My Holidays in Nicaragua

Living away from my family at holiday time is normal for me. Our household had many holidays because we practiced both Jewish and Christian traditions for many years. My favorite of all the holidays was and still is Thanksgiving a tradition related to gratefulness and love.

When my children were young we traveled to their grandparents home from our home in southern to northern California for Christmas holidays. Now living in Nicaragua where it is warm and beautiful, I prefer not to travel in the cold and to spend the seasonal holidays here.

Several friends come to their homes in Rancho Santana every year during the cold weather. As a result those of us who live here have developed some traditions of our own.

Thanksgiving, although the US date isn’t the same as the NI date, is a big event. Even Nicaraguense join in to the celebrate Thanksgiving Day. Rancho Santana always has a traditional feast in the restaurant that is excellent and fun. The day before Thanksgiving Day one of my RS permanent resident friends has started the Friendsgiving dinner. There is the traditional turkey feast with guests bringing extra dishes to delight the palate. This year I think there were 50 people of all ages enjoying the dinner and evening. A lot of folks who we know come from other towns to join the fun. Friendsgiving Day is my newest favorite holiday.

This year the Friendsgiving hosts are also having an Italian Christmas Dinner and White Elephant party on Christmas Day. This is a good thing for me because I do miss Christmas morning at the Leah and Tim Smith’s house where the piles of presents are passed out and then opened one after another. My Friendsgiving hosts are Joanne and Kenny Smith. A perfect coincidence Christmas Day for me to attend.

On the 22nd I hosted a Christmas Piñata Fiesta for my Guzmán Family at their campo. We are a group of 53 family members that range in age—me being the oldest—to the youngest of six months. The piñata, that I bought in the store that makes them in Managua, was perfect for my idea of a piñata. No carmelos in this piñata as I dislike the idea of more candy for kids with the little candy wrap papers flying all over. I put 200 coins—5 cordoba—into the piñata. There were 18 children under the age of 10. We paired the older children with one of the little ones as an ayudante (helper). When the piñata finally broke and yesterday it didn’t, it fell from the rope after many beatings, all the kids piled after the coins. The ayudantes were the ultimate collectors for their partner. The coins were counted and put into a piggy bank, called an alcancía, that each child received and had their name written on. The ayudante was also given a bank with their name and the same number of coins was deposited into their alcancía. Although there was much skepticism about this piñata and how it would work, in the end everyone especially the kids, thought it was great fun. There was much noise from bank rattling until the parents told their offspring to take their banks to their homes on sight in the campo. I think the concept of saving money little by little was a new idea for the parents and older children. Hopefully savings will grow as so many other ideas have done in my Nica family.   Afterward we all had Christmas cupcakes and juice—pure juice not the sugar flavored water that prevails. The adults, all 34 of them, received a small wrapped gift for the females or a special Holiday card for the men with some money. This family is as dear to me as my amazing biological family. They both take care of me and I love them all.

For the past six weeks, I’ve had a roommate. Katie Phelan is a three-month pastry consultant at the Rancho Santana restaurant. She has been working 12-hour days so I didn’t see her very much except for the very few breakfasts or dinners we had here at the condo. Katie left today and I’ll be moving the day after Christmas to my friend Gail’s house for a week as the condo is rented. I’ll be back to the condo for one week and then off again for a month for another renter. It will be nice when the condo sells, I can finish building my house, and won’t have to keep moving around with food and office.

The Guasacate house construction has focused the past two months on the Great Wall—retention and water reservoir—on the ocean side of the house. Now as the wall is almost completed, the inside of the house can receive the construction work.

I continue to work editing online courses that is such fun for me and is keeping me busy enough as well. In the beginning of December I taught my Cuidadores de Personas class for two days in Granada. That was stated to be successful for the four attendees. I enjoyed staying at my friend Terry Leary’s home around the corner from she and her sister Nancy Bergman’s hotel Casa San Francisco. The class was held in Terry’s home but I ate all my meals at the hotel restaurant Bocadillos that they lease to a young couple. All these owners are from the SFO area and it feels like home when I am there.

Now it is time to visit with more friends and celebrate the season.

So Happy and Peaceful Solstice, Christmas, Hannukah, and New Year to you all.

Sent with MUCH LOVE.

