Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Electric Powered Odyssey: USA to Patagonia on an Electric Motorcycle

Yesterday i went to my friend Thomas' house, where he was packing up the remainder of his belongings and having them delivered to storage via horse-drawn cart. That's how it gets done here in Nicaragua. 

For the past couple months, Thomas and i have been working to launch a big project that i'm excited to tell you about today. In a few short weeks, Thomas will be on the road on a Zero S motorcycle, an electric motorcyle with a range of about 150 miles, heading from the U.S. to the tip of South America.

So far no one has done this 12,000-mile trip on an electric motorcycle, so Thomas will be the first. He'll have to stop a couple times a day to plug in and charge the motorcycle, meaning he'll have lots of cool adventures meeting local people and sharing the experience with those he meets. Exciting!

Along the way i'll be arranging video shoots and promoting the trip, while Thomas is meeting with motorcycle enthusiasts and checking out how the electric grid is fueled in each country. The idea is to make a documentary film that explores the topics of eco tourism, responsible tourism and adventure motorcycling. I'll be helping by spreading the word as far and wide as i can manage -- including periodic updates here on Raising a Revolutionary. When he passes through Nicaragua, i may even join him on the road for a while!

Check out this quick video of Thomas loading his "moving van" yesterday.

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If you're interested in getting even more updates, check out the Electric Powered Odyssey Facebook page, or follow ElectroMotoRecord on Twitter.

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And since working on this project means i'm going to be spending even more time at my computer, i'd love to have this workout-slash-monitor tower for my desk so i don't miss my workouts. Check out the OffyT and help those folks get their workspace workout aid off the ground.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Playing Tour Guide and Tourist

One of the joys of working from home and working for yourself: when your friends or family comes to town, it's no big deal to take a couple days off and to show them the best your city has to offer. This week our cousins arrived for a trip that ended up being way too short for us -- we wanted them to stay longer!

We went on a boat tour of the little islands of Lake Nicaragua
Checked out the city's many gorgeous churches and towers
And had a couple water fights!


 Granada is a place that's not yet on everyone's radar, but it's only a matter of time before it is. Every time i get out and take some time off from my regular day-to-day in front of this computer, i am amazed at everything the area has to offer. If you're the work-online or work-from-home type of person, there's no reason you can't bring yourself and your kids down here for a year of fun, sun and adventure! Your schedule is your own, so what do you want to do with it?

(My friend at Me My Journey is doing just that -- owning her schedule and working from home. Check out how she's doing dropshipping to make a great living.)

And even as i play tour guide and have a great time, real life still seeps in and demands my time. So after being out late and enjoying Laguna de Apoyo as long as we possibly could, the next morning i was up before the dawn to be the adult chaperone for Empowerment International's bike club. I love the morning smells, the views of the mountains, and touring around with these kids. I was the adult in the group, but they're the bike experts and i learn so much from them!
Some of the incredible views of Lake Cocibolca and Granada in the distance

Who knew my workout crew here would be a group of teens?


It's funny to me that i've exchanged a room full of dancing women (Zumba) for a small group of teens as my workout partners. But they're awesome and i can't think of a better group to join when i go from being a tour guide to the tour-ist!

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Two really cool workout-related things to tell you about: First, check out PlayEnable -- a site to find the workouts and fitness classes you want when traveling (or at home) and to sign up instantly. Super cool!

Also check out Mom Meet Mom, where moms can hook up with other moms who have the same interests and want to get out and do stuff. Mountain biking anyone??

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Border Crossings

Sometimes, it's just good to get away.

When you're a temporary resident of a country -- also known as a long-term tourist -- the way you stay in the country of choice is by leaving said country every three months or six months or however long your tourist visa is valid. Here in Nicaragua, the 90-day visa they grant non-residents means we have to go to Costa Rica every three months to renew that 90 days, and that's a good thing for my sanity.
Playa Ocatal, Guanacaste Costa Rica

Across a simple border that's really just a metaphorical line in the dirt, so much is different. Where Nicaraguans are loud and rough around the edges and more likely to attend a hipica -- a rodeo -- on the weekends, Costa Ricans are quieter, more reserved and more likely to wear surf shorts and head to the beach to catch some waves. In Nicaragua the public buses are converted school buses imported from North America; in Costa Rica they're public transit buses like you'd see in North America, plastic bucket seats and all. None of them are really "public," but you get the idea. Near our home on the lakeside of Nicaragua, the air is fresher and cooler at night; in Costa Rica, it's damn hot. Nicaraguans are more likely to eat at the local cafetins, at the local streetside fritanga, or at home; in Costa Rica, chain restaurants like Subway and McDonald's are not an uncommon sight. Nicaragua is really affordable; Costa Rica's prices rival those in the U.S. -- and sometimes go above.

