Expat Speed Bumps

“We could do it, you know.”
“Leave the district. Run off. Live in the woods. You and I, we could make it.”
― Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games

Yesterday, we walked to Moyogalpa instead of taking our motorcycle. “Where’s your moto?” many people asked. “We need the exercise,” I lied. There is no way I’ll admit that I am afraid to get on the moto after taking another spill. Wait! Did I just say that I hit a speed bump in our expat life on la isla?


It must have been divine intervention that led us to walk into town. Arriving at the Corner House for breakfast, I met a bemoaning tourist. He rented a scooter and wove through a herd of cattle on the road.  Unaware that there was a giant unmarked speed bump ahead, he flew over the speed bump leaving his scooter behind. He broke his toe, damaged the scooter, and had gravel and dirt embedded in his legs, arms, and body. “Why don’t they mark the damn things?” he lamented.

I’ve learned many lessons about expat speed bumps…sometimes the hard way. Wait! Most of the time, the hard way! Yet, lately, I’ve become too complacent and very comfortable in the boomer nest we’ve created on Ometepe Island. Too smug with my achievements…too self-satisfied with my life.

I’ve grown too comfortable watching the hard realities of life as the local islanders…haul water several times a day up a steep dusty path to their homes.
getting waterI’ve grown too comfortable watching the local islanders…wash their clothes in the lake.
fishing and laudromatI’ve grown too comfortable watching the local islanders…work 8 long hours a day for $5
IMG_2873using only manual labor as they piece together a new road
IMG_1713or families working together struggling to make ends meet.
IMG_4011I’ve grown too comfortable watching the local islanders… haul 50 pounds of firewood on their backs or try to save enough money to have firewood delivered
IMG_0643so they can cook their daily meals.
IMG_0069It’s time to reevaluate my expat speed bumps. Sometimes, I get so caught up in my life, many times being obsessed with posting about my own achievements or sorrows and feeling so “bad-ass” because I think I’m tough…that I forget about the truly resilient people on our island.

How tough am I really? if I had to work manual labor for $5 a day, climb a tall tree for a coconut, haul 50 pounds of firewood on my back, scrub my clothes in the lake, chop firewood, haul water, milk cows, kill chickens, or the multitude of daily chores that consume the local islanders’ lives…could I do it? Absolutely not!

My expat speed bumps seem so insignificant when compared to the locals’ daily lives on Ometepe Island. It’s time for me to get back on the moto and stop whining about my little boo boos in life.

How do your speed bumps compare to our local islanders? Do you think you’re tough enough to survive in a primitive society? Could you run off? Live in the woods? Could you make it?

9 thoughts on “Expat Speed Bumps

  1. I don’t think there is a place on earth where parents don’t want a better life for their children and themselves. And it seems being connected is the first step…TV’s, cell phones. Your picture of daily life for the islanders humbles me and I too need an attitude adjustment. Thanks for the reminder .:)

  2. San Clemente is certainly not as primitive as your small village. Our main “speed bumps” consisted of only cold water for two years and when it rains hard we lose electric and water and deal with streets filled with mud. But being a temporary speed bump we know it will pass. Could I run off to the woods and go totally primitive? Nope
    Great blog..

    • I’m so excited you answered my questions! Glad to hear your expat speed bumps are only temporary. This is our first dry season with our new water tank. Now, when we don’t have city water, we don’t even know because the water is gravity fed from the tank. So far, so good! By the way, I couldn’t go totally primitive either. 🙂 Thanks for responding to my questions.

  3. No one wants to see Ometepe overrun with tourism and its quieter, tranquil sense of a peaceful oasis destroyed. It is a blessing. But I think Debbie’s point is a good one that we should never forget that our enjoyment also comes as the result of a relatively priveleged life that let’s us see the world in a different way. That natives want to also enjoy some of those material benefits we take for granted is totally understandable and a natural human urge. They already watch TV and see our toys and technology. We’re lucky that envy and crime haven’t already been higher. In fact, if we don’t work with them to help achieve at least some of their goals (in as non-consumerish, environmentally-destructive way as possible) I sincerely doubt that we’ll be able to enjoy our own pieces of paradise in the same way.

  4. I am confused, are these the same locals that are able to afford/have fiestas de quinceañeras? Progress is a double-edged sword, what would they do with their time if they did not have these tasks? Or if they were earning $5 an hour instead of $5 a day? Soon the prosperity would ruin Ometepe, everyone would be riding motos or quads, maybe even SUV’s. the noise level and traffic would be unbearable, not to mention the consumerism. Consider yourself blessed that you are living on Ometepe before all of this happens, as it someday will…
    I wish to live in a underdeveloped country to escape all this maddness, even though I confess I am reliant on some technology… Where is a place with no cell phone towers, where the young are not constantly staring at their dumb phones? I know I am a dreamer, but I hope I am not the only one!

    • Dean, I often wonder those same things. I’m spoiled. I can’t imagine living without conveniences like running water, a flush toilet, refrigeration, or a gas stove. But, tourism is growing rapidly on Ometepe Island. The locals have more disposable income…and I am glad. They are building better houses for their families, buying refrigerators, and plumbing so that they can have running water in their homes. They’re buying motos instead of bicycles, and the tour and hotel operators are using technology to market their businesses. Progress is unavoidable, yet it is indeed a double-edged sword. When we went to the quinceañera for our goddaughter, I asked what to give her for her birthday. Of course, the answer was a cell phone! lol I think it’s impossible to find a place in the world without some kind of connections to the outside world. Thanks for your thought-provoking comments, Dean.

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