Things That Are No Longer Weird To Me

I’m coming up close on 2 years full-time on my rock of Roatan, and in that relatively short amount of time, I have found myself noticing things that were shocking at first, but I no longer bat an eye at now. It’s funny how your entire perspective can change when you’re immersed in a place that is very different from home.

Leaving out “please” and “thank you”.

Politeness is implied in Island English (more formally known off-island as Bay Island Creole), and at first, I was taken aback at being ordered around so rudely by the islanders. Then, when I asked, they all told me in Island English you don’t say anything unnecessary (the speaker relies on the listener figuring everything out, rather than feeding it to them), and politeness is implied when you’re talking to your family and friends. I started listening to how they interacted with each other and realized they were right. I rarely say please and thank you any more unless I’m talking to tourists, or islanders I don’t know. (This may end up being a bad habit to break when I get back to Canada.)

Managing 8+ hour blackouts.

I have said it before, and I will say it again: the power company on this island is a joke, and you cannot rely on them to provide power for you in any sort of consistent manner. There have been weeks when it goes out every single day, and once in a while, I’ve even experienced 24hr+ blackouts. It’s not fun. But I don’t freak out about it now, and I have tweaked my daily habits to always be prepared for a blackout. I always keep all electronics 100% charged, I had a battery backup for my iPhone shipped down, I make sure I have lots of candles and matches and propane for cooking, and there’s always a bucket of water on my deck for toilet flushing or sponge baths (the water to my house is on a pump, so no electricity also means no water for me).

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Walking around drinking booze in the street.

Okay, this is a fun one. It felt really strange the first time I cracked a beer on the beach or walked out of a bar with my drink in a to-go cup. Last summer when I was in Canada, I tried to walk out of a bar with my beer and the bouncer tried to tackle me. I honestly just forgot that you couldn’t walk around with alcohol! I have to admit, even in a country like this one where the law enforcement is corrupt and everyone is just going around doing whatever they want, I haven’t seen a single problem that you could pin on people drinking on the beach or walking in the street with a beer. So grow up, Canada!

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Questionable hygiene.

Let me tell you something: I was sure I was going to get some horrible disease and die here due to the (much) lower sanitation standards than I was used to in Canada. I was a hand sanitizer carrying germaphobe when I arrived here. Now, when I’m eating with my hands, sometimes I can’t remember when the last time I washed them was! I have eaten out of kitchens I would have turned around and walked right out of in Canada. And you know what? I’ve only been sick ONCE the entire time I’ve been here, and it passed in 8 hours. In Canada, I was sick every other week. I’m pretty sure I’ve built my immune system up to superhero-level status here. I could probably even drink the tap water… though I’m not going to push my luck.

Running out of phone credit is a perfectly acceptable excuse.

We don’t have phone contracts like in North America where you pay $50 a month for 3 years and you get an iPhone 5 or whatever. You buy a phone, and then you add minutes to it, pay-as-you-go. It’s super annoying. I HATE IT. I am constantly running out of saldo (credit) and have to go into town to try to find a store that has some to buy more. We used to be able to buy it online, but it’s been “under maintenance” for six months. I used to get frustrated with people who would run out of saldo and then not buy more so my call wouldn’t be returned for a few days….but now I’m guilty of the exact same thing. It’s also a pretty handy excuse for when you don’t want to talk to someone – “Oh, I missed your call but I couldn’t call you back cause I had no saldo, sorry!”

There are terrible bugs in the house.

I thought this was going to subside after I moved out of the jungle and back to the “city” (read: village of 300 people), but I was lying on the couch last night and got stung in the neck by a scorpion. Then I threw it off and it scurried into my bedroom, so I had to stop everything I was doing and go on a scorpion hunt for an hour until the LED light made my iPhone die (and no, I didn’t find the scorpion). This might sound like a funny island life story to you, but it’s just part of my daily life now and isn’t strange to think that a) I got stung in the neck by a scorpion, b) I took an hour out of my work to look for it afterward, or c) I gave up and just went to bed with a scorpion running around somewhere in there.

“Now” is a relative term.

I am a planner, and I like knowing when things are happening. I don’t like being late, and I don’t like waiting around for people. This was a HUGE problem here for me. When people say they are coming now, or leaving now, or going now, I have learned that “now” can mean anywhere from 5 minutes, to 5 hours, to not at all, and so I understand and use it accordingly.

People just doing generally weird shit.

Here’s a picture of me with a giant snake that some security guards found and tied to a tree. I put this on my Instagram and everyone was like WHYYYYYYYY and I was like, I don’t know why, this is Roatan, and things aren’t weird to me anymore.

