Part I: Will We Return to Nicaragua to Live?


“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
Benjamin Franklin, Memoirs of the life & writings of Benjamin Franklin

One day tourism is booming, my local neighborhood friends are buying taxis, expanding hotels, and competing for wealthier tourists who have recently discovered Nicaragua. Literally, the next day tourism is dead, taxis are repossessed, hotels close, and my friends are struggling to make sense of it all.

People ask us all the time if we will return to Nicaragua. Now that Ron is cancer free (after a long, dark winter of treatment), we think we know the answer, but life altering changes happened so quickly that we don’t trust visions of our future anymore.

I still harbor anger toward the government of Nicaragua. Ron tells me that I have to be careful what I say and write because we have property and a house in Nicaragua. We all know that pent up anger is not good! Therefore, I catch myself directing and projecting my anger toward those expats with vested interests, like businesses in Nicaragua, who say that Nicaragua is safe and everything has returned to normal, while blaming me for their suffering because I post factual articles about Nicaragua’s ongoing crisis.

For me, safety is not the issue. Crime is more rampant because unemployment is high. So, tourists do need to exercise caution when traveling in Nicaragua. I have been reading on the expat forums about more scams and robberies. This one just this week on Ometepe.
But for me, the issue of returning is a moral issue. I cannot support a government that tortures and kills its people for speaking out against human right’s violations.

Believe me when I say I understand their fears and stresses, although I am still bewildered by some expats’ reactions to my posts.  Compound our fear with choosing to leave our home AND a diagnosis of cancer. I get it. We have been vested in Nicaragua for 16 years. We are legal residents. We took the time and effort and found it important to learn Spanish, become legal residents, and fulfill dreams. Nicaragua presented an opportunity for us to become culturally immersed in a small all Spanish speaking community. We jumped…and flew!

Our little beach-front home in 2003 before remodeling, and the day we left Nicaragua in July 2018.

 

Since 2003, we have generously supported our Nicaraguan friends both monetarily and emotionally. In return, the people of Nicaragua have given us their kindness, their time, and their knowledge. Generally speaking, we would trust our Nicaraguan friends over expats in a time of crisis. Throughout our lives on Ometepe Island and Nicaragua, whenever we were lost or confused, our Nicaraguan friends were the first to lend us a helping hand.

This is an old post about our goddaughter’s sixth birthday party in 2005. It explains our love for our Nicaraguan friends perfectly. The Birthday Party

Therefore, in making a decision to return to Nicaragua to live, there are many factors to consider. I have listed them in order of priority.

1.Freedom of Speech, Repression, and Human Right’s Violations

Returning to Nicaragua is a moral issue for me. We didn’t live in a gringo bubble or gated compound. We were immersed in a small rural neighborhood, surrounded by farmers, a local tourism organization, and the local elementary school where I house my children’s library. 

Ometepe was under heavy police presence during the height of the unrest, and though things have cooled down, the Ometepinos are still under constant watch.

Tourists feel uncomfortable at Ojo de Agua. Photo taken in July, 2019.

I chat daily with my local friends. They are afraid to say anything or even wear a blue and white t-shirt for fear of being put on a “list” as a terrorist. Over 500 Nicaraguans have given their lives to protest human right’s violations. 60,000 Nicaraguans have fled the country. Until the country stabilizes, until Ortega is tried and convicted, until the basic human rights of the Nicaraguan people are restored and they can speak and protest freely and openly without fear, until I can speak freely about a repressive government, I cannot morally return to Nicaragua to live.

2. Economy

I fear Nicaragua is headed for a severe depression. My friends tell me how expensive things have become like food and utilities. Their taxis, cars, and rental bikes have been repossessed by the banks because they can’t afford to make the payments. Banks are closing and on Ometepe Island, there are no more ATMs on the Maderas side of the island. Sending money is becoming more difficult. Now, I must not send over $500 to our goddaughter or librarian for fear of them being questioned, harassed or audited by the government.

a recent post by a foreign expat in Nicaragua

3. Convenience

Not everything is crisis related. Truthfully, our time on Ometepe Island was coming to a close before the crisis. We couldn’t decide whether to sell our place or travel more often, so we decided to travel 6 months of the year, and prepare our place for sale in 2018.
Gypsytoes or Stickytoes 

Who wouldn’t want to buy our place located very close to Punta Jesus Maria.

