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.