The Birthday Party

Kris Cunningham:

Los Ramos, Nicaragua is the town most devastated by the recent downpours and mudslides. This post is about Deb’s experiences with these people years ago. It just might be the most beautiful post I’ve ever read, and shows clearly her relationship with these gentle and loving people. We may think they are poor, but reading this show how they are rich in the things that really count. But, right now they are suffering from loss of their homes, crops, livestock, and one of their children. I know I sound like a broken record but these people also touched my heart and I want to do what I can to help and support them. But first, read the post and get to know people who are so different from us, but at the same time have so much in common – caring for family and friends, and wanting to be happy.

Originally posted on Rewired and Retired in Nicaragua:

My carrot cake at the birthday party

The Birthday Party

January 22, 2005

          It was at Alba Ligia’s sixth birthday celebration, where I learned the meaning of compassionate immersion, creative ingenuity, and peaceful understanding in our troubled world of terrorist threats, struggles for power, and greed beyond the imagination of ordinary folks.  Francisco invited Ron and I to his cousin’s birthday party in Los Ramos, a remote village on Ometepe Island lacking running water, refrigeration, and in most houses, electricity.  “Oh, by the way,” he stated nonchalantly before leaving, “My mother wants you to make the birthday cake.”  “But, Francisco,” I whined, “Ron and I haven’t made the horno commitment, yet.  We have no oven.” “Don’t worry,” he added, “We have an adobe oven behind our house.”

So began our search for the illusive ingredients such as, powdered sugar, cream cheese, and baking powder to whip up a carrot cake with cream cheese icing for…

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Refraction

Weekly Photo Challenge: Refraction  For this photo challenge, show us what “refraction” means to you. It could be an image taken in a reflective surface, it could be light bent from behind an object, or it could mean remedial math homework: the choice is completely up to you. I’m looking forward to seeing how you interpret “refraction.”

Back in Sarasota, Florida I was out and about a lot, and became fascinated by the many fountains all around the city. I especially loved them in the sunlight when they seemed like exuberance made of water and light. Once in a while I was lucky enough to catch one in just the right light that showed a rainbow, which is just the thing for this photo challenge of refraction.

It’s funny how a photo can take you right back to the moment when you took it, even after years have passed.

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Two Years

It is hard to believe my two year mark passed on the 10th of this month. The time has gone fast and it hardly seems possible. But, it also feels like I have been here long enough that this life is very familiar and my old life is very, very far away.

I haven’t been writing much this month. Besides feeling a bit under the weather, I also don’t think there is much to say. We have done errands, spent time with friends, driven around, done house and yard work, and all the other daily things that now seem so normal. Why would anyone want to hear about such mundane activities?

But, I am so touched to hear from readers and learn that this blog may have a lot of meaning for others. Through this I remember how I felt when we were thinking of moving, dreaming of a different life, and how I read or watched anything I could find. I think there are going to be more and more of us as life continues to be difficult in the US, and as we baby boomers reach retirement age and need options. I will keep in mind that life in Panama is not an ordinary thing. It is a dream and chance at a better and happier life.

An anniversary makes me think about goals for the coming year for the blog and for me personally

  • I want to continue to develop the blog and the website as a source of useful information, and as a place for me to express myself in writing and photos.
  • I hope to travel more and visit more places in Central America
  • I want to continue learning more about the culture, history, and life in Panama, and to continue to nurture relationships with my Panamanian friends and neighbors.
  • Of course, there is the eternal quest to master the language! I will continue the effort.
  • There is a lot more for me to learn about photography.
  • I plan to continue to my health and weight maintenance through healthy eating, exercise, and positive mental attitude.
  • Last, but certainly not least, I want to be a legal resident here! We met with our lawyer recently and all our paperwork is in order. We will get a few more easy things together, get our background checks done in December (here in Panama) and then file the application.

I wish to express my heartfelt appreciation to all my blog readers who take their valuable time to visit, to read and view photos, and to leave comments. If there is ever something you want to know, something you want to see, something I can answer or show about our lives here, please leave a comment or email me at


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Goodie Bags for Los Ramos

Kris Cunningham:

If you helped the people affected by the disaster on Ometepe Island, Nicaragua, you need to read this and see what an effect it is having. When it got to the part about all of them going to the church to give thanks, I needed a tissue. For a little over $6/family they not only got desperately needed supplies, they understood that there are many others out here in the world who care about them. If you want to help, go here – Every single penny is going to these loving and gentle people who are having a very hard time right now. Thank you Deb for heading up this effort!

