It all started when we had to chase and jump onto the back of the last bus leaving for Las Rivas, only to sucked into a lagoon of bodies on the back of an already overcrowded bus. The bus was so packed that at one point my feet were no longer touching the ground; I was being held up by the body mass of all of the Nicas surrounding me. After about an hour, the bus unloaded—slowly but surely and some kind man eventually offered me his seat. 2 more hours into the ride a creepy guy sat next to me who then proceeded to ask for my number, and when I asked why he wanted it, he responded with: “so we can spend time together.” At this point I immediately pretended like I didn’t understand anything he was saying and that I no longer understood Spanish even though we had had a conversation earlier on in the bus ride. Needless to say, he got off the bus on the next stop.
Later on in the bus ride, we met a Moroccan guy named Mohammad who had just about the wildest story. For one thing, he told me he lived in China, where he met his newly-wed Costa Rican wife (apparently named Maria) whom he couldn’t marry in either Costa Rica or Morocco, so the two of them came to Nicaragua to get married and that he was on his way to the Costa Rican border to pick up his wife so that she could translate for him in a meeting he had in Managua the following day. He also tried to vouch for how great of a country China was and how incredibly safe it was to live there. Oh, and did I mention he didn’t speak a lick of Spanish? I’m talking not even the basics…and he had been living in Nicaragua for the past 6 weeks and was married to a Costa Rican woman? It just didn’t sound right. I got off the bus convinced this man was a pathological liar because his story was so extremely bizarre. Anyways, we ate dinner at some overly priced restaurant and then convinced a taxi driver to take us to San Juan del Sur where we would stay for the night and then catch the ferry to the Island of Ometepe the following morning. Around midnight, we went on a stroll on the beach and ran into 2 people we never thought we would ever see again. First was a little black boy who lives in Masaya and is friends with Onyema because he shared a smoothie with him once. Mind you, that San Juan del Sur is a good 3.5 hours away from Masaya, and for us to run into this little boy at the same beach so late at night was so incredibly uncanny. Within 20 seconds of running into our little friend, Mohammad (the Moroccan from the bus ride) came out of the shadows. My jaw just about hit the ground at this point. I could’ve sworn this guy was the biggest fake until he led us to his table at the restaurant and introduced us to Maria….his Costa Rican wife…whom he had just married in Nicaragua…and had met in China the previous year…..and who was going with him to his meeting in Managua in the morning to translate for him…because he didn’t know any Spanish. Mohammad had been telling the truth all along. We left the restaurant laughing in hysterics at the series of events that had taken place that night and decided to return to the hostel to sleep.
Well…the hostel we stayed at was less than ideal considering I was awakened at 4 AM to what sounded like a cat giving birth….it sounded like an animal was whimpering in the corner. Since I didn’t have my contacts on, I was still really confused as to what was happening, so I searched my bag for my glasses…..and then realized that the sound wasn’t a cat giving birth, but a couple fornicating in the bed under mine (I was on the top bunk). I couldn’t believe it so much that I fell off the top bunk and stumbled out of the room in utter disgust. I’m not sure if I started feeling sick from what I just witnessed or from the tacos I had the night before, so I hung out in the kitchen for a while with a couple of cats and fed them cat food…until a man came in and commented on how creepy I looked feeding cats at 4 AM in the kitchen. I sassed back at him that I was being sexiled from my room. He apologized for calling me creepy and left. Laurel came to pick us up to take us to the ferry in order to get to the Island of Ometepe. All 15 of us piled in or on her car and rode to the ferry stop. After waiting 2 and a half hours for the ferry to arrive, we got on and spent another hour and a half riding the actual ferry. The wind blew my scarf everywhere and I loved it. Immediately when we got off the ferry we all had to pack into Laurels car to begin looking for our hostel for the night. We were true Nicas simply because of our seating arrangements for this hour and half car ride. 2 were in the front, 3 in the middle, 3 in the trunk, 2 hanging off of the left ledge of the car, 2 hanging off of the right ledge of the car, and 3 hanging out of the trunk door. We settled in our hostels, ate lunch, and headed to a swimming hole for an afternoon swim. The swimming hole had a rope swing that looked awfully appealing….so after some encouragement from Garrison, Christine, and Regan to give it a try, I climbed up the steps and held a firm grip on the rope and swung myself off of the ledge of the ladder. As soon as I let go of the rope and landed in the water, my left shoulder felt like it was on fire. It was a familiar source of pain; I had dislocated my left shoulder and needed to pop it back into place. This is one of those moments like when you have a loose tooth and realize you need to pull it out, or when you have a splinter in your toe and need to get it out…except for this was my shoulder out of place and I needed to pop it back in. I got out of the water, clenched my teeth, and popped that bad boy back into place. It was sore for the remainder of the day. As a result, I have added “visit a chiropractor” onto my list of things to do when I return to the States. After the swimming hole, we returned to the hostel just when the sky began to fall and it started storming. Remember the seating/standing arrangements we had earlier when leaving the ferry? The one where we had 7 people riding completely outside of the car? Well once it started storming, those additional 7 bodies had to join the 8 already existing bodies in the car once it started pouring. And we were all still soaked from the swimming hole. The car ride back reeked of wet dog, wet bodies, and wet luggage.
