Humans of Nicaragua: Think Potential


“Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Do not bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.”
― William Faulkner

When we first rented our little beach shack in 2004, we dreamed about buying it and remodeling, planting fruit trees, raising a big garden, and building a guest house. When we were ready to move permanently to Ometepe Island, we found the owner of the beach shack and asked if we could buy it. And the rest is history.

The possibilities are endless when building on Ometepe Island. Friends from Slovakia had a dream. They searched for beachfront property and found their piece of paradise near Moyogalpa.

They rented a house near their property. Before they could start building, they had to clear the land and burn brush. Then, they dug a long trench and laid water pipes for their new trees and vegetation. It hasn’t been easy and the challenges are great, but they are on their way to fulfilling their dreams.

They started by building a wall out of sand filled earth bags. Their land is at sea level and is prone to flooding. The earth bag retaining wall will protect their house and gardens. Plus, in experimenting with the challenges of earth bag construction, they decided that their house would be built with bricks instead.

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Humans of Nicaragua: Ever and Blanca Build New Lives Together


“It is such a happiness when good people get together — and they always do.”
― Jane Austen

Valentine’s Day was also the wedding day of Ever and Blanca. I’ve written about Ever before in Humans of Nicaragua: Ever Builds a New Community. And now, Ever and Blanca are building their new lives together.

img_5018For me, Nicaraguan weddings are a wondrous act of simplicity, creativity, and love. The whole family pitches in to create an atmosphere tingling with joyful camaraderie.
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Humans of Nicaragua: Don Ebierto the Sobador


“Injuries obviously change the way you approach the game.” ~Brett Favre

I’ve watched the Olympics everyday, all day, with my leg raised and my knee iced and compressed. You see, I have my first sport related injury. That is, if you can call chasing my dog in flip-flops a sport.

I hyperextended my knee as I twisted my leg with my foot implanted in the sand. POP! And I fell to the ground in agony. Ron and Jose carried me back to the house and Lourdes ran to find Capitan (Cappy) who likes to run through the holes in the fence and visit the neighbor’s cows and dogs.

Meanwhile, I howled in pain when they plopped me on my couch and I couldn’t move my leg. Ron wrapped my knee, elevated it, and iced it immediately. But, what was the problem and how do I get to the mainland to get a MRI?

My first mistake was using Dr. Google to diagnose the knee problem. It could be a meniscus tear, or an ACL tear, or a sprained knee. The more I read, the more anxious I became. I couldn’t walk and the pain was excruciating.

“Ron, I have to go to the bathroom,” I shouted. He tried to support me and I attempted to hop, but every hop jarred my bad knee. Then it dawned on me! My wheelie office chair. Perfect!

The day after my knee injury, I called a sobador to come to my house to look at my knee. A Nicaraguan sobador is a healer who works on the material level and specializes in the treatment of sore muscles and sprains, and deep muscle massage. Sobadores are traditionally used by many Nicaraguans as a form of alternative medicine. They are a mix of traditional healers and chiropractors who blend their self-taught knowledge of the human body with faith and traditional herbal remedies.

Don Ebierto is a well-known sobador on Ometepe Island. He is respected for his knowledge of the human body and his ability to reset broken bones, massage sore muscles, and set dislocated joints. He doesn’t live very far away, so I called him and he came immediately.

I was apprehensive about calling a sobador mainly because I have little experience with natural healers. Most of my life I have relied on medical doctors, although fortunately the only medical emergency I ever had was an emergency appendectomy. I’ve never broken a bone or sprained or strained a joint. Amazing, right?

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Humans of Nicaragua: Romeo’s Juliets


“Did my heart love till now? forswear it, sight! For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night.” ― William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

Once there was a homeless dog on the Calzada in Granada, Nicaragua. He loved hanging around the outside café tables, begging for food, playing with the tourists, and sleeping peacefully under tourists’ feet. He was nicknamed Romeo for his charming personality. What a lover he was!

Romeo charmed many people with his sweet personality, but it wasn’t until two very special people came into his life, that he found his forever home.

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Romeo’s first Juliet

The first “Juliet” in his life was Jennifer who works with Granada Animal Outreach-Nicaragua. Jennifer said that Romeo came to her attention because he was always on the Calzada looking for food from tourists.

He was sweet as can be and we became buddies. I noticed he had the mouth issue, constantly moving his jaw. I tried to look in his mouth to see if something was caught in his throat, but saw nothing. He needed to be neutered so that was a great opportunity to have him sterilized and have his health checked out. The vet, Dr. Steve from Canada, the director of World Vets in Granada, described this condition as the symptoms of a previous case of distemper, probably when he was a puppy. This was now his ´´new normal.¨

13617398_10153778440693660_517514316_nAfter his surgery, the area became infected and he was in a lot of pain so I took him to my house to recover. He was pretty much perfect… wanting to please, looking for love and attention. I knew more than ever that I wanted to find him a permanent home. Also, some of the kid street vendors had started to abuse him and hit him with palm fronds… I knew it would not be a happy ending.