Originally posted on Rewired and Retired in Nicaragua:

It’s not often that one gets to see immediate results of their donations or knows that all of the money received goes directly to those who need it the most. For $800 we bought over 1,000 pounds of food for 125 families. That averages out to be $6 for each goodie bag.  Thanks, Kris, for figuring that one out for me. :-) No overhead costs, no administrative costs…all the money goes directly to these lovely families of Los Ramos.

On Saturday, Ron and I walked…and sometimes climbed, scooted, and tramped over boulders to get into Los Ramos to help distribute the food bags to each family. See my earlier post.

When we arrived, Ever’s family was busy scooping rice, pouring cooking oil into small plastic bags, and packing the bags for 125 families living in Los Ramos. Landslides destroyed their community.

"Say Pizza," I say as I snap a photo. "Pizza? Where's the pizza?" they all laugh. “Say Pizza,” I say as I snap a photo…

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Unwelcome Guests

It is common knowledge that as a traveller, you can pick up something that will give you a tummy upset. Usually these things are caused by unfamiliar bacteria in the water or on fruits or vegetables. Thankfully the problem usually runs its course in 2-3 days and though unpleasant, it is not a big problem for most people.

But, there are also a variety of “bugs” – bacteria, viruses, amoebas, worms, and other parasites that one can encounter, and the results can be more serious than an ordinary travellers bug. All of these things are far more likely in developing countries and/or tropical countries so if you tend to stray off the beaten path, it is good to be aware of precautions and treatments. And, sometimes even with precautions, something can sneak in so thankfully there are medications that can help if necessary.

Disclaimer – I am not a professional anything and I am not responsible for your health. I am only sharing some things I have learned along the way. Consult a health care professional if you have further questions or if you are sick. 

What precautions?

  • Hand washing is always advised. Our hands are on everything so if you can keep them from carrying something to your face and body, this is the first line of defense against this and all germs. The alcohol based gels, liquids, and wipes on the market are also very effective.
  • Watch out for the water. If there is a concern that it might cause problems, drink bottled or boiled water. This includes ice cubes, water for brushing teeth, and any other water that will go in your mouth, and resist that smoothy from the street vendor (learned that one the hard way!)
  • Choose fruits and vegetables that can be washed and peeled. If they can’t be peeled wash them carefully and disinfect. The advice I have read and been told is to wash with (drinkable) water and vinegar, lemon, or salt, and rinse. You can spray it on smooth things, or soak other produce. Vinegar seems to be the most widely recommended. If you want to be even more sure, you can wash with a bleach solution. It kills everything. You will want to rinse carefully afterwards though. Recently I also saw a recommendation for cleaning with hydrogen peroxide, then vinegar, then washing with water. There are also washing solutions that you can buy but everything I have read says they are no more effective than careful washing with one of the above methods.
  • Wash hands, countertops, knives, cutting boards, and any other food prep utensils before and after preparing food.
  • Keep hot food hot and cold food cold. Avoid those middle temperatures that “bugs” like so they won’t multiply.
  • Avoid antacids if you can. Your stomach acid can kill most of the “bugs” that may get past your precautions.

What if you get sick?

  • Drink fluids! Diarrhea can quickly cause dehydration. Mineral waters or sodas are especially helpful because the sugars and salts are more effective than plain water. There may be commercially available rehydration drinks like Gatorade and other sports drinks where you are. You can also make your own with a liter of water, 6 teaspoons of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
  • Rest and allow your body to heal itself. Minimizing other stressors on your mind and body will allow you to recover more quickly.
  • Avoid anti-diarrhea medications of you can. Your body is trying to flush out the toxins.
  • If you are very dehydrated, run a fever, have blood in the stools, don’t get better in a week, or have any other symptoms that worry you, find a doctor. There are antibiotics and medications that can help.

Of course children, the elderly, people with immune system problems, or other health concerns needs to be especially careful. It would be good to consult a doctor beforehand on how to manage any potential problems.

Do I have a personal reason for writing all this?

Umm.. yes. I know a number of people and I, myself have also been affected by the ordinary travelers tummy upset. As predicted, it tends to run its course in a few days with no lasting effects. For travelers in Panama, Bocas del Toro is notorious for this. Even with careful precautions, a couple of people in our party got sick the last time we went.

My trip to Nicaragua was a bit more of a problem though. I knew I had a problem a couple of days before we left, and I thought it would run its course like everything else. It didn’t though. Of course I didn’t take my own advice and seek treatment after a week. Two weeks went by, then three – tummy upset, little appetite, queasy, feeling run down and tired all the time, it was a real drag. I tried a few days of Panamanian remedies recommended to me and finally got fed up. I asked a friend for the name of her meds, went to the pharmacy for a consult, and got the recommended medication. I took it on Friday afternoon and on Sunday I woke up feeling like myself again.

