Master Craftsmen in Nicaragua


 “You can either be a victim of the world or an adventurer in search of treasure. It all depends on how you view your life.”
― Paulo Coelho, Eleven Minutes

I am an adventurer always in search of treasure. The Pre-Columbian pottery shards and pieces I find on my daily walks along the beach sit in piles on my bookcase and on my porch forever gathering dirt and dust and harboring tiny colonies of insects. Yet, more than protecting my pottery, I found a greater treasure in the master craftsmen in Nicaragua.

The time was long overdue to protect my treasures! I designed a wooden display cabinet, then I had to find a master woodworker to build the cabinet to my specifications. Marina recommended Herman, her door maker. When I saw the quality of his work, I knew he would be perfect.

IMG_8551 Continue reading

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.

The Last Straw!


IMG_2980Who knew? Panama hats, woven from the straw of the toquilla plant, are from Ecuador! In Ecuador they don’t call them Panamas. They call them sombreros de paja toquilla. The origin of this misnomer comes from the hat’s widespread use by the workers who built the Panama Canal  from 1904-1914.

Watch the whole hat making process.Read on.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Split-Second Juggling


The Weekly Photo Challenge is Split-Second Story. “Attempt to capture a candid moment in time,” says Shane.

We just returned from a month in Ecuador. I feel as if I am adroitly juggling…coping with an attack of millions of aquatic gnats called chayules…organizing and unpacking my little treasures of seashells, colorful textiles, Panama hats ( really they are made in Ecuador…more about that later) and thousands of photos…balancing my need for sleep with my frustrations of a painfully slow internet. But, it is comforting to be home to sleep in my own bed…to cuddle with my cats…to catch up on the latest news…to be surrounded by faces and stories that are familiar.

While in Ecuador, traveling along the spine of the Andes, there were jugglers at every red light. Some were disguised with elaborate costumes of angels, devils, and clowns. In a split second, they shuffled sharp machetes, bowling pins, glowing balls, and in one case, swords of fire. Their skilled acrobatics amazed me! The timing was perfectly matched to the length of the lights, then they would hustle through the clouds of exhaust to collect coins for their performances. It sure beat the red light vendors in Nicaragua. They hawk windshield wipers in the rainy season, and clean the car windshields in the dry season.

IMG_2406Hang in there with me, my friends. I have many new stories to tell…some split-second stories, some more lengthy. First, I have to clean millions of chayules from my house. They smell like fish, but at least they don’t bite! 🙂

 

Nicaragua: On the Threshold of Change


“He had the vague sense of standing on a threshold, the crossing of which would change everything.”
― Kate Morton, The Forgotten Garden

The Weekly Photo Challenge is Threshold. Nicaragua is on the threshold of change. That point of entering just before a new beginning. Join me in my photographic journey of the threshold of change in Nicaragua.

Doorways once leading to nowhere, are getting a fresh coat of paint.
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There are many more pictures of changes. Read on.

Fli-Fy, not Wi-Fi


I am constantly in search of a stronger wi-fi signal. Living on a small tropical island in Nicaragua is not conducive to FAST internet. Sometimes, it is so frustrating trying to upload or download information. And forget about watching Youtube videos with a 3G dongle. Even with my homemade woktenna, a strong signal is sporadic.

But, I have lots of doves. Afterall, we live in the village of La Paloma…the village of doves. They are everywhere! If this works with pigeons, it’s sure to work with doves. Soon, I’ll be attaching these mini-routers to all the doves in La Paloma. I may need the help of some dove catchers and definitely a large supply of velcro.

Thanks to Samsung’s innovative approach, I should be flying through the internet in no time! If only I can catch those cute little doves.
Happy April first everyone!

A Great Opportunity


“People who lack the clarity, courage, or determination to follow their own dreams will often find ways to discourage yours. Live your truth and don’t EVER stop!”
― Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

This is a great opportunity for the right people. If you are searching for a new lifestyle, this may be for you. Eleven years ago, my husband and I followed our dreams by answering an ad for a manager of a hospedaje on Ometepe Island. Although, managing a youth hostel was not our thing, it led us to revamp and rewire our lifestyles and we’ve never looked back.