But, before we could sell, Nicaragua exploded in a political crisis. We tell ourselves everyday, how lucky we are not to have burned any bridges. We still had a mortgage-free house in the states and returning was not dependent on selling our house and property. I wonder if that is why some Nicaraguan expats are angry with me and in denial that there is a problem in Nicaragua? They cannot leave…they burned their bridges…they are stuck in Nicaragua with no options.

But, I digress. Conveniences. The older we get, the more challenges we face with the lack of conveniences. The quirkiness became old. We were ready for reliable utilities, more transportation options, a library, and free shipping from Amazon.

4. Stimulation

One of my most popular posts is Pros and Cons of Living on an Island. 

Ometepe from above.

 

It still holds true today. Social life with others was limited. We wanted to go to a library and read, or audit classes at a university. We had the seven year itch of “been there…done that”. It was time to move on.

5. Medical Care

This is the biggie! Ron found a lump in his neck in November 2017. In May of 2018, he had it biopsied in Nicaragua. When the results were in, we couldn’t get back to the mainland because of political violence in Rivas, so our friend called the doctor for the results. Fortunately, or so we thought, it was benign. The doctor diagnosed it as a pleomorphic adenoma and said it should be removed soon because it could become cancerous.

We couldn’t travel to Managua for an operation, again because the roads were blocked and the doctors were fleeing Nicaragua because they were deemed terrorists if they helped any protesters. So, we decided to leave Nicaragua and return to the states to have the lumps removed and wait to see what happened in Nicaragua.

Medical care in Nicaragua was always difficult for us because we had to travel to Managua to see a doctor we trusted and who had the proper equipment. Now, with the violence, the doctors we really liked fled Nicaragua to Costa Rica. They still haven’t returned and I doubt that medical care is like it was pre-crisis. I am not sure how many doctors remain and how good can they be if they refuse to help the opposition?

Now we have Medicare in the states and when Ron’s neck tumors were diagnosed as throat cancer, we traveled 10 minutes away from our house to excellent medical facilities where Ron was admitted into a clinical trial for mucositus during radiation (and he was the only patient the doctors had ever seen who experienced no sores or throat pain from the radiation), and he received excellent treatment and was cancer-free in two months.

6. Climate

Climate change is wrecking havoc with Nicaragua. We have noticed many traumatic weather events in Nicaragua. Fires, floods, landslides, droughts, intolerable heat seem to be more prevalent. The aquatic mites, called chayules, swarm more often around the lake. The wet season is not predictable like it used to be. Farmers have a hard time deciding when to plant and harvest their crops. There are more insect infestations and molds on the coffee plants and blights on the bananas. It must be very hard to be a farmer with climate change.

Presently, there is an epidemic of Dengue in Nicaragua. When we tell people we had Dengue, Zika, and Chikungunya, they wonder why we lived in Nicaragua as long as we did. Chikungunya still hits us with bouts of arthritic pain, three years later. Mosquito borne diseases are practically unavoidable in Nicaragua. Let’s hope the vaccine for Dengue is approved soon!

Check out my post, You Know You Have Chikungunya When…

So, if you were wondering if we will return to Nicaragua to live…the answer is probably no. It is time for us to move forward with our lives. We are going to travel more, laugh more, and live with more gusto and compassion.

We’ve accomplished our dreams in Nicaragua. I have no regrets. Now, we are free to roam the world and return to our home in the states whenever we get tired of traveling.

It took me a year to overcome my identity crisis. I am no longer Rewired and Retired in Nicaragua, so my next post will be my last one for this blog. It has been a great run! Thank you all for your support and love.

Stay tuned for Part II: How you can help the people in Nicaragua. And there are many ways to help without actually visiting the country, if you feel the way I do.

Also, stay tuned for my new blog… My Teeth Dropped Off the Charles Bridge~Tales of Travelers Beyond 60.

Reverse Culture Shock


“When you travel overseas, the locals see you as a foreigner, and when you return, you see the locals as foreigners.”
Robert Black

“Reverse culture shock is the emotional and psychological distress suffered by some people when they return home after a several years overseas. This can result in unexpected difficulty in readjusting to the culture and values of the home country, now that the previously familiar has become unfamiliar.”

I wouldn’t say I am distressed, but it certainly is different from life on Ometepe Island, Nicaragua.

