Ometepe Island Mudslides and Destruction


Early Wednesday morning on October 8th, I awoke to take photos of the blood moon. The sky was inky black with clouds hiding the stars, as well as the eclipse of the moon. While I was standing on the beach, I shivered with a sense of foreboding. I couldn’t shake the feeling that something big was about to happen.

Thursday, the rains started. In 12 hours, we had 15 inches of rain. We lost our power early Thursday evening. Then, Friday morning, we had to walk into Moyogalpa to catch the ferry to take our very sick cat, Black Jack, to the vet in Rivas.

The rain sliced through the dark morning sky like sheets of glass. Our local beach bar’s ranchos toppled over like dominos.

IMG_4871 Please read more.

Mama Said There’d be Days Like This


“Love is a piano dropped from a fourth story window, and you were in the wrong place at the wrong time.” ~Ani Defraco

 

Two geckos were mating in our bedroom door jamb. Unbeknownst to us…we shut the door! Wrong place! Wrong Time!
IMG_4010

Oh,there’s a lot more ahead!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Summer Lovin’


 

The Weekly Photo challenge is Summer Lovin’

“There shall be eternal summer in the grateful heart.” ~Celia Thaxter

Living in the tropics there is an eternal summer where….

The fruits are always ripe and I can make delicious banana bread and guacamole.
IMG_1178IMG_3844 More summer lovin ahead!

Black Mold, Toxic Tea


It’s near the end of the rainy season in Nicaragua. Theresa suffered with respiratory problems, a slow heart rate, symptoms of a sluggish thyroid, severe fatigue, insomnia, and a feeling of brain fog. “I just don’t understand what’s wrong with me,” she said. “All I want to do is eat Snickers bars and watch TV. My resting heart rate is 40 beats per minute. Am I going to die? It is so unlike me.”

If you have undiagnosed symptoms like Theresa’s, then you may want to check out Mycotoxicity, or Sick Building Syndrome. Environmental mold, especially black mold, can cause very serious medical and psychological problems. The airborne mold spores take refuge in the body, creating all kinds of havoc. Mycotoxins are also neurotoxins. Simply stated, a poison to the brain. “Controversial evidence suggests that ‘Yellow Rain’ (trichothecene mycotoxins) attacks by U.S. military in Southeast Asia caused thousands of deaths between 1974 and 1981.” ( McGovern, T. W. and Christopher, G.W., Biological Warfare and its Cutaneous Manifestations, telemedicine.org, n.d.). Research has clearly demonstrated neurological damage as a result of their presence.

Scary, right? Fortunately, Theresa is a retired RN. Armed with all her symptoms and the help of several doctors on Ometepe Island, she received blood tests, an EKG, and the diagnosis of Mycotoxicity. Throughout Theresa’s mysterious onset of symptoms, I learned how devastating black mold can be, as well as the harmful health effects of breathing in malicious mold spores daily.

IMG_3773What does black mold look like?
Theresa took me on a hunt for black mold around my house. The picture above is the inside of my porch with the peeling paint as the mold slowly devours the concrete. Outside, growing on the brick is a gelatinous green-black mold.
Theresa lives in an unsealed concrete block house. At the baseboard level inside, she noticed black mold growing and moisture seeping through the cracked walls. For the duration of the rainy season, she had ingested the toxic spores as she slept.
Toxic Black Mold website

IMG_3772What can you do to rid your house of black mold?
Theresa sealed the outside of her walls with a cement covering after cleaning, disinfecting the area with chlorine bleach, and drying. Then, she tackled the inside walls with a solution of vinegar and soapy water.
I have to laugh at the research I’ve conducted because it says to contact a professional mold remover. Well, living in Nicaragua, that’s an impossibility. We have to do it ourselves. What horrifies me is the number of poorly constructed homes in Nicaragua. The poorest of the population live with dirt floors, black plastic walls, and thatched roofs. As money is available for sturdier houses, they buy cement blocks and construct one wall at a time. Only the wealthiest homeowners can afford to seal their cement walls against the elements and the deluge of water during the rainy season.
Asthma is a huge problem in Nicaragua. I’m beginning to wonder if it is a result of Mycotoxicity. Theresa was lucky. Her symptoms led to a correct diagnosis and medicine to alleviate most of the symptoms. There is no cure for Mycotoxicity, but awareness and proper treatment can alleviate most of the health problems…if caught in time.
A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture, and Your Home by the United States Environmental Protection Agency

Please spread the word about black mold, toxic tea. The rainy season is almost over, but precautions for the next rainy season can begin.

