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Thursday, February 25, 2021

Future Fridays: The. Most. Pressing. Issue.

This Future Friday, let me tell you about our family endeavor.  I've been writing about solar panels for the CDCA and the clinic...well, the Woodocks (Woodard/Murdock) have joined this parade.

Coury Joseph Jessica Tiff Daniel - New Year's Eve - 2014/12/31

Coury and Cassie (living in California) donated early on.  Daniel and Mike (living here) have been negotiating with the solar company to get good prices and specs for the installations.

Tiff and Liz (living in Texas) are matching gifts given to the project in honor of their wedding that happened in July 2020...instead of friends and family joining them here for their celebration in December 2020...COVID...sigh.  Here is the link if you do Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/donate/784271735768302/?fundraiser_source=external_url 

Joseph and Alex (living in New Jersey) are sending out thank you letters for us for the donations.

And Jessica (living in Massachusetts) has an art "channel" on YouTube and is auctioning a painting she did of a Nicaraguan scene.  You can see the video of her painting as she explains HOW climate change is affecting Nicaragua.  It is about 2 and 1/2 minutes long.   Here is the link.  https://youtu.be/7_6zLliBpr8 

It warms our parental hearts to have all the kids involved, but not surprising.... Some own their own homes, have solar panels, one has an electric car, and all the family knows that climate change is THE. MOST. PRESSING.  ISSUE.

Helen Yuill wrote in the the February 11th NicaNotes...

In the lead up to COP26 [the 26th meeting in Nov. 2021 of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change], the Nicaraguan representative Dr Paul Oquist, argues that the high level of social and economic destruction caused by Covid-19 and its impact on humanity will be ‘small, transient and recoverable’ compared with the potential total, irreversible destruction of the climate crisis.". https://afgj.org/nicanotes-nicaragua-cop26-climate-justice-and-reparations 

know it is hard to imagine something worse coming down the pike, but we have to.  We must imagine, work, and throw money, brain power, energy, and political will at climate change.   

IT. IS. THE. MOST. PRESSING. ISSUE.

- Kathleen

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Saturday, February 20, 2021

Assembly of People into Giving a Sh*t: Me and Ted Cruz

In the wee hours of Friday morning, Mama woke up with serious pain, and after trying to determine what was going on, Daniel flew through the empty roads of Managua with Mike, Mama, and me going to the hospital.

Mama is 91 years old. She came to Nicaragua Christmas of 2019 to stay a few months, but with COVID-19, she has been stuck here since...much to our great delight. She has been doing very well until the last two weeks when her health has been getting a bit shakier.

After we got to the hospital emergency room and many hours later, the ER doc determined that she had a case of acute pancreatitis. She had to be admitted. So, as I write this on Saturday, she is sleeping in a nice hospital bed with four pillows. I have WIFI. Sarah who stayed with her last night so I could sleep…bless her heart…slept on a pull-out couch with sheets, pillow and blanket. The room is air-conditioned. Everyone in and around the hospital follows PPE protocols to the max. Nurses come in with rolling stations to take her vitals. Mama’s internist speaks English as well as Spanish, so Mama can talk to him directly. And it is really nice, and all I can think of is how glad I am that she can afford to be in this hospital with her insurance so that she feels as comfortable as she can.


 
Nicaraguan public hospitals are great. But they cannot afford all the niceties that this particular private hospital can. This same week, Diana’s son…our office administrator… had surgery in a public children’s hospital…one of the new hospitals built in the last years. He had a good bed. He was in a good clean room and she had a chair to sit with him. The staff did their best to follow PPE protocols.

When Hagan, Diana’s son, went home they did not have a hospital bill. None. So far, we’ve paid out $700 for Mama's ER bill and - I know – even that is a small cost compared to the U.S. health system.

The other thing that I am grateful for is that this private hospital has thorough testing laboratories: besides a battery of blood tests, she has had several EKGs and an ultrasound. The ER doctor thought that maybe Mama was having a heart attack until all the blood work results came back and her pancreas enzymes were “out the roof” and “wacky”…those are both medical terms, I am sure.

