The Secret to a Young Life


“Men do not quit playing because they grow old; they grow old because they quit playing.” ― Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

Since returning from the states the end of June, I haven’t felt like playing. Honestly, I haven’t felt like doing anything. We both got Zika, which is like Chikungunya light. But, Zika amplified our ongoing arthritic symptoms from Chikungunya, which we got a year ago. Sigh! I feel so old and exhausted.

On top of our mosquito borne illnesses, the electricity has been horrible this month. Every other day, the power shuts off at six in the evening and blinks on at nine. Some people suspect that the Ferris wheel is the culprit, others say the new Pali grocery store is consuming too much of the electricity.

Whatever the reasons for our unstable power, sometimes I feel like Nicaragua is killing me slowly. I am tired of playing detective. Who hot wired our dune buggy? Who stole my friend’s bicycle, which was chained to her porch? Is it possible to flip a switch and turn off the electricity in our community when there is a big fiesta or bullfight in the next town? Why is my internet so slow? What tropical illness do we have now…parasites, Dengue, Chikungunya, Zika, Swine flu, food poisoning, Cholera, E coli? We’ve had them all.

Is it Nicaragua or is it me?

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Maid in Nicaragua


Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 8.50.47 PMTwo times in my life I hired a maid and two times in my life, I had to let them go. The first time was when I lived in the states. I was working two jobs and my obsessive house cleaning routine got the best of me. A friend recommended a professional domestic housekeeper that cleaned for her. She wasn’t cheap and she was bonded, which made me feel better about hiring a housekeeper. She also told me to leave a list of the things I wanted done on a weekly basis.

I followed her advise and included in the list, “Clean the baseboards and the ceiling fans.” The next day the new housekeeper unloaded on my friend, showed her my list, and said that I was a slave driver and she was not a servant. I had to let her go.

Now, I will be the first to admit that I felt extremely uncomfortable hiring a domestic housekeeper. It stemmed from the collective uneasiness many women have in the U.S. of the idea of hired household help. We think it sounds nice, but maybe a little indulgent. I wondered if I would seem snobby, entitled, and spoiled. After all, I was a middle-class woman with all the modern and time-saving devices that made multi-tasking a breeze.

But, most of all, I felt guilty. I read the book The Help, I saw the sexy maid costumes at Halloween, and Downton Abbey sure didn’t help to change my perceptions of servants.
In my mind a servant, a maid, and a domestic housekeeper were all the same. The terms all had a derogatory feel to them. They brought up the same bad connotations, regardless of which word I used to describe them. And letting go of the housekeeper I had for one day confirmed my perceptions.

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Humans of Nicaragua: A Single Expat Woman on Ometepe Island


“You’ll learn, as you get older, that rules are made to be broken. Be bold enough to live life on your terms, and never, ever apologize for it. Go against the grain, refuse to conform, take the road less traveled instead of the well-beaten path. Laugh in the face of adversity, and leap before you look. Dance as though EVERYBODY is watching. March to the beat of your own drummer. And stubbornly refuse to fit in.”
― Mandy Hale, The Single Woman: Life, Love, and a Dash of Sass

Theresa definitely marches to the beat of her own drummer with grace, optimism, and passion. It takes a combination of ingenuity and creativity to live on Ometepe Island. Living here is not for city folks. Life is slow paced…island living at its best and its worse. It is  predominantly an agricultural area, so Theresa (a retired RN) has become a pig farmer raising litters of cute piggies to sell on the island.

This is the second in my series of Humans of Nicaragua: Single Expat Women. I started with single expat women because Sharon and Theresa are excellent examples of being bold enough to live on their terms, to go against the grain, and take the road less traveled.

Enjoy my interview with Theresa. Next in the Humans of Nicaragua series, I have some wonderful interviews lined up with Don Cabo, an 83 year-young friend of mine, who has lived on the island all of his life, and Wilber, a young Nicaraguan man who is dedicated to improving his life for himself and his family.

