Touring Ometepe Island


Travel makes one modest, you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.~Gustave Flaubert

We’ve had company most of the month of February. I love when friends come to visit because it gives us an opportunity to tour them around the island and visit places we haven’t explored thoroughly. It also makes me appreciate what a tiny, yet beautiful place we occupy in the world.

We usually hire one of our neighbors to take us around the island. Luis just bought a new Suzuki 4 door vehicle. He will take us anywhere we want to go and his cost is $60 for the day. He says the more tours we take the sooner he will own the car instead of the bank.

Since we’ve lived on the island for over a decade, we know the places tourists like to visit. This February, we toured familiar places and one new-to-us place. Join me for a tour of Ometepe Island.

First Stop, El Ceibo Museo

It has been years since we visited the Pre-Colombian pottery museum. Named for a giant Ceibo tree at the entrance to the long dusty road that leads to two museums, the Pre-Colombian pottery and the coin museum, this is the place to learn all about the pottery excavated on Ometepe Island.

Along with the museums, they have added a hotel, pool, and a new restaurant/bar, where we were treated to shots of cojoyo: a potent fusion of corn, rice, pineapple, and sugar, made on the farm. The indigenous people of Ometepe had consumed it for generations. Our guide poured the syrupy liquid into shot glasses made from black bull horns. We drank it like tequila, with a lick of salt and a bite of mimbro, a very sour fruit resembling a small pickle. Strong, but rico! The other drink he poured reminded me of chicha, a potent fermented corn drink that I sampled in Peru.

The museum had been remodeled since the last time we were there. The guides told the same intriguing stories about the pottery and its uses. There were scalpels made from sharpened obsidian, volcanic tools and arrowheads, burial urns of all sizes called zapatos, and an intact burial site with gifts for the deceased for his/her onward travels.

 

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Framed in Nicaragua


“That’s rule number one for a photographer, isn’t it? Fill your frame?”
― David Cronenberg, Consumed

The Weekly Photo Challenge is Frame.

This is how the world frames itself in Nicaragua.

The sunset is encased in a jar at Playa Gigante.
IMG_1724The staircase is wrapped in colors at the Revolutionary museum in Leon.
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Master Craftsmen in Nicaragua


 “You can either be a victim of the world or an adventurer in search of treasure. It all depends on how you view your life.”
― Paulo Coelho, Eleven Minutes

I am an adventurer always in search of treasure. The Pre-Columbian pottery shards and pieces I find on my daily walks along the beach sit in piles on my bookcase and on my porch forever gathering dirt and dust and harboring tiny colonies of insects. Yet, more than protecting my pottery, I found a greater treasure in the master craftsmen in Nicaragua.

The time was long overdue to protect my treasures! I designed a wooden display cabinet, then I had to find a master woodworker to build the cabinet to my specifications. Marina recommended Herman, her door maker. When I saw the quality of his work, I knew he would be perfect.

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The Small Fly on the Solentiname Islands


“There is a magnificent, beautiful, wonderful painting in front of you! It is intricate, detailed, a painstaking labor of devotion and love! The colors are like no other, they swim and leap, they trickle and embellish! And yet you choose to fixate your eyes on the small fly which has landed on it! Why do you do such a thing?”
― C. JoyBell C.

 

Tito told me of the small fly named Envy, that is creating cracks in the sidewalks along the San Fernando Island in the Solentiname Archipelago. I wanted to know if the sidewalks in the Solentiname Islands connected the people like the sidewalks in El Castillo. What I discovered was somewhat surprising, yet understanding the jealous nature of many Nicaraguans, I gained a new appreciation for Tito, the grandson of a local businesswoman on San Fernando Island. Tito has several plans to reconnect the people and mend the cracks in the meandering sidewalks.

I won’t go into the history of the Solentiname Islands, so check out this descriptive article In Lush Nicaragua,Legacy of a Priest for more information. Tito is the grandson of Ms. Guevara Silva, the owner of the historic Albergue Celentiname Inn, where we stayed.

We arrived at the Malecón de San Carlos to wait for the daily boat to the Solentiname Islands. Finding a boat schedule online was difficult, but a captain at the Malecón reassured us that there was a daily boat which left at 3:00pm for the archipelago and returned to San Carlos at 9:00 am.

