29 April 2023

A craftsman family

More than a decade ago I met Mr Julio...Julio Lopez.  And then I met one of his sons who has followed in his father's 'footsteps' tho the work the family does is done by hand, not by foot.  Now there is a third generation, a grandson, who is creating treasures like the two previous generations.

Each of these three men in Mr Julio's family is a craftsman, a word that is defined as "...a person who is skilled in a particular craft."  Mr Julio and his son and his grandson are skilled in the craft of creating lovely and often useful things from wood...quite often 'found' wood.  

In Virginia when rights of way are cleared...for instance along a power line...the wood that is removed is most often oak or pine.  On Nicaragua's east side the wood cleared along a power line is often teak or mahogany...or even rosewood.

When I am in Nicaragua, Bluefields specifically, I always visit with someone in the Lopez family and I almost always return to Virginia wih a new treasure...a walking stick, a kitchen utensil, a bowl, a cup, a tray, a pair of earrings.  If I can name it - or if I can produce a photo for illustration - one of these men can make it.

But when I first began to do business with the family, none of the pieces I purchased was signed; and so I began to ask Mr Julio to sign the pieces I bought...if the size of the piece permitted that.  

I explained why I wanted him to take this extra step, that the pieces he made for me were unique; and if, as I sometimes do, I gave some of the items as gifts...I wanted the people who got each piece to know who made it.  Because Mr Julio and his son and grandson make things almost exclusively by hand - and almost exclusively without electricity - that's how they sign their work. Mr Julio is shown here signing, by hand, a small rosewood tray that sits in my Virginia house about 5 feet from where I am right now.

It's important in my family to know the history of the unique items we live with, acknowledging and remembering the person who crafts these things.

23 April 2023

Food, edibles, meals...choices in Bluefields

There's a fair amount of fast food available in Bluefields.  Much of the fast food is chicken, compliments of Tip-Top, Nicaragua's answer to KFC in the United States.  And there are at least two real Italian restaurants for pizza or a formal sit-down meal.  

But the best food in Bluefields is cooked while you wait and is usually worth the wait.  Seafood of many sorts - fish both salt and fresh water, shrimp, lobster.  There's very good barbecue.  There are pasta dishes at restaurants with real linen table clothes.  Most of these meals are accompanied by a side of fresh vegetables; and almost always a side dish of rice is at least offered.  

None of these meals is prepackaged or made with processed foods...you know...that stuff that comes out of a box or out of a can and just gets nuked?  

These meals are almost always worth the wait.  I have to say 'almost' because nothing is perfect...anywhere, anytime.

Breakfast is often eggs, cooked how you want them and possibly with fresh home-made cheese and some rice and beans...

At midday you can snack on a sandwich with fresh-squeezed fruit juice...

...or you might choose to have an actual midday meal that includes fresh shrimp...and fresh shrimp in Bluefields most likely means somebody caught the shrimp the same morning they show up on your plate:

or maybe you decide on a midday meal that's all fried...fried chicken, fried banana, and fried rice.  Fried food here is more like wok cooking than deep fry.

Or at the end of the day your choice might be a real dinner treat of asada and southern salad/slaw:

After breakfast and lunch and dinner you can finish the day with a banana split:

14 April 2023

All in the family...the equidae family

Years ago I traveled with family to one of the British Virgin Islands.  When we couldn't get somewhere on foot we went in a rented car...and periodically we would come to a halt because of cows.

The cows would wander across the road in a diagonal pathway...never straight across like the chicken that just wanted to get to the other side.  The cows were on the way somewhere but never seemed to be in a hurry to get there.  

Or they'd get tired of doing whatever they had been up to and simply lie down in the road and take a break which sometimes turned into a nap.  There was never just one cow....whatever they did was a group effort.

And a tourist or even the occasional resident in a car didn't bother them one bit.  If they were resting in the road they'd occasionally glance your way, usually while chewing a cud; but if they were up and moving...on their way somewhere...they wouldn't even bother to look your way.

I learned that years later whoever's in charge of things on the island put a stop to cows in public.  They were banned to fenced areas...away from public rights of way. Sad for them, sad for tourists and maybe even sad for full time residents who'd certainly become accustomed to their presence.

The downtown area of Bluefields doesn't have cows wandering or napping in the streets although small herds of cows routinely graze in yards in residential areas a short way from downtown.  

But Bluefields has members of the equidae family...horses, mules, donkeys...but mostly horses whose work takes them to town.  They are almost always there because they're rightfully employed and town is where they work.  But every now and then there's an outlier just out for a good meal.

This guy's waiting for his owner, tucked safely out of the way of cars and trucks - and in a somewhat shady spot.  