The Corner House on Ometepe Island, Nicaragua
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This job may be for YOU! Read on.

Holiday Gifts from Nicaragua


shop localLiving in Nicaragua, Christmas shopping gives me a new outlook on the importance of shopping local. Buying local stimulates the economy, creates new jobs provided by local businesses, reduces the environmental impact, and nonprofits receive greater support. Although Nicaragua is still in its infancy in high-tech shopping online, there are  a few websites devoted to selling their products from Nicaragua.

Enjoy the list I have compiled and Happy Local Shopping.

1. Masaya Market-Handmade Gifts  One of the few websites where you can buy online.
2. Sexy and Sexy 
One of Nicaragua’s first online-only stores. Warning: This is an adult erotic supply website. Leave it to Nicaragua to develop a virtual sex shop as a way to help innovate the way the internet is used in Nicaragua.
3. Vidalife Granada  This website focuses on shopping in Granada, Nicaragua. Check out the directory of services.
4. Una Buena Chica Nica  A Facebook page displaying her fine local crafts in San Juan del Sur.
5. Empowerment International  Give a gift of education for impoverished Nicaraguan children through this wonderful organization.
6. Nicaraguan Cultural Alliance   a U.S.-based organization that works to support the arts and community development projects in Nicaragua.
7. Fabretto   Fabretto’s mission is to empower children and their families in Nicaragua to reach their full potential and improve their livelihoods through education and nutrition.
8. Nica Nelly  Purchasing pottery, hammocks, Nicaraguan coffee, and other crafts from NicaNelly directly benefits the artisans from Nicaragua who take pride in their craftsmanship.
9. La Esperanza Granada  Give a gift of educational supplies that will last a lifetime.
10. Opportunity International  Shop in the Ojala Store The Ojala brand represents the creativity and potential of Nicaraguan microentrepreneurs

In addition to these online stores and NGOs that support local craftsmen, below are a few resources from Melissa, an expat friend who has lived in Nicaragua for 10 years. Thanks Melissa for the pictures and contacts.

eggnog

An awesome locally made eggnog, with or without rum. 8-404-1816 for info on where to get in Managua.

nativity scene

From Pesebres, hand-carved jicaro shells, and baby Jesus is in a cradle made from pine needles from Cusmapa, terranica.artesanos@gmail.com

chopping block

An early Christmas gift made using gorgeous woods by Crearte. Maria and Gerardo Gutierrez run the place and have a shop in Masaya. gerardojoselopez16@hotmail.com

Again, happy local shopping this holiday season. If you have any additional links for Nicaraguan products, please add the link in a comment below.

 

Dreamers Turned Doers


“Dreamers are mocked as impractical. The truth is they are the most practical, as their innovations lead to progress and a better way of life for all of us.”
― Robin S. Sharma

We are constantly looking for new ways to do practically everything in our rewired and retired lives. Researching  practical innovations that would help to make a better way of life for all of us, I found these amazing things on the internet. Click on the navy blue link to read more about these dreamers turned doers.

John Lennon glasses

1. A New Way to See the World
My neighbors need prescription glasses, but they are very expensive. This new technology injects fluid into the lenses and by rotating the dials, you can achieve the perfect prescription without a costly eye exam.

ear phones2. A New Way to Hear
Robinson had a horrible motorcycle accident a year ago. As a result, he lost most of his hearing in one ear. A delicate operation is needed to reposition the tiny bones in his ear, but there is no guarantee this will work. Using bone conduction technology originally developed for military special ops, these headphones transmit vibrations directly from your cheekbones to your inner ear, bypassing the eardrum.

edible glasses3. A New Way to Drink
Plastic bottles…a huge problem on Ometepe Island. These edible glasses are made from pectin, a gelling agent derived from fruits, the cups are surprisingly durable, and Briganti hopes they’ll help replace disposable plastic. We could definitely use these here!

