2016 Semana Santa Statistics


lifeguard quote copySharon, my friend in Granada, reported that it was eerily quiet over the long Easter week holiday. Usually there are endless “bombas” or firecrackers that only make loud and annoying booms. So, she wondered what was up with the lack of bombas. Her Nicaraguan friend said, “We have to save all our money to get drunk. We have no money for bombas.”

That about sums up Semana Santa madness around Nicaragua. Go to the beach, get drunk, go swimming, or drive drunk. We stayed home this year, not wanting to deal with the drunks and crazy drivers over the holiday. But, if you are wondering how crazy it gets over Semana Santa here are a few statistics.

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Do What You Know


“Learning is finding out what you already know. Doing is demonstrating that you know it. Teaching is reminding others that they know just as well as you. You are all learners, doers, teachers.”
― Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

What do you do after moving abroad when the newness wears off and you feel like everything has become routine? I hear many expats say, “I need to find my purpose here.”

For some, it may take several years to find their purpose. Others never find it and become disgruntled and dissatisfied because their adopted country doesn’t meet their high expectations. I arrived on Ometepe Island as a freshly retired teacher with two children’s Spanish books. Because of those children’s books and 30 years of teaching K-12 and University education majors, I found my passion naturally.

The neighborhood kids came to my house regularly to read the books over and over. It didn’t take me long to find my purpose. I did what I knew the best…teaching. I became a rewired and retired teacher…my own boss…and started a children’s library in my little local La Paloma Elementary School.

I converted a storage room into a library, made bookcases, collected over 2,000 children’s books in Spanish with the help of many generous benefactors, and hired and trained Maxwell to be my librarian.  He took English lessons from me eleven years ago…and when I expressed my need for a librarian…there he was.

I Do What I Know Best


Teachers are master fundraisers.
We know exactly what the students need and how to get what they need. We beg, plead, and seek donations, discounts, and items on sale like professional bargainers. We are marketing marvels…selling the needs of our students to everyone who passes by our classroom doors. Continue reading

Fuego y Agua Survival Run 2016


“The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.”
― John Bingham, No Need for Speed: A Beginner’s Guide to the Joy of Running 

Ron and I volunteer every year for the Fuego y Agua Survival Run and Trail Races. The first week in February is my favorite time of the year because I witness dedication, perseverance, strength, endurance, stamina, courage and GUTSINESS all in one amazing week. 

This year’s Survival Run was BRUTAL. Racers contended with 90+ degree heat, carried 30 lbs. of plantains up and down a 5,500 ft. volcano, ran for two hours holding a live chicken, maneuvered through the cloud forest at night carrying 20-ft bamboo poles, caught fish, and climbed trees…all within a span of 25 hours.

When we arrived at the pre-race events Friday morning, 60 survival runners from around the world gathered to compete. They divided into teams for the pre-race events and organized their team members into those who dug holes with their bare hands, those who made rafts, and those who searched for puzzle pieces in a giant plantain field.

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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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Service Learning and the La Paloma Library


“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” ~ Milton Berle

In my case, change the word “door” to “a library.” I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned how we first encountered Nicaragua. In 2003, my husband, son, and I delivered over 500 pounds of school supplies to an impoverished school in Granada. I found the need on the Lonely Planet forum when I was searching for an international service learning project to do with my high school classes.

Service Learning is a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enhance the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities. Learn and Serve America Fact Sheet

I am trained as a service learning instructor and have completed many service learning projects with a variety of age groups. We built playgrounds, water fountains, picnic tables, painted school cafeterias, and then, I branched out internationally to help a school in Nicaragua.

So, when I received an email from Go For Hope/Supporting Community Libraries in Nicaragua, and they were bringing a service learning group to Ometepe Island, it was another serendipitous moment. I had asked for some help, and they arrived with paint brushes in hand and a willingness to spread the love of reading to my little elementary school library.

Joe Hafner organized the service learning group. When they arrived, we were ready for them to begin two days of fun in our little library.

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House Sitter Haven


IMG_3589We were very fortunate to find Max and Alize to housesit for us when we traveled for a month through Ecuador. Max is from Canada and Alize is from Belgium. They were housesitting in Leon, Nicaragua and posted on a Facebook page for expats in Nicaragua that they were looking for a housesitting gig for a month. They’ve been on the road four years, working online to provide income for their travels.

Keep reading.More tips on choosing housesitters.

World Water Day 2014


“Life is a perspective and for me, if a human being has access to school, clean water, food, proper health care, that is the basis of human rights.” — Gelila Bekele

Every human being has a right to clean water. Today, as we celebrate World Water Day, watch this video to see how Nicaragua is addressing the needs for clean water.