So, she posted this on the Granada Animal Outreach Facebook page:
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I had received numerous messages about him from people that had met him on the Calzada…. like maybe 5-6 people but no one ever followed through. I was feeling really down. And then Laura came along…..
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Humans of Nicaragua: Francesco and the Elements


“That man who is more than his chemistry, walking on the earth, turning his plow point for a stone, dropping his handles to slide over an outcropping, kneeling in the earth to eat his lunch; that man who is more than his elements knows the land that is more than its analysis. But the machine man, driving a dead tractor on land he does not know and love, understands only chemistry; and he is contemptuous of the land and of himself.”― John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath 

 

Francesco is a philosopher. I’ve known him for over 12 years, and until I interviewed him for my Humans of Nicaragua piece, I never knew his philosophy of life that binds him to Nicaragua.  He is a man who is more than his chemistry. He is an artist, a master craftsman, a farmer who kneels in the earth to eat his lunch, and a loving father and husband.

Francesco came to Ometepe Island in 2001. He had everything stolen in a hostel, so he stayed until he could recuperate his loses. According to Francesco…
And the rest is history

He’s seen many changes on Ometepe Island since 2001. He said that when he first arrived, he had to find work to replace everything that was stolen.

It was difficult to find people that spoke English, so I stayed and worked in the hostel because I spoke English, Italian, and Spanish. 

My theme for his interview was his new dome home that he built, but I got so much more! I’ve written two pieces before about the beginnings of his dome home and why he had to tear down his other house piece by piece.

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Humans of Nicaragua: Ever Builds a New Community


“What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, Palm Sunday: An Autobiographical Collage

On October 8, 2014 Ometepe Island, Nicaragua had heavy rains that caused rock and mudslides to slip off Concepcion Volcano and destroy the lovely indigenous community of Los Ramos. A five year-old girl was swept away in the strong current. Their homes were inundated with 2 ft. of mud and water supply lines were crushed by heavy boulders. There was no electricity, and their fields of plantains and beans were destroyed. They lost everything. My post Broken Lives.

My dear friend Ever Potoy was part of the destroyed community of Los Ramos. I have known Ever for about 10 years, yet it wasn’t until my son Cory and his friend Sam, worked with the community of Los Ramos to help them develop cultural tourism programs in 2012, that I really got to know Ever.  Here is my post about their work in Los Ramos: Tourism: Embrace the People, Not Just the Place.

Ever is 27 years old and an only child. He is the director of the Los Ramos Cultural Tourism programs and has a degree in English. Several generations of Potoys lived in Los Ramos, with his grandfather being one of the founders of the community many years ago.

Ever described his community as friendly, close, and hard-working. His mother was an elementary school teacher in Los Ramos. His father is a farmer and works in agriculture. He plants beans, rice, corn, wheat, plantains, and watermelons. His father inherited the land in Los Ramos from his father and continues to carry on the tradition of farming in this predominantly agricultural community.

More than 600 people lived in Los Ramos before the landslide. It was a good place to grow up because it was safe.

When Ever was young, his first job was to walk two kilometers to the lake to get water from the well, then haul it uphill to his house.

When I was young, I had to walk to get the water, but when I got older, I took a horse.

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Humans of Nicaragua: Sergio’s Faith


“Sometimes beautiful things come into our lives out of nowhere. We can’t always understand them, but we have to trust in them. I know you want to question everything, but sometimes it pays to just have a little faith.”
― Lauren Kate, Torment

 

IMG_1500Sergio was one of my ESL students in 2004. He took his studies seriously and when he graduated from high school in 2006 he was valedictorian of his class. Now, Sergio is manager of the Corner House Restaurant and Hotel in Moyogalpa on Ometepe Island.

But, how did a small-town country boy become a manager of one of the most popular restaurants and hotels on Ometepe Island?

Sergio says, It is because of faith. It is not important of my actual situation in life because I know that when I have faith in the future, I will have a better situation in life.

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Humans of Nicaragua: The Life and Times of Don Cabo


“Deep under our feet the Earth holds its molten breath, while the bones of countless generations watch us and wait.”
― Isaac Marion, Warm Bodies

We met Don Cabo 12 years ago when my ESL student, Francisco, invited us to his cousin’s sixth birthday party. We were in charge of making the birthday cake. At the time, we didn’t realize how immensely this large extended family would entrench themselves in our hearts, and especially Don Cabo, the patriarch of the family.

Here is the story I wrote about The Birthday Party in 2005.
DSCN0694Don Cabo is 83 years young and full of delightful stories. One of my favorite stories is about the bull horn in the photo above. I Wish For to Have Happy

 

Don Cabo started our interview with a short autobiography: Continue reading

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

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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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