Humans of Nicaragua: Don Alberto’s Dream


“It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”
― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

When Don Alberto was in his thirties, he had a magnificent dream. He was so inspired that he consulted with a priest to see if his dream was possible. The priest gave him wise advise like Paulo Coelho in Brida, “When you find your path, you must not be afraid. You need to have sufficient courage to make mistakes. Disappointment, defeat, and despair are the tools God uses to show us the way.”

Don Alberto was pleased with the advise, and the next day, he chose his sharpest stone-carving tools, which consisted of two sharpened pieces of rebar, a stone hammer, and a metal blade, and trekked through the valley below to find the perfect cliffs to begin his once-in-a-lifetime dream of honoring God, family, and love of nature and animals.

Along the stone paths worn by his daily treks, he planted coffee trees, bromeliads, and orchids that he treasured. Today, Don Alberto’s 40 something years of stone-carving are his tribute and gift to Tisey Estanzuela Natural Reserve outside the town of Esteli that he calls home.
Welcome to Finca El Jalacate, sculptures in rock.
Don Alberto is a spry 72-year-old, with a snow-white afro and suntanned skin with weathered lines etched into his face that kind of resemble his carvings. He attributes his healthy lifestyle to working every day of his life. He said that even when he is sick (which isn’t often), he prefers to carve rocks than stay in his bed. He enjoys visiting the 60 thousand visitors he has had throughout his adventures in rock carving, and explains with joy the many details in his carvings.
Continue reading

Advertisements

Stranger Things in Nicaragua


“This is the strangest life I have ever known.” ― Jim Morrison

I recently binged on the Netflix series Stranger Things and it reminded me of the stranger things I’ve seen in Nicaragua. Nicaragua is the land of quirky! We lovingly refer to Nicaragua as the land of the not quite right. If you enjoy belly laughs and giggles at daily life, you will love living in Nicaragua because some days, You just gotta laugh.

As you can see, I fit right into the funky Nicaraguan lifestyle. Join me for a photo essay of Stranger Things I’ve seen in Nicaragua.

It all started when I purchased a coffee maker at MaxiPali. There were two coffee makers left on the shelf. One was a black five cup coffee maker, the other a ten cup white coffee maker. Other than the size, both were identical in their functions and brand. However, the black five cup coffee maker was 150 more cordobas than the larger white one. When I asked why, the clerk responded, “I am surprised that you don’t know that all black appliances are more expensive.” Hmmm…

If you are wondering why the license plate is sitting in front of the coffee maker, we had to buy a placa or plate for our motorcycle. We waited six years for the government to make license plates! Yes, six years! The strange thing about Nicaraguan license plates is that they don’t come with predrilled holes to screw the plate to the motorcycle. We had to drill the holes ourselves. Who does that?

Stranger Modes of Transportation

One day, the rodeo came to town. There are a variety of wacky rides for the kids, and you can also get your picture taken on a giant plastic horse. This was a tough move for the owner of the horse because he had to bring it from the mainland on the ferry. Imagine our surprise watching the rigamortised horse lifted off the ferry.

Our school kids ride chicken buses to school, and sometimes they ride motorcycles.

Continue reading

Our Road Less Traveled


“Look for chances to take the less-traveled roads. There are no wrong turns.”
― Susan Magsamen

We have always tramped the road less traveled. It keeps us young and energetic. When we moved to Ometepe Island permanently in 2010, we built our house during the worst flood of the century. The lake rose into our property beyond our coconut trees. 👇

As a result, the road in front of our house was destroyed and never repaired. We dealt with the inconvenience by shoveling, ditching, and filling in holes and ruts with rocks and coconuts. All by hand! Our road less traveled became a hindrance and impossible to maintain without heavy road equipment.

Last week, we had an amazing surprise. Cappy ran to our gate and barked at the tanker truck, the road grader, the dump truck, and the bucket truck roaring back and forth in front of our house. What in the world was happening? And who was paying for this?

