Can Expats Live Without These Things?


“If all you do is think about what you need, you’re no better than an animal in the woods, and no smarter either. To be human, you’ve got to want. It makes you smarter and stronger.”
― Dan Groat

Ron is always telling me I want too much. But, I agree that to want makes me human. It makes me smarter and stronger.  I remember the argument we had about buying an oven when we moved to Nicaragua. We both like to bake, so why was it so difficult to convince him that I wanted an oven?

Now, I do understand the difference between wants and needs. Yet, as an expat there are 14 things I can’t live without. Tropical Storm Nate convinced me that my wants usually lead to my needs.

1. Shelter

We’ve made a comfortable boomer nest in Nicaragua. But, when Nate roared through Ometepe our roof struggled to maintain its composure. The old tin roof tried its best over years with fruits pounding on the hot tin and constant leaks during the rainy season. But, it is time for a new roof.

If you watched our House Hunter’s International show, you know I like “funky”. A new roof is a ‘need’, but I have many ‘wants’ to paint, redecorate, and spruce up our little nest. We are still debating on whether to sell our place and move to more adventures. Meanwhile, I want a comfortable, low maintenance home base. And if we do decide to sell, our beautiful property will be ready for new owners.

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Random Rants about My Country of Birth


Random ranting is always good for the soul. It is like a pressure cooker value releasing steam. A good rant is cathartic. Sometimes ranting keeps me sane. And living in Nicaragua as an expat, I have some frustrations about my country of birth. It has been a while since I’ve ranted, and Anita of the blog No Particular Place to Go inspired me with her rant-a thon, so here are a few of my random rants.

U.S. Health Care Rant

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate having Medicare, but we can’t use it abroad! With my first eye surgery in the states, single payer was quick and easy. I paid 20% of the total cost of the doctor, facility, and anesthesiology. When I told my doctor that I needed to fly back to Nicaragua, he said he would have to replace the vitreous in my eye with silicon oil, which necessitates a second eye surgery to remove the oil.

“I am going to see if a doctor in Nicaragua can remove the oil in my eye,” I said to my surgeon. “Good luck with that,” he responded. “I doubt that you will find anyone as competent in Nicaragua as eye surgeons in the states.”

What is it with doctors’ arrogance? Waiting for surgery in the gurney, I watched as a train of gurneys were moved in and out of the operating room. “How many retina surgeries do you do here in a day?” I asked the attending nurse. “Usually 15 per doctor per day,” she said. I quickly calculated that the doctors each made $1750 per surgery X 15 surgeries a day = $26,250 a day!!! That is just the doctor! It doesn’t include the facility or anesthesiology fees.

I made an appointment in Managua at Vivian Pellas Hospital to see a retina specialist. Dr. Juan Rivers gave me a through exam and patiently answered all of my questions. When he said my eye was still extremely swollen, he asked, “Why didn’t the surgeon give you steroid shots to reduce the inflammation before injecting the oil?” I said that the doctor told me oil and water don’t mix, so he couldn’t put steroid shots in my eye. “Well, that is what we do before we inject the oil or gas,” he said kind of irritated. He shook his head and said that I would have to keep the oil in my eye for three months, which could have been avoided if they reduced the swelling first.

Through my tears… in only one eye… I thanked him for his patience and his TLC and scheduled another eye appointment for the end of August. His initial consultation cost $160.89. The surgery to remove the oil and replace my corroded lens will cost $3,000 for everything. Since we have international health insurance, we weighed the cost of airline tickets, a rental car, and at least two weeks of expenses to repair my eye in the states in a train of gurneys vs the cost of surgery with Dr. Juan Carlos Rivers at Vivian Pellas. I opted for a competent, caring doctor in Nicaragua. I can file claims with my international insurance and get some of my money back.

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Lasting Impressions of Cuba


“Anarchy is like custard cooking over a flame; it has to be constantly stirred or it sticks and gets heavy, like government.” ― Tom Robbins, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues

Anarchism as a social movement in Cuba held much promise for the working class during the 19th and 20th centuries. I won’t go into the sordid details, you can read the history here Anarchism in Cuba.

