Coming Home?


“There is a kind of madness about going far away and then coming back all changed.”~ Gypsytoes

Madness describes my feelings about returning home. I haven’t written on my blog for months because what can I say that hasn’t already been said before? With mixed emotions we left Nicaragua mid July. I don’t want to go into all the gritty details of the move. Instead, I want to try to explain the emotional turmoil I have felt since returning home.

Where is home? We have no idea. People say that home is where the heart is, yet my heart is broken for Nicaragua and for the United States, thus I can’t honestly say I am anywhere close to home at this point in my life. The week we arrived, we bought a car and drove to Canada. 5,200 miles later, we have returned to our rented house in the states where we have a little bedroom. Thank goodness we didn’t burn any bridges and our good friends who rent our house feel comfortable letting us stay for a while.

We gorged on fresh berries, sweet corn-on-the-cob, spinach, and fig newtons, treats we could never find in Nicaragua. But, it didn’t satiate our quest to find our home in this mad, mad world. We could have stayed in Canada for 6 months without a visa, but winter was approaching and although I love the idea of snuggling under down blankets and knitting fuzzy warm socks…our bodies are acclimated to a hot, hot climate. We would never survive a winter in Canada.

From thriving cities like Montreal and Quebec City, to the countryside with lush fields of vegetables, to quaint fishing villages in Prince Edward Island, we drove through awe-inspiring vistas. Everything was so neat, orderly, and clean! So unlike the place we called home in Nicaragua.

We asked each other everyday, “What do you miss about Nicaragua?” Not surprisingly, the answers were always, “Not much.” Leaving Nicaragua I was washed with relief, yet drowning in lingering anger about the Ortega regime and disillusionment about people in general.

It is the process of grieving, I understand that, but everything changed so quickly. One morning we were living in the heyday of Nicaragua, the pinnacle of success, then the next day the country collapsed. It is still unbelievable to me.


Now that I have had two months to process leaving our home in Nicaragua, I am still trying to sort out my feelings. Some days I am overwhelmed with anger. The violence and murders have slowed down, but things are not normal in Nicaragua. Tourism is dead, the economy is collapsing, thousands of Nicaraguans have fled the country. Repression, torture,and imprisonment are the new norms.

I feel guilty because we had options to leave Nicaragua when so many don’t have any options. I am angry because the people are suffering without jobs. I am outraged at the atrocities that have occurred. I am heartbroken for those who are imprisoned and tried in a kangaroo court without a lawyer because they marched and protested for a better life and their human rights. I am appalled at the torture of innocent people. I am puzzled by the reactions, denial, blame and indifference of some people living as guests in Nicaragua. I am alarmed at the repression and fear this regime has instilled.


Although the dark days hang like a repressive cloud over Nicaragua, I have no regrets about the many years we lived immersed in the culture. My only regret is that I had planned on turning my “Let’s Get Real about Nicaragua” series into a book. Now, that series is only a sad reminder of the way things were.

My grief for Nicaragua will slowly diminish, but probably never completely disappear. That is a part of life, right? I have never been one to feel totally helpless about any situation. I help where I can, and will continue to support my children’s library and my librarian. I thrive on activism and a realistic viewpoint of life.

The revolution in Nicaragua was a tipping point of our lives. Will we ever be able to call Nicaragua our home again? At this point, I doubt it. I can’t live in a heavily repressed country where we have no freedom of expression, where fear dominates every action, where trust is venomous, where corruption is rampant, and people are disempowered and castrated for speaking the truth.

Will we ever find a place to call home again? Maybe not. We’ve changed too much. We’ve experienced too many things in our lifetime…good and bad. An untethered lifestyle fits us now. We have no bills, no responsibilities….and a passion for travel.

Our lives are an open road. We are planning our new adventures to Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Mexico, Colombia, and Curacao for the winter and spring.