Of course, there are also similarities -- they both love gallo pinto -- beans and rice -- but in Costa Rica the beans are black; in Nicaragua red. Men whistle at the ladies. They're surprised when you can actually do more than count to ten in Spanish.

After so long in one place, it's good to get this type of perspective, and to get the chance to teach the rebelangel a few things about human transit. Like how to suddenly start converting a new form of currency into dollars, or talking about why we have to cross the border every three months, and whether people who are not from the U.S. have to do the same thing if they want to stay in our country.

She asked whether a Nicaraguan had to do the same thing in the U.S. -- and it was a complicated conversation. I tried to explain that they're not necessarily allowed to enter the U.S. at all, and that they're not allowed to simply cross into Canada or Mexico to renew the visa again. How can i begin to explain that as U.S. citizens we're allowed more freedom of movement worldwide than most people? And what to say when a child asks "Why?" Dios mio.

Of course, getting out means a lot more vigilance than i've become used to -- not letting the rebelangel out of my sight... even in a relatively tranquilo hotel. It means grabbing her arm in the street so she doesn't go dashing out into traffic... reminding her that she can't brush her teeth with the water, because there's new bacteria, and all the stuff that comes with being strangers once again.

So while it's good to get out, it's also good to get home and relax. After two days and many buses and much learned, we're finally back home, enjoying the sweet breezes of Lake Cocibolca again.

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I suppose if i really wanted to keep an eye on the rebelangel while i'm sitting in a hammock on the patio of the hotel, i could download this handy app that Nick created -- which turns your smartphone or tablet into a baby monitor. Traveling parents -- Baby Phonic seems totally up your alley!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Busting Out

After a few weeks of just plain living, i am ready for a little change.

While we need to stick close to the homestead most of the time so the kiddo can go to school, those four walls are not the only place where learning is found. Here, everything is an experience.

I was talking with a friend about busting out of Nicaragua for a couple days and going to Costa Rica. I was thinking we'd have to be back Sunday night, because of course the kiddo has school... but then my friend pointed out that the rebelangel's education was not only wrapped up in that school. Her education is also everything she's experiencing... every time she rides a packed bus and someone gives her a seat, every time she sees turtles nesting on a beach or snorkels for the first time, she's learning.

So it's also OK to let her -- and me -- have that education in the world and to break out of our everyday routine often.

A good friend and her son are coming here soon too -- so it's going to be great to see that boy's eyes open to all the new experiences, and for us to get to see Nicaragua like a stranger once again. Traveling with kids -- especially in Latin America -- kind of gives you an advantage, because mothers tend to be so respected here and kids are pretty much allowed to be as free as they want to be. I'd say we all have it pretty good!

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I love what Mark Wadie is doing with his book about rites of passage for boys passing into manhood. "How a Boy Becomes a Man" teaches boys to use their passions, to be protective nurturers, and to at the same time be strong men. Check out the book, coming out next week!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Things to Do: Everyone Loves a Parade

We have a lot of down time in Nicaragua, and that's a good thing for an American kid who tended to be overscheduled in her old life. Still, we do tend to suffer from a lack of things to do. If we had a car or wanted to pay a driver, there's plenty of beautiful countryside to see -- but that's not always feasible and it would be nice to have more things to do right in the city. Heck, even a fun toy store to poke around in would be fun, even for this tween.

So when there is something fun to do, everyone comes out in droves. Yesterday a parade came down the main tourist strip and of course we went. It happened to take place on Ash Wednesday -- and it looked like it could be a Mardi Gras parade, Nica style, but supposedly it was really a parade celebrating the International Poetry Festival that's currently in Granada. In any case, there was lots to see...

The traditional Baile Folklorico dancers
Jokers and tricksters, making noise


Kids taking a break, but putting on their costumes just for me
Güegüeguense Gigantes, cool but kinda creepy

So there's not always nothing to do besides eat and drink in Granada...



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If we had access to a virtual toy store -- any toy store, dang it! -- we'd probably be letting one of these cool light up night copters fly over our pool and beyond. Send me one!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Going to the Dentist in a Developing Country

Back home in the U.S., if someone brings up the topic of medical care in a foreign country, it's usually met with a shudder. "Sure," we think, "our country has a long way to go in figuring out how to make it less expensive and accessible to all, but we've still got it pretty good, right -- I mean better than those developing countries, at least." Maybe.
Smooching my kiddo, even with a sore jaw.

