Apps and Internet Links for Expats

“Mobile is the digital gateway for the real world.”
― Tomi Ahonen


Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 8.22.23 PMI predict that soon becoming an expat will be common. There are massive economic and technological forces that are moving ordinary people abroad by the millions. Do you know that you can even become a virtual expat with the help of technology?

I have searched the internet for apps and links that will make your life easier as an expatriate. Enjoy this list and add your favorite apps and links below.
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As Much Money and Life as You Could Want!

“As much money and life as you could want! The two things most human beings would choose above all – the trouble is, humans do have a knack of choosing precisely those things that are worst for them.”
― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone


IMG_5788What would you do if money wasn’t an issue? If you live abroad in a developing country like we do, would you move? Travel more? Buy a big house and a new car? Start a charity? Pay off college loans?

We initially moved to Nicaragua because we could retire early from our teaching positions with small pensions. Nicaragua is affordable and we could live easily and simply on a fixed income. I nicknamed us “Economic Refugees” because we could never afford to retire early on fixed incomes and stay in the U.S. Money mattered in our decision to retire in Nicaragua.

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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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Let’s Get Real About Gun Ownership in Nicaragua

UGH! I am so frustrated with the politics in the United States over gun-control. I am not sure what can be done to stop the massacres in the U.S. So, I did a little research on where are the world’s guns and which countries have the highest rates of firearm murders.

Piecing the information together, thanks to Gun Homicides and Gun Ownership listed by country, gave me a better perspective of Nicaragua and where it stands in relation to  other countries in the world.

Let’s get real about gun ownership in Nicaragua. What are the laws, the procedures, and reasons to own a gun in Nicaragua?

The average total of all firearms in Nicaragua is 350,000. The average number of firearms per 100 people is 7.7.
Screen Shot 2015-10-03 at 8.29.51 AMThe average homicide by firearm rate per 100,000 people in Nicaragua is 5.92.
Screen Shot 2015-10-03 at 8.32.11 AMThe percentage of homicides by firearms in Nicaragua is 42.1% or 338 firearm homicides.
Screen Shot 2015-10-03 at 8.33.37 AMThe information from this article tells me that the U.S. has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world – an average of 88 per 100 people own guns. Nicaragua’s rate of gun ownership per 100 people is 7.7… which is considerably lower than the U.S.

The U.S. does not have the worst firearm murder rate in the world. Honduras wins the prize with a staggering 68.43 murder by firearm rate per 100,000 people. Nicaragua, which shares a border with Honduras, has an average of murder by firearm rate of 5.92 per 100,000 people. This indicates to me that Nicaragua is one of the safest countries in Central America and they must be doing something right to halt gun violence.

What are the laws of gun ownership and the procedures for registering a gun in Nicaragua?

Thanks to Darrell Bushnell ( a U.S. expat living in Nicaragua) and Paul Tiffer ( a Nicaraguan lawyer) this article explains everything you need to know about Registering Firearms in Nicaragua.

One overlooked item in this list by many countries: certification by a psychologist or a doctor to prove that the applicant is mentally and physically able to carry and handle a weapon.

An expat friend bought a gun in Nicaragua and registered it according to the laws of Nicaragua. His psychological examination was done in Spanish with a certified psychologist.

I understand that gun-control and registration vary from state to state in the United States. However, it is of my opinion, that if the federal government enacted a law that specifically required a psychological and physical examination for prospective and legal gun owners,  then we could better track the people with mental illnesses applying for and/or registering already owned guns. This appears to be a practical solution to reduce gun violence in Nicaragua.

I also find it interesting that a gun must be concealed at all times in Nicaragua. There are no special licenses for concealed weapons.

Why do people own guns in Nicaragua?

First, the majority of Nicaraguans do not own guns, at least not legally registered guns as reported in the statistics. How would one find the number of illegal guns possessed throughout the world? They can’t gather statistics on guns that aren’t legally registered.  The population of Nicaragua is 6.17 million people. The average total of all firearms in Nicaragua is 350,000 with the average number of gun owners being 7.7 per 100 people.

Guns are expensive to buy in Nicaragua. The registration and licensing procedures are time-consuming and expensive for the average Nicaraguan. 48% of the population lives in poverty and 40% of the population lives on less than one dollar a day.

Nicaraguans cherish their machetes. They use their machetes for work, for protection, and for safety. They are cheap and readily available. Now, if I could find homicide rates by machete for Nicaragua, I suspect they would be very high, certainly higher than homicide rate by firearm.

What do responsible gun owners do with their guns? I really don’t know the answer to that because there are so few people that I know who own guns on Ometepe Island.  Our expat friends who have legally registered guns use them for protection. We have a pellet/BB gun that we use for shooting rats in our garden. I only know of one incident where a legal gun-owner in Nicaragua used a gun to protect his family from a home invasion. The perpetrators entered the home with guns, and were shot with the homeowners’ legally registered guns in their attempts to strangle and possibly rape the homeowner.

Paul Tiffer concludes by saying, “You may buy or own as many guns as you wish but you will need a separate permit for each one. You should use a lawyer or perhaps a friend in the police department to help you walk through the process. Having a firearm without a permit is automatic confiscation, jail time and a fine on top of it.”

This information was an eye opener for me. I hope you find it helpful.

If you live abroad, do you know the legal process to buy and register a gun? What are the statistics on homicide rates by firearm where you live?