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A Day in the Life on Roatan: Being an Expat Away from Family

What does a typical day on Roatan look like for an expat? I can’t speak for everyone, but I can at least give you a glimpse into my own daily activities, so be sure to check out each weekly post to get a better idea over time. Here’s what happened this week in our lives…

We woke up to incredibly sad news this morning: my better half’s abuela had passed away after being hospitalized for the last week. He is already planning to visit his family next month, but as always, it can be unbelievably difficult to be an expat away from family when dealing with such a tragedy. Being able to keep in touch via video chats and texting makes the distance much easier to manage on a regular basis. But being away from family in a time of sadness is never easy. Part of being an expat is understanding this gap and learning to deal with whatever may come on your own. Of course you make friends, and of course I am here for him as well, but when all you want to do is hug your mom, there is very little consolation to be offered.

While he finally headed off to work to try to continue his day in as normal a fashion as possible, I headed out for a walk with Lina. We enjoyed the butterflies and the birdsongs and basked in the beautiful breeze. On mornings like this, it’s even more important to appreciate all that life has to offer.

Our workdays both carried on, although mine are a bit more of a challenge recently since my laptop and/or charger (depending on the day) seem to dislike functioning properly anymore. I’ve been using my Kindle and a bluetooth keyboard mostly, although I must admit I’m typing this on a friend’s laptop since I was going slightly insane trying to multitask on the Kindle. I know…there are such bigger problems to have. Perspective is so easy to lose, but so vital to maintain.

At the end of the workday, we had time to head home and sit on the dock with Lina to decompress. He told me stories of visiting his family in Colombia as a child, talking about his aunties and his cousins and all the things he remembered about his abuela. He remembers staying in the bedroom in her home with a crucifix over the bed, which scared him as a child (and I think it still gives him nightmares today). He remembers the food they ate and the shows they watched, and although he never learned enough Spanish to be fully conversational, he learned enough as a child to understand when he was being told off and when he was being told how much he was loved.

Language is a funny thing – it can be used to convey details, but it’s really the body language and tone of voice that carry much more weight in a conversation. A smile transcends all linguistic barriers, while a stern look and low tone will always tell a child that no, you were not supposed to throw that ball at your brother’s face even though your cousins egged you on.

The Irish-Colombian headed out for a softball game around sunset. He plays in the league supporting the SOL Foundation, which you’ve all read about multiple times here already. Meanwhile, I headed to Blue Bahia to meet up with a friend and make a few new ones. An old coworker from DC connected me with her sister on Facebook a few days ago – her sister was visiting Roatan with friends and wanted to know what tips or advice I could offer. So of course I opted to meet up for drinks and live music rather than simply texting a few ideas and letting it go.

We chatted and cheered for Carleen as she jammed all night with covers of Led Zeppelin, Maroon 5, and Ed Sheeran, plus many more that have since blended together. The night culminated with a guy spinning a ball on fire on the beach. Just because he can! “Are you trained to do this?” Someone had yelled out as he prepared his ball of sparks. Of course not, but who cares?

I hitched a ride home with the band and friends, sitting in the bed of their pick-up truck and watching the stars as they danced between the tree branches passing overhead. Nothing is better than fresh air and an open sky to remind you to just be, and to just breathe.

It was a great end to a day with enough ups and downs to last a week. It was so filled with life and love and every emotion a single human can feel. I know we were both exhausted by the end of the night, having lived the day to its maximum, which is all anyone can ask for.

Here’s to living life to the fullest, smiling at everyone we meet, and holding our loved ones closer to make sure they know – in every language – how loved and appreciated they truly are. And here’s to Abuela, may she rest in the sweetest peace knowing how loved she was for a lifetime and more.