I believe I had amoebas, or amoebiasis. My research said it is one of the more common causes of problems in Nicaragua, and my symptoms fit the description. I took Amoebriz and it seems to have done the trick. I am SO thankful that we have these medications available! The only good things about being sick is how wonderful you feel when you are better again, and I lost enough weight that my friends are noticing. From now on though I plan to be more vigilant about precautions, and I’d rather my weight with healthy eating and exercise.

OK, enough about sickness. The next post is also from Nicaragua, from my friend who is helping people affected by the disaster. If you helped and want to see how your money was spent and what effect it had, you need to read this.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Refraction

Weekly Photo Challenge: Refraction  For this photo challenge, show us what “refraction” means to you. It could be an image taken in a reflective surface, it could be light bent from behind an object, or it could mean remedial math homework: the choice is completely up to you. I’m looking forward to seeing how you interpret “refraction.”

I was out early one morning and snapped this photo. It’s probably more reflection than refraction so maybe, if I have time, I’ll work on this challenge some more this week. Or, maybe I’ll see a rainbow!


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Here is what your Ometepe donations have bought!

Kris Cunningham:

Once again Joel is keeping up with the latest news so all I have to do is repost his work. I’m so happy that not only do these people have food and supplies, they know others out here care about them.

Originally posted on FindingMySelfinPanama:

I thought everyone would liked to see just what the money donated to the Ometepe relief has purchased. Deb Goehring posted to Facebook and I cut and pasted her photo and text. She is THRILLED  and so am I !!!!! Thanks to all who helped this great effort!!!!!!!! ps $500 remains to be spent, how good is that!
Shopping spree successful! The truck was loaded with 220 lbs of sugar, 500 lbs of rice, 125 candles, 10 flashlights ( that’s all we could find in town), 125 bags of salt, six 5 gallon buckets of cooking oil, 500 plastic bags, 125 bags of powdered milk, baby diapers, and lots of small miscellaneous stuff. Tomorrow we go to the top of the hill in Los Ramos, bag everything for the individual families, and distribute it. Many thanks to everyone who donated, Rich Waters for driving his truck, and Ever Potoy for…

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Dreamy

Weekly Photo Challenge: Dreamy  This week, we’d like to see an image that looks dreamy to you. A photo of a place you often visit in dreams. A snapshot of your dreamy boy- or girlfriend. A scene that looks a bit out-of-this world. Take us on a flight of fancy!

A few photos – sometimes I feel like I’m dreaming when I think about where I am.

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Back in David and liking it a lot

Kris Cunningham:

I just haven’t been writing much since we returned from Nicaragua. I’m not sure why, maybe doing other things, or don’t think I have much to say or the time to compose a post. Then, my husband comes along and says just what I have been thinking about. Thank you Joel.

Originally posted on FindingMySelfinPanama:

Boy, did I ever love our trip to Ometepe, Nicaragua. People who have traveled there often describe it as “magical”, “peaceful”, “seductive”,  etc. I fall into that group, the island has a special feel to it that words don’t really convey. It’s a “feel” thing.

 Part of me wanted to buy some land and just stay there in a sort of suspended animation. But the more rational, “left brain” part pulled back on the reins and said, “let’s give this some more thought”. Really, Joel,  are you ready to dash off to live on an island with an active volcano, the occasional mudslide, and few gringos to talk to just because it is such a neat place??? YES!—NOT!!! (Wish I could say that but not right now!)

Now that I have been back in David I’ve had some time to mull over my quandry and I have to say that life…

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Help Los Ramos Rebuild

Kris Cunningham:

Our friends on Ometepe really need your help! Some have lost everything. Deb lives on the island and is organizing resources to help them through this crisis. Any amount makes a difference, even a bag of beans or a few candles. Deb loves these people and will use every penny you can give to directly help those who need it most.

Originally posted on Rewired and Retired in Nicaragua:

I talked with Ever Potoy today about his lovely community of Los Ramos on Ometepe Island. Because of 5-6 landslides, their community was destroyed. I am sick with worry for this community and I want to help them rebuild.

“Ever, what can we do to help?” I asked.

“We need candles and food,” he responded while on his motorcycle going to get some supplies.

That’s just like these humble, hardworking people to respond with such simple needs.

So, if you can find it within your loving hearts…let’s buy these people lots of candles and food within the next two weeks. Thanks for your help!

Help Los Ramos Rebuild

If you would like to learn more about this amazing community, here is their website.
Los Ramos

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