Piñata with 2 yr. old Sebastián

Not Bored!

Most people who know me understand when I say that boredom would kill me. Although that may be a somewhat strong statement, the message is true. I am not the person who can sit around doing nothing. My life in Nicaragua gives my multiple opportunities to test my anti-boredom skills.

Since the last blog I have enjoyed several new experiences. I was one of the “public” at the defense of Carmen Guzmán’s thesis for her bar exam. The defense was held at her university in Managua UNICIT in a classroom that represented a courtroom. The defense consisted of 36 slides PowerPoint presentation and a hardbound book of the monologue/thesis to the sitting panel of 2 lawyers and a judge. Carmen and her partner did an amazing job of writing the differences between an older and newly written Codigo of Family Law. The new law was written in 2015 and not well publicized. In their thesis they made recommendations for education and distribution of the law. The experience was fascinating for me. Carmen is now Doctora Miriam del Carmen Guzmán, Abogada. She can now hang her “shingle” out at her new office in Limón #2.

I’ll begin with the lessons of puppy sitting for almost one week at my condo. Caesar, my friends Abby and Felipe’s new puppy needed a home while they went out of the country for week on previously scheduled trips. Puppies are always 1. Under your feet, 2. Chewing on something—including my hands and feet, 3. Peeing everywhere inside and out, 4. Waking multiple times during the night, 5. Entertaining while playing, 6. Fortunately sleeping a lot during the day. I really enjoyed the little guy as he is so smart and CUTE beyond words. Abby and Felipe only got him a week before they had to leave. After the first day we bonded very well, me as his grandmother. I produced some very interesting, to him, toys—an unused chair pillow with buttons and ties all made of a sturdy canvas–, and a twelve oz. empty plastic vinegar bottle with the plastic cap intact. Needless to say the buttons came off the pillow within the first 30 minutes and I had to get them out of his mouth one by one. He loved pulling the pillow around by the ties or picking the whole thing up in his mouth and dragging it around. As for the bottle, I think that was my favorite toy to watch. He would try to pick it up in his mouth and of course it would pop away from him on the tile floors making a popping noise on the tile. He finally grabbed it enough times to almost remove the paper label. I removed the label and Caesar continued to chase it all over the floor jumping after it as it flew across the room bouncing and spinning.

I had visitors from San Juan del Sur for several nights that were originally from Switzerland. Needless to say we toured the area and I introduced them to two of my many Swiss friends here in my area. It is amazing how time flies when one is having fun. My mini-tours with guests offer me opportunities to see my Guasacate house progress and check out new property for sale in the area for my Success Nicaragua business as a real estate representative.

The night after Caesar went back to his parents, I was invited to a new opera in Managua—La Divina, Maria Callas. The invitation came from the family of a young soprano that I had met here a year ago. Deborah Solange Martinez sang the role of the young Maria Callas; the libretto was the story of Maria Callas’s life. It was presented at the National Ruben Darío theater in Managua. Ana Zavala joined me for dinner and the theater. It was such a moving and extremely well done opera. The woman who sang Callas leading roles was a beautiful middle age soprano from Spain. The orchestra was the Nicaragua national orchestra. Good musicians all but not the same quality as the LA, SFO, or other major orchestras in the US. However, the conductor and music were perfect for this opera written in Spanish. The staging was simple and narrated by another Spanish soprano who didn’t sing a word only narrated the story of Callas life with the singing parts following illumination of highlights or changes in Callas’s life. It was definitely worth staying up late and arriving home after midnight. Fortunately Bayron and I always have a lot of things to talk about or me to learn while we are our two-hour trips to and from Managua.

Gail, my friend/business partner, has been gone for several weeks to the US so I have used the time between puppy sitting, tours, and real estate to catch up on reading and a few movies on Netflix.

It has been raining quite a bit. However, we can use a lot more as the rivers are still quite passable in a small car—or maybe there just a lot more foolish drivers now in our area. As October arrives hopefully it will remain true to the myth that “October is the rainiest month and everyone leaves.” I will have more opportunities for reading and listening to Webinars. There is always something new to learn and keep me from being bored.

