Maid in Nicaragua


Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 8.50.47 PMTwo times in my life I hired a maid and two times in my life, I had to let them go. The first time was when I lived in the states. I was working two jobs and my obsessive house cleaning routine got the best of me. A friend recommended a professional domestic housekeeper that cleaned for her. She wasn’t cheap and she was bonded, which made me feel better about hiring a housekeeper. She also told me to leave a list of the things I wanted done on a weekly basis.

I followed her advise and included in the list, “Clean the baseboards and the ceiling fans.” The next day the new housekeeper unloaded on my friend, showed her my list, and said that I was a slave driver and she was not a servant. I had to let her go.

Now, I will be the first to admit that I felt extremely uncomfortable hiring a domestic housekeeper. It stemmed from the collective uneasiness many women have in the U.S. of the idea of hired household help. We think it sounds nice, but maybe a little indulgent. I wondered if I would seem snobby, entitled, and spoiled. After all, I was a middle-class woman with all the modern and time-saving devices that made multi-tasking a breeze.

But, most of all, I felt guilty. I read the book The Help, I saw the sexy maid costumes at Halloween, and Downton Abbey sure didn’t help to change my perceptions of servants.
In my mind a servant, a maid, and a domestic housekeeper were all the same. The terms all had a derogatory feel to them. They brought up the same bad connotations, regardless of which word I used to describe them. And letting go of the housekeeper I had for one day confirmed my perceptions.

Continue reading

Let’s Get Real About When Tourism Can Kill


Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 9.36.21 PM
Warning: This is a rant. No beautiful photos of dreamy sunsets will go with what I have to say. Yet, I have to get this off my chest…When irresponsible and uncontrolled tourism leaves a wake of destruction in its path   It. Isn’t. Pretty

The truth is that irresponsible tourism can kill. It kills unsuspecting people, cities, small towns in pristine places, and our fragile environment. It kills morale and self-confidence, replacing them with fear and denial.  In its wake, it leaves us bewildered, confused, frustrated, afraid, and angry…oh so angry.

Irresponsible tourism affects everyone from the locals who are displaced to the business owners to the foreigners who have chosen to retire and live abroad. It affects us in Nicaragua and we are all responsible for the consequences of our irresponsible actions. No one gets off the hook easily…not anymore.

Yet, exposing the dirty side of irresponsible tourism in Nicaragua is a big NO! NO! Those who are courageous enough to speak out are harassed, shunned, and/or blocked from expat forums. Why? Well, I suspect a number of reasons, the biggest reason is economic. Responsible and sustainable tourism can provide direct jobs to the community and indirect employment generated through other industries such as agriculture, food production, and retail.

Responsible tourism can bring about a real sense of pride and identity to communities. By showcasing distinct characteristics of their ways of life, history and culture, tourism can encourage the preservation of traditions which may be at risk of losing their unique identities and cultural heritage.

Nicaragua relies heavily on tourism. Visitor expenditure generates income for the local communities, which can lead to the alleviation of poverty. The benefits of responsible and sustainable tourism are great, yet what about the problems that irresponsible tourism brings and how do we solve those problems without creating an awareness of them first?

I have written about the Codes of Responsible Travelers and I think that if we are responsible travelers we are aware of the effect we have on the places we visit. Yet, there is another side of tourism that is rarely discussed. What responsibilities do the locals have, the business owners, the local government, and the foreigners who have chosen to live in the high tourist areas? Do we escape accountability for when bad things happen?

I have given this much thought, and although I do not have a business in Nicaragua, I see the effects of the good and the bad practices daily. In discussing my thoughts, I want to make sure it is presented in a context where I don’t place anyone on the defensive or create emotional turmoil. I read about the problems on expats of Nicaragua forums, and I talk with many local and foreign business owners. These are only my thoughts on the problems. I place no blame on any group, but I think it is time that we ask ourselves some important questions to help our tourist communities be safe, enjoyable, and unique places for tourists to visit.

With the influx of foreigners moving to Nicaragua and starting businesses, are we loving Nicaragua to death? So….

Let’s Get Real About When Tourism Can Kill with six important questions we should ask ourselves as expats.

Continue reading

Let’s Get Real About Safety in Nicaragua


“I finally figured out that not every crisis can be managed. As much as we want to keep ourselves safe, we can’t protect ourselves from everything. If we want to embrace life, we also have to embrace chaos.”
― Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Our house is surrounded by ornamental iron keeping us safe from unwanted intruders.

Our house is surrounded by ornamental iron keeping us safe from unwanted intruders.

Now, that’s the truth! No matter where we live in this mad, mad world we can’t protect ourselves from everything. Like most expats, I grew up in one country and moved to another country. My idea of safety abroad revolved around; Don’t drink the water. Always shake out your shoes for scorpions. Don’t wear a lot of bling bling in big cities. My learning curve was steep for keeping myself safe the first couple of years living in Nicaragua.

I’ve categorized four main safety concerns in Nicaragua. Unless you are Bubble Boy, you will probably deal with one of these safety issues at one time or another in Nicaragua. We have dealt with safety hazards from all four categories, but we have never considered any of these safety issues life-threatening.

When moving to a new country there can be a host of hidden hazards that aren’t covered in the tourism brochures. Although no one wants to be ruled by fear, it is better to be aware of what’s out there from disease to crime. So…

  Let’s Get Real About Safety in Nicaragua

Continue reading

So You Want to Move Abroad if Trump is Elected President?


If Trump wins the U.S.Presidential elections, where are you going to go? It looks like Canada is not an option anymore.

