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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The Savior Complex


“While we as people of  God are certainly called to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, that whole “we’re blessed to be a blessing” thing can still be kind of dangerous. It can be dangerous when we self-importantly place ourselves above the world, waiting to descend on those below so we can be the “blessing” they’ve been waiting for, like it or not.”
― Nadia Bolz-Weber, Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People

IMG_0016There once was a little girl who believed that all good things will come to her if she is really nice and helps people. However, for me, it has turned into a bad fairy tale. I am not sure if it is Chikungunya or my mother’s death that spoke to me this morning as I was sweeping my floor, yet I had an awakening. I. Have. A. Savior. Complex.

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Let’s Get Real about Leaving Family Behind While Living Abroad


“And the danger is that in this move toward new horizons and far directions, that I may lose what I have now, and not find anything except loneliness.”
― Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

 

IMG_1583These are my mother’s hands as she grasps her suitcase not understanding where she is going or where she has been. My mother passed away last week after a long battle with Lewy Body Dementia. That my mother should be my beloved teacher in the art of living a full life, comes as no surprise. She was the first person to tell me, “Go! Live a full life without any regrets. My love will be with you wherever your travels take you.” And, her love continues to be within me, now and forever.

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Apps and Internet Links for Expats


“Mobile is the digital gateway for the real world.”
― Tomi Ahonen

 

Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 8.22.23 PMI predict that soon becoming an expat will be common. There are massive economic and technological forces that are moving ordinary people abroad by the millions. Do you know that you can even become a virtual expat with the help of technology?

I have searched the internet for apps and links that will make your life easier as an expatriate. Enjoy this list and add your favorite apps and links below.
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A Three-Hour Tour


Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip…I hummed that song for three hours on my flight from Ometepe Island to Managua, which was supposed to be a 20 minute flight.

IMG_0272I was a little concerned when I booked my flight online with La Costéna because it is usually $50 plus taxes for a one-way flight. This time it was $83. Why the increase in the cost? The flight schedule said the plane left at 2:45 and arrived in Managua at 3:05.

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Failure to Communicate


“What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.” ~ the 1967 movie Cool Hand Luke

It sounds so simple: say what you mean. But, all too often, what I try to communicate gets lost in translation…literally. Let’s face it! Communicating effectively in a second language is not my strength. Many days, I have a failure to communicate. But, last week’s problem was not because of ineffective communication in Spanish. It was a problem with forgetting my cell phone.

Last Sunday, our god-daughter invited us to her presentation at the border of Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Her father, Jairo, had tried to call us for a week to invite us to Alba’s presentation. Unfortunately, I had turned off my old cell phone…the number that Jairo knew. So, Jairo had to walk to our house to give us the invitation.

That was my first mistake. I gave Jairo my new number and asked him to send me a text message with directions to the place where Alba would give her presentation. That was my second mistake. Jairo doesn’t know how to send a text message. Who knew?

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Expats: Free Birds or Jail Birds


When asked why foreigners immigrate to Nicaragua, often they say,  I just want to feel free, like never before. My response is usually, Free from what? Does Nicaragua offer more freedom than we can obtain in our home countries? If so, what are those freedoms and are there restrictions to our freedom while living in Nicaragua?

I’m reminded of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s song, Free Bird. It is a metaphor for life.  “Things just couldn’t be the same. ‘Cause I’m as free as a bird now,” the group sings. Life happens whether we want it to or not. Since life passes so quickly, I figured that I might as well jump right into the thick of it…take calculated risks…live my dreams…change and grow. I couldn’t handle staying where things were always the same day after day. Life seemed to be passing me by, and I needed a change where I could spread my wings and fly. Nicaragua gave me that change.



What freedoms do we have in Nicaragua?

Some expat business owners say that they have more freedom to conduct business in Nicaragua. I assume that means there isn’t as much bureaucracy. Others interpret freedom to mean less financial stress and less work.  For me, now that we are retired, freedom = lifetime pensions. We can live comfortably on a fixed income in Nicaragua.

As expats, we express our freedom in many creative ways. We are artists, builders, writers, chefs, teachers, and photographers. We cherish our freedom and our rights to free speech. We defend our home countries, and pack our traditions, values, cultures, and symbols of freedom to display in our adopted country.

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Let’s Get Real About Personal Space in Nicaragua


Four airplanes arrived in Nicaragua on the same day and at the same time. We were standing in an unusually long, disorganized line in customs. There was a small space in front of me…enough space for the man’s backpack to rest on the floor. Suddenly, a family of Nicaraguans rushed into the space in front of me. I glared at them and pointed to where the line ended. Yet, they didn’t move. I think they were trying to tell me, “My happy place is in your personal space.”

Cultural space: The final frontier. Invisible bubbles of space surround all of us and they vary according to the norms of the places where we live. Why do we have personal space issues and how do they differ from Nicaragua?

me on chicken bus

Me holding a stranger’s baby on a crowded chicken bus.

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New Regulations for Nicaragua: Mandarin Required


Breaking news! In a dramatic policy change, the legislative branch of Nicaragua, the National Assembly, confirmed today that Mandarin will become the official language of Nicaragua. An amendment to the Nicaraguan Constitution requires all foreign residents and nationals to pass a Mandarin proficiency test.

In expectation of thousands of Chinese immigrants entering Nicaragua to work on the proposed Nicaraguan canal, the spokesperson for the President of the National Assembly states that the rule change is a result of concerns that national and foreign residents will not easily assimilate into local communities where the Chinese immigrants will settle. Without a solid foundation of the Mandarin language, it will adversely affect the local populations.

In a prepared statement being distributed to foreign embassies, consulates, and the Nicaraguan embassy, as well as immigration offices in Managua, the National Assembly states, “We recognize that Mandarin proficiency will be a major predictor to adapt to Nicaragua and a new Chinese culture. We have become increasingly concerned about recent clashes between the Chinese and local residents. Language problems may be causing the clashes due to cultural differences and misunderstandings.”
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