequila, with a lick of salt and a bite of mimbro, a very sour fruit resembling a small pickle. Strong, but rico! The other drink he poured reminded me of chicha, a potent fermented corn drink that I sampled in Peru.

The museum had been remodeled since the last time we were there. The guides told the same intriguing stories about the pottery and its uses. There were scalpels made from sharpened obsidian, volcanic tools and arrowheads, burial urns of all sizes called zapatos, and an intact burial site with gifts for the deceased for his/her onward travels.

 

Continue reading

Rancho Santana in Nicaragua


“You’re on the planet too. Why should James Bond have all the action, fun, money, and resort hotel living.”
― Paul Kyriazi, How to Live the James Bond Lifestyle: The Complete Seminar

When my best friend from high school came to visit us last week, they asked us to go to Rancho Santana with them. What a treat for us! We are country people at heart and usually choose inexpensive and funky places to stay, but we live on this planet, too! Honestly, why should James Bond have all the action, money, fun, and resort living?
Rancho Santana is a world-class resort and residential community on the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua. It was developed in 1997 and continues to provide first-class services to tourists and residents. 

Continue reading

The Concept of Just One in Nicaragua


Just one step. Just one mile. Just one dollar. Just one kiss. Just one person. When we look at life through the lens of ‘one,’ everything becomes that much more attainable. ~Mark Ebeling

The other day, I ran out of ink for my printer. Since there was no ink available for my printer on Ometepe Island, I sent Maxwell, my librarian, to the mainland to buy ink. It is time to make him a new work contract, so I figured he would be happy to ferry to the mainland so I could print him a new contract…and he was!

I gave him an old cartridge and asked him to buy just one black cartridge. He called from the mainland to ask me, “Do you want the $13 cartridge or the $35 cartridge?” “What’s the difference?” I asked. “One cartridge is 1/4 full of ink and the other is full of ink,” he said.

I laughed because I had never heard of selling an ink cartridge only 1/4 full. I told him to buy the $35 black ink and a 1/4 full tricolor ink because who knows when we will have to replenish the ink supply and make another trip to the mainland.

Continue reading

Five Business Skills We All Need


“The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer.” ― Nolan Bushnell

Luis, our 15-year-old yard worker, wants to go to his cousin’s quinceañera in Costa Rica in November. Although, he only works for us on Saturday, he wanted to work after school to save money for his trip. We are preparing for a new roof in November, and we needed someone to remove the old roof tiles.

“Luis, how would you like to make enough money to travel by removing our old tiles and selling them?” we asked him.

Thus began the lessons in entrepreneurship and starting a business.

Continue reading

Our Road Less Traveled


“Look for chances to take the less-traveled roads. There are no wrong turns.”
― Susan Magsamen

We have always tramped the road less traveled. It keeps us young and energetic. When we moved to Ometepe Island permanently in 2010, we built our house during the worst flood of the century. The lake rose into our property beyond our coconut trees. 👇

As a result, the road in front of our house was destroyed and never repaired. We dealt with the inconvenience by shoveling, ditching, and filling in holes and ruts with rocks and coconuts. All by hand! Our road less traveled became a hindrance and impossible to maintain without heavy road equipment.

Last week, we had an amazing surprise. Cappy ran to our gate and barked at the tanker truck, the road grader, the dump truck, and the bucket truck roaring back and forth in front of our house. What in the world was happening? And who was paying for this?

Continue reading

Pondering Progress in Nicaragua


“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”
― Franklin D. Roosevelt

Economic growth is one of the main factors in determining the progress of a country and its potential to satisfy the wants of individuals in their society. I am convinced Nicaragua has made significant progress in utilizing their abundance of natural resources to produce more efficient wind and solar energy. Technological development has played a role in Nicaragua to connect the population to the outside world through fiber optic internet cables. Ometepe Island public parks now have free wi-fi access due to a fiber optic cable strung under the lake from the mainland.

Yet, I wonder if all progress and advancements I see in Nicaragua truly benefit the majority of the people living below the poverty line. Are we adding to the abundance of the minority of Nicaraguans who have so much, and are we providing enough to the majority who have so little?

Last week I traveled to Managua for my regular check-up with my eye doctor. Arriving at the port in San Jorge, I noticed a new ferry, a desperately needed ferry because many people on Ometepe Island must travel to the mainland daily for work. This progress benefits everyone. And I have seen much growth in transportation with new airports, shuttles, taxis, and lots of cute tuk tuks that buzz around newly constructed roads like little mosquitoes.
The San Jorge port had a magnificent facelift. Restaurants, vendors, hotels, and major work on the sea walls benefits everyone, too.
Continue reading

Happy Trails!


“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”
― Terry Pratchett

 

We are off island for a grand journey to Cuba, Mexico, and then the United States. It has been a busy week. I won’t be posting from Cuba, but when we get settled in Mexico, prepare for a hundred shots of the old cars of Cuba. On my first date with my husband, he picked me up in a 1950 Chevy! And it got better…on our second date, he picked me up in a 1956 limo. We are old car lovers.

Here is a review of our past week.

Robinson opened his Island Cafe restaurant. It used to be the American Cafe and Hotel. We wanted Robinson to name it Robinson’s Crusoe, but he felt more comfortable calling it the Island Cafe and Hotel.

What a change paint makes! The restaurant used to be off white with red plastic chairs and blue plastic tables. Now, it is so chic!  Continue reading

Why We Need Cabinets in Nicaragua


We hope that, when the insects take over the world, they will remember with gratitude how we took them along on all our picnics. ~Bill Vaughan

I spend my life in Nicaragua sweeping up bug carcasses. No space is sacred, nothing is left untouched. We have regular infestations of termites, ants, spiders, and chayules (aquatic mites that swarm from the lake). See my life in Battling Bugs.

Herman, the master cabinetmaker, came into my life when I needed an enclosed space to put my collection of Pre-Colombian pottery pieces I find on the beach. The bugs particularly liked to nest in the ancient pieces. Master Craftsmen in Nicaragua

When the ants attacked all the food that was sitting on open shelves, Herman returned to build me kitchen cabinets. The Heart of My Home

Now, Herman is back with his latest masterpiece, cabinets for my office.

herman Continue reading

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.

img_2302 Continue reading