Apps and Internet Links for Expats

“Mobile is the digital gateway for the real world.”
― Tomi Ahonen


Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 8.22.23 PMI predict that soon becoming an expat will be common. There are massive economic and technological forces that are moving ordinary people abroad by the millions. Do you know that you can even become a virtual expat with the help of technology?

I have searched the internet for apps and links that will make your life easier as an expatriate. Enjoy this list and add your favorite apps and links below.
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As Much Money and Life as You Could Want!

“As much money and life as you could want! The two things most human beings would choose above all – the trouble is, humans do have a knack of choosing precisely those things that are worst for them.”
― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone


IMG_5788What would you do if money wasn’t an issue? If you live abroad in a developing country like we do, would you move? Travel more? Buy a big house and a new car? Start a charity? Pay off college loans?

We initially moved to Nicaragua because we could retire early from our teaching positions with small pensions. Nicaragua is affordable and we could live easily and simply on a fixed income. I nicknamed us “Economic Refugees” because we could never afford to retire early on fixed incomes and stay in the U.S. Money mattered in our decision to retire in Nicaragua.

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Part Two: Let’s Get Real About Expat Health Insurance

“Both terrorism and insurance sell fear — and business is business” ― Liam McCurry, Terminal Policy

IMG_9465The greatest fear of mine is a slow, painful, and expensive death from a catastrophic illness or accident. Living abroad poses many health risks, especially living on a tropical island with limited access to quality health care. After a painful bout with Chikungunya, it became necessary to research our options for international health insurance.

I suppose there are pros to being uninsured in Nicaragua. Health care is cheaper. We don’t have to see a doctor to get antibiotics or other prescription medications. We can usually self-diagnose if the illness is small and uncomplicated. For serious illnesses, Vivian Pellas hospital and the new Militar hospital in Managua offer excellent care. But, without health insurance, a catastrophic illness or accident can be expensive.

I’ve written posts about the need to have emergency medical funds when living abroad. If an expat goes to Vivian Pellas for an emergency medical procedure, before anything happens…anything!  VP swipes your credit card. Do you know what your credit card limit is? How will you afford an emergency $16,000 stent or two?

Therefore, because of my fears and “business is business”…we purchased international health insurance. Part One covered our exploration into the world of international health insurance policies. Now….

             Welcome to the world of two happy, healthy insured expats!

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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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Part One: Let’s Get Real about Health Insurance in Nicaragua

Ron in our tiny Moyogalpa hospital

Ron in our tiny Moyogalpa hospital

I was in the U.S. visiting my mother when I received a picture of Ron in our tiny Moyogalpa hospital. Robinson said, “Don’t worry, Debbie. We are all helping Ron.” What??? I was frantic with worry. See my post, Love in the Time of Cholera

Chances are greater if you live in Nicaragua, or are visiting for long-term, that you will contact a tropical disease. We have had Dengue, food poisoning, Chikungunya, and maybe Cholera ( it wasn’t specifically identified, but Ron had all of the symptoms). I had a severe UTI infection that could be resolved with antibiotics without a visit to the doctor or a need for a prescription. This is where Dr. Google comes in handy for self-diagnosis, but what about a catastrophic accident or a life-threatening illness?

This is going to be a long post and I will take you through our search for health insurance options in Nicaragua and/or worldwide. So, let’s get started.

Let’s Get Real About Health Insurance in Nicaragua

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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.

You Know You Have Chikungunya When…. ( check out my update)

Update: Yesterday ( Wednesday) we couldn’t take the pain anymore. It was our 24th day with our second relapse. All of our local friends told us to get Valerpan injections, a type of steroid. They have been almost pain-free since their injections for months after the injections. I have been nursing my aches with natural teas, vitamins, and Aleve at night…to no avail. Nothing relieved our pains.

So, we sucked it up and went to the pharmacy to buy the Valerpan and the syringes. I laughed at the display case in the front of the pharmacy because it contained every drug known to man that would help to alleviate Chikungunya symptoms.

We purchased two vials of Valerpan, after googling the adverse side-effects, which by the way are few. We also purchased syringes and Meloxicam pills, an effective drug that can enter the small joints where the virus is trapped and release the toxins. For $18 total, we were stocked up and ready to experiment with our new medications. No doctor’s appointment or prescriptions were needed.

Our expat nurse friend, Theresa, administered our injections. She took the Valerpan about a month ago, and is almost symptom-free.  She told us to expect relief in 2-4 hours. I was exhausted after our trip into town, so I fell asleep on the couch when we returned home. Three hours later, Ron and I both began to notice less arthritic pain. This morning we are almost pain-free.

I have been born again. Hallelujah! I have so much energy from the steroid, but I’m going to take it easy and not overdo. I decided to take the Valerpan injections during the full moon phase, because that’s when my body rids itself of lots of water. I am a Cancer and greatly affected by the full moon.

So far, so GREAT! I am saving the Meloxicam pills for a time when I may need them to reduce additional inflammation and arthritic pain. I will be sure to keep you updated on our progress.


I feel like my life is spiraling out of control…
IMG_0556and I blame Chikungunya. Ron and I have had extremely painful relapses and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. If you’ve never experienced chronic pain, I will try to describe what it feels like with my pictures of our Chikungunya vacation to Guatemala.

                            You Know You Have Chikungunya When…

…you’ve mastered the walk like a zombie
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Antigua, Guatemala vs. Granada, Nicaragua

“Cities were always like people, showing their varying personalities to the traveler. Depending on the city and on the traveler, there might begin a mutual love, or dislike, friendship, or enmity. Where one city will rise a certain individual to glory, it will destroy another who is not suited to its personality. Only through travel can we know where we belong or not, where we are loved and where we are rejected.”
― Roman Payne, Cities & Countries 

Both Antigua, Guatemala and Granada, Nicaragua are charming old colonial cities that for many years were the political, religious, and economic hearts of Central America. How do these colonial cities compare? You may be surprised to discover that there are more similarities than differences.

There are a handful of both dormant and active volcanoes close to Antigua. You can see several of them from any vantage point in Antigua. The most popular volcano destination is Vulcán Pacaya. It is always in a near state of eruption with plumes of volcanic gases, steam, and occasional flashes of glowing red lava.

There are also several dormant and active volcanoes one can see around Granada, too. Mombacho Volcano is one of the most popular dormant volcanoes due to its location only 10 km from Granada, its diverse cloud forest, and its four craters. On a clear day, you can see our magnificent active volcano on Ometepe Island, Vulcán Concepcion. Masaya National Park is a short drive from Granada. Easily accessible, one can peer into the steaming crater of this active volcano where political dissidents and prisoners were once thrown.

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Failure to Communicate

“What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.” ~ the 1967 movie Cool Hand Luke

It sounds so simple: say what you mean. But, all too often, what I try to communicate gets lost in translation…literally. Let’s face it! Communicating effectively in a second language is not my strength. Many days, I have a failure to communicate. But, last week’s problem was not because of ineffective communication in Spanish. It was a problem with forgetting my cell phone.

Last Sunday, our god-daughter invited us to her presentation at the border of Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Her father, Jairo, had tried to call us for a week to invite us to Alba’s presentation. Unfortunately, I had turned off my old cell phone…the number that Jairo knew. So, Jairo had to walk to our house to give us the invitation.

That was my first mistake. I gave Jairo my new number and asked him to send me a text message with directions to the place where Alba would give her presentation. That was my second mistake. Jairo doesn’t know how to send a text message. Who knew?

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