30 August 2022

Bluefields hospital (and the University of Virginia)

Only three of Nicaragua's 32 public hospitals are located in what is known as the Caribbean coast.  The 'Caribbean coast' portion of the country is divided into two autonomous regions that, combined, make up fifty-five percent of the country's total territory.

Hospital Ernesto Sequeira is in Bluefields.  Small and not showy by many standards, it's got everything hospitals are supposed to have.  I have friends who've been successfully and professionally treated there for things ranging from minor injuries to life threatening illnesses.  And as a hospital should, it has an emergency room that's open 24-hours a day. 

The UVA information is a curious sidenote to those of us who have spent most of our lives in Virginia, although we weren't aware of the collaboration between Bluefields and a Virginia university until long after we selected the area for a place to live part time.

Interestingly, one of Bluefields' two universities - BICU - is the first site of the University of Virginia School of Nursing's reimagined global initiatives program which includes conducting "research with the UVA faculty and Nicaraguan clinicians." 

The BICU site may or may not translate easily from Spanish to English but it's doable...and anything is better than wikipedia:  https://www.bicu.edu.ni/

28 August 2022

One man's trash is usually still just trash

At False Bluff we've cleaned trash off the beach for more than a decade and still more trash rolls in on every tide. It would be wonderful if the stuff rolled out with the same regularity. Keeping the beach clean is a never ending fight as earlier photos throughout this blog show.

What you see in the picture immediately below used to be typical of our section of beach. If you take a stroll up or down the beach you will see how easy it is to locate just where False Bluff begins and ends...you can't get lost. The beach to the north of us and the beach to the south of us still looks like this.

Now Bluefields has a mayor who is waging the same sort of fight against trash that we've been waging. But his is an urban environment with a lot more people to help clean up. He's going to have a fight nonetheless.

But a recent tropical storm, Bonnie, was a great educator. After people had to leave home to spend time in community shelters because of heavy rains and flooding, and after a couple of houses in town collapsed, the mayor explained that when the city's sewers get clogged water backs up and floods happen.

It became very clear, very fast, to almost everybody in Bluefields that a lot of the inconvenience - and more importantly a lot of the damage - from Bonnie's heavy rains was caused by the fact that the sewers were full of trash.

Since the water couldn't go where it was supposed to go, it went where it wasn't supposed to go.

Here, people from Monkey Point (almost to Costa Rica) arrive at the main wharf in Bluefields to shelter in place:

"Sewers should not be used as landfill" states city hall in a news story that went on to claim that "Unfortunately, the sewers remain full of rubbish that people throw away, hindering the passage of water, which facilitates flooding..."   

26 August 2022

COVID testing...but only in Managua

Although this requirement seems to have been suspended to re-enter the United States  - hopefully forever - I was required to have a negative test in order to board my flight home at the end of my latest trip.  

Managua is the only place in the country where covid testing is done.  But the negative effects of the testing requirement have been catastrophic to Nicaragua's tourism and that would probably have been true regardless of where your testing was done.  Imagine your test results were positive - what do you do about your flight, a hotel, a doctor, a hospital stay, re-booking, re-testing.  The cost of the tests alone were/are high, particularly for a PCR which may still be required for re-entry by some countries. 

To have testing only available in Managua might have been somewhat understandable when a PCR was required; but by the time I cycled through, only a rapid test was on the menu and those are quick and easy.  The person 'conducting' the tests, and those being tested, were in contact by phone with 'applicable government authorities.'

There is at least one big formal place in Managua where testing is done and the stories of high prices and delays and confusion there have become the stuff of legend among people who only wanted to go home.  

However, a friend in Managua dug up information for me about a much less expensive and much more relaxed testing site...fully approved by those 'applicable authorities.'  And so off we went to a small shop which was, as is often the case throughout Nicaragua, in the front part of a private home.

These sorts of commercial enterprises can be found all over the country...sometimes even restaurants. The sales or restaurant seating areas occupy the front room(s) of the home. Saves on rent, saves on commuting time. There was limited seating in this one and another couple came in right behind me and my friend. While we waited, all of us, including the woman conducting the test and her helper/daughter, chatted as best we could. A highlight of the visit were the bunny ears on the phone by which we communicated with the 'applicable authorities.'

At the end of the test I gave the woman in pink shoes just $80USD. She handed me a plain folder which held two pieces of paper and on one of the pieces of paper was the word NEGATIVE.

I worried until I got to the airport the next morning, thinking that this was all too simple, that this couldn't be enough...until I found myself in line directly behind the couple who had come in to the testing place right after us - and watched them get cleared for the flight with no problem at all.

We smiled at each other

23 August 2022

Covid and Nicaragua's response

"'Rumors' as a source of information"  

That quote sure sums up a lot of what we've endured during the 'covid thing.'

Nearly everybody I know at False Bluff and in Bluefields contracted Covid, whether they were vaccinated or not.  All but two of these people have come out just fine on the 'good health' side.  Of the two who died, one was over 70 and had serious health issues; the other was in her 90s.

I read much of the media criticism from around the world about Nicaragua's response to covid; but I missed the positive stories - and it turns out that when I dug a bit, there are several.   A 2021 story explained that at the start of 'the pandemic' Nicaragua took action similar to that of Sweden and, to a certain extent, similar to that of Florida in the United States.  Another story, published about a week ago, includes an interview with Nicaragua's top covid advisor. 

Nicaragua's response to covid was bashed by NIH as "Nicaraguan Government's failure to confront the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)" when NIH pushed back on the story in "Fair" (see links below).   

