A Wheelbarrow Full of Kindness


“Your one random act of kindness may not change the world but it might make a difference in the life of someone today”
Maria Koszler

Our winter resembles this tangle of wisteria vines in the front of our house. It has been a surreal experience in cancerlandia. The best way for us to survive the maze of doctors, treatments, and medical opinions without getting sucked into the vortex of cancerlandia has been to find enjoyable distractions, such as landscaping.

 

We took our old chainsaw to the repair shop, and Cory and I began to tackle the jungle of dead trees, the overgrowth of vines, and piles of composting leaves that had taken our property hostage.

I needed a wheelbarrow to haul the cut branches and logs to the woodpile located near the basement and our wood stove. A trip to Lowe’s was in order.

 

I found the perfect wheelbarrow, a cute cobalt blue one. We eyeballed our hatchback Honda Civic and hoped the wheelbarrow would fit inside the trunk.

Uh oh! No way! This really made me miss Nicaragua and my creative Nicaraguan friends because if we bought something too large to take home on our motorcycle, there was always a way to get it home cheaply and safely. Where were my Nica friends? They would offer to put it on the roof of a Tuk Tuk or wheel it to our house a kilometer away along the shoreline’s sandy path.

Instead, we asked how much it would cost to deliver it. $59? Outrageous. Maybe we could strap it to the roof? But, we had no rope and blanket to protect the roof. Maybe we could take it apart. So, Cory went into Lowe’s to get a wrench, while I stood in the parking lot beside my cute cobalt blue wheelbarrow, scratching my head in befuddlement.

Surprises await under the composting leaves…wild irises.

 

People stopped, we chatted, and we laughed together at my predicament. They offered crazy suggestions like attaching it to the bumper and dragging it home. I told them about the time a Nicaraguan friend spotted a person in a wheelchair dragged on the interstate at night by a motorcyclist and two flashlights illuminating the way. Nothing was impossible in Nicaragua. I missed that!

Lester’s photo of the wild irises blooming on his property. Spring is on the way.

 

A couple pulled into the parking spot beside me and asked where we lived. “Hey! That is on our way home. Today is Sunday and you have been blessed. Let’s put your wheelbarrow in the back of our Subaru and we will follow you to your house,” they said.

We were incredibly grateful. Cory and I laughed on the way home. What if they don’t follow us and speed away with my wheelbarrow? “Remember Mom,”Cory said, “ It is Sunday and we have been blessed.”

My daffodils are blooming! A delightful rememberance that spring is coming.

 

They refused gas money. They told us to pay forward their kindness by doing a random act for another stranger. So, Cory ran into the house and returned with his 1890 sour dough starter because he learned, while chatting with them, that they enjoyed making bread.

Their one random act of a wheelbarrow full of kindness, didn’t change the world, but it made a difference in our lives. Spring is on its way…Ron is getting stronger and healthier everyday…and most importantly, we are grateful for a tiny random act of kindness to help us untangle the wisteria vines and realize what really matters in this mad, mad world!

 

Comparing Cost of Living in USA and Nicaragua: It will surprise you!


“Everything costs something.”
Zara Hairston

When we lived in Nicaragua, we occasionally referred to ourselves as economic refugees. We took early retirement and lived off our small teaching pensions. We did everything financial experts advised to prepare for living abroad such as, becoming debt free, having an emergency medical fund, purchasing international health insurance plans, saving money for unexpected emergencies like trips back to the states to help our families, and living within our budget.

Thank goodness we didn’t burn any bridges. We rented our house in the states and kept our stateside bank account and address, which was important in keeping our U.S. credit card.  We were legal residents of Nicaragua and Tennessee and had the best of both worlds.

When the Nicaraguan crisis and Ron’s lumps in his neck made us reconsider moving back to the states, we were concerned about the cost of living after spending more than 10 years abroad with cheap, cheap living and all the comforts of home.

What we learned surprised us!

Most retired expats in Nicaragua will tell you that their main reason for moving abroad was affordability. They said they had a hard time living on a fixed income in their home countries.

But, what they don’t tell you is that everything costs something! It is cheap because there is no quality control, the education system does not prepare employees to be productive and skilled laborers, the infrastructure such as roads, utilities, and internet are pitifully unreliable (and many times unsafe), and most materials and foods imported come with a hefty price tag. In other words, you get what you pay for…and it isn’t much!

So, I made a comparison of the cost of living in Nicaragua and the USA for the month of February. I used eight general categories and color coded them the same in each pie graph.

The monthly cost of living in our home in TN is $1,626.20. The largest slice was miscellaneous, which included paying off our credit card in full each month. We rarely use cash here and pay for almost everything with our credit card. I missed that so much in Nicaragua, because I can always accumulate enough reward points to pay for several airline tickets.

