We've decided to simplify our life. This is a common phrase among witnesses, usually when someone says this their plan includes something like selling one of their cars, or spending less on luxuries. Then some take it even further, and simply by moving altogether to another country where the costs of living are much lower, as many have done by moving to Nicaragua.
Although we already live in Nicaragua, Jean and I discovered a way to simplify even more. Due to the abysmal quality of the internet service here (Corn Island only has Claro internet, which is only 3g and never unlimited) I have not been able to teach English online anymore and have had to seek other ways to make a living. As I mentioned somewhere in the last post I've been doing some hotel bookings/vacation planning for friends, but lately the majority of our income has come from selling food on the street. This brings to mind many experiences from yearbooks of ones who have done similar, giving up high paying jobs to sell food... only to find that with their new lifestyle it was even easier to make a living as street vendors than it was with their prestigious job before. Our experience so far has been similar, selling food (Pizza, actually) is good business on Corn Island.
We then started to think about how we could make this income stretch further. Being well familiar with the “gringo tax” phenomenon we decided to keep an open mind about rental properties. Many who come to Corn Island pay $200 per month or more rent, even as much as $500. You can find some beautiful furnished houses for these prices, but it leads one to wonder how local islanders who only make about $100-200 per month afford to pay rent themselves?
We remembered hearing about some apartments years ago that were for 1,500 cordobas per month (about $55 US) so we started doing the math. We were paying $200 per month for our rent in a rather nice two bedroom house that was furnished. If we moved to one that cheap, we would need to buy appliances (especially an oven to cook with). But even so, the savings would add up and after just a few months it would be more than we spent on repairs to the house and appliances as well.
We went to a building that we heard might have apartments, and the owner got us in contact with a relative of theirs that owned a similar building across the street. At first glance, the building looked like something from a movie, perhaps it washed up on shore from the ruins of Atlantis? Not quite. Actually after some conversation with “Choky” (the landlord) we learned its history. The building was formerly known as the “Beach View Hotel”, and is one of the few structures on the Island that survived Hurricane Joan. The beach washed away during the storm, but the building still overlooks the ocean. Most of where the beach was is now a rock barrier built to stop the erosion from reaching the road. The building was neglected for some years afterward, as the man hired to maintain it while Choky was working at sea had been pocketing the money for the repairs. Upon returning Choky decided it would be easier to have no employees, and turn the hotel into apartments.
A few days later we learned that someone had just moved out, and that one of the rooms upstairs facing the sea was avaliable, for 1,500 cordobas per month. It needed a little work, mostly just paint and some shelves put in. The biggest drawback to the apartment would have to be the size, after all it was just a hotel room. After thinking about it prayerfully and calculating the cost, as well as planning how to make the space work we decided to make the move. We bought a fridge second hand, it works great but it just needed a sanding and some spray paint, and we also bought a stove/oven new from a shop in bluefields. We made the deal over the phone and had it shipped in by boat which is a very simple process if you are dealing with one of the big appliance stores. That way we never had to go to Bluefields.
So far we are very happy with the move. From our balcony we can see Little Corn Island, and even make out the coral reefs under the water. Swimming and snorkeling couldn't be more convenient, with the water so close we even have time for a quick swim before starting the day or going to bed, or both. Of course the real advantage is that we have simplified signifiantly. Now that we don't have a foreign income to count on we make our living here on the same Island, which means we need to take time from our schedule to work. With paying so little for rent, on what we're able to make from selling Pizza we only work two afternoons a week to cover all our necessary expenses.
|Jean carrying in our new oven|