However, both WHO and the University of Oxford indicated that Nicaragua's "failure to confront" covid couldn't have been all bad.   "In a recent study conducted by the University of Oxford and the World Health Organization, socialist Nicaragua was placed number nine on a list of the ten safest countries (in Latin America) to visit during the COVID-19 pandemic."  

According to the UN there are 33 Latin American countries...and those at all familiar with Nicaragua know that the majority of those 33 countries has much more money than Nicaragua.

Nicaragua made major preparations for patients very early, while a lot of other countries were still trying to decide if there really was a pandemic.  

The country's 'official' covid count was considered dishonest by most media and the figure quoted by some sources was more than doubled.  However, it seemed that "The higher figure is based on “suspected” (not tested) cases, and according to the observatory website includes “rumors” as one source of information. But even the higher figure is dramatically lower than those for adjoining countries..."

Note:  Links to the two stories mentioned 



22 August 2022

The natural beauties of Nicaragua

In March of this year MARENA introduced a map of Nicaragua's natural beauties.  

Actually it introduced two maps:  one is static and one is interactive.  

Nicaragua has a very large number of conservation zones and these are included in the interactive map.


18 August 2022

Working to protect sea turtles


Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources

A few years ago we decided to pursue having the beach that borders us designated a turtle sanctuary.  Several of the world's species of sea turtles nest on a Nicaraguan coast...some of them at False Bluff. 

Despite existing Nicaraguan laws passed to protect turtles and their eggs, the destruction continues in large part because of economics:  turtle meat and turtle eggs are food; turtle shells are jewelry.  

Over the years I have visited the MARENA office in Bluefields to talk about how to make a sanctuary designation happen...and then there was 'the pandemic' which put a temporary end to a lot of good things.

But finally, during a recent trip to Nicaragua, MARENA and I began to work out some details. The first thing was a site visit so that the 'officials' could actually see the place that we wanted protected. It was never a question of 'if' but of 'how.'

This first trip included both MARENA staff and a representative from city hall; a long walk; and a discussion of what comes first...which turned out to be taking an inventory of nest sites during the current nesting season.

My staff and I were give some good information, including drawings - right there in the sand - by the very knowledgeable city hall rep on how to recognize the difference between a turtle's exploratory visit from a visit that actually resulted in eggs being laid. The tracks coming and going across the beach are different for each of these activities.

The group from town was a bit surprised at our enthusiasm about wanting to protect the turtles that visited us...and definitely surprised that we had bothered to verify previous visits and hatchings with photographs and videos. The first visit generated enough interest on the part of the 'officials' to schedule another trip almost immediately, a trip that would include additional people and representative groups - like the army - and a possible expansion of the area to be protected.

The immediate result of our sanctuary designation will be education and a legal right to stop people from killing turtles at False Bluff and from stealing clutches of eggs.

The photo does not show a turtle leaving eggs or a turtle looking for a place to lay eggs. Instead, these are the tracks of a Green Sea turtle that we freed from a tangled mess of sea garbage that had wrapped her tight and totally immobilized her.

The photo shows the tracks of a turtle making a break for freedom.

Note: The rest of the story (and additional photos) were posted here in 2011

14 August 2022

Back To Work

For what seemed to be an eternal two years, the world was pretty much shut down because of a virus? because the 'experts' said so?


Most covid edicts everywhere in our hemisphere have been lifted and travel is ramping up. We are once again making visits to False Bluff...resuming repairs to the staff house and resuming completion of the two rental cabins. Both are things that we had begun before things went crazy.

And of course the first thing that needs to be done is to transport materials from Bluefields to our place on the edge of the Caribbean. The previous post noted that we have purchased a house in Bluefields. Having the house won't make the trip shorter...False Bluff will still be eight miles by water from Bluefields.

But a house near the center of town will make getting stuff from Bluefields to our work site at the edge of the Caribbean a whole lot easier. Because the current process for getting stuff moved is thus:

  • over a period of days, shop in town
  • load onto a rental truck ($) any purchases that are too big for a taxi
  • have the usually multiple purchases - from the usually multiple places - delivered to a staging area
  • hire another rental truck ($) to haul purchases to the boat which is never near the staging area
Every now and then one truck can do it all but there are usually a few days of shopping before heading to False Bluff while purchases pile up at the staging area. It's pretty easy to figure out which steps we can eliminate when the place in town is ready for use.

Here our materials are being loaded at the staging area to be carried to the boat to then travel eight miles to our canal that leads to one of the most beautiful places in the world.

08 August 2022

An Increasing Commitment

During our decade-plus involvement in Nicaragua's southern autonomous region, we have become very enmeshed with life and with lives there.  We've attended weddings and graduations and award ceremonies.  We've celebrated births and mourned losses.

We've not just made good friends - we've added to our family .  

And recently, continuing our commitment, we've purchased a house in one of Bluefields seventeen neighborhoods: Santa Rosa, Central, San Mateo, Pointeen, Fátima, Three Cross, Ricardo Morales, Old Bank, San Pedro, Teodoro Martínez, 19 de Julio, Pancasán, Punta Fría, New York, Beholden, Canal, Loma Fresca.

We will be renovating the small house in a neighborhood which includes a peninsula that pokes into Bluefields Bay. As with False Bluff itself, most of the houses in our new neighborhood are on the water...but Bluefields is a water-based community so being on the water isn’t difficult.

The house will be our de facto headquarters: a place for us to stay during extended visits, a place for friends and family to get to know our part of Nicaragua...

And a place where our boat can live, where our staff can leave a boat, where loading supplies to haul to False Bluff will be so much simpler. All of this will be easier with a 'parking' lot right in town.