I’m not Poor…I Have a Washing Machine

My new lavadora

The other night, Jon Stewart did a segment on the conservatives’ contradictory views about the rich and poor when it comes to deciding how to lower the deficit. Fox News reported their break down of what constitutes “Poor.” According to their break down, “If you have a refrigerator, you probably don’t need any financial assistance.” The Poor’s Free Ride is Over.

I wouldn’t have found that statement so absurd if they were discussing Nicaragua because it’s true…only the rich have refrigerators. Living in La Paloma, surrounded by poverty, I constantly think about what constitutes “Poor.”  Ron and I are by no means rich, yet, to our neighbors who live in a little one room shack with a dirt floor, we are wealthy beyond their wildest imagination.

It’s all relative, but try to explain that to our neighbors when we came home three days ago with a new motorcycle and a washing machine. I tried to explain to Marina that Ron sold his Harley Davidson in the states and that’s how we could afford to buy a new motorcycle and a washing machine. Of course, the first question all Nicaraguan’s ask is, “How much did you pay for that?”  Our automatic response is always, “It was on sale, so we got a good deal.”

Marina’s family has joined the ranks of the rich, now. We did get a good deal because not only did we buy a washing machine and a motorcycle, we bought a small refrigerator for Marina’s family at the same store. We are learning the art of bargaining! They practically threw it in for free when they saw us with cash-on-hand for the total purchase. Credit and small monthly payments are king in Nicaragua. Credit cards are an unheard of luxury! La Curaçao clerks said we are their best customers. It’s no wonder because it is practically the only place on the island where we can use our credit card.

Marina loves to cook and we thought that if she had a way to refrigerate food, she could cater to the workers building the new airport down our road. Now that I have a washing machine, Marina needs a new job. The refrigerator is a small one, so it won’t use much electricity.That is when we have electricity! Lately, Disnorte-Dissur, the distributors of our electricity have been in a rationing mode. Like clock-work, we lose power from 6 pm to 8 pm every night.

Our refrigerator is full of food that Marina brings over to our house almost hourly! She trimmed Ron’s mustache and cut his nose hairs yesterday. I am grateful for my new washing machine, and Marina is grateful for her new refrigerator. Things are looking up in our little community of La Paloma.

Ahh...the first load of clothes from our new washing machine.

Hanging my first load of freshly washed clothes on our clothesline, it dawned on me how to fix the debt crisis dilemma. What if all the rich people would buy the poor people new refrigerators? It may be a simple solution to improving the lives of the desperately poor. After all, according to Fox News, “If you have a refrigerator, you probably don’t need financial assistance.”

My Iron Man

Marvin, his brother, and his son

Living on an island has its challenges. Buying furniture is one. When we rented our little beach shack six years ago, our shack contained five plastic chairs, a plastic table, and two beds.  Ron detached the old wooden door from one of the bedrooms, attached it to the living room wall, and voilà, we had a long, functional desk that housed our TV and computer.
That was fine when we were experimenting with ‘pretirement’, but now that we are in full-blown retirement, I wanted some real furniture. So began my elusive search for functional tropical furniture and my delight in meeting Marvin, my iron man.
My definition of functional tropical furniture is furniture that will withstand the onslaught of termites, geckos, humidity, and heat. Wood swells to outrageous proportions, and is a favorite treat of termites. My Betty Crocker cookbook was totally consumed by termites! When we remodeled our beach shack, we had to replace all the wooden roof rafters because thousands of ravenous termites gorged on the rafters. Our neighbor’s TV stopped working one day, and when he opened the back of the TV, there was a family of geckos living near the sound components.
My thoughts of functional tropical furniture revolved around cement and iron, two materials that would stand firm in the battle of tropical living.
Marvin had designed and installed the iron works around our porch, which led me to believe that iron was the material of choice in Nicaragua. Plus, I needed a home for our TV and our pirated DVDs.

The internet picture

I found a picture of a Baker’s Rack on the internet, changed the design to meet my needs, and enlarged the dimensions. I asked Marvin, “Marvin, would it be difficult to make a similar bookcase?” “No problemo,” he responded. “¿Cuánto cuesta?” I asked. ( How much?) After some mad figuring on a piece of cardboard he found on our porch floor, he gave me a price of 200 dollars. I know that there is an art to bargaining and haggling in Nicaragua, but the price for the Baker’s Rack on the internet was $1,250 and that didn’t include shipping. Without giving it a second thought, we sealed the deal with a handshake.

Marvin’s creation

A week later, Marvin and his son carried the finished Baker’s Rack a mile and a half along the manure stained, volcanic sand path to our house. It was a marvel of perfection! That’s one of the things I love about living in Nicaragua; necessity is the mother of invention. Ask and they shall build. Marvin will be very busy in the weeks to come. I have plans for a coffee table, bar stools, and a pot rack. He is truly a master craftsman.

Isn’t it marvelous?

I also have big plans for Marvin. I want to help him create a business in marketing, designing, and selling his iron works furniture throughout Nicaragua. All he needs is some direction and a business plan….he definitely has the skills.