Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A View of Heaven

Here is my view of heaven and this wonderful place called planet Earth

A glimpse of heaven
My belief is that we are living in “heaven” right now. Sum up all the wonder, goodness, awe, and beauty in this world; from a child's eye, a lover's radiant smile, art, dance, music, mountains glittering light, coral reefs, sunsets, nature, love, communication, and I can not conceive of any definition of heaven with more splendor. Heaven and hell are conceptions created within the unity. They are not locations outside our world. We are living in “heaven.” We are just too immature consciously/spiritually to perceive it... unfortunately we fit many definitions of hell too these days. But, I guess one has to rejoice and embrace the wonders of the world and act against the evils.

This is a core belief of my life. It guides my life and actions. My dream and goal here in Nicaragua is to help build a community that reflects this. A world of beauty and joy; a better world where I work and play toward creating a better world. This involves helping build a progressive, socially just community. Nicaragua is a magical place, so full of beauty and splendor. Yet, it is a desperately poor place too. It is the second poorest country in all of the Americas after Haiti. There is a complex history for this situation, from centuries of rapacious colonialism and exploitation, to decades of dictatorship, and years of civil war. Thankfully it has emerged from these travails. It is ranked 9th in the world on the World Happiness Index, and has made tremendous strides in the last few years reducing poverty and embracing a sustainable, social just future. They have made tremendous strides in reducing poverty; extreme poverty has been reduced by 50% in five years!The Nicaraguan Constitution enshrines environmental protection. Article 750 of the new constitution reads: ""Any act or action that severely impacts the environment of the country will be a considered a threat to national security." They are on track to have 94% of all electricity derived from renewable resources by 2017, according to the Inter-American Development Bank’s first-annual “Climatescope” report Nicaragua ranked second in Latin America for investment in renewable energies (Brazil was first). Impresive from the second poorest country in the Americas!

Nicaragua has made incredible progress in creating a better world for its citizens while enshrining environmental sustainability as a national goal. Work continues on these fronts making Nicaragua an exciting and wonderful place to live and work.

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Road to Vista Playa Madera.

The Road to Vista Playa Madera.

      Long, long ago I made a decision not to wait until I was 65 to begin filling my bucket list. It seemed crazy to wait until you are 65 to do all the other things you desired to do. I decided then and there I would take my retirement in stages, 20% a year, and begin to follow my dreams and desires. I have been very successful in this. It grew into a type of work where I worked like a wild man, double, triple time three months a year, the rest of the year I enjoyed long periods of free time to travel, volunteer, and telecommute. It has been a great life so far, full of adventure, love and fulfillment. Before coming to Nicaragua I had a sailboat in the Caribbean.
 Heading southwest into the Caribbean from Florida
 I would work four months a year in Canada and then telecommute the rest of the year. I was once sitting on the beach in Cuba reading some technical manuals (and drinking a beer), on an incredible Caribbean beach and a foreign a woman asked me how long I was on vacation. I swept my arms across the blue horizon and exclaimed this is my office, and it was. I spent seven blessed years sailing those incredible waters.Sailing Cuba.
One of the incredibly beautiful wild, untouched beaches in Cuba

During those decades of work and travel I was drawn ever again to Latin America. It is an enchanted land, full of history, natural wonders, and friendly people. Through the years I have traveled to virtually every country in North, Central, and South America. I knew I wanted to "retire," here - I really envision it as engagement, engagement in new activities and adventure - down here. I just had not decided quite where. I had planned a trip back to Central America when I decided to buy my sail boat, so that trip was postponed. When I finally made it to my last country in Central America I discovered a real gem. It is a natural wonderland.

Playa Madera on the southwest of Nicaragua near San Juan del Sur
The natural diversity is awe inspiring. In a country the size of New York state one can find the dry tropical forests of the rugged Pacific coast, the dry and hot lowlands of the central interior, the cool cloud forests of the northern mountains, and the immense, grand forests of the hot and humid Caribbean lowlands. The land of lakes, spectacular beaches and volcanoes.