Surprisingly, several items are cheaper in the states, like gasoline for transportation. It is $1.80 per gallon with my grocery store discount card. The package deal for fast internet ( I mean really, really fast…100 mbps) and cable TV is $101.24 a month. I paid much more in Nicaragua for the internet, not including the maintenance of a very tall microwave tower that was always breaking. And…AND…the speed, if we were lucky, was 8 mbps, when the system was working. The internet blinked on and off daily many, many times.

We have a heat pump and several small portable electric room heaters for the winter months. February is usually the most expensive electric bill according to our past usage. In the summer, we have whole house air conditioning and our electricity averages $75. Most of the time we don’t use the air conditioning. We prefer opening the windows and every room has ceiling fans and window fans.

We own our house in TN and are mortgage free. Rents are reasonable in our small town, averaging $871 per month for a 1 bedroom house or apartment. For a single person a monthly cost of living on average is $1,600.

 

In Nicaragua, our monthly expenditures were  $1,341.00 Our cell phones were cheaper… we had two cell phones and only one with unlimited data from  Claro. The data transmitted was only 3g and service was spotty depending on where we were in Nicaragua. In the states, I have 4g and unlimited data with free calls and text in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico with AT&T prepay.

Transportation was more expensive in Nicaragua for two reasons. Gasoline is very expensive and taxis are expensive. Usually, we took a monthly trip to Managua with our taxi driver, Francisco. The cost round trip was $60 and we tipped him $10 and bought him lunch.

Although we had an abundance of fruits on our property, we enjoyed some imported foods like peanut butter, dill pickles, chocolate, and wine, which increased our monthly food expenditures.

Nicaragua is a cash society. We seldom used a credit card. Our miscellaneous fees included propane for cooking, house repairs, and workers.

We still support our goddaughter and my children’s library and librarian, so that has not changed.

 

Overall, the difference in monthly costs is about $300. When the weather warms, our electric will go way down and make up much of the difference. We can reduce our monthly internet/cable TV service by cutting the cable cord. The only reason we have cable TV is so Ron could watch his sports throughout the long winter cancer treatments. We can stream everything we want to watch, so the cable will be cut soon.

Our annual expenses are comparable in some areas, and more expensive in others.

Comparable:

1. International health insurance in Nicaragua and Medicare with Medicare supplemental insurance in the U.S.

2. VPN service for our internet remains the same.

3. Amazon Prime yearly bill is the same, but living in the states we have used it so much more for free shipping and streaming movies.

More expensive:

1. Property taxes $650 yearly in the states vs $60 in Nicaragua.

2. Car insurance is much more in the states. We bought and paid cash for a car when we returned…and we have to have car insurance. In Nicaragua, we had our dune buggy and our motorcycle insured for $75 a year. However, there is no telling what the insurance would have covered if we had an accident in Nicaragua.

In making comparisons, the best decisions we made were to pay off our mortgage in the states and buy our house in Nicaragua. Our house is rented in Nicaragua now. The worst case scenario would be that our house in Nicaragua would be confiscated by the government. If that would happen, because of our wise financial decisions, we would not suffer, nor would our retirement  funds be affected. We are not in any hurry to sell our place, nor do we feel pressure to sell. Although we will probably not return to live in Nicaragua, we have no regrets about financial decisions we have made throughout our lives.

It feels kind of weird to say we aren’t expats any longer. But, we are redefining the term expat. Possibly global citizens would be a better term. I’m in the process of writing a post about that. Stay tuned while we rewire.

 

 

 

Coming Home?


“There is a kind of madness about going far away and then coming back all changed.”~ Gypsytoes

Madness describes my feelings about returning home. I haven’t written on my blog for months because what can I say that hasn’t already been said before? With mixed emotions we left Nicaragua mid July. I don’t want to go into all the gritty details of the move. Instead, I want to try to explain the emotional turmoil I have felt since returning home.

Where is home? We have no idea. People say that home is where the heart is, yet my heart is broken for Nicaragua and for the United States, thus I can’t honestly say I am anywhere close to home at this point in my life. The week we arrived, we bought a car and drove to Canada. 5,200 miles later, we have returned to our rented house in the states where we have a little bedroom. Thank goodness we didn’t burn any bridges and our good friends who rent our house feel comfortable letting us stay for a while.

Continue reading

Not my Circus! Not My Monkeys!


I wrote this blog post a year ago, long before all the problems in Nicaragua. It took a revolution to spur us into action. I have many stories to tell, some very sad, others encouraging and inspiring. Stay tuned. Big changes are in the works for us!

Rewired and Retired in Nicaragua

I watched the talking heads on CNN the other night and suddenly realized that I was screaming at the TV, “Not my circus! Not my monkeys!”  When my anxiety decreased, I became aware that these two simple phrases have a lot of meaning in my life lately. Then, I burst out laughing.

View original post 399 more words

The Nicaraguan Evolution Continues: Basta Ya!


“Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.”
― Franklin D. Roosevelt

63 dead, 15 still missing, many injured
I’ve written regular updates to my family and friends on Facebook and others have asked me to share them. So, below, I share my personal reflections on what is happening in Nicaragua.