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Our Visit with President Jimmy Carter


“Each meeting occurs at the precise moment for which it was meant. Usually, when it will have the greatest impact on our lives.”
― Nadia Scrieva, Fathoms of Forgiveness

I don’t believe in coincidences. Life is serendipitous. We have always been lucky in making fortunate discoveries completely by accident. Such was our day today. We rode our motorcycle into Moyogalpa this morning to meet some friends at the Corner House for breakfast. “Why is town a buzz with military carrying AK-47s this morning?” Ron asked. No one knew why. Cindi and Alan passed a motorcade on their way into town to meet us. There were police and military stationed all over the island at the most popular tourist stops. Hmmm….

Robinson will know. He always knows everything. “Robinson, what’s happening on the island today?” I asked when I called him. “President Jimmy Carter is visiting with his family. He just got off the ferry and he’s headed to Santo Domingo for lunch at Villa Paraiso,” he said. This was an opportunity I was NOT going to miss.

I bought some local gifts at the Corner House…a jar of homemade peanut butter ( a perfect gift for a former peanut farmer), a jicote carving, a small jar of turmeric, handmade soap with neem insect repellant, and a homemade gift bag. “Where can I find a note card in town?” “I’ve never seen any note cards, but Arcia’s has some nice postcards,” Gary, the owner of the Corner House responded.

I walked quickly to Arcia’s on my mission as a cultural ambassador of Ometepe Island. Rapidly, I wrote a little note on the postcard welcoming President Carter to Ometepe Island. Then, we jumped on our motorcycles and zipped across the island to Santo Domingo. Forty minutes later we arrived at Villa Paraiso.

Now this is the serendipitous moment: Just as we arrived, President Carter and his family were leaving. I couldn’t help myself…I ran up and hugged him. I didn’t think about the guys with the AK-47s. I just wanted to share my enthusiasm for Ometepe Island with him.
meeting Jimmy CarterHe graciously accepted my gifts and was happy to pose with us for pictures.
gifts for Jimmy(1) 2When I told him about the homemade peanut butter, he asked Ron many questions about where it was grown and how it was processed…in fluent Spanish!!
Ron and JimmyAlan took our pictures and was thrilled to shake hands with President Carter.
alan meets JimmyWhat a wonderful day! That’s one of the many reasons I love living here. The world comes to us. We never know who we will meet.

Here are some more pictures of President Carter visiting our local museum.

President Carter and his family enter the local museum.

                                President Carter and his family enter the local museum.

President Carter and the first lady at the museum.

                              President Carter and the first lady at the museum.

I hope they enjoyed our local treasures.

                                    I hope they enjoyed our local treasures.

President Carter views the display cases.

                                         President Carter views the display cases.

On December 10, 2002, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2002 to Mr. Carter “for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development.” (The Carter Center) He is the perfect person to visit our island of peace. I am so honored to have met him. What a serendipitous day!

The Carter Center

 

 

 

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Unexpected


“Most people want to be circled by safety, not by the unexpected. The unexpected can take you out. But the unexpected can also take you over and change your life. Put a heart in your body where a stone used to be.”
― Ron Hall

We are in the states for Ron’s mother’s celebration of life. The day of Jane’s celebration of life, we were greeted with unexpected surprises throughout the day. Most people want to be circled by safety…we prefer the unexpected.

                                                 Using an outhouse.
IMG_0176                           A headless scarecrow?
IMG_0180                                                   Snow???? Brrrrrr.
IMG_0041                              A little bird landed on Ron’s fingers.
IMG_0165                                      We found a secret tunnel at the museum where Jane’s
                                                    celebration of life was held.
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Nicaragua Ain’t for Sissies


 “Nicaragua ain’t for sissies, but it’s got a lot of soul. Folks accustomed to life in the US need an incredibly adventurous spirit if they are to adjust to Nicaragua. Life is challenging here,  for everyone. If you’re from the US,  forget the creature comforts of home. But the reward is that one develops intimate relationships with the people and the land, and these will fill one’s heart forever” ~ Silvio Sirias

He’s right, you know. Nicaragua ain’t for sissies. When the water stops running just as you step in the shower or start a load of wash, the electricity blinks off near the end of your favorite movie,  and the lack of a reliable infrastructure rears its ugly head…

