Humans of Nicaragua: Wilber’s Story


“The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.” ~B.B. King

How does one choose between an education and food for one’s family? It is difficult for me to understand from my secure, economically stable, and knowledgeable world. But, choosing to provide for one’s family instead of going to school is a commonplace decision habitually made in most developing countries throughout the world.

The power of education or the power of family? It is almost impossible for me to imagine that this choice has to be made.  Yet in Nicaragua, it really isn’t a choice for the poor; instead, it is a way of life. Food or education? Medicine or education? Low paid unskilled labor or education? The poor do not choose. That is a myth that I am beginning to understand from living in Nicaragua.

Without an education, it is difficult for me to understand how people function in a literate, high-tech world. According to UNESCO Institute for Statistics, the adult literacy rate is the percentage of people ages 15 and above who can both read and write with understanding a short simple statement about their everyday life. In Nicaragua, 78% of the population is literate. Literacy chart comparing 215 countries.

It is almost impossible to imagine what it is like to be illiterate, unable to read or write words, and how terrifying and confusing the world must seem. Five years ago, this was the bewildering world in which Wilber lived. He knew very little about education and even less about the literate world surrounding him.

When Wilber was nine years old, his father ran off with another woman leaving him to care for a sick mother and his younger brother. He quit school and applied for a job as a farm hand on Ometepe Island.

“The farm owner said I was too tiny to work, but I convinced him to hire me because I needed to support my family.” ~ Wilber

IMG_0127

Continue reading

Weekly Photo Challenge: Surfing through Life


The Weekly Photo Challenge is Optimistic

“The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds; and the pessimist fears this is true.”
― James Branch Cabell, The Silver Stallion

 

Our son and his fiancé are living in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua for six months. Not only is it wonderful to have family in Nicaragua, but they are two of the most optimistic people I know. They surf through life with enthusiasm and believe that we live in the best of all possible worlds.

Thanks Kimo, for this fantastic photo of Tina surfing through life.
tina body surfing

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.

IMG_1070

Continue reading

Things You Think are Normal Until You Live in Nicaragua


“Normal is an ideal. But it’s not reality. Reality is brutal, it’s beautiful, it’s every shade between black and white, and it’s magical. Yes, magical. Because every now and then, it turns nothing into something.”
― Tara Kelly, Harmonic Feedback

Before ever placing my gypsytoes on Nicaraguan soil, I expected “normal”. Without the opportunity to live here for a year ( 2004-05) in our experiment with “pretirement”, I would have expected many of the items I have listed below to be available in Nicaragua.

However, our year in “pretirement” in Nicaragua taught us to expect the unexpected. Normal is not reality. And I prefer it that way because it fits my personality. Nicaragua is an oxymoron with bitter-sweet moments, normal deviations, and fictional reality. It provides us a quirky and unconventional lifestyle, where we can turn nothing into something. And I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Continue reading

Weekly Photo Challenge: The Lightness of Being


The Weekly Photo Challenge is Weight(less). We built a plunge pool about six months ago, and I can tell you that there is no better feeling than floating in the cool water when the temperatures are wickedly hot.

I love dipping into weightlessness and sinking into dreams. It’s the freest place to be. The possibilities are limitless and my imagination becomes a weightless wonder.

Continue reading

A Lesson in Persistence


“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”
― Winston S. Churchill

“Ron, you have to see this,” I shouted from the living room. A chicken bus spinning its wheels, grinding its gears, and unable to go forward or backward appeared to be hopelessly stuck in the deep sand on our beach.

Yet, throughout the three-hour ordeal, I learned a lesson in perseverance that the Nicaraguans show over and over again. They never give up. What we perceive as hopelessness, they tackle with determination, persistence, and always with smiles and laughter. Incredible!

Nosotros Pequeños Hermanos outing looked like it was headed for disaster. The Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos NGO had an orphanage on Ometepe Island until 2010, when our sleepy Concepcion volcano decided to wake-up. Fearfully, the organization transferred the children to the mainland in Jinotepe, but continued to run a small farm and a project called Samaritan Project on the island.

Every year, they bring the children back to Ometepe Island to visit and volunteer on the farm. When we saw 50 orphans stranded on our beach, we grabbed the shovels and joined in the fun of helping them dig out their chicken bus.

IMG_9832

Continue reading

Behind the Tourist Scenes on Ometepe Island


IMG_1121Surreal looking, isn’t it? We have lived on Ometepe Island for many years, and this morning was our first trip to the garbage dump. I have no words for our experience. It is an open air dump where horses and dogs scavenge for food, children work picking through the garbage, and putrid smells and flies infiltrate every part of our bodies.

Tourists NEVER see this. Yet, I feel that they need to see our dump. Awareness is the first step to changing the world. Yet, in creating an awareness of this atrocity, where do we go from here?

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Weekly Photo Challenge: From Plain Cotton to an Ornate Weaving


The Weekly Photo Challenge is Ornate.

How does one transform plain cotton into an elegant work of art? The answer is simple if you are an indigenous Mayan weaver. Weaving colorful cotton fabric was an art form among high-ranking ancient Mayan women. Today, weaving is a daily part of Mayan women’s lives as they pass down their skills from generation to generation and sell their ornate woven products through women’s cooperatives in Guatemala.

We visited the San Pedro Women’s Weaving Cooperative in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala where we were taught the process of transforming this…
IMG_0948into this…the traditional elaborate Mayan women’s clothing.
IMG_0962 Continue reading

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.
IMG_0813 Continue reading