Why We Need Cabinets in Nicaragua


We hope that, when the insects take over the world, they will remember with gratitude how we took them along on all our picnics. ~Bill Vaughan

I spend my life in Nicaragua sweeping up bug carcasses. No space is sacred, nothing is left untouched. We have regular infestations of termites, ants, spiders, and chayules (aquatic mites that swarm from the lake). See my life in Battling Bugs.

Herman, the master cabinetmaker, came into my life when I needed an enclosed space to put my collection of Pre-Colombian pottery pieces I find on the beach. The bugs particularly liked to nest in the ancient pieces. Master Craftsmen in Nicaragua

When the ants attacked all the food that was sitting on open shelves, Herman returned to build me kitchen cabinets. The Heart of My Home

Now, Herman is back with his latest masterpiece, cabinets for my office.

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An Update on Our Plunge Pool


I’ve done my water therapy exercises for my knee at La Punta Resort. But we have had many afternoon thunderstorms just as we are getting ready to leave for the pool. So, we filled up our plunge pool so I can do modified knee exercises.

The last time I wrote about our pool, we had started on the landscaping. These stone pathway forms are wonderful for a small patio, garden paths, and even a driveway.
landscaping-around-poolThe finished patio gives us easy access to the pool and keeps the dirt from accumulating in the pool.
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Our Road Less Traveled


“Life is complex.
Each one of us must make his own path through life. There are no self-help manuals, no formulas, no easy answers. The right road for one is the wrong road for another…The journey of life is not paved in blacktop; it is not brightly lit, and it has no road signs. It is a rocky path through the wilderness. ”
― M. Scott Peck
A Rocky Path…
Main Street Moyogalpa is getting a facelift. Five weeks ago it was a perilous path to negotiate with my crutches. Our road less traveled was piled with many obstacles…mounds of dirt, weathered paving stones stacked and wobbling in the wind, and barbed wire blocking all exits and entrances to the main street.

It was a perfect analogy for my life at the time because the journey through life is always under construction. I.Get.That.Now.

img_2257Life is complex…

The process of building a new road fascinates me. It is not an easy task. In Nicaragua, everything is done by hand. The old paving stones were removed one by one. Then the workers drenched in sweat from the afternoon sun, shoveled down to the road bed removing piles of dirt which were carted away in wheelbarrows and horse carts.

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Humans of Nicaragua: Francesco and the Elements


“That man who is more than his chemistry, walking on the earth, turning his plow point for a stone, dropping his handles to slide over an outcropping, kneeling in the earth to eat his lunch; that man who is more than his elements knows the land that is more than its analysis. But the machine man, driving a dead tractor on land he does not know and love, understands only chemistry; and he is contemptuous of the land and of himself.”― John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath 

 

Francesco is a philosopher. I’ve known him for over 12 years, and until I interviewed him for my Humans of Nicaragua piece, I never knew his philosophy of life that binds him to Nicaragua.  He is a man who is more than his chemistry. He is an artist, a master craftsman, a farmer who kneels in the earth to eat his lunch, and a loving father and husband.

Francesco came to Ometepe Island in 2001. He had everything stolen in a hostel, so he stayed until he could recuperate his loses. According to Francesco…
And the rest is history

He’s seen many changes on Ometepe Island since 2001. He said that when he first arrived, he had to find work to replace everything that was stolen.

It was difficult to find people that spoke English, so I stayed and worked in the hostel because I spoke English, Italian, and Spanish. 

My theme for his interview was his new dome home that he built, but I got so much more! I’ve written two pieces before about the beginnings of his dome home and why he had to tear down his other house piece by piece.

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The Heart of My Home


“The heart of the home beats in the kitchen and a healthy one beats three times a day” ― Bangambiki Habyarimana, The Great Pearl of Wisdom

 

Good food and a warm kitchen make a house a home. In 2004, our tropical island kitchen lacked what most would call aesthetically pleasing conveniences, but since we were  renting our beach shack in our experiment with ‘pretirement’, we could only dream of the kitchen we would eventually call home.
DSCN1120With only a two-top stove burner and no storage space, we still managed to make our funky kitchen the heart of our home.
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Master Craftsmen in Nicaragua


 “You can either be a victim of the world or an adventurer in search of treasure. It all depends on how you view your life.”
― Paulo Coelho, Eleven Minutes

I am an adventurer always in search of treasure. The Pre-Columbian pottery shards and pieces I find on my daily walks along the beach sit in piles on my bookcase and on my porch forever gathering dirt and dust and harboring tiny colonies of insects. Yet, more than protecting my pottery, I found a greater treasure in the master craftsmen in Nicaragua.

The time was long overdue to protect my treasures! I designed a wooden display cabinet, then I had to find a master woodworker to build the cabinet to my specifications. Marina recommended Herman, her door maker. When I saw the quality of his work, I knew he would be perfect.

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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!

Marvelous Malecóns


A malecón is a jetty, but in Nicaragua it is more like a boardwalk and a port. The San Jorge port, where people make connections to Ometepe Island is undergoing a facelift.

When it is completed, it will be a hub of activity with shops, new docks for the ferries, a new parking lot, hotels, restaurants, and a ferry station. When we returned from Granada to San Jorge to catch the ferry home, colorful banners and hundreds of swimmers greeted us for the upcoming Semana Santa week  (Easter week).

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The Dream Dome


“Create with the heart; build with the mind.”
― Criss Jami

 

Ron and I have known Francheco for over ten years. When we first moved to Ometepe Island to manage a youth hostel, Francheco worked at the hostel. In 2012, Francheco’s new yellow house and property were expropriated by the Nicaraguan government to make way for the La Paloma airport. He dismantled his house, brick by brick, dug up his newly planted saplings and flowers, and relocated to a beautiful piece of land south of the airport, near Punta Jesus Maria. The House that Francheco Built.

He married a beautiful Nicaraguan woman. They have a little son, now. Francheco built a temporary house for them and started a restaurant, Dos Mangoes. You would think this story has a fairytale ending, right? But, not so quickly.

Francheco’s dream was to build a dome home. He is extremely talented, which translates to his ability to create from the heart, yet build with his mind. With the help of one worker, he began building a dome home two years ago, one row of bricks at a time.

Francheco’s house from the back of the property.
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Casita de Tortuga


Our Casita de Tortuga is clean and ready for more friends and family. We originally built the main structure with a small bedroom on the second floor and the bodega, or garage below. Then, our son and all of his friends came to visit and they had to come to our house to use the bathroom.

We needed another bathroom…and quick! Unable to build a bathroom on the second floor, we decided to build a small addition behind the bodega structure. Afterthoughts are never good, but we made the best of it.
Keep reading. More pictures ahead.