Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Nicaragua (Part 1)

Here is a stream of consciousness account of our recent trip to Nicaragua, where Rob ran the Fuego y Agua ultramarathon (50K).  For those who don't know the history, we lived on Ometepe Island for a year (Aug 2006-Aug 2007) when I did my dissertation research on wild Nicaraguan mantled howler monkeys.


We got up at 3 in the morning on Valentine's Day and left St. Louis in a snowstorm to fly to Nicaragua.  After we arrived at the airport in Managua, we ran across the Pan-American highway (with Will in our arms) and got into a taxi with no seat belts, much less a car seat.  It seemed safer than going to Huembes bus station and looking like gringos who were begging to get mugged while waiting for a chicken bus to San Jorge.  I eventually got used to the no car-seat thing.  But not running across the Pan-American highway.  I never remembered so much traffic being on that road.  It was proably just about the scariest thing of the whole trip-- I was so terrified Will would wiggle out of our arms into the rush of the traffic.

We got to San Jorge at 5:15pm and the last ferry of the day was taking off at 5:30.  We had to run to the dock, carrying Will and all our luggage.  I tried to take the heaviest bags because Rob's back still hurt from when he injured it a few weeks ago, and neither of us wanted anything to jeopardize his attempt at Fuego y Agua in just a few days.  By sheer force of will, I managed to step onto the boat in the nick of time.

While I did my best not to throw up (Lake Nicaragua is very rough this time of year), Will eagerly explored his surroundings.  There was a little Nicaraguan girl on the ferry who was about his same age and Will announced, "I GO PLAY WITH BABY."  He went up to her, just like that, and they started playing.  I tried to claw through the nausea so that I could look at the two of them, it was so cute.  They ran around in circles and banged on the seats and looked out the window.  The sun set.  At last we arrived on the island.


In the dark, we walked up the hill to Hospedaje Central, where we stayed for the night.  It was filthy and hot and full of nice but not-so-great smelling back-packers.  I was worried because Will had not had much to eat all day.  We got bottled water so I could make him some powdered soy milk, so at least that was something.  I was hungry and shared some salad with Rob.  I remembered the time we stayed in this place before (in 2008), when the power went out and there was no food and it was so unbearably hot, and all we had to eat were these tiny bananas that Don Alberto had given us earlier in the day.  I missed Don Alberto and was sad that he passed away.

Hospedaje Central is the kind of place that is so dirty you feel like it will actually make you even more dirty to take a shower or really, to even step foot in the bathroom.  I tried not touch much of anything while I was there, which made sleeping difficult.  We made it through the night and  took the 8:30 bus to Merida-- after stocking up on juice and snacks for Will.


Walking into the Hacienda was like stepping right back into my old life.  It didn't feel weird or overly emotional or any of the things I had expected.  It just felt like maybe I had been gone for a weekend, and now here I was again, only this time with a 2-1/2 year old child.

They had fixed up our old room for us-- C7-- and they even moved in a twin bed for Will.  There were mosquito nets around the beds, which made them very pretty, and flower petals on the sheets.


Everyone went wild over William, of course.  Nicaraguans are a very baby-loving people.  La Reyna was working in the kitchen and came out to greet us.  She said she had just had a baby (her third) three months ago.  She was very happy to finally have a boy (her first two children are girls) and we agreed that little boys are the best things ever.  She said she thought they are easier than girls-- you don't have to braid their hair.

Leda was there too, she is little and just my size, and we gave each other a hug.  Doña Argentina and Doña Dina came ouf of the kitchen to see us and meet William.  Everybody couldn't get over how cute William was.  I was still very worried about his lack of eating or sleeping over the past couple of days, but it was good to have him in Nicaragua.

Simeón came around dinner time, with the other volcano guides, to see if any of the tourists wanted to arrange a climb for the next day.  I was so happy to see him.  I made Rob take a picture of the two of us.  I asked him how many times he had climbed the volcano, and he said, sometimes 3 or 4 times a week.  I asked him how many times in his lifetime he had climbed it and he just laughed and said, too many to count.  Randol was there too, the guide that went with us when Rob and I first climbed the volcano in February 2007.  I asked him if he remembered how much I struggled with it and he said yes of course.  He tried to cover up his laughter at the memory of me slipping and sliding down the volcano, when somehow, chain-smoking, hungover tourists don't seem to have any trouble with it.  I am still perplexed as to why it was so hard for me.  Simeón talked to Rob about the race, in fact, he was very interested in it.  He said that he thought Rob was going to win.  I said that I thought Rob would win too.  Rob told us not to say that, it would jinx it.  And so Simeón laughed and he told Rob, then I will say the reverse.  I think you will lose (and saying that will make you win).


Continue to Part 2.

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