Continue reading

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.
Continue reading

Weekly Photo Challenge: Bridging Gaps in Nicaragua


The Weekly Photo Challenge is Bridge.

For seven years I have tried to bridge cultural gaps in Nicaragua. One of the most difficult gaps to connect is the lack of reading for pleasure in Nicaragua. So, three years ago I started a children’s library in my small La Paloma Elementary School.

One day, I delivered office supplies to our local police department, and in turn Juan Carlos asked what he could do for me. I had just the thing! “Juan Carlos, how would you like to come to my library and read to the preschool class?” I asked. He was thrilled! And so were the preschoolers. Bridging the gap of reading is fun!

El Castillo on the Rio San Juan River in Nicaragua is literally a horse town. No cars here!  Boats, horses, donkeys, canoes, and a few foot bridges tie the communities along the river. To market to market to buy a fat pig!

Continue reading

Travel Can Be Exhausting


We have been traveling since March…three countries…eleven airplanes…two hotels…four Airbnbs…two casa particulars…one train…too many buses and taxis to count…one boat…one rental car…and stayed in two houses ( our house and our son’s house). We still have seven airplanes booked…one eye operation…two hotels…one rental car…a taxi…a ferry…and one tuk tuk before we arrive home on Ometepe Island.

Travel.Is.Exhausting.

We are in Yosemite National Park visiting our son, who is an interpretive naturalist. No matter how many times we visit, the beauty of this park awes and inspires me. Also, it is a perfect place to hike and enjoy the amazing scenery.

The waterfalls gush with the icy snow melt. I have never seen so much water in Yosemite before. Booming…thunderous water crashes and sprays all around us.

Wildflowers bloom…vivid spring green transforms the valley…there is no better place to be than with my two favorite men.

We will be busy for the next two weeks. I plan on going to all of Cory’s programs like the astronomy program called Starry Skies, the nature stroll, the historical Ahwahnee Hotel, and the night prowl to look for Yosemite’s night creatures. Then I want to take the photography and watercolor classes, as well as hike everyday.

I wont be posting much until we return to Ometepe Island in June, and then it will depend on how my eye surgery goes. Wish me luck. I have many beautiful sights yet to see in this incredible world of ours.

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?

Continue reading

Part II: Renting a Guagua or Waawaa We Go!


Life is similar to a bus ride, or in the case of Sandy’s Cuban family, a guagua ride. (pronounced waa waa)
The journey began when Sandy rented a guagua to take us to Havana for an evening of entertainment. You see, her extended family is so large and no one owns a car, so it was impossible to treat them to an evening of fun in Havana without renting a guagua.

Thirty dollars bought Sandy an evening with a guagua driver and enough room for the entire community to go to Havana to watch the cannon ceremony.

Continue reading

Cuba’s Four-Wheeled Zombies


Driving the dead! Cuba’s car culture fascinated me. They have the most resourceful drivers and mechanics who defy the odds and break all the rules to make sure that the American 50s classics…really never die. The four-wheeled zombies are alive and well in Cuba!

Before visiting Cuba, I thought that only Havana’s streets would be like a 1950s Hollywood movie. However, the old classic cars are everywhere, used for everything from taxis to tourism novelties, and incorporated into daily life in every aspect of Cuba’s culture.

The four-wheeled zombies rose from the dead on February 8, 1962. With a stroke of President John F. Kennedy’s pen, the noose was dramatically tightened on an existing trade embargo that prohibited most Cubans from buying brand new cars after Castro took the reigns in 1959.

Continue reading

Weekly Photo Challenge: Zealously Riding the TranzAlpine Train


The Weekly Photo Challenge is Anticipation.

We were looking forward to our TranzAlpine Train trip across the Southern Alps in New Zealand.  It was an overcast and rainy day,  but it didn’t stop our enthusiasm for the world’s most scenic train ride.
img_2359

Continue reading