I spent my last day in Granada scaring off croc's at the local lagoon with my offensively white belly.
I then basked in one last afternoon snapping photos around town.
As it was my last night in Granada, like any good teetotaler, I spent the evening teaching kids how to slam water in shot glasses.
Later that night, I decided to finish my straight-edge binge with some Chinese food. Three hours later, I was watching the history of my meals for the last 24 hours pass from my mouth. Chinese food in Nicaragua? What the hell was I thinking?
I slept off most of the nausea and woke feeling much better. I decided to celebrate finally getting sick and surviving by ordering a morning serving of French toast, which only had a few seconds to quickly give my stomach a high-five before being hurled out the way it came. I wasn’t having much luck with international meals it seems. Regardless, I was leaving that day to be in Tegu, Honduras. After my failed attempt at breakfast, I went back to pack all my gear that was at my host family’s house. As they were leaving for a day trip, we said our goodbyes.
“Thanks. You are the greatest Spanish foster parents ever.”
“Gustavo, you look really sick.”
After they left, I tried to take a nap on their couch but couldn’t get over the nausea. My belly felt like it was pushing around a bloated zip-lock bag of rancid vegetable soup. Feeling a reverse in my digestive system, I made a dash for the toilet and removed the left over cleaning brush before spoiling someone’s cleaning job.
My bags were backed and the hell if I was going to walk to the bus station feeling like this so I hailed a 50-cent cab. It’s normal here for taxis to coop their rides with other passengers, so I wasn’t surprised to see a whole family in the car already when the taxi pulled over. After I squeezed in my bags and my distended belly, the taxi driver started some small talk,
“How are you?”
Funny you should ask.
“Not bad for eating Chinese food in Nicaragua.”
The family scooted away a little.
I was celebrating small wins as the taxi arrived at the bus station without an in-flight digestive disaster. I continued to hold my digestive system in check and boarded the bus for Managua.
Oh, Managua. If poop could have an asshole, it wouldn’t be that much different than Managua. I arrived in this dodgy, dirty and, proud to be dangerous city. I found a taxi to take me to my hotel for the night. The taxi driver was a little sketchy but I discovered that mentioning that I had spent the night vomiting out bad Chinese food seemed to make me less of an attractive target for crime and it effectively disarmed the situation.
The taxi driver, quicker than most, dropped me off at my hotel. The hotel staff unlocked a series of gates and locks allowing me to drop off my backpacks. I then left and walked half a block down to the Tica bus station that would connect me to Tegu, Honduras the next day.
“Be here at 4am?”
“But the bus doesn’t leave until 5am. How about 4:30am?”
On the way back to my hotel some thugs followed me asking for my bottle of water. It didn’t seem good that thugs were willing to rob you for a half empty bottle of water. Thankfully my hotel was only a half block from the Tica bus station. I arrived and a series of paranoid, but might be justified, locks were unlocked and I was let back into safety.
“So, I’ve got a to be at the Tica station by 4:15am.”
“Yes, no problem.”
And with this I dared to eat a solitary chip but poured cold water on my belly as an offering.
With a 4:15am wake up call, I, of course, had nightmares. I had this frightening nightmare that the voluntary project I was going to start the next day somewhere in rural Honduras was actually in this very Americanized city. It was a city only populated by highway franchise businesses. In my dream, I was driven past TGIF, Red Robin, and a Big Lots. I was utterly unaware that this was a nightmare. I was thoroughly confused how I hadn’t seen any of this in my pre-trip research. I was to stay in a post-college-dorms apartment complex with 1000 units where the leasing agent bragged about the small weight room and available carports. I’d be working in this NGO’s gift shop selling rugby shirts with our company’s logo on them, Pure Water for Peace. I was already counting down the weeks until the yearlong project was over.
I awoke in a confused bolt. The nightmare was interrupted when I thought I heard a knock at my door. In the darkness, I opened my hotel door. Nothing. Well, duh…I mean, it’s only 4:55am in the morning, Craig.
“Shit, it’s 4:55am!”
I was confused on confused. There was no wake up call. Note to self, this isn’t a good time, but later today after you miss your bus, confirm the Spanish word for wake up call.
You know what’s not good for a belly of ‘trying not to be digested’ Chinese food? Hauling ass. I grabbed my bags and slung my sick, sloshy, and prone to vomiting belly out my room. Staring at the padlocked gate, I made it as far as the front door of the hotel. I was locked in. In my moment of panic, I rattled the locked gate and yelled the closest thing I knew in Spanish to communicate what I wanted,
“Yo necessito mi libertad!”
I looked insane.
Someone stirred and unlocked the gate. I was so scared of missing my ‘departs in 3 minutes’ bus but I already saw the letter I was going to write this hotel in all caps about my feelings about them not waking me up until 4:56am.
I tore off running to the Tica bus. I left part of my stomach behind. I arrived at the bus station. I heard a bus idling. Please, please, be my bus waiting. I ran inside. I apologized but didn’t dare open my mouth too much, which might be the only obstacle I had to prevent the hot food lava that might erupt from my mouth. This would, understandably, be added to my Tica bus personal profile where I would permanently be charged a ‘prone to vomiting’ surcharge to my regular ticket fee.