IMG_1705When the fiery dragon breathes down upon the land in March and April, and the only relief is to stick your head in the freezer, find a shade tree, go swimming, or spend an hour in the air-conditioned ATM…
IMG_1703When you make an appointment and the office is closed for a two-hour lunch, or “manana” means today, tomorrow, or a year from now, or you wait in a long line at the bank, only to have ten people step in front of you because there is a SPACE
IMG_1697Don’t be surprised if your frustrations melt away, and are replaced by contagious chuckles and a ‘knowing’ smile because…..
IMG_1696Nicaragua is a country of poets, artists, and lovers. There are no strangers, everyone is welcome.
IMG_1700Generosity, creativity, and a simple zest for life abounds. Smiles are freely passed along the dusty trails. Adios means hello and goodbye.
IMG_1698Passion and humor light up every face. Sometimes, you just gotta laugh in the land of the not quite right.
IMG_1701Frustrations? Yes. However, the rewards of developing intimate relationships with the people and the land far surpass my frustrations. My heart is full; I am sitting on top of the world.
IMG_1692If you would like to read more about the Nicaraguan author, Silvio Sirias, click HERE.

Walls as Weapons


 

 

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“A wall is a very big weapon. It’s one of the nastiest things you can hit someone with.” ~ Banksy (Banging Your Head Against a Brick Wall)

 

Leon street murals represent the identity of the city. They are visual historical accounts of political activism, proclamations of unity, and stories of injustice. Street art fascinates me. It spreads information to the illiterate, visually represents cultural pride, and expresses passionate reactions to social, economic, and political turmoil.

Banksy was right! A wall is a very big weapon. Personally, I would defend a war of walls, over weapons of mass destruction any day!

Enjoy the slideshow. I’ve thrown in a few paintings from the Museum of Culture, too. The painting of Ronald Reagan sitting on the shoulders of a peasant woman is particularly haunting to me. I can identify Henry Kissinger as the little joker on the bottom left, but who is the joker with the dagger on the bottom right?

 

¡Viva la Revolución!


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Leon, a city of revolution fever, where bullet holes pierced decaying cathedrals and adobe walls during the Sandinista Revolution of 1979. We visited Leon to gain an understanding of the history, culture, and traditions of our adopted country. We left with a greater appreciation of the sacrifices made, and the impact of the controversial Sandinista Revolution. In one year, Nicaraguans went from being ruled by a strict right-wing Somoza dictatorship, to being controlled by left-wing idealistic revolutionaries.

On the western side of town is one of the Sandinista’s strongholds, a rather decrepit looking building that now houses the Asociacion de Combatientes Historicos Heroes de Veracruz, or better known as the Museum of Revolution. The building, which has not seen any renovations since the revolution, housed the former Palace of Communications of Somoza. Riddled with bullet holes inside and out, I felt as if I was walking through a recent battle site. The walls oozed smells of gunfire and the whispers of the wounded cried out from beyond their graves.

Our guide, Dionisio Meza Romero, a former Sandinista soldier, sorrowfully pointed out photos of friends with whom he had fought and who had died for the cause. In one old photo, he proudly pointed out his picture, as a very young and idealistic soldier smiling for the camera. Then, to our surprise, he lifted his t-shirt and showed us the shrapnel wound in his back. This was his badge of courage.

The intimacy of this first-person gesture and the passion he demonstrated for the revolution, made the experience REAL and unforgettable. It reminded me of the time I visited the Hiroshima Memorial Peace Museum in Hiroshima, Japan. Surrounded by twisted children’s lunch boxes and photos of charred bodies, I began to weep with uncontrollable sorrow. A young Japanese woman sensed my despair and silently wrapped her arms around me to comfort me. She whispered in my ear and patted me on the back until my tears stopped flowing.

We climbed to the third story of the building, out a window, and on the tin roof where we were greeted with a spectacular panoramic view of the city. Busy streets full of people, volcanoes in the distance, and cathedrals in all directions dotted the landscape. Where in the world can a person visit a museum and be treated to a roof top perch of the city?

Returning to street level, as another Sandinista soldier chased after us hoping we would  buy a painting of Sandino,  I was reminded why we chose Nicaragua as our adopted country.  Like the museum, it is raw, real, and passionately unforgettable.