This week I attended my first really truly coworking session with two other online-work-geeks in Granada. While my workload has decreased significantly since last week, I’m still putting in a minimum of 10 hours a day, so I don’t have much time to simply relax. Most of my free time is spent aggressively seeking out and implementing self-care strategies, so I can stay sane amidst the chaos that is my life.
Anyway, I had a bunch of work to do, so when I met with my buddies to cowork, I was serious about it. I was prepping for a couple of client calls where I have to be “on my game” and know what I’m talking about, so I industriously tap-tap-clickety-clacked away on my mouse and keyboard, completing my preparatory work.
Because this was my first “big girl coworking session,” I felt like I’d reached some sort of milestone, and like I should be given a heaping bowlful of sparkly gold stars. However, I kept looking around and feeling distracted by how cool the whole situation was. Here I was, in Granada, Nicaragua, with two lovely humans with laptops identical to mine, earning our (admittedly meager) online incomes to travel the world. Or at least eke out enough of a living to stay above water financially in a third-world country with rock-bottom prices. Yeah, something like that. Not as sexy when you say it that way, but definitely more realistic.
I spent another chunk of the time staring at their laptops, wondering if they were working. When I realized I was daydreaming I would feel guilty, but when I was typing away and they were reading, I would feel smug and superior, like I was “winning” the “competition.” I have no idea what the competition was, but apparently it was important to me that I win it. Whatever.
It was dead quiet in the café where we were working, and we were the only ones there, so I decided to call my clients in Australia from the café. It was a nerve-wracking call, too, for a number of reasons, but I figured “what the heck? I’ll give it a try.” Naturally, mere moments before I connected to the conference call with the clients, a couple with a one-and-a-half year-old came in and the toddler immediately began caterwauling bloody murder. The parents, being upstanding young permissive citizens, paid no attention to the kiddo’s wailing, so he started walking around hitting random objects and screaming at the top of his lungs.
I apologized profusely to my (prospective) clients, who were very much not impressed. My coworking buddies were trying to cover their sniggers, and laughed openly when I glared at them. I could see that it was funny from an outside-looking-in perspective, and didn’t mind them laughing, but I wasn’t amused at the time.
I raced home and set up my laptop. Unfortunately, they are ripping up the road in front of the house where I’m staying, and my clients and my already-aching eardrums had to put up with loud construction noise throughout the call. It was better than the screaming, though. I don’t imagine we’ll win that account. I did my best, though. Yeah, my “best” kind of sucked on this occasion, but that happens sometimes, and I’m okay with that.
A Workday In Sam’s Granada Life
Here is what a typical workday looks like for me here in Nicaragua:
8:00am – wake up
8:00-9:00am – study Japanese Kanji on iPad while still in bed
9:00-9:30am – get up, stretch, brush teeth, wash face, get dressed in gym clothes, have some breakfast, pet the kittie, say hi to housemate
9:30am-12:00pm – Start by creating today’s “To-Do” on my dry-erase board (pictured above), then work on completing today’s “#1 most important task(s)” (2.5 hours work) via intense work session. I use the "pomodoro" method: I work like crazy on a single task for 25 minutes, then take a 5 minute break; I follow this pattern 4-5 times in a row. During the 25 “on” minutes, I ignore everything but the one (and only one) thing I am working on. I am pounding away at my keyboard, or making calls, or organizing things during this time. Then I take a short break. After 4-5 of these I take a longer break, at least 30 minutes.
No, I don't know why they call it "pomodoro," but it means "tomato" in Italian. Don't look at me; I didn't make it up. It works fantastically well, though.
12:00-1:00pm – put on sunscreen, walk to gym, and work out
1:00-1:30pm – eat lunch at a nearby café or at the gym (they have a vegetarian restaurant inside the gym… SCORE!)
1:30-3:30pm – intense work session on “second tier tasks,” often for my university students, wherever I just ate (2 hours work, 3-4 pomodoros)
3:30pm-4:30pm – take a long walk/break, explore a new nook or cranny or shop
4:30-10:00pm – head back home and plug into the matrix, intense work session for my research-recruitment job, making calls to clients, collaborating with coworkers, having meetings via Skype or Google Hangouts. I take 5-10 minute breaks every hour or so to stretch or eat or step away from the computer, but generally this is my busiest time for work, so I don’t get to play or explore too much. (5.5 hours work)
10pm-midnight, wind down, read some fiction or watch anime, call friends/family, take a shower, think about 3 things that I am grateful for today.
Midnight – go to sleep
A Restday in Sam’s Granada Life
Within seven days of landing in Granada, I felt comfortable. I found yummy vegetarian food in 2-3 different places. I found several grocery stores and local convenience stores. I found various lovely locals and travelers to connect with and have fun with, as well as cowork with. I have a comforting routine as a scaffold on which to hang all my new experiences and sights and sounds. The gym is a platinum-win for me, with the trifecta of a great workout space, delicious vegetarian food and fast wifi, in addition to great people. Wait, that’s four things… is that a quadrifecta? Nah, that sounds weird. Ignore that last bit.
So what did I explore and find on my weekday walks and my weekend wanderings? I found numerous friendly foreign backpackers and several Mexican restaurants. I ogled gads of colonial buildings. I ate an entire pizza without even slowing down. That freaked me out a bit, as I didn’t even think that was possible for me, as I normally have a small stomach. I wasn’t eating enough until I found the vegetarian havens, though, so I guess my body demanded sustenance.
Yes, they have air conditioning here, but it's hardly ever used, for financial reasons. Electricity is horrendously expensive, and frankly there's not a lot of money floating around here. After two full weeks, I just today went to the first place I’d been to in Nicaragua that was fully air-conditioned. It was the huge foreigner-style supermarket, with all the imported goods, and prices 3-4 times as high as regular grocery stores, pharmacies and corner markets. I spent easily twice as much on four boxed food items (one box of cereal and a couple boxes of granola bars) than I have on any nice restaurant meal in the country.
I have an A/C unit in my room, but aside from the cost to my hostess, it seems kind of stupid to run my A/C unit for very long… the shower in my bathroom is open to the sky, after all, so all the cool air escapes moments after it comes out of the A/C unit and it’s not that effective anyway. I use a floor fan 24/7 and a ceiling fan whenever I am home, and the A/C maybe 15-30 minutes a day, especially if I’ve been out walking in the sun at midday, and I’m reasonably comfortable with that combination.