27 January 2023

Miss Lizzie beat the odds: life expectancy

I've read stories lately about the declining life expectancy in the United States. Covid and opioids and fentanal get a lot of the blame. Be that as it may, people in the US seem to be dying younger…some of us are dying 'suddenly' or are in the category of 'excess deaths.'

A story about this, published last month, includes a map, graphs, lists, and links to additional information:


The information in the story above, amassed by NiceRx, a supplier of discount prescription drugs, shows that people who live in Hawaii have the longest life span at 81.  Number one and the others in the top ten list are shown here, although the ties among some states means it's not a top ten list but a top fourteen list:

The ten (fourteen, really) US states with the best life expectancy:
  1. Hawaii - 80 years and eight months
  2. Washington - 79 years and two months
  3. Minnesota - 79 years and a month
  4. California, Massachusetts and New Hampshire - 79 years 
  5. Oregon, Vermont - 78 years and nine months 
  6. Utah - 78 years and seven months
  7. Connecticut, Idaho - 78 years and five months
  8. Colorado - 78 years and four months
  9. Rhode Island - 78 years and three months
 10. Maine - 77 years and nine months

The ten (eleven) US states with the lowest life expectancy: 
  1. Mississippi - 71 years and 11 months
  2. West Virginia - 72 years and 10 months
  3. Louisiana - 73 years and a month
  4. Alabama - 73 years and two months
  5. Kentucky - 73 years and six months
  6. Tennessee, Arkansas - 73 and 10 months
  7. Oklahoma - 74 years and a month
  8. New Mexico - 74 years and six months
  9. South Carolina - 74 years and 10 months
 10. Indiana - 75 years

Harvard chimed in with more details about the decline:


What I find interesting is that Nicaragua's life expectancy is higher than any of the eleven states shown on the 'lowest life expectancy' list above...at more than 75 years.  Nicaragua’s life expectancy has been steadily increasing for the past 50 years:


I don’t know if any of this is information is valid but it is interesting. I’ve met lots of people, men and women, in the part of Nicaragua where I hang out who are living - independently - in their 90s.

The longevity information was published within days of the release of a Gallup poll that rated Nicaragua as the number one country where citizens feel at peace.  My guess is that feeling at peace may be contributing to the increasing life expectancy of Nicaraguans:


One old person in Bluefields whom I never got to meet but have admired from stories about her was Ivy Elizabeth Forbes Nelson, known as Miss Lizzie.  She was born in 1921 and died at home in 2021.  I'm told she kept dancing nearly to the end.  

This is who she was and how she is lovingly known:
"An Interview with Miss Lizzie"


21 January 2023

Mr Allen and the new dock

Even before Hurricane Ian made landfall just a few miles north of us, Mr. Allen had been working to replace our public dock.  The thing was built shortly before our canal was finished and made open to the public...more than a decade ago.  

The dock had taken a lot of hard use from people, boats, machetes, weather, etc.  We don't use it.  We had built it specifically for the public and then just kind of forgot about it while doing all sorts of other work. The original public dock began to decline but as long as it was still usuable we pretty well ignored it.  

One of its regular users, our excellent neighbor Mr. Allen, began lobbying other landowners and the increasing number of members of the public who sometimes just make a day trip to the beach.  His intent was to build a brand new dock.  He explained to those he contacted that since we had opened and routinely maintain a mile of canal...and had originally built the public dock...we should not have to also be responsible for a dock we never use, but that instead the work should fall to those who do use it.    

Mr. Allen visited other people one at a time both in Bluefields and up and down the beach, asking that they contribute time or materials or money.  After Hurricane Ian's visit the work became imperative. We cleared and re-opened the canal for boat travel - but people who had produce or livestock to carry to market had no way to load their goods.  Thanks to Mr. Allen there is a new dock.  (Remnants of the old dock are visible along the side of the new one.)

Not only was he successful in having a new dock built. he improved on the original design.  The old dock was so tall that sometimes getting in or out of a boat was tricky.  The new dock is not as tall and has steps to make boarding and loading much easier.

15 January 2023

Family and the rosewood spatulas

For more than a decade, each trip I've made to False Bluff has included a visit with the Lopez family.  

Mr. Julio and his son Mr. Julio Jr and a grandson create lovely and sometimes useful, sometimes just decorative, things out of wood and shell - coconut shells and various sea shells:  jewelry and figurines and bowls and cups and walking canes.  

Basically if I can think of it, someone in the Lopez family can make it.  Stories about pieces of their work that have traveled from Bluefields (where they live) to Virginia (where I live) are woven throughout this blog.  And I've seen some of the family's work on display in the Nicaraguan embassy in Washington, DC.

One of my favorite pieces is the horse part of a hobby horse carved of teak.  The rockers never were added to the horse part because the piece overall didn't meet Mr. Julio's standards...but the horse part made the base of a nice low seat.  It was dumped directly into the dirt where it became part of a bench - until I unearthed it, wrapped it up, and took it to Virginia where it hangs on a wall in my living room. A picture is somewhere on this site.

During my most recent trip I met with Mr. Julio Jr and asked him to make me five wooden spatulas.  A spatula made of teak has been part of my kitchen arsenal for so long that its useful part had been worn in size to the point that the useful life was nearly over.  

So I took a picture of what was left, with a tape measure beside it.  When I showed the picture to him he said, "Sure.  No problem."  I kept one of the five that I brought home and am already using it...stirring stew and flipping grilled cheese sandwiches.  The other four spatulas were gifts to family members: two to siblings, two to children.  

These aren't teak.  They're rosewood.  

And all five of the spatulas I brought home were cut from the same chunk of wood, sliced like bread to become useful artifacts that may spend part of their useful lives not just having been sliced like bread but in contact with real bread.  

But the really special thing about this kitchen utensil is that it ties, in a small way, all five of us immediate family members together.  Each of us has one of these cut from the same piece of rosewood in Nicaragua.  

What a strange connection.

Note:  It's just over 12" long and about 1/4" thick not counting the taper at the more useful end.  The rosewood was part of a tree in the Lopez back yard.

09 January 2023


During a recent visit to Nicaragua I tagged along with friends on a Sunday trip to a small and somewhat isolated community about 40 minutes from Bluefields.  The new road from Bluefields to Nueva Guinea makes such visits a whole lot easier.  

But even with cars and trucks traveling the road, NIC-71, most people in tiny communities like this one still travel on horseback - although there's been a huge increase in motorcycles here since my only other visit some years ago.  

Not much, if any, of the infrastructure has changed but now even on Sunday you can shop at the local Purina dealership.

04 January 2023

A can...in a bottle

Twelve fluid ounce cans of Coca Cola or Pepsi is what we are accustomed to finding on shelves - at least throughout Virginia.  Maybe throughout the entire United States.  And twelve fluid ounces is 355 mL (yes, the L is not lowercase).  

But I discovered these little things in Bluefields on a recent trip.  Actually they're available in the airports in Managua which is pretty much the only place I am when I'm in Nicaragua if I'm not in the southern autonomous region.  

Not just the colas come in these small bottles.  You can also find Lipton tea and some of the Fantas.

These are nice.  Easier to carry and less to drink.  Plastic vs aluminum?  Always a debate.

And they're inexpensive.  The number on the cap in the second photo below is 16, not 76....that's the price.  Sixteen cordoba.  Today the exchange rate is 36.37 Nicaraguan cordoba to $1 U.S. dollar.  The math is pleasant.  

Can't find these little bottles anywhere in my Virginia city.