Wet Foot, Dry Foot: Cuban Refugees Halted at Nicaraguan Border

“Recognize yourself in he and she who are not like you and me.” ― Carlos Fuentes


Standoff at the border. Álvaro Sánchez/The Tico Times

Standoff at the border.
Álvaro Sánchez/The Tico Times

The scene at the Costa Rica/Nicaragua border this past weekend is reminiscent of a Syrian refugee camp, but on a much smaller scale with about 2,000 Cuban refugees who are walking to the U.S. hoping for permanent residency.

Continue reading

Who Says Good Fences Make Good Neighbors?

Geography has made us neighbors. History has made us friends. Economics has made us partners, and necessity has made us allies. ~ John F. Kennedy

My news feed is filled with political articles about building impenetrable fences and walls. Robert Frost’s poem Mending Wall represents a very common sentiment among neighbors everywhere. “Good fences make good neighbors.” But, is this statement true?

Geography has made us neighbors to all the wandering cattle along our beach path. Living on a predominantly agricultural island, I have learned that fences here are built to keep the cattle, wandering pigs, and horses out…definitely not people. I prefer it that way.

I dislike impenetrable walls with electric fences and shards of sharp glass clinging to the tops of the walls like prisons. That’s one of the main reasons we chose to live in a rural area surrounded by gracious neighbors with whom we can share our lives.

I understand that human relationships need boundaries. Robert Frost’s poem is a metaphor for establishing one’s boundaries.  When boundaries are clear, human relationships prosper. But, we needed a new fence to keep out the cows who have no understanding of human nature.

Economics has made us partners in building our fence.
Jose needed work, and we needed a strong young man to mix cement.

IMG_9114Even our youngest neighbor, Issac, pitched in to help us build our fence. That’s what good neighbors do in Nicaragua.

IMG_9110Necessity has made us allies in Nicaragua. Let’s face it. Without the help of our neighbors, we would be lost. I do not have a green thumb. Marina knows that. The other evening, Marina and her father planted flowers in my flower bed in front of our house. Early the next morning, Marina stretched her hose across our property line and watered the newly planted flowers…and they bloomed! That’s what a good neighbor does.  Continue reading

Renewing U.S. Passports from Nicaragua

Ron and I had no blank pages left in our passports. That’s the price one pays because of the love of travel. We had two options: either get extra passport pages in our passports before December 2015, or renew our passports.

The cost of a packet of extra pages for our passports was $82. The cost of renewing our passports and getting new ones was $110 at the U.S. Embassy in Nicaragua. It was a no-brainer for us and cheaper in the long-run because our passports could be renewed for ten more years.

Why are extra passport pages going away?

Being curious, I wondered how our U.S. Passports are made.


U.S. Passport facts at a glance.

Continue reading

Let’s Get Real about Working in Nicaragua

Since my post, Lets Get Real about Retiring to Nicaragua, was a big hit, I am going to have a monthly post on Let’s Get Real about…

This month’s post is Let’s Get Real about Working in Nicaragua. It all started with a post on a Facebook forum for expats in Nicaragua.

Hey, how much money will I need to support myself for the first couple of months? When I arrive I am going to travel to a few places (i.e Leon, Granada) and choose the place I like best and then look for work as an english teacher there.

Recently, I have noticed an increase in the number of alarming posts, such as the one above. I say alarming because many foreigners looking for work in Nicaragua haven’t done their research.

So let’s get real about working in Nicaragua as a foreigner.

Continue reading

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.

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.

Continue reading

Illegal Immigrants and Perpetual Tourists in Nicaragua

Last week, I went to Granada to visit friends. Not only were there throngs of tourists, but there appeared to be many new foreigners moving to the Granada area. Fancy hotels and condos sprung up in Granada, practically overnight. New restaurants and bakeries cater to the tastes of foreigners. Relaxing spas and swimming pools bathe and soothe foreign bones and tired muscles.

I wondered how many of the new foreigners moving to Nicaragua were pursuing legal residency in Nicaragua and/or their reasons for not choosing the legal path to residency. Ron and I lived in Nicaragua two years before applying for residency. We got tired of crossing into Costa Rica every 90 days to renew our visas. For us, the process was a bureaucratic nightmare, mainly from the U.S. side; however, for many the process to legal residency is almost impossible.