Now that i am living in a developing country, it was only going to be a matter of time before something required medical attention. This time, it was my teeth. A dull ache started in my outer jaw this past weekend and wouldn't go away. Of course the first things to come to my mind were that i had come down with Dengue fever or Chikungunya -- both mosquito-borne illnesses which tend to manifest in joint pain first. I don't get bit by mosquitoes much, but jaws are joints, so i was worried... but nope -- just a good old fashioned toothache.

A friend recommended a good dentist in Managua, urging me to go there first because three of her teeth had been lost to a less-than-skilled guy in Granada -- so off i went on the chicken bus. I hopped off the highway, sweaty and hair blown from the long ride, and walked a few steps to the glittery offices of my Nicaraguan dentist. Inside the air was cool and the counters were marbled. The receptionist had me fill out the same medical history forms i'd fill out back home -- but of course these ones were in Spanish and i was glad i'd brought along my dictionary just in case.

On the walls of the office were plaques from the American Acedemy of Periodontists and other accolades that told me this guy knew was he was doing -- and i have to admit it soothed me a bit. Horror stories of friends losing teeth were not what you wanted to hear when you had had a four-day toothache and had been drinking a lot more soda these past months than you'd normally drink. What can i say? It's hot and bubbly beverages are appealing. (In hindsight, i probably should have been taking better care and paying better attention to my nutrition; Zeal for Life probably would have helped!)

After about one hour, i had a brand new white filling to replace the metal one that had cracked. There was no rescheduling me to come in for the work; once i was in there i didn't even have to leave the chair -- not even to get the X-rays or whatever kind of scan the dentist did by pulling out tube-like thing on the side of the chair to take images of my mouth. No one left the room during the scans either...which made me wonder if they were getting exposed to radiation?

Basically though, the dentist hooked me up with a better filling than i had before, didn't mess around with a lot of time-wasting later appointments, and cleaned my teeth better than i've had them done in a long while. Yes, it hurt a little, but it was a good kind of hurt. The grand total: $80. Yes.

I'll soon be going back to get ALL of my metal fillings taken out -- why have them in my mouth giving me potential mercury poisoning when it costs $40 to take them out and have them replaced? Developing nation medicine: WIN.

Of course, the free health care that is accessible to most people without cost here in Nicaragua is not nearly as good -- or at least that's what i hear. But for this single parent who was frightened of developing world diseases and hasn't had a teeth cleaning in a couple years because she can't afford to pay out of pocket back home, this was a total WIN.

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Speaking of hurting a little, i love the message that authors Karen McMahon and Lisa Brick are sending with their book "Stepping Out of Chaos," a guidebook for those dealing with divorce. One big message in the book: pain can lead to personal transformation. Indeed it can!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

What Makes a Successful Expat?

I've been thinking about the people who do the expat thing long-term and how they manage to survive and thrive doing it.

This is one successful expat.
There are lots of expat archetypes out there... the ones who are running from trouble back home, the ones who make a career of drinking, those looking for young girls (or boys) to exploit, those looking for a less-expensive lifestyle -- sometimes so they can simply offer their families the schools and activities they want, other times so they can feel lordly and lord around a place, chests puffed up feeling good about looking down at everyone below. There are the do-gooders who start NGOs, the investors who start enterprises to take advantage of the cheap labor, the sun gods and goddesses who can't deal with winters in Ohio or New York or Pennsatucky, the linguists, the English teachers, the just plain wandering souls who ended up here, after much wandering. There are those who embrace learning the local language and culture, and others who hardly speak a word after decades.

There are plenty of other types, but those are a few. I'm probably a mix of a few of those.

But among those who stay, i often wonder whether they like feeling like strangers. Or even if they do. Are they OK with knowing that they'll never be "one of them," and that's what they like about it?

I think the ideal situation for an expat is to learn the local language -- which should go without saying but doesn't -- and to make friends in the community. At the same time, that successful expat has to be sure in her own skin and to know about her own culture, so she can have an identity that is her own. A lot of travelers i know get down on those expats who only hang out with other expats -- but there's reasons behind it, beyond just not wanting to embrace the local culture.

People need to preserve their original identities -- at least somewhat. They need to be around people who understand who they are and where they came from. So the successful expat, in my mind, has friends on both sides. It's no good to never mix with the locals and to never get to know them, but it's also no good -- at least for me -- to be so immersed that you're disoriented when you do go back home, even if it is for a time. A friend pointed out to me that in U.S. cities, there's often a Chinatown or a Little Italy or other enclaves of recent emigrants who are sticking together. We accept it back home, but then we bag on other expats for doing the same when they go abroad? And don't get me started about the people who loudly proclaim "immigrants better learn English," but then shout loudly in English to their Central American hosts when they come down here.