Links:

Mycotoxins
Clinical Microbiology Review on Mycotoxins

Study on the symptoms and effects of Micotoxicity

 

You Know It’s the Rainy Season When….


1.   …the covers of your paperback books curl up.
2.   …your clothes hang on the line for a week and they’re still wet.
3.   …your solar lights refuse to charge due to lack of sunlight.
4.   …you put potpourri in all your drawers to cover up the mildewy smell.
5.   …your leather belts are covered with mold.
6.   …the fence posts surrounding the garden sprout and grow fruits.
7.   …thousands of creepy crawlers take refuge in your house because their nests have been washed out.
8.   …your flip-flops blow out because they get stuck in the mud.
9.   …the electricity flickers all day.
10. …the garden drowns and newly planted seeds wash away.
11. …the sunsets are spectacular because of the variety of rain clouds.
12. …you carry an umbrella everywhere.
13. …gully washers create giant crevices in the volcanic sand
14. …the sandy roads are much easier to travel because the sand is packed down.
15. …you can literally watch plants grow several inches overnight.
16. …the wandering horses, cows, and pigs are happy because they have something to eat that’s green.
17. …you can easily find out where your roof leaks.
18. …you can watch the lake rise daily.
19. …windshield wiper salesmen, who sell their rain gear at all the red lights, are ecstatic!
20. …you turn the TV volume up as high as it will go, and you still can’t hear a thing because of the pounding rain on the tin roof.
21. …the chickens get colds and sneeze.
22. …plastic bags, dirty diapers, and miscellaneous garbage floats and bobs down the streets.
23. …the machetes swing constantly cutting the grass.
24. …you get goosebumps and bundle up in a beach towel (because you don’t own a blanket).
25. …and my favorite…everything, I mean everything.. is a lush vibrant green (even things that aren’t supposed to turn green).

Happy rainy season to you all! I’m enjoying writing, reading, and drawing on this lovely rainy day in the tropics. What do you do on a rainy day?

Go Green!


“Green strongly influences the heart and helps alleviate tension. Positive qualities associated with green are generosity, humility, and cooperation. Foods of the green vibration are all green fruits and green vegetables.”
― Tae Yun Kim, The First Element: Secrets to Maximizing Your Energy

It is winter here. Winter is not usually associated with green, but, winter in Nicaragua means the beginning of the rainy season. It’s a time for renewal, regrowth, and regeneration. Green is soothing, relaxing, and offers a sense of harmony. In honor of the color green, below are some pictures that represent positive green qualities.

Cooperation: Dustin and Steven helped Ron pull weeds in the garden.
IMG_2929Tranquility: A calm evening on the sweet sea.
IMG_2890Regrowth: I’ve been breaking my back for two years, pulling all the weeds out of our front lawn. Success! The smooth mat of lovely green, green grass.
IMG_2907Renewal: The Red Caladiums completely disappear during the dry season, then the first rain they shoot out of the ground displaying gorgeous white flowers.
IMG_2921Green offers a sense of self-control: I waited patiently to get a shot of the hummingbird that comes to our feeder everyday.
IMG_2898Refreshing: The fern has a natural balance of cool and warm ( green and blue) undertones.
IMG_2902Soothing: And of course, the lovely green eyes of Queenie and Black Jack.
IMG_2938Worldly Green Facts
1. In Aztec culture, green was considered to be royal because it was the color of the quetzal plumes used by the Aztec chieftains.
2. In China, jade stones represent virtue and beauty.
3. In Portugal, green is the color of hope because of its associations with spring.
4. In the highlands of Scotland, people used to wear green as a mark of honor.
5. Bright green is the color of the astrological sign “Cancer.”
6. The green belt in Judo symbolizes green trees. Just as a green tree is the tallest living thing, so should our own pursuit of knowledge be, aiming high and keeping the goal of our achievement (top of the trees) in high esteem.
7. Green was the favorite color of George Washington, the first President of the United States.

