Let’s Get Real About the Postal Service in Nicaragua


“Strange as it may seem, I still hope for the best, even though the best, like an interesting piece of mail, so rarely arrives, and even when it does it can be lost so easily.” ― Lemony Snicket

Sometimes, I long for the days of the efficient, public-funded U.S. Postal Service. I miss putting mail in my mailbox and lifting the plastic red flag to notify our postal carrier to pick up my mail for delivery, six days a week and Free of Charge.  I can’t imagine that happening in Nicaragua. First, there are no mailboxes or mail slots in people’s homes. Second, if there were mail boxes, the contents would be stolen by passersby quicker than you could recite your zip code.

I miss the magic of reliable mail service, standard rates, real street addresses, and the ease of slapping a stamp on an envelope, depositing it into a mailbox and mail whizzing to its destination with the ability to track it online every step of its speedy journey.

It’s a shame that the U.S. Postal Service is struggling these days due to how much people rely on the web for email, ordering, transferring money, and paying bills online. But, the problem in Nicaragua is that not only do we lack the online infrastructure of paying bills, ordering online from Amazon, eBay, etc., we also lack a reliable postal service.

It’s a double whammy living in Nicaragua… So, Let’s Get Real About the Postal Service in Nicaragua.

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Let’s Get Real about Leaving Family Behind While Living Abroad


“And the danger is that in this move toward new horizons and far directions, that I may lose what I have now, and not find anything except loneliness.”
― Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

 

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Update:2019

My husband and I left Nicaragua in July 2018 with no desire to return until the government’s political violence, oppression, and human right’s violations of the Nicaraguan people are ended. That may take years. So, this post I wrote several years ago, is still relevant today because it is like leaving family behind. I am heartbroken for my Nicaraguan friends and adopted families who are unable to escape Nicaragua and are heavily repressed.

We were fortunate to have a back-up plan and resources to leave the country, yet our Nicaraguan friends don’t have the resources or the choices we had. Instead, we continue to support them through these tormenting times with financial support.

Please check back soon as I am writing a post as to how you can help by providing donations to reputable NGOs in Nicaragua to help the Nicaraguan people who are left behind and suffering.

And back to my post….

These are my mother’s hands as she grasps her suitcase not understanding where she is going or where she has been. My mother passed away last week after a long battle with Lewy Body Dementia. That my mother should be my beloved teacher in the art of living a full life, comes as no surprise. She was the first person to tell me, “Go! Live a full life without any regrets. My love will be with you wherever your travels take you.” And, her love continues to be within me, now and forever.

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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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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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Let’s Get Real about Rum in Nicaragua


IMG_7647“If I ever go missing, please put my photo on a Rum bottle, not a milk carton. I want my friends to know I am missing!” ~ Laurie Manzer

It is November and time for my monthly Let’s Get Real Series. This month I am focusing on the Flor de Caña rum made in Nicaragua. What is the history of the rum? Who makes it? What problems exist with the sugar cane workers who cut the sugar cane for the rum? And why the heck did they decide to child-proof the Flor de Caña rum bottles?


Let’s Get Real About Rum in Nicaragua
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Let’s Get Real About Gun Ownership in Nicaragua


UGH! I am so frustrated with the politics in the United States over gun-control. I am not sure what can be done to stop the massacres in the U.S. So, I did a little research on where are the world’s guns and which countries have the highest rates of firearm murders.

Piecing the information together, thanks to Gun Homicides and Gun Ownership listed by country, gave me a better perspective of Nicaragua and where it stands in relation to  other countries in the world.

Let’s get real about gun ownership in Nicaragua. What are the laws, the procedures, and reasons to own a gun in Nicaragua?

The average total of all firearms in Nicaragua is 350,000. The average number of firearms per 100 people is 7.7.
Screen Shot 2015-10-03 at 8.29.51 AMThe average homicide by firearm rate per 100,000 people in Nicaragua is 5.92.
Screen Shot 2015-10-03 at 8.32.11 AMThe percentage of homicides by firearms in Nicaragua is 42.1% or 338 firearm homicides.
Screen Shot 2015-10-03 at 8.33.37 AMThe information from this article tells me that the U.S. has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world – an average of 88 per 100 people own guns. Nicaragua’s rate of gun ownership per 100 people is 7.7… which is considerably lower than the U.S.

The U.S. does not have the worst firearm murder rate in the world. Honduras wins the prize with a staggering 68.43 murder by firearm rate per 100,000 people. Nicaragua, which shares a border with Honduras, has an average of murder by firearm rate of 5.92 per 100,000 people. This indicates to me that Nicaragua is one of the safest countries in Central America and they must be doing something right to halt gun violence.

What are the laws of gun ownership and the procedures for registering a gun in Nicaragua?

