Humans of Nicaragua: Wilber’s Story


“The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.” ~B.B. King

How does one choose between an education and food for one’s family? It is difficult for me to understand from my secure, economically stable, and knowledgeable world. But, choosing to provide for one’s family instead of going to school is a commonplace decision habitually made in most developing countries throughout the world.

The power of education or the power of family? It is almost impossible for me to imagine that this choice has to be made.  Yet in Nicaragua, it really isn’t a choice for the poor; instead, it is a way of life. Food or education? Medicine or education? Low paid unskilled labor or education? The poor do not choose. That is a myth that I am beginning to understand from living in Nicaragua.

Without an education, it is difficult for me to understand how people function in a literate, high-tech world. According to UNESCO Institute for Statistics, the adult literacy rate is the percentage of people ages 15 and above who can both read and write with understanding a short simple statement about their everyday life. In Nicaragua, 78% of the population is literate. Literacy chart comparing 215 countries.

It is almost impossible to imagine what it is like to be illiterate, unable to read or write words, and how terrifying and confusing the world must seem. Five years ago, this was the bewildering world in which Wilber lived. He knew very little about education and even less about the literate world surrounding him.

When Wilber was nine years old, his father ran off with another woman leaving him to care for a sick mother and his younger brother. He quit school and applied for a job as a farm hand on Ometepe Island.

“The farm owner said I was too tiny to work, but I convinced him to hire me because I needed to support my family.” ~ Wilber

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Part Two: Service Learning and the La Paloma Library


“Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.” ~Sir James M. Berry

Sunshine they indeed brought…in the form of painting our library, the smiles and laughter of the children, and their service to others. In August, a group from Go for Hope completed a service learning project at our La Paloma Library.

I am sorry this post is so old, but I wanted to spread the word about our new donations.
Fuego y Agua Ultra Marathons will be held on Ometepe Island the first week in February. We volunteer to run the aid stations every year and it is so exciting.

IMG_0157This year, the Fuego y Agua is going to give all the proceeds from their annual Beer Run held on Friday, February 5th to our La Paloma Elementary School.
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Behind the Tourist Scenes on Ometepe Island


IMG_1121Surreal looking, isn’t it? We have lived on Ometepe Island for many years, and this morning was our first trip to the garbage dump. I have no words for our experience. It is an open air dump where horses and dogs scavenge for food, children work picking through the garbage, and putrid smells and flies infiltrate every part of our bodies.

Tourists NEVER see this. Yet, I feel that they need to see our dump. Awareness is the first step to changing the world. Yet, in creating an awareness of this atrocity, where do we go from here?

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Pros and Cons of Living on an Island


“Every man is an island, and every heart seeks the ferry to cross the main…”
― Mykyta Isagulov

 

Sunday evening, I was invited to speak with a group of women from Finding My Place, a travel agency for women who want to explore living abroad. It was a lovely gathering with well-traveled women who are exploring Nicaragua as a place to hang their hammocks. Many of the questions they asked revolved around the pros and cons of island life. Below are some of the things we discussed, which may be of interest to you, too.

Islands are slow and far away from many distractions. Ometepe Island, Nicaragua is no exception. Island living is not for the faint of heart, yet the rewards are many, tranquility is abundant, and our lifestyles are simple.

Pros of Island Life

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Weekly Photo Challenge: From Plain Cotton to an Ornate Weaving


The Weekly Photo Challenge is Ornate.

How does one transform plain cotton into an elegant work of art? The answer is simple if you are an indigenous Mayan weaver. Weaving colorful cotton fabric was an art form among high-ranking ancient Mayan women. Today, weaving is a daily part of Mayan women’s lives as they pass down their skills from generation to generation and sell their ornate woven products through women’s cooperatives in Guatemala.

We visited the San Pedro Women’s Weaving Cooperative in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala where we were taught the process of transforming this…
IMG_0948into this…the traditional elaborate Mayan women’s clothing.
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Let’s Get Real about Rum in Nicaragua


IMG_7647“If I ever go missing, please put my photo on a Rum bottle, not a milk carton. I want my friends to know I am missing!” ~ Laurie Manzer

It is November and time for my monthly Let’s Get Real Series. This month I am focusing on the Flor de Caña rum made in Nicaragua. What is the history of the rum? Who makes it? What problems exist with the sugar cane workers who cut the sugar cane for the rum? And why the heck did they decide to child-proof the Flor de Caña rum bottles?


Let’s Get Real About Rum in Nicaragua
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Weekly Photo Challenge: Guatemalan Market Treats


The Weekly Photo Challenge is Treat.

