Humans of Nicaragua: Ever Builds a New Community


“What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, Palm Sunday: An Autobiographical Collage

On October 8, 2014 Ometepe Island, Nicaragua had heavy rains that caused rock and mudslides to slip off Concepcion Volcano and destroy the lovely indigenous community of Los Ramos. A five year-old girl was swept away in the strong current. Their homes were inundated with 2 ft. of mud and water supply lines were crushed by heavy boulders. There was no electricity, and their fields of plantains and beans were destroyed. They lost everything. My post Broken Lives.

My dear friend Ever Potoy was part of the destroyed community of Los Ramos. I have known Ever for about 10 years, yet it wasn’t until my son Cory and his friend Sam, worked with the community of Los Ramos to help them develop cultural tourism programs in 2012, that I really got to know Ever.  Here is my post about their work in Los Ramos: Tourism: Embrace the People, Not Just the Place.

Ever is 27 years old and an only child. He is the director of the Los Ramos Cultural Tourism programs and has a degree in English. Several generations of Potoys lived in Los Ramos, with his grandfather being one of the founders of the community many years ago.

Ever described his community as friendly, close, and hard-working. His mother was an elementary school teacher in Los Ramos. His father is a farmer and works in agriculture. He plants beans, rice, corn, wheat, plantains, and watermelons. His father inherited the land in Los Ramos from his father and continues to carry on the tradition of farming in this predominantly agricultural community.

More than 600 people lived in Los Ramos before the landslide. It was a good place to grow up because it was safe.

When Ever was young, his first job was to walk two kilometers to the lake to get water from the well, then haul it uphill to his house.

When I was young, I had to walk to get the water, but when I got older, I took a horse.

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Let’s Get Real About When Tourism Can Kill


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Warning: This is a rant. No beautiful photos of dreamy sunsets will go with what I have to say. Yet, I have to get this off my chest…When irresponsible and uncontrolled tourism leaves a wake of destruction in its path   It. Isn’t. Pretty

The truth is that irresponsible tourism can kill. It kills unsuspecting people, cities, small towns in pristine places, and our fragile environment. It kills morale and self-confidence, replacing them with fear and denial.  In its wake, it leaves us bewildered, confused, frustrated, afraid, and angry…oh so angry.

Irresponsible tourism affects everyone from the locals who are displaced to the business owners to the foreigners who have chosen to retire and live abroad. It affects us in Nicaragua and we are all responsible for the consequences of our irresponsible actions. No one gets off the hook easily…not anymore.

Yet, exposing the dirty side of irresponsible tourism in Nicaragua is a big NO! NO! Those who are courageous enough to speak out are harassed, shunned, and/or blocked from expat forums. Why? Well, I suspect a number of reasons, the biggest reason is economic. Responsible and sustainable tourism can provide direct jobs to the community and indirect employment generated through other industries such as agriculture, food production, and retail.

Responsible tourism can bring about a real sense of pride and identity to communities. By showcasing distinct characteristics of their ways of life, history and culture, tourism can encourage the preservation of traditions which may be at risk of losing their unique identities and cultural heritage.

Nicaragua relies heavily on tourism. Visitor expenditure generates income for the local communities, which can lead to the alleviation of poverty. The benefits of responsible and sustainable tourism are great, yet what about the problems that irresponsible tourism brings and how do we solve those problems without creating an awareness of them first?

I have written about the Codes of Responsible Travelers and I think that if we are responsible travelers we are aware of the effect we have on the places we visit. Yet, there is another side of tourism that is rarely discussed. What responsibilities do the locals have, the business owners, the local government, and the foreigners who have chosen to live in the high tourist areas? Do we escape accountability for when bad things happen?

I have given this much thought, and although I do not have a business in Nicaragua, I see the effects of the good and the bad practices daily. In discussing my thoughts, I want to make sure it is presented in a context where I don’t place anyone on the defensive or create emotional turmoil. I read about the problems on expats of Nicaragua forums, and I talk with many local and foreign business owners. These are only my thoughts on the problems. I place no blame on any group, but I think it is time that we ask ourselves some important questions to help our tourist communities be safe, enjoyable, and unique places for tourists to visit.

With the influx of foreigners moving to Nicaragua and starting businesses, are we loving Nicaragua to death? So….

Let’s Get Real About When Tourism Can Kill with six important questions we should ask ourselves as expats.

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The Island of Pepes


“Even the ocean waves take their hellos to the people all the time. I should take my hellos down to the beach and sell waves to the tourists.”
― Jarod Kintz

 

After exploring the most touristy places in Cartagena, Colombia, we wanted to visit a place that was tranquil and similar to our home island, Ometepe, Nicaragua. We researched Tierra Bomba and according to the history and reviews of this island, it appeared to be the best place to escape the crowds.

Tierra Bomba is described as a forgotten island, although it is only 15 minutes away from Cartagena by boat. On Tierra Bomba there are about 9,000 residents who make a living from tourism and fishing. It is not a typical destination for tourists. Perfect for us!

IMG_0409Anthony Bourdain loved this island. He used words like tranquil and far from the maddening crowds as he ate a delicious lobster lunch in a small rancho by the sea. Yep! We were going to go to Tierra Bomba for a day of relaxation, fun in the sun, and mouth-watering lobster.