Thanks to Darrell Bushnell ( a U.S. expat living in Nicaragua) and Paul Tiffer ( a Nicaraguan lawyer) this article explains everything you need to know about Registering Firearms in Nicaragua.

One overlooked item in this list by many countries: certification by a psychologist or a doctor to prove that the applicant is mentally and physically able to carry and handle a weapon.

An expat friend bought a gun in Nicaragua and registered it according to the laws of Nicaragua. His psychological examination was done in Spanish with a certified psychologist.

I understand that gun-control and registration vary from state to state in the United States. However, it is of my opinion, that if the federal government enacted a law that specifically required a psychological and physical examination for prospective and legal gun owners,  then we could better track the people with mental illnesses applying for and/or registering already owned guns. This appears to be a practical solution to reduce gun violence in Nicaragua.

I also find it interesting that a gun must be concealed at all times in Nicaragua. There are no special licenses for concealed weapons.

Why do people own guns in Nicaragua?

First, the majority of Nicaraguans do not own guns, at least not legally registered guns as reported in the statistics. How would one find the number of illegal guns possessed throughout the world? They can’t gather statistics on guns that aren’t legally registered.  The population of Nicaragua is 6.17 million people. The average total of all firearms in Nicaragua is 350,000 with the average number of gun owners being 7.7 per 100 people.

Guns are expensive to buy in Nicaragua. The registration and licensing procedures are time-consuming and expensive for the average Nicaraguan. 48% of the population lives in poverty and 40% of the population lives on less than one dollar a day.

Nicaraguans cherish their machetes. They use their machetes for work, for protection, and for safety. They are cheap and readily available. Now, if I could find homicide rates by machete for Nicaragua, I suspect they would be very high, certainly higher than homicide rate by firearm.

What do responsible gun owners do with their guns? I really don’t know the answer to that because there are so few people that I know who own guns on Ometepe Island.  Our expat friends who have legally registered guns use them for protection. We have a pellet/BB gun that we use for shooting rats in our garden. I only know of one incident where a legal gun-owner in Nicaragua used a gun to protect his family from a home invasion. The perpetrators entered the home with guns, and were shot with the homeowners’ legally registered guns in their attempts to strangle and possibly rape the homeowner.

Paul Tiffer concludes by saying, “You may buy or own as many guns as you wish but you will need a separate permit for each one. You should use a lawyer or perhaps a friend in the police department to help you walk through the process. Having a firearm without a permit is automatic confiscation, jail time and a fine on top of it.”

This information was an eye opener for me. I hope you find it helpful.

If you live abroad, do you know the legal process to buy and register a gun? What are the statistics on homicide rates by firearm where you live?

Let’s Get Real about Garbage in Nicaragua


“To know our refuse is to know ourselves. We mark our own trail from past to present with what we’ve used and consumed, fondled, rejected, outgrown.”
― Jane Avrich

 

Basura…garbage…it is one of the first things most tourists see and comment on when visiting Nicaragua. A Google search “garbage in Nicaragua” led to more than one million hits!  We still have a long way to go, but I have seen many positive changes in Nicaragua in the area of waste management.

Let’s Get Real about Garbage in Nicaragua

1. Recycling

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Let’s Get Real about Time Management in Nicaragua


All that really belongs to us is time; even he who has nothing else has that. ~Baltasar Gracian

Living in Nicaragua requires a different mindset of time management. I used to pride myself in the ability to plan and control how I spent the hours in my day to effectively accomplish my goals. I had mastered the skills of planning for the future. setting goals, prioritizing tasks, and monitoring where the time goes. THEN…I moved to Nicaragua where mañana could mean today, tomorrow, sometime in the distant future, or never… where I am constantly reminded to slow down and be present. What I’ve learned about time management in Nicaragua may surprise you. It’s not all bad.

Let’s get real about time management in Nicaragua.

How many times have you been left hanging?

How many times have you been left hanging?

 

1. Most Nicaraguans are better at single-tasking, than multi-tasking.

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Let’s Get Real About Personal Space in Nicaragua


Four airplanes arrived in Nicaragua on the same day and at the same time. We were standing in an unusually long, disorganized line in customs. There was a small space in front of me…enough space for the man’s backpack to rest on the floor. Suddenly, a family of Nicaraguans rushed into the space in front of me. I glared at them and pointed to where the line ended. Yet, they didn’t move. I think they were trying to tell me, “My happy place is in your personal space.”

Cultural space: The final frontier. Invisible bubbles of space surround all of us and they vary according to the norms of the places where we live. Why do we have personal space issues and how do they differ from Nicaragua?

me on chicken bus

Me holding a stranger’s baby on a crowded chicken bus.

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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.

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