Other Resources:

World Water Day 2014
Spread These Messages

Part One: The Culture of Reading in Nicaragua, or Not


“The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.”
― Mark Twain

IMG_5762Imagine a world where books are rare… where children are never read bedtime stories… where there are no libraries…no understanding of reading for pleasure…Oh the Places You Won’t Go without Dr. Seuss…no teacher literacy training…nothing to help advance literacy in children. If you can’t imagine this world, all you have to do is come to Ometepe Island, Nicaragua.
Definitely keep reading.Reading is so very important.

Running With Scissors


This year’s Fuego y Agua races have sadly come to an end. We volunteered for our third year in a row to help the runners. I’m writing a post about the runners, next.  Meanwhile, enjoy our travels from one side of Ometepe Island to the other, as we run with scissors (figuratively)  following the Survival runners from one obstacle challenge to another.

We followed the Survival Runners on February 5th, hopping buses, taxis, and hiking around the island to find their obstacle challenges. First stop: Tesoro de Pirata.
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But wait! There’s a lot more!

Remembering Conejo


“If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and man.”
― Mark Twain

Conejo and RonConejo, which means rabbit, was our neighborhood dog. Most of the time our closest neighbors claimed him, but once Conejo realized that the gringos next door (us) had wholesome food and green grass in which to leisurely roll, he chose to live with us.
I asked our neighbors if they minded if we kept Conejo. They shrugged their shoulders and above the barking of their other five dogs roped to trees, they said, “No importa.”

You see, Nicaraguan people don’t understand the concept of pets. They are guards, herders, and working animals. In return for guarding their houses and herding their cattle, they are fed rice and beans, or out of desperation they learn to fend for themselves. Once, I asked our neighbors what they did with their rancid cooking oil, and they said, “Our dogs love it.”

It’s not that the Nicaraguans aren’t compassionate. They are. But, they are very practical and poor people. They understand the importance of a good hunting, herding, and guard dog. However, they don’t understand the importance of giving their dogs nutritional food and tending to their illnesses. Spaying and neutering dogs is not the norm. It’s expensive and in their eyes, unnecessary. It stems from a lack of education and a lack of connection with their animals.

We’re not sure how old Conejo was. Dogs generally don’t live a long life here. One day, I noticed one of our neighbor’s five dogs tied to a tree in their front yard, instead of with the others in the backyard. “Why is your dog isolated from the others?” I asked. “Oh, he is very sick and old,” Jose responded. “He is four years old, and he will die soon.”

Conejo was not familiar with love and affection. He barked at intruders, like a good Nicaraguan dog, but when we tried to pet him or show him some affection, he shied away from us…almost like we were going to hurt him. It took over a year for Conejo to trust us enough to pet him.

But, oh boy, once we started loving on him, there was no end. He followed us everywhere. He’d lie down and let us rub his belly, while he moaned in ecstasy. He was never demanding, always waiting patiently for a few kind words and a bowl of chicken scraps mixed with dog food.

In March, Conejo developed a tumor in his mouth. He looked gross with snot dripping out of his nose, but the rest of his body was healthy…gordo in fact… with no rib bones showing…unlike all the other dogs in the neighborhood.  So, I called our local vet. He arrived with a hunting knife and a piece of rebar. After many injections to put him to sleep, so he could operate on him, they laid him gently on top of our septic tank and removed part of the tumor, then cauterised the cut with a hot rebar toasted over a fire.

Julio holds Conejo while Conejo refuses to fall asleep.

Julio holds Conejo while Conejo refuses to fall asleep.

It was a very primitive operation giving me nightmares for days afterward. Guillermo, the vet, told me he had 35 years of experience, but no professional training. He said, “I was bestowed with a gift from God to help animals.” I truly believe him. His compassion and understanding comforted me. With gentle guidance…and lots of soft homemade chicken soup  ( by the way, everyone laughed at me making chicken soup for a dog), we nursed Conejo back to health.

Yet, I knew his time was short. The cancerous tumor was deep in his throat and inoperable. Guillermo hugged me and told me that when we felt Conejo’s quality of life was compromised, he would return with an injection and euthanize him.

Meanwhile, Conejo got stronger and fatter. He learned how to play…amazing for a dog that never had a playmate. He kept the cows and horses from weaseling their way to our property to munch on the ripe mangoes…and Ron’s garden produce! He dug hundreds of holes in the soft volcanic sand and made cool little nests. He barked ferociously at people passing by our front gates. And he made friends with our three new kittens.

Sadly, the tumor grew back. We added milk or water, or sometimes chicken broth to his dog food so he could eat. His breathing became labored and we knew it was time. Yesterday, Guillermo returned. He helped us dig a grave, and we cradled Conejo  one last time…reassuring him softly that his suffering was over.

R.I.P my friend. We’ll miss you.

There are several wonderful organizations in Granada that rescue abused and neglected animals. If you are looking for an organization or a way to help through donations, or volunteering contact one of these programs:

Granada Animal Outreach
Casa Lupita
Animal Welfare in Nicaragua
World Vets in Granada, Nicaragua