Expats: Free Birds or Jail Birds


When asked why foreigners immigrate to Nicaragua, often they say,  I just want to feel free, like never before. My response is usually, Free from what? Does Nicaragua offer more freedom than we can obtain in our home countries? If so, what are those freedoms and are there restrictions to our freedom while living in Nicaragua?

I’m reminded of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s song, Free Bird. It is a metaphor for life.  “Things just couldn’t be the same. ‘Cause I’m as free as a bird now,” the group sings. Life happens whether we want it to or not. Since life passes so quickly, I figured that I might as well jump right into the thick of it…take calculated risks…live my dreams…change and grow. I couldn’t handle staying where things were always the same day after day. Life seemed to be passing me by, and I needed a change where I could spread my wings and fly. Nicaragua gave me that change.



What freedoms do we have in Nicaragua?

Some expat business owners say that they have more freedom to conduct business in Nicaragua. I assume that means there isn’t as much bureaucracy. Others interpret freedom to mean less financial stress and less work.  For me, now that we are retired, freedom = lifetime pensions. We can live comfortably on a fixed income in Nicaragua.

As expats, we express our freedom in many creative ways. We are artists, builders, writers, chefs, teachers, and photographers. We cherish our freedom and our rights to free speech. We defend our home countries, and pack our traditions, values, cultures, and symbols of freedom to display in our adopted country.

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Let’s Get Real About Personal Space in Nicaragua


Four airplanes arrived in Nicaragua on the same day and at the same time. We were standing in an unusually long, disorganized line in customs. There was a small space in front of me…enough space for the man’s backpack to rest on the floor. Suddenly, a family of Nicaraguans rushed into the space in front of me. I glared at them and pointed to where the line ended. Yet, they didn’t move. I think they were trying to tell me, “My happy place is in your personal space.”

Cultural space: The final frontier. Invisible bubbles of space surround all of us and they vary according to the norms of the places where we live. Why do we have personal space issues and how do they differ from Nicaragua?

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Me holding a stranger’s baby on a crowded chicken bus.

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Chikun…What?


“It is astonishing how much worse one mosquito can be than a swarm. A swarm can be prepared against, but one mosquito takes on a personality—a hatefulness, a sinister quality of the struggle to the death.”
― F. Scott Fitzgerald

Marina tenderly wrapped her feverish two-year old grandson in a sheet and Gloria rushed him to the hospital on her motorcycle. Braydon, unable to walk, suffering from a high fever and severe joint pain is one of the youngest victims of the mosquito transmitted virus, Chikungunya.

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The Bottom Line: Budgeting for Retiring Abroad


“Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.” –Joe Biden

 

One of our biggest challenges in planning for retirement abroad was creating a realistic budget before we jumped into a new life. After our ‘pretirement’ experiment in Nicaragua in 2004-05, we set a goal to become financially independent. Many articles have been written about adjusting and assimilating into a different culture, but few articles stress the importance of financial planning before making the big jump.

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The Start of Something Big


IMG_5343My former fifth grade student is visiting Nicaragua for the first time. On her 19th birthday, we took her to Charco Verde to see the monkeys. Returning home in the taxi, we had a flat tire. I couldn’t help but laugh at the taxi driver’s t-shirt. The Start of Something Big
His t-shirt says it all about living in Nicaragua.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: On the Way Home


The Weekly Photo Challenge is On the Way. We’ve just returned from the USA…a wonderful visit with family and friends, but it is always GREAT to return home.

There are two ways to return to our Ometepe Island home. Sometimes we fly and walk to our house from the airport, but because we were returning with over 200 pounds of books and materials for my elementary school library, we took the ferry.

We usually see unusual things on our way home, but this was really unique. A circus was in town and the trainer took the elephant to the lake for a bath.
elephant in Lake

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Five Tips for Making a New Path


“No single decision you ever made has led in a straight line to where you find yourself now. You peeked down some paths and took a few steps before turning back. You followed some paths that came to a dead-end and others that got lost at too many intersections. Ultimately, all paths are connected to all other paths.”
― Deepak Chopra

 

Ron and I made a stepping stone path to our house. I never imagined that there were so many complicated decisions to make in choosing the best path for us. So, I’ve compiled five tips for making a new path.

1. When you find your path, you must ignore fear. You need to have the courage to make mistakes.

Concrete sidewalk? Stepping stone forms? Gravel path? Which path was right for us? We chose to make a stepping stone path to our house using plastic forms, which I borrowed from our neighbor. In planning our path, it led to introspective thoughts about the paths of our lives.

Living in Nicaragua is a challenge and sometimes scary. We’ve made many mistakes along our paths, but we’ve learned to patch the cracks, or start all over again, and instead of ignoring the fear, we learn to make friends with it.

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Let’s Get Real about Working in Nicaragua


Since my post, Lets Get Real about Retiring to Nicaragua, was a big hit, I am going to have a monthly post on Let’s Get Real about…

This month’s post is Let’s Get Real about Working in Nicaragua. It all started with a post on a Facebook forum for expats in Nicaragua.

Hey, how much money will I need to support myself for the first couple of months? When I arrive I am going to travel to a few places (i.e Leon, Granada) and choose the place I like best and then look for work as an english teacher there.

Recently, I have noticed an increase in the number of alarming posts, such as the one above. I say alarming because many foreigners looking for work in Nicaragua haven’t done their research.

So let’s get real about working in Nicaragua as a foreigner.

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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

 

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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Accidental Nationality


“Everything you are used to, once done long enough, starts to seem natural, even though it might not be.”
― Julien Smith,
The Flinch

 

Marina’s daughter gave her a chicken killing dog. She tied it to the Mango tree in the front yard because it is a good guard dog. The other day, it chewed through the frayed rope, flew over the barbed wire fence separating our properties, and attacked one of our chickens. She apologized in the only way she could; she made us a pot of chicken soup. Yesterday, her daughter bought a muzzle for the dog. They showed us how the muzzle worked by untying the dog from the Mango tree. It flew over the barbed wire fence, and pounced on one of our chickens, flattening it like a tortilla. This time Marina asked to borrow our machete. I was afraid she was going to kill the dog, so I told her to make us another pot of chicken soup. Ahh…life in Nicaragua. It is beginning to seem natural.

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I am an immigrant from the United States, now living in Nicaragua. My nationality was accidental. I happened to be born on one side of an imaginary line, instead of another. If I would have been born in another country, I would feel just as connected with my heritage, social norms, and culture as I do now.

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