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Monday, May 15, 2017

How our views on consumerism have changed

This is Elise.  Mike and I have often asked ourselves if we could just live a simpler lifestyle in the US instead of living in Nicaragua.  Yes, we could live have lived a more reduced lifestyle in the US but here it is much easier to live simply.  We are not surrounded by stores that make it so easy to buy and offer greater savings the more you buy,  We are not surrounded by easy credit and attractively displayed merchandise.  In Granada, it is the opposite.  It's work just to buy just the stuff you need.  I am not tempted by cute, inexpensive clothing or household do-dads at big box stores.  In Granada there are mostly second hand clothing stores.  The stores often do not have good signage so they are difficult to find.  The stores don't have air conditioning, are usually not decorated and have music blaring at high volume most of the time.  So it is not very enjoyable for me to sweat my way through the used clothing racks and I generally avoid shopping.  I have to really need something to shop for it here. The other option is the 45 minute drive to Managua where they do have air conditioned department stores and a better selection of merchandise.  I am not saying this to complain.  I am making a point about how different it is here.  We don't have the good shopping like we did back in States but we do get what we need.
   The other reason we don't spend as much here is that we are surrounded by dire poverty.  A few weeks ago we had a friend selling a used refrigerator for $180.  We discussed buying the frig because our current one that came with our rental is small for a family or four.  It's like a puzzle trying to fit everything in there.  In the States, all our neighbors had an extra refrigerator and freezer in the garage and eventually we got one too.  It was a great place to keep the beer cold and store our Costco purchases. Here we are surrounded by poverty, not affluence.  That $180 we would spend on an extra refrigerator because we have too much food would feed a family of four for months.  We could not and would not justify spending so much when others have so little.
    I was sitting and observing the signs of poverty all around me this morning as the air conditioner was being fixed in my car.  The man with mismatched shoes.  The fence built of tree branches and other bits and pieces of random things.  The old lady carrying the boy over the muddy, unpaved street so his shoes would be clean for school.  I watched three men work on my car at once and solder a part back together that I know they would have replaced with a new one in the States.  There was a stray cow that nosed its way under my hood and the men had to shoo her away.  I reflect on my good fortune, that I even own a car and can afford to have the A/C fixed.
    Sometimes when I speak with people from the US I can't relate to them anymore.  They take for granted how easy it is to get things there.  The amounts of money they spend on gratuitous stuff, I can't relate.  The general idea that problems can be fixed by buying stuff, I can't relate.  The way people stress out over little things and worry about everything, I can't relate.  The length of time in traffic people spend commuting, I can't relate. For now, I am so thankful we are able to choose this lifestyle over that one.

video
Parrots making a racous while eating mangoes in our backyard

The Nicaraguan cowboy: Communicating a thousand words, without uttering one

I cannot stop thinking about a cowboy that I saw two days ago. Sierra, and I, arrived just before the end of Elise and Zoe's horseback riding lesson. Since we were just waiting for them to return from their trail ride, Sierra and I decided to walk around and check things out. In an adjacent field, I watched a kid walk up to a horse, grab the mane with his left hand and push down on the horse's hip with his right hand and sprung up onto the horse's back. The kid was barefoot. The horse was saddleless. Once the boy was on the horse he leaned forward and stretched as far as he could, until he was able to grab the tiny ropes used as reins. He was unaware that we were watching him. In fact, he was completely focused on his tasks and was in every manner a true cowboy.
   We watched him communicate to the cattle with whistles, shouts, and if needed, a stern push into the belligerent cattle with his well-mannered horse. He eventually rustled the dozen head of cattle and pushed them along. He was the only cowboy working in the field, and as I later found out, he happens to be 8 years old. He held his chest proud, even though he couldn't yet fill in his shirt. He was speaking volumes about dignity, leadership and a good work ethic, without ever uttering a word.
   My father grew up on a farm and could have easily related with this young man. However, for most of us, days of "Living off the land" are in the past, and sadly, so too are these powerful images of self reliance, regardless of age.
   Days later, and I still cannot shake this cowboy from my mind. Maybe he reminds me of what I love most about Latin America. Maybe he reminds me of how awesome my dad was. Or maybe he highlighted that some of our biggest barriers in life could be of our own creation. Regardless of inspiration, seeing this cowboy proves that virtual reality will never be as wonderful as unexpected, living outside your comfort zone, ultra reality.

Cowboys are made, they are not born.

Bareback, without shoes, and 100% cowboy.

Moving the cattle 

Leadership requires both knowledge and action and he had both in abundance.

Moving the cattle down the road to a neighboring pasture a half mile away.

         

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Hot market, cold feet

We put an offer down on a commercial property and are currently under contract. Sometimes it felt as if I was at a bidding war, and reminded me of a time, not too long ago, when all common sense was lost in the real estate market. I was apprehensive at times, and rightfully so. Through it all we did find a delightful 1920's craftsman bungalow with an adjoining apartment complex. An added bonus for us is that the units are about 110 feet from the beautiful tortoise waters of Florida's coast. Something my wife and kids are certain to enjoy is the massive oak tree in the front yard which the current owners have affectionately named the avatar tree. For those looking at buying a home or business it is okay to be cautious. It's okay to appear to have cold feet in a hot market. Go at your own speed and have fun.
   Tomorrow, I am going to fly back to Nicaragua to be with my family as the current owners need more time to pack up their memories. I really miss my wife and kids and have gained an enormous appreciation for those who have to be separated from their loved ones for extended periods of time.

The bungalow was originally purchased from a Sears and Roebuck catalog back in 1924.

The charm of a yesteryear bungalow.