 It reminds me of Costa Rica forty years ago. I can walk 30 minutes from home and be on a beach where I have seen less than a dozen people in three years. The climate here on the coast is perfect. You always hear location, location, location for real estate. Here in the tropics that is truer than anywhere else. The diversity of microclimates is tremendous. Here right on the coast the easterly winds blow the warm waters on the surface of the Pacific out to sea and cool waters from deep below come to the surface. These waters average about 27 degrees. These cool waters moderate the temperatures tremendously. It is 6:30 pm today and the temperatures have already dropped to an incredibly comfortable 27 degrees. Daily temperatures range from lows of 22-24 degrees in the night to 29-31 during the hottest part of the day. For a country only 11 degrees north of the equator this is miraculous!

Then you have the humidity and rainfall. This area is classified as dry tropical forest, 80% of the rains come during 3 months of the year: June, September and October, Very little rain falls from November to May. This has a huge impact on the local humidity index, most of the year the humidity rarely climbs out of the 70's. This has a huge impact on the physical comfort. This is much lower than the humidity in NYC or Toronto. One can live comfortably without air conditioning in a well designed house. So cool evenings and warm days all year round. All in a country only only 700 miles north of the equator.

The situation changes drastically as you head east, first the temperatures rise as you get away from the moderating influence of the cool Pacific. It becomes hot, dry and arid for much of the year.
The hot dry interior
If you want to live in the tropics but don't like hot climates then the north central mountains are the place for you. Temperatures rarely climb above the high 20's and nighttime it is around 18 degrees.
The cool, cloud forests of north central Nicaragua
Then as you head farther east toward the Caribbean the humidity climbs rapidly. These are the deep lowland humid forest of the Caribbean lowlands.
Rio San Juan The pirate Henry Morgan prowled these waters.
 Day and night the temperature rarely drops below 30 degrees and the humidity is close to 100%. You definitely feels like you are in the hot tropics there.

A view of the surf from Vista Playa Madera lot

The dry forests of the Pacific coast has a major impact on insects and disease. There are very few bugs here. It is too dry much of the year. I have no screens on my windows, dressed only in shorts at dusk and there is not one mosquito or biting bug. There is probably 1% of the biting bugs of Canada, and NO malaria in the state of Rivas Nicaragua. malaria map of Nicaragua. Again it is all location. Here in the hills, over looking the sea there in no standing water. Pick a location just a couple of miles away, close to a river or estuary, or in urban areas where old tires, buckets and old cisterns prove a breeding ground, and you will have a mosquito problem. Ironically mosquitoes are more an urban problem than here in the dry forests.

A view south from Playa Madera to Morgan's Rock
So, after all my travels, from the farthest reaches of South America to the northern borders of Mexico and The Caribbean I picked Playa Madera as my place to settle down. It is a magic land of rugged rocky headlands and fine sand beaches. Vista Playa Madera is nestled in the forests above this beach.  The area is some times called Cinco Bahias, Five Bays, because there are five separate bays within just a few minutes walk of my home. This makes it an aquatic playground. One beach will face the full Pacific, and the southwest swell, with the whole southern Pacific in which to grow crashes upon the shore

. Another tucked behind the rocky headlands is calm as a lake shore.
Playa Majagual from Morgan's Rock
This diversity of beaches is wonderful. One can surf and boogie board on one beach, swim and play with small children on another. The protected coves are perfect for snorkeling or diving. The strong waves make for a beachcomber delight. Playa Madera is one of the best surfing beaches in Nicaragua. Numerous surfing competitions have been held here over the years.

The popularity of the area makes it fairly unique for a tourist area in the tropics. Most areas suffer from a major boom and bust season, with the popular months being confined to a couple months in the winter. Here the best surfing is April through to October. This doubles or triples the number of months when people come to visit. That makes it a much more desirable area for running a small business, hotel, or B&B.
Playa Madera Surf