But, never fear. Don’t lose hope. Nicaragua is always nice!:-)

Continue reading

Let’s Get Real About What to Bring to Nicaragua


Last month’s post in the Let’s Get Real series was Let’s Get Real About Packing and Moving to Nicaragua.

Yet, what do you really need to bring? We were lucky because we lived in Nicaragua for a year before our permanent move. We had a good idea of what we needed and what we didn’t need. However, in our six years of living full-time in Nicaragua, so many things have changed that when we return to the states our lists are shorter and shorter.

The lists of items below are especially helpful if you are moving to an island or a rural area.

Some of the expats in Nicaragua will say that many of the items on my list are available in Managua. However, we have to take into consideration that we live on Ometepe Island and it is a long, full, and expensive day of travel to get to Managua.

IMG_3119

Continue reading

Do What You Know


“Learning is finding out what you already know. Doing is demonstrating that you know it. Teaching is reminding others that they know just as well as you. You are all learners, doers, teachers.”
― Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

What do you do after moving abroad when the newness wears off and you feel like everything has become routine? I hear many expats say, “I need to find my purpose here.”

For some, it may take several years to find their purpose. Others never find it and become disgruntled and dissatisfied because their adopted country doesn’t meet their high expectations. I arrived on Ometepe Island as a freshly retired teacher with two children’s Spanish books. Because of those children’s books and 30 years of teaching K-12 and University education majors, I found my passion naturally.

The neighborhood kids came to my house regularly to read the books over and over. It didn’t take me long to find my purpose. I did what I knew the best…teaching. I became a rewired and retired teacher…my own boss…and started a children’s library in my little local La Paloma Elementary School.

I converted a storage room into a library, made bookcases, collected over 2,000 children’s books in Spanish with the help of many generous benefactors, and hired and trained Maxwell to be my librarian.  He took English lessons from me eleven years ago…and when I expressed my need for a librarian…there he was.

I Do What I Know Best


Teachers are master fundraisers.
We know exactly what the students need and how to get what they need. We beg, plead, and seek donations, discounts, and items on sale like professional bargainers. We are marketing marvels…selling the needs of our students to everyone who passes by our classroom doors. Continue reading

The Heart of My Home


“The heart of the home beats in the kitchen and a healthy one beats three times a day” ― Bangambiki Habyarimana, The Great Pearl of Wisdom

 

Good food and a warm kitchen make a house a home. In 2004, our tropical island kitchen lacked what most would call aesthetically pleasing conveniences, but since we were  renting our beach shack in our experiment with ‘pretirement’, we could only dream of the kitchen we would eventually call home.
DSCN1120With only a two-top stove burner and no storage space, we still managed to make our funky kitchen the heart of our home.
DSCN1393 Continue reading

Let’s Get Real About Packing and Moving to Nicaragua


“I hear there are people who actually enjoy moving. Sounds like a disease to me – they must be unstable” ~ Jan Neruda, Prague Tales

 

When Ron and I finally decided to move to Nicaragua, our first question was, “How do we get all of our stuff there?” I had a brilliant-to-me idea. I contacted the cruise ships to see if it was possible to book a one-way trip from Miami to San Juan Del Sur. Then, we could unload all of our stuff from the cruise ship, hire a truck or van to take us to San Jorge, and board the ferry to our new-to-us shack we purchased on Ometepe Island. It was the cheapest option I could find, as well as sounding like a lot of fun. For a few days, we would have a floating storage locker in our stateroom on a giant cruise ship.

Cruise ship in San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua

Cruise ship in San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua

“Sure, that is possible,” said the first booking agent. She proceeded to tell me how it could be done and I thought…this is so easy. I am brilliant.

I contacted a second agent to ask about luggage limits. She said there were no restrictions. Again, I told myself, this is genius!

But, the third agent must have had a bad day when I asked her if there were restrictions about what I could pack. “Can I bring a trunk with my pots and pans and is there room in the stateroom for our kayak?” I asked.

“Why would you need to bring pots and pans? You can’t be cookin’ any beans in your stateroom,” she snarled. So, I had to tell her that we were moving to Nicaragua and we wanted to bring several trunks with our possessions.

“This isn’t the Grapes of Wrath and it sure isn’t a moving company, so find another way to move!” and she hung up on me. Back to the drawing board!

The way I see it, there are three options for packing and moving your stuff to Nicaragua. So, for my monthly Let’s Get Real series…

                  Let’s Get Real About Packing and Moving to Nicaragua

Continue reading

How to Get Absentee Ballots for U.S. Citizens


Voting-Quote-1My husband and I have always exercised our right to vote in local, state, and national elections. Even as expats, we continue to vote for we believe that “the ballot is stronger than the bullet.”

With important elections in the United States now upon us, I want to explain our process of receiving absentee ballots and voting from Nicaragua.

Continue reading

Ten Films to Watch Before Traveling to Nicaragua


Sorry, I had technical difficulties, but all the movie trailers should show now.

“The whole of life is just like watching a film. Only it’s as though you always get in ten minutes after the big picture has started, and no-one will tell you the plot, so you have to work it out all yourself from the clues.”
― Terry Pratchett, Moving Pictures

 

Living in Nicaragua is like arriving to the movies ten minutes after the big picture has started. We piece the clues together to get the big picture daily. Before traveling anywhere, we always read books and watch films related to that country. It helps to get the “big picture” in areas of historical, socioeconomic, and social contexts.

   Ten Movies About Nicaragua

Continue reading