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New Year – 2017 in Nicaragua

Another wonderful New Year to look forward to for me in Nicaragua.  I honestly cannot be thankful often enough for following my gut and moving to Nicaragua.  This is a beautiful and eye-opening place to learn and share my life.

Some people stay up to watch the ball drop at Times Square in NYC.  New Year’s Eve I stayed up to watch the fireworks displays at three beaches from the friend’s house where I was staying for 12 days.  It was an amazing  display in the sky.  One of the venues lasted for almost 10 minutes.

As I mentioned  in my previous blog, I have been somewhat of a gypsy since Thanksgiving.  Fortunately my condo has been rented.  However, when the condo is rented, I have to move out.  This presents new opportunities to organize stuff in the “personal closet” so that everything that needs to be put away will fit into a VERY small lockable space.  A challenge, and enlightening.  I am finding it interesting to realize what “stuff” is really important.  The moving exercise is also fascinating as I learn  my friends life’s routines.  Once again, I ponder on how and why does one put value on stuff.

Living in this rural area in an upscale community versus the village communities surrounding Rancho Santana is enlightening to say the least.  Although the stark contrasts of the early years of my life here versus the contrasts of today have diminished, stark contrasts still exist.

The villages of Limón # 1 and Limón #2 have three times as many new brick or block homes with concrete floors and painted exteriors.  This has occurred because more of the people can afford to buy the materials to slowly build their homes.  (That sounds like me with my Guasacate house building project–the slowly part.)  There are still pigs with the triangular orcetas around their necks roaming in and crossing the roads without a care of cars, buses, or motorcycles.  Horses wander where they please and cows are herded in the road from property to property.  I somehow have accepted these phenomena as normal and surprise myself about this at times.  Then I sit on my terrace and watch the most spectacular skies at sunset and am so grateful once again.

Life updates:  I have embarked on another exciting work adventure.  I am working with a Rancho Santana friend, Gail Geerling, who has a business called Success Nicaragua.  We are starting a property management segment of her business and will soon have a website for the world to see.  For the past two weeks I have been busy relearning Excel spreadsheet formatting and writing property management documents that can be used as “plug & play” templates.  Relearning something that changed since first learned is challenging.  I guess I should say unlearning old habits is challenging.  I’m not perfect at the tasks yet, but certainly farther ahead than I was two weeks ago.  Gail teaches time management, therefore she is trying to get me to perform laptop operations in the most expedient way.  Gail has been a patient mentor for sure.  I love what I/we are doing and it keeps me out of trouble and off the streets.

Many of my RS friends are returning to the Ranch this past week.  Last year many of them were here for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays and vowed not to come again at that time because it was so crowded.  As a result this year the Christmas “crowd” here was minimal at best.  Almost all the condos were empty except for mine and three or four other condos whose owners live here full time or are owners from Managua.  My renters  were Managua residents who brought their Santa paraphenalia with them for their young children.  I had to laugh because the five year old told her parents that Santa was “very skinny”.  Santa was the mother’s brother  visiting with them from CA over Christmas and is indeed tall and thin.  Everyone at my condo had a good time.

I have been to the new Esmeralda Coast International airport (ECI) twice in the past two weeks picking up clients and neighbors in the condos.  Since it is only a 15 minute trip, it is a piece of cake drive for me.  And of course, you have to know that I have been an airplane/airport buff since I was a very young child.  So seeing how our little ECI runs is a pleasure for me.

The Guasacate house has had more infra structure on the ground around the buildings to accommodate a road on the ocean side of the houses which required three big pieces of earth moving equipment onsite for about six hours one afternoon and night.  The end result will make the driveway on the ocean side as solid as the rock the houses were built upon.

This coming week is the annual Roberto Clemente Clinic Board Meeting and Health Fair.  Of course, I will be in attendance at the Meeting and working at the Fair. My Spanish has improved immensely over the past year as  I have learned to listen in Spanish versus trying to interpret between Spanish and English as I hear words.  This is not such an easy task for a visual learner–me.  I hope to be more useful to the Fair attendees as a result of the improved language skills.

There is always something new and interesting to do here.  So I look forward to see month by month what 2017 has in store for me.

Buen Salud y Prospero Año Nuevo to all those who follow my Life in Nicaragua.

Earth moving from my Guasacate terraces–downstairs on the left, upstairs on the lower right.