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Rika

About Rika

Originally from the Great White North, land of the Eskimos and igloos (that’s what’s really up there in Canada, right?), Rika arrived on a Caribbean rock called Roatan in early 2012 on a holiday and learned to SCUBA dive. Then she came back a month later. Then she came back two months later. Then she came back and forgot to leave. Over 1200 dives (and rum punches) later, she is now a PADI Master SCUBA Diver Trainer and still gets a kick out of her divers being scared of nurse sharks. She’s learned many things from island living including how to live with slow internet, navigating muddy roads on a scooter and a fairly dirty dance move called the “wine”. She can now understand Spanish and speak island English like a local (her parents are very proud). Known around Roatan for being fearless (hacking up tarantulas with a machete when they venture too close to her house, or jumping off the top of a bar into the ocean for free shots), Rika has made many bad decisions on the rock that have turned into great stories…if you ply her with enough rum or a freshly-caught tuna, she’ll share. Follow her adventures and misadventures over on her blog, www.cubiclethrowdown.com.

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16 thoughts on “Things That Are No Longer Weird To Me

  1. I laughed out loud at this post, I have lived on my rock a year, and when I watch tv shows with people driving I get freaked out thinking there is an accident imminent, as they’re on the wrong side of the road, and now I just let lizards live in the house…having an open drink in the car is still really hard for me to grasp, (but I am getting better…) I believe I also stopped using useless words, especially pronouns and contractions. I also find it quite convenient to omit the “h” in “th” words when I am speaking and writing. I’m sure my next trip back to the states, (in 3 weeks) is going to be a riot. I already know I won’t be able to wait to get back to this crazy rock I call home.

  2. I would have found some way or someone to untie the snake. That’s just me. It was certainly going to die. Just sayin’.

  3. It’s true. You can get used to almost anything and things that you thought you couldn’t live without just don’t seem so important anymore. I too would have untied the snake.

  4. The rock we live on only has small tree boas. Last time we were in Roatan, I didn’t think they had snakes much bigger. Maybe he’s someone’s exotic pet just out for some time in the outdoors. 8 years on this rock makes life sometimes feel like perpetual camping. Lizards in the house, fetching drinking water from the “Rainmaker” water machine. My husband getting emergency calls from a tourist at 5 am that their power went out. Just like the weather here, wait 20 minutes and it will change.

  5. I appreciate the sharing of the differences between Stateside and island life. But my fear sometimes with posts like these is that it creates a general perception of unique experiences. I find that most island homes are immaculate and well kept. People take such pride in keeping their homes clean and sanitary and would be humiliated if someone saw their home in a state of unkempt. Most local folks won’t allow anyone to come to their home if their home is not “presentable”. It’s ok to say these are the things I have experienced, but in the pursuit of “quaint” island life, I worry that our microscopic view is over-generalized and may give a false impression of most experiences based on a few.

    • Hi Tanisha,

      I understand where you’re coming from completely. That’s why we have so many writers from so many different backgrounds on this site. Everyone has their own unique experience – perhaps some people will relate well to one writer, while others many be more in alignment with the lifestyle of another. No contributor is attempting to capture the full island experience – just a snapshot into their own lifestyle. If you’d ever like to share your experiences from your rock, I’d love that – the more variety, the better! You can email me at chrissann@womenwholiveonrocks.com if you’re interested. Thanks for the note and perspective! 🙂

    • Rika never said that the house was dirty, just that lizards and geiko and bugs live there now and it is normal. My house is perfectly clean and so is 98% of my friends who live here on Roatan. We all have live in lizards, geikos and bugs. It is the tropics. It is considered good luck. Chill!

  6. Hey all – we got the guards to untie the snake after our obligatory pictures and she was fine 🙂 She lived on the road by my house and I saw her for months afterward, so other than it surely being a bit uncomfortable (and a bit “WTF?”) for her, I don’t think any lasting harm was done.

    *I* certainly was not going to untie an ornery 7 foot snake though – I just guilt-tripped the guard into doing it!

  7. It took me quite awhile to get used to the condition of the public bathrooms….even in otherwise clean restaurants. I’d find myself completely disgusted and refusing to use bathroom after bathroom which could pose quite the problem if the main purpose of the outing was drinking and socializing. I actually got to the point where carrying toilet paper around in my purse and choosing a bush was a better option than entering the facilities at the establishment. I will save everyone from the descriptive details of why squatting behind a tree would by far be the lesser of two evils. On my few trips off the rock, back to civilization, if visiting a spectacular facility, I’d find myself sending photos of the interior of the washroom to friends back on island 🙂

  8. So much of this is true.

    Just the other night spotted a massive cockroach next to the headboard in the middle of the night. Two years ago a similar situation led to a complete stripping down and fumigating of the bedroom. This time I looked for it for around a minute, then got back into bed and slept with my head under the sheet. I did, however, check my water glass before I drank out of it later.

  9. This is the first of your blogs that I’ve read and I’m curious about what island doesn’t use please and thank you. I live on an island too, we speak creole but we use please and thank you all the time, if you ask for something here and don’t say please, people won’t make a fuss but will consider it to be very rude.

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