I've seen this girl pulling a cart for years.  Her cart is usually loaded with fresh oranges.  Here she seems to be headed home after a delivery.

The mule doesn't look to be gainfully employed as it grazes along the sidewalk just a couple of blocks from city hall...on the same street.  But who knows...it may just be between jobs.

08 April 2023

Part II: Pointeen house-on-the-bay

Part I showed where False Bluff is located in relation to Bluefields.  This part (II) shows where our new house is located in Bluefields...specifically the Pointeen neighborhood of Bluefields.

From a LaCostena airplane heading east is this pretty good picture over the bay.  It shows the downtown area of Bluefields and  - wonders of wonders - a shot of Pointeen in the distance.  The arrow indicates just about where the new house is: almost on the tip of the neighborhood's point on the south-facing side. 


(There are some previous posts about the house which will undergo a renovation.)

03 April 2023

Blue blue blue...minds, spaces, and zones

The term "blue zone" was formalized in 2004 after a study of an extradinarily long-lived group of people in Italy.  The study prompted publication of an academic paper on longevity - and voila! a new business was formed: Blue Zones LLC.  The term was then trademarked and a business was built to sell a healthy lifestyle.  Oddly enough the business ramped up at about the same time that other groups began touting that being fat can be healthy...go figure.  

The business designated five places in the world where people live longer than usual...often into their 100s; and each of these areas shares a set of common characteristics which seem to contribute to the long and healthy lives of the inhabitants.  Of these five areas, four are on water...oceans, seas, etc.  The fifth is near - but not on - water.

But the set of common characteristics is just that - common.

Before I ever heard the term blue zone, I recall being impressed, as I settled more and more into the daily life of Bluefields, at the number of old people in that small city, both men and women, who are healthy and active as well as old.  

These people usually walk where they want to go. They shop and carry stuff - like their own groceries.  They visit friends.  They go to church.  They care for family members young and old.  Sometimes they take on the care of a friend.  In general they participate in the life of their communities.  They are in control of their own lives and business, like my friend below at her lawyer's office.  They are rarely, if ever, in air conditioned spaces - fans and open windows suffice. 

And they rarely, if ever, eat processed foods....unless they do the processing.

After some recent reading about blue zones in general, not just the trademarked ones, I realized that all of the characteristics of long-lived groups are common to the large group of elderly people Bluefields.  And the characteristices are common to a lot of young people in Bluefields as well - which makes me think that many of the young people there may also live to a ripe old age.  

In Bluefields most people share these characteristics...they:

  • move naturally throughout daily life rather than depend on something like a gym membership for their activity;
  • have purpose (sometimes several, either long or short term;
  • avoid stress (maybe moving naturally thru each day helps with this);
  • don't eat everything they might want to eat but instead they limit their food intake;
  • eat lots of fresh vegetables and fruit;
  • drink alcohol sparingly (I doubt many in Bluefields are aware that moderate drinkers usually live longer than people who don't drink any alcohol.  If this was common knowledge the elderly there might live to be 150, not just 90+);
  • belong...to something (usually that "something" is faith based probably because faithful people often form groups that are easily accessible);
  • hang out with other healthy people; and
  • keep family first and close

And then we come to "blue spaces" which are bodies of water and places near them...and not just salt water. In addition to a large number of stories about blue zones, there are stories showing up about, and studies of, the importance of blue spaces to both mental and physical health.  Most of what I've read relates to how blue space is important to these aspects of children's health; but all of the reasons for the importance of blue spaces to children are certainly applicable to non-children, ie to us grown ups.  

The fact that four of the areas in the world where people live longest are quite close to salt water might be no accident.  An increasing amount of scientific information explains the health benefits of water and of living on a coast or an island, though a river or a lake will do.

There's lots of 'scientific' information about the benefits of being near water.  The term "blue mind" is now being used to describe something that closeness to an ocean does to humans.  According to science, it improves our mental state; it's good for oily hair; it reduces stress; and on and on.  

Our belief in "science" has justifiably stretched thin over the past few years; but there is mounting visible evidence that people who live near water, particularly salt water, live longer than a lot of other people.

I'm including a few links to read and none of these will stress your brain.  The most recent, the first in the list below, is dated today and says many of the things I had already written in this post: 

  • tinyurl.com/4hyvxwvj
  • tinyurl.com/5bdke32h
  • tinyurl.com/yc6p67ju
  • tinyurl.com/275zk3e4

Note: I posit we're not seeing a bigger number of studies and stories about the importance of blue space because so many people would, or do, say "Only rich people can afford to live near water."  Fairly typical deflection because you sure don't have to be rich to take advantage of spending time near water.