Continue reading

An Immigrant Story: Tito Crosses Over

“I take issue with many people’s description of people being “Illegal” Immigrants. There aren’t any illegal Human Beings as far as I’m concerned.”
― Dennis Kucinich


Tito left Ometepe Island on June 9, 2004 in search of a better life for his family. Until he was 24 years old, he lived with his single mother. His father abandoned the family when he was 14 years old and now lives in Costa Rica with another woman. This is the story of Tito’s journey to the United States, as told to me by a local Ometepian.
Tito’s story is ahead. Keep reading.

Drugs, Poverty, Violence, and the Child Migrant Crisis

IMG_0957“We cannot live for ourselves alone. Our lives are connected by a thousand invisible threads, and along these sympathetic fibers, our actions run as causes and return to us as results.” ― Herman Melville

Cause and effect! Choices made, whether good or bad, follow us forever and affect everyone in their path.  For several weeks, we have been bombarded with the Central American child migration crisis in the United States. I believe that this crisis cannot be solved without first delving into the causes.
Please read on. Moe ideas about the causes of violence.

We’re Official!

Our residency cards

After a year of frustration, gathering documents, and bureaucratic nightmares in the USA, we are finally legal residents of Nicaragua. We went to the Office of Immigration in Managua on Monday and picked up our cedulas.

Actually, the process was easier in Nicaragua, than in the USA. Once we submitted all of the paperwork, it was only a matter of waiting, waiting, and more waiting. We paid 5,900 codobas each for our cedulas at one window, had our pictures taken in another small cubicle, and they delivered our cedulas to another window.

Our cedulas are good for five years. By the time we are ready to renew, they will probably change the rules again. Was it worth the hassles? For us, yes because we own property in Nicaragua. It gives us a little more security and just makes the process of living in Nicaragua a little easier. We are no longer perpetual tourists. :-)

We’re Almost There!

                   The Office of Immigration in Managua

After living in Nicaragua for a year, our friend Bill would often say, “You’re almost there.”  “Where?” we would ask. “Wherever you want to be,” he would respond. Since beginning our quest for residency in Nicaragua, Bill’s zen like comment is ringing true. We’re almost there. Residency in Nicaragua is almost complete.

We went to Managua today to visit the Immigration Office. Everything was stamped and approved for our pensionado visas. It was only a matter of waiting for them to issue our cedulas. (Nicaraguan IDs)  We were warned that immigration would probably follow procedures and issue us receipts for our cedulas, instead of the real IDs. What that means is that we would have to return in 3-8 weeks to pick up our cedulas.

However, there was always a chance that we would be issued our cedulas. Nicaragua is in a constant state of flux..rules change daily. Without expectations, we waited in a long, hot line to talk with the immigration officer. He issued us the receipts and told us to come back in July for our cedulas. There was no point in arguing; we knew to expect a long wait and several trips to Managua.

                       Our little paper receipts for our residency.

These little slips of paper with the red stamps are important. Now that we have the receipts, time stops. We no longer have to cross borders every ninety days, and we can open a bank account in Nicaragua. I’m sure there are other advantages to having the receipt, but for us, the biggest advantage is that we are now legal residents of Nicaragua. It simplifies life in Nicaragua when we have official residency and all those little stamps. Nicaraguans love stamps!

I’m on my way to the states for two weeks. The next time I fly out of Nicaragua, I’ll have my cedula and things will change again. First, I won’t be hassled about not having a round trip ticket back to the states. In January, I flew on a round trip ticket from Managua to Miami. At the ticket counter on my return flight, they weren’t going to let me board the plane because I didn’t have a ticket back to the states. No matter how much I tried to explain to them that this was the second leg of my ticket and I lived in Nicaragua…they kept asking to see my Nicaraguan residency card. I pulled out the stacks of documents I had and explained that the reason I came to the states in the first place was to gather all the documents for Nicaraguan residency. That seemed to help and I was released after a chain of phone calls and allowed to board the plane.

When I have my cedula, I’ll have to pay $10 to leave Nicaragua, but I won’t be charged $10 to enter Nicaragua. My border crossing days are over. I am relieved, excited, and proud that we have been persistent and tackled the bureaucratic nightmare of paperwork and golden stamps. Life is good, retirement is better, residency in Nicaragua is priceless.