Let’s Get Real About Troubleshooting in a Developing Country

“The problem with troubleshooting is that trouble shoots back” ~ unknown

Troubleshooting is a systematic approach to solving problems. But, living in a tropical developing country…nothing is systematic or normal. We’ve spent countless hours trying to troubleshoot electrical, mechanical, plumbing, and computer issues. And the solutions to most of our problems have been anything but normal.

Steps to troubleshooting in first world countries:

1. Gather information on the issue
2. Eliminate unnecessary components in the issue and see if the problem still persists.
3. Check for common causes. I am sure you’ve read troubleshooting guides and the first question asked is, “Is your device plugged in and turned on?”

This is where I will start as your guide to troubleshooting in a developing country because seldom are the causes normal or usual.

So, Let’s get Real about troubleshooting in Nicaragua. 

1. If your internet suddenly blinks off, it could be because…

a. A monkey is using your cable line for a high wire act and trapeze show. This happened to a friend that lives on Ometepe.
Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 12.48.15 PMb. A parrot pecks through your internet cable

c. A bird builds a nest on your tower internet dish.

2. If your electricity suddenly blinks off, it could be because…

a. You forgot to pay your bill, or the guy on the bicycle didn’t deliver it, so they come to your house and cut the electric line in half…really!

b. There is a fiesta or bullfight in the next town and they need the power.

c. Your neighbors are stealing your electricity

3. If your cell phone signal is low, it could be because…

a. You have an active volcano in your yard that blocks the cell phone tower.

4. If your water stops running, it could be because…

a. It hasn’t rained for 5 months so the city has no water and the wells are dry.

b. Your neighbors are stealing your water by redirecting the water line to their house.

5. When your drains are clogged it could be because…

a. A giant Cane Toad is sleeping in your drain pipe.

b. Tree roots have grown into your pipes. This is what happened to Jennifer in Granada when they were remodeling their bathroom.
drain pipe6. If the sound on your TV suddenly goes mute, it could be because…

a. Geckos laid eggs inside your TV near the sound component.

7. If your electric socket or surge protector sockets seem to be plugged up, it could be because…

a. A colony of ants has a busy tiny city in your socket.

b. A gecko got trapped inside your light switch trying to lay eggs. Check for putrid smells of death around the sockets.

8. If your laptop overheats, it could be because…

a. It is full of fine dust, or ants, or other bugs

b. It is so freakin’ hot, you could fry an egg on your laptop. Buy a cool pad with a fan and keep your laptop in a place where air can circulate around it.

c. The humidity and heat have caused your battery to swell and burst out of your laptop.

9. If your e-reader or Kindle suddenly starts acting strangely, it could be because…

a. Teeny tiny book lice have entered the charger hole in your e-reader to make a cozy home. Just shake gently and they will fall out. And Yes! Book lice are real. They invaded my Kindle.

10. If you find mysterious looking holes in your carefully maintained grass, which you have tried to grow for years, and it is the only lawn in a neighborhood full of dirt yards, it could be because…

a. The neighborhood dogs have found their power spots and it’s cool and comfy.

11. If your motorcycle or car runs rough or hardly runs, it could be because…

a. The gas station’s gasoline tanks are filling with water during the downpours.

b. Someone stole a spark plug when you were parked at the grocery store.

12. Your electronic equipment, refrigerators, microwaves, and TV suddenly stop working, it could be because…

a. Your wiring isn’t grounded and a lightning storm created a surge of power that fried your electrical appliances.

b. Constant blackouts and brownouts are wrecking havoc with your electrical appliances and equipment. We have a universal power supply system that protects our TV and laptops against brownouts.

It’s a jungle here! Troubleshooting in a developing country requires thinking outside of the common causes we encounter in first world countries. Using a clear and logical approach seldom solves the problems we encounter in Nicaragua. The solutions usually involve clearing ants, parrots, and monkeys away from the problem areas. 🙂

There is no substitute for experience. I’ve tried to capture a few of the most illogical troubleshooting problems we’ve encountered in living in a developing country. So, the next time your water, or electricity, or electrical appliances are on the blink…remember to look for these solutions. I hope it saves you some time and frustration.