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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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Humans of Nicaragua: Single Women


“Some steps need to be taken alone. It’s the only way to really figure out where you need to go and who you need to be.”
― Mandy Hale, The Single Woman: Life, Love, and a Dash of Sass

I am starting another monthly series called Humans of Nicaragua. My first post in the series may seem like an ad for singles, but instead it is an interview with a strong, single woman who decided to retire to Nicaragua.

Sharon and I met in Granada, Nicaragua over 10 years ago. We became instant friends… I think because we are both partners in mischief and enjoy sharing our quirky stories of Nicaragua.

When I was invited to speak to a group of single women who were exploring the possibility of living in Nicaragua, I realized that very little information is available for single women who want to live abroad. So, I interviewed Sharon, a city gal, living in Granada, Nicaragua. Next, I’ll interview Theresa, a country gal, who lives on Ometepe Island and raises pigs.

profileBelow are the questions I asked and her responses.

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Pros and Cons of Living on an Island


“Every man is an island, and every heart seeks the ferry to cross the main…”
― Mykyta Isagulov

 

Sunday evening, I was invited to speak with a group of women from Finding My Place, a travel agency for women who want to explore living abroad. It was a lovely gathering with well-traveled women who are exploring Nicaragua as a place to hang their hammocks. Many of the questions they asked revolved around the pros and cons of island life. Below are some of the things we discussed, which may be of interest to you, too.

Islands are slow and far away from many distractions. Ometepe Island, Nicaragua is no exception. Island living is not for the faint of heart, yet the rewards are many, tranquility is abundant, and our lifestyles are simple.

Pros of Island Life

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Practicing Gratitude on Dia de los Muertos


“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.”― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

 

While children devoured the last of their Halloween candy, parents rationed and hid the mounds of treats, and frustrated teachers pulled their hair out with kids overdosed on sugar in their classrooms in the U.S., we were totally immersed in the cultural tradition of Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) on Ometepe Island.

For me, a little appreciation for family traditions goes a long way in Nicaragua. I am filled with gratitude to be a part of the custom of visiting the graves of loved ones, instead of experiencing a highly commercialized, sugar-overloaded, and hangover holiday of which I can find no altruistic reason to partake.

                 Practicing Gratitude on Dia de los Muertos

Gratitude strengthens relationships. Marina and her family have been our neighbors for over 10 years on Ometepe Island. At times, our relationship has been confusing and mysterious simply because our customs, language, and traditions are so different. Yet, we all count our blessings that we can share our lives together.
IMG_9453Marina sits on the grave of her husband, Don Jose, who died last October. She recalled sweet remembrances of their lives together raising five children. I believe that gratitude is about shifting one’s perceptions. No one has a perfect life. Marina and Don Jose struggled through poverty and sacrificed to provide for and to raise five strong, healthy, and good children. For this, I know she is very grateful.

IMG_9478We shared the benefits of gratitude today by appreciating what we have… as opposed to a consumer-driven emphasis on what we want.

IMG_9479One of the most powerful ways to raise grateful children is likely to be grateful adults. Raising grateful children means raising our own gratitude levels as well. Luvy, Marina’s daughter, is a perfect example of a grateful daughter.

IMG_9471We now have four friends buried in our local cemetery, two foreigners and two local Ometepinos. We visited their graves and gave thanks for their friendships.

IMG_9498At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us. Albert Schweitzer

IMG_9463The cemetery was a hub of flowers, rakes, shovels, and families visiting their loved ones.

IMG_9500The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.
– WIlliam James

IMG_9491Families decorated the graves and tombs. Children played while the tinkling bell of the ice-cream vendor floated softly through the cemetery.

IMG_9465 Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom. – Marcel Proust

IMG_9489He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has. – Epictetus

IMG_9494Practicing gratitude opens the heart…even for a very small heart like Piglet’s.

IMG_9504Gratitude is an emotion of connectedness, which reminds us we are part of a larger universe with all living things.