Thanks for being so patient with me. Life took a big turn for us, and it will take me a while to adjust to life on the road again. But, we are ready and open to more freedom in our lives knowing that our home and pets in Nicaragua are well-loved!

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Lines of the Andes Mountains


The Weekly Photo Challenge is Lines

“Nature creates curved lines, while humans create straight lines.” ~Hideki Yukawa

In Mendoza, Argentina, we followed straight manmade lines along the road which wove into the Andes Mountains. We headed to the boundary of Chile and Argentina, 4000 meters high.

Erosion carved wiggly grooves and furrows into the rocks.


Scored
into the rock, bands of rock like fences reminded me of demarcation lines.
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Tigre, Argentina: Where the River is Always at Your Door


“But just as the river is always at the door, so is the world always outside. And it is in the world that we have to live.”
― Lian Hearn, Across the Nightingale Floor

It is a rainy day in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which gives me an opportunity to relax from the tourist mode and write about one of our recent adventures, the Delta of Tigre.

Getting to Tigre from Buenos Aires was an adventure itself. Transferring from the green line subway to the blue line subway to the train during rush hour was an experience in which we not only survived, but thrived! With over one million commuters daily, we were jammed and packed like sardines into the subways and train. It reminded us of the chicken buses in Nicaragua, except the train had air conditioning! Good thing we went heavy on the deodorant. All I could see above me were armpits!

An hour and a half later, we arrived in Tigre ready to board the vintage mahogany commuter boat bus to explore miles and miles of interconnecting streams, rivers, and channels through the delta.

Tigre is the starting point to the Paraná Delta. Once home to jaguars, or tigers, the charming waterways are lined with spas, hotels, restaurants, mansions, and thriving water communities. The river is always at the door.

We have always preferred to explore on our own, and found the local Interisleña boat buses, which truly function like buses, dropping off and picking up people along the numerous waterways in the Delta. For $15 rt for both, we could hop on and off to our wandering delight. It sure beat the crowded and expensive tourist ferries and catamarans that only travel on the large rivers and drop off tourists at the most expensive restaurants on the river.

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Thankful, Cautious, Shrewd, and Charitable


“Be happy when you work, thankful when you earn, cautious when you spend, shrewd when you save, and charitable when you give.”
― Matshona Dhliwayo

This is a quote we live by…our mantra for financial security and happiness.
We leave for Uruguay and Argentina next week, so I have to prepare for our house sitter, which includes paying bills and planning ahead financially.

It is always a good time for me to report on our monthly expenses because I have receipts and bills spread out on my kitchen table. This time, I am dividing our financial “happiness” into four categories. Let me explain how this works for us. But, first a breakdown of February 2018 expenses.

Total February 2018 expenses = $1,467 Plus, $31 a month for SKY TV.  I forgot to include SKY when I made the pie graph because it is the only bill we pay with our credit card and I didn’t want to make a new pie chart.

My children’s library topped our expenses this month because I gave my librarian a raise and put him on a yearly salary including health insurance. Then, our internet provider GGnet, graciously provided my library with free internet if I would purchase the equipment.  The dish, cable, router, special surge protector, and installation was $500…but well worth the expense to open the door to the world of education through technology for the teachers and students.

The utilities include water ($3), electric ($58), internet ($115), phone plan ($52), and SKY satellite TV ($31).

The monthly university tuition for our goddaughter is $100. That includes her food, lodging, and books and materials she needs. She is starting her third year of university in March. She is a communication and theater major in Leon and we are so proud of her.

Our property taxes are due once a year. If we pay before March 15th, we get a 10% discount. $39 for two houses and 2 1/2 acres of beach front property on the lake. Not bad, huh?

Miscellaneous includes a bottle of propane, gas for the motorcycle, and emergency money for our house sitter.

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Touring Ometepe Island


Travel makes one modest, you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.~Gustave Flaubert

We’ve had company most of the month of February. I love when friends come to visit because it gives us an opportunity to tour them around the island and visit places we haven’t explored thoroughly. It also makes me appreciate what a tiny, yet beautiful place we occupy in the world.

