Weekly Photo Challenge: Framed in Nicaragua


“That’s rule number one for a photographer, isn’t it? Fill your frame?”
― David Cronenberg, Consumed

The Weekly Photo Challenge is Frame.

This is how the world frames itself in Nicaragua.

The sunset is encased in a jar at Playa Gigante.
IMG_1724The staircase is wrapped in colors at the Revolutionary museum in Leon.
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Wanna Get Away?


“Airplane travel is nature’s way of making you look like your passport photo.” — Al Gore

Isn’t that the truth? Purchasing airline tickets is a complicated digital-aged process. Adding the hours I search for the best routes and the lowest prices for airline tickets online, it totals 200 hours a year. That is over 8 days of searching for airline tickets!

Yes, we travel a lot! So, I thought I would give you some helpful ideas of where and how I buy our round-trip tickets from Nicaragua. I love Google Flights because it gives me more information than other travel search sites.

1. Find the cheapest months to fly. 

In Google Flights, it is a breeze. Choose your location and destination and then select “flexible dates.”

Below is a flight from Managua to Los Angeles using a random date.
Screen Shot 2016-08-01 at 8.15.29 PMAnd flexible dates from Liberia, Costa Rica to Los Angeles.
Screen Shot 2016-08-01 at 8.16.16 PMSo far, it looks like Managua has the cheaper flights to Los Angeles than from Liberia, Costa Rica. But, wait!

2. Choose an outbound flight to check the best flights according to the time of departure and the length of the flight. 
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The Secret to a Young Life


“Men do not quit playing because they grow old; they grow old because they quit playing.” ― Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

Since returning from the states the end of June, I haven’t felt like playing. Honestly, I haven’t felt like doing anything. We both got Zika, which is like Chikungunya light. But, Zika amplified our ongoing arthritic symptoms from Chikungunya, which we got a year ago. Sigh! I feel so old and exhausted.

On top of our mosquito borne illnesses, the electricity has been horrible this month. Every other day, the power shuts off at six in the evening and blinks on at nine. Some people suspect that the Ferris wheel is the culprit, others say the new Pali grocery store is consuming too much of the electricity.

Whatever the reasons for our unstable power, sometimes I feel like Nicaragua is killing me slowly. I am tired of playing detective. Who hot wired our dune buggy? Who stole my friend’s bicycle, which was chained to her porch? Is it possible to flip a switch and turn off the electricity in our community when there is a big fiesta or bullfight in the next town? Why is my internet so slow? What tropical illness do we have now…parasites, Dengue, Chikungunya, Zika, Swine flu, food poisoning, Cholera, E coli? We’ve had them all.

Is it Nicaragua or is it me?

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Humans of Nicaragua: Romeo’s Juliets


“Did my heart love till now? forswear it, sight! For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night.” ― William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

Once there was a homeless dog on the Calzada in Granada, Nicaragua. He loved hanging around the outside café tables, begging for food, playing with the tourists, and sleeping peacefully under tourists’ feet. He was nicknamed Romeo for his charming personality. What a lover he was!

Romeo charmed many people with his sweet personality, but it wasn’t until two very special people came into his life, that he found his forever home.

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Romeo’s first Juliet

The first “Juliet” in his life was Jennifer who works with Granada Animal Outreach-Nicaragua. Jennifer said that Romeo came to her attention because he was always on the Calzada looking for food from tourists.

He was sweet as can be and we became buddies. I noticed he had the mouth issue, constantly moving his jaw. I tried to look in his mouth to see if something was caught in his throat, but saw nothing. He needed to be neutered so that was a great opportunity to have him sterilized and have his health checked out. The vet, Dr. Steve from Canada, the director of World Vets in Granada, described this condition as the symptoms of a previous case of distemper, probably when he was a puppy. This was now his ´´new normal.¨

13617398_10153778440693660_517514316_nAfter his surgery, the area became infected and he was in a lot of pain so I took him to my house to recover. He was pretty much perfect… wanting to please, looking for love and attention. I knew more than ever that I wanted to find him a permanent home. Also, some of the kid street vendors had started to abuse him and hit him with palm fronds… I knew it would not be a happy ending.

So, she posted this on the Granada Animal Outreach Facebook page:
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I had received numerous messages about him from people that had met him on the Calzada…. like maybe 5-6 people but no one ever followed through. I was feeling really down. And then Laura came along…..
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The Best of Reverse Culture Shock


Traveling from Ometepe Island, Nicaragua and landing in Las Vegas, Nevada was surreal.  We knew to expect a bizarre reverse culture shock which I can only describe like the scene out of a Crocodile Dundee movie. Yet, there is something to be said about embracing the shock when returning to a place that one used to call home.

