Weekly Photo Challenge: A Grand Homecoming

“Every traveler has a home of his own, and he learns to appreciate it the more from his wandering.”
― Charles Dickens

The Weekly Photo Challenge is Grand… a magical, special place…the “wow” factor.  After a long stressful trip back to the states, returning to my special island in the middle of a sweet sea, in the middle of Nicaragua, in the middle of Central America is a grand homecoming.

Boarding the ferry for the hour-long trip across the sweet sea, I peek at our active volcano, Concepcion, about 10 miles away.
IMG_0483Ometepe…how I’ve missed you! I zoom in for a grand view.
IMG_0479My island home! How majestic! How grand!
IMG_0492The waves splash against the ferry window, blanketing me with a warm breeze. How refreshingly grand!
IMG_0501The clouds over Concepcion paint a grand vista.
IMG_0506Only 30 more minutes! I’m so excited. It’s a grand, magical island.
IMG_0511Is the airport near our house open yet? I’m anxiously awaiting the grand opening.
IMG_0529The little launcha chugs past our house. Isn’t she grand?
IMG_0514“Almost home,” I shout excitedly as we pass our house.
IMG_0543Life on Ometepe Island is priceless! What a grand homecoming!

Dreamers Turned Doers

“Dreamers are mocked as impractical. The truth is they are the most practical, as their innovations lead to progress and a better way of life for all of us.”
― Robin S. Sharma

We are constantly looking for new ways to do practically everything in our rewired and retired lives. Researching  practical innovations that would help to make a better way of life for all of us, I found these amazing things on the internet. Click on the navy blue link to read more about these dreamers turned doers.

John Lennon glasses

1. A New Way to See the World
My neighbors need prescription glasses, but they are very expensive. This new technology injects fluid into the lenses and by rotating the dials, you can achieve the perfect prescription without a costly eye exam.

ear phones2. A New Way to Hear
Robinson had a horrible motorcycle accident a year ago. As a result, he lost most of his hearing in one ear. A delicate operation is needed to reposition the tiny bones in his ear, but there is no guarantee this will work. Using bone conduction technology originally developed for military special ops, these headphones transmit vibrations directly from your cheekbones to your inner ear, bypassing the eardrum.

edible glasses3. A New Way to Drink
Plastic bottles…a huge problem on Ometepe Island. These edible glasses are made from pectin, a gelling agent derived from fruits, the cups are surprisingly durable, and Briganti hopes they’ll help replace disposable plastic. We could definitely use these here!

Fresh Paper4. A New Kind of Paper
This would be a boon for our small agricultural island. The inventor is partnering with nonprofits in developing countries to ship FreshPaper to some of the roughly 1.2 billion people in the world who lack refrigeration, including small-scale farmers in India and Africa who sometimes can’t sell their crop before it spoils.

drones delivering mail 5. A New Way to Deliver Our Mail?
A company called Matternet has tested unmanned aerial vehicles, or “drones,” in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, where it hopes to help deliver medical supplies and food to areas that lack reliable roads. Now, this would be fantastic, since we have no mail delivery on Ometepe.

  taking a course online 6. A New Way to Take Free College Courses

I used to teach online graduate level education courses. The greatest thing about teaching online was that I could do it from anywhere, even wearing my PJs. I’ve signed up for a course with Coursera. With 300-plus free online courses — Moralities of Everyday Life,  Archaeology’s   Dirty Little Secrets, Women and the Civil Rights Movement — all taught by professors at 62 of the world’s top schools, including Yale and Stanford, the Web site Coursera reads like the course catalog you wish you’d taken advantage of in college. The company’s goal is to allow every person in the world access to an Ivy League–caliber education — without the frat parties and calculus requirement.

vaporizers  7. A New Way to Quit Smoking
Cigarettes are really cheap in Nicaragua. If you are thinking of quitting, new studies show that using a vaporizer, or e-cigarette, is as effective if not more so, than using a nicotine patch.

Cacoon-hanging-tree-house-1-640x6448. A New Kind of Tent
 I’m not sure how practical this would be, but it is very cool. I wonder how difficult it would be to make?

