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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Weekly Photo Challenge: The Moon as Growth


The Weekly Photo Challenge is growth.

I am a moon baby.  To me, the moon symbolizes a consistent system of “truths” relating to the mode of being peculiar to living creatures, to everything in the cosmos that shares life. The moon is enlightenment, eternity, waxing and waning, death and rebirth. It reflects the stages of my life in an inspiring cyclic display every month.

January first, there was a Super Moon. I grabbed my tripod and camera and headed to the jungle in our backyard. The moon rose over our Concepcion volcano like a spotlight casting moon shadows as the main characters in a spectacular show.

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Stranger Things in Nicaragua


“This is the strangest life I have ever known.” ― Jim Morrison

I recently binged on the Netflix series Stranger Things and it reminded me of the stranger things I’ve seen in Nicaragua. Nicaragua is the land of quirky! We lovingly refer to Nicaragua as the land of the not quite right. If you enjoy belly laughs and giggles at daily life, you will love living in Nicaragua because some days, You just gotta laugh.

As you can see, I fit right into the funky Nicaraguan lifestyle. Join me for a photo essay of Stranger Things I’ve seen in Nicaragua.

It all started when I purchased a coffee maker at MaxiPali. There were two coffee makers left on the shelf. One was a black five cup coffee maker, the other a ten cup white coffee maker. Other than the size, both were identical in their functions and brand. However, the black five cup coffee maker was 150 more cordobas than the larger white one. When I asked why, the clerk responded, “I am surprised that you don’t know that all black appliances are more expensive.” Hmmm…

If you are wondering why the license plate is sitting in front of the coffee maker, we had to buy a placa or plate for our motorcycle. We waited six years for the government to make license plates! Yes, six years! The strange thing about Nicaraguan license plates is that they don’t come with predrilled holes to screw the plate to the motorcycle. We had to drill the holes ourselves. Who does that?

Stranger Modes of Transportation

One day, the rodeo came to town. There are a variety of wacky rides for the kids, and you can also get your picture taken on a giant plastic horse. This was a tough move for the owner of the horse because he had to bring it from the mainland on the ferry. Imagine our surprise watching the rigamortised horse lifted off the ferry.

Our school kids ride chicken buses to school, and sometimes they ride motorcycles.

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Hope


“They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world: someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.”
― Tom Bodett

The Weekly Photo Challenge was to share my most meaningful photo of 2017.

Yesterday we attended a quinceañera ( 15th birthday party ) for Maria Lilleth. During the church ceremony, the skies opened and the rain fell in sheets pounding the tin roof. We all hoped the rain would stop so that we could walk in the family parade, about a kilometer, to their house for the party. 

Suddenly, the rain stopped as quickly as it began, and we rushed outside to form the procession. This little angel was standing in the church doorway, peeking out the door, hoping the rain wouldn’t drench her beautiful new dress. To me, it symbolized a moment of hope in our troubled world. 

Hope is fickle. It has been a turbulent 2017, with moments of hope interspersed with moments of despair. The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is always a twinkle of hope within us, hope mingled with grief. Be patient, let the grief pass and the hope sparkle…if only for a moment. For our hope will overcome our fears and our despair and only grow stronger…if we let it shine. 

We wish you a world filled with hope, someone to love, and something interesting to do that will fulfill your passions, and of course…something to hope for in the new year.

Feliz Navidad and keep the star of hope shining through the darkness. 

We Give Back


“Help others without any reason and give without the expectation of receiving anything in return.” ~Roy. T. Bennett

I’ve been in a funk this season of giving. Maybe it is because of the political situation in the U.S. Possibly it is because of the crowdsourcing scams I’ve seen in Nicaragua and my island home of Ometepe. And then again, it could be because lately I’ve been disappointed in people in general.

Whatever the reason for my funk, the only way I know how to get out of it is by stressing the goodness of people, the selfless acts of giving, and promoting people who give without any reason and without the expectation of receiving anything in return.

For this reason, I would like to introduce you to two expats on Ometepe Island who give back selflessly to their communities.

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Christmas and Summer Vacation Rolled into One


Sometimes you’re just the sweetest thing. Like Christmas, summer vacation, and a brand-new puppy rolled into one. ~ Haruki Murakami

School is out! This year flew by so quickly. For children in Nicaragua, Christmas and summer vacation is rolled into one. The Nicaragua school season is from February 1st to December 1st. Like children all over the world, they eagerly look forward to Christmas and summer vacation, and in Nicaragua they celebrate them together.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Experimental Photos


The Weekly WordPress Photo Challenge is experimental. 