Yet, what I would like to discuss are my lasting impressions of Cuba. First, Che is everywhere. Forty-five years after the death of Ernesto “Che” Guevara — the Argentine doctor who led the 1959 Cuban Revolution alongside Fidel Castro — his portrait is the most reproduced image in Cuba.

His face appears repeatedly on murals, water tanks, billboards, and even plates, t-shirts, coffee mugs, beach towels, and bikinis. While extraordinarily popular as a figure of revolution where children are taught to see him as a hero from a very young age, his image is used to promote commercialism in Cuba. My impression is that he has become a pattern and a design to sell to tourists, and I think they have gone too far and misrepresented Che. Would you buy a bikini with Che’s face on the butt of a bikini bottom?

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A Sea of Humanity


“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty”.~ Mahatma Gandhi

Last week I had an opportunity to experience a sea of humanity in Los Angeles, CA. I flew from Nicaragua to march in solidarity for human rights and immigrants throughout the world. It was one of the most meaningful days of my life.

750,000 people of all races, nationalities, genders, and ages marched through the streets of Los Angeles. The reasons we marched were as numerous as the problems we face throughout the world. Yet, it was as if we were floating in an ocean of serenity, swaying and bobbing peacefully… gleefully… shoulder to shoulder…heart to heart.

a-sea-of-humanity

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How to Catch a Thief in the Digital Age


“Stealing, of course, is a crime, and a very impolite thing to do. But like most impolite things, it is excusable under certain circumstances. Stealing is not excusable if, for instance, you are in a museum and you decide that a certain painting would look better in your house, and you simply grab the painting and take it there. But if you were very, very hungry, and you had no way of obtaining money, it would be excusable to grab the painting, take it to your house, and eat it.” ― Lemony Snicket

I asked myself today, “When is it OK to steal?” We’ve had our banana stocks stolen every year because they are close to the small sandy path on the border of our property by the lake. Were they hungry thieves? Is that excusable?

We aren’t novices in crimes of opportunity. We live in a developing country and we understand that anything left out is fair game for people passing by our property. We’ve had hammocks, water hoses, and a fish trap stolen because we forgot to bring them into the house at night. We’ve had an iPhone stolen and a pair of Ron’s shoes by workers who came into our house to work.

Is stealing ever excusable?

Today, I felt betrayed by a young friend. Lauren started coming to our house with her dad when he was building our casita. She was 10 years old and we would make cookies and cupcakes together, draw and paint, and play card games. We developed a close relationship. I seem to have that effect on 5th graders. They like to hang with me.

As she matured into a teenager, she didn’t come to visit as often. When she did, we would give each other manicures and do girlie stuff together. The last time I saw her was last August. I was busy weeding the garden and I told her I couldn’t spend the morning with her. She asked to use the bathroom, and I should have followed my intuition. Something was not right. I found her in the living room and she looked guilty about something, then left quickly.

I didn’t give it much thought. Months passed. I looked for the phone, but figured I had misplaced it and the battery was too low for it to ring. We hardly ever used the Samsung. Lauren never came back to visit. Then, last night I had a dream where I saw Lauren put my cell phone in her purse. Was my gut feeling trying to awaken my consciousness through my dream?

This morning, I checked her Facebook page. I knew she didn’t have a phone and rarely posted. However, when I scrolled through her Facebook page, she had posted selfies every day since last August. And not just normal cute selfies…very sexually provocative selfies. She just turned 15 in November and I was shocked by her selfies. What was going on with her?

I wondered if my old phone number still worked because we still had the phone on our data plan. Long story about that, but Claro advised me not to remove the old phone number from my plan because I would have to start all over again with a more expensive plan. So, I called my old phone number!

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Can I Survive as a Whole Person Without Internet?


“People who have so much of their personality invested in the Internet can’t really survive as whole individuals without it.” ― Mark A. Rayner, The Fridgularity

Oh boy! That quote hits a home run with me. I invest so much time, energy, and money in trying to get a faster internet signal in Nicaragua. I know that I am addicted to the internet, and I may need an intervention. Yet, I wonder if I would be a better person or a different person without the internet. Would my personality change without the internet?

