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.
Continue reading

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

As Much Money and Life as You Could Want!

“As much money and life as you could want! The two things most human beings would choose above all – the trouble is, humans do have a knack of choosing precisely those things that are worst for them.”
― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone


IMG_5788What would you do if money wasn’t an issue? If you live abroad in a developing country like we do, would you move? Travel more? Buy a big house and a new car? Start a charity? Pay off college loans?

We initially moved to Nicaragua because we could retire early from our teaching positions with small pensions. Nicaragua is affordable and we could live easily and simply on a fixed income. I nicknamed us “Economic Refugees” because we could never afford to retire early on fixed incomes and stay in the U.S. Money mattered in our decision to retire in Nicaragua.

Continue reading

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!

Continue reading

Pros and Cons of Living on an Island

“Every man is an island, and every heart seeks the ferry to cross the main…”
― Mykyta Isagulov


Sunday evening, I was invited to speak with a group of women from Finding My Place, a travel agency for women who want to explore living abroad. It was a lovely gathering with well-traveled women who are exploring Nicaragua as a place to hang their hammocks. Many of the questions they asked revolved around the pros and cons of island life. Below are some of the things we discussed, which may be of interest to you, too.

Islands are slow and far away from many distractions. Ometepe Island, Nicaragua is no exception. Island living is not for the faint of heart, yet the rewards are many, tranquility is abundant, and our lifestyles are simple.

Pros of Island Life

Continue reading

Weekly Photo Challenge: From Plain Cotton to an Ornate Weaving

The Weekly Photo Challenge is Ornate.

How does one transform plain cotton into an elegant work of art? The answer is simple if you are an indigenous Mayan weaver. Weaving colorful cotton fabric was an art form among high-ranking ancient Mayan women. Today, weaving is a daily part of Mayan women’s lives as they pass down their skills from generation to generation and sell their ornate woven products through women’s cooperatives in Guatemala.

We visited the San Pedro Women’s Weaving Cooperative in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala where we were taught the process of transforming this…
IMG_0948into this…the traditional elaborate Mayan women’s clothing.
IMG_0962 Continue reading

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

Continue reading

Practicing Gratitude on Dia de los Muertos

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.”― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh


While children devoured the last of their Halloween candy, parents rationed and hid the mounds of treats, and frustrated teachers pulled their hair out with kids overdosed on sugar in their classrooms in the U.S., we were totally immersed in the cultural tradition of Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) on Ometepe Island.

For me, a little appreciation for family traditions goes a long way in Nicaragua. I am filled with gratitude to be a part of the custom of visiting the graves of loved ones, instead of experiencing a highly commercialized, sugar-overloaded, and hangover holiday of which I can find no altruistic reason to partake.

                 Practicing Gratitude on Dia de los Muertos

Gratitude strengthens relationships. Marina and her family have been our neighbors for over 10 years on Ometepe Island. At times, our relationship has been confusing and mysterious simply because our customs, language, and traditions are so different. Yet, we all count our blessings that we can share our lives together.
IMG_9453Marina sits on the grave of her husband, Don Jose, who died last October. She recalled sweet remembrances of their lives together raising five children. I believe that gratitude is about shifting one’s perceptions. No one has a perfect life. Marina and Don Jose struggled through poverty and sacrificed to provide for and to raise five strong, healthy, and good children. For this, I know she is very grateful.

IMG_9478We shared the benefits of gratitude today by appreciating what we have… as opposed to a consumer-driven emphasis on what we want.

IMG_9479One of the most powerful ways to raise grateful children is likely to be grateful adults. Raising grateful children means raising our own gratitude levels as well. Luvy, Marina’s daughter, is a perfect example of a grateful daughter.

IMG_9471We now have four friends buried in our local cemetery, two foreigners and two local Ometepinos. We visited their graves and gave thanks for their friendships.

IMG_9498At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us. Albert Schweitzer

IMG_9463The cemetery was a hub of flowers, rakes, shovels, and families visiting their loved ones.

IMG_9500The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.
– WIlliam James

IMG_9491Families decorated the graves and tombs. Children played while the tinkling bell of the ice-cream vendor floated softly through the cemetery.

IMG_9465 Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom. – Marcel Proust

IMG_9489He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has. – Epictetus

IMG_9494Practicing gratitude opens the heart…even for a very small heart like Piglet’s.

IMG_9504Gratitude is an emotion of connectedness, which reminds us we are part of a larger universe with all living things.

IMG_9514As we left the cemetery on Dia de Los Muertos, our gratitude led us to feelings of love, appreciation, generosity, and compassion, which further opened our hearts to this lovely day. Now, time to eat pizza with our extended family in Nicaragua. :-)

IMG_9515Dia de los Muertos…the day that helps us rewire our brains to fire in more positive and compassionate ways.

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
Continue reading

“Is It Too Risky To Invest In Ecuador?”

Rewired and Retired in Nicaragua:

Beware of International Living! This could happen to you! I detest the greedy real estate developers and abhor International Living because they present living abroad as a paradise and misrepresent the truth of what it is really like to live abroad. Follow the money trail before attending any of their expensive conferences or meeting with any of their real estate developers. This is tragic. Thanks to my friend Lisa for keeping us informed about what is happening in El Matal along the coast of Ecuador.

Originally posted on Zeebra Designs & Destinations:

Clear skies produce this stunning jaw-dropping effect along Ecuador's Manabi coastline. (Punta Ballena near El Matal) Sunny skies produce this jaw-dropping effect along Ecuador’s Manabi coastline. (Punta Ballena near El Matal)

El Matal/Jama Ecuador – You have witnessed (via photos and posts) the Pacific Ocean slowly devouring the front line at El Matal.  We have watched the ocean crack the swimming pool – and then take more bites with each high tide at Pat Godkin’s home. I am pleased to introduce you to Pat via a story she wrote in September. Here’s Pat:

Pat Godkin Pat Godkin

Is it too risky to invest in Ecuador?

One retiree’s cautionary tale

As a single woman with no pension, I was understandably nervous about retiring early and building my beachfront dream home in a foreign country.

Over the years, I had casually researched several countries, mostly in South America because of the affordable beachfront, great weather (below the hurricane belt!), breathtaking scenery and wonderful people.

As I neared retirement age, I decided to attend a…

View original 875 more words