Bueno… I’ve made it back to the States despite several voiced concerns of kidnapping and sale into sexual slavery. Clearly, your nightly candlelight vigils have saved me from starring in the Spanish language version of “Taken.” Although, I’m unsure of who in my circle has a certain set of skills that would come and rescue me.
Now that my safe passage has been confirmed, I hope that everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration! Mine was spent in the Central American country of Nicaragua. I’m being specific because I called USAA to put a travel alert on my debit card and the representative had no idea what I was talking about. She asked if it was still in the US…Uh…..no. Why would I alert you to travel within Amurica? It has become apparent that not everyone enjoyed watching “Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?” and/or pretending to be her as much I do- minus the international heists, of course.
I’m definitely glad that I went to Nicaragua despite some major bitchiness from Mother Nature in the form of Hurricane Otto, an earthquake, and a tsunami warning (spread out over two days) that forced us to turn around when we arrived at the beach in Leon. (I was seriously waiting for a Biblical plague of locusts to be announced on the news given the increasing reports of natural disasters.) Although my nostrils were often assaulted by what smelled vapors from dirty diaper cannons, I’m really thankful that I got to go because: 1) leaving the United States and going to a third world country has reminded me I’m so freaking lucky to be an American; 2) it reminded me of my love and knack for languages. Traveling is the salve for my soul. I don’t do it just to check places off of my list. I do it because I find it interesting to learn about cultural nuances and shift my perspective. I can absolutely do so in the United States (which, I definitely plan to do), but it is just so incredible and mind blowing to be in a place where there are buildings older than the United States.
Previous trips to third world countries like Jamaica (the Motherland) and Afghanistan have smacked the whining about my discontent right out of my mouth. The people I interacted with were so generous and kind. This reminded me how thankful that I really should be for the job, home, and life that I have. Trips like these remind me that being born American is one of the luckiest things that could have happened in the Game of Life. Surely, our country is far from perfect and there are some scary [insert phobia here] tendencies that are currently center stage; however, coming to a country where people hustle to survive on less than $200 a month is humbling. I cannot speak to the conditions of other Nicaraguan families, but the house that I did visit was made of cement blocks, had no kitchen sink or functioning bathroom sink. We had to collect water from a large bucket with a bowl and use the bowl as a make shift sink in which to wash our hands. And, if the toilet didn’t feel like flushing, we used a bucket of water to fill it up to help it along. There was literally a cat on a hot tin roof, mewing and scurrying around at night… which, scared the Spanish right out of me.
Foreign languages are like a linguistic Rubik’s cube that my mind loves to solve. I know that this isn’t the case for everyone, but I would take trying to learn a language over a complex math problem, any day. After these past four days, I wanted to stay just a little bit longer so that I could continue to be forced to speak Spanish. I wanted to see just how quickly and how much I could learn and could understand. My goal is to one day understand the people who speak like they’re auctioneers. Now, instead of being embarrassed about my Spanish, I will seek out opportunities to practice. I really wish that I could use French or Spanish on a regular basis for work. I also need to polish up my French and rebuild a foundation in Italian before my two-week Euro trip (a.k.a. bae-watch 2017) this summer.
The flip side of the poverty (and the fact that it is not a tourist destination like Jamaica or other similar countries) is that everything is so cheap. Places considered too expensive by locals are a steal by American standards. In Nicaragua, you can consistently get a huge plate of food for less than $5 per person. We spent $25 dollars for breakfast and beverages for four people!!) That sh*t cray! By the way, I am not at all a coffee drinker and I drank coffee twice there, on purpose, because it was so delicious. That is saying something, amigos! The food was nothing to write home about. While I did have some delicious meals, both home cooked and out in town, most of the meals were meh. Also, eating out in the economy made me wish that I had brought some Pepto and antibiotics with me. But, apparently my trips to South America had strengthened my belly because I didn’t suffer any gastro distress. Thank you, Lord!
As far as lodging goes, the prices of the hotel rooms were also mind blowing. I stayed in a four star hotel across from the airport for $80 per night. Other places that I stayed were in the $18-21 per night range. (A swanky hotel might run you about $50 a night.) Granted, the towels could probably exfoliate me just as well as a loofah, but they and the rooms were clean and (relatively) safe. Some hotels even had wifi that actually worked… if interested in reconnecting with the outside world.
