Wanderlust Remedy

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Category: Nicaragua

Why you won’t be receiving a souvenir from me

I am naive.

Maybe even dumb.

Why, you ask?  Because today I spent 6 hours at the border of Costa Rica and Nicaragua because I failed to get a stamp for entry into Nicaragua when I crossed over.  Rewind…  I waited in a long ass line at the border and got a stamp.  I was confused as a motherfucker when I got into Nicaraugua.  No one directed me to a detached building where I shouldve gotten the stamp.  I just walked down a dirt road by semis.  No one stopped me.  I’m the least seasoned traveler ever ever ever.  fucking a.  departure and entry stamps.  ok.  lesson learned.

So the Nicaraguan migration officials pulled me aside and told me I had to pay a multa of $100.  I only had $80.  I pleaded with them.  They fucked around with me.  Eventually they cut me a deal of $50.  I somehow managed to maintain a positive attitude through the ordeal.  I recognized there wasnt anything I could do so I had to make the most of it.  I pulled out my harmonica and played.  I did some yoga.  I read the book I have right now.  It was kind of fun.  I got to connect with all the others having migration issues.  There was a trucker who got his passport stolen out of his rig while he showered.  there was a lady with two kids trying to get a stamp so they could go see their father who was coming in on a boat in costa rica.  it reminded me of my times in holding tanks.  we share our offenses  while we have to wait for undetermined amounts of time.  comradical dude.

after the deal was cut, one of the migration officials walked me across the border.  nothing official.  he just shook the hand of the guy at the border.  he told me he has 9 kids from different women.  he’s busy.  while waiting a lot of men kept coming up and asking me if i had a boyfriend and why i wasnt married yet.  i then asked them when they got married.  most said 16.

after i got into costa rica i got a bus to the airport.  my sly plan was to live in the airport until my flight.  i get to juan santamaria and its a ghost town.  i take a bus to san jose and regretfully got a room in a hostel.  not to mention i have to pay $28 fucking dollars to depart costa rica.  bullshite i tell you.  tomorrow i may chill out at the airport or even better i saw theres a dennys between san jose and the airport.  grrrannnnd slammmm.

anyways kale chips instead of souvenirs when i get back.  sorry friends.  i know you wanted some cool multicolored textiles or something like that.  i did write some of you some nice postcards.

heres the song that’s been annoying me through central america.

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Dollarization

Because I’m quickly running out of it, and because this has been on my mind the whole time I’ve been in Central America, I want to briefly discuss the impacts of dollarization before delving into my going ons.  I want to note that I am not an economist.  This is not my area of expertise, but rather an area that has interested me in my travels.

What is dollarization?

From the holy halls of wikipedia, ¨