Being an expat is all about learning to be an insider, while also being an outsider and being OK with that. Sometimes i long for "normalcy" -- which as an American means having good chicken wings  and cheese and India Pale Ale, and every international cuisine at my disposal. It means having a car and a garage i can park it in (if you're the type who's forever losing your keys or your garage door opener -- there's an app for that now! Check out the Garage Beacon) and a list of friends a mile long, ever asking me to this event or that one, where i'll be able to understand all of the conversations around me without straining. My Spanish is getting better every day, but i still have to make an effort to understand things.

"Normal" also means being around people who are activists and thinkers -- which probably happens here too, i just don't have the language skills -- and who hotly debate things like whether vaccines cause autism (btw Laminine is a supplement meant to support kids with autism -- check out the reviews of the product on the site), whether we should condemn this pipeline or that one, or whether this form of energy or that one is better. We talk about scientific approaches to growing tomatoes or racism in our home towns, and then we climb to the top of the nearest local mountain and look out at the beautiful view.

For those reasons i don't know if i'll ever be the long-term expat. I love my country and its people; however over-informed, whiny and demanding they can be, they can also be dreamers, doers and downright friendly folks.  I can see myself being a half-timer there, and a half-timer somewhere like here someday -- so then i guess i'll still have to get good at being a successful expat...


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Private vs. Public School

Another big part of moving to a foreign country with kids: Deciding where those kids are going to go to school. In the States, it was pretty much a no-brainer that i'd send my kiddo to public school, given that we have special programs like dual immersion language education in our public school system. Portland's school district is not without its issues, but these extras are really special.
Uniforms: a pro or con? Probably depends who you ask...

Here in Nicaragua, public school was an absolute "no." Walk past a public colegio and you might think you've stumbled upon the local zoo, or the local jail, as evidenced by the bleak bars that cover the windows and the cacophony of sounds emanating from the building. In any case, the noise, chaos, and reported lack of real learning made that a relatively easy decision. There are many private schools here to choose from, and they're relatively affordable, so it was fairly easy for me to choose the one that most closely mimicked our dual-immersion model back home. We are happy there.

There are always pros and cons to every decision though, so here are a few:

Pros for our private school in Nicaragua:

- Small class sizes that mean lots of individualized attention and special work in areas where kids excel. For my kiddo, that's math.
- A welcoming, friendly family-like community
- Relatively low level of bureaucracy if you want to change something within the school
- Much less bullying than a bigger school

Cons for our private school in Nicaragua:

- Small class sizes mean a relatively low number of potential friends
- Few extra curricular activities

Pros for our public school in the USA:

- Larger classes mean more friends
- Lots of variety in food choices, after school activities
- Free!
- A wide variety of kids from various income levels and backgrounds

Cons for our public school in the USA:

- Every decision must be made my committee
- Teachers, even the good ones, don't have time for individualized attention
- A wide variety of kids from various income levels and backgrounds, which sometimes means kids who don't get help at home or even get away with being narcissistic bullies


The lists could go on and on -- but sometimes it's good to make a list like this to remind yourself that you're not doing some terrible damage to your child by ripping her from what she knows... that she'll learn and grow and gain tons of perspective...

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If you're in a situation in which your kids need extra help in math -- check out the Math Facts Mastery program offered by Regalia Image Wear.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

He llegado

Yesterday morning i got up with the roosters and headed out for a mountain bike ride to Laguna de Apoyo. I figured i'd be really sore today, but apparently swimming in a three-stroke pool for 30 minutes a day really is good exercise, because i wasn't sore at all. It's been ages since i've mountain biked, and i was forced to cobble together a goofy outfit that included zippered shorts and trendy Adidas street shoes, but still, i got it done. (I probably could have used a pair of these BOOM laces that keep you from having to tie your shoes mid-mountain, but somehow i survived!)
Three-stroke pool -- as in three strokes to get across it.

Once again, my morning of doing things i don't normally do got me thinking about how far we've come and how much things have changed.

I don't blink at waking at 5:30 to do a 20K ride in the campo. I go to bed early and hardly ever go out. I have the luxury of private school for my daughter, a housekeeper to clean up after us and a pool to swim in, i put dough into my savings on the regular, AND i don't worry about money -- too much. I learn new things and new words every day. I hardly ever think about "what ifs" or "could my life be better?" -- like i'm no longer waiting and reserving this time as the time before my life begins, or the time before i actually find someone to share it with. (For all you international types, check out Biwi for a way to find your international match!)