I kept thinking about our hemoglobin laboratory machine at our Nueva Vida Health Clinic being broken. What if someone right now had serious pain like Mama's and we could not test them until we come up with the $6,500 needed to replace the machine?

In many ways our clinic services are limited by funding, as are the public hospitals here. Nicaragua is a poor nation and even poor this government has taken amazing steps to bring the quality and access to health care up, but they cannot provide what this private hospital does. Because not only do the public hospitals NOT charge their patients, but this private hospital has a robust tourism plastic surgery service and the hospital was built by the only Central American billionaire who lives and prospers in this poor nation. The hospital is also on the side of Managua that is completely opposite of where we live. Besides being opposite locality-wise…the neighborhoods are wealthier over around the hospital. More infrastructure…more resources…well, you get my drift.

Mama woke up a bit ago and being bored asked me about news. I told her about Sen. Ted Cruz getting in trouble when he flew to Cancun instead of being with his fellow Texans in their time of need. She nodded and smiled…and I thought to myself, “he is in solidarity just about as well as I am, sitting here in the A/C in a cushioned chair in the ‘fancy’ hospital. Cruz wanted to be a ‘good dad’ as he said and I want to be a good daughter.” I should reread my blog on hypocrisy.

My bottom line is that I wish every Nicaraguan could come to a hospital like this and walk out with no bill, unlike we will. I wish every Texan had water and heat no matter the neighborhood they live in. I wish every person on earth had what they need to live and then a bit more to be more comfortable. I do hope that my trying to bring that last bit to fruition makes me not AS hypocritical as Ted Cruz, but I’m not so sure it does.
-Kathleen

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Saturday, February 13, 2021

Assembly of People Into Giving a S**t: Mardi Gras

In three days it will be Ash Wednesday... The start of Lent.  For those who are not followers of the liturgical calendar... It is the 40 days before Easter, but omitting the Sundays.  A time to prepare ourselves for the remembrance of the suffering and death of Jesus. 

Many forgo sweets, alcohol, or other luxuries during this time.  Many in the early church fasted for the 6 days... Ate each Sunday... And continued fasting on the following Monday.

Almost like Ramadan... Fasting for long periods of time.

Because of the long fasts, Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday became a blow-out party. And believe it or not the blow-out party is the topic of this blog.

2014 Mardi Gras - Nica style - Mike, Joseph, Coury, Daniel 

I love celebrating.  As I age, I sometimes... no often times... get tired of doing all the preparations for parties, but in my better times I know that life must be celebrated.

I love Mardi Gras... The masks, the beads, the silliness, the joy.  We were in New Orleans once for Mardi Gras and it was a sight to behold.  Parades, costumes, and joy everywhere.  At midnight beginning Ash Wednesday everything stopped.  Restaurants and bars closed their doors... Lights went out... People went home... And quiet settled in the district.

During the pandemic it feels like every day is midnight before Ash Wednesday.

But all of us must remember that during Lent, Sundays are excluded... Why?  Because Sunday is the day of celebrating the resurrection... Celebrating life.

In most worship services one would never know that people have joined to celebrate the resurrection...life.  One can feel the joy in many African American churches with gospel music reaching the heavens.

Can you imagine every Sunday being a celebration of life in all its glory?  If I could, worship would have singing, dancing, laughing, and balloons, confetti, and maybe some beads.  If I could there would be hugging, holding hands, and more laughing. 

Life is precious.  Celebrate it this Tuesday... This Mardi Gras... And on all Sundays...and every day.

But safely until the vaccines are in our arms... Then watch out folks... Hugs are coming in!


- Kathleen

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Thursday, February 11, 2021

Future Fridays: No More Playing Around

This Future Friday let's talk about concrete things that we can do to help save our planet.

Solar panels on buildings and homes. We have received $18,500 out of the $31,000 needed to put panels on our clinic and offices. Electricity is expensive here and the panels will pay for themselves in two-and-a-half years. We just need the cash up front. If you have funds to share, it will help greatly, and if you can put panels on your homes and businesses that will also help reduce our carbon footprints.

