We Give Back


“Help others without any reason and give without the expectation of receiving anything in return.” ~Roy. T. Bennett

I’ve been in a funk this season of giving. Maybe it is because of the political situation in the U.S. Possibly it is because of the crowdsourcing scams I’ve seen in Nicaragua and my island home of Ometepe. And then again, it could be because lately I’ve been disappointed in people in general.

Whatever the reason for my funk, the only way I know how to get out of it is by stressing the goodness of people, the selfless acts of giving, and promoting people who give without any reason and without the expectation of receiving anything in return.

For this reason, I would like to introduce you to two expats on Ometepe Island who give back selflessly to their communities.

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Pondering Progress in Nicaragua


“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”
― Franklin D. Roosevelt

Economic growth is one of the main factors in determining the progress of a country and its potential to satisfy the wants of individuals in their society. I am convinced Nicaragua has made significant progress in utilizing their abundance of natural resources to produce more efficient wind and solar energy. Technological development has played a role in Nicaragua to connect the population to the outside world through fiber optic internet cables. Ometepe Island public parks now have free wi-fi access due to a fiber optic cable strung under the lake from the mainland.

Yet, I wonder if all progress and advancements I see in Nicaragua truly benefit the majority of the people living below the poverty line. Are we adding to the abundance of the minority of Nicaraguans who have so much, and are we providing enough to the majority who have so little?

Last week I traveled to Managua for my regular check-up with my eye doctor. Arriving at the port in San Jorge, I noticed a new ferry, a desperately needed ferry because many people on Ometepe Island must travel to the mainland daily for work. This progress benefits everyone. And I have seen much growth in transportation with new airports, shuttles, taxis, and lots of cute tuk tuks that buzz around newly constructed roads like little mosquitoes.
The San Jorge port had a magnificent facelift. Restaurants, vendors, hotels, and major work on the sea walls benefits everyone, too.
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The History of Airbnbs in Cuba


When President Obama’s administration opened the door to improve relationships with Cuba, Airbnb announced that it would offer accommodations to guests from around the world. Airbnb started by licensing U.S. travelers’ accommodations in April 2015, and last April 2016 the U.S. Department of Treasury granted special authorization to allow the company to advertise accommodations in Cuba to non-U.S. travelers. Today, Cuba is the fastest growing market in Airbnb history.

Since we are U.S. citizens it is difficult, if not impossible, to use our U.S. based credit and debit cards in Cuba. We knew we would have to exchange our dollars for Euros before we arrived in Cuba because U.S. dollars are not accepted and we would be charged a hefty 13% commission if we exchanged dollars for CUCs.

Overlooking Havana from our Airbnb balcony on the malacon.

Cuba is predominantly a cash society. Even though Cuba is one of the safest countries we have visited, mainly because the people are petrified of the government if any tourists are harmed, we didn’t like the idea of carrying around large wads of cash.

Therefore, Airbnb was a great option because we could pay online in full with our U.S. credit cards. We stayed in two Airbnbs, one in Havana and the other in Trinidad. Now, we’ve stayed in Airbnbs all over the world, and Cuba’s Airbnbs are a little different.

Reading some of the reviews, I noticed that some people were surprised when they rented an Airbnb in Cuba because the water was not reliable, toilet paper was scarce, the internet was advertised but not available in the house, and the owners lived in the house with the guests.

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Cuba’s Four-Wheeled Zombies


Driving the dead! Cuba’s car culture fascinated me. They have the most resourceful drivers and mechanics who defy the odds and break all the rules to make sure that the American 50s classics…really never die. The four-wheeled zombies are alive and well in Cuba!

Before visiting Cuba, I thought that only Havana’s streets would be like a 1950s Hollywood movie. However, the old classic cars are everywhere, used for everything from taxis to tourism novelties, and incorporated into daily life in every aspect of Cuba’s culture.

The four-wheeled zombies rose from the dead on February 8, 1962. With a stroke of President John F. Kennedy’s pen, the noose was dramatically tightened on an existing trade embargo that prohibited most Cubans from buying brand new cars after Castro took the reigns in 1959.