I downloaded a photo app called Prisma and I enjoy experimenting with the moods I can apply to my photos.

Waiting for the show to begin at my local elementary school.
Pumpkins are expensive in Nicaragua, so we make-do with squash and watermelon.

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Nicaraguan Superstitions


“What we don’t understand we can make mean anything.” ― Chuck Palahniuk

Isn’t that the truth? You probably have a few of your own superstitions. I know I have many. I’ve skirted around the ladder propped up in our backyard when our workers were on our roof. I always find pennies or cordobas on the road. If they are heads-up, I take them because they are good luck.  If they are heads-down, I ignore them.

Yet, why do we behave this way? We learn superstitious behaviors through a simple reinforcement process. If a certain action appears to lead to a desired outcome, we do it over and over again. And why do we repeat these actions? Because we like to have some semblance of control over uncertainty in our lives. If we are unsure about an outcome, we try to find a way to control it. Thus superstitions are born.

Nicaraguans have many superstitions, too.

Our friends visited us with their newborn. He was wearing a bracelet with a red band and two seeds on the bracelet. I’ve seen these before on newborns, so I asked about the significance. Apparently, one of the maladies parents must watch out for is called calor de vista. Babies get feverish and sick when people who have been drinking alcohol gaze at the baby. The new Papa explained to me that even families and friends who drink too much can pass on their oncoming hangover instantly to the baby. The bracelet is protection for the baby against drunks.

OH NO! A drunk must be nearby! Quick, hold up your bracelet!

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Building Our Way to Hell?


“Excessive gentrification destroys the biodiversity and ecosystem of a community.” ― Khang Kijarro Nguyen

We are in the process of big renovations to our house: a new roof, drop ceilings, repainting, new electrical wiring…the works. It is long past due, however I wonder what our neighbors think? Are they upset or jealous or angry that we have the money for renovations to our house? Do they resent us because they live beside “rich” foreigners?  Will we be less accepted because we may be perceived as flaunting our “wealth”? Are we flaunting, taunting, or demonstrating that we are better people because we are not living in poverty? Do we want to live like Nicas?

The big bad G-word is gentrification. By definition it is the process of renovating and improving a house so that it conforms to middle-class taste, or since we live abroad…to gringo taste. Although gentrification is a term applied to urban areas, I believe extreme gentrification can be used to demonstrate “building our way to hell” all over the urban, rural, underdeveloped and developed world.

I don’t like the words extreme gentrification because it has a bad connotation. Instead, I prefer integration. The difference is that we have integrated into our all-Spanish speaking community. We have simply moved from one place to another. Extreme gentrification on the other hand, is kicking poor people out and replacing them with rich people.

Gentrification is happening, especially in the coastal towns and colonial cities in Nicaragua.   And some areas have experienced extreme gentrification. Some cities are suffering with growing tourism and no regulations for short-term rentals. Rent prices are completely unaffordable for the average Nicaraguan. Landlords are evicting people to start touristic businesses everyday, and land speculators are buying land for peanuts that has been in families for generations and then selling outrageously expensive housing compounds to foreigners forcing the local people to move to the outskirts of cities or towns.

Extreme gentrification is happening in cities all over the world. Take a look at some of the major cities throughout the world where the G-word is a bad word. “We are building our way to hell”: tales of gentrification around the world.

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Playing Possum


Animals, even plants, lie to each other all the time, and we could restrict the research to them, putting off the real truth about ourselves for the several centuries we need to catch our breath. What is it that enables certain flowers to resemble nubile insects, or opossums to play dead, or female fireflies to change the code of their flashes in order to attract, and then eat, males of a different species?
— Lewis Thomas

 

Ron yelled into the house, “Debbie! Come quickly and bring your camera.” When I arrived at the corner of our fenced property, I asked, “What am I looking for?” Jose, our yard worker said it was a giant rat called El Zorro.

“Oh, there it is,” I pointed. It looked kind of like a tiny kangaroo frantically trying to find a hole in our fence so it could make a quick escape from our prying eyes.

It was a cute intruder with big brown eyes and tiny hands that could grasp the chicken wire fence to inspect for holes.  It had a long tail, similar to a giant rat, and two large white spots above its eyes. But, I had no idea what it was.
After some research, I concluded that it was a Brown Four-eyed Opossum. Now it made sense why it looked like a tiny kangaroo because it is a pouchless  marsupial. Jose said they used to be very common on Ometepe, but now they are endangered.

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