I think this is what is called he llegado -- "i've arrived" -- and i'm really liking it.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Working in the Community

Most of my days i spend at home, scribing away at this computer. That's all well and good, but because the rebelangel tends to give me a lot of guff about my Spanish pronunciation, i figured i'd better get out in the community a bit more. It's my natural inclination to do something to support kids or education, or usually, my daughter's school (which i'm also doing) so it was really only a matter of time before i found myself working with a non-profit here.

The organization i chose was Empowerment International, whose primary focus is supporting kids through school and helping them get to graduation and beyond. I like it because it's working within the existing framework, but adding to kids' experience and helping them succeed.

They also help kids get uniforms and other supplies that are required at school -- often things that, when they don't have them, will make a kid decide to skip school to avoid the embarrassment. Back home a mom might decide to go to the thrift store or buy her kids second-hand clothes online (which you can get at shops like the consignment store LilJellyBeans) -- but since used clothes tend to cost just as much as new ones here, that's not the easy option it is in North America.

K so i did wear a helmet on horseback...
For the past few Saturdays i have been helping some of the teens -- who already have advanced photography skills -- plan and shoot videos that will be used on the organization's site. The idea is to help them learn how to create and edit video, so they can use those skills in other aspects of their lives. There are a few really motivated kids in the group who i could totally see going on to become directors, photographers or other creatives in their community. I love supporting them and seeing how much fun they're having learning this new skill.

One of the groups is creating a video that discusses the reasons for hand-washing and general cleanliness, while the other is discussing why it's crucial to wear a helmet on a bike. I hate to admit that while i'm adamant about wearing one back home, i have yet to pick up my own casco here in Nicaragua. Bad mom. So once again, entering into a volunteering gig is not just about going in and teaching, but learning something too...

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Among the dangers of riding your bike without a helmet is the threat of a head injury, like a concussion or worse. If you have kids who ride without helmets or are in sports that may put them at risk of head injury, you'd do well to read this book, Winning the War Against Concussions in Youth Sports. I need the advice and cautionary tales too!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Storming the Castillo

"O man, if I lived here, I would probably not leave these wall very much," said a recent guest to my lovely bamboo abode. I've been renting out the third bedroom on occasion, to offset the costs of keeping this place up.

And he's right -- sometimes the outside world, with its catcalls and dust and general chaos are all too much to handle, so inside these walls i stay. Since the rebelangel gets picked up by a car service and water and fruits and veggies get delivered to the door and i work online from my bedroom, it's conceivable that i wouldn't have to leave all that often and still do OK.

That said, the invaders do try to storm the castle, and to drive me into wild misanthropic bents where i slam windows shut, yell and threaten to call the police.

I started finding rocks slightly larger than the width of a quarter in the pool and wondered where they came from. Yesterday i discovered they were the result of some boys, on the outside of the wall, throwing them skyward in an effort to get the mangoes to fall from the trees. I yelled about not wanting rocks to fall on my daughter's head, but they've come back a few times still.

Then there are the fumigators who come spreading great ugly clouds of diesel-fueled mosquito killer, about every week or so. In spite of my refusal to let them into my home and my kitchen, the acrid reek and the plumes of diesel smoke still make it over these walls and creep through the cracks in the windows.

The roosters don't know -- and wouldn't care -- that their crowing disturbs me all all hours while i sleep in my castle.

The trash-collector who drinks too much doesn't seem to realize that it's 9 p.m. and i'm in my pajamas when he knocks incessantly for my recycling.

Sometimes all of the above-named things happen within moments of one another, making for intense moments of hatred. 


Yes, dear guest, sometimes i do want to get out -- way the F out. But even if i were to try to hole up and never to leave, the invaders storm the walls, and i in my turrets only have my voice, a blunt machete, and a waxing and waning rage to stave them off…


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Thank goodness for the innermets -- where social networks mean i don't have to feel quite so alone even if i'm trying to hole up in this castillo. Check out Tio2Tio -- one of the newest social networks to hit the scene!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Sports for Girls in Nicaragua: Otra Vez

Cones instead of lines, trash on the field, and hopeful girls.
In Nicaragua the "summer" break starts just before Christmas and lasts until about now. During that time, kids are left to languish... the girls hanging out watching their siblings, the boys carting off to baseball practice on Saturdays and playing ball in the streets. If there is anything that can get my feminist fire going, it is thinking about the lack of opportunities for girls to play sports here. As if this was the 1950's America and girls were expected to only love studying home-ec. As if girls didn't have the strength, power and wit to throw a ball around like the boys.

