The Minimalist Challenge


“Simplicity is complex. It’s never simple to keep things simple. Simple solutions require the most advanced thinking.”
― Richie Norton

I’ll confess! I don’t walk willingly into the minimalist world. I constantly fight it because I am a collector of artifacts, travel mementos, of everything! My life is one big collection of memoirs! Yet, living on a small island, in the middle of a huge sweet sea, in the middle of Nicaragua, in the middle of Central America, I have been forced to reduce and reuse because: we have NO trash pick-up, there is no Super Wal-Mart or even a mall on Ometepe Island, and life is undeniably simpler.

I guess that can be a good thing. Right? I am forced to reduce my carbon footprint. My neighbor, Marina, cleans my house three days a week. She constantly reminds me that I have many “chunches” (things) as she waves my dirty old underwear, used as a cleaning rag, under my nose. “Look at this dirt!” she says shaking her head and waving my old underwear.

So, I will…reluctantly…take Annette’s Minimalist Challenge because I know I must figure out a way to actively reduce the amount of plastic and tin we collect around the house.
“I would like to challenge YOU, my reader, to think of at least one action you can adopt in 2015 that will reduce plastic and other throw-away products; that will bring down energy usage; and/or minimize unnecessary consumption of any kind.”

I started feeding my dog and cats a little canned dog food every day as a treat. These tin cans add up, so this year I made a Christmas tree out of them.
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The Dream Dome


“Create with the heart; build with the mind.”
― Criss Jami

 

Ron and I have known Francheco for over ten years. When we first moved to Ometepe Island to manage a youth hostel, Francheco worked at the hostel. In 2012, Francheco’s new yellow house and property were expropriated by the Nicaraguan government to make way for the La Paloma airport. He dismantled his house, brick by brick, dug up his newly planted saplings and flowers, and relocated to a beautiful piece of land south of the airport, near Punta Jesus Maria. The House that Francheco Built.

He married a beautiful Nicaraguan woman. They have a little son, now. Francheco built a temporary house for them and started a restaurant, Dos Mangoes. You would think this story has a fairytale ending, right? But, not so quickly.

Francheco’s dream was to build a dome home. He is extremely talented, which translates to his ability to create from the heart, yet build with his mind. With the help of one worker, he began building a dome home two years ago, one row of bricks at a time.

Francheco’s house from the back of the property.
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An Open Letter to the Chinese


Ometepe and the ChineseThree weeks ago, a Chinese delegation representing the proposed Nicaraguan Canal came to Ometepe Island. They measured land south of our new airport in La Paloma, including Punta Jesus Maria, a sacred and lovely point of land, which served as an indigenous trading port thousands of years ago, and now, is a must-see tourism locality.

Wang Jing has complete sovereignty and power to exercise dominion over all areas along the proposed canal route. He does not have to ask permission of any mayor, the expropriation of land is at his whim, and he will not have to pay taxes.
Please read on and SPREAD the WORD!

The Nicaraguan Canal: Digging with a Needle


 “Getting money is like digging with a needle, spending it is like water soaking into sand.” ~Japanese Proverb.

          The Proposed Route of the Nicaraguan Canal

canal route copy
I may be naïve, but I subscribe to the idea that nobody is making strategic decisions about the Nicaraguan Canal Project. I’ve followed the Nicaraguan Canal Project for two years, now. The talk is grand, but the transparency surrounding the canal is nonexistent.

Keep reading.There’s a great video ahead.

Casita de Tortuga


Our Casita de Tortuga is clean and ready for more friends and family. We originally built the main structure with a small bedroom on the second floor and the bodega, or garage below. Then, our son and all of his friends came to visit and they had to come to our house to use the bathroom.

We needed another bathroom…and quick! Unable to build a bathroom on the second floor, we decided to build a small addition behind the bodega structure. Afterthoughts are never good, but we made the best of it.
Keep reading. More pictures ahead.

The House Whisperer


“A man builds a fine house; and now he has a master, and a task for life: he is to furnish, watch, show it, and keep it in repair, the rest of his days.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

My husband is a fine house whisperer. This morning, our washing machine broke for the sixth,  seventh, eighth time. Ron ordered a special part from the United States and I brought it back for him, but when he tried to put the part in the machine, it didn’t fit. Because he is a man of many talents, he creatively patched the new part and made it fit. It’s not like we can return the items we order from the U.S.

One of the biggest things we’ve learned in living in Nicaragua, and especially on a small island, is that we have to rely on ourselves to be the handyman and woman. Locals will tell you they know how to do electrical and plumbing work, but we’ve found their skills to be sadly…and sometimes, horribly lacking…like the time our workers plumbed our new bathroom, and we turned on the water for the first time. Water sprayed everywhere.

IMG_3850 Keep reading. There’s more.

The Workers of Ecuador


“No society has any right to forget its workers, because they are the real heroes of the society!”
― Mehmet Murat ildan

 

Toil…labor…exertion…effort…industry…service. We all work. We burn the candle at both ends…go the extra mile…pull our own weight…buckle down to the task at hand. The workers in Ecuador are no exception.

