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?

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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.
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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.

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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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How to Avoid ATM Fees When Living Abroad


“Folks don’t carry money around in their pockets. They’ve got to go to an ATM machine, and they’ve got to pay a few dollars to get their own dollars out of the machine. Who ever thought you’d pay cash to get cash? That’s where we’ve gotten to.”~Bill Janklow

banpro-1Twelve years ago, we had to go to the mainland to take money out of an ATM. The first time we took our neighbor kids to Rivas, the ATM machine impressed them the most. They were amazed at the small cool room, and it really blew them away when money came out of a hole in the machine. When they told their Papa about the miracle they saw in Rivas, he asked us if he could get a card for the money machine, too.

Today, we have at least five ATMs to choose from in Moyogalpa. However, our MasterCard debit card from our bank in the states is only accepted by one bank and one private ATM at the Mega Super grocery store. Recently, our bank sent us new debit cards with the digital chips. Now, the only bank that accepts our chipped debit card is BAC.

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Let’s Get Real About Consumer Protection Rights in Nicaragua


                                  “Debt is the worst poverty.” -Thomas Fuller                                                                                       

When we were shopping for appliances in Nicaragua, I didn’t understand the prices that were displayed. All I wanted to know was the total cost of a refrigerator, but instead the prices were listed in monthly installments on stickers that must have been glued on the appliances with super glue because they were impossible to remove!

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It didn’t take me long to figure out that the majority of Nicaraguans can’t afford to pay the total cost upfront. Not only is credit “king” in Nicaragua, but the lack of consumer protection, the outrageous interest charged to buy on credit, and the lack of education about consumer rights in Nicaragua combine to make the worst poverty.

So, Let’s Get Real About Consumer Protection Rights in Nicaragua. (or the lack of them)

The first Consumer Protection law for Nicaragua was passed in 2013. Below is the link for the law in Spanish.
Law 842: Law of the Protection of the Rights of the People who are Consumers and Clients

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When Wal-Mart Comes to Town


“I don’t know what would have happened to Wal-Mart if we had laid low and never stirred up the competition. My guess is that we would have remained a strictly regional operator.” Sam Walton

Wal-Mart entered Nicaragua in 2005 and became Wal-Mart Centroamerica in 2006. The total retail units in Nicaragua are 89 (as of 2015). This includes 64 Pali stores, 16 Maxi Pali, 1 Wal-Mart Supercenter, and 8 La Unión stores.

And now, make that 65 Pali stores because Moyogalpa on Ometepe Island had their grand opening on June 30th.

IMG_2194Wal-Mart has been part of our lives in the United States for over half a century. Debates continue to rage as to the impact on the U.S. economy and society, as well as the positive and negative influences of this powerhouse. Time will tell what impact Wal-Mart has on our little island, but I already see some changes.

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Let’s Get Real About When Tourism Can Kill


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Warning: This is a rant. No beautiful photos of dreamy sunsets will go with what I have to say. Yet, I have to get this off my chest…When irresponsible and uncontrolled tourism leaves a wake of destruction in its path   It. Isn’t. Pretty

The truth is that irresponsible tourism can kill. It kills unsuspecting people, cities, small towns in pristine places, and our fragile environment. It kills morale and self-confidence, replacing them with fear and denial.  In its wake, it leaves us bewildered, confused, frustrated, afraid, and angry…oh so angry.

Irresponsible tourism affects everyone from the locals who are displaced to the business owners to the foreigners who have chosen to retire and live abroad. It affects us in Nicaragua and we are all responsible for the consequences of our irresponsible actions. No one gets off the hook easily…not anymore.

Yet, exposing the dirty side of irresponsible tourism in Nicaragua is a big NO! NO! Those who are courageous enough to speak out are harassed, shunned, and/or blocked from expat forums. Why? Well, I suspect a number of reasons, the biggest reason is economic. Responsible and sustainable tourism can provide direct jobs to the community and indirect employment generated through other industries such as agriculture, food production, and retail.

Responsible tourism can bring about a real sense of pride and identity to communities. By showcasing distinct characteristics of their ways of life, history and culture, tourism can encourage the preservation of traditions which may be at risk of losing their unique identities and cultural heritage.

Nicaragua relies heavily on tourism. Visitor expenditure generates income for the local communities, which can lead to the alleviation of poverty. The benefits of responsible and sustainable tourism are great, yet what about the problems that irresponsible tourism brings and how do we solve those problems without creating an awareness of them first?

I have written about the Codes of Responsible Travelers and I think that if we are responsible travelers we are aware of the effect we have on the places we visit. Yet, there is another side of tourism that is rarely discussed. What responsibilities do the locals have, the business owners, the local government, and the foreigners who have chosen to live in the high tourist areas? Do we escape accountability for when bad things happen?

I have given this much thought, and although I do not have a business in Nicaragua, I see the effects of the good and the bad practices daily. In discussing my thoughts, I want to make sure it is presented in a context where I don’t place anyone on the defensive or create emotional turmoil. I read about the problems on expats of Nicaragua forums, and I talk with many local and foreign business owners. These are only my thoughts on the problems. I place no blame on any group, but I think it is time that we ask ourselves some important questions to help our tourist communities be safe, enjoyable, and unique places for tourists to visit.

With the influx of foreigners moving to Nicaragua and starting businesses, are we loving Nicaragua to death? So….

Let’s Get Real About When Tourism Can Kill with six important questions we should ask ourselves as expats.

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Humans of Nicaragua: Sergio’s Faith


“Sometimes beautiful things come into our lives out of nowhere. We can’t always understand them, but we have to trust in them. I know you want to question everything, but sometimes it pays to just have a little faith.”
― Lauren Kate, Torment

 

IMG_1500Sergio was one of my ESL students in 2004. He took his studies seriously and when he graduated from high school in 2006 he was valedictorian of his class. Now, Sergio is manager of the Corner House Restaurant and Hotel in Moyogalpa on Ometepe Island.

But, how did a small-town country boy become a manager of one of the most popular restaurants and hotels on Ometepe Island?

Sergio says, It is because of faith. It is not important of my actual situation in life because I know that when I have faith in the future, I will have a better situation in life.

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