I am sure part of it is economic, part cultural. Baseball -- and all sports -- cost parents money, and right now that scarce money is spent on the boys, if it's spent at all. On the cultural side, women here tend to be so much more feminine. Even when they live in homes with dirt floors, they'll put makeup on to go out anywhere. Women who have money, meanwhile, don't go anywhere without freshly-coiffed hair, shiny skin rubbed with coconut oil or fragrant lotions, sparkly jewelry, heeled shoes and perfectly pressed clothing. If they do work out, it is dancing or Zumba or aerobics -- not so much sports or weight lifting or running, like women back home might do. Women do ride bikes to get from point A to B here, but when given the chance, they'll ride side saddle on the frame and let the men do the pedaling.

Being here this long and seeing those women in contrast to the North American women who visit is definitely interesting; it's clear that North American women as a whole take a lot less care with their appearance -- especially when they're suddenly flung into a hot climate where makeup tends to run and white girl hair tends to frizz.

But i digress. For whatever reason, girls here are not taught to be sporty or to develop confidence in their ability to kick, throw and run like boys do. Except, of course, the girls who are involved in Fútbol Sin Fronteras, the soccer organization we found almost immediately when we got here. While there are some other teams, this organization serves the girls who might not otherwise seek out or be able to afford playing sports. It cheers me to see them here working with so many girls who really need it -- though they too have taken some time off during this annual break.

After two months of "summer," the rebelangel goes back to playing again today. She's looking forward to playing more competitive sports again back home, but for now, she at least has this.
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If you're in need of a way to get your kids more active -- even from home -- check out Yuvi Story Aerobics, encouraging kids to get up and move!

And since "summer" is long and you might need other things to do when it hits, check out Trailera -- a site where you can see nearly any movie trailer. 


Thursday, February 5, 2015

Tiny Tips: On Goals

Among my writing gigs, i write a lot about careers and how to conduct interviews, set goals, and generally succeed in wowing your employers. It's given me a lot of insight into how i could have conducted myself better during my past periods of employment, and how to translate some of that information into succeeding as a freelancer.
Plenty of time for this too...

I read this piece about creating a goals poster one day and have used it as a reference for several pieces i've written. After reading it, the information started to sink in. So i tried it -- setting a goal that may have seemed impossible, but naming it clearly and believing it will happen. And guess what? It is.

I don't want to believe that living in my beloved city of Portland was keeping me from achieving my goals. I want to believe that it's still the city for me when i return. But by leaving what i loved, i was able to give myself a shakeup, to re-evaluate, and to spend the time i would otherwise spend socializing semi-obsessing about meeting certain financial and career goals. Like that article outlines, sometimes simply naming what you want starts to make it real. Try it -- it works!

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In case you need another boost to get yourself going and to start achieving those goals, here's another way to get your shakeup: check out The Blast Network, a team of women helping women transform their lives through career coaching and teaching you how to live your life on purpose.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

It's Getting Hot in Here

Last night was the first time in a long time that it occurred to me: "Dang, how hot is it right now?" So i got out my phone to check it out.

December and January in Nicaragua, in case you were wondering, are some of the absolute best times to visit this lovely land. OK, if you don't like fireworks and loud nightly parades, don't come in December... so that leaves January as perhaps the very best month to visit here. Sweet breezes drift around, the nights get delightfully cool, and the rains have dropped off. But since the rains have only recently stopped, things are still relatively green for a time.
The rebelangel squeezing into my niece's flip-flop.

Like clockwork though, February gets hotter. When i looked at the graphs of the monthly averages, the temperatures go up a bit in February, but in March, they absolutely spike -- going up faster than a politician's blood pressure when he sees a gang of hippies coming toward him toting signs. So i guess if i really had hoped to start running in the mornings, (using belts like the RISE UP to stash my phone and keys -- handy!) i should have started before now.

There were a lot of afternoons in December and January in which i didn't turn on the fan in my upstairs bedroom/office at all... but those days are over, i am afraid. I am sitting here sweating, letting the sound of these loud Nica fans drown out the street noises and looking forward to my afternoon swim... wondering just how bad it's going to get...

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Back home people are looking forward to wearing flip flops -- but they're still solidly in boot territory. I'm a little, tiny bit jealous today.  If they were here though, they'd probably be bronzing their babies' flip flops instead of those cute booties... Whatever your style -- Chicks n Cubs will do the bronzing for you.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Always Thinking About the Next Step

It must be in our human nature to always be thinking ahead to the next thing... even if it means we aren't fully present where we are.

While i find many moments to enjoy here, i also find myself thinking about what type of car i'll be able to afford when i get back home, whether i can really pull off buying a home, and what sort of projects i'll be able to do on my own when i buy said home.