I Am Grateful

Celebrations for me are small treats not grand events. However, this June for my 80th birthday I had a GRAND Event. All four of my children made the trip for their first time to Nicaragua. Rivka and Aaron, my youngest two had planned their one-week trip to be here for my birthdate. The night before they were leaving CA, my oldest son, Greg, got a ticket and met the younger two in Houston. Three out of four on my birthday was pretty exciting, knowing that my oldest daughter and her family were arriving two weeks later. Greg, Aaron, Rivka and I stayed at my condo and had a great time mostly tranquillo. I was able to tour them around our area and introduced them to many of my friends and of course my two Nicaragua families—Guzmán, and Urroz Zavala. We had two dinner parties with friends at the condo and had a blast with both groups. The last two days of their stay the four of us traveled to Granada for one day and night and then to Managua for a day and night. I saw things in Granada and Managua for the first time as a tourist—the inside of the cathedrals in Granada, and Salvadore Allende Park and the museums there in Managua. The Ruben Darío museum was particularly interesting since the speaker at the El Limón Salon two days earlier featured Ruben Darío, his life’s work and influence on the people of Nicaragua. Aaron, who came to the Salon with me, and I were quite impressed with the museum and the knowledge that we had received from the Salon.

After the Wilkers left, three of my expat friend groups arrived for short visits to Rancho Santana. This gave me more chances to show them progress at my Guasacate house and check out for myself the daily changes. Enjoyed the opportunity to catch up on the lives of my coming and going friends.

On June 27th Leah, Tim, and Isaiah Smith, Isaiah’s friend Ricky Guzmán, and my cousin Suzi Taylor came for one week. Since I couldn’t fit all of us in my car at one time, we rented a van and driver to be with us for the 7 days they were here. My friends Dolores and Bill Watson gifted me use of their beautiful big house in Los Perros as a birthday present. This family was a lot more active and wanted to “do stuff”. I sent the group with the driver to go “quading” in San Juan del Sur. Maurice, my friend the driver, took them to a high point nature reserve on the ATVs. Spots that I didn’t know existed. We had several awesome meals at the Watson’s house but no outsiders for dinners there. We were a tribe unto ourselves for three days.

The last two days we went to Selva Negra in Matagalpa which is a lot cooler. There we toured the coffee farm and finca areas. It rained the whole time we were there, although this didn’t stop Tim, Isaiah and Rickey from a very long hike in the foothills.  We decided to leave Selva Negra early and go to Chichigalpa to tour the Flor de Caña plant. That was a spectacular tour, although I am not so sure I would recommend rum for breakfast at 9:00 am. The rum was excellent quality though and not such a bad breakfast after all. From Chichigalpa we went down to Leon, had lunch and a quick tour through town. Maurice knows where everything is and an efficient and fun guide. We checked into my favorite hotel in Managua the Camino Real near the airport for two nights. Again Maurice toured us through Managua, shopped at Wimbus Market, and then kept the van at his house for the following day’s adventure. Maurice took the group to the Volcan Masaya for a zipline that Tim proclaimed to be the best he had done including HI. I stayed at the hotel enjoyed learning about and reading on my new Kindle while sitting around the pool with occasional dips in the water–not rum. We had dinner at the hotel that last night with Ron Urroz and Ana Zavala. Leah and family got to meet almost all my friends and Nica families too. It was sad to have them all leave and I have tears in my eyes again at the thought of how blessed I was to have all my children here to see my Nica world. Each of my children told me before they left that they now understand my life here a lot better and know that I am safe and loved here. Leah’s family left on the early UA flight on July 4th. My friend Barbara Tenbusch Wisley, owner of the house where I live, came in from FL at 7:00 pm so I waited for her to travel back to Rancho Santana with me. Byron Vasquez, my usual driver/friend, brought my car earlier in the afternoon from RS so that we could do the shopping before Barb arrived. Long and enjoyable day spent reading and planning at the hotel.

It is interesting to me that so many of the Hotel Camino Real staff remember me from all the times I have stayed there over the years. Many of them know that I am a nurse. This time as I was sitting at the pool area, several of the staff came and asked me for medical advice. I felt honored to know that I am considered helpful to them. I always preface my advice with, “I am not a doctor. I can only give you my opinion.”