Fresh Paper4. A New Kind of Paper
This would be a boon for our small agricultural island. The inventor is partnering with nonprofits in developing countries to ship FreshPaper to some of the roughly 1.2 billion people in the world who lack refrigeration, including small-scale farmers in India and Africa who sometimes can’t sell their crop before it spoils.

drones delivering mail 5. A New Way to Deliver Our Mail?
A company called Matternet has tested unmanned aerial vehicles, or “drones,” in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, where it hopes to help deliver medical supplies and food to areas that lack reliable roads. Now, this would be fantastic, since we have no mail delivery on Ometepe.

  taking a course online 6. A New Way to Take Free College Courses

I used to teach online graduate level education courses. The greatest thing about teaching online was that I could do it from anywhere, even wearing my PJs. I’ve signed up for a course with Coursera. With 300-plus free online courses — Moralities of Everyday Life,  Archaeology’s   Dirty Little Secrets, Women and the Civil Rights Movement — all taught by professors at 62 of the world’s top schools, including Yale and Stanford, the Web site Coursera reads like the course catalog you wish you’d taken advantage of in college. The company’s goal is to allow every person in the world access to an Ivy League–caliber education — without the frat parties and calculus requirement.

vaporizers  7. A New Way to Quit Smoking
Cigarettes are really cheap in Nicaragua. If you are thinking of quitting, new studies show that using a vaporizer, or e-cigarette, is as effective if not more so, than using a nicotine patch.

Cacoon-hanging-tree-house-1-640x6448. A New Kind of Tent
 I’m not sure how practical this would be, but it is very cool. I wonder how difficult it would be to make?

Born Out of Necessity


Necessity is the mother of taking chances.
~Mark Twain

Satisfying one’s basic needs..and a few wants..while living on a primitive island in the middle of a huge sweet sea, in the middle of Nicaragua, in the middle of Central America can be quite challenging at times. Many things on Ometepe Island are born out of necessity due to lack of reliable infrastructure, transportation, and supplies.

But, that certainly doesn’t stop the creative and motivated people who live here.

I. Shelter
With our gift of two bags of cement for Christmas, our neighbors made a new addition to their kitchen. Shade is a necessity on our beach….always. Homemade ladders and handmade metal reinforced columns help to complete our casita.

II. Transportation
What do you do with a broken Jet ski? Of course, you make it into a fishing boat. Mechanics rebuild motors in the ferries with spare used parts, while a creative entrepreneur designs a tandem bicycle out of used bicycle parts to rent to tourists. Handmade carts haul wood for cooking fires and the ferry transports a mummified horse for the local rodeo.

III. Utilities
Tall water tanks supply gravity fed water during water shortages and everyone is an electrician when the lines get tangled or we need 220 v. Just hire a neighbor to climb the pole to fix the electricity in the neighborhood.

IV. Flood Insurance?
In 2010, while we were building our house, the lake rose to the highest levels seen in 60 years. It rose into our yard and washed out our road. Materials had to be carried on our heads as we sloshed through the lake. We crushed old roof tiles for a stronger road bed and hired a tractor to deliver bricks. The tractor got stuck, but with the help of many strong men and several attempts, we were able to push it out of the lake to get the bricks to the house. There is no such thing as flood insurance, so this idea was born out of blood, sweat, and tears to build our house.

V. Communication, Banking, and Free Luggage
My woktenna was born out of a need for a faster internet…and it works great! I even won third place in a contest for the most creative way to get online. Have you ever seen a tent bank? Born out of necessity, this bank opened in a tent until construction was completed on their new bank. Disgusted with paying high prices for your luggage on airlines? I needed a way to transport my books for my lending library, thus my homemade travel vest was born…and it’s free. I can waddle through airports with 40 pounds of books in it..no questions asked.

VI. Creative Outdoor Living
Aware of crimes of opportunity, we can’t leave hammocks or other lawn furniture outside unprotected. In fact, I got lazy and left a hammock outside two weeks ago, and it was stolen! Sigh…but that’s another story. With leftover bricks, I made outdoor furniture. The workers building our casita were so impressed with my outdoor furniture, that they made a mini-brick ferry.

VII. Health

Walter, our local mosquito exterminator, fumigates the houses with his homemade fumigator gun. Johnson lifts weights made of two tin cans packed with concrete.

Necessity is the mother of invention. That holds true on Ometepe Island. It involves taking risks, but great things are born out of necessity.