If you have followed my blog, you know I am a geek girl and I am constantly searching for solutions to increase the speed and connectivity to the internet on Ometepe Island. Check out a few of my past posts.

My Woktenna

Confessions of a Geek Girl

Facebook for Expats: Friend or Foe?

IMG_1764The trees in our neighborhood had blocked the direct line of sight to the mainland for our internet signal. We couldn’t top the trees because many of them aren’t on our property and we couldn’t extend our pole tower on the roof of our casita because the cables wires that secure the poles had to extend beyond our roof.

So, our only option was to build a new and taller tower. Five men came from the mainland on Friday to construct our tower. It was fascinating to watch them build our tower, if not somewhat frightening because I have a fear of heights.

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Wow! You Won’t Believe What Just Happened!


Do I have your attention? I just click baited you. 🙂 I read that Facebook is changing their algorithms so that click baiting titles that misinform or deceive, kind of like spam, will be moved to the bottom of your news feed.

I am so glad to hear that. I hate clicking on an article, only to find that the title deceives you. But, even though this is not earth shattering news, my post is about the internet, and mainly Netflix in Nicaragua.

My internet has been super slow for about a month. Technicians have been to my house numerous times, and we decided to install a larger internet tower so that we have direct line of sight to the mainland because the trees surrounding our house have grown taller than the tower we have on the roof of our casita.

The new tower is still not installed…mañana they tell me. So, I called Evenor to check out my system because my download speeds were registering 0.02 mbps. Sigh!

I have to backtrack a moment to tell you about my router. I bought a fancy router in the states where the VPN was installed within the router, so all my devices looked like the IP address was from the USA. It worked great, especially for Netflix, until Netflix decided to block all VPNs.

I spent hours chatting with my VPN provider, changing the settings in the router, changing the location of my server in the USA, and fiddling with the router. All to no avail. I still couldn’t get Netflix.

Evenor

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Let’s Get Real about Housesitting in Nicaragua


“Whenever you go on a trip to visit foreign lands or distant places, remember that they are all someone’s home and backyard.”
― Vera Nazarian

our houseHonestly, we have never had a problem finding housesitters. Who wouldn’t want to stay on a tropical island in the middle of a sweet sea, in the middle of Nicaragua, in the middle of Central America?

In fact, as you read this, we are in the United States and we have another awesome housesitter. We travel often and because we have a dog and two cats and a home in a developing country, we always have a need for responsible sitters.

After several years of planning for housesitters, I have the housesitting routine down pat. So, let me share with you some of the things I have learned when preparing for sitters.

Let’s Get Real about Housesitting in Nicaragua

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Let’s Get Real About the Postal Service in Nicaragua


“Strange as it may seem, I still hope for the best, even though the best, like an interesting piece of mail, so rarely arrives, and even when it does it can be lost so easily.” ― Lemony Snicket

Sometimes, I long for the days of the efficient, public-funded U.S. Postal Service. I miss putting mail in my mailbox and lifting the plastic red flag to notify our postal carrier to pick up my mail for delivery, six days a week and Free of Charge.  I can’t imagine that happening in Nicaragua. First, there are no mailboxes or mail slots in people’s homes. Second, if there were mail boxes, the contents would be stolen by passersby quicker than you could recite your zip code.

I miss the magic of reliable mail service, standard rates, real street addresses, and the ease of slapping a stamp on an envelope, depositing it into a mailbox and mail whizzing to its destination with the ability to track it online every step of its speedy journey.

It’s a shame that the U.S. Postal Service is struggling these days due to how much people rely on the web for email, ordering, transferring money, and paying bills online. But, the problem in Nicaragua is that not only do we lack the online infrastructure of paying bills, ordering online from Amazon, eBay, etc., we also lack a reliable postal service.

It’s a double whammy living in Nicaragua… So, Let’s Get Real About the Postal Service in Nicaragua.

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