Barbara was here for almost two weeks and outdid herself getting more cleaning and sorting for the sale of the house. Efforts paid off, she received a deposit for the house the day before she left. I had shown the buyers the house almost two years ago and kept bringing them back up for dinners to see what a fantastic place this is. Now I will have to find another place to live probably sometime around October. I have several options outside of the condo. Since the condo is my main source of income outside of Social Security, I want to keep that rented. Little by little I am evaluating possibilities.

The weather has been absolutely spectacular here the past month. Rain a little now and then, nice cool breezes mixed with hotter than hell before it rains. Everything is so beautiful and green. I have watermelon (sandia), cantaloupe, and squash growing out of my compost pile at the house. The trees that I thought were absolutely dead six months ago have green leaves slowly coming out. That is tenacity for sure.

To keep me “off the streets” I have embarked on a couple of projects this past week. I will start teaching the Cuidadora de Personas classes again. I keep getting requests for caregivers and then can’t find one. (Same problem as the US.) Instead of having a four-hour class five days a week, I will hold a Saturday 6 hour class for three weeks. I believe that I can impart all the info needed for a caregiver in this timeframe. I spoke to Carmen Guzmán about using a massage room at her spa in Limón #2 for the bed portion of the classes. I will redo some of my info for the longer sessions and hold the first class in the beginning of September.

I told Dr. Basha that I would research doing another Basha Health Clinic in Nicaragua. This time we want to offer the Managua and Granada people acupuncture and thermography. I made a trip to the newly opened Pacaya Lodge and Spa outside of Granada at Laguna Apoyo. The place is beautiful and perfect for the high-end clientele that Basha would like to reach. I am waiting to have a meeting with the Pacaya owner. Once again, I am on the road. It is good that I love to drive and that Granada isn’t the chaotic horror that Managua is for drivers. This week I made two trips to Granada—one to Pacaya and the second to Clinica Apoyo to introduce the leaders of Roberto Clemente Clinic (www.nicaclinic.org) in Limón to Dra. Reyna Cordero at Clinica Apoyo. (www.comarcasapoyo.org)

The condo is pretty consistently rented until the end of the year. Not rented everyday but enough to break even monthly.   Now I am concentrating on plans for the commercial property and whether or not to build the apartment on the bottom terrace level at Guasacate before completing the upper house where I ultimately plan to live, be cared for, and die. If the apartment could be finished when I need to move from the Wisley House, that would be my first choice of new quarters.

It seems like I am always juggling multiple small projects that keep me occupied—wound care patient consulting, legal research, writing or consulting for business plans for friends both Nica and expat. My life here is fulfilling and I love it.

Remember there is always room for guests where I live. The invitation is open.

Graditude and Celebration

Giving daily expression of gratitude is easy for me here in Nicaragua.  For more than 20 years I had a photo of a house on the beach magneted to my fridge.  The house looked like a cottage and the water was big but non descript.  Now I can say that my house on the beach exists.  It doesn’t look like the place or the water in the picture, however, here I am living in a house with the most beautiful ocean view in a country that is tranquillo, warm and beautiful.  You notice I speak the word “warm”. Temperature average of 82 degrees suits me just fine.

I am also grateful for my wonderful family and friends both in the US and here in NI.  My circles of friends are supportive and encouraging for the nutty life that I have created and lead.

This month was especially interesting and deserved a bundle of gratitude.  One of my Barnes School of Nursing friends, Carole Manners, nominated me for the new Barnes Jewish College Goldfarb School of Nursing 2015 Distinguished Alumni Award and I received it as the  Barnes Graduate at the College Homecoming Event October 9th.  Now, just in case you may be thinking that this is a big deal and it is, the Jewish School of Nursing Alumni, Olive (Ollie) Coe is 92 and graduated from Jewish in 1944.  She is beautiful and fun.  Carole Manners and I flew to St. Louis for the day long Event where Ollie and I were given our awards.  We had a great time for two days enjoying the Barnes Jewish Foundation dinner on Thursday night and then the lectures, etc. on Friday.  Thursday night was also the unveiling of a commissioned sculpture for the BJC Goldfarb School of Nursing.  Carole and I were both highly impressed with the growth of the College since we attended the Homecoming Event in 2009.  At that Event we walked with the second graduating class from the new Barnes Jewish College Goldfarb School which coincided with our 50th year anniversary as graduates of the Barnes School of Nursing in 1959.  It is interesting to note how the school is organized program wise.  Students without a bachelor’s degree in another area who are just beginning their nursing college experience are in a five year program.  Students with a previous bachelor’s degree are in an “excellerated” program and graduate in two years.  These students are then put into mentoring programs in the field of their nursing choice.