We usually hire one of our neighbors to take us around the island. Luis just bought a new Suzuki 4 door vehicle. He will take us anywhere we want to go and his cost is $60 for the day. He says the more tours we take the sooner he will own the car instead of the bank.

Since we’ve lived on the island for over a decade, we know the places tourists like to visit. This February, we toured familiar places and one new-to-us place. Join me for a tour of Ometepe Island.

First Stop, El Ceibo Museo

It has been years since we visited the Pre-Colombian pottery museum. Named for a giant Ceibo tree at the entrance to the long dusty road that leads to two museums, the Pre-Colombian pottery and the coin museum, this is the place to learn all about the pottery excavated on Ometepe Island.

Along with the museums, they have added a hotel, pool, and a new restaurant/bar, where we were treated to shots of cojoyo: a potent fusion of corn, rice, pineapple, and sugar, made on the farm. The indigenous people of Ometepe had consumed it for generations. Our guide poured the syrupy liquid into shot glasses made from black bull horns. We drank it like tequila, with a lick of salt and a bite of mimbro, a very sour fruit resembling a small pickle. Strong, but rico! The other drink he poured reminded me of chicha, a potent fermented corn drink that I sampled in Peru.

The museum had been remodeled since the last time we were there. The guides told the same intriguing stories about the pottery and its uses. There were scalpels made from sharpened obsidian, volcanic tools and arrowheads, burial urns of all sizes called zapatos, and an intact burial site with gifts for the deceased for his/her onward travels.

 

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Rancho Santana in Nicaragua


“You’re on the planet too. Why should James Bond have all the action, fun, money, and resort hotel living.”
― Paul Kyriazi, How to Live the James Bond Lifestyle: The Complete Seminar

When my best friend from high school came to visit us last week, they asked us to go to Rancho Santana with them. What a treat for us! We are country people at heart and usually choose inexpensive and funky places to stay, but we live on this planet, too! Honestly, why should James Bond have all the action, money, fun, and resort living?
Rancho Santana is a world-class resort and residential community on the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua. It was developed in 1997 and continues to provide first-class services to tourists and residents. 

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Weathered Somoto Canyon


The Weekly Photo Challenge is Weathered. 

Somoto Canyon National Monument is one of the oldest rock formations in Central America. The canyon is believed to have been formed 5 to 13 million years ago during the Miocene period. It weathered earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, and other natural occurrences  like volcanic eruptions.
“Canyon” comes from the Spanish word cañon, which means tube or pipe. It is a deep and narrow battle-scarred valley with steep sides.

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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.
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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.

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Airbnb Hospitality Around the World


“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

If you follow my blog, you know that we are passionate travelers. However, the older we get, we find that our travels center more around Airbnbs. We used to be hostel and camper travelers and moved quickly from one location to another…but those days are gone. Now, we travel slowly centering our travels in an Airbnb for a week and take day trips from that location.

We love Airbnbs! They offer more space for less price, kitchens, and better amenities. They are generally in local neighborhoods, rather than tourist areas where the hotels are, so they are authentically fun. The property owners offer wonderful hospitality and since they live in the area, they can offer off-the-beaten track recommendations for restaurants and activities.  Plus, the wi-fi is free and fast.

We even thought we would sell our home on Ometepe Island and live in Airbnbs around the world like this couple...Airbnb: Retired Couple Travels World, Spends 1000 Nights in Airbnbs. 

Meanwhile, until we decide whether to make the BIG move, we are planning our next trip to Uruguay and Argentina…and of course centering our day trips around Airbnbs.

Some of our favorite Airbnbs around the world…

Cuenca, Ecuador. 

Juan’s place was in the center of the historic district of Cuenca. We were surrounded by gorgeous cathedral domes that lit up at night casting a blue hue into our windows. We ran out of propane for cooking, and Juan delivered a new bottle to us within an hour.

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