Thankful, Cautious, Shrewd, and Charitable


“Be happy when you work, thankful when you earn, cautious when you spend, shrewd when you save, and charitable when you give.”
― Matshona Dhliwayo

This is a quote we live by…our mantra for financial security and happiness.
We leave for Uruguay and Argentina next week, so I have to prepare for our house sitter, which includes paying bills and planning ahead financially.

It is always a good time for me to report on our monthly expenses because I have receipts and bills spread out on my kitchen table. This time, I am dividing our financial “happiness” into four categories. Let me explain how this works for us. But, first a breakdown of February 2018 expenses.

Total February 2018 expenses = $1,467 Plus, $31 a month for SKY TV.  I forgot to include SKY when I made the pie graph because it is the only bill we pay with our credit card and I didn’t want to make a new pie chart.

My children’s library topped our expenses this month because I gave my librarian a raise and put him on a yearly salary including health insurance. Then, our internet provider GGnet, graciously provided my library with free internet if I would purchase the equipment.  The dish, cable, router, special surge protector, and installation was $500…but well worth the expense to open the door to the world of education through technology for the teachers and students.

The utilities include water ($3), electric ($58), internet ($115), phone plan ($52), and SKY satellite TV ($31).

The monthly university tuition for our goddaughter is $100. That includes her food, lodging, and books and materials she needs. She is starting her third year of university in March. She is a communication and theater major in Leon and we are so proud of her.

Our property taxes are due once a year. If we pay before March 15th, we get a 10% discount. $39 for two houses and 2 1/2 acres of beach front property on the lake. Not bad, huh?

Miscellaneous includes a bottle of propane, gas for the motorcycle, and emergency money for our house sitter.

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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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Pondering Progress in Nicaragua


“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”
― Franklin D. Roosevelt

Economic growth is one of the main factors in determining the progress of a country and its potential to satisfy the wants of individuals in their society. I am convinced Nicaragua has made significant progress in utilizing their abundance of natural resources to produce more efficient wind and solar energy. Technological development has played a role in Nicaragua to connect the population to the outside world through fiber optic internet cables. Ometepe Island public parks now have free wi-fi access due to a fiber optic cable strung under the lake from the mainland.

Yet, I wonder if all progress and advancements I see in Nicaragua truly benefit the majority of the people living below the poverty line. Are we adding to the abundance of the minority of Nicaraguans who have so much, and are we providing enough to the majority who have so little?

Last week I traveled to Managua for my regular check-up with my eye doctor. Arriving at the port in San Jorge, I noticed a new ferry, a desperately needed ferry because many people on Ometepe Island must travel to the mainland daily for work. This progress benefits everyone. And I have seen much growth in transportation with new airports, shuttles, taxis, and lots of cute tuk tuks that buzz around newly constructed roads like little mosquitoes.
The San Jorge port had a magnificent facelift. Restaurants, vendors, hotels, and major work on the sea walls benefits everyone, too.
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The Expat Art of Friendships


“We can count on so few people to go that hard way with us,” ~Adrienne Rich

If you are living abroad, how many true friends do you have?  Finding true human relationships is an art that I have yet to master, especially as an expat. I have oodles of acquaintances, expat and local, yet very few that I consider true friends, those that we can count on to go that hard way with us. I guess that is normal, right?

Truth be told, it has been a learning process for me. I have had a difficult time cutting ties with negative, dishonorable people, whether they be expats or locals. Why is that? Because we all want to belong, to be a part of something…kind of like our tribe?

Perspective is necessary for me to understand the depth and breath of true friendship. The illusion of friendship is a frame, a shallow arrangement of shapes on a flat surface..two dimensional. True friendship is the lava deep beneath the crust of daily life…and it takes a lot of digging and peeling the layers back to find it.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Life is Fleeting


The Weekly Photo Challenge is transient. 

Yesterday, I traveled to Managua on the mainland, and caught a glimpse of the clouds surrounding our island volcano. It was stunning, as if our sleeping beauty was hovering in air. It reminded me how fleeting our lives on this glorious planet are.
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How to Catch a Thief in the Digital Age


“Stealing, of course, is a crime, and a very impolite thing to do. But like most impolite things, it is excusable under certain circumstances. Stealing is not excusable if, for instance, you are in a museum and you decide that a certain painting would look better in your house, and you simply grab the painting and take it there. But if you were very, very hungry, and you had no way of obtaining money, it would be excusable to grab the painting, take it to your house, and eat it.” ― Lemony Snicket

I asked myself today, “When is it OK to steal?” We’ve had our banana stocks stolen every year because they are close to the small sandy path on the border of our property by the lake. Were they hungry thieves? Is that excusable?