Weekly Photo Challenge: My Sweet Sea

Lake Cocibolca, Nicaragua’s largest fresh water lake cradles my island home. The Spaniards called it La Mar Dulce (the sweet sea), and how sweet it is!

Lake Cocibolca

Ometepe Island rises magnificently out of the sweet sea. Its two volcanoes jut out of the lake and can be seen for miles. What an impressive sight!

Arriving and departing from our island, one must take an hour’s ferry ride. It’s always an adventure, especially when the lake is choppy.

What does the sweet sea mean to me? Fish, fishermen, birds, and an occasional fishing cat sustain their lives from La Mar Dulce. Even House Hunter’s International was impressed with our sweet sea when filming Ron fishing.

What do we do for fun on the sweet sea? We kayak daily, and once we followed a huge floating island as it drifted toward the mainland.

The sweet sea means tranquility, peace, and glorious sunsets from our front porch.

Goodnight, my beautiful sweet sea. Until tomorrow.

Born Out of Necessity

Necessity is the mother of taking chances.
~Mark Twain

Satisfying one’s basic needs..and a few wants..while living on a primitive island in the middle of a huge sweet sea, in the middle of Nicaragua, in the middle of Central America can be quite challenging at times. Many things on Ometepe Island are born out of necessity due to lack of reliable infrastructure, transportation, and supplies.

But, that certainly doesn’t stop the creative and motivated people who live here.

I. Shelter
With our gift of two bags of cement for Christmas, our neighbors made a new addition to their kitchen. Shade is a necessity on our beach….always. Homemade ladders and handmade metal reinforced columns help to complete our casita.

II. Transportation
What do you do with a broken Jet ski? Of course, you make it into a fishing boat. Mechanics rebuild motors in the ferries with spare used parts, while a creative entrepreneur designs a tandem bicycle out of used bicycle parts to rent to tourists. Handmade carts haul wood for cooking fires and the ferry transports a mummified horse for the local rodeo.

III. Utilities
Tall water tanks supply gravity fed water during water shortages and everyone is an electrician when the lines get tangled or we need 220 v. Just hire a neighbor to climb the pole to fix the electricity in the neighborhood.

IV. Flood Insurance?
In 2010, while we were building our house, the lake rose to the highest levels seen in 60 years. It rose into our yard and washed out our road. Materials had to be carried on our heads as we sloshed through the lake. We crushed old roof tiles for a stronger road bed and hired a tractor to deliver bricks. The tractor got stuck, but with the help of many strong men and several attempts, we were able to push it out of the lake to get the bricks to the house. There is no such thing as flood insurance, so this idea was born out of blood, sweat, and tears to build our house.

V. Communication, Banking, and Free Luggage
My woktenna was born out of a need for a faster internet…and it works great! I even won third place in a contest for the most creative way to get online. Have you ever seen a tent bank? Born out of necessity, this bank opened in a tent until construction was completed on their new bank. Disgusted with paying high prices for your luggage on airlines? I needed a way to transport my books for my lending library, thus my homemade travel vest was born…and it’s free. I can waddle through airports with 40 pounds of books in it..no questions asked.

VI. Creative Outdoor Living
Aware of crimes of opportunity, we can’t leave hammocks or other lawn furniture outside unprotected. In fact, I got lazy and left a hammock outside two weeks ago, and it was stolen! Sigh…but that’s another story. With leftover bricks, I made outdoor furniture. The workers building our casita were so impressed with my outdoor furniture, that they made a mini-brick ferry.

VII. Health

Walter, our local mosquito exterminator, fumigates the houses with his homemade fumigator gun. Johnson lifts weights made of two tin cans packed with concrete.

Necessity is the mother of invention. That holds true on Ometepe Island. It involves taking risks, but great things are born out of necessity.


