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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Ometepe Island Mudslides and Destruction

Kris Cunningham:

I was just looking for news and info to write a post about this, but this one from our friends at the scene is even better. I am just heartsick thinking about our new friends and all the suffering on this beautiful island. When it is determined how we can help, I will post the info and ask all my fellow blogger friends to do the same.

Originally posted on Rewired and Retired in Nicaragua:

Early Wednesday morning on October 8th, I awoke to take photos of the blood moon. The sky was inky black with clouds hiding the stars, as well as the eclipse of the moon. While I was standing on the beach, I shivered with a sense of foreboding. I couldn’t shake the feeling that something big was about to happen.

Thursday, the rains started. In 12 hours, we had 15 inches of rain. We lost our power early Thursday evening. Then, Friday morning, we had to walk into Moyogalpa to catch the ferry to take our very sick cat, Black Jack, to the vet in Rivas.

The rain sliced through the dark morning sky like sheets of glass. Our local beach bar’s ranchos toppled over like dominos.

IMG_4871We walked silently through the mud into town. The roads washed out, and waterfalls replaced our colorful treed path into town.
IMG_4878Upon returning to…

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What do you DO all day??

I’ve been asked this question so many times I figured I’d wrote a blog post. Many people facing retirement wonder what they are going to do to fill their time when they are no longer working. Add living in another country where options may be different and it becomes even more of a question.

I can tell you what I do all day, but it may not be helpful when you are trying to figure out what you will do all day. What do you want to do? What are all those things you wished you had time for? Or (maybe more challenging), do you only work? Will you have to rebuild an entire new life from scratch?

I think these questions will need answers no matter where you live. You can retire in Florida, or North Dakota, or Tahiti and you will still need to figure out what to do and how to have a good life in retirement. When you figure out what you want, that will help determine where it is possible to do the things you want. You won’t be happy in Panama if your dream is to go skiing a lot or spend evenings at the opera. But, if you want to photograph bugs or hike in the mountains or go fishing, it could be wonderful.

As for me, I seem to keep very busy. I have friends I like to spend time with. I ride my bike, take photographs, write in my blog, and keep up with email correspondence. There is shopping and cleaning and cooking, like anywhere. I like to listen to books and work in the yard, and study Spanish. I have sewing projects I don’t seem to get to, and a website that needs updating. We have also been doing more traveling both in and out of the country. What a difference though to spend my days doing what I want to do, rather than what I must do. It’s been two years and work is finally fading from my daily thoughts, and hopefully it will also fade from my dreams too.

Retirement is such an individual thing, something we all have to figure out if we are lucky enough to reach those years beyond working. I’m fortunate that I have a lot of interests that mesh wonderfully with a life in Panama.

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Interesting New Places and Possiblities

As you all know, we have been living in Panama for about two years and we recently came back from a great visit to Ometepe Island, Nicaragua. I haven’t travelled much or seen much outside of Panama so it was very interesting to visit another place.

Ometepe Island is a very unique place. It is hard to describe the tranquility that pervades the island but you can sure feel it. Life is very basic and most people have very little in the way of material possessions or comforts. But, the people have a calmness, kindness, happiness, and pride in their way of life. The locals often use the word “sano” (sane, wholesome, healthy) to describe life on the island. Most people have lived there all their lives and everyone knows everyone else. Crime is not a worry because who is going to cause a problem when they are stuck on an island? Work is mainly agricultural devoted to cows, pigs, chickens, tobacco, plantains, and other crops and of course there are fish in the lake. Tourism is also becoming a growing industry.

If you have seen my previous posts you have seen some of the amazing beauty of Ometepe. There is the spectacular Conception active volcano, and the Mederas dormant volcano on an island of tropical jungle in a beautiful, warm, fresh water lake. The beauty, the people, and the tranquility are very seductive. We could see ourselves living there! But, we also don’t want to leave everything we love about Panama so for now, no changes are in the works. But, land is inexpensive and if we found a bit we liked and could afford, we would definitely give it serious consideration just to have an option there. There is also a lot more of the world to see, so who knows if we may fall in love with other places too.

I also found just a few more photos from the island and our trip back to Panama.

We are now back in Panama and starting to feel settled back in, so I will resume posting things about Panama. But, we have another house sitting gig in Granada, Nicaragua in late November. This house sitting business has some great advantages!

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Signs

Weekly Photo Challenge: Signs  For this challenge, share an image of a sign: it can be a sign near your home — a comforting sight after a long journey — a sign that doubles as art, or other types of signs that hold meaning for you.

Puesta del Sol is a business that arranges for tourists to stay in the homes of locals. Many houses nearby have the signs. It not only gives the tourist a unique experience, it gives the locals some much needed extra income.

This looks like a fairly commonplace sign, but the business and people it represents are anything but common. I snapped this photo while I was on Ometepe Island, Nicaragua.

Puesta del Sol started in 2004 with 6 families who would rent one of their rooms to tourists and also share their meals with the guests. It has now grown into 18 families! It is mainly managed by the women and has allowed them a way to make money which has improved not only their lives, but has helped the entire community.

For the tourists, it offers a very unique experience. These are hard working families who live a mainly agricultural life with few of the comforts and conviences that we consider normal. The homes participating in Puesta del Sol have prospered and are some of the best looking homes in the area but still, the tourist will get quite a different view of life and people on Ometepe than they would get in any hotel or hostel. To read more from some of these tourists, click this link to Trip Advisor. Their comments are overwhelmingly positive.

For me, we spent almost three weeks in the neighborhood so I met and talked to many of the participants on a daily basis. These people are warm and friendly and a real joy, and I am so happy for them that they have developed their hospitality skills and their business is prospering. Every time I think of Puesta del Sol I think of the new friends I made there.

It may be only a sign but it means a lot to many people, myself included.

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