Humans of Nicaragua: Ever Builds a New Community


“What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, Palm Sunday: An Autobiographical Collage

On October 8, 2014 Ometepe Island, Nicaragua had heavy rains that caused rock and mudslides to slip off Concepcion Volcano and destroy the lovely indigenous community of Los Ramos. A five year-old girl was swept away in the strong current. Their homes were inundated with 2 ft. of mud and water supply lines were crushed by heavy boulders. There was no electricity, and their fields of plantains and beans were destroyed. They lost everything. My post Broken Lives.

My dear friend Ever Potoy was part of the destroyed community of Los Ramos. I have known Ever for about 10 years, yet it wasn’t until my son Cory and his friend Sam, worked with the community of Los Ramos to help them develop cultural tourism programs in 2012, that I really got to know Ever.  Here is my post about their work in Los Ramos: Tourism: Embrace the People, Not Just the Place.

Ever is 27 years old and an only child. He is the director of the Los Ramos Cultural Tourism programs and has a degree in English. Several generations of Potoys lived in Los Ramos, with his grandfather being one of the founders of the community many years ago.

Ever described his community as friendly, close, and hard-working. His mother was an elementary school teacher in Los Ramos. His father is a farmer and works in agriculture. He plants beans, rice, corn, wheat, plantains, and watermelons. His father inherited the land in Los Ramos from his father and continues to carry on the tradition of farming in this predominantly agricultural community.

More than 600 people lived in Los Ramos before the landslide. It was a good place to grow up because it was safe.

When Ever was young, his first job was to walk two kilometers to the lake to get water from the well, then haul it uphill to his house.

When I was young, I had to walk to get the water, but when I got older, I took a horse.

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Let’s Get Real About When Tourism Can Kill


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Warning: This is a rant. No beautiful photos of dreamy sunsets will go with what I have to say. Yet, I have to get this off my chest…When irresponsible and uncontrolled tourism leaves a wake of destruction in its path   It. Isn’t. Pretty

The truth is that irresponsible tourism can kill. It kills unsuspecting people, cities, small towns in pristine places, and our fragile environment. It kills morale and self-confidence, replacing them with fear and denial.  In its wake, it leaves us bewildered, confused, frustrated, afraid, and angry…oh so angry.

Irresponsible tourism affects everyone from the locals who are displaced to the business owners to the foreigners who have chosen to retire and live abroad. It affects us in Nicaragua and we are all responsible for the consequences of our irresponsible actions. No one gets off the hook easily…not anymore.

Yet, exposing the dirty side of irresponsible tourism in Nicaragua is a big NO! NO! Those who are courageous enough to speak out are harassed, shunned, and/or blocked from expat forums. Why? Well, I suspect a number of reasons, the biggest reason is economic. Responsible and sustainable tourism can provide direct jobs to the community and indirect employment generated through other industries such as agriculture, food production, and retail.

Responsible tourism can bring about a real sense of pride and identity to communities. By showcasing distinct characteristics of their ways of life, history and culture, tourism can encourage the preservation of traditions which may be at risk of losing their unique identities and cultural heritage.

Nicaragua relies heavily on tourism. Visitor expenditure generates income for the local communities, which can lead to the alleviation of poverty. The benefits of responsible and sustainable tourism are great, yet what about the problems that irresponsible tourism brings and how do we solve those problems without creating an awareness of them first?

I have written about the Codes of Responsible Travelers and I think that if we are responsible travelers we are aware of the effect we have on the places we visit. Yet, there is another side of tourism that is rarely discussed. What responsibilities do the locals have, the business owners, the local government, and the foreigners who have chosen to live in the high tourist areas? Do we escape accountability for when bad things happen?

I have given this much thought, and although I do not have a business in Nicaragua, I see the effects of the good and the bad practices daily. In discussing my thoughts, I want to make sure it is presented in a context where I don’t place anyone on the defensive or create emotional turmoil. I read about the problems on expats of Nicaragua forums, and I talk with many local and foreign business owners. These are only my thoughts on the problems. I place no blame on any group, but I think it is time that we ask ourselves some important questions to help our tourist communities be safe, enjoyable, and unique places for tourists to visit.

With the influx of foreigners moving to Nicaragua and starting businesses, are we loving Nicaragua to death? So….

