Building Our Way to Hell?

“Excessive gentrification destroys the biodiversity and ecosystem of a community.” ― Khang Kijarro Nguyen

We are in the process of big renovations to our house: a new roof, drop ceilings, repainting, new electrical wiring…the works. It is long past due, however I wonder what our neighbors think? Are they upset or jealous or angry that we have the money for renovations to our house? Do they resent us because they live beside “rich” foreigners?  Will we be less accepted because we may be perceived as flaunting our “wealth”? Are we flaunting, taunting, or demonstrating that we are better people because we are not living in poverty? Do we want to live like Nicas?

The big bad G-word is gentrification. By definition it is the process of renovating and improving a house so that it conforms to middle-class taste, or since we live abroad…to gringo taste. Although gentrification is a term applied to urban areas, I believe extreme gentrification can be used to demonstrate “building our way to hell” all over the urban, rural, underdeveloped and developed world.

I don’t like the words extreme gentrification because it has a bad connotation. Instead, I prefer integration. The difference is that we have integrated into our all-Spanish speaking community. We have simply moved from one place to another. Extreme gentrification on the other hand, is kicking poor people out and replacing them with rich people.

Gentrification is happening, especially in the coastal towns and colonial cities in Nicaragua.   And some areas have experienced extreme gentrification. Some cities are suffering with growing tourism and no regulations for short-term rentals. Rent prices are completely unaffordable for the average Nicaraguan. Landlords are evicting people to start touristic businesses everyday, and land speculators are buying land for peanuts that has been in families for generations and then selling outrageously expensive housing compounds to foreigners forcing the local people to move to the outskirts of cities or towns.

Extreme gentrification is happening in cities all over the world. Take a look at some of the major cities throughout the world where the G-word is a bad word. “We are building our way to hell”: tales of gentrification around the world.

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Travel Theme: Numbers

“[When asked why are numbers beautiful?]

“It’s like asking why is Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony beautiful. If you don’t see why, someone can’t tell you. I know numbers are beautiful. If they aren’t beautiful, nothing is.”
― Paul Erdős

Weighing fruits in a market in Mexico


I’m counting on you to continue! More numbers ahead.

Signs of the Times

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Warning: This post is hypocritical, cynical, and questionable because I have no answers, only more questions.

Yesterday, I read a post from a blogging friend. She was invited to speak at an International Living Conference. I enjoy reading her informative posts about creating blogs, new technological advances, and portable careers. So, I clicked on the International Living Conference website to see who was presenting and what their areas of expertise were.

I should have known better, because out of the 16 presenters, nine were real estate developers. I read through their bios. Phrases included: has made more than 50 real estate investments in nine countries across five continents, moved into real estate development and acquired 1,100 acres and three kilometers of coastline, an accomplished real estate professional whose expertise in international investment real estate sets him apart from most, and has more than 33 years experience in commercial and residential property investment.

The price for the 2 1/2 day convention was $647 per person. I had to scroll all the way to the bottom of the website to find this information, bypassing many clicks for “sign up now.”  No surprise that the international real estate developers were targeting wealthy white people for their gated, sequestered resort communities. This is not a conference for those seeking simple, compassionate, culturally immersed lifestyles.

Four of the presenters were international attorneys. I imagine that if one has enough money to buy into their overpriced resorts, one will need a good attorney when it comes time to flip the property for a hefty profit.

It’s a mad, mad world in the field of international real estate flipping. Poor, unsophisticated campisinos sell their land for pennies to hungry real estate developers. Then, wealthy, fearful foreigners buy the gated compounds seeking paradise in a McDonald’s wrapper.  Prices for everything are jacked up, making it impossible for the locals to get to their jobs as the dishwashers, maids, and waiters in the heavily guarded compounds because they have had to move far away to find affordable housing.

To be fair, in exploring several international development websites in Nicaragua, I found one website that included a page on “Giving Back”. ONE WEBSITE ONLY.  Shameful. We are destroying this country with our greed, our consumerism lifestyles, and our selfish shouts of “give me more for less”. Mas barato!

I am a hypocrite! What makes me any different from the wealthy white people attending the International Living conference? We bought beach front property, built two small houses, and hire the locals to machete our grass. Am I wrong for moving to Nicaragua? Am I creating more problems for the local islanders? Have I done enough to help and pay forward the blessings I have received from living in a first world country?

Should I be writing about my experiences living in Nicaragua? The remaining three presenters at the conference are expats touting their publications of living cheaply in paradise. I am writing a book, too. What makes me any different? Just because I’m a ‘poor economic refugee’ with a passion for cultural immersion doesn’t set me on top of the pedestal of expats seeking their retirement dreams.

There are no answers. All I know in expressing my vulnerabilities and doubts about living abroad, is that I am changed. I have a greater appreciation for life, the struggles, the joys, and the sacrifices we all make in pursuing our dreams. I am a better person for it…a more forgiving and compassionate person. Life is real here…there are no hidden agendas or pretenses. It’s the sign of the times for me…fulfillment of passions, cultural immersion, and peace in our troubled world.