The Sunday morning we were awoken at six by a drone flying outside our bedroom window is one of two times I’ve had second thoughts about being an Airbnb host. Our guests had arrived late the night before, left a light on that shone in my eyes all night, and listened to music until well into the wee hours, so I was already testy. Now? They’ll be remembered as the guests who forced me to make the No Drones Before 8 AM rule.
We listed our small guest house on Airbnb a year and a half ago at the insistence of friends who live in the U.S. – they said visitors to Nicaragua would fall all over themselves to stay at our place. We were skeptical that anyone would want to bounce down the bumpy road, but much to our surprise our Casa Abierta has been booked solid since then with a combination of Airbnb guests and our friends and family. We’ve learned what interests people (our lives, our village, a ride from the airport) and what doesn’t (guided hikes, trips into Managua, cooking for themselves).
Apart from the Drone Incident and the night a couple kept Paul and I awake for hours with suspiciously rhythmic squealing (I’m not kidding, that woman must have been hoarse the next day, ‘cause I could still hear her all the way on the other side of our house with a pillow over my head), our experiences as Airbnb hosts have been very good.
Some of the guests have been sweet – families who’ve played with the girls, visited their school, and left them little treats. Some have been earnest – wanting to learn all about Nicaragua. Some have become real friends – sending us letters and photos and genuinely inviting us to visit them in their homes.
Some have been characters – the one that the girls refer to as The Millionaire who bragged about his brand new Ferrari, his penthouse apartment and claimed to have visited 57 countries before Nicaragua.
Some of the guests have been fun – there were the three 18 year-olds from Montreal (we’re popular with French Canadians) who had never seen bugs before. They called me over to tell me there was a giant…thing in the house (their English wasn’t so great). I began to poke around in the kitchen while surreptitiously trying to figure out how bad it was.
“Eets very big!”
“Is this a mammal or an insect?”
Phew! Not a rat.
“Does it fly or crawl?”
Phew! Not a scorpion.
“There eet ees!”
“Oh, it’s a…cicada? You’re afraid of a cicada?”
[Cicada flies, Canadians scream]
“You’re afraid of a cicada. It doesn’t bite or sting, it’s just loud. Here’s a broom, you’re welcome to kill it if you like.”
On the way back over to our house Orla asked me, “Mom, why didn’t you just kill it for them?” I think I actually snickered.
“Just wait, Orla, this is going to be much more fun.”
Indeed, it was. All night long we intermittently heard screams followed by loud thwacking noises. But they left a light on until morning, which puzzled me. When I brought them breakfast I asked, “How’d it go with the cicada last night?” The Canadians had the decency to look a little sheepish.
“We all three slept een zee bed downstairs because, look! There is a giant butterfly up there!” Upstairs, right underneath the light, I could see a three-inch long moth.
“We left zee light on and eet stayed up zere!” I didn’t have the heart to tell them that if they’d just turned the light off, the moth would go away.
The vermin incident that trumps all others, however, happened to some lovely German guests who liked to use our metal zip line platform for their drumming sessions. They arrived back after an evening of drumming, turned on their light and screamed. Paul and I rushed over.
On the kitchen counter, a small boa constrictor was quietly strangling a giant rat. The rat’s eyes were bulging and its claws were scrabbling on the tile, the boa was determinedly squeezing the rat’s ribcage with every exhale and the lovely German guests were flapping their arms and exclaiming about the poor “mouse.”
Paul called over Freddy, who was watching the workshop. Freddy delicately swept the whole mess off the counter with the machete and into a bucket and whisked it outside. At that point, the snake decided to forgo its dinner and began to slither out of the bucket. The released rat tried to get out of the bucket as well. Freddy wasn’t about to let that rat escape, so he stomped his foot on top of it in the bucket but his foot got stuck. And there was Freddy, clumping his foot in the bucket, snake flopping out, rat clawing, Freddy trying to machete the rat without cutting his foot.
Luckily, the guests were inside and missed this indignity.
Aside from introducing foreigners to nature in a visceral way, for us perhaps the best part about Airbnb is that it allows us to bring a little bit of Nicaragua’s Tourism Boom to our community – we have neighbors whom guests pay to cook and clean for them, and another friend provides taxi services to and from the airport and around Nicaragua. It also allows us to show off our adopted country in a more authentic way.
Although, perhaps a bit too authentic for those who aren’t budding entymologists. – Becca