Weekly Photo Challenge: Mastering the Force of Nature


The weekly photo challenge is Forces of Nature.

             “Man masters nature not by force, but by understanding”
               ― Jacob Bronowski

The rainy season has begun in Nicaragua. Our first rain started gently, and I grabbed my camera to get this shot of a heron bathing in the lake. But, within a few minutes, the rain sliced through the sky so forcefully it uprooted trees and our new stepping-stone path to our house reminding me, once again, that man masters nature not by force, but by understanding.

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Let’s Get Real about Retiring to Nicaragua


“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, It’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, And that enables you to laugh at life’s realities.”
― Dr. Seuss

 

December 2019 update

We left Nicaragua in July 2018 because of the Civic Rebellion that continues to this day. The economy is in a tailspin, 100,000 Nicaraguans fled the country, unemployment is high, the heavy repression of the Nicaraguan people continues, and the Nicaraguan people continue to suffer under a ruthless dictatorship. We cannot return to Nicaragua to live until the dictator and his VP wife are convicted for human rights’ violations and high crimes, until the people who fled their country feel safe to return, until the repression stops, and civility is restored to the lovely people. At this time, we can do more from afar to support our Nicaraguan friends and families.

 

I am grouchy. The April heat is almost unbearable. It hasn’t rained for six months. My internet sucks because too many people are using the bandwidth on my server. The new paint on my plunge pool blistered and we had to drain it. The power and water are unreliable. The entire community of Urbite has run out of water. The city well is dry.  The roaming cows and pigs searching for something to eat knocked down our fence to munch on the sparse tufts of grass that are wilting in our yard. My neighbor had her thyroid removed and she can’t afford the thyroid pills she has to take for the rest of her life. Do you want me to continue?

When I read articles of fantasy such as the one linked below, all I can do is laugh. Fantasy Retirement? Living in Paradise? Let’s get real about living and retiring in Nicaragua. Life here is not all about surfing, drinking Toñas, and watching the beautiful sunsets. Living in Nicaragua isn’t for sissies.

In 2004, we used to enjoy going to San Juan del Sur. It was a quiet, little fishing village. Then, the cruise ships came, the throngs of tourists, and hundreds of expats moved to Nicaragua searching for paradise. Now, prostitutes, thieves, and drug addicts bus from Managua to where unsuspecting tourists are scammed.  Then, they hop back on the buses to sell their loot in Managua. Yes, it is even happening on our little Ometepe Island.

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2004 sunset in San Juan del Sur

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A Plunge Pool in Progress


Floating in a pool free of gravity, I discovered that I don’t need to be in survival mode throughout the end of the dry, hot season in Nicaragua. A plunge pool sets me free. Free from the oppressive heat…from strangling dust that seeps into every pore and orifice in my body…from the brutal sun.

For several years I tried to convince Ron to build me a pool. His reasons for not building a pool were: 1. expense  2. maintenance  3. We live on…literally on the lake shore.

My reasons for building a pool were: 1. a plunge pool is cheaper to build  2. No filter needed and low maintenance  3. We live on the lake with a giant caiman lurking around our beach.

I won after Ron floated blissfully in my friend’s plunge pool in Granada. His sighs of content could be heard echoing all the way to the hardware store for materials to build our little rectangle of cool delight.