What unusual troubleshooting problem have you encountered? How have you solved the problem? 

19 thoughts on “Let’s Get Real About Troubleshooting in a Developing Country

  1. Debbie, I love that quote about troubles shooting back. We have had a few of the problems you related. Do you remember the photos of the ants or spider mites in my camera? Ah well, except for the thefts which seem to be a much bigger problem there, the fixes are generally fairly easy and are part of the cost of living in a warm climate.

    • Isn’t that the perfect quote? Yes. I do remember the photos of the ants or spider mites in your camera. We sure have a lot of strange troubleshooting solutions, don’t we? Haha. I guess that is what we get for living in a tropical country. It is nice to hear that others encounter similar problems. 🙂

    • Haha! At least he didn’t have to shake out book lice. That was the most bizarre experience and when I researched the tiny spider like critters, sure enough they were really called book lice. I even thought about writing an article called the evolution of book lice in the digital age. Ha!

  2. I really enjoy reading your posts and honestly don’t know how you deal with all you described and stay so cheerful about it all. My husband would have no patience at all for any of those problems and issues, perhaps when he was a lot younger, but not now. Glad your health is better.

    • Well, Sunni, I have to admit that I have increased my vocabulary of Spanish cuss words. 😜 We went into town yesterday to visit with friends that bought a hotel in March. They have a battery backup for the Internet for their guests and they couldn’t figure out why the battery stopped running. They took it apart and found a nest of gecko eggs. We laughed all morning about the strange things we find in our electronic equipment. Sometimes, that’s all you can do.

    • Good one! Once our electric lines got tangled in the high winds and were throwing sparks and crackling. Ron threw a pair of tennis shoes over one wire to keep it from the other one. So, the next time you see those dangling tennis shoes on the electric lines, it may be to keep the lines separated. Oh, the things we have to do around here. 😉

  3. I had been meaning to respond to your previous post, but this about sums up what I wanted to say. We loved Nicaragua and the Nicaraguans, but I no longer have the patience or fortitude to deal with these kinds of things… and the manana mentality would drive me up the wall! I love reading your posts, though, and would like to visit again, some day 🙂 .

    • Sandra, thanks for your honesty. I think I have a love/hate relationship with Nicaragua. And I feel the need to be completely honest about it. Especially as we age, the challenges that seemed once so comical and quirky, which drew us to Nicaragua, become a burden and a source of frustration. Today, I love Nicaragua. It is cool with sprinkles of rain. My roses and other flowers are blooming, the parrots are chattering in the trees, my internet is fast, I have recovered from the latest virus, and we haven’t had a blackout for 2 days.
      But, when all of the forces conspire against my little universe, I get so frustrated that all I want to do is run away. I guess that is all a part of life, but we are so lucky that we have options to escape temporarily when it is overwhelming. 😀

  4. Hi Deborah, Sounds like the 3rd world inconveniences are working on you more than usual. I hope things pick up for you. Getting older is definitely not fun. The health issues that for most of us were irrelevant in our youth constantly ding us with unpleasant surprises. At 68, I’m still mentally 35, but about 60 physically! As I read this post, and your last post, I am wondering how many of these problems you described are “living in Nicaragua” problems vs “Ometepe” problems. Certainly the bugs, heat, and lack of infrastructure are issues all over Nicaragua, but it’s my guess that life in Granada would be less of a challenge. In any case, hope things pick up for you.

    PS. Did someone really steal a spark plug from a parking lot?! Wow. That’s increible. I love Nicaragua and visit there off and on (watching my stuff all the time). Maybe it’s good that I cover my mouth when I yawn. Someone might try to pull a gold crown out of my mouth before I know it!

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Tom. One major issue that doesn’t affect Nicaragua on the whole are the constant blackouts and rationing of power we have had these past two months. But, there has been a lot of publicity about the problems, so maybe we will see some changes, soon.
      We really like Granada and have many friends there, but it is so hot there compared to Ometepe. Actually, I am feeling much, much better. So life goes on and we are making plans for our future to spend more time traveling.
      And yes! We parked our motorcycle near the grocery store and someone stole the spark plug! Ron couldn’t figure out why it wouldn’t start. Lol. But, that wasn’t as bad as the police taking our dune buggy for a joy ride and crashing it, and someone else trying to hot wire our dune buggy to take it for a joy ride. Sigh! But our dune buggy is fixed, thanks to my wonderful husband. Life is a challenge here sometimes. But, all we can do is troubleshoot, fix the problems, and laugh about them because they are so bizarre.