I have to say that I was given the 2015 award mostly for the work I have done in Nicaragua, although the Lord knows my work is eclectic, diverse and continuous.  I am grooming my maid right now to enter a nursing program in Rivas from a private college.  Melvin Lopez, the young man I sent through nursing school graduated with his diploma from a public university in Rivas.  Melvin, incidentally, will continue his studies next month to receive his nursing licensure.

Before I flew to St. Louis, I flew from Managua to Chicago and then drove to Indiana to see my cousins from the northern Indiana area where I was born.  Out of 32 first cousins, there are only nine of us left.  My three brothers and I are four of those nine.  I had a great time being shown around the farmlands that I used to know.  However, so much has changed with new superhighways and subdivisions, that without my wonderful tourguide cousins Dorothy and Clayton Hoevet, I would have been hopelessly lost.  We had a ball though and didn’t eat dinner at home one night of the four nights I was there.  We were “on the road again” as the song goes.  Five of the IN cousins all met for lunch one day, thanks to Don Kotrba for the treat.  We laughed and stayed in the restaurant until their dinner clientele were beginning to arrive.  So many fond memories for which I am grateful.

My Nica family has grown in the past week.  My friend and former landlord, Carmen Guzmán had a baby boy a week ago.  Sebastian is beautiful and Carmen is amazing.  She continued law school up until the week of the birth via an emergency c-section for baby stress.  Now she is trying to see how she can take the final exam, one week after the birth.  Carmen is also the mover and shaker of the Guzmán family. She opened her Spa where I used to park my car.  And now the little Guzmán Pulpería that was next to the casita where I lived is tripled in size to a mini-store.  I am so very proud of this family.  They are wonderful role models in the Limón #2 community.

Rain has finally begun so that the flora are turning green again.  The weeds in the yard are growing “like weeds” and I can’t complain.  As I look out over the hills to the ocean at least it is green again, another cause of gratitude.

I am happy to report that the new Costa Esmeralda International Airport had its grand opening last week.  Now for a healthy sum people can cut their driving time from Managua, NI or Liberia, Costa Rica by 1 1/2 hours to Rancho Santana.  The paved road is inching its way toward us and the airport which is scheduled to have regular flights in November.  I look forward to the day when the road finally gets out to the Limóns, although I am grateful for the amount of block road that is already completed.

Yesterday and today I had the opportunity to watch them create that road as I was headed to Rivas to the attorney.  The paver blocks look like a square jigsaw piece.  After the concrete road edge is laid and initial string line is placed, the blocks are stood on their side edge in a row like you would line up Dominoes.  Then they are laid down like puzzle pieces one after another.  Line by line no cement.  It helps to have a lot of workers who are now VERY familiar with this process.  It is fascinating to watch, however.  In between the two days that I made the trip past this paving area, I think they laid more than a football field length of road.  They lay one way first diverting the traffic to the dirt on the other side and holding traffic for turns in use of the only part remaining.  Today, we actually drove on a part of road that was being laid yesterday.  Progress in NI for sure.

Nothing major or urgent going on this past month in Nica for me.  However, I have become a consultant to many locals as well as expats.  In case anyone needs consulting information, I am currently a person for Business Plans, Land Sales, Wound Care, Health Triage, Area Guide, and Business Referral.  You can see I am not sitting around eating sweets all day.

The condo has renters for a few weeks in November and December.  I am grateful for this gift.  The condo is beautiful and comfortable.  My maid works four days at the condo keeping it open, aired and clean.  She works two days for me at the Wisley house up here on the hill where I am living.  All is well.  Life is good in Nicaragua.

