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.

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Happy Nicaraguan Mother’s Day

Mothers have a tremendous impact on the world in which we live. All the more reason to celebrate mothers and motherhood around the world.  Nicaragua celebrates Mother’s Day on Monday, May 30th. It is a holiday for all working mothers and my second celebration of Mother’s Day because we celebrate Mother’s Day in the states the first week in May.

To honor the mothers of Nicaragua, the La Paloma Elementary School performed dances, poetry readings, and songs for their mothers.

Maxwell was the DJ. He set up the laptop, downloaded music for the programs and connected the speakers to the laptop. He is the perfect media specialist!


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Thoughts of a Nicaraguan Groupie

violence causesI awoke this morning with the intention of writing about meeting places for a blogger’s travel theme. Then, I saw this quote and my thoughts were quickly diverted to group behavior, a sense of belonging, attempting to understand nationalistic pride, and where the seed of violence originates.

I have several issues with the quote by J. Krishnamurti. Mainly, what is wrong with a sense of belonging? People form groups for numerous reasons: companionship, security and survival, affiliation and status, power and control, and achievement. I believe power, control, greed, and intolerance…especially intolerance… are what breed violence.

I listened to John Lennon’s Imagine, while I was writing this post. In a perfect world, a life without violence is ideal. But, we live in an imperfect world, with unique and varied ideas, beliefs, thoughts, and traditions. We are not all the same, nor can we pretend to share the same beliefs. It is unrealistic to think that we can ever hope for sameness. The best that we can do is to hope for tolerance and understanding in our tumultuous world of differences.

Please keep reading. More about being a groupie ahead.

A Piñata Kinda Day

Sayid turned one year old in October. In honor of his first birthday, we were invited to a modest celebration, which included his initiation into the world of piñatas. His mother made a small orange carrot piñata. But, when she showed it to him the morning of his first birthday, he burst into tears and wailed like a pig going to slaughter.

I can understand his fear because according to the Catholic interpretation of the piñata, it symbolizes man’s struggle against temptation. The traditional piñata has seven points, which represent the seven deadly sins. To me, it resembles Sputnik, whirling around in space forever reminding us of our greed, sloth, pride, envy, gluttony, lust, and anger. No wonder the Nicaraguans named the famous land grab of the Sandinistas  “La Piñata”. After losing the 1990 election, the Sandinistas frantically confiscated property and government funds sharing their bounty among themselves.

With preparations for the fiesta underway, balloons “chimbombas” inflated like the rising cost of frioles, cooks flipped tortillas like IHOP professionals, and a political rally down the street seduced party goers with ear-piercing music and fireworks minus the sparkling fire. But, they soon returned when they discovered there was no piñata. For the piñata is the life of the party… the soul hidden among clusters of candy… seducing and reminding good Catholics everywhere to heed temptations that could lead to a life of misery.

Adults with sharp machetes whittled sticks of various sizes for the fiesta clad participants. When it was time to begin the celebration, Sayid swung his miniature stick at the swaying piñata with glee and determination. Older children, blindfolded to represent their faith, wiggled their hips to the ear thumping music, while adults tuned them in circles several times to represent the disorientation that temptation creates.

Whacking the piñata over and over, symbolically portrays the struggle against temptations and evils. When the piñata finally broke, the forlorn look on the children’s faces said it all. Where was the prize, the treats that represented keeping the faith? Ron and Francisco frantically searched through the shredded piñata and discovered the candy tightly wrapped in the head of the carrot. A few more strong whacks, and the candy showered the faithful children. The day was saved!

Some say that the piñata has lost its religious significance, but I don’t agree considering how many birthday parties I’ve attended in Nicaragua. Birthday parties ooze religious significance. After the broken piñata, the mountains of food, and the exceptionally long birthday song over Sayid’s first chocolate chip cake, I asked Francisco why the gifts were not opened in front of the guests. He said without a thought,  “It is a sin.” “I don’t understand why it is a sin,” I questioned. His response was, “We believe in the act of giving regardless of how small the gift. We would never embarrass anyone who offers something small, for all gifts, regardless of size, are gifts from God.” Now, that’s what I call a piñata kinda day!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Happy Masks

“I wish everyday could be Halloween. We could all wear masks all the time. Then we could walk around and get to know each other before we got to see what we looked like under the masks.” ~ R.J. Palacio

Masks fascinate me and make me happy.  They are reflections of unique cultures, worn like bridges from the outer phenomenal world to the inner person. Embossed with bold colors and expressions, masks evoke many reactions to the beholder, but for me, they always make me smile in wonder.  Masks are the poetry of a culture, the exquisite spirits of the past, and entertaining portrayals of our inner emotions.

Enjoy the masks of Nicaragua. I hope they make you smile. 🙂

And this just in! Nicaragua is the 8th happiest country in the world! Click here.

My Top Ten Gratitudes this Holiday Season

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10. I am grateful for generators. Our Puesta del Sol neighbors rented a generator for their premier film festival. It was a good thing, too, because the electricity was out for hours that night. Over 100 people attended the premier of ten short films created by a group of Quebec film makers.

9. I am grateful for sugar…brown and powdered. Even though we had to cross the lake to buy bags of powdered and brown sugar, I couldn’t have made my Christmas cookies without them. Sweet treats for all my wonderful neighbors and friends.

8. I am grateful for cool tropical breezes. Ron and I bought kites for the neighborhood kids for Christmas. December is a windy month…just right for sailing kites over the lake.

7. I am grateful for a Miami IP address. For days, I had been unable to get access to my blog or any WordPress website. I was frantic! Fortunately, with the purchase of a Miami IP internet address, I can reach my blog, as well as Pandora and Hulu, which are blocked from other countries. Unfortunately, my speed is still too slow for streaming video.

6. I am grateful for Skype. Six years ago, communicating with family and friends in the states was difficult. We had to walk over a mile and a half along a rutted black sand beach path to town. Then, we had to call from an internet phone to reach our family. Now, we have the internet in our house, and we can make daily Skype calls to our families.

5. I am grateful to be living in a place where tolerance and respect for different lifestyles is accepted and welcomed…where drag queens provide the entertainment at Christmas celebrations and people of all races, nationalities, and cultures dance together.

4. I am grateful for running water. Our extended Nicaraguan family in Los Ramos walks over two miles, one way, to get water from a well. In six years, they have been able to save enough money to run water lines, buy a pump, and prepare for running water in their homes. Now, they need to buy a $2,000 transformer from the electric company to run the pump. They are performing historical plays about Ometepe Island and asking for donations for their plays. It will take them forever to collect enough money to buy a transformer! I am detemined to help them, so that they can have running water in their homes soon! If you would like to make a donation for the transformer, or if you know of an organization that gives money to help rural communities supply running water to their homes, please contact me.

3. I am grateful for the opportunity to experience an old-fashioned, traditional Latino Christmas. My senses are bombarded: The church bells peal, the bombas explode with acrid smells of gunpowder, parades composed of drummers and trumpets march through the streets, radios blare Jingle Bells and traditional church music throughout the community, children dress in their frilliest clothes, and colorful Christmas pinatas sway in the wind in all their glory.

2. I am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of my local community. Several days ago, friends walked to our house from town. They asked Marina, if she could direct them to the gringos in La Paloma. Marina pointed next door and said, “Debbie and Ron live next door, but they are not gringos. They are Nicaraguan and part of our family.”

1. Finally, and most important, I am grateful for my family and friends throughout the world sharing love, compassion, and peaceful understanding this holiday season.