Monday, April 23, 2018

Nicaragua is being ripped apart

  This is from my FaceBook entry last night:
   At this moment, I regrettably have to report that Nicaragua is descending into the darkness of full revolt. Chaos is everywhere. People are suspicious of the police, military, and the government. We see vicious youth gangs sponsored by the government blending in with the peaceful protesters only to agitate and start street riots. Sadly, women and children are just as easily targeted by the youth gangs, police or the military. There is no entity to trust. Information is sometimes true and sometime false and we can't find out which, until it is often too late.
   The people are angry, and rightfully so. The people that are uprising are fighting against corruption, against censorship and against violence. Unfortunately, the well intentioned opposition has no leadership and therefore no one to negotiated on their behalf. As such we do not see a resolution anytime soon.
Gas station lines stretch for miles in some parts of the country and are just very long everywhere else. Looting has become an easy way to make some money and is spreading fast. Stores are starting to run out of food, water, and medical supplies, or are often closed all together. In the bustling tourist center of Granada nearly all of the restaurants are closed or are on some type of self imposed restriction. Street closures and blockades are common throughout the country. As I am writing this update, mortar style sky rockets can be heard in Granada, which is less than one mile away. Tear gas disperses the people but it enrages them too. We don't see an end in sight.
   About an hour ago, 500 unarmed students at the University Polytechnic UPOLI, in Managua, came under gunfire attack from the government forces. Nobody knows what the casualty rates will be, but it is an ominous sign gripping this country. We have seen evidence of hospitals refusing aid to injured protesters Food shortages and or store closures in Managua are making the already hungry populace even more desperate.
   Mobility within the country is fine during the day, if one stays on the main roads, but not safe or prudent from dusk till dawn. The protesters are not angry with the foreigners only their corrupt government. The U.S. embassy along with other foreign attaches have raised their respective threat levels to "discourage travel" to Nicaragua. Considering fuel, food and water are in such high demand, I would recommend anyone reading this message to head your government warnings.
Not all police or military are stealing, we have heard reports of honest government forces helping people push back mobs of thugs who are pillaging whole neighborhoods. The whole country is gripped with fear. The confusion of not knowing what is real or fake, whom to trust or not is wearing on everyone's nerves.
What gets my family and I so upset is the people whom we've come to love, no longer speak of war in the abstract. Weapons are being made and distributed to the people. The first weapons consisted of rocks or bricks, then machetes or other metal devices. People speak of building bow and arrows. People are too willing to die for it to feel safe anymore.
   It is with a broken heart that my two daughters, wife and I have decided to leave Nicaragua later this week, god willing. Our decision to leave comes after analyzing where Nicaragua is at this moment and realizing that the opposition has no leadership. Further, we do not see any negotiated settlement especially since the government is being so tyrannical and unyielding.
   You should all know that the Nicaraguan people are fighting for all the right reasons. They are fighting for liberty, justice and government accountability. These people want peace and the ability to be happy just as you do.
   Our 2 years years in Nicaragua are what dreams are made of. Sure it was nice seeing the beaches and the volcanoes but what made Nicaragua magical was her people. From the moment we drove across the border in 2015, the people of this country stole our hearts. Viva Nicaragua! Viva Libertad! Viva Amistad! Viva Paz!
For reliable news on the developments in Nicaragua visit 100%noticias.comor #SosNicaragua or other Facebook and social media threads

