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.

We gorged on fresh berries, sweet corn-on-the-cob, spinach, and fig newtons, treats we could never find in Nicaragua. But, it didn’t satiate our quest to find our home in this mad, mad world. We could have stayed in Canada for 6 months without a visa, but winter was approaching and although I love the idea of snuggling under down blankets and knitting fuzzy warm socks…our bodies are acclimated to a hot, hot climate. We would never survive a winter in Canada.

From thriving cities like Montreal and Quebec City, to the countryside with lush fields of vegetables, to quaint fishing villages in Prince Edward Island, we drove through awe-inspiring vistas. Everything was so neat, orderly, and clean! So unlike the place we called home in Nicaragua.

We asked each other everyday, “What do you miss about Nicaragua?” Not surprisingly, the answers were always, “Not much.” Leaving Nicaragua I was washed with relief, yet drowning in lingering anger about the Ortega regime and disillusionment about people in general.

It is the process of grieving, I understand that, but everything changed so quickly. One morning we were living in the heyday of Nicaragua, the pinnacle of success, then the next day the country collapsed. It is still unbelievable to me.


Now that I have had two months to process leaving our home in Nicaragua, I am still trying to sort out my feelings. Some days I am overwhelmed with anger. The violence and murders have slowed down, but things are not normal in Nicaragua. Tourism is dead, the economy is collapsing, thousands of Nicaraguans have fled the country. Repression, torture,and imprisonment are the new norms.

I feel guilty because we had options to leave Nicaragua when so many don’t have any options. I am angry because the people are suffering without jobs. I am outraged at the atrocities that have occurred. I am heartbroken for those who are imprisoned and tried in a kangaroo court without a lawyer because they marched and protested for a better life and their human rights. I am appalled at the torture of innocent people. I am puzzled by the reactions, denial, blame and indifference of some people living as guests in Nicaragua. I am alarmed at the repression and fear this regime has instilled.


Although the dark days hang like a repressive cloud over Nicaragua, I have no regrets about the many years we lived immersed in the culture. My only regret is that I had planned on turning my “Let’s Get Real about Nicaragua” series into a book. Now, that series is only a sad reminder of the way things were.

My grief for Nicaragua will slowly diminish, but probably never completely disappear. That is a part of life, right? I have never been one to feel totally helpless about any situation. I help where I can, and will continue to support my children’s library and my librarian. I thrive on activism and a realistic viewpoint of life.

The revolution in Nicaragua was a tipping point of our lives. Will we ever be able to call Nicaragua our home again? At this point, I doubt it. I can’t live in a heavily repressed country where we have no freedom of expression, where fear dominates every action, where trust is venomous, where corruption is rampant, and people are disempowered and castrated for speaking the truth.

Will we ever find a place to call home again? Maybe not. We’ve changed too much. We’ve experienced too many things in our lifetime…good and bad. An untethered lifestyle fits us now. We have no bills, no responsibilities….and a passion for travel.

Our lives are an open road. We are planning our new adventures to Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Mexico, Colombia, and Curacao for the winter and spring.

Thanks for being so patient with me. Life took a big turn for us, and it will take me a while to adjust to life on the road again. But, we are ready and open to more freedom in our lives knowing that our home and pets in Nicaragua are well-loved!

 

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.


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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.

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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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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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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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Lasting Impressions of Cuba


“Anarchy is like custard cooking over a flame; it has to be constantly stirred or it sticks and gets heavy, like government.” ― Tom Robbins, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues

Anarchism as a social movement in Cuba held much promise for the working class during the 19th and 20th centuries. I won’t go into the sordid details, you can read the history here Anarchism in Cuba.

Yet, what I would like to discuss are my lasting impressions of Cuba. First, Che is everywhere. Forty-five years after the death of Ernesto “Che” Guevara — the Argentine doctor who led the 1959 Cuban Revolution alongside Fidel Castro — his portrait is the most reproduced image in Cuba.

His face appears repeatedly on murals, water tanks, billboards, and even plates, t-shirts, coffee mugs, beach towels, and bikinis. While extraordinarily popular as a figure of revolution where children are taught to see him as a hero from a very young age, his image is used to promote commercialism in Cuba. My impression is that he has become a pattern and a design to sell to tourists, and I think they have gone too far and misrepresented Che. Would you buy a bikini with Che’s face on the butt of a bikini bottom?

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Part I: A Day with a Cuban Family in the Barrio


“An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics.”
― Plutarch

When Sandy took us to meet her large extended family in Marianao, Cuba, I had no idea what to expect. We had only been in Cuba for one day and I had no understanding of life in a communist country. My understanding of communism was that everyone in the Cuban society received equal benefits derived from their labor. I thought that it was a classless society where the government controlled everything and where wealth was redistributed so that all are of the same social and financial status.

NOT. SO. 

We arrived in Marianao surprising Sandy’s family because she had told them that she would visit the following Monday. The matriarch of the family, wrapped in her worn cotton dress, limped to the door and showered hugs and kisses on Sandy. Then, she showered us with hugs and kisses, too!

She is 97 years young and still going strong thanks to socialized medicine in Cuba. She lost a leg many years ago, but she received a plastic leg that enables her to walk. All medical care is free in Cuba…or so we thought. The matriarch’s daughter showed us a plastic bag filled with medicines for her and her mother. She said that she has to pay for them, and that medicine is dispensed on a sliding scale depending on the finances of the family. Since she is a teacher, she has to pay for the medicines.

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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.

a-sea-of-humanity

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Names Have Power!


The Weekly Photo Challenge is Names

“Names have power.” ― Rick Riordan

In today’s tumultuous world, our names have power. We add our names to lists to protest injustices, to march for human rights, to sign petitions, to join groups, to vote. Together our names represent justice for all, We the People, and strength in numbers.

I saw this barrel of rocks in a park Christchurch, New Zealand. It is the wish of the people of Canterbury that this cairn remains here until democracy entire is returned to them.

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