Weekly Photo Challenge: Smokin’ Fresh

Ometepe Island, Nicaragua has enticed cigar makers with its sweet and uniquely spicy tobacco for over a decade. Even among the well-known tobacco-growing regions of Nicaragua, where the black soil of Esteli yields strong tobaccos, the rocky soils of Condega produce a middle-range flavor, and the red clay of Jalapa provides the smooth wrapper tobaccos…Ometepe Island’s tobacco is fresh and new.

IMG_3222“Ometepe is unique,” says Plasencia Jr., a trained agronomist. “It’s a small area, with two volcanoes. The drainage is very good. There aren’t too many places in the world where you can find this.” The soil on Ometepe is so rich that it doesn’t need much fertilization. The surrounding fresh water from the sweet sea provides abundant humidity…perfect for growing tobacco.

IMG_3223The rich soil gives the tobacco grown here a rich earthy taste. Farmers call the soil, “Como pastel.” ( like cake) The tobacco is dulce y fuerte (sweet and strong).

IMG_3224If you would like to read more about the history of Nicaraguan tobacco, this is a great place to start. Nicaraguan Cigars.


Weekly Photo Challenge: Heads Up!

Life is a balancing act. You need to keep your head up and your feet on the ground, while allowing your heart to go wherever it pleases! ~Susan Gale

I spend entirely too much time with my nose to the ground in Nicaragua. There are hidden dangers lurking in the forms of scorpions, red ants, and biting centipedes. Yet, I need to remember that life is a balancing act. There are beautiful surprises awaiting when I choose to hold my head up high!

Coconuts, the life force of Nicaragua.


Hidden among the fronds are vampire bats.
vampire bats 2Our Peras are ripe. A new batch of apple sauce and Pera pie is on the way.

PerasThe bananas have a couple of months left before they are ripe.
IMG_2567If we can only keep the Howler monkeys from nibbling on the bananas!
IMG_1785Our orchid is blooming, strung high in the nancite tree.
IMG_5979Marvin’s welding mask is strung high in the water tower. Our new water supply is almost finished.
IMG_2549My new Moroccan lamp shines colorfully in the darkness reminding me to keep my head up and my feet on the ground, for life is truly a balancing act.

My heart will always be free to roam, wherever it pleases. Thank you, my precious Nicaragua.


A Voyage Across the Sweet Sea

In 1866, Mark Twain described the volcanoes on Ometepe Island, as “two magnificent pyramids clad in the softest and richest green, all flecked with shadow and sunshine.” Since we had been island bound for several months, the time had come to voyage across the sweet sea for some Christmas shopping on the mainland.

Leaving the port town of Moyogalpa.

Leaving the port town of Moyogalpa.

We boarded the 9:00 am ferry and chugged past the picturesque port town of Moyogalpa, where layers of green foliage spread softly like cake frosting into the sweet sea of Cocibolca.

The roof of our house on the far right.

The roof of our house on the far right.

Fifteen minutes later, the wind-churned waves carried us past our house (on the far right) and the quaint little community of La Paloma, where houses dotted the black sand beach in vibrant hard-candy shades of lemon yellow, sour apple green, and watermelon pink. The rafts of Puesta del Sol bobbed gently in the waves, signaling that the windy months were upon us.

Now we have a view of both volcanoes..Maderas, the dormant volcano is on the right.

Now we have a view of both volcanoes..Maderas, the dormant volcano is on the right.

Rounding the point of Jesus Maria, the twin volcanoes came into view. Mark Twain described them as “summits piercing the billowy clouds.”

The new airport is almost done.

The new airport is almost done.

During the California gold rush, Cornelius Vanderbilt invested heavily in a land-sea route across Nicaragua, avoiding the grueling wagon trail ride across the United States fraught with bandits, diseases, and accidents. Twain opted for the Nicaraguan route in his 1866 trip back east.
As we glide past the new runway, I wonder how the airport will change Ometepe. The runway and the terminal are complete, with only the construction of the tower remaining. It won’t be long, now. What would Twain think if he could have soared through the billowy clouds to our oasis of peace?

They are constructing the tower, now.

They are constructing the tower, now.

Quite a dramatic entrance to Ometepe. I hope the plane can stop in time before it reaches the volcano.

