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.

We’re Leaving Our Babies


We’ve lived in Nicaragua on and off since 2004, and for the past six years we have been here permanently. We decided this year that we are going to wean ourselves off Nicaragua for six months a year. It is time for a change, if only temporarily.

We have had a love/hate relationship with Nicaragua for many years. The hate part is mainly because of the unreliable infrastructure and the brutally hot and dry months. The love part will always be the people.  Yet, as we age, we realize that maybe Nicaragua isn’t the best place for us to age gracefully year-round. After much thought, we decided to scratch our gypsytoes by traveling six months of the year.

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Our sweet bananas are ready to be harvested by our house sitters.

The best of all worlds is possible. Our goal was always to make Nicaragua our home base and travel extensively. But, that has not happened as much as we would like because we  built a thriving life in Nicaragua by planting many varieties of fruit trees on our property, rescuing dogs and cats, and developing a children’s library.

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The baby breadfruit tree needs TLC during the dry season.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: My Beacon of Home


The Weekly Photo Challenge is Local.

“There’s no limit to the human capacity for the homing sentiment.”
~ Edward Abbey

Like a beacon, our Concepcion Volcano on Ometepe Island is my guide home.

From the bell tower in Granada, Concepcion shows me the way home.

img_8374Concepcion volcano points the way home from the ferry in San Jorge.
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How to Avoid ATM Fees When Living Abroad


“Folks don’t carry money around in their pockets. They’ve got to go to an ATM machine, and they’ve got to pay a few dollars to get their own dollars out of the machine. Who ever thought you’d pay cash to get cash? That’s where we’ve gotten to.”~Bill Janklow

banpro-1Twelve years ago, we had to go to the mainland to take money out of an ATM. The first time we took our neighbor kids to Rivas, the ATM machine impressed them the most. They were amazed at the small cool room, and it really blew them away when money came out of a hole in the machine. When they told their Papa about the miracle they saw in Rivas, he asked us if he could get a card for the money machine, too.

Today, we have at least five ATMs to choose from in Moyogalpa. However, our MasterCard debit card from our bank in the states is only accepted by one bank and one private ATM at the Mega Super grocery store. Recently, our bank sent us new debit cards with the digital chips. Now, the only bank that accepts our chipped debit card is BAC.

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Wanna Get Away?


“Airplane travel is nature’s way of making you look like your passport photo.” — Al Gore

Isn’t that the truth? Purchasing airline tickets is a complicated digital-aged process. Adding the hours I search for the best routes and the lowest prices for airline tickets online, it totals 200 hours a year. That is over 8 days of searching for airline tickets!

Yes, we travel a lot! So, I thought I would give you some helpful ideas of where and how I buy our round-trip tickets from Nicaragua. I love Google Flights because it gives me more information than other travel search sites.

1. Find the cheapest months to fly. 

In Google Flights, it is a breeze. Choose your location and destination and then select “flexible dates.”

Below is a flight from Managua to Los Angeles using a random date.
Screen Shot 2016-08-01 at 8.15.29 PMAnd flexible dates from Liberia, Costa Rica to Los Angeles.
Screen Shot 2016-08-01 at 8.16.16 PMSo far, it looks like Managua has the cheaper flights to Los Angeles than from Liberia, Costa Rica. But, wait!

2. Choose an outbound flight to check the best flights according to the time of departure and the length of the flight. 
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The Secret to a Young Life


“Men do not quit playing because they grow old; they grow old because they quit playing.” ― Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

Since returning from the states the end of June, I haven’t felt like playing. Honestly, I haven’t felt like doing anything. We both got Zika, which is like Chikungunya light. But, Zika amplified our ongoing arthritic symptoms from Chikungunya, which we got a year ago. Sigh! I feel so old and exhausted.

On top of our mosquito borne illnesses, the electricity has been horrible this month. Every other day, the power shuts off at six in the evening and blinks on at nine. Some people suspect that the Ferris wheel is the culprit, others say the new Pali grocery store is consuming too much of the electricity.

Whatever the reasons for our unstable power, sometimes I feel like Nicaragua is killing me slowly. I am tired of playing detective. Who hot wired our dune buggy? Who stole my friend’s bicycle, which was chained to her porch? Is it possible to flip a switch and turn off the electricity in our community when there is a big fiesta or bullfight in the next town? Why is my internet so slow? What tropical illness do we have now…parasites, Dengue, Chikungunya, Zika, Swine flu, food poisoning, Cholera, E coli? We’ve had them all.

Is it Nicaragua or is it me?

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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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The Best of Reverse Culture Shock


Traveling from Ometepe Island, Nicaragua and landing in Las Vegas, Nevada was surreal.  We knew to expect a bizarre reverse culture shock which I can only describe like the scene out of a Crocodile Dundee movie. Yet, there is something to be said about embracing the shock when returning to a place that one used to call home.

Articles have been written about the effects of reverse culture shock and ways to combat the adverse effects. But, I am of the persuasion that it is better to embrace it, than fight it and below are my reasons why….

1. The euphoria of feeling out-of-place in your own culture.

Las Vegas is not a city that anyone feels “in place” in our culture. It is the land of excess, overwhelming choices, immigrants, and a city that never sleeps.

When I asked our taxi driver at the airport where he was from he said, “Guess. I will give you a hint. It is where coffee was first produced.”
I guessed correctly on the second try, which really impressed our taxi driver. “Ethiopia!”
I think I created a warm, fast-paced relationship with our Ethiopian taxi driver after that because for the rest of the ride, he told me all about his country, the family he left, and how proud he was that he could provide for them.

Returning home gives me another opportunity to embrace and respect the diverse culture in the U.S. There was no better way to start our journey than the euphoric feeling of being out-of-place in our home country.

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Let’s Get Real about Housesitting in Nicaragua


“Whenever you go on a trip to visit foreign lands or distant places, remember that they are all someone’s home and backyard.”
― Vera Nazarian

our houseHonestly, we have never had a problem finding housesitters. Who wouldn’t want to stay on a tropical island in the middle of a sweet sea, in the middle of Nicaragua, in the middle of Central America?

In fact, as you read this, we are in the United States and we have another awesome housesitter. We travel often and because we have a dog and two cats and a home in a developing country, we always have a need for responsible sitters.

After several years of planning for housesitters, I have the housesitting routine down pat. So, let me share with you some of the things I have learned when preparing for sitters.

Let’s Get Real about Housesitting in Nicaragua

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