Feliz Navidad de Isla de Ometepe


“The smells of Christmas are the smells of childhood” ― Richard Paul Evans

My annual tradition has always been to bake dozens of Christmas cookies and pass them out to my neighbors and friends. Although it was meaningful in the states, for me it is more significant in Nicaragua for several reasons.

img_4606 Continue reading

What Makes Housesitters Extraordinary?


“We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there.” ― Pascal Mercier

Our housesitters left fresh flowers, homemade chocolate banana bread, and a mesh covering over our shower drain because we thought the cane toads were hiding in the shower drain during the day and hopping around the bathroom at night. Two weeks after returning from Fiji and New Zealand, I still find little remembrances of them.

Meet Doug and Johanne our housesitters extraordinaire.

15302416_10153995342846560_1053890956_o

Continue reading

How to Afford to Travel


“Desires dictate our priorities, priorities shape our choices, and choices determine our actions.” ― Dallin H. Oaks

I love reading travel essays, but before we started traveling I was disappointed when the essays never explained how one affords to travel. I received a comment on my blog the other day asking me how we afford to travel six months of the year and live abroad.

I never gave that question much thought after we started traveling because we just did it, but it is a great question and one that I think deserves a thoughtful answer.

Let me break down the quote above because it explains our process perfectly.

arthurs-pass

Arthur’s Pass in the New Zealand Southern Alps.

 

Continue reading

We’re Leaving Our Babies


We’ve lived in Nicaragua on and off since 2004, and for the past six years we have been here permanently. We decided this year that we are going to wean ourselves off Nicaragua for six months a year. It is time for a change, if only temporarily.

We have had a love/hate relationship with Nicaragua for many years. The hate part is mainly because of the unreliable infrastructure and the brutally hot and dry months. The love part will always be the people.  Yet, as we age, we realize that maybe Nicaragua isn’t the best place for us to age gracefully year-round. After much thought, we decided to scratch our gypsytoes by traveling six months of the year.

img_1976

Our sweet bananas are ready to be harvested by our house sitters.

The best of all worlds is possible. Our goal was always to make Nicaragua our home base and travel extensively. But, that has not happened as much as we would like because we  built a thriving life in Nicaragua by planting many varieties of fruit trees on our property, rescuing dogs and cats, and developing a children’s library.

img_1964

The baby breadfruit tree needs TLC during the dry season.

Continue reading

How to Avoid ATM Fees When Living Abroad


“Folks don’t carry money around in their pockets. They’ve got to go to an ATM machine, and they’ve got to pay a few dollars to get their own dollars out of the machine. Who ever thought you’d pay cash to get cash? That’s where we’ve gotten to.”~Bill Janklow

banpro-1Twelve years ago, we had to go to the mainland to take money out of an ATM. The first time we took our neighbor kids to Rivas, the ATM machine impressed them the most. They were amazed at the small cool room, and it really blew them away when money came out of a hole in the machine. When they told their Papa about the miracle they saw in Rivas, he asked us if he could get a card for the money machine, too.

Today, we have at least five ATMs to choose from in Moyogalpa. However, our MasterCard debit card from our bank in the states is only accepted by one bank and one private ATM at the Mega Super grocery store. Recently, our bank sent us new debit cards with the digital chips. Now, the only bank that accepts our chipped debit card is BAC.

Continue reading

My Place of Solace


“In a good bookroom you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.” ― Mark Twain

IMG_2218

People often ask what we do all day since we are retired. One thing is for certain. We have stopped watching world news. It is too depressing. Besides, there is very little we can do about fixing the big problems in the world. But, there are many little things we can do as expats to help make the world a little better for our local communities.

I started a children’s library in our small La Paloma Elementary school two years ago. It has become my solace and place of refuge from this mad, mad world in which we live.
It is my place of hugs, laughter, and wisdom absorbed through my skin.

IMG_2211

Continue reading

The Best of Reverse Culture Shock


Traveling from Ometepe Island, Nicaragua and landing in Las Vegas, Nevada was surreal.  We knew to expect a bizarre reverse culture shock which I can only describe like the scene out of a Crocodile Dundee movie. Yet, there is something to be said about embracing the shock when returning to a place that one used to call home.

Articles have been written about the effects of reverse culture shock and ways to combat the adverse effects. But, I am of the persuasion that it is better to embrace it, than fight it and below are my reasons why….

1. The euphoria of feeling out-of-place in your own culture.

Las Vegas is not a city that anyone feels “in place” in our culture. It is the land of excess, overwhelming choices, immigrants, and a city that never sleeps.

When I asked our taxi driver at the airport where he was from he said, “Guess. I will give you a hint. It is where coffee was first produced.”
I guessed correctly on the second try, which really impressed our taxi driver. “Ethiopia!”
I think I created a warm, fast-paced relationship with our Ethiopian taxi driver after that because for the rest of the ride, he told me all about his country, the family he left, and how proud he was that he could provide for them.

Returning home gives me another opportunity to embrace and respect the diverse culture in the U.S. There was no better way to start our journey than the euphoric feeling of being out-of-place in our home country.

IMG_1813

Continue reading

Let’s Get Real about Housesitting in Nicaragua


“Whenever you go on a trip to visit foreign lands or distant places, remember that they are all someone’s home and backyard.”
― Vera Nazarian

our houseHonestly, we have never had a problem finding housesitters. Who wouldn’t want to stay on a tropical island in the middle of a sweet sea, in the middle of Nicaragua, in the middle of Central America?

In fact, as you read this, we are in the United States and we have another awesome housesitter. We travel often and because we have a dog and two cats and a home in a developing country, we always have a need for responsible sitters.

After several years of planning for housesitters, I have the housesitting routine down pat. So, let me share with you some of the things I have learned when preparing for sitters.

Let’s Get Real about Housesitting in Nicaragua

Continue reading

Maid in Nicaragua


Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 8.50.47 PMTwo times in my life I hired a maid and two times in my life, I had to let them go. The first time was when I lived in the states. I was working two jobs and my obsessive house cleaning routine got the best of me. A friend recommended a professional domestic housekeeper that cleaned for her. She wasn’t cheap and she was bonded, which made me feel better about hiring a housekeeper. She also told me to leave a list of the things I wanted done on a weekly basis.

I followed her advise and included in the list, “Clean the baseboards and the ceiling fans.” The next day the new housekeeper unloaded on my friend, showed her my list, and said that I was a slave driver and she was not a servant. I had to let her go.

Now, I will be the first to admit that I felt extremely uncomfortable hiring a domestic housekeeper. It stemmed from the collective uneasiness many women have in the U.S. of the idea of hired household help. We think it sounds nice, but maybe a little indulgent. I wondered if I would seem snobby, entitled, and spoiled. After all, I was a middle-class woman with all the modern and time-saving devices that made multi-tasking a breeze.

But, most of all, I felt guilty. I read the book The Help, I saw the sexy maid costumes at Halloween, and Downton Abbey sure didn’t help to change my perceptions of servants.
In my mind a servant, a maid, and a domestic housekeeper were all the same. The terms all had a derogatory feel to them. They brought up the same bad connotations, regardless of which word I used to describe them. And letting go of the housekeeper I had for one day confirmed my perceptions.

Continue reading