  5. Really enjoyable read Deborah… happy to see your humour is still in fine shape. Will be looking for those monkeys and parrots in just a few more weeks, when I have to troubleshoot, I’ll get in touch for your recommendations.

    • Thanks, Mark. I am so excited for you. We plan on going to Granada soon to visit friends. I hope we get a chance to meet.
      I feel almost back to normal, now (if there is such a thing called normal here.)
      I am grateful for the time to be more introspective when I am sick, but living in Nicaragua in the rainy season with constant blackouts, mosquitoes, and other little problems takes a toll on us the older we get.
      Hugs from Ometepe, and happy moving.

  6. Ha! Yes, you just can’t explain these things and not sound crazy. We had a couple light switches and a lamp stop working because ants had taken up residence in them. We don’t have monkeys in our neighborhood though.

    • I remember years ago telling my friends in the states how the termites had eaten my Betty Crocker cookbook and a rat peed on my laptop from the rafters above. People thought I was exaggerating, but you can’t make this stuff up.
      I find it amazing how the little critters can invade the teensiest places. I have the perfect solution for your electric sockets, Kris. We bought those plastic safety plugs, the kind used to keep toddlers from sticking their hands or tongues in the holes. We put them over all the electric sockets that aren’t used. It is an easy fix. No more ants in the sockets. Oh, the things we have to do to maintain our homes in the tropics, right?

      • Ooh, good idea about the safety plugs. Thanks! That would keep those little wasps from filling the outlets with mud. The ants though took up residence in the electrical lines in the walls and were coming out outlets and switches. We had a battle with them with daily house inspections, insecticide in hand. We rarely see them now and not in the house so I think we have been successful! Now what next is going to challenge our space? LOL

  7. Great post. Amazing that I’m on the other side of the world and experience the same things you do here in the Philippines.

    We deal with (what they call) “brownouts” multiple times and almost daily. Our power company blames it on the tukos (bigger than a geco) getting in the transformers. I think at this rate they would be considered endangered ha ha I will admit that grudgingly I broke down and bought a generator. Thought I never would, but it has made my life so much better. So far, only use it in the evening or when I really need internet.

    I too dealt with stealing of water. A big chain and lock on my tank solved that.

    As much as I wanted to live alone and just have a worker during the day, I quickly realized that it was worth building a small living area and having my caretaker live full-time. In your last post you mentioned about this option for an older person. I 100% agree, if nothing else then it is someone that can run into town to get medicine and essentials when you are unwell or just lazy. Another good decision on my part, due to necessity 🙂


    • Great suggestions, Nancy. It takes a little ingenuity and lots of tropical troubleshooting to solve the problems of living in a developing country.
      Our blackouts have been horrible this month. Without electricity to run fans to keep the mosquitoes at bay, the mosquitoes are ravenous. There are lots of people on the island that have Zika, now.
      There isn’t too much we can do about the brownouts. We’ve thought about getting a generator for the blackouts, but the brownouts are more problematic. We can always tell when someone is running a welder in our neighborhood because the fans slow down and speed up and the lights dim. I am surprised our frig has lasted for 6 years through the constant power surges and brownouts.
      I am writing a post about the electrical blackouts. It has been so frustrating. I wrote to the electric company and the Nicaragua regulatory board about the problems. And our director of tourism contacted La Prensa about the problems and they published two article in the newspaper about it. Funny, since the articles have been published, we haven’t had any blackouts.
      We feel the same way as you about getting a full-time caretaker. That is one of our goals in the years to come. The biggest problem is finding someone trustworthy and honest. But, we can make it happen so we can travel more and have someone run into town for us if we are sick.
      Thanks again, Nancy for taking the time to offer your suggestions and your experiences with troubleshooting in a developing country.
      Hugs from Ometepe.

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