IMG_9514As we left the cemetery on Dia de Los Muertos, our gratitude led us to feelings of love, appreciation, generosity, and compassion, which further opened our hearts to this lovely day. Now, time to eat pizza with our extended family in Nicaragua.🙂

IMG_9515Dia de los Muertos…the day that helps us rewire our brains to fire in more positive and compassionate ways.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Guatemalan Market Treats


The Weekly Photo Challenge is Treat.

We do not celebrate Halloween in Nicaragua. Instead, we observe the Dia de Muerto ( Day of the Dead), on November 2nd. That is the time we gather at the cemetery to clean and decorate the graves of our loved ones.

My favorite indulgence, besides chocolate, is when we travel abroad. The biggest feast for my eyes is to treat myself to a local market. And I mean LOCAL, not the tourist traps where throngs of foreigners go. When we were in Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, we took a chicken bus to Santa Clara to visit the local market. We were the only foreigners there and what a treat it was!

Market Day in Santa Clara.
IMG_0820Fresh strawberries…such a delight.
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Our Lives Abroad in the Idioms of Mind


This week marks the fifth anniversary of our retired lives on Ometepe Island, Nicaragua and the fourth anniversary of my blog. Attempting to explain what these past five years have been like for us, the origin of the word “anniversary” came to mind.

The word “anniversary” first appeared in English in the 13th century, and was based on the Latin word “anniversarius,” meaning “returning yearly” (from “annus,” year, plus “versus,” a turning). The first uses of “anniversary” were in the church, and “anniversary days” were usually dates with particular religious significance, e.g., the days of martyrdom of saints, etc. The use of “anniversary” for the yearly marking of any past occasion dates to a bit later, and such dates were previously known as “year-days” or “mind-days,” times when a notable occasion or person is “brought to mind.”

Mind-Day…I like that expression because looking back on our five years of living on a tropical island in the middle of a giant sweet sea, in the middle of Nicaragua, in the middle of Central America reminds me to always be grateful for every aspect of my life. Happy Mind-Day to us!


Our Lives Abroad in the Idioms of Mind

Mind Boggling
This was our life in luggage in September 2010. It took us five years to plan for our move, and the adventure had just begun the day we boarded the plane to take us to Managua.
My Life in Luggage.

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Who Says Good Fences Make Good Neighbors?


Geography has made us neighbors. History has made us friends. Economics has made us partners, and necessity has made us allies. ~ John F. Kennedy

My news feed is filled with political articles about building impenetrable fences and walls. Robert Frost’s poem Mending Wall represents a very common sentiment among neighbors everywhere. “Good fences make good neighbors.” But, is this statement true?

Geography has made us neighbors to all the wandering cattle along our beach path. Living on a predominantly agricultural island, I have learned that fences here are built to keep the cattle, wandering pigs, and horses out…definitely not people. I prefer it that way.

I dislike impenetrable walls with electric fences and shards of sharp glass clinging to the tops of the walls like prisons. That’s one of the main reasons we chose to live in a rural area surrounded by gracious neighbors with whom we can share our lives.

I understand that human relationships need boundaries. Robert Frost’s poem is a metaphor for establishing one’s boundaries.  When boundaries are clear, human relationships prosper. But, we needed a new fence to keep out the cows who have no understanding of human nature.

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Economics has made us partners in building our fence.
Jose needed work, and we needed a strong young man to mix cement.

IMG_9114Even our youngest neighbor, Issac, pitched in to help us build our fence. That’s what good neighbors do in Nicaragua.

IMG_9110Necessity has made us allies in Nicaragua. Let’s face it. Without the help of our neighbors, we would be lost. I do not have a green thumb. Marina knows that. The other evening, Marina and her father planted flowers in my flower bed in front of our house. Early the next morning, Marina stretched her hose across our property line and watered the newly planted flowers…and they bloomed! That’s what a good neighbor does.  Continue reading