I bathe in the sun of the morning, lemon circles swim in the tea
Fishing for time with a wishing line and throwing it back in the sea.
And here I sit, the retired writer in the sun,
The retired writer in the sun and I’m blue,
The retired writer in the sun.
– “Writer in the Sun,” Donovan Leitch
RANCHO SANTANA, NICARAGUA – Our days here in paradise are numbered.
Tomorrow, we head out…
But today, we are still on our veranda, looking out on the vast Pacific…
This morning, the pelicans were already feeding lustily. They barely took off… and then shot back, beak first, into the water… over and over… gobbling up the small fish.
All day long, they kept at it… flying up… just for a moment… and then diving again.
And now, in the evening, the sea spray flaunts the whole color spectrum as the last rays of sun sparkle through the cresting waves…
But the pelicans don’t stop to notice. In front of the house, where the waves shatter against the rocks, the sea seems almost jittery… And there, they’ve gone into a feeding frenzy once more.
We grow concerned for the fish.
We are getting to know some of the people on the beach… one, a Diary reader… another, an old friend (who sells real estate in the area)… and a pretty young surfer.
We see them on our morning walk… We smile and wish them a “good morning,” just as we used to do in the U.S. This is a friendly place. There are no face masks.
People spend most of their time outside… at the beach… on porches or verandas; there is little chance of passing on the dreaded disease.
Nicaragua claims only three deaths per 100,000 people (compared to 152 in the U.S.). Do you believe those numbers? We don’t either.
But here, people are still enjoying a lifestyle that must seem like a dream for many Americans.
It’s a familiar one. We wrote about it 40 years ago when we launched our first publication – International Living. “You look out your garden window…,” it began.
The idea was that a more authentic, more attractive, and more affordable life beckoned from overseas. And now, that dream is a reality for thousands of Americans.
And it tempts your correspondent into a wispy nostalgia. Like a retired writer in the sun, we fish for time, reaching back… four decades…
Bougainvillea and Palm Trees
We got underway in 1979. Deng Xiaoping had just put China back on the “capitalist road.” We had no idea that China would soon become the most dynamic commercial power in the world.
Ten years later, the Soviet Union followed… disbanding itself and renouncing communism. But what the Chinese and Russians had learned at such a painful cost, Americans quickly forgot.
Their apparatchiks and nomenklatura gained more and more power… and used the fake-money system to shift the nation’s wealth in their direction.
Then, in about 1999, America peaked out.
The War on Terror… the Wall Street bailout… the Lockdown… and the Main Street bailout – stumbling from one “mistake” to another… to $3 trillion deficits… $28 trillion in federal debt… Modern Monetary Theory (MMT)… “stimmy” checks and reparations — careening to disaster… and gathering speed…
Back in 1979, from our Baltimore office, we imagined the outside world. And it was almost all upside.
Now, we have bougainvillea and swaying palms directly in front of the veranda… but the outside world is dark and threatening.
Then, we were in our early 30s, with little idea of what the world had to offer. Now… well… we know.
It is magnificent and banal… everything and nothing… full of claptrap and jackassery… as well as breathtaking beauty. It is rich, and yet potentially impoverishing.
We’ve spent much of our adult lives overseas. Still do. We gained a lot… but we missed a lot, too – marriages, divorces, births, deaths… casual “good mornings” to old friends.
“I’ve lived here for many years,” explained our Dear Reader on the beach. “I love it. I’m just in front of the beach. It was one of the first buildings on the beach.
“But it’s a great place. In the morning, I take a walk on the beach and a swim. Then, I go to the golf course in the afternoon. I’ll never go back to the U.S. Too much BS.”
With all the travel restrictions – not to mention a U.S. travel advisory warning that Nicaragua may be dangerous – there are few tourists. Europeans, especially, have stopped coming.
But in their place, a lively community of people who live here almost all year round is growing. Young people. Old people. Retirees. “Digital nomads” who have found a home.
“It’s not just the lifestyle,” explains a friend. “They do the math. It can be cheaper to live here – a lot cheaper.”
He reminds us that tuition at the local school – bilingual, internet-enhanced – is only $3,000 per year. (Here, the children actually go to a school house… it’s not just via Zoom… and they go for nature walks in the forest and explore the shore, too.)
No commuting. No parking. No heating. (Some people don’t bother with air-conditioning; there are ocean breezes all year round.)
There is scarcely any need to buy clothes, either; few people wear more than shorts and a t-shirt.
The main expense is housing. And there… the low-down continues:
“It depends on where you’re coming from,” continues the explanation. “If you’re coming from California, life here seems like an incredible bargain. A house that would cost $1 million in California is only a couple hundred thousand here.
“The views are better. The surf is more reliable. The water is warmer. The food is fresher. I could go on… But if you’re coming from Little Rock, well, it can be expensive.”
“But is it dangerous?”
Our interlocutor smiles.
“Are you kidding? It’s nowhere near as dangerous as Baltimore.
“Here, there is practically no crime at all. Nicaragua has a tough law-and-order government, and some of the worst jails in the world. Nobody wants to go there.”
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