We decided to build the pool behind our house on the back porch for privacy. Plus, we have a view of our active volcano Concepcion. Work on the foundation began a few days after we returned from Granada.
IMG_7612We hired Raymond and Jose to build the plunge pool because they are experts in working with cement. The walls are going up and up.
IMG_7614The dimensions inside our pool are 4 ft deep x 48″ wide x 80″ long.
IMG_7618Raymond puts a fine coat of cement over the pool. It is called repayo in Spanish.
IMG_5289The floor is paved with bricks, then topped with a piece of mesh fencing we had leftover. Then the cement is poured on top.
IMG_5282I wanted a shelf on one side of the pool for flowers, cool drinks, and candles.
IMG_5293Next, tile lines the top of the pool.
IMG_7620Raymond smooths the cement around the tile. We didn’t want any sharp edges around the pool.
IMG_7621Then, we added a step to enter the pool from the front, and another one at the side of the pool. The bench and a drain in the wall complete the inside of the pool.
IMG_7627We wanted a tile patio in front of the door, so Raymond and Jose prepared the foundation.
IMG_5306I think the tile is beautiful. It’s slip resistant and will help control the dust and dirt in the dry season.
IMG_7629Next, we filled the pool for two days to help cure the cement. Of course, we had to dip often. I bought a food strainer for 1 dollar to clean the pool. After it is painted and filled again, we’ll add a teaspoon of pool chlorine and drain the pool once a week. We’re going to put a mosquito net over the pool to keep out leaves and flying insects. It will hang over the pool just like the mosquito net over our bed.
IMG_7635I am sad to report that we drained the 720 gallon plunge pool this morning. Monday, we  paint the inside of the pool with special pool paint made specifically for swimming pools. The outside of the pool will be the same mango color as the walls.

Pool is painted inside. Now, we wait for it to dry for 3 days before filling it with water.
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We will start the landscaping next week, too. We’re going to build a stepping stone patio around the pool, make new flowerbeds, hang a hammock between the Neem trees, and move some of the electrical wires that are dangling from our internet tower.

I’m in the process of designing a mural for the wall behind the pool. I’m planning to add colorful, whimsical fish. I also decided to make a Pre-Colombian pottery shard caiman mosaic on the front wall of the pool. Take that you sneaky caiman! You won’t keep us from enjoying April and May floating blissfully in our new plunge pool.

The pool was built in one and a half weeks, and the total cost of the pool materials and the labor was less than $400. I believe plunge pools are the wave of the future. They are economical, almost maintenance free, and use very little water.

Stay tuned for the finished pool. Come float with us, soon!

Spring Cleaning and a Plunge Pool


Everyday is spring cleaning day this time of the year in Nicaragua. It’s so hot, dry, and dusty that we have to clean our houses early in the morning because there is a fine layer of dust over everything. Then, in the late afternoon, we do it all over again. Sigh!

I thought I would take some photos of my clean house, because in an hour it won’t look like this.

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The Papagayo Winds


“A sailor chooses the wind that takes the ship from a safe port. Ah, yes, but once you’re abroad, as you have seen, winds have a mind of their own. Be careful, Charlotte, careful of the wind you choose.”
― Avi, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle

 

The Papagayo winds shriek across Nicaragua blanketing everything in dust in the dry season, especially in January and February. Often, the hurricane force winds topple trees, rattle tin roofs, capsize pangas and halt ferries and small boats coming from and going to Ometepe Island due to the high waves in Lake Nicaragua.

The often hurricane-strength winds happen when cold air from the North American winter moves south over the Gulf of Mexico. The air, drawn toward the warmer, moist atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean, is channeled through a gap in the Central American Cordillera Mountains and through Nicaragua’s Lake district. (NASA, Earth Observatory)

This year, the Papagayo winds have collided with the weather condition known as Madden and Julian Oscillation (MJO). The MJO is simply a strong coupling with the surface (usually the Pacific Ocean) and the upper atmosphere in tropical regions.

José Milán from the Instituto Nicaragüense de Estudios Territoriales (INETER) reports that the strong winds that accompany the MJO will last 60 days and will cover the whole width of the country. Other than being annoying, the phenomenon can cause serious damage to soils by removing valuable moisture acquired during the rainy season. The MJO affects Nicaragua on a regular basis and the last time was in December 2012 and January 2013.(INETER)

This January, the strong winds have affected us in many ways. Transportation to and from Ometepe was stopped for several days throughout January. That means no supplies come to Ometepe, people are stranded either on the island or on the mainland, and the fishermen cannot fish because the waves resemble ocean waves.

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When Great Trees Fall


Our magnificent Pera tree fell down last night in a rapid rain storm with strong wind. Some say it was a cyclone. I am reminded of Maya Angelou’s poem, When Great Trees Fall.