Disclaimer: There’s about to be a whole bunch of petty, superficial judgment spewing from my mouth. If those things offend you, I suggest that you stop reading now and enjoy all the warm and fuzziness that I just left you with above. If you enjoy reading these things, please proceed after grabbing some popcorn and your favorite (adult) beverage.
Heterosexual ladies and/or homosexual men: if you think that you’re going to go to Nicaragua and find some Antonio Banderas or Ricky Martin look alike, think again. You’d better just pay the rebooking fee and reroute to Chile, Spain, Peru, or Puerto Rico. I’m sure there are other Latin American/Hispanic countries overflowing with beautiful men, but I can only confirm, firsthand, their existence in these places. Dem dudes (apologies for any Nicaraguans who might be reading this) had me wondering what in the world was NOT in the drinking water. There was such an apparent lack of male hotties, it was truly astounding and made me wonder how the women were so lovely. There was no shortage of beautiful Nicaraguan women, from brunettes to blondes, with their complexions ranging from cocoa to cream. Eye colors included the spectrum from coffee to aquamarine. There were definitely some ladies whose gender I had to ponder for a moment or three because they looked like they could bench press me, but the majority were still pretty even if their jeans had holes in all the wrong places and looked like they had been rolled around in the dirt. One lady I saw, with her boo thing, whilst I was trying to survive as a passenger on the streets of Matalpa, had a straight up gut featuring a C-section scar just… out. She was thoroughly unbothered. She was all… #longhairdontcare. I had to nod to her in deference. Get after it, Mamasita.
There were many shirtless men. This sounds exciting, however, they all had the body of baked Pillsbury doughboys.* Sigh* Their features were primarily oaflike (read: ugly) or plain. It took me about three days to find an attractive male in the lot. (The most attractive guy on my trip, BY FAR, was seated in front of me on the way back to the States. And, I cannot confirm or deny his Nicaraguan heritage. I can confirm that we locked eyes and exchanged flirty glances several times through the airport in Miami. I can also confirm that I would have kidnapped him in a Borat wedding sack. I prayed that he appear at gate D19, for my flight back to DC. I promised baby Jesus that I would celebrate him in church on Sunday, if that were the case. Alas, it was not meant to be.)
I always like to find the bright side of a dismal situation, I will point out that the Nicaraguan men often had the thickest, shiniest, blackest, most luxurious hair ever. (Airplane crush included.) Some had curls that gave me some serious hair envy. I wanted to take a lock of their hair, plant it in my backyard, add some sexy fertilizer, and grow some tall dark and handsomeness from it because… science. But, seriously, I first wanted to ask them what products they used to slick it back so beautifully. Next, I wanted wash the product out because…. It didn’t look very welcoming to the fingers. Finally, I would leave ask them to step out off of their step stool and leave me to my disappointment and the soundtrack of “Waiting to Exhale.” (Sidebar: I was yelled at called Whitney Houston by a beggar. Unsure of whether or not the news of her death had reached him. I was flattered, none the less.)
So, do I recommend that you check it out? Meh. I’d give the overall experience a B/B- due to the food, prices, activities accommodations, and overall beauty of the places that I have seen. There’s also an issue of security as you will notice traveling around town. There are often armed guards outside of banks and other such places. I didn’t take that many pictures because I didn’t want to have my phone snatch. The country definitely has its beautiful parts- including the lake, lagoons, its active volcanoes and lush greenery. Unfortunately, the countryside’s beauty was often marred by trash and/or burning trash. I can’t speak to the beaches since we didn’t want to die in a tsunami. (I was really bummed about that and saddened that I was unable to bush out my polka bikini.) I was so READY. An hour long, $10 boat ride on the Lake of Nicaragua was definitely the highlight of my trip. It is the largest lake in Central America and the 19th (?) largest in the world. It was most certainly not my favorite foreign country that I have visited. When you ask people for directions (even when asked by a Native Nicaraguan in Spanish), 7 out of 10 people will tell you that the route that you are looking for is directo. Even if it is most certainly not directo. You have been warned!! You’d better have all of your routes planned out before you get extremely lost, like we did for several hours. Also, traffic in Managua is a NIGHTMARE. It made my commute in DC seem a quick jaunt with my besties. I could probably listen to the entire audio book of the Oddysey during three days my weekly commute. Bottomline: after exploring some other countries on my list, I definitely would come back to explore the rest of the country and do so with a driver so that I would have some more flexibility in my agenda. Next time, I would go surfing, zipling, horseback riding, hiking, and boarding down the side of a volcano- as the tourists do. A la proxima vez…