Go Green! I end with Kermit the Frog: Bein’ Green

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Adapting to Climate Change


Poor rural people are the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change in Central America. On Ometepe Island, we live on ecologically fragile land and the locals depend on agriculture, livestock, and fishing to make a living.

An increased frequency of uncommon weather patterns has had a wide impact in Nicaragua. This year, for instance, we had an uncommonly dry rainy season. Drought has ravaged farmers, prompting a spike in food prices, as well as water rationing throughout our regional water supply area.

We usually have running water every other day for half a day. This morning, the water pressure was strong enough to fill my washing machine and run a load of clothes  (for the first time in two weeks), but I had to start the washing machine at 5:30 am. It’s a good thing I’m an early riser, because at 9:00 am the water stopped.

Although we have no control over the climatic changes, we do have control over the water supply in our house. Marvin to our rescue! He’s constructing a six meter water tower in our back yard, with a maximum capacity pressurized water tank at the top. That way, even when we don’t have electricity, we’ll have water running throughout our house.

Once the tower is complete, we are going to run a water line to our neighbor’s house, too. I can’t imagine living with three small children under the age of four without access to water. These pictures represent a big change in the making for us. By next week, we should have a steady supply of water for two families.

 

Blowin’ in the Wind


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How many weeds can a woman pull
before you call her a woman?
How many days can a hatch of chayoles exist
before they are washed to the sea?
Yes, how many times must the coconuts fall
before they land on your head?
The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind,
the answer is blowin’ in the wind.

My apologies to Bob Dylan for my horrible lyrics, yet this song has cycled through my head all day. I think it began when I was pulling weeds under one of our coconut trees. I am obsessed with clearing the jungle. In my fixation with the weeds, I neglected to consider my location on a windy day….under a 30 ft. tall coconut tree. Fortunately, I beat the odds, but the coconut landed uncomfortably close to my feet. I read that 150 people die a year from falling coconuts. My neighbor was hit by a falling coconut several years ago. She was rushed to the hospital with a concussion. She survived. It was too close for comfort, so I ran into the house to sweep out the mounds of chayoles ( little gnats) that carpeted my house after a giant hatch the night before.

The chayoles arrive at the beginning of the rainy season. They annoy the hell out of me for about three days, then they die. They don’t bite, but for three days, we eat chayoles, breathe chayoles, and sleep with chayoles because they are so miniscule that they can easily pass through our mosquito net. See my post, Sometimes Paradise is Hell: An Oxymoron Story

My deceased friend, Bobby, had a clever way to rid his house of chayoles. He bought an electric blower and blew the tiny suckers out of his house. So, last year, I returned from the states with a new electric blower. I was determined to blow the chayoles from every nook and cranny in my house. Believe me when I say those annoying little gnats get into every crack, too.

What a disaster! I didn’t realize the electric blower had different power speeds. I had it turned on hurricane force. Geckos were flying out of cracks in the walls. Toad lips were flapping like parachutes. Dust balls sailed over my ceiling fans, gathering speed, and twirling like a Tasmanian devil. The mountains of chayoles filled the air like a wind storm in the desert.

When I directed the hurricane force blower to my bookcase…that’s when I knew I made a big mistake. Bobby’s ashes were sitting in a small urn on the top shelf. They flew off the shelf like a convict fleeing for his life, the urn broke, and his ashes scattered in the wind. “Oh Bobby,” I cried. “I’m so sorry.” “What do I do now?” I wondered. I grabbed my whisk broom, swept Bobby up from the floor, and took him to the garden.