Continue reading

Francisco’s Plight


“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
― Robert F. Kennedy

 

This is Francisco Flores and his family. Francisco has been my taxi driver in Nicaragua for over a decade. But, he is more than our taxi driver, he and his family are our dear friends. I am acting to improve his lot in life after an unfortunate accident that occurred last Monday in Jinotepe, Nicaragua.

A little background information on Francisco from a post I wrote in 2013.
Guide to Taxi Service in Nicaragua

And another post when we went with Francisco’s family to the Ballpark.
Cultural Lessons from the Ballpark. 

Last week, Francisco returned from Managua after dropping off a client. It was late at night by the time he passed through Jinotepe on his way home. Suddenly, a motorcycle came out of nowhere and there was a horrible accident.

Francisco was fortunate to walk away with no bodily damage, but the motorcycle driver lost his leg as a result of the accident. In Nicaragua, it is common practice to place both drivers in jail until lawyers resolve who is at fault. But, in this case, only Francisco was  jailed in Jinotepe.

When his family told me that the injured driver’s family was requesting $6,000 for his personal injuries, I wasn’t surprised. I know several people, locals and foreigners, who have been in jail because of accidents and they must hire a lawyer and usually have to pay exorbitant amounts to the other drivers, even if the accident wasn’t their fault.

That’s the way Nicaraguan law works. I will never be able to understand it, but I had to do something to help Francisco and his family. Francisco has a large, loving family and many foreign clients. The Rivas taxi drivers took up a collection for Francisco and said that they were expecting something like this to happen to a taxi driver sooner than later. They explained that reckless motorcycle drivers create safety hazards for their clients and drivers. I believe them and have been witness to many dangerous situations and tragic motorcycle accidents due to carelessness.

Francisco’s family collected enough money to pay for the lawyer, but they said it is almost impossible for them to collect $3,000 so that Francisco can be released from jail, and $3,000 more dollars a month after he is released.

To top it all off, his family was frantic with worry when the violent protests in Nicaragua occurred due to a reform of the Social Security and Pension law ( see my previous post ) and afraid for Francisco’s life in Jinotepe, where there had been protests and some fires.

That’s why I am asking for your support for Francisco and his family so that he can be released from jail to go back to work and support his family. Also, your donations will help to support the injured driver and his family because he cannot work.

Here is a link to my YouCare fundraiser. Two Nicaraguan Families in Crisis Need Your Help. 

Thank you so much for your support. I have $2,300 ready to be delivered to Francisco’s family. With your help we can have him released from jail soon.

Francisco’s family wants all the people who donated and shared to know that they are very grateful for your support.

 

Evolution in Nicaragua


                     “Those who do not move, do not notice their chains.”
                       ― Rosa Luxemburg


I don’t know where to begin to tell you what has occurred in Nicaragua since last week. It is a unique experience for us. I think it may be an evolution of the Nicaraguan people. I prefer saying evolution over revolution. Evolution has never been just a scientific theory. Ever since it was first formulated by Darwin, the theory has been used to advance a variety of political projects. Although evolution is a directionless process in nature, in ethics and politics the idea of evolution is joined with the hope of improvement.

Continue reading

Weekly Photo Challenge: Monkey Mugs


The Weekly Photo Challenge is A Face in the Crowd.

Growing up in the states, we only saw monkeys in a zoo. Now, we live with them on our Island of Peace. However, the Howler monkeys sure aren’t peaceful with their loud, ear-piercing howls that can be heard miles away.

I don’t think I will ever tire of watching these faces in a crowd!

This rambunctious Howler is not embarrassed to show off his junk.

Continue reading

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.

 

Continue reading

Goodbye to Ome Tepetl (Two Mountains)


I have met many people throughout my years of blogging about our adventures on Ometepe Island. It was such a joy to connect with Chris and Heather. They are a delightful couple from Canada who share our passions for travel and different cultures.
Enjoy their posts about Ometepe and follow their adventures as they return to Little Corn Island where they lived 15 years ago.
Thank you Chris and Heather. Happy trails to you, until we meet again. ❤️

Quesnel Bikers

The morning we left Ometepe we had the good fortune to meet Ron and Debbie who, for over a decade have lived on the island. There are many stories of “expats” moving to other countries but none so well documented as in Debbie’s blog, “Rewired and Retired in Nicaragua”. If you missed it in our last blog, here’s the link:

https://wp.me/p1GBmZ-2L2

There are some incredible stories in there. In those few years, they’ve lived a lifetime that few could imagine. In spite of contracting tropical diseases, wrestling with boa constrictors, and dealing with the idiosyncrasies of Nicaraguan bureaucracy, they’ve persevered driven by their passion to help the people of Ometepe. Both professional educators, over the years they’ve contributed to the local school system in many ways and have seen the results of their work.

It turned out that we also have lots in common with these guys. They were keenly…

View original post 924 more words