The Minimalist Challenge

“Simplicity is complex. It’s never simple to keep things simple. Simple solutions require the most advanced thinking.”
― Richie Norton

I’ll confess! I don’t walk willingly into the minimalist world. I constantly fight it because I am a collector of artifacts, travel mementos, of everything! My life is one big collection of memoirs! Yet, living on a small island, in the middle of a huge sweet sea, in the middle of Nicaragua, in the middle of Central America, I have been forced to reduce and reuse because: we have NO trash pick-up, there is no Super Wal-Mart or even a mall on Ometepe Island, and life is undeniably simpler.

I guess that can be a good thing. Right? I am forced to reduce my carbon footprint. My neighbor, Marina, cleans my house three days a week. She constantly reminds me that I have many “chunches” (things) as she waves my dirty old underwear, used as a cleaning rag, under my nose. “Look at this dirt!” she says shaking her head and waving my old underwear.

So, I will…reluctantly…take Annette’s Minimalist Challenge because I know I must figure out a way to actively reduce the amount of plastic and tin we collect around the house.
“I would like to challenge YOU, my reader, to think of at least one action you can adopt in 2015 that will reduce plastic and other throw-away products; that will bring down energy usage; and/or minimize unnecessary consumption of any kind.”

I started feeding my dog and cats a little canned dog food every day as a treat. These tin cans add up, so this year I made a Christmas tree out of them.

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No Hay Luz

We ordered a new electric meter over one year ago. Our meter stopped working over six years ago. Finally, last month the electric company replaced our meter.

The new meter was installed on our tree trunk by the beach, and we anxiously watched the meter numbers turn,  hoping that we didn’t receive a “gringo” meter. That means that the meter spins faster than the amount of electricity we are using.


For several weeks, the wind has howled and we have lost our electricity. “Hay luz?” I shout to our neighbors. “Si, hay luz,” they respond. That means something is amiss on our line.

Two houses away, we spotted the problem. When the electric company installed our new meter, the only way they knew to stop the power was to cut our line. Apparently, they forgot to wrap the wire tightly around the line, because it was dangling precariously by a few threads. Every time the wind blew, Ron tramped up the road with our long fruit stick and jiggled the wire. “Hay luz?” he shouted. “Si, hay luz,” I yelled back.

Well, after a dozen times tramping down the road to jiggle the wire with our long fruit stick, we decided it was time to take action. Cory and Sam carried our heavy handmade ladder to the neighbor’s house, and Ron was going to fix the damn thing by himself.We knew it was senseless to call the electric company because first, you have to go to Altagracia (over an hour away) to put in a work order. Then, you have to wait, maybe a year, for the problem to be fixed.

As they squeezed under the barbed wire fence, a local guy, repairing another neighbor’s barbed wire fence, asked what we were doing. “We’re going to fix the wire for our electricity,” Ron responded. “Have you ever done anything like that before?” he asked suspiciously. “No, never,” we said.

We must have looked like novices. Before we could put the ladder on the pole, he offered to fix it for us. “Isn’t it dangerous?” I asked. “No, I’ve done this many times,” he laughed.

You are probably wondering about the electrical system in Nicaragua. Honestly, I wonder about it, too. Lines are thrown over the main lines haphazardly. Between the wind and the rain, lines are always breaking. The self-sufficient Nicaraguans shinny up the poles, like they are picking coconuts, and fix the wires with ease.

Five minutes later, with my nails bitten to the quick,  our wire was secured tightly to the main line. “Do you want 220, too?” he asked nonchalantly like a server at McDonalds would ask, “Do you want fries with that?”   The bottom line delivered the 220 volts, and he was kind enough to offer us a 220 line while he was dangling off our homemade ladder. “No thanks,” Ron said. “We have to buy more wire for that.”

We live in a crazy world..a world where you have to fix your own electric lines and pay for your own transformer. I was so grateful that he offered to light up our lives once again. We paid him 200 cords, about $8 for his work. He must have thought he had died and gone to heaven. The average pay is 70 cents an hour. For 5 minutes of his time and effort, he received a wage for two days of work and we received the gift of steady electricity.

On a side note, we’re exploring solar panels. Electricity is expensive and sporadic in Nicaragua. When it rains, no hay luz. A little wind, no hay luz. Sometimes, I swear they ration electricity, too. If you have any information on solar panels, where to buy in Nicaragua, cost, type, etc. please send me more info.