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Waterford crystal vase with plaque “Margie Fincham, RN, MSN, GCNS Distinguished Alumni Award 2015”

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Guest lecturer at BJC Event via his robot.  Henry Evans is a 50 yr. old man, totally paralyzed except for head movement.  His wife speaks for him as he reads a letter board and blinks his eyes.  He developed the system of robotic software whereby he virtually attends lectures, museums etc. throughout the world where a robot can be acquired.  (The red dangling piece is his “tie”.)  I couldn’t resist talking to him after the lecture and asking to be photographed with him.

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Carole Manners and I with Agenda for the Event.  Me, Carol Luckey, and Carole Manners 1959 Grads.  Full Sails Sculpture at BJC Goldfarb School of Nursing.  Bricks at the base are from the torn down Barnes and Jewish Schools of Nursing dorms.

Back Home in Tola, Rivas

I have only been gone to the US for four weeks and had an interesting and wonderful time with family and friends.  However, as I was sitting on my condo patio this morning enjoying my latte and the different songs of the Ant Birds that visit me in the bouganvilla a few feet away, it was clear to me that I am a very grateful and happy here.

Two of my grandchildren graduated–Hannah Smith from Chico State and Isaiah Smith from Dixon High–which prompted my visit to the US.  In between the two events, I was the chauffeur for Gloria and JW Williams–the Smith’s other grandmother and husband.  They rented a Mazda 5 sedan and I drove us to Oregon where we stayed with a longtime nursing school friend and her spouse, Carole and Gary Manners.  From OR we traveled north to Seattle where the Williams stayed with Gloria’s  oldest son and I housesat for a friend who teaches in SEA, Joyce Murakami.  Joyce and her partner, John Diles, were on their way to Hawaii where they were being married.  Joyce and I took scuba classes and were buddies many years ago.  I am Joyce’s nursing consultant for her elder family in Sacramento.

The primary focus of the Seattle trip for me was to visit my stewardess days roommate, Ellie Parker, who moved to Seattle from San Francisco a long time ago.  Ellie and I have always shared a love for art and music. We spent almost everyday enjoying or talking about art and music.  People watching is another of our special common interests.  We had fun people watching at the Ballard Locks in Seattle, near where I was staying.  The five day visit in Seattle was great for all of us.  Seattle’s weather could not have been better.  Surprisingly, I didn’t freeze the whole time I was there.

After leaving Seattle we drove down the WA and OR coast enjoying the beautiful forests, historical places on the Lewis and Clark trail, and of course the gorgeous blue ocean.  We arrived back in Dixon, CA in time to help prepare the Smith house for the BIG graduation party the day of Isaiah’s graduation on June 6th.  Hannah had planned almost everything for months ahead–it was six months at least of planning.  There many of us worker bees staying in the area with assigned tasks–grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins of Hannah and Isaiah.  We, all 150+ of us, had fun eating, drinking, and enjoying each other.  I got to see all of my immediate family and a lot of nieces, nephews, and friends that I hadn’t seen in years.  The weather was perfect for such a noteworthy day.  Miles driven on this trip by me = 2700.  It is a good thing I like to drive.

While I was in the US the wheels of my projects here in NI were still turning.  The next Aproquen event plan is taking shape for three days in Granada in July.  Hengel got to his doctor visit at Shriner’s Hospital in Philadelphia with help from my friends.  I am including a photo of him on that day with the therapist.  What an accomplishment for this little boy and his family.  Nan Zinn, my business partner, took charge of delivering a custom bag order amid her crazy schedule working in her booth at the International Surfing Association (ISA) contest event that was held on our beach at Popoyo.

The rains have started and are so welcome.  The beautiful green fields are beginning to appear and trees that appeared to be dead have revived and are covering the bald spots on the hills.

I will only be here in my condo for ten days before I move to my friend’s house on the hill while my condo is rented for five weeks.  It is somewhat of a challenge to move while the condo is rented.  If I were just going away, it would be easier, but I will be living in the area too.  Therefore, I need to move survival items–printer, files, bag inventory, plus food and clothes.  More about this experience in the next blog.

Photos:   Hengel at first visit for prosthesis;   Hannah and Isaiah at the Party;   Ellie at Asian Art Museum with pinhole image of the Seattle Space Needle in the middle of the sculpture;  Russian River Brewery with Darlene, Cousins Larry and Jim, & Pam enjoying great craft beer;

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