Bobby’s tortoise, Cuba, is hibernating in a dirt mound in our garden. I gently sprinkled Bobby’s ashes over Cuba’s mound, and told Bobby to wake up Cuba because the rainy season has begun and Cuba should be done with her long winter nap. I felt so guilty! How could I be so stupid?

Now, you may think I’m crazy, but I think Bobby communicates with me through the wind. When I returned to the house and turned on the blower, I heard Bobby say, “Hallelujah! Free, at last!” It could have been a piece of plastic flapping around inside my blower  or my imagination seeking forgiveness for blowing Bobby’s urn off the bookshelf. Either way, I laughed and the song Blowin’ in the Wind recycled through my brain once again.

The chayoles are gone until next year. Bobby is lovingly sprinkled in the garden…one of his favorite places, and I’ve taken a break from weeding under the coconut trees…for now.

It’s So Hot and Dry….


It’s so hot and dry in Nicaragua in April that….

The ice cream trucks are melting.

Goldie, our hen, hatched hard-boiled eggs.
The surfers in San Juan del Sur are surfing the web instead.
Our active volcano, Concepcion, retreated.
Our cold water taps supply hot water…when we have water.
You burn your legs sitting on a motorcycle parked in the hot sun.
You work up a sweat getting out of bed in the morning.
You need a spatula to remove your clothing.
Ron’s sweet potatoes cook underground.
The birds pull fried worms out of the ground.
We need snow shoes to walk into town over the dusty layers of sand.
Our flip-flops melt on our black sand beach.
When the temperature drops below 95 F (35C), we feel a bit chilly.
We renamed ‘Friday’….Fryday.
The Jehovah Witnesses on Ometepe Island are telemarketing.
The air smells like someone is ironing.
The fire ants are spontaneously combusting.
The birds are building their nests out of barbed wire.
The Catholics are giving rain checks for Semana Santa week.

The farmers say that the rain will start earlier this year. The rain usually begins in mid-May.  I’m keeping my dry and cracked fingers crossed. 🙂

Credit for these jokes goes to many internet searches for hot and dry jokes. I only modified the jokes to fit Nicaragua.

 

 

Haiku Wind


In fury I sought
to outrun the wind, but I
scattered like pollen

High waves high wind

 January and February are typically months of strong winds. Off go the chickens, rudely forced from their night perches like tipsy dancers on an oil slick. Leaves tremble, trees once sentinel straight, bow to a demanding commander. High waves toss glass and pottery shards on the wind-swept beach, while volcanic sand blasts the shards to a brilliant sheen.

The Che is tossed like a toy boat

Howling winds invade the ferries and launchas like assaulting pirates. The Che is tossed around like a toy boat, resulting in a broken ramp when the hinges and chains were snapped like shoestrings. All transportation to and from Ometepe Island halts, stranding tourists and locals. Businesses waiting for deliveries, run low on supplies. Angel, the ice cream man, can’t deliver my ice cream sandwiches because they’re stuck on the mainland. The vegetable truck postpones a trip to our house until they refurbish their supplies. Plantain truck drivers nervously pace the dock hoping the overflowing truck full of plantains can be sold on time.

Our road stops beyond our house. Our neighbor needs a boat.

The beastly erosion ravenously eats away at the shoreline devouring everything in its path. Cradled in exposed clay banks, ancient treasures abound. Footprints of the wind flatten the sugar cane fields. A sail of a dugout canoe flies pregnant and engorged with wind. Sandinista flags flap with national pride. Green and pink plastic bags ( Nicaraguan flowers) drift on currents and collide in tangled splashes of color like an impressionist painting. The wind scatters swarms of complaining mosquitoes, while children shelter their faces grateful for the respite, yet teary-eyed from the blinding invasion of sand, dirt, and grit.

Nothing is sacred, nothing remains the same after a wind storm. The wind is a champion chameleon. ever-changing as it passes by, with the ability to make the earth bend to its forces, plead for mercy, and eventually surrender to its changes.

My only hope is that we can leave the island on Wednesday for our flight back to the states. If not gone with the wind, we’ll be seeking shelter from the storm.