Meanwhile i take chicken buses and taxis and live in someone else's home -- which is full of dust from the construction, but still comes with a pool and a housekeeper. Looking ahead... living in the now...

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When i do buy said house, i am definitely going to need to be much more of the do-it-yourselfer than i am now -- when i have a housekeeper to do even little chores like taking out the trash. Check out DIY Site UK, where i -- and you -- can get some ideas for DIY projects around the house. I am going to need it!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Changes

When we first arrived here in Nicaragua, i recall i tended to be grumpy a whole hell of a lot. The noise alone is a lot to deal with when you are North American and used to everyone being quiet and relatively private -- especially when they're in their own homes. I am still that private person, but it doesn't faze me so much to hear people talking and yelling to one another right outside my door or to handle the constant knocks at said door from people asking for a bottle of water or a peso.
Grumpy face...

I think that grumpiness was part learning to handle chaos, and part feeling really isolated. Yes, i like my privacy, but when you're in a new country and you have no one who you can trust, it can lead to a lot of heightened emotions.

Today though, i noticed that my moods have evened out somewhat. I attribute it to being used to what's around me and what to expect, having a nice group of friends i can trust and rely on when i need it, and also, eating a mostly whole-foods diet. True, we tend to grace the outdoor tables at the local Italian pizzeria at least once a week, but beyond that, our diets don't include very many processed foods. Fruit is abundant and i've figured out what vegetables i can get on a regular basis. We eat these delectable Costa Rican cookies that are often stocked at the local grocery store, but that's kind of my one indulgence. OK, and beer. But for the most part, we don't have access to pre-packaged sauces, loads of dairy, or indulgent desserts.

As far as isolation goes, i believe i now have just enough support to feel like i have a safety net, but not so many friends that i never get anything done or have time to work on my plan for the future.  In short, our deprivation and isolation are sometimes good things.

So sometimes what you see as stress-inducing at first is actually leading to something good... to growth and health and all those good things.

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Speaking of support, i love what Support for Stepdads is doing to support blended families and the strong men who step up to parent other people's children. Hear hear!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Milestone

I'm missing this girl's wedding this weekend.
Tomorrow will begin our sixth month here in Nicaragua -- essentially marking the halfway point between our arrival and our pending departure. I have thought about staying longer and continuing to see the success of an increasing bank account, but my rebelangel wants 6th grade in her home country. She hasn't yet seen how re-entry can sometimes be just as hard as being away, or how nothing, no matter what you do, will ever be the same. So that's the next step, after all this.

For me, this six-month milestone has me looking back at how things have changed so rapidly. A friend of a friend -- a Nica -- came over last night and remarked at how much better my Spanish had gotten since the last time he visited. The fruit sellers and obituary hawkers who come by with their megaphones no longer sound like clown gibberish. I can (pretty much) sleep through two roosters having a crowing duel of epic proportions every morning, and i have gotten damn good at making piña coladas and watermelon licuados.

I've also gotten more focused in my work, and am in a bit of a hyper-creative mode where new money-making and writing schemes pop up daily.

In ways big and small, this journey has already been epic... so i look forward to seeing how the next six months unfold...

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One of the money-makers i've recently turned to is Fiverr -- where you can buy and sell nearly anything for five bucks. It doesn't sound like much, but it adds up, especially when you're adding extras or when you get loyal clients who want you to continue doing more stuff at higher pay. Me, i've started doing customer success stories -- basically long-format ads about how great your business is.

Meanwhile, Charles is one of my fellow Fiverr peeps who's found a lot of success doing online surveys -- and now he's teaching people how to have success with surveys as one of his gigs. Check him out!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Star of the Show

This kid is always the star of my show,
no matter where we go
but now she's the star of the school play too!

It must be all those years of letting her make goofy videos like this one
and reading to her every night...


video

(And of course, going to a very small school doesn't hurt either -- but i'm not going to bring that one up.) I'm just going to let the rebelangel revel in her victory. Way to go!
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International friends -- here's a great app for helping your kids learn their ABCs -- whether English is their first language (and their first alphabet) or not! Check out the ABC for Kids app here.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

About Home and the Costs of Living in Nicaragua

Besides this wild and crazy cultural experience we are having, there is another reason we're spending the year in Nicaragua: It is impossible to save money back home. And if i ever want to actually realize the dream of owning my own home, i have to actually put some money in the bank.
Our middle-class neighborhood street -- before they tore it up...