The Ferry passes by on its way to Moyogalpa from the mainland.

The Ferry passes by on its way to Moyogalpa from the mainland.

Waving to the ferry passengers returning to la isla from the mainland, I wonder what the first-time tourists think. Will they enjoy their stay? An hour’s trip across the great sweet sea is always a feast for my senses.

Nice view of our active volcano, Concepcion.

Nice view of our active volcano, Concepcion.

During Twain’s time, the cross-lake steamer bypassed Ometepe on its way to the Rio San Juan. Too bad, for if Twain would have had an opportunity to visit our lovely island, I know he would have written about gorging his senses on the ravenous beauty and mysteries surrounding us. A voyage across the sweet sea is always an adventure…one that never ceases to amaze me.


The Expat Gathering

A gathering…a social affair…an assembly of unique expats convening together for the purpose of fellowship. That’s exactly what Theresa had in mind when she decided to start a monthly gathering of expats on Ometepe Island. Together we can share our hopes, dreams, plans, and projects.

Although our little island is only 22 miles long, with a population of 45,000 people, and about 150 expats, some parts of the island still lack electricity and many parts lack running water. New roads are slowly wrapping around the island, offering easier access to civilization. Yet, for all the progress in the past eight years, we rarely go to the other side of the island and seldom visit with friends beyond our expat internet group.

Theresa organized a pot luck for the end of October at the Cocibolca bar in Moyogalpa. I decorated name tags with orange pumpkins, Ron brought sweet potato cuttings, and we came together for our first, of many ( I hope ), expat gatherings.

What a gathering it was! I met engineers, educators, homeopathic doctors, pig farmers, butchers that make homemade sausages, herbalists, philanthropists, bed and breakfast owners, hotel owners, realtors, agricultural specialists, and retired volunteers. I was amazed by the talents of the expats living on the island…many of whom I had never met.

After introductions, we shared a delicious lunch, and made plans for our Thanksgiving gathering. Sorry to add that I didn’t take one picture of our Thanksgiving gathering. I must have been too busy making gravy and slicing turkey. 🙂 I’m looking forward to our December gathering. The weather is perfect, we are finally feeling almost normal after our bouts with illness, and life is good…for which I am very grateful.

Gypsy does Cocibolca

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We haven’t taken our kayak, Gypsy, out for a while. It’s mango season again, and I’ve raked rotten mangoes for a month. Yesterday was a beautiful day, so we took Gypsy on a short excursion. Someday, I’d like to kayak around Ometepe Island. I think it’s doable. We can take a tent and camp along the way, or dock at a hostel on a beach. So many plans, so little time.

This week we’re going to take a mini-vacation to Leon and the beaches near Leon. I’ve wondered about the significance of the Gigantonas. They appear in every parade in Nicaragua. A Gigantona is a giant doll with dark hair carried by a person inside the doll while wearing stilts. A ‘big head’ follows the Gigantona drumming and dancing. There is a museum in Leon, the Museum of Legends and Traditions. I know this will be the place to satisfy my curiosity about the Gigantonas.

Gigantona and Big Head

Enjoy my slideshow, Gypsy does Cocibolca.

Daily Wonders

Usually life is a mystery in the “land of the not quite right”. Here are a few of my daily wonders.

1. I wonder why the electricity cuts off at 6 pm every night for 15-30 minutes.
2. I wonder if I’ll have enough electricity to do a load of wash in the morning.
3. I wonder how the first banana tree grew since it doesn’t have seeds.
4. I wonder if our little neighbor kids know that we can’t speak Spanish fluently or if they think we’re just stupid.
5. I wonder when my chickens sneeze (and yes, they do sneeze) if it always means they have a cold.
6. I wonder how Ometepe Island will change when they complete the new airport.
7. I wonder whose dog/horse/pig/chicken/cat/cow/bull is in our yard nibbling our mangoes.
8. I wonder if we will ever view life as “normal” again.
9. I wonder if we are “normal”
10. I wonder if I’ll ever stop wondering about life in Nicaragua.