Articles have been written about the effects of reverse culture shock and ways to combat the adverse effects. But, I am of the persuasion that it is better to embrace it, than fight it and below are my reasons why….

1. The euphoria of feeling out-of-place in your own culture.

Las Vegas is not a city that anyone feels “in place” in our culture. It is the land of excess, overwhelming choices, immigrants, and a city that never sleeps.

When I asked our taxi driver at the airport where he was from he said, “Guess. I will give you a hint. It is where coffee was first produced.”
I guessed correctly on the second try, which really impressed our taxi driver. “Ethiopia!”
I think I created a warm, fast-paced relationship with our Ethiopian taxi driver after that because for the rest of the ride, he told me all about his country, the family he left, and how proud he was that he could provide for them.

Returning home gives me another opportunity to embrace and respect the diverse culture in the U.S. There was no better way to start our journey than the euphoric feeling of being out-of-place in our home country.

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Somali Refugees: A Burden No One Wants to Share


While every refugee’s story is different and their anguish personal, they all share a common thread of uncommon courage – the courage not only to survive, but to persevere and rebuild their shattered lives. ~ Antonio Guterres

I’m back! Back from a long journey in which I learned the art of letting go. But, before I write about what I learned from those experiences, I will start at the beginning of our journey.  We used to fly out of Managua because the tickets were cheaper to the states, but now Liberia, Costa Rica beats the airline price from Managua by at least $400 for each round-trip ticket for our route.

We packed light knowing that we would return with many supplies and books for my children’s library. Leaving Nicaragua at the border was easy. We simply showed our residency cards, paid 200 cords apiece to leave and walked to the Costa Rica side of the border.

The closer we got to the Costa Rica immigration office, the more armed and shielded police we saw. What was going on? We knew the Cuban refugees who had been detained at the border were gone. Overturned garbage barrels, trash littering the streets, and stray dogs running with bits of garbage treats they scavenged reminded me of a scene out of Mad Max Thunderdome.

IMG_1795At the Costa Immigration office, we were the last ones to have our passports stamped. I thought it was strange because there are usually long lines at the border. The officers appeared to be distracted and they never asked us for proof of leaving the country, so we gathered our luggage and started to walk out the door to catch the bus to Liberia.

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Let’s Get Real about Housesitting in Nicaragua


“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

our houseHonestly, we have never had a problem finding housesitters. Who wouldn’t want to stay on a tropical island in the middle of a sweet sea, in the middle of Nicaragua, in the middle of Central America?

In fact, as you read this, we are in the United States and we have another awesome housesitter. We travel often and because we have a dog and two cats and a home in a developing country, we always have a need for responsible sitters.

After several years of planning for housesitters, I have the housesitting routine down pat. So, let me share with you some of the things I have learned when preparing for sitters.

Let’s Get Real about Housesitting in Nicaragua

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The Island of Pepes


“Even the ocean waves take their hellos to the people all the time. I should take my hellos down to the beach and sell waves to the tourists.”
― Jarod Kintz

 

After exploring the most touristy places in Cartagena, Colombia, we wanted to visit a place that was tranquil and similar to our home island, Ometepe, Nicaragua. We researched Tierra Bomba and according to the history and reviews of this island, it appeared to be the best place to escape the crowds.

Tierra Bomba is described as a forgotten island, although it is only 15 minutes away from Cartagena by boat. On Tierra Bomba there are about 9,000 residents who make a living from tourism and fishing. It is not a typical destination for tourists. Perfect for us!

IMG_0409Anthony Bourdain loved this island. He used words like tranquil and far from the maddening crowds as he ate a delicious lobster lunch in a small rancho by the sea. Yep! We were going to go to Tierra Bomba for a day of relaxation, fun in the sun, and mouth-watering lobster.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Blending Old and New Landscapes in Cartagena


“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” ~ Socrates

The Weekly Photo Challenge is Landscape.

Cartagena, Colombia is a perfect blend of old and new. Known for 6.8 miles of protective walls built around the city, the historic center or Old Town is the soul of Cartagena.
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Weekly Photo Challenge: The Half-Light of Cartagena


The Weekly Photo Challenge is half-light.

We recently returned from Cartagena, Colombia. During our trip, we visited Tierra Bomba Island, a short 15 minute boat ride from the skyscrapers of Cartagena. I call it the island of Pepes because everyone we met was named Pepe. Stay tuned for our wild experience on the Island of Pepes. Meanwhile enjoy my haiku and photo of Cartagena’s skyscrapers bathed in half-light.

                                                  The world shines half-light
                                                      defining Cartagena
                                                    dimming skyscrapers

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