We do not celebrate Halloween in Nicaragua. Instead, we observe the Dia de Muerto ( Day of the Dead), on November 2nd. That is the time we gather at the cemetery to clean and decorate the graves of our loved ones.

My favorite indulgence, besides chocolate, is when we travel abroad. The biggest feast for my eyes is to treat myself to a local market. And I mean LOCAL, not the tourist traps where throngs of foreigners go. When we were in Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, we took a chicken bus to Santa Clara to visit the local market. We were the only foreigners there and what a treat it was!

Market Day in Santa Clara.
IMG_0820Fresh strawberries…such a delight.
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You Know You Have Chikungunya When…. ( check out my update)


Update: Yesterday ( Wednesday) we couldn’t take the pain anymore. It was our 24th day with our second relapse. All of our local friends told us to get Valerpan injections, a type of steroid. They have been almost pain-free since their injections for months after the injections. I have been nursing my aches with natural teas, vitamins, and Aleve at night…to no avail. Nothing relieved our pains.

So, we sucked it up and went to the pharmacy to buy the Valerpan and the syringes. I laughed at the display case in the front of the pharmacy because it contained every drug known to man that would help to alleviate Chikungunya symptoms.

We purchased two vials of Valerpan, after googling the adverse side-effects, which by the way are few. We also purchased syringes and Meloxicam pills, an effective drug that can enter the small joints where the virus is trapped and release the toxins. For $18 total, we were stocked up and ready to experiment with our new medications. No doctor’s appointment or prescriptions were needed.

Our expat nurse friend, Theresa, administered our injections. She took the Valerpan about a month ago, and is almost symptom-free.  She told us to expect relief in 2-4 hours. I was exhausted after our trip into town, so I fell asleep on the couch when we returned home. Three hours later, Ron and I both began to notice less arthritic pain. This morning we are almost pain-free.

I have been born again. Hallelujah! I have so much energy from the steroid, but I’m going to take it easy and not overdo. I decided to take the Valerpan injections during the full moon phase, because that’s when my body rids itself of lots of water. I am a Cancer and greatly affected by the full moon.

So far, so GREAT! I am saving the Meloxicam pills for a time when I may need them to reduce additional inflammation and arthritic pain. I will be sure to keep you updated on our progress.

 

I feel like my life is spiraling out of control…
IMG_0556and I blame Chikungunya. Ron and I have had extremely painful relapses and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. If you’ve never experienced chronic pain, I will try to describe what it feels like with my pictures of our Chikungunya vacation to Guatemala.

                            You Know You Have Chikungunya When…

…you’ve mastered the walk like a zombie
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Antigua, Guatemala vs. Granada, Nicaragua


“Cities were always like people, showing their varying personalities to the traveler. Depending on the city and on the traveler, there might begin a mutual love, or dislike, friendship, or enmity. Where one city will rise a certain individual to glory, it will destroy another who is not suited to its personality. Only through travel can we know where we belong or not, where we are loved and where we are rejected.”
― Roman Payne, Cities & Countries 

Both Antigua, Guatemala and Granada, Nicaragua are charming old colonial cities that for many years were the political, religious, and economic hearts of Central America. How do these colonial cities compare? You may be surprised to discover that there are more similarities than differences.

There are a handful of both dormant and active volcanoes close to Antigua. You can see several of them from any vantage point in Antigua. The most popular volcano destination is Vulcán Pacaya. It is always in a near state of eruption with plumes of volcanic gases, steam, and occasional flashes of glowing red lava.

There are also several dormant and active volcanoes one can see around Granada, too. Mombacho Volcano is one of the most popular dormant volcanoes due to its location only 10 km from Granada, its diverse cloud forest, and its four craters. On a clear day, you can see our magnificent active volcano on Ometepe Island, Vulcán Concepcion. Masaya National Park is a short drive from Granada. Easily accessible, one can peer into the steaming crater of this active volcano where political dissidents and prisoners were once thrown.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Carefully Climbing with Chikungunya


The Weekly Photo Challenge is Careful.
 Ron and I planned a 40th wedding anniversary trip to Guatemala. The morning before we left, we both had a relapse of Chikungunya. I won’t go into all the debilitating details. You can read my post on Chikun…What? However, let me say that we both mastered the ‘walk like a zombie’ for Halloween. We tried to change our airline tickets, but it was prohibitively expensive. So, we sucked it up and hobbled to the airport with delicate painful baby steps.

Guatemala, is not a place to visit with Chikungunya. The cobblestone streets of Antigua were painfully difficult for our swollen ankles. We calculated every step carefully.
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