Meet Maxwell


“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”
― Charles William Eliot

 

In 2004, Maxwell was one of my English students. He is on the left in the front row of this photo. Throughout the years, I have continued to watch these young men grow and thrive.
Sergio, ( the one with the devil horns) is the manager of the Corner House Cafe. Smiling Luis, behind Sergio, is a very talented classical guitarist. Luis, ( front right) speaks very good English, works in our local grocery store and leads tours.

I am so proud of all of my students for they have beat the odds and are very successful in their chosen careers. When I was looking for a librarian to teach in our new La Paloma Elementary School, I encountered a serendipitous moment. Maxwell had returned to Ometepe Island to finish his degree in English. He spent three years in Managua on a full scholarship, but had to return to the island for medical reasons.

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Our Pretirement Experiment


“The goal of retirement is to live off your assets-not on them”
― Frank Eberhart

I have had many people ask me how we decided on retiring abroad and the process we went through. Although most of the information is in my unfinished book, Pretiring With the Monkey Lady, here is a preview of our serendipitous moments the first time we pre-retired in Nicaragua.

In 2004 we jumped. Trapped in new teaching jobs we hated, we felt as if our lives were bound tightly in Kudzu.  We bought a new home with a hefty mortgage and rented our old home. Our son was in his junior year of college. Finances were tight. How could we possibly escape from the bureaucracy that was strangling the life out of us? What was the alternative? Our gypsytoes were itching to travel.

Enter Bill, the eccentric entrepreneur from Nicaragua.  When an ice storm canceled school on a snowy January day, Bill sent us an email. “How would you like to live in Nicaragua and manage my youth hostel on Ometepe Island?”  We thought about it for three seconds and responded, “Yes!”

In an adrenalin rush, we made plans to finish the school year, sell the house we bought six months before, move everything back to our old house, and jump into a new life. We took out an equity loan to pay off the mortgage on our old house and had a small amount left to live on for a year in Nicaragua. Our son moved into our house, transferred to a closer university…and we jumped.

But, managing a youth hostel was not for us. You’ll have to read by book, Pretiring with the Monkey Lady, to understand the problems we encountered. Here is one chapter of the 25 chapters I’ve finished. California Dreams and a Scottish Cowboy. What was the alternative? We couldn’t return to the states because we sold our cars, gave away all our winter clothes, and were both unemployed. So, we jumped again.

Ron wandered the sandy beach paths in search of a cheap shack to rent. About two kilometers south of Moyogalpa, Ron found this little beach house and it was vacant. We found the landlady in Moyogalpa and rented it for $100 a month with a six month renewable contract.

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The Gypsytoes Gene


“To travel is to live.”
― Hans Christian Andersen, The Fairy Tale of My Life: An Autobiography 

 

IMG_7542I am consumed by wanderlust, nourished by voyages and treks regarded as less than desirable in popular tourist guides, and gorged with peregrination. Traveling is my life. I am lucky in love to have found a partner who shares my enthusiasm and passion for the roads less traveled.

Yet, I often wonder, “Why us?” Neither sets of our parents or grandparents, had the urge to jump into an exotic new life, even temporarily. They were content to stay on their farms, or the small towns in which they lived. They reacted to our gypsytoes with nervous, worried, and dismayed comments. My mother insisted on telling her church companions that we were missionaries in Nicaragua. Ron’s father scratched his head with puzzlement, “Why would anyone ever want to leave home?”

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Reflections on Corn Island


“Life is like facing two mirrors at each other: there is no beginning, there is no end. Just the beauty within the reflected infinity”
― Michael Biondi

 

Last week was our second time to fly to the Corn Islands. We were hoping to visit Little Corn Island this time, but it wasn’t in the cards. The winds were ferocious and it rained on and off all week making the thoughts of a long panga ride to Little Corn Island one big vomit fest. I opted out of that adventure, and a good thing I did, because we heard that a huge wave attacked a man riding in the front of the panga. He was thrown to the back of the panga…breaking his back!!! He had to be flown to Managua by helicopter.

We stayed with friends who have a beautiful house on Big Corn Island. Late one afternoon, we took them to Martha’s Restaurant for dinner and I walked around a pond where I took these reflections of the trees in the water.

Did you ever wonder if the person in a puddle is real, and you are just a reflection of her? That was one of many strange reflections I had as I peered into the water.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Walls of War


The weekly photo challenge is wall. Nicaragua abounds with walls of war, remembrances of their defense of personal rights, freedom, and dignity. Honoring their Nicaraguan heroes is especially clear on the walls in the cities.

“The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.” ― G.K. Chesterton
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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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El Castillo: Do Sidewalks Connect Communities?


“Americans consider the sidewalk an anonymous backstage space, whereas for the French it is the stage itself.”
― Edmund White, The Flaneur: A Stroll through the Paradoxes of Paris

 

If the French consider sidewalks to be the stage, then Nicaraguans consider sidewalks to be the entire theater. El Castillo, Nicaragua is proof that sidewalks set the stage for connection and interaction with others, especially in this tranquil community lacking cars, motorcycles, and other forms of motorized transportation.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: An Artist’s Reward


The weekly photo challenge is: Reward

The Solentiname Islands offer a communal space for artistic expression and spiritual discovery. In 1965, Ernesto Cardenal, a Nicaraguan priest and now-famous poet, established a religious community on the Solentiname Islands.

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The Fortress of the Immaculate Conception


“Justice is an unassailable fortress, built on the brow of a mountain which cannot be overthrown by violence of torrents, nor demolished by the force of armies.” ~ Joseph Addison

 

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Rollin’ Rollin’ Rollin’ on the River


If you come down to the River
Bet you’re gonna find some people who live
You don’t have to worry ’cause you have no money
People on the river are happy to give~ Proud Mary sung by Tina Turner

 

Every now and then, I kind of like to do things nice and easy. Rollin’ on the Rio San Juan was one of those nice and easy kind of days. However, life on the river was not always tranquil. What a deep and rough history this river has: pirates, slave traders, William Walker, Cornelius Vanderbilt; cannons, forts, rapids, and crocodiles the size of dugout canoes.

Yet, embarking on our three-hour journey meandering down the olive-green waters of the Rio San Juan, I felt like an explorer perched on the edge of discovering a new way of life…a much slower-paced life…one in harmony with the rhythm and beat of the waves gently lapping the shore in the wake of our long, flat-bottomed panga.

What discoveries lie ahead? Will we find human imprints? Join me as we leave the sliver of civilization known as San Carlos, and glide slowly down the river into the depths of the jungle. Turn up the music! We’re rollin’ on the river Tina Turner style.

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