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Humans of Nicaragua: Sergio’s Faith


“Sometimes beautiful things come into our lives out of nowhere. We can’t always understand them, but we have to trust in them. I know you want to question everything, but sometimes it pays to just have a little faith.”
― Lauren Kate, Torment

 

IMG_1500Sergio was one of my ESL students in 2004. He took his studies seriously and when he graduated from high school in 2006 he was valedictorian of his class. Now, Sergio is manager of the Corner House Restaurant and Hotel in Moyogalpa on Ometepe Island.

But, how did a small-town country boy become a manager of one of the most popular restaurants and hotels on Ometepe Island?

Sergio says, It is because of faith. It is not important of my actual situation in life because I know that when I have faith in the future, I will have a better situation in life.

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Waiting…


                  “You told me once of the plants that lie dormant through the drought, that wait, half-dead, deep in the earth. The plants that wait for the rain. You said they’d wait for years, if they had to; that they’d almost kill themselves before they grew again. But as soon as those first drops of water fall, those plants begin to stretch and spread their roots. They travel up through the soil and sand to reach the surface. There’s a chance for them again.”
Author: Lucy Christopher

                                                                     
I walked along the bed of Lake Cocibolca listening to the exhausted earth groan. Her bed is disheveled, scattered with tiny puddles of what once had been the life force of her grand body.
IMG_1421The exposed lake bed lay panting in the relentless and monotonous burning sun. Spirals of heat rise from the parched ground as if from molten lava from Concepcion Volcano who watches from afar.
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Weekly Photo Challenge: Blending Old and New Landscapes in Cartagena


“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” ~ Socrates

The Weekly Photo Challenge is Landscape.

Cartagena, Colombia is a perfect blend of old and new. Known for 6.8 miles of protective walls built around the city, the historic center or Old Town is the soul of Cartagena.
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Weekly Photo Challenge: The Half-Light of Cartagena


The Weekly Photo Challenge is half-light.

We recently returned from Cartagena, Colombia. During our trip, we visited Tierra Bomba Island, a short 15 minute boat ride from the skyscrapers of Cartagena. I call it the island of Pepes because everyone we met was named Pepe. Stay tuned for our wild experience on the Island of Pepes. Meanwhile enjoy my haiku and photo of Cartagena’s skyscrapers bathed in half-light.

                                                  The world shines half-light
                                                      defining Cartagena
                                                    dimming skyscrapers

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Stories Behind the Street Art of Getsemaní


“Art is an evolutionary act. The shape of art and its role in society is constantly changing. At no point is art static. There are no rules.”
― Raymond Salvatore Harmon, BOMB: A Manifesto of Art Terrorism

Getsemaní used to be known for drugs and crime, and was far from the cultural epicenter of Cartagena, Colombia that it now represents. Getsemaní has emerged from a complicated past and evolved into a burgeoning barrio complete with a live music scene and an artistic community spirit.

Recently with revitalization, this once seedy neighborhood has become the coolest, most authentic, and colorful part of Cartagena. These murals represent new issues that are plaguing Getsemani, such as racial segregation, gentrification and increasing tourism. I was in photographer’s heaven. Join me as we roam the vibrant street art of Getsemaní while the art unveils itself.

IMG_1159Amazing portrait of a homeless man who sleeps on the sidewalk below this wall.
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Opening Doors in Cartagena, Colombia


“I feel very adventurous. There are so many doors to be opened, and I’m not afraid to look behind them.” ― Elizabeth Taylor

Two of the best reasons to live in Nicaragua are the low-cost of living and location, location, location. Since we are centrally located to many areas of the world and we don’t spend a lot of money to live comfortably, we can pursue our passions for travel.

We just returned from Cartagena, Colombia. What an amazing cosmopolitan city it is! We booked a cozy apartment in the walled Old City through Airbnb, Martha’s Place. Leaving our little hobbit door in our loft bedroom, we explored the old and the new from one vibrant door to another.

Let's open some doors together to this marvelous city.

Let’s open some doors together to this marvelous city.

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Four Places on Ometepe Island to Study, Love, and Stay Close to Nature


“Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.” ~ Frank Lloyd Wright

On Valentine’s Day we took our friends on a tour of Ometepe Island. Our neighbor has a new touring van, and for $50 for the entire day, he took us to our four favorite places.

First Stop: Charco Verde Nature Reserve

Slowing down to observe nature is an art. By examining the shapes of trees, the colors of the flowers, or noticing the ways a landscape can change over time with different effects of light, always provides me with inspiration in the natural world.

I am fascinated with the study of ethology, or the study of non-human animal behavior…especially the Howler monkeys. On the Charco Verde trails we always see Howler monkeys. Depending on the time of day, they are either swinging gleefully among the branches, howling loudly, or napping peacefully in the tree tops. This morning, they were snoozing.

The cormorants gathered to feed at the edge of the green lagoon, while the goats wandered and bleated along the trails. Butterflies, iguanas, and  hurracas ( like big Blue Jays),  fluttered, fled, and flitted throughout the dusty trails.

It was a beautiful morning to be up close to nature. It never fails us.

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