Trees...not lawns...save carbon. No need to cut the grass. Moss is a great carbon absorber and we are looking at ways to plant moss. It is a bit difficult here with six months of no rain. We have lost a few trees due to age, termites, and hurricanes...but we have lots of baby trees growing. Trees not lawns.

Thanks to many of you, we are implementing a digital clinic records keeping program with Hikma Health, saving eight trees a year. You would not believe the paper we go through at the clinic. I'm cleaning out a file cabinet and moving records to the cloud. Here's just a small bit of clinic paper work.




What to do with old paper? Recycling is out of the question, so we reuse old paper by cutting it up to use as note pads. Grocery lists on the fridge. Drawing paper for children. Making crafts for kids. And even printing on the blank backs for other uses. When we have too much to store, we compost the paper.

Becca and Paul use old boxes as mulch to keep weeds down and moisture in their gardens. We try to compost yard leaves and waste…sometimes we have too much, though…lots of trees.

We have installed a filtration system at the Clinic for chemical sewage, to clean it before it goes into the septic tank at the clinic.

Water is precious. Last year the sesame processing plant bought a machine to decrease water usage in the plant by about 75%.

We have a attached bidet in our main bathroom to limit toilet paper use. We wash our dishes by hand and are learning how to use less water. Paul and Becca use their gray water to water plants. We try to only wash full loads of clothes and re-wear our clothes when we are not dirty. We reuse our towels often and our showers are no more than 5 mins. (Full disclosure: Mama's takes longer, being 91 years old.)

We use rags instead of paper towels. We use reusable masks 
mostly. I use a handmade face shield over and over the few times I go out. A great deal of the clinic's PPE is reusable and washable. We make our own chlorine to save on bottles and cost, and are learning how to make our own cleaning materials.

Kathleen garbed for shopping - double masks and hand-made faceshield


We buy sodas and beer in reusable bottles mostly. We rarely buy bottled water but take our own water with us in reusable containers.

We wear clothes until they start to fall apart and mostly buy clothes from secondhand clothing stores. Full disclosure... we do buy new underwear.

We try our best to eat leftovers and not let food go bad. We do compost.

We try to double up on errands so less trips are made out. None of us gets a wild hair and jumps in a car to go get one thing.

We try...and we have a long way to go. We look at our neighbors to learn how to not be so wasteful. People living in poverty do not waste.

We have only one earth...one atmosphere...and all our water is connected. We cannot play at being green…we must be green.

- Kathleen

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Sunday, February 7, 2021

Assembly of People Into Giving a Sh*t: UNITY

When Pres. Joe Biden gave his inaugural address, he talked about unity, never once mentioning bipartisanship. Yet when we watch the news, there is all this complaining about him pushing an aid package through not using bipartisanship. Unity and bipartisanship are not the same thing.


Many of the opposition against the Sandinista party and their governing style here in Nicaragua talk about how their voices are left out… how there is no democracy... much like the Trump supporters who thought the election was stolen from them.

And yet democracy prevailed in both countries…the United States and here in Nicaragua. Those who lost have to realize this and quit seeking to divide us.

Unity does not exclude opposition or diversity, but it does exclude disrespect and hate.

There are times when our Community cannot reach consensus when making decisions. When those times come, we struggle with each other trying to get people to understand our points of view. Sometimes we have to take a break and come back to it. Sometimes we have to step out of the decision-making process and just shut up. And sometimes, someone will remind us of our purpose…our goal…and to let go of our fears. When that happens, we usually come to consensus pretty quickly, because we can then see what is right…what is loving…and there is no room for fear.

The problem is that nations, religions, and politics have a hard time letting go of their fear of losing power.

Living abroad in a nation actively addressing the needs of the poor, I've come to believe that setting consensus aside…setting compromise aside…is sometimes the right choice. When people are hurting, suffering, and dying in poverty…who cares whether we all agree? The right thing to do is to ease the hurt, heal the sick,and eliminate the suffering.

Sometimes the unity is only found in doing the right thing.