You know you have reverse culture shock when…

1. There are an overwhelming number of choices

I am lost and bewildered when I enter a grocery store. Yesterday, I stood in front of the canned baked beans and cried…10 different types of baked beans? In Nicaragua, it was always fun to shop; I never knew what unexpected treasure hidden among the shelves I would find. Dill pickles, pretzels, and dark chocolate were treats. Now, with too many choices, it is more of a frustrating experience.

2. The leaves change color!

Oh how I love fall! In Nicaragua the leaves crumble and fall off the trees without changing colors. The gorgeous displays of the Maple leaves are eye-popping.

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Coming Home?


“There is a kind of madness about going far away and then coming back all changed.”~ Gypsytoes

Madness describes my feelings about returning home. I haven’t written on my blog for months because what can I say that hasn’t already been said before? With mixed emotions we left Nicaragua mid July. I don’t want to go into all the gritty details of the move. Instead, I want to try to explain the emotional turmoil I have felt since returning home.

Where is home? We have no idea. People say that home is where the heart is, yet my heart is broken for Nicaragua and for the United States, thus I can’t honestly say I am anywhere close to home at this point in my life. The week we arrived, we bought a car and drove to Canada. 5,200 miles later, we have returned to our rented house in the states where we have a little bedroom. Thank goodness we didn’t burn any bridges and our good friends who rent our house feel comfortable letting us stay for a while.

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The Nicaraguan Evolution Continues: Basta Ya!


“Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.”
― Franklin D. Roosevelt

63 dead, 15 still missing, many injured
I’ve written regular updates to my family and friends on Facebook and others have asked me to share them. So, below, I share my personal reflections on what is happening in Nicaragua.


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Francisco’s Plight


“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
― Robert F. Kennedy

 

This is Francisco Flores and his family. Francisco has been my taxi driver in Nicaragua for over a decade. But, he is more than our taxi driver, he and his family are our dear friends. I am acting to improve his lot in life after an unfortunate accident that occurred last Monday in Jinotepe, Nicaragua.

A little background information on Francisco from a post I wrote in 2013.
Guide to Taxi Service in Nicaragua

And another post when we went with Francisco’s family to the Ballpark.
Cultural Lessons from the Ballpark. 

Last week, Francisco returned from Managua after dropping off a client. It was late at night by the time he passed through Jinotepe on his way home. Suddenly, a motorcycle came out of nowhere and there was a horrible accident.

Francisco was fortunate to walk away with no bodily damage, but the motorcycle driver lost his leg as a result of the accident. In Nicaragua, it is common practice to place both drivers in jail until lawyers resolve who is at fault. But, in this case, only Francisco was  jailed in Jinotepe.

When his family told me that the injured driver’s family was requesting $6,000 for his personal injuries, I wasn’t surprised. I know several people, locals and foreigners, who have been in jail because of accidents and they must hire a lawyer and usually have to pay exorbitant amounts to the other drivers, even if the accident wasn’t their fault.

That’s the way Nicaraguan law works. I will never be able to understand it, but I had to do something to help Francisco and his family. Francisco has a large, loving family and many foreign clients. The Rivas taxi drivers took up a collection for Francisco and said that they were expecting something like this to happen to a taxi driver sooner than later. They explained that reckless motorcycle drivers create safety hazards for their clients and drivers. I believe them and have been witness to many dangerous situations and tragic motorcycle accidents due to carelessness.

Francisco’s family collected enough money to pay for the lawyer, but they said it is almost impossible for them to collect $3,000 so that Francisco can be released from jail, and $3,000 more dollars a month after he is released.

To top it all off, his family was frantic with worry when the violent protests in Nicaragua occurred due to a reform of the Social Security and Pension law ( see my previous post ) and afraid for Francisco’s life in Jinotepe, where there had been protests and some fires.

That’s why I am asking for your support for Francisco and his family so that he can be released from jail to go back to work and support his family. Also, your donations will help to support the injured driver and his family because he cannot work.

Here is a link to my YouCare fundraiser. Two Nicaraguan Families in Crisis Need Your Help. 

Thank you so much for your support. I have $2,300 ready to be delivered to Francisco’s family. With your help we can have him released from jail soon.

Francisco’s family wants all the people who donated and shared to know that they are very grateful for your support.