I was allowed on the bus. I was happy. My stomach was not. Though, we were both instantly blessed with some powerful-ass in-bus air-conditioning. This was a first-class gray panther coach-style bus. Nice! Shit, honestly, I didn’t care if we just sat in the parking lot all day. I’d pay for this kind of air-conditioning.
So I didn’t actually have to be at the bus stop at 4:15am. Maybe my underachieving genius hotel staff knew it was cool to arrive at 4:56am. I erased my persnickety letter to them. Though, it would have been nice to have known I could have slept in until 4:55am before I had jostled my temperamental belly in a mad panic earlier.
Of course I didn’t sleep on the eight-hour bus ride to Tegu. Nope, I didn’t want to miss one wink of experiencing this succulent air-conditioning. I cradled my grumpy stomach and lapped at the air-conditioned air.
Later we arrived at the Nica’ Honduran border. The bus staff took our passports and then offered us all to the children beggars.
“No, no, but tomorrow at 10am I’ll be here with food for you.”
I told one kid beggar who ironically not only had food on his face, but probably had actually eaten more food than I had in the last 48 hours.
Before we re-boarded the bus, the Tica staff called roster by reading off the names from our passports.
“Yeah, it’s pronounced ‘Gustavo’”
I dared the wrath of my stomach by letting a cap of water dissolve in my mouth. I felt a small disagreement in my stomach but didn’t experience a digestive coup. Phew.
Four hours later, the Tica bus pulled into Tegu, Honduras. I looked for my handler from Pure Water for Peace.
Great this was a good start.
“Craig, it’s great to meet you. We have to move fast today. But, while we are in town now, we need to buy you a cell phone, open a bank account so we can pay you and pick up a new motorcycle. Oh, can you drive a motorcycle?”
Truthfully, it was a big fat lie when my stomach said no but I said yes.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Saturday, May 1, 2010
Update. I am a father of two! After being frustrated that I wasn’t yet fluent in Spanish after 3 weeks, I wasn’t surprised when I found two little wax nuggets in my ear—nope—the same ear. When asked if he wanted to see something totally cool, my Spanish teacher foolishly trusted an American and answered yes. Ta-dah!
I’ve also discovered that Nicaragua is so proud of their lock-solid electricity that they like to celebrate by randomly turning it on and off in the middle of the late night. This sadly kills the fan in my hotbox windowless room. This means each new night at 4am when my lifeline fan dies, I sit in my cozy 274-Kelvin room listening to the bugs live off my cholesterol rich blood. Oh, yeah, the second update. I’ve been infested with bed bugs. Or vice-versa, as I actually might be the source.
So, logically, to celebrate my bed bug (or craig-bug) invasion, I decided to quarantine myself to the mutant island of Ometepe. Ometepe sits on a huge-ass lake and has two connected volcano islands that basically look like two cells splitting.
I landed at the ferry doc and immediately dashed for the lumbering school bus. I was heading to Charco Verde. It was dark by the time I arrived. I amused myself that I’d escaped my bed bug infestation in Granada by counting the rat shit on my new bed Ometepe.
I was then thankfully distracted by a scorpion carcass on my door. I went for a picture. The scorpion’s live body protested my proximity and scurried towards my bed. Ah, hell, no! I had another 'bigger than needed' scorpion in my room. Seriously, scorpions in my room are funny every time.
Shit, where were these scorpions in my room coming from? Now, I had to evaluate if I was not transporting the scorpions in my backpack.
Eventually after much squealing and prancing around my room, I got the scorpion into a glass. I showed my hotel staff for fun but they seem bored that I was still alive. I saw an American family with younger kids. I interrupted their game of Uno.
“You all want to see a wicked-sized scorpion?”
AKA not sleep at all?
Their first mistake was to agree to see it. Their second mistake was to agree to let their kids go with me to release the scorpion while they wore flip-flops. Oh, well.
Before laying awake in my bed worrying about scorpions crawling into my mouth, I went for a nighttime hike by a cesspool. This was cool until I realized that it’s the nighttime mosquitoes that are more likely to pass on malaria. Crap.
I went to bed but was pleased to discover that the electricity goes out in Ometepe too. Ah, just like home. So, I lay awake sweating in my bed wondering if was the heat or that I was already experiencing fever symptoms from my fast-acting malaria.
The next morning I hiked to a finca on the south island. This was a brilliant idea until I sweated off all my sun block. Sizzle. 10 kilometers later, I arrived at some finca. Seems like that finca had quite a low quota for as soon as I paid they handed me my key, turned off all the lights and then the entire staff ran away. I was actually thinking I was right starving. I was also disappointed once I realized that the key chain wasn’t indicating something erotic about my room but moreover was simply referring to my room number.
Starving, I was contemplating which pages of my lonely planet book I was going to eat when I observed mutants eating each other. See here, folks…tarantulas are scary, black wasps are scary and, wasps the size of tarantulas are double scary! Observe. Might I recommend you watch to the end? Yep.
I spent the rest of my time on the mutant island by being sure to get a new sunburn on each accessible beach on the island.
I also thought it was a good idea to grab a bull’s head, get close to a bull-sized pig and celebrated by eating an avocado the size of my head. Food!
I finished up by snapping some pictures of some classy local architecture. Nice bro’!
Eventually I left mutant island to return to my foster parents. While I was gone, it was clear that my parents had had a meeting and now considered me an adult. I was welcomed home with some new artwork in my room. Ah, I missed you too!