Monday, April 16, 2018

Anniversaries: truths and changes

Have you ever seen something so beautiful that it leaves you speechless, until later, when you try to describe it and you can't stop talking about it? Anniversaries, birthdays and more meaningful holidays remind us of times gone by, our journeys, and of futures unknown. Our family, consists of a 47 year old dad, two daughters (12 and 9 years old), and a mom/wife of double "top secret" age. We recently came together to discuss whether we should stay in Nicaragua or move back to the U.S.
   Our discussion coincided around the same time frame as our second anniversary, in Nicaragua, so each of us had stories to share about how this country impacted us in unique ways. Hearing both of my daughters excitedly describe their journey of experiences, friendships, and how they grew in the process brought tears of joy to all of our eyes. My wife explained with a quivering voice, "I no longer feel like I'm living in a fog and I love waking to the birds and a sky full of colors every morning." I found it difficult to fill my lungs with air describing the wonderful friends we each made. My daughters knew daddy was heartbroken, all they had to do was look at my eyes and watch me gasp for air whilst trying to speak.
   Truth is, after two years in Nicaragua we still haven't found a business to buy, one that I'd have a passion for owning anyway. We went through these options as we saw them:
1. Kick the can down the road and continue looking for a business
2. Stay for another year here and look for more opportunities in the U.S. then go back north.
3. Buy a business that I wasn't truly inspired to own so that we could stay in Granada.
4. Buy a business in the U.S., in a place that that we could all agree on and pursue a different dream.
   One by one, we each reluctantly chose the 4th option, it was the one that made the most sense. We each had our moments of saying yes, then no, then mostly yes. We stood there, each of us with an equal vote, each of us on our own emotional journey, and each of us supporting one another.
    After a couple of days of processing our decision to leave we agreed that the best plan of action is to do a "Walk about" in the U.S. Essentially this means buying an RV or travel trailer, and seeing the communities with our own eyes and if we need to homeschool for a period, than so be it. We have ideas on what is important to each of us and we are going to let it flow.
   My wife is so supportive, she wants me to live a more fulfilling life and knows early retirement would waste my talents. I know my wife will help me choose a path which is best for the family. My daughters are equally supportive, they witness mommy's actions and understand this journey is for everyone's benefit. I know my daughters will also help me choose a path which is best for the family. As for me, I see our world changing and realize that we were so fortunate to have extended my daughters' youth, and their pretend world of magical powers as long as we could have. Playtime and hearing the laughter of my kids and all of their friends is what motivates me for the next phase of our lives.
   This blog was written to be like a daily journal of a family moving abroad. Soon, this blog will be about a family who found love and happiness on that journey and their attempts to reintegrate into the modern world. Part of me fears that we will be like an asteroid, disintegrating once we enter the atmosphere. Yet, I also see a blindingly beautiful place where my wife and kids have sun to their backs and wind in their hair. Whatever the future holds, I cannot foretell. Sometimes, though, letting go is the most powerful thing one can do. 


Thursday, February 15, 2018

A class field trip to Cafe de las Sonrisas

Cafe de las Sonrisas is a cafe slash hammock workshop that directly employs disadvantaged people. In this case, the majority of the employees are deaf. As a customer when you buy a hammock or a breakfast here, you directly give back to the people who need it most. I recommend visiting places like this while on vacation, for it is as close to a fair trade deal as it gets. 
    Our school chose to do a field trip here for obvious reasons, and in fact most of us who live in Granada visit this place a few times a year without fail. The field trip is similar to, and yet so different to something one would expect in North America. Similar in that there are chaperones, a bus ride, and demonstrations. And that's pretty much where the similarities end. The casualness and laid back attitudes of the adults allowing the kids to be kids cannot be ignored. I mean, if you want a blast to the past and experience 1970's parenting, in all of it's glory, then this was it. Kids were scaling wood pillars, walls, and horsed around and nobody minded not even the establishment. 
   Cafe de las Sonrises reportedly has the largest hammock in the world. What better way to observe the magnitude of such a grand hammock than with three classes of student romping around on it at the same time. Again, nobody cared. In fact, they encouraged the kids to have fun and like any good uncle, wound up the kids just before the kids had to leave. There are many things to like about Nicaragua and their easy going parenting style is one of them. 

How many kids can you stuff onto a hammock at the same time? 

Zoe and her favorite teacher learning how to weave.

The kids sat down for a presentation.

A tricked out school bus with a spoiler on the back.

Inside of the bus was equally tricked out with two wall mounted televisions and loud salsa music.

The kids learned how to spell their names in sign language.

Showing the youngsters how to make a hammock.

A great bathroom idea! This concept started because of the obvious question, how do you yell, "I need some more toilet paper!" to a deaf person down the hall? The owner explained, to the contractor that cafe needed more toilet paper holders than he had previously installed and that he had to come back to fix it. The contractor did not want to be called out again so he installed a few extra holders for the cafe. Afterwards, the owner of the cafe, saw the restrooms and laughed. And as history would have it, these restrooms have become quite popular with tourists as well.

Right now I am on a juicing diet so seeing this petal-powered blender was a welcome sight.

Plenty of room on this hammock.

Granada's annual poetry festival

Okay...I know what you are thinking, a poetry festival is about as exciting as watching grass grow. I have been there too. My past experiences can be summed up by squeaky college aged kids overly emphasizing their emotions while reading angry prose. The humanity of it all...
   Happily, Granada's annual poetry festival is a gem of professional writers from all over the world. Poets were reading in German, Finnish, French, English, Spanish and a half a dozen other languages for all to enjoy. The events are free and represent the best prose, in the world today. The energy level was high and the crowds motivated the speakers to press on. This is not only a celebration of an interplay between words it's also a celebration of Nicaragua's most famous poet and national icon Ruben Dario

Poetry being read in front of the San Francisco convent

Sierra's 12th birthday party

For Sierra's 12th birthday party she wanted a techno/disco theme with glow in the dark paints and finger lights. Needless to say, it was one heck of a rager. The kids danced, sang, ate, and had so much fun. The strobe lights, thumping music, and glowing faces gave our living room a rave party feel. The kids were shouting, "This is the best party EVER!" while they were dancing. I have to admit, the few parents that were there agreed, it was an awesome party. Fact is, our kids are getting older and their tastes are starting to get more defined. Watching Sierra prep and plan for her party was just as fun as the party itself. She is quite the artist and her creativity is what made the evening so special. Sometimes I wish time could stand still and do another million butterfly kisses with Sierra and hear her giggles forever. But, that's just not realty.

