Written by: Rika
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).
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!
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.