If the poor who are Proud Boys…if the poor who are neo-Nazis…are lifted out of poverty - then their hate may ease.

If the poor who are Muslims living in squalor and hunger in destitute countries, are lifted out of poverty - the idea of jihad and suicide bombs will fade to the background.

If the races/religions/sexual preferences are all treated with equal respect, privileges,and rights  - then the hate groups, the violence, and the despair will lessen.

Despair breeds divisiveness as we search to blame SOMEONE ELSE for our despair.

Hope breeds unity as we look to each other and lend a hand knowing that one day we may need a hand helping us as Pres. Biden says often.

photo Shutterstock licensed


United we survive the horrors.

United we clean the air, the water, the atmosphere, the land.

United we lift our brothers and sisters out of poverty…and we all have a happier world.


United we make changes for the good.


Divided we die.

- Kathleen

NOTE: If you are reading this blog using the mobile version,click on "web version" to see the full blog with all the features including "subscribe to blog by email".  

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Donate here to the ongoing work of the CDCA with the poor in Nicaragua:

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Assembly of People into Giving a Sh*t: Unity

When Pres. Joe Biden gave his inaugural address, he talked about unity, never once mentioning bipartisanship. Yet when we watch the news, there is all this complaining about him pushing an aid package through not using bipartisanship. Unity and bipartisanship are not the same thing.

Many of the opposition against the Sandinista party and their governing style here in Nicaragua talk about how their voices are left out… how there is no democracy... much like the Trump supporters who thought the election was stolen from them.

And yet democracy prevailed in both countries…the United States and here in Nicaragua. Those who lost have to realize this and quit seeking to divide us.

Unity does not exclude opposition or diversity, but it does exclude disrespect and hate.

There are times when our Community cannot reach consensus when making decisions. When those times come, we struggle with each other trying to get people to understand our points of view. Sometimes we have to take a break and come back to it. Sometimes we have to step out of the decision-making process and just shut up. And sometimes, someone will remind us of our purpose…our goal…and to let go of our fears. When that happens, we usually come to consensus pretty quickly, because we can then see what is right…what is loving…and there is no room for fear.

The problem is that nations, religions, and politics have a hard time letting go of their fear of losing power.

Living abroad in a nation actively addressing the needs of the poor, I've come to believe that setting consensus aside…setting compromise aside…is sometimes the right choice. When people are hurting, suffering, and dying in poverty…who cares whether we all agree? The right thing to do is to ease the hurt, heal the sick,and eliminate the suffering.

Sometimes the unity is only found in doing the right thing.

If the poor who are Proud Boys…if the poor who are neo-Nazis…are lifted out of poverty - then their hate may ease.

If the poor who are Muslims living in squalor and hunger in destitute countries, are lifted out of poverty - the idea of jihad and suicide bombs will fade to the background.

If the races/religions/sexual preferences are all treated with equal respect, privileges,and rights  - then the hate groups, the violence, and the despair will lessen.

Despair breeds divisiveness as we search to blame SOMEONE ELSE for our despair.

Hope breeds unity as we look to each other and lend a hand knowing that one day we may need a hand helping us as Pres. Biden says often.

photo Shutterstock licensed


United we survive the horrors.

United we clean the air, the water, the atmosphere, the land.

United we lift our brothers and sisters out of poverty…and we all have a happier world.


United we make changes for the good.


Divided we die.

- Kathleen

NOTE: If you are reading this blog using the mobile version,click on "web version" to see the full blog with all the features including "subscribe to blog by email".  

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Donate here to the ongoing work of the CDCA with the poor in Nicaragua:

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Future Fridays: Water Must NOT Be Traded as a Commodity

So, the other night we were watching a December episode of A Late Show with Stephen Colbert and he reported that Wall Street is trading WATER like gold and oil. Talk about a splash of cold water in my face! Check this out:

Shutterstock photo

 
How and why would people treat water, the basis of life, like a commodity?

“Climate change, droughts, population growth, and pollution are likely to make water scarcity issues and pricing a hot topic for years to come,” RBC Capital Markets managing director and analyst Deane Dray told Bloomberg. “We are definitely going to watch how this new water futures contract develops.”