Birthday girl
Present time

Homemade cheesecake 

Homemade cupcakes on my beer tray :)


Baby bunnies, oh my

We had some new additions to our backyard. One of our female rabbits gave birth to three cute bunnies. The kids were over joyed and although I smiled too, I could not stop thinking about how are we going to get rid of them. Well, as nature would have it, bunnies are prolific and predators are crafty. Without saying anything else, we now only have one of those bunnies left. The gods favored the predators and in the process we achieved an equilibrium that I can live with. Having so many animals around our home has taught our girls that the cycle of life is much bigger than our emotional attachments. Whether the predators were owls, opossums, or snakes is irrelevant as the creatures of the wild need to live too.
    This is such a different world from the suburban bubble that we used to live, in our yesterlife. In our former hermetically sealed lives everything was so uniform and neat. Tuna came in a can, Chicken came in pieces, everything was so tidy, and there was never any blood, or loss, ever. Here, like other rural communities, we eat somewhat closer to earth. For example, our neighbor regularly butchers his animals and occasionally ours too. Eating a rooster that was crowing 3 hours before is now our new definition of fresh. The meat not only tastes sweeter but our appreciation for Robert the rooster means that we don't waste anything either, and I mean anything.
   We have some Italian friends (from Italy) back in Texas. Prior to our trip to Latin America grandma Linda said, "As a little girl I used to get a bunny every Easter as a pet." We replied like usual people by saying, "Ah, how cute." She then finished her story by saying, "We ate my pet rabbit every Christmas... and I got a new bunny every Easter." Our jaws dropped, we stood there in shock. We were mortified. What do we say? We managed to stutter that we were sorry she had to go through that. She simply smiled, like a reminiscing grandma would, and softly said, "That's the way it was back then and I was happy to do my part for the family."
    Fast forward 3 years and I get it, I truly get it now. Living closer to nature, unfiltered, with its dirty beauty is the truest way that I have ever lived. More importantly, my daughters get it too, and thankfully at a much younger age than I.
   For the record: Our bunnies are off limits to human consumption as I apparently swore under oath to my daughters that we would never have Hasenpfeffer :)

Baby bunny bliss.
Even my wife got in on the bunny lovin'.

Mother nature's fast food.

Zoe's best friend loves all animals.

Cutest to the tenth power.

Sierra put hibiscus flowers in her hair to keep them away from the bunnies. She later pulled the flowers down one by one when she was ready to feed the bunnies. 

Friday, January 12, 2018

El Castillo on the Rio San Juan

An old Spanish fort guards this tiny hamlet on the San Juan river. Long a favorite destination for backpackers, El Castillo is now going mainstream with professional anglers and jungle enthusiasts. Still, though, the prices are affordable and locals love meeting new tourists. El Castillo is a major jumping off point to proceed east into the various parks. Much of the river San Juan is the actual border between Nicaragua and Costa Rica, so military check points are frequent. If you plan on visiting the area definitely bring your passport. It is the law!

A view of el Castillo 

A burned out remnant from slashing and burning to make room for palm plantations. This burned out stump was at least 30 feet tall and 12 feet wide at the base. It must have been a huge tree while it was alive.

Different military sectors along the river. 

A stroll through downtown el Castillo.

We liked the riverside community.

We ran into some American fisherman that come down here every year for the world class tarpon.

No cars here so the horses do all the work.

Daydreaming is good for the mind.

This canoe has seen better days.

Climbing to the top of a once strategic fort.

Having fun in the ruins.

The fort had a commanding view of both sides of the river.
Beautiful countryside around the fort.

Overlooking the thin strip of a town.

The flag of Nicaragua blowing in the wind.

Having fun

Taking a break.

Once formidable weaponry now obsolete.

Shane and his cousin Cheyenne.

River living.

Old timer enjoying the view from his back deck

Watching the world go by.

Freshwater shrimp

The freshwater shrimp were both large and delicious.

I often wonder what my kids are thinking when we see cool spots like this.