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Can I Survive as a Whole Person Without Internet?


“People who have so much of their personality invested in the Internet can’t really survive as whole individuals without it.” ― Mark A. Rayner, The Fridgularity

Oh boy! That quote hits a home run with me. I invest so much time, energy, and money in trying to get a faster internet signal in Nicaragua. I know that I am addicted to the internet, and I may need an intervention. Yet, I wonder if I would be a better person or a different person without the internet. Would my personality change without the internet?

If you have followed my blog, you know I am a geek girl and I am constantly searching for solutions to increase the speed and connectivity to the internet on Ometepe Island. Check out a few of my past posts.

My Woktenna

Confessions of a Geek Girl

Facebook for Expats: Friend or Foe?

IMG_1764The trees in our neighborhood had blocked the direct line of sight to the mainland for our internet signal. We couldn’t top the trees because many of them aren’t on our property and we couldn’t extend our pole tower on the roof of our casita because the cables wires that secure the poles had to extend beyond our roof.

So, our only option was to build a new and taller tower. Five men came from the mainland on Friday to construct our tower. It was fascinating to watch them build our tower, if not somewhat frightening because I have a fear of heights.

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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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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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Hats for Lamps


“Life is a continuous journey of transformation”
― Sukant Ratnakar, Open the Windows

 

“Tienes sombreros para  lámparas?” I asked the shopkeepers. (Do you have hats for  lamps?)
“No hay sombreros para lámparas aqui,” they always responded. (There aren’t hats for lamps here.)

Without a doubt, I have learned that life is a continuous journey of transformation while living on a tropical island. If no hats for lamps could be found, then I had to make my own.

Theresa brought her frames from her three old lampshades and I had a frame made for a floor lamp. New Year’s Eve we spent the day covering her lampshade frames with canvas.

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The Minimalist Challenge


“Simplicity is complex. It’s never simple to keep things simple. Simple solutions require the most advanced thinking.”
― Richie Norton

I’ll confess! I don’t walk willingly into the minimalist world. I constantly fight it because I am a collector of artifacts, travel mementos, of everything! My life is one big collection of memoirs! Yet, living on a small island, in the middle of a huge sweet sea, in the middle of Nicaragua, in the middle of Central America, I have been forced to reduce and reuse because: we have NO trash pick-up, there is no Super Wal-Mart or even a mall on Ometepe Island, and life is undeniably simpler.

I guess that can be a good thing. Right? I am forced to reduce my carbon footprint. My neighbor, Marina, cleans my house three days a week. She constantly reminds me that I have many “chunches” (things) as she waves my dirty old underwear, used as a cleaning rag, under my nose. “Look at this dirt!” she says shaking her head and waving my old underwear.

So, I will…reluctantly…take Annette’s Minimalist Challenge because I know I must figure out a way to actively reduce the amount of plastic and tin we collect around the house.
“I would like to challenge YOU, my reader, to think of at least one action you can adopt in 2015 that will reduce plastic and other throw-away products; that will bring down energy usage; and/or minimize unnecessary consumption of any kind.”

I started feeding my dog and cats a little canned dog food every day as a treat. These tin cans add up, so this year I made a Christmas tree out of them.
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Confessions of a Geek Girl


“Just move to the Internet, its great here. We get to live inside where the weather is always awesome.” ― John Green

IMG_3799I’m giggling at that quote! It’s perfect for a geek girl like me. I’ll confess…I have to have fast internet. I’m addicted to the internet. My husband is an internet widow. (Or is it widower?)
Living on a small island in the middle of the sweet sea, in the middle of Nicaragua, in the middle of Central America is not conducive to fast internet.

If you’ve followed my posts about my slow internet struggles for four years, and you live in a rural area or abroad where technology isn’t readily available, this post is for you. I’ll take you step-by-step through my process of connecting to the world rapidly.
How we got connected in Nicaragua. Steps ahead.