 

Evolution in Nicaragua


                     “Those who do not move, do not notice their chains.”
                       ― Rosa Luxemburg


I don’t know where to begin to tell you what has occurred in Nicaragua since last week. It is a unique experience for us. I think it may be an evolution of the Nicaraguan people. I prefer saying evolution over revolution. Evolution has never been just a scientific theory. Ever since it was first formulated by Darwin, the theory has been used to advance a variety of political projects. Although evolution is a directionless process in nature, in ethics and politics the idea of evolution is joined with the hope of improvement.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Monkey Mugs


The Weekly Photo Challenge is A Face in the Crowd.

Growing up in the states, we only saw monkeys in a zoo. Now, we live with them on our Island of Peace. However, the Howler monkeys sure aren’t peaceful with their loud, ear-piercing howls that can be heard miles away.

I don’t think I will ever tire of watching these faces in a crowd!

This rambunctious Howler is not embarrassed to show off his junk.

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Touring Ometepe Island


Travel makes one modest, you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.~Gustave Flaubert

We’ve had company most of the month of February. I love when friends come to visit because it gives us an opportunity to tour them around the island and visit places we haven’t explored thoroughly. It also makes me appreciate what a tiny, yet beautiful place we occupy in the world.

We usually hire one of our neighbors to take us around the island. Luis just bought a new Suzuki 4 door vehicle. He will take us anywhere we want to go and his cost is $60 for the day. He says the more tours we take the sooner he will own the car instead of the bank.

Since we’ve lived on the island for over a decade, we know the places tourists like to visit. This February, we toured familiar places and one new-to-us place. Join me for a tour of Ometepe Island.

First Stop, El Ceibo Museo

It has been years since we visited the Pre-Colombian pottery museum. Named for a giant Ceibo tree at the entrance to the long dusty road that leads to two museums, the Pre-Colombian pottery and the coin museum, this is the place to learn all about the pottery excavated on Ometepe Island.

Along with the museums, they have added a hotel, pool, and a new restaurant/bar, where we were treated to shots of cojoyo: a potent fusion of corn, rice, pineapple, and sugar, made on the farm. The indigenous people of Ometepe had consumed it for generations. Our guide poured the syrupy liquid into shot glasses made from black bull horns. We drank it like tequila, with a lick of salt and a bite of mimbro, a very sour fruit resembling a small pickle. Strong, but rico! The other drink he poured reminded me of chicha, a potent fermented corn drink that I sampled in Peru.

The museum had been remodeled since the last time we were there. The guides told the same intriguing stories about the pottery and its uses. There were scalpels made from sharpened obsidian, volcanic tools and arrowheads, burial urns of all sizes called zapatos, and an intact burial site with gifts for the deceased for his/her onward travels.

 

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School Days


“You’re off to great places. Today is your day! Your volcano is waiting. So get on your way! ~ a variation of Dr. Seuss

Monday was the first day of school for most of the students in Nicaragua. I love the first day of school. I love the smells of sharpened pencils, shampooed hair, and new books. I love the excitement, attention, and motivation of the students preparing for a successful new school year.

This year, thanks to a generous donation to my library, Maxwell and I decided to buy  school uniforms for some of my favorite students who live nearby. Don’t you love this photo? They are always smiling!

One thing that always surprises me is that no one knows the sizes of uniforms for their children. Grandma said that they cannot afford to buy new clothes, so they never know what sizes will fit. We measured, asked their ages, and shopped for new uniforms, then returned with crisp white shirts, belted pants for the boys, and navy blue skirts for the girls.

The stores were wild in Moyogalpa. It appeared that everyone waited until the last moment to buy uniforms and school supplies. We lacked two skirts for the girls because they were all sold, so we will return the next week to see if new skirts were delivered to the stores.

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Rancho Santana in Nicaragua


“You’re on the planet too. Why should James Bond have all the action, fun, money, and resort hotel living.”
― Paul Kyriazi, How to Live the James Bond Lifestyle: The Complete Seminar

When my best friend from high school came to visit us last week, they asked us to go to Rancho Santana with them. What a treat for us! We are country people at heart and usually choose inexpensive and funky places to stay, but we live on this planet, too! Honestly, why should James Bond have all the action, money, fun, and resort living?
Rancho Santana is a world-class resort and residential community on the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua. It was developed in 1997 and continues to provide first-class services to tourists and residents. 

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