Granted, if you want to live a life like you were accustomed to back in the States, Nicaragua is more expensive than you might imagine. Electricity for a house with a pool and a hot water pump runs about what it would back home -- and probably moreso because we're not paying to heat the house. (BTW If you're looking for a cool way to heat your winter's morning coffee, check out this new technology -- the Nanoheat coffee warmer)

The Internet bill in Nicaragua is about the same, or a little more. Paying the pool cleaner is cheap, and water is a little less. Rent, of course, is far cheaper, but then there's private school, higher bank fees, storage fees for my stuff back home, and the desire to travel and see more of this gorgeous land of lakes and volcanoes. Even on the chicken bus, it costs something to get two people to and fro -- and even though restaurants cost about half of what they cost in the States, i am always footing the bill for two.

But still, miraculously, thankfully, i do have a bank balance that is steadily increasing. I have a few debts here and there, but there's a plan to pay those off too, while still adding to that savings account. I'd love to say it will be enough for a down payment on a house, but it might not, so like many people of my generation, i am beginning to rethink the traditional home ownership model. The thought occurred to me that perhaps i could build my own tiny house and own it free and clear with the money i've saved. Or perhaps put it all into a piece of land that i can build on later. These, with their promises of low to no mortgages, seem like the things i need to do if i want to continue to live a life that includes freedom and travel and also a low cost of living. I love Portland, but it's gotten so expensive to live there; even in the past couple years it's skyrocketed. It fills me with dread to think i've been priced out of my pretty city.

But since i am not always married to traditional patterns -- and i hope i'm teaching the rebelangel something about that too -- i've started looking at tiny cabin plans, looking where land is cheap, and am beginning to form an idea of what i want the place to look like. The thought of buying a piece of land in Nicaragua did occur to me, but i don't think i'm ready for that. I think our travels will always come to an end and we will eternally be pushed toward HOME -- which for us is still the U.S...

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Since i've been checking out building options, i've been talking with the folks at OC Stay Dry Roofing, offering cool options for roofing and solar power. Since i'm trying to save as much as possible on the place i hope to build, i'll be checking out the solar options for sure!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Enterprise in the Campo

El Puro on his horse
This weekend we hopped on the chicken bus yet again and headed for the beach. It's always a hit -- even if all we do is plop down in chairs, read books, body surf and hang out. This weekend though, we got the chance to spend our time with a group of people from South Dakota, who were renting the home of a Minnesotan, who everyone in San Juan calls "El Puro." Puro means cigar, and you'll often find him on the porch of his beachfront home smoking one.

That's not all he does with his time, however. Sunday morning we all loaded into Puro's two trucks and headed out to his 1,500 acre farm, where this enterprising gentleman farmer is reforesting the place with mahogany, coffee, cacao and citrus. Before he arrived, the hills of the property were dry and dusty and deforested from years of making charcoal and stripping the land for timber.

Since there wasn't enough room in the cabs for all of us, i got the pleasure of riding in the back, standing and holding onto the roll bar while the world went by. It may have seemed inconvenient, but i got the best view.

Doña Maura cooking chicken
We didn't just see the budding forest -- and its vistas of the ocean and even Costa Rican mountains off in the distance -- from the road; when we got to Puro's 100-year old farmhouse, the campesinos who live there had saddled up 10 of the horses for us to ride, while the women brewed fresh coffee and cooked chicken on the spit in the kitchen.

Don Manuel and his coffee-drying tray, which slides under the house
Don Manuel is the head man at the house, and on top of his duties caring for the land, he's also the local curandero -- the medicine man who knows the medicinal properties of the land in addition to its other practical uses. In the kitchen, Maura grinds corn and coffee that comes right off the land, making us fresh tortillas for our lunch. Delicious.

It's hard to take a good photo on horseback.
It is lovely to see an expat who's not just languishing through his retirement, but is doing something to benefit everyone by planting forests and generally being an enterprising fellow.

Puro's Nica girlfriend, meanwhile, teaches sex education as well as agriculture to the local kids on the weekends, on top of her regular job teaching to college students. She does what she can, but when i asked her about the girls -- about the rebelangel's age -- who lived at the farm and whether they went to school, she told me they didn't. The 15-year-old who lives there had just had a baby, she told me, and i got to peek in at the baby's angelic face while he was sleeping in the back room. There is progress and birth, but there is still a long way to go to offer girls the education and opportunities they are afforded in other places.

So this visit was not only fun, but encouraging and uplifting and at the same time a peek into the realities of rural life in Nicaragua.

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And speaking of enterprising and uplifting -- check out Nerium's direct sales opportunity -- offering enterprising moms a way to make money right from home! Complete every field to get more info about starting your own home-based business.

Also check out Brain Abundance -- a company with tips and products for brain health, as well as the opportunity to spread the word and work with them! I know i could use the help...