Let’s Get Real About When Tourism Can Kill with six important questions we should ask ourselves as expats.

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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: Heat Waves


The Weekly Photo Challenge is: Abstract

The heat in Nicaragua now is unfathomable. We went to a funeral today and the dry crumbly leaves blanketed the grave site. Even the plastic flowers wilted.
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Earth Day Nicaraguan Style


“A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children.” —John James Audubon

This week we are celebrating Earth Day at the La Paloma Elementary School. Because one of the greatest environmental problems in Nicaragua is deforestation and destruction of the Nicaraguan forests, we decided to stress the importance of trees to the elementary students through a variety of fun age-appropriate activities.

The Nicaragua Network reported, ” Logging of the 72,000 hectares of pine forests in Nueva Segovia, Madriz, and Estelí was stopped on Apr. 13 by an order from the Nicaraguan Institute of Forestry (INAFOR). On Apr. 15, government communications coordinator Rosario Murillo announced the formation of a presidential commission to evaluate Nicaragua’s forests which would be led by Attorney General Hernan Estrada.”

We could think of no better way to teach environmental awareness than through Dr. Seuss and The Lorax. Ron hauled a bucket of dirt to the library and filled the cups with the dirt, while Maxwell and I set up the program for the first and second graders.

IMG_1614I found several songs in Spanish from The Lorax movie, downloaded them to a memory stick and played them for the kids using our new projector. We already had The Lorax book in Spanish, but when I was looking for songs in Spanish, I found a video of a woman reading The Lorax and downloaded that, too.

Maxwell introduced the book and asked the children what they thought the book was about. Smart kids! We received a variety of good answers; It is going to be about chopping down trees. It will be about dirty water. I think it is about how to take care of the earth. 

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Weekly Photo Challenge: The Golden Spice of Dinnertime


The Weekly Photo Challenge is: Dinnertime

“Each spice has a special day to it. For turmeric it is Sunday, when light drips fat and butter-colored into the bins to be soaked up glowing, when you pray to the nine planets for love and luck.”

― Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, The Mistress of Spices 

The use of turmeric dates back nearly 4000 years to the Vedic culture in India, where it was used as a culinary spice and was considered to be sacred and auspicious in the Hindu religion. Today, there is a renewed interest in turmeric for its medicinal properties, its golden-yellow dye, and its anti-inflammatory properties.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Future Thoughts from My Mother


The Weekly Photo Challenge is Future.

This is what I learned about the future from my mother…with quotes and my photos from Cartagena, Colombia.

When I was young, I ate breakfast with my mother and we would share our dreams of the night before. Our colorful dreams were usually joyful and telltale of our outlooks on life.

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
― Eleanor Roosevelt
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Humans of Nicaragua: Sergio’s Faith


“Sometimes beautiful things come into our lives out of nowhere. We can’t always understand them, but we have to trust in them. I know you want to question everything, but sometimes it pays to just have a little faith.”
― Lauren Kate, Torment

 

IMG_1500Sergio was one of my ESL students in 2004. He took his studies seriously and when he graduated from high school in 2006 he was valedictorian of his class. Now, Sergio is manager of the Corner House Restaurant and Hotel in Moyogalpa on Ometepe Island.

But, how did a small-town country boy become a manager of one of the most popular restaurants and hotels on Ometepe Island?

Sergio says, It is because of faith. It is not important of my actual situation in life because I know that when I have faith in the future, I will have a better situation in life.

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Waiting…


                  “You told me once of the plants that lie dormant through the drought, that wait, half-dead, deep in the earth. The plants that wait for the rain. You said they’d wait for years, if they had to; that they’d almost kill themselves before they grew again. But as soon as those first drops of water fall, those plants begin to stretch and spread their roots. They travel up through the soil and sand to reach the surface. There’s a chance for them again.”
Author: Lucy Christopher

                                                                     
I walked along the bed of Lake Cocibolca listening to the exhausted earth groan. Her bed is disheveled, scattered with tiny puddles of what once had been the life force of her grand body.
IMG_1421The exposed lake bed lay panting in the relentless and monotonous burning sun. Spirals of heat rise from the parched ground as if from molten lava from Concepcion Volcano who watches from afar.
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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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