When we got back to the hostel, the power was out… so we all showered, changed, and got ready for dinner. During orientation 6 weeks ago, we were warned that things in Nicaragua take a long time and that a sense of urgency or rush didn’t exist. It wasn’t until this day that I really understood this concept. We ordered dinner at around 6:15 PM. I ordered a salad….something that should take no more than 15 minutes to prepare. 6:30 came: nothing. 7:15 came: still nothing. 7:45: nada. 8:00: zift. I got so tired of waiting that I actually fell asleep while waiting for my food. Around 8:45 Garrison began nudging me to wake up and that our food had finally made it. With one eye open and still dozing in and out of sleep to the left and right, I scarfed down my food and completely passed out for the night.
We woke up the next morning and went on a 3 hour muddy hike up the side of a volcano. My shoulder was still pretty sore, and the amount of mud that accumulated on, in, and around my shoes was overwhelming to clean, so after our hike, we headed straight for the ocean to wash our mud-stained clothes. On our way down the volcano, our guide taught us how to clear through the forest using a machete and also proved to us that he is able to communicate with the monkeys that lived on the tops of the trees in the forest. After cleaning up as best as we could (which didn’t mean much), packing the car, and finally boarding the ferry to head back to the mainland, it started to pour rain. Christine, Garrison, Carlos, Onyema, Laurel and I decided to sit inside of Laurels car in the garage area of the ferry instead of sitting inside of the actual ferry like all the rest of the passengers. As her car began to fog up from the rain and concentrated body heat from the 6 of us, the men collecting the fares for all the passengers didn’t realize that they had neglected to charge us for riding the ferry since we were hiding in Laurels car (which cost 70 cordobas, roughly $3.50 USD). We got paranoid every time they passed by our fogged up car in fear that they would spot us and realize that we hadn’t paid for the ride. After 90 minutes of riding in the car on the ferry (with windows rolled up), it the smelt just wonderful after everything we put it through that weekend…and as soon as the ferry reached the mainland, we gestured to the rest of the group who had ridden inside the ferry to hurry into the car before we got caught. Needless to say, we had safely smuggled ourselves back to San Juan del Sur in preparation for a long car ride home and with an additional 70 cordobas in our pockets….Score! The Tola group caught a taxi back home while Laurel drove the rest of us back to Masaya. But the adventure didn’t stop here.
After about 2 hours of making progress back to Masaya, we got stopped at a random checkpoint. He asked for Laurel’s passport, license, etc… and kept peeking into the back of the car and squinting his creepy little eyes at me. Laurel and Garrison were in the front; Josh, Regan, Rachel and I were smushed in the middle; and Onyema and Christine were completely hidden in the trunk because that only would’ve made the situation worse. Laurel tried to lighten the situation by making flirtatious jokes and being ridiculously nice to him. He then told her to get out of the car and took her inside of the police station to interrogate her. At this point, the cop was on a power trip. He came back and demanded we all take out our IDs. We got nervous as to what was happening to Laurel inside the police station because we were all advised to stay inside the car. After 20 minutes of nervously waiting for Laurel to return, she has bribed them with $20 USD, got back in the car, and we immediately sped off. After the police had been harassing her about how much better she looked now than she did in her passport picture, asking where she lived, what her phone number was, and worst of all, asking her how many girls she had sitting in the car. Gag me. This was probably the first time I had felt unsafe in Nicaragua, and it was only because of the corrupt and disgusting law enforcement. Now I understood why at orientation they had told us to A. stay away from police and B. never get into a police car. This incident left a bad taste in my mouth for many reasons: it reminded me how much I disliked machismo culture, and was also a huge reminder that I should be very mindful and alert of my surroundings because of the simple reality that I am, in fact, a complete foreigner in this country and stick out like a sore thumb. Dislocating my shoulder, riding on the ledge of a Toyota 4-Runner, getting smuggled back onto the mainland, and bribing cops to leave us alone: just another weekend in Nicaragua.
PS: Current cravings of mine (include, but arent limited to): shawarma, falafel, hummus, chocolate, milk, yogurt, grapes, cold water, cherries, fudge, brownies, chocolate cake, donuts, cotton candy, apples, raisins (why? I dont know), strawberries, wheat bread, bagels, cream cheese, and poptarts. That’s it for now.
PSS: In a matter of the past 3 weeks, I’ve managed to: break the lock on my iPhone, completely break my Nicaraguan phone, break the screen on my camera (it still works though!), dislocate my shoulder, destroy my running shoes, lose my umbrella, break my camelback (HOW DOES ONE BREAK A WATERBOTTLE?), lose my toothbrush, and break my glasses. But I still have a pulse…so all is well, alhamdullilah!