 

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Goodie Bags for Los Ramos


It’s not often that one gets to see immediate results of their donations or knows that all of the money received goes directly to those who need it the most. For $800 we bought over 1,000 pounds of food for 125 families. That averages out to be $6 for each goodie bag.  Thanks, Kris, for figuring that one out for me. 🙂 No overhead costs, no administrative costs…all the money goes directly to these lovely families of Los Ramos.

On Saturday, Ron and I walked…and sometimes climbed, scooted, and tramped over boulders to get into Los Ramos to help distribute the food bags to each family. See my earlier post.

When we arrived, Ever’s family was busy scooping rice, pouring cooking oil into small plastic bags, and packing the bags for 125 families living in Los Ramos. Landslides destroyed their community.

"Say Pizza," I say as I snap a photo. "Pizza? Where's the pizza?" they all laugh.

“Say Pizza,” I say as I snap a photo. “Pizza? Where’s the pizza?” they all laugh.

Ever's uncle has the slippery job of scooping the cooking oil and pouring it into plastic bags.

Ever’s uncle has the slippery job of scooping the cooking oil and pouring it into plastic bags.

Ever's mother organizes all the bags, and says "Hello world. Thank you for everything."

Ever’s mother organizes all the bags, and says “Hello world. Thank you for everything.”

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Travel Theme: Broken Lives


“This planet is a broken bone that didn’t set right, a hundred pieces of crystal glued together. We’ve been shattered and reconstructed.” ~ Tahereh Mafi

Broken lives…125 families forced to reconstruct their lives from the devastating rock and mudslides on Ometepe Island, Nicaragua. Yesterday, Ron and I tramped over boulders and through mud to reach the Los Ramos community to deliver supplies to the families. Take a walk with us so you can see for yourselves Mother Nature’s powerful and destructive forces.

Supplies were delivered at the top of the hill. “So far, this doesn’t look too bad,” I said encouragingly to Ron.
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Keep reading. You can’t believe the destruction ahead.

A Lesson in Real Humility


“Life is a long lesson in humility.”
― J.M. Barrie

 

I was raised in the belief that one should always be humble, which I interpreted as being meek, never accepting a compliment, and certainly never acknowledging a gift or a talent one might have. But, this week, I learned that I have completely misunderstood this virtue.
Instead of an eyes cast down, submissive, weak, breast-beating virtue; I discovered within me an ability to take an honest appraisal of my abilities, and accept responsibility for the good and not-so-good things that I have done.

After the horrifying mud and rock slides that consumed the indigenous community of Los Ramos, I took a hard look at what I could do to help this community. What was I good at doing? What was I ridiculously silly at attempting to do?

I’m too old to be digging boulders out of their road. My Spanish isn’t good enough to go door to door and collect money for the community. I can’t drive a straight nail. Truth be told, I hate driving at all. I don’t have a green thumb. I’m embarrassingly clumsy.

Yet, all false modesty aside, I am a great organizer. I can write well, and my computer skills are excellent. I have a large network of family, friends, and bloggers all over the world. It dawned on me that I could confidently use these skills to help Los Ramos rebuild.
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We Must Be Living in a Vortex!


“I hate to say this,” said my attorney as we sat down at the Merry-Go-Round Bar on the second balcony, “but this place is getting to me. I think I’m getting the Fear.””Nonsense,” I said. “We came here to find the American Dream, and now that we’re right in the vortex you want to quit.” I grabbed his bicep and squeezed. “You must realize,” I said, “that we’ve found the main nerve.””I know,” he said. “That’s what gives me the Fear.”

Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Chapter 6, A Night on the Town…p. 47-48

I think I’m getting the Fear. Last night there was a 7.3 magnitude earthquake in northern Nicaragua, near the border of El Salvador. My cat, Queenie, tried to warn me. I’ve heard that animals are sensitive to movements of the earth. Queenie was exceptionally persistent in rubbing against me and kneading my belly. I thought she just wanted fed.

“What’s wrong with you tonight?” I asked as she dug her sharp claws into my stomach. “Do you miss your brother, Black Jack?”

Earthquake ahead!