Love Your Country or Leave It?


“Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
― Mark Twain

Usually one of the first questions I am asked about being an expat besides the “What do you do in Nicaragua?” or “Are you a missionary?” is “Why did you leave America?”

My response is that I never left America. I am still here. I live in Central America. If that doesn’t piss them off, then I could say that I am a political refugee from the Divided States of America. But, I never say that because first, it is a lie, and second, I love my homeland and I really don’t like to create tension or controversy unless it is a last resort. I am a mediator at heart, I seek peace.

So, when angry people respond to me in a political discussion, “Love it, or leave it!” what is the appropriate response? Why is it that expats are seen as less patriotic than those who stayed in their home country? Can expats be patriotic? If so, how?

Photo credit to Larry Wilkinson

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Can Expats Live Without These Things?


“If all you do is think about what you need, you’re no better than an animal in the woods, and no smarter either. To be human, you’ve got to want. It makes you smarter and stronger.”
― Dan Groat

Ron is always telling me I want too much. But, I agree that to want makes me human. It makes me smarter and stronger.  I remember the argument we had about buying an oven when we moved to Nicaragua. We both like to bake, so why was it so difficult to convince him that I wanted an oven?

Now, I do understand the difference between wants and needs. Yet, as an expat there are 14 things I can’t live without. Tropical Storm Nate convinced me that my wants usually lead to my needs.

1. Shelter

We’ve made a comfortable boomer nest in Nicaragua. But, when Nate roared through Ometepe our roof struggled to maintain its composure. The old tin roof tried its best over years with fruits pounding on the hot tin and constant leaks during the rainy season. But, it is time for a new roof.

If you watched our House Hunter’s International show, you know I like “funky”. A new roof is a ‘need’, but I have many ‘wants’ to paint, redecorate, and spruce up our little nest. We are still debating on whether to sell our place and move to more adventures. Meanwhile, I want a comfortable, low maintenance home base. And if we do decide to sell, our beautiful property will be ready for new owners.

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Cost of Living: March 2017


Since I am preparing envelopes for our house sitters with two and a half months of expenses, I thought I would give you an idea of our latest cost of living expenses for the month of March 2017.

We own our home, thus no rental expenses. This month, we paid our property taxes of $25 and I included that in the miscellaneous expenses along with gas, propane, and a few other small expenses.

The amounts are in dollars. The total monthly expenses are: $960.

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If you are considering living in Nicaragua, it will depend on your location and your needs. Ometepe Island is cheaper for home rentals than most of the larger cities like Granada and San Juan Del Sur. But, there are some expenses that cost more, such as a rural internet provider since we don’t have cable internet available outside of the main cities. Our service provider is Ggnet and it is on the mainland. We built a tall tower in our backyard because we need direct line of sight to the mainland to receive a strong signal for our microwave internet system.

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Let’s Get Real about Crowdfunding


“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”
― Winston S. Churchill

I have used a crowdfunding website to ask for donations two times. Once when Los Ramos needed help recovering from a devastating landslide. Help Los Ramos Rebuild
The other time was to help Los Ramos get uniforms and supplies for the Divine Women’s Soccer Team.

Both times I was thrilled by the success of the fundraisers. But, like Winston Churchill says, “We make a living by what we get and a life by what we give.” Sometimes both are intertwined in a scam from a crowdfunding website.

For example, a crowdfunding website in which a guy named Nigel asked for donations to help Los Ramos during the landslide. He posted his GoFundMe webpage on a Facebook forum of expats in Nicaragua. I’ve been actively involved with the community of  Los Ramos for over 12 years, so I contacted Nigel on Facebook. We became Facebook friends, and I asked what he was planning to do for the people in Los Ramos with the funds.

He gave me a song and a dance and my gut told me something was fishy about his GoFundMe website. I went to Los Ramos and asked if they knew a guy named Nigel who delivered medicine and paid for the bulldozer to grade a new road into their community. No one had ever heard of him, no medicines were delivered, and they said that the mayor in Altagracia had paid for the bulldozer.

Further investigation led me to a police website in Florida where he was wanted for fraud. I contacted the GoFundMe website administrator, gave them all the information I had, and his webpage was shut down the next day. A week later, I saw him on the island and personally confronted him. He disappeared from Nicaragua and deleted his Facebook account.

My point in writing this article is that we have to be very careful when we give to a crowdfunding webpage, especially if we are not familiar with the person.

So, Let’s Get Real about Crowdfunding Websites with a list of pros and cons.

 

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How Reading Helps a Community


“We read to know we’re not alone.”
― William Nicholson, Shadowlands

I had many photos to accompany this post, but I received a call this morning telling me that it is against Nicaraguan law to post pictures of Nicaraguan police in uniform. I had no idea! So, I deleted my Facebook post with the pictures of the police reading to the students and I deleted the photos on my blog post to respect the privacy of the officers and the Nicaraguan law.

Our tiny police force on Ometepe Island consists of 14 police officers in Moyogalpa. They receive a pittance of pay and often work long hours without money for office supplies, gas for their vehicles, etc.

