“Every man is an island, and every heart seeks the ferry to cross the main…”
― Mykyta Isagulov
Update June 2020
We had planned on returning to our house in July. I wanted to bring a few books and supplies to my library and check on our house with our renters. But…then the pandemic struck and is wiping Nicaragua clean.
I can’t imagine how the expats are surviving, especially those with businesses. The Nicaraguans are resilient though, and they will always find a way.
I can only shake my head in dismay. The corruption and ignorance of the Ortega administration leads to countless deaths that could have been prevented if they hadn’t lied about the virus and taken precautions earlier. Instead, they had a “Love in the Time of COVID“ parade and numerous gatherings and outings with their Sandinista followers. Many doctors have been fired because they told the truth about the Corona virus to their patients. Of course, the civil rebellion two years ago wiped out most of the good doctors because they were either fired or left the country never to return.
Crime is up, property values are way down, electrical outages occur frequently, food is scarce, unemployment is off the charts, medical PPEs for medical staff are not available, midnight burials occur every night, and the cost of electricity is high. Things don’t look good at all in Nicaragua. Honestly, I am grateful we had the sense to leave Nicaragua when we did…and many of my Nicaraguan former expat friends say the same with a big sigh of relief.
Meanwhile, we are hunkered down in the states…which politically sounds very much like Nicaragua with the corruption and ignorance of the administration. Right now, there is no place to run for safety, except our secure and comfortable home in the states. 😢
My husband and I left Nicaragua in July 2018, at the height of the ongoing political crisis. A lovely family from Managua rented our house for three years because of the violence in the capital city. We will not return to live in Nicaragua until the heavy repression of the Nicaraguan people stops, the many human right’s violations end, Ortega and his VP wife are tried and convicted of political crimes, and the 60,000 Nicaraguans feel safe to return from exile in Costa Rica and neighboring countries.
Presently, the crisis continues, but the violence has been greatly reduced. For us, it is morally wrong to return to Nicaragua to live. We cannot support this government and their torture, killing, and oppression of the Nicaraguan people.
We will always support our close Nicaraguan friends, adopted families, our goddaughter, my children’s library, and my librarian. There are many ways you can help the Nicaraguan people from afar, if you choose not to travel to Nicaragua at this time. If you do choose to come to Nicaragua, the best way to support the Nicaraguan people who are suffering is to stay in Nicaraguan owned hotels and hostels, eat in Nicaraguan restaurants, and use local taxi drivers, transportation, and buy only local products from Nicaraguan craftsmen, farmers, or business owners.
For my last post on this blog, I will make a list of Nicaraguan owned establishments and businesses, and a list of reputable NGOs where your money can go directly to the people.
And now my post….
Sunday evening, I was invited to speak with a group of women from Finding My Place, a travel agency for women who want to explore living abroad. It was a lovely gathering with well-traveled women who are exploring Nicaragua as a place to hang their hammocks. Many of the questions they asked revolved around the pros and cons of island life. Below are some of the things we discussed, which may be of interest to you, too.
Islands are slow and far away from many distractions. Ometepe Island, Nicaragua is no exception. Island living is not for the faint of heart, yet the rewards are many, tranquility is abundant, and our lifestyles are simple.
1. The stunning beauty of our natural surroundings reduces stress and contents me. Living with an active volcano in our backyard that entertains us with constantly changing cloud formations and an enormous lake in our front yard with the ebbs and flows of life entrances me.
2. It is a great place for walking and hiking. We get lots of exercise daily because we can walk everywhere. Island living is easy to navigate.
3. Living on a tropical island sets me up for appreciation success. I am naturally inclined to appreciate the things around me without the constant buzzing and annoyances of city life.
4. I am more creative. If we want something that is not available on the island, we make it. I’ve made lamp shades, buttermilk, nancite wine, and even PVC pipe shutters for our casita. Googling has become my door to the world of make-it-yourself.
5. I get to experience a radically different lifestyle because there are no gated gringo communities here. It’s total cultural immersion where you must be able to communicate in Spanish and immerse yourself in small villages dotted throughout the island.
6. It is cheaper. Comparing expenses with San Juan del Sur or Granada, we can live much cheaper on Ometepe Island than the bigger cities.
7. It is cooler. We live lakeside, and we constantly have a nice breeze. Cities in Nicaragua are hot, hot, hot.
8. It is safer. We are predominantly an agricultural island with fields of beans, plantains, rice, bananas, and tobacco. We have strong communities where everyone knows everything! Mainly crimes of opportunity exist, meaning that you don’t leave anything outside and unprotected. The problem for thieves on an island is that they have to get the stolen goods off the island to sell them. When a robbery occurs, we generally call the police and the police station themselves at the ferries to check for stolen goods… that is only if your neighbor doesn’t know the thief. Usually the neighbors know exactly who stole what!
1. There is limited access to medical care. We have two hospitals on Ometepe Island and many small clinics. In an emergency after the last ferry has left for the mainland, we have a medical open air panga that will transport people to the mainland. If you suffer from a medical condition in general this may be a big factor to take into consideration.
2. A social life with other expats is limited. We have about 100 expats living on Ometepe Island. They are scattered throughout the island and mixed with our general population of 45,000 islanders. It is difficult to get together regularly. If we want to visit friends on the other side of the island, it takes us over an hour to get there. Then we leave before it gets dark because it is dangerous driving on the unlit roads at night with the wandering horses, cows, dogs, pigs, and people walking and riding their bicycles.
3. Sometimes we are stuck on the island. During the windiest months, occasionally the ferries can’t run because of the strong winds and high waves. When that happens, we are trapped on the island until the winds are calmer. The docks turn into refugee camps with tourists waiting for word that the ferries can leave. All commerce comes to a halt. Sometimes we run out of food or supplies.
4. A slow-paced island lifestyle can be frustrating, too. If we encounter a problem with our SKY satellite TV or our internet tower, the main offices are on the mainland and we may have to wait for days for a technician to come and fix our problem.
5. There is limited access to some goods and services we need. Ten years ago, we had to go to the mainland to use an ATM, to buy peanut butter and other gringo food we craved, and to get building supplies. Today, we can get almost everything we need and want on the island, but it is cheaper to go to the mainland for some supplies. It is almost Thanksgiving, and that means a trip to Maxi Pali in Rivas for a frozen turkey and a trip to La Colonia in Granada for pretzels and cranberry sauce.
6. The infrastructure isn’t as reliable as on the mainland. Currently, our electricity is produced on the island with diesel fuel. The power goes off daily for a few minutes…I think that is when they add the diesel. If there is a big fiesta in a neighboring town..like a bull-fight that requires a lot of bright lights at night, or a concert, then the little villages, like ours, go dark for a couple of hours.
However, the big news is that we will soon receive our electricity and fast internet with a fiber optic cable from the mainland. They finished stringing the cable in the lake from San Jorge to Ometepe Island. In December, we should start getting our electricity from Rivas making it cheaper and more reliable.
Island living isn’t for everyone. Yet, for me, the pros outweigh the cons. When my heart seeks the ferry to cross to the mainland for a few days, I will always return to my island of peace with a full heart knowing that I found my place in the world.