Going Green with Dogs in Nicaragua


Happy Earth Day! Not only is it Earth Day, but it is El Capitan’s (Cappy’s) birthday today. Read the story of his birth here: Plentiful Puppies

In honor of Earth Day, I found the Top Ten Green Pet Tips for Earth Day, although most of them do not apply in Nicaragua. I found four tips that are most helpful in Nicaragua.

The most important tip in Nicaragua: 1. Neuter your pet.  Pet overpopulation is a real problem—shelters are over-run and homeless pets are everywhere taxing environmental resources.  Only one in four dogs finds a permanent loving home.  When it comes time for your next pet, support adoption as part of a green lifestyle.

Cappy is one of the lucky ones. We adopted him a month after he was born.

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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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Weekly Photo Challenge: The Early Bird Gets the Mango


The weekly photo challenge is Early Bird. Living in Nicaragua, we’ve become accustomed to rising early…sometimes as early as 4:30 am. All of the action occurs early in the morning in Nicaragua…the earlier the better because the afternoons are reserved for long siestas in the tropical heat.

If you are an early bird, you will probably see… the parrot getting the first ripe mango
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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!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Once Afloat


The Weekly Photo Challenge is Afloat. I am fascinated by what was once afloat and then drifted slowly to shore. I could be a beachcomber. I am a beachcomber because you’d be surprised at what I salvage from things once afloat!

I wanted to bring this driftwood back to Ometepe Island from the Corn Islands. It looks like a bear just coming out of hibernation. Too bad the airline restricts us to 40 lbs. This piece that was once afloat would make a great addition to my flower garden.

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Spring Cleaning and a Plunge Pool


Everyday is spring cleaning day this time of the year in Nicaragua. It’s so hot, dry, and dusty that we have to clean our houses early in the morning because there is a fine layer of dust over everything. Then, in the late afternoon, we do it all over again. Sigh!

I thought I would take some photos of my clean house, because in an hour it won’t look like this.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: A Fleeting Life


“There is no tomorrow..it is always today. Tomorrow is the fleeting and minute distance..between hope & once more..once again!”
― Victoria June

 

The Weekly Photo Challenge is ephemeral. Photography reminds me of life. You have to catch it when you can, for it is fleeting and illusive.

In the adult stage, a butterfly lives approximately 3-4 weeks and the female only mates once in her lifetime. I imagine that observing mating butterflies is a short-lived experience, so I had to catch it quickly.

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Our Pretirement Experiment


“The goal of retirement is to live off your assets-not on them”
― Frank Eberhart

I have had many people ask me how we decided on retiring abroad and the process we went through. Although most of the information is in my unfinished book, Pretiring With the Monkey Lady, here is a preview of our serendipitous moments the first time we pre-retired in Nicaragua.

In 2004 we jumped. Trapped in new teaching jobs we hated, we felt as if our lives were bound tightly in Kudzu.  We bought a new home with a hefty mortgage and rented our old home. Our son was in his junior year of college. Finances were tight. How could we possibly escape from the bureaucracy that was strangling the life out of us? What was the alternative? Our gypsytoes were itching to travel.

Enter Bill, the eccentric entrepreneur from Nicaragua.  When an ice storm canceled school on a snowy January day, Bill sent us an email. “How would you like to live in Nicaragua and manage my youth hostel on Ometepe Island?”  We thought about it for three seconds and responded, “Yes!”

In an adrenalin rush, we made plans to finish the school year, sell the house we bought six months before, move everything back to our old house, and jump into a new life. We took out an equity loan to pay off the mortgage on our old house and had a small amount left to live on for a year in Nicaragua. Our son moved into our house, transferred to a closer university…and we jumped.

But, managing a youth hostel was not for us. You’ll have to read by book, Pretiring with the Monkey Lady, to understand the problems we encountered. Here is one chapter of the 25 chapters I’ve finished. California Dreams and a Scottish Cowboy. What was the alternative? We couldn’t return to the states because we sold our cars, gave away all our winter clothes, and were both unemployed. So, we jumped again.

Ron wandered the sandy beach paths in search of a cheap shack to rent. About two kilometers south of Moyogalpa, Ron found this little beach house and it was vacant. We found the landlady in Moyogalpa and rented it for $100 a month with a six month renewable contract.

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It’s the Journey That Matters: Getting to the Rio San Juan


“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
― Ernest Hemingway

 

Rolling down the Rio San Juan has been on our bucket list for years. However, having an end to journey toward was not our greatest reward. Instead, the journey itself was our fringe benefit because getting there was half the fun.

Oh the convenience of living beside a small airport! We walked our sandy volcanic path to the airport on a Thursday afternoon and caught a 15 minute flight to San Carlos, Nicaragua. We booked with La Costeña online. Make sure you book early because the planes seat 12 people. At a cost of $85 round trip per person, we felt like it was a bargain, if only for the convenience of walking to and from our house.

And we were off!  We ascended over the patchwork of fields, quaint red tin roofs, and the calm Lake Cocibolca.
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Survival of the Fittest: February 2015


“It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.” ― Charles Darwin

 

The Fuego y Agua Survival Run is over until next February. Every year, we volunteer to help at the aid stations for the races. 45 Survival runners line up to register for the race. How many will finish? Their motto is:

“Hold up your right hand and repeat after me: “if I get hurt, lost or die, it is my own damn fault.”

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