Where does the Mango Stop and the Sky Begin?


One way can be learned by starting to see the magic in everything. Sometimes it seems to be hiding but it is always there. The more we can see the magic in one thing, a tiny flower, a mango, someone we love, then the more we are able to see the magic in everything and in everyone. Where does the mango stop and the sky begin? ~ Joshua Kadison

I have never seen this many mangoes in ten years. We have five mature mango trees. Three trees are Mango Indio and two trees are Mango Rosa. Eating the first ripe Rosa mango is a taste explosion. Ron’s beard is stained a permanent yellow and my clothes are sticky and stained with mango juice.

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Let’s Get Real about Retiring to Nicaragua


“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, It’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, And that enables you to laugh at life’s realities.”
― Dr. Seuss

 

I am grouchy. The April heat is almost unbearable. It hasn’t rained for six months. My internet sucks because too many people are using the bandwidth on my server. The new paint on my plunge pool blistered and we had to drain it. The power and water are unreliable. The entire community of Urbite has run out of water. The city well is dry.  The roaming cows and pigs searching for something to eat knocked down our fence to munch on the sparse tufts of grass that are wilting in our yard. My neighbor had her thyroid removed and she can’t afford the thyroid pills she has to take for the rest of her life. Do you want me to continue?

When I read articles of fantasy such as the one linked below, all I can do is laugh. Fantasy Retirement? Living in Paradise? Let’s get real about living and retiring in Nicaragua. Life here is not all about surfing, drinking Toñas, and watching the beautiful sunsets. Living in Nicaragua isn’t for sissies.

In 2004, we used to enjoy going to San Juan del Sur. It was a quiet, little fishing village. Then, the cruise ships came, the throngs of tourists, and hundreds of expats moved to Nicaragua searching for paradise. Now, prostitutes, thieves, and drug addicts bus from Managua to where unsuspecting tourists are scammed.  Then, they hop back on the buses to sell their loot in Managua. Yes, it is even happening on our little Ometepe Island.

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2004 sunset in San Juan del Sur

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Going Green with Dogs in Nicaragua


Happy Earth Day! Not only is it Earth Day, but it is El Capitan’s (Cappy’s) birthday today. Read the story of his birth here: Plentiful Puppies

In honor of Earth Day, I found the Top Ten Green Pet Tips for Earth Day, although most of them do not apply in Nicaragua. I found four tips that are most helpful in Nicaragua.

The most important tip in Nicaragua: 1. Neuter your pet.  Pet overpopulation is a real problem—shelters are over-run and homeless pets are everywhere taxing environmental resources.  Only one in four dogs finds a permanent loving home.  When it comes time for your next pet, support adoption as part of a green lifestyle.

Cappy is one of the lucky ones. We adopted him a month after he was born.

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Accidental Nationality


“Everything you are used to, once done long enough, starts to seem natural, even though it might not be.”
― Julien Smith,
The Flinch

 

Marina’s daughter gave her a chicken killing dog. She tied it to the Mango tree in the front yard because it is a good guard dog. The other day, it chewed through the frayed rope, flew over the barbed wire fence separating our properties, and attacked one of our chickens. She apologized in the only way she could; she made us a pot of chicken soup. Yesterday, her daughter bought a muzzle for the dog. They showed us how the muzzle worked by untying the dog from the Mango tree. It flew over the barbed wire fence, and pounced on one of our chickens, flattening it like a tortilla. This time Marina asked to borrow our machete. I was afraid she was going to kill the dog, so I told her to make us another pot of chicken soup. Ahh…life in Nicaragua. It is beginning to seem natural.

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I am an immigrant from the United States, now living in Nicaragua. My nationality was accidental. I happened to be born on one side of an imaginary line, instead of another. If I would have been born in another country, I would feel just as connected with my heritage, social norms, and culture as I do now.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: The Early Bird Gets the Mango


The weekly photo challenge is Early Bird. Living in Nicaragua, we’ve become accustomed to rising early…sometimes as early as 4:30 am. All of the action occurs early in the morning in Nicaragua…the earlier the better because the afternoons are reserved for long siestas in the tropical heat.

If you are an early bird, you will probably see… the parrot getting the first ripe mango
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A Plunge Pool in Progress


Floating in a pool free of gravity, I discovered that I don’t need to be in survival mode throughout the end of the dry, hot season in Nicaragua. A plunge pool sets me free. Free from the oppressive heat…from strangling dust that seeps into every pore and orifice in my body…from the brutal sun.

For several years I tried to convince Ron to build me a pool. His reasons for not building a pool were: 1. expense  2. maintenance  3. We live on…literally on the lake shore.

My reasons for building a pool were: 1. a plunge pool is cheaper to build  2. No filter needed and low maintenance  3. We live on the lake with a giant caiman lurking around our beach.

I won after Ron floated blissfully in my friend’s plunge pool in Granada. His sighs of content could be heard echoing all the way to the hardware store for materials to build our little rectangle of cool delight.

