Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Free-range living

Free-range hen outside our room on Ometepe
For all the anti-government types out there -- be they libertarians, teabaggers or Republicans -- I've found a place you would love: Nicaragua.

I just spent about two weeks there, taking in the great scenery, the tropical heat, the cold showers and the gallo pinto.

Most Americans probably can't place Nicaragua on a map, but that only makes the largest country in Central America more interesting.

Some may have heard of the Iran-Contra affair, but can't recall what it was about or when it happened. And, what does Iran have to do with Nicaragua anyway?

Not much, especially now.

Nicaragua is the poorest, but safest country in Central America. It now has the fastest-growing economy in the region. New Kias, Hyundais, Toyotas and motorcycles crowd the roadway with bicycles and horse-drawn carts. Satellite dishes for television and internet dot the landscape, even in the poorest, most remote places, like Ometepe.

Nicaragua is also run by the Sandinistas, who were once communists, but now embrace capitalism and democracy, albeit with an unhealthy dose of autocracy.

So, it's like America,  especially the Southwest, where Hispanics dominate the landscape and Spanish is the lingua franca.

And while most countries south of the border may be known for their lawlessness, Nicas just shrug at the law.

You want to text and drive? No problem. Although, it is a tad unnerving when your taxi driver is texting or talking while speeding down the highway. On the other hand, it is impressive when the driver of your horse-drawn carriage texts while giving you a tour of Granada, the oldest city in North America.

As for seatbelts, they seem like a voluntary thing and nothing for which a police officer would stop you.

Not that I saw many police officers. There were the occasional stops on the Pan-American Highway, but they were looking for Colombians, Ecuadorians and Peruvians trying to make their way north.

Oh, and there are armed guards at every bank and at some tony hotels.

But, by and large, you can do what you want in Nicaragua.

If you want to throw your litter in the street, you can do so. In spite of that, most roadways aren't that cluttered with trash.

If you want to hang your laundry all around your property, unlike on Awbrey Butte, you can hang all day.

Of course, most Nicaraguans don't own a clothes dryer or even a washing machine.

While you can't own a rooster in the city limits of Bend, you can have as many roosters as you want in Nicaragua. After a few weeks, you won't even notice the cock-a-doodle-doos at 3 in the morning.

You can also own pigs, horses, goats, cows and oxen seemingly anywhere.

In America, we have become so cautious that you can't even mop a cubicle floor without putting out a "Caution: Wet Floor" sign.

In Nicaragua, they mop relentlessly and you never have to worry about tripping over a "caution" sign. They simply don't exist. By the way, you'd have to be blind not to see all the women mopping.

In Bend, we've spent millions re-doing handicap access at street corners.

In Nicaragua, you never see any handicap people on the streets. Of course, the sidewalks are completely uneven and full of holes. It's almost unsafe even for the most vigilant pedestrians.

Street signs and addresses aren't needed. Someone will always help you get where you're going.

Bend may have draconian leash laws for dogs, but in Nicaragua, scores of dogs roam the streets. In fact, I don't think they even sell leashes there. Plus, they don't bother with that whole politically-correct spay-and-neuter thing.

Speaking of freedom, it's amazing how many horses, pigs, chickens, goats, cows and oxen wander at will. None of these animals pay much attention to the vehicles bearing down on them on the roadways.

Call it a freedom menagerie.

It all works, without the need for rules, regulations and red tape. Many parts of Nicaragua resemble America, circa 1860, before our dang government started inhibiting the freedoms of sovereign, white citizens.

It may unnerve the anti-U.S. government types that almost no one speaks English in Nicaragua and that no one, but the handful of foreigners, are white.

To add insult to injury, the Sandinistas are the only people in the world who still love Jimmy Carter because he refused to let the U.S. intervene during their 1979 revolution.

But, and this is the clincher, you can use American dollars in the larger cities there.

And, if you smile, the friendly Nicas will smile with you, in spite of what the U.S. has done to Nicaragua over the years, from William Walker to outright occupation to assassination and to Iran-Contra.

So, if you can't stand living in Obama's America, and as you hallucinate that there are no freedoms left to lose, I suggest you check out Nicaragua.


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