I remember when former President Enrique BolaƱos (2002-2007) tried to privatize water in Nicaragua. The country rose up in defiance. Although basically health care and education were privatized to a degree, water never was.

Last November, the Nicaragua government voted to open consignments on water to get clean water into areas that do not have access, but water is still in the government's hands.


 
The World Bank estimates by 2025 that 2/3rds of the world’s population will experience a shortage in clean drinking water. Two-thirds!

According to Water for All, they list these ten reasons for not privatizing water
  1. Privatization will lean to rate increases.
  2. Privatization will undermine water quality.
  3. Companies will be responsible to their shareholders and not to consumers.
  4. Privatization will increase corruption.
  5. It will reduce local control and limit the public's right to water.
  6. It will lead to job losses.
  7. Private financing is more costly than public financing.
  8. Privatization is hard to reverse.
  9. It will lead to bulk water exports.
  10. It can leave the poor with no access to clean water.
Privatization of water is terrifying.  We all need to rise up in defiance. This needs to be nipped in the bud NOW.

-Kathleen
*Yet, another reason for 2020 to be a crappy year!

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Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Organic Peanuts: a Roll of the Dice

Peanuts originated in South America, but are now a global commodity and used in many cooking styles from Thai and many Asian dishes, to African Groundnut Stew, to peanut brittle in the South, and peanut butter eaten world wide.  Not to mention peanut oil.

I hate peanuts. I mean I like the taste of peanuts and I cook with peanuts; but peanut crops are like a harsh mistress to COPROEXNIC (the organic agriculture cooperative) and its farmers. They promise a great deal and seldom come through.

Sesame grows well here. If it rains too much, it usually survives just fine. If there is not enough rain, it can survive…not so with peanuts.

Coffee does pretty well in the higher parts of Nicaragua. It can be damaged with too early rains that then stop after the plants have produced blossoms. Volcanic ash can damage the blossoms and with too much rain at harvest the berries can swell and fall off the plant. The higher temperatures each year is slowly hurting the coffee productions, but coffee is still sturdier than peanuts.

Organic peanut inspection - photo Dave Landstein, Multiple Organics

Peanuts grow in the ground. They are actually legumes, not nuts at all. Peanuts are healthy: high in protein and good fats.

The peanut plants are amazing at fixing nitrogen from the air and putting it in the soil, which is why they are a great crop for the earth to replenish the nitrogen that other plants absorb…but finicky! My heavens! They are finicky!

Because they grow in the ground, they are susceptible to fungi. Too much rain and they get all “fungus-y” which can develop aflatoxins…got that last part “toxins”….that’s right, "poison". Aflatoxin can cause cancer.

Vermin LOVE peanuts. Behind our property, someone grows a field of peanuts. After they harvest, our property gets the many mice and rats who no longer have peanuts to munch on.

Pests LOVE peanuts. If peanuts are not processed in a timely manner then they are infested with bugs, which requires freezing the peanuts to kill the insects.

And for the fungi that creates aflatoxins… one way to reduce aflatoxins is to blanch the peanuts. Now we have TWO additional processes added to the peanuts which gets really costly. Add to that we have YET to find a processor who will process the COPROEXNIC peanuts in a timely and correct manner.

Peanut processing - Once Again Nut Butter visit

BUT when the rains are good and not overly heavy, peanuts grow well here.  Organic peanuts processed well and on time are an excellent cash crop and they build up the soil's nitrogen.

Unlike the other crops that COPROEXNIC grows and markets, peanuts are like the little girl with a curl right in the middle of her forehead…when they are good…they are very, very good…but when they are bad, they are horrid.

Unfortunately, with climate change affecting Nicaragua so much, growing peanuts is getting to be a bit like betting on a roulette wheel and I am no gambler. But the farmers and the managers of COPROEXNIC keep hoping…at least peanuts help the soil.
-Kathleen

NOTE: If you are reading this blog using the mobile version,click on "web version" to see the full blog with all the features including "subscribe to blog by email".  

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