When they helped me recover my phone which was stolen from my house by my 15 yr. old friend, I repaid their kindness with a bag of office supplies for their bare bones office.
The other day my police buddy called me to ask if he could come to my house to talk. He mentioned the word “molestar” and I feared we were in trouble. Instead, when he arrived, he introduced me to the new officer and asked if I could give him a notebook and a pen.

I sighed a big sigh of relief because I realized he simply said on the phone that he didn’t want to bother me. “No quiero a molestar.”

I had him make a list of office supplies the police force needed…a very simple list with notebooks, pens, a scissors, and stapler. Then I purchased the supplies and took them to the office. I also went to the gas station and bought a voucher for gasoline for their vehicles.

The officers were very appreciative and asked in return what they could do for me. I asked if they could come to my elementary school library and read the children a story. I think it is important for the police to be role models for their community and I can think of no better way for them to help me develop a culture of reading than to start at the elementary level.

Yesterday, they picked me up in their police truck, and we went to the La Paloma Elementary School to read to the preschoolers. I had to laugh as I rode in the police truck because the neighbors were all freaking out! I know I created quite a stir!

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Responsibilities of U.S. Embassy Wardens


“Lets have faith that right makes might; and in that faith let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.” ― Abraham Lincoln

Five years ago, the U.S. Embassy warden for Ometepe Island moved back to the states. She asked me if I would be willing to take on the duties of the warden for the island and of course, I said I would.

My primary responsibility as a warden for the U.S. Embassy is to aid in communicating with my fellow U.S. citizens living and visiting Ometepe Island in the event of an emergency. So, I’d like to describe my volunteer position to you.

  1. My main responsibility as a volunteer is to assist consular sections in disaster preparedness, welfare & whereabouts, and alerting fellow Americans to emergency situations. Mainly, I am a messenger. We have a Google group and a Facebook page where I can send messages I receive to the community of expats on Ometepe Island.
  2.  I facilitate distribution of routine administrative information (changes in section work  hours, procedures, embassy closures, voting information) of interest to the U.S. private community. I also provide important, timely safety and security information, which might include the times and locations of upcoming local demonstrations, areas of potential unrest due to local celebrations or elections, or information about a specific medical issue.
  3. The U.S. Embassy sends me email messages and provides me with a contact list of all the U.S. Embassy wardens in Nicaragua. I am invited to July 4th celebrations at the Embassy. Although, I have yet to attend because it is a long trip to Managua, and I have to spend the night because I can’t get a ferry back to Ometepe Island after 5:30 pm.

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A Sea of Humanity


“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty”.~ Mahatma Gandhi

Last week I had an opportunity to experience a sea of humanity in Los Angeles, CA. I flew from Nicaragua to march in solidarity for human rights and immigrants throughout the world. It was one of the most meaningful days of my life.

750,000 people of all races, nationalities, genders, and ages marched through the streets of Los Angeles. The reasons we marched were as numerous as the problems we face throughout the world. Yet, it was as if we were floating in an ocean of serenity, swaying and bobbing peacefully… gleefully… shoulder to shoulder…heart to heart.

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My Place of Solace


“In a good bookroom you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.” ― Mark Twain

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People often ask what we do all day since we are retired. One thing is for certain. We have stopped watching world news. It is too depressing. Besides, there is very little we can do about fixing the big problems in the world. But, there are many little things we can do as expats to help make the world a little better for our local communities.

I started a children’s library in our small La Paloma Elementary school two years ago. It has become my solace and place of refuge from this mad, mad world in which we live.
It is my place of hugs, laughter, and wisdom absorbed through my skin.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Future Thoughts from My Mother


The Weekly Photo Challenge is Future.

This is what I learned about the future from my mother…with quotes and my photos from Cartagena, Colombia.

When I was young, I ate breakfast with my mother and we would share our dreams of the night before. Our colorful dreams were usually joyful and telltale of our outlooks on life.

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
― Eleanor Roosevelt
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Old Year Reflections


“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
― Søren Kierkegaard

It is time to embrace the new, but first, I need to release the old. I am not one to make New Year resolutions anymore.  Every year at this time, I have vowed to lose weight…exercise more…eat better…and ___________ (fill in your own resolution). However, nothing…absolutely NADA has stuck with me for very long.

Instead, I make daily resolutions…sort of like my goals I want to accomplish for the day. That way I don’t have to live with unfulfilled expectations and I can do little things each day. At any rate, the temptation to “resolve” is strong at this time of the year! So here is a tip: The resolutions most likely to be kept are the ones rooted in reflection.

Nicaraguans have mastered the skill of reflection and of letting go through their unique Muñecos, or stuffed dolls packed with gun powder. They symbolize blasting away their vices of the past year, and ushering in the new year with a clean slate. I like that concept. However, it takes reflection to make it work.

Last year, I made a Muñeca, or a woman doll.  A Muñeca New Year
This New Year, I think I will spend a quiet day reflecting on the past year because life can only be understood backwards.

I made a list of my top five year-end questions to help me through my reflective process.
IMG_1145Then, I will be ready to usher in the New Year with a BANG!
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