We decided to build the pool behind our house on the back porch for privacy. Plus, we have a view of our active volcano Concepcion. Work on the foundation began a few days after we returned from Granada.
IMG_7612We hired Raymond and Jose to build the plunge pool because they are experts in working with cement. The walls are going up and up.
IMG_7614The dimensions inside our pool are 4 ft deep x 48″ wide x 80″ long.
IMG_7618Raymond puts a fine coat of cement over the pool. It is called repayo in Spanish.
IMG_5289The floor is paved with bricks, then topped with a piece of mesh fencing we had leftover. Then the cement is poured on top.
IMG_5282I wanted a shelf on one side of the pool for flowers, cool drinks, and candles.
IMG_5293Next, tile lines the top of the pool.
IMG_7620Raymond smooths the cement around the tile. We didn’t want any sharp edges around the pool.
IMG_7621Then, we added a step to enter the pool from the front, and another one at the side of the pool. The bench and a drain in the wall complete the inside of the pool.
IMG_7627We wanted a tile patio in front of the door, so Raymond and Jose prepared the foundation.
IMG_5306I think the tile is beautiful. It’s slip resistant and will help control the dust and dirt in the dry season.
IMG_7629Next, we filled the pool for two days to help cure the cement. Of course, we had to dip often. I bought a food strainer for 1 dollar to clean the pool. After it is painted and filled again, we’ll add a teaspoon of pool chlorine and drain the pool once a week. We’re going to put a mosquito net over the pool to keep out leaves and flying insects. It will hang over the pool just like the mosquito net over our bed.
IMG_7635I am sad to report that we drained the 720 gallon plunge pool this morning. Monday, we  paint the inside of the pool with special pool paint made specifically for swimming pools. The outside of the pool will be the same mango color as the walls.

Pool is painted inside. Now, we wait for it to dry for 3 days before filling it with water.
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We will start the landscaping next week, too. We’re going to build a stepping stone patio around the pool, make new flowerbeds, hang a hammock between the Neem trees, and move some of the electrical wires that are dangling from our internet tower.

I’m in the process of designing a mural for the wall behind the pool. I’m planning to add colorful, whimsical fish. I also decided to make a Pre-Colombian pottery shard caiman mosaic on the front wall of the pool. Take that you sneaky caiman! You won’t keep us from enjoying April and May floating blissfully in our new plunge pool.

The pool was built in one and a half weeks, and the total cost of the pool materials and the labor was less than $400. I believe plunge pools are the wave of the future. They are economical, almost maintenance free, and use very little water.

Stay tuned for the finished pool. Come float with us, soon!

The Small Fly on the Solentiname Islands


“There is a magnificent, beautiful, wonderful painting in front of you! It is intricate, detailed, a painstaking labor of devotion and love! The colors are like no other, they swim and leap, they trickle and embellish! And yet you choose to fixate your eyes on the small fly which has landed on it! Why do you do such a thing?”
― C. JoyBell C.

 

Tito told me of the small fly named Envy, that is creating cracks in the sidewalks along the San Fernando Island in the Solentiname Archipelago. I wanted to know if the sidewalks in the Solentiname Islands connected the people like the sidewalks in El Castillo. What I discovered was somewhat surprising, yet understanding the jealous nature of many Nicaraguans, I gained a new appreciation for Tito, the grandson of a local businesswoman on San Fernando Island. Tito has several plans to reconnect the people and mend the cracks in the meandering sidewalks.

I won’t go into the history of the Solentiname Islands, so check out this descriptive article In Lush Nicaragua,Legacy of a Priest for more information. Tito is the grandson of Ms. Guevara Silva, the owner of the historic Albergue Celentiname Inn, where we stayed.

We arrived at the Malecón de San Carlos to wait for the daily boat to the Solentiname Islands. Finding a boat schedule online was difficult, but a captain at the Malecón reassured us that there was a daily boat which left at 3:00pm for the archipelago and returned to San Carlos at 9:00 am.

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El Castillo: Do Sidewalks Connect Communities?


“Americans consider the sidewalk an anonymous backstage space, whereas for the French it is the stage itself.”
― Edmund White, The Flaneur: A Stroll through the Paradoxes of Paris

 

If the French consider sidewalks to be the stage, then Nicaraguans consider sidewalks to be the entire theater. El Castillo, Nicaragua is proof that sidewalks set the stage for connection and interaction with others, especially in this tranquil community lacking cars, motorcycles, and other forms of motorized transportation.

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Rollin’ Rollin’ Rollin’ on the River


If you come down to the River
Bet you’re gonna find some people who live
You don’t have to worry ’cause you have no money
People on the river are happy to give~ Proud Mary sung by Tina Turner

 

Every now and then, I kind of like to do things nice and easy. Rollin’ on the Rio San Juan was one of those nice and easy kind of days. However, life on the river was not always tranquil. What a deep and rough history this river has: pirates, slave traders, William Walker, Cornelius Vanderbilt; cannons, forts, rapids, and crocodiles the size of dugout canoes.

Yet, embarking on our three-hour journey meandering down the olive-green waters of the Rio San Juan, I felt like an explorer perched on the edge of discovering a new way of life…a much slower-paced life…one in harmony with the rhythm and beat of the waves gently lapping the shore in the wake of our long, flat-bottomed panga.

What discoveries lie ahead? Will we find human imprints? Join me as we leave the sliver of civilization known as San Carlos, and glide slowly down the river into the depths of the jungle. Turn up the music! We’re rollin’ on the river Tina Turner style.

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Caiman Point


“Crocodiles are easy. They try to kill and eat you. People are harder. Sometimes they pretend to be your friend first.”
                                      ― Steve Irwin

 

The Punta Jesus Maria is a beautiful point of land on Ometepe Island. It entices many tourists where the sweet waters converge and swirl around a long, narrow spit of sand, which extends into Lake Cocibolca. It also entices investors, like the Chinese, who want to build a Tourist Volcano resort at this point for one of their tourism sub-projects.

The entrance to the Punta Jesus Maria spray painted in protest of the Chinese.

The entrance to the Punta Jesus Maria spray painted in protest of the Chinese.

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