We aren’t novices in crimes of opportunity. We live in a developing country and we understand that anything left out is fair game for people passing by our property. We’ve had hammocks, water hoses, and a fish trap stolen because we forgot to bring them into the house at night. We’ve had an iPhone stolen and a pair of Ron’s shoes by workers who came into our house to work.

Is stealing ever excusable?

Today, I felt betrayed by a young friend. Lauren started coming to our house with her dad when he was building our casita. She was 10 years old and we would make cookies and cupcakes together, draw and paint, and play card games. We developed a close relationship. I seem to have that effect on 5th graders. They like to hang with me.

As she matured into a teenager, she didn’t come to visit as often. When she did, we would give each other manicures and do girlie stuff together. The last time I saw her was last August. I was busy weeding the garden and I told her I couldn’t spend the morning with her. She asked to use the bathroom, and I should have followed my intuition. Something was not right. I found her in the living room and she looked guilty about something, then left quickly.

I didn’t give it much thought. Months passed. I looked for the phone, but figured I had misplaced it and the battery was too low for it to ring. We hardly ever used the Samsung. Lauren never came back to visit. Then, last night I had a dream where I saw Lauren put my cell phone in her purse. Was my gut feeling trying to awaken my consciousness through my dream?

This morning, I checked her Facebook page. I knew she didn’t have a phone and rarely posted. However, when I scrolled through her Facebook page, she had posted selfies every day since last August. And not just normal cute selfies…very sexually provocative selfies. She just turned 15 in November and I was shocked by her selfies. What was going on with her?

I wondered if my old phone number still worked because we still had the phone on our data plan. Long story about that, but Claro advised me not to remove the old phone number from my plan because I would have to start all over again with a more expensive plan. So, I called my old phone number!

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Weekly Photo Challenge: The Path of Least Resistance


The Weekly Photo Challenge is Path.

“If you limit your choice to only what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is a compromise.”
― Robert Fritz

I have never followed the path of least resistance. Yet, as I grow older and wiser with an accumulation of life experiences, I sometimes find myself choosing the path of least resistance, simply because it is smoother, easier, and less stressful.

It certainly doesn’t mean that I have fewer choices. My choices are still endless. But, I do believe that compromise is a valuable asset depending on the situation.
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How to Afford to Travel


“Desires dictate our priorities, priorities shape our choices, and choices determine our actions.” ― Dallin H. Oaks

I love reading travel essays, but before we started traveling I was disappointed when the essays never explained how one affords to travel. I received a comment on my blog the other day asking me how we afford to travel six months of the year and live abroad.

I never gave that question much thought after we started traveling because we just did it, but it is a great question and one that I think deserves a thoughtful answer.

Let me break down the quote above because it explains our process perfectly.

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Arthur’s Pass in the New Zealand Southern Alps.

 

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There is a Crack in Everything


….that’s how the light gets in. ~Leonard Cohen

Perhaps “Anthem” by Leonard Cohen, which took him a decade to write, is the most meaningful message for our troubled world today. In honor of the life of Leonard Cohen, my photos of New Zealand bring me comfort and solace along with his lyrics.

There is a crack…a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.

Craters of the Moon

Craters of the Moon

The birds they sang at the break of day…start again…I seem to hear them say…do not dwell on what has passed away…or what is yet to be.

Rotorua hot springs

Rotorua hot springs

I can’t run no more with that lawless crowd…ah, but they’ve summoned, they’ve summoned up a thundercloud…and they’re going to hear from me.

South of Auckland

South of Auckland

There’s a crack…a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.

Rotorua

Rotorua

Every heart,  every heart to love will come but like a refugee

Redwood Forest, Rotorua, New Zealand

Redwood Forest, Rotorua, New Zealand

Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in. That’s how the light gets in.

Huka Falls, near Taupo.

Huka Falls, near Taupo.

Is Nature a Person?


“Everyone is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody.”
― Mark Twain

Traveling through New Zealand during our US Presidential election has been enlightening…to say the least. The Kiwis are dumbfounded and they, along with the rest of the world, shake their heads in disbelief. The dark side of our human nature has been exposed to the world like the dark side of the moon that never shows itself.

Human nature is very puzzling, yet even more mind bending is the perspective of New Zealanders that nature can be legislated to become a person. What a profound impact on our world if we could legislate our environment and treat it as Mother Nature intended.

Our baby…our only path to survival. New Zealanders take their guardianship of nature seriously.

We are the guardians…

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We are the protectors…

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We do not have dominion over all…

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