In the beautiful parks throughout Ecuador they sweep…cook…paint…guide…sell delicious fruit juices…and entertain.

More workers ahead. Keep reading.

Weekly Photo Challenge: One Window of Our Lives


The Weekly Photo Challenge is Window. They are portals into the world’s stories. Glimpses into other people’s lives. Looking out (or into) a window can tell you about where you are — and where you’re not — and mark a particular moment in time, linking you to a physical place. Join me as we peek into one window of our lives on Ometepe Island.

A Barbie doll pink house, a big ole’ cement pila, and a worn window signified the beginning of our quest for a simple and carefree lifestyle culturally immersed with friends and family on Ometepe Island.

IMG_2260When Ron destroyed the big ole’ cement pila our journey began.
knocking out a concrete sinkLight filtered through our window and the only thing we saw was the beauty of things to come.
IMG_2797We pretended we worked in a McDonald’s drive-through, happily dispensing peanut butter sandwiches to our workers through our window. They laughed, not having a clue what we were talking about. Later, we found our sandwiches stuffed in a hole of the Mango tree.
IMG_3080I thought retirement was supposed to be… welI…retiring. Instead, I sanded my soft hands to the bone refinishing the window shutters.
IMG_3118Look! We have a TV!  Steeler football games and a cold Tona after a hard day’s work. What more could we ask for?
IMG_3252As the house progressed, the garden grew. We harvested our first batch of tomatoes.
IMG_3919Then the mangoes began to drop…and drop…and drop. Delicious mango jam is on the menu.
Mango JamThe tropics require drinking lots of water. Ron, I caught you drinking out of the jug again. I won’t nag this time because he built us a pine trestle table in front of the window.
IMG_4044Ron’s table has served us well. Family and friends gather around our table for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and even a game of spoons. The table nestled in front of the window houses my collection of Pre-Columbian artifacts and my lending library books.

My cupcake and cookie buddy and I often gather around the window where she displays her marvelous treats.

Life outside our window involves swinging, watching chickens, and making dough balls to trap rats in the garden.
IMG_0527We added a string of lights around the window for a festive look at Christmas.
IMG_1439Our window constantly changes scenes adding to our contentment on our little island of peace. One small portal of our lives, one giant step toward our dreams.
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Weekly Photo Challenge: The Hue of You


Our lives are like quilts- bits and pieces, joy and sorrow, colored with love.

This morning, we visited a tile factory in Granada, Nicaragua. It reminded me of the quilts my mother used to make. These tiles are a perfect representation of my life, colored with love.

Entering the tile factory

            Entering the tile factory

Blessed are the Piecemakers.

We Do House Hunters International!


In February, I received a comment on my blog:

I hope you do not mind me getting in touch. I work for an American property and travel show and I came across your blog whilst looking for people to participate in our popular documentary show and really enjoyed reading about your adventures!

We are currently looking for families and individuals to appear on our show who have recently relocated to new and exciting parts of the world and have an interesting story to tell – and it seems to me you would fit the bill.

I responded to the producer’s email:
One thing I need to mention is that we are not rich expats living in a gated community.  We’re simply adventurous retired teachers. We live a simple, comfortable lifestyle in a small rural community where we are the only foreigners. I think many people that watch your show would like to see more episodes that offer them hope of living comfortably on a fixed income abroad. We are actively involved in our little community and passionate about cultural immersion.

So, a TV crew came to Ometepe Island in May. We spent five fantastic, busy days filming for an episode of House Hunters International.

IMG_20130509_082857The crew was awesome and they gave us many tips for appearing on TV.
HHI - Ometepe 083 (800x600)I had to stand on blocks and bricks all the time.
HHI - Ometepe 074 (800x600)The best thing was filming our cultural immersion experiences. We went to our favorite indigenous community, Los Ramos, where we took the cultural cooking class and made delicious nacatamales.
cookin class copy 2All ingredients are ready.
IMG_20130510_160452Grandpa entertains everyone.
in los ramos copyMarvin, my iron man, is a new star!
IMG_20130509_134645They filmed us delivering my mobile lending library books to a school. It was a very touching scene because the sound man had tears in his eyes as he watched Lupita explore the new books.
delivering books copyRon taught swimming lessons to our local community. They had to do a lot of dry land exercises because the lake was so low.
IMG_2716Then, they walked to the deeper part of the lake to practice putting their heads under the water and blow bubbles.
IMG_2729The crew filmed a very popular swimming spot on the island called Ojo de Agua.
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Our last shoot on the island at Punta Jesus Maria. I loved this crew!!!
saying goodbye copy 2Adios Ometepe
IMG_2777Please join us in our adventures on House Hunter’s International, on HGTV, November 7th, 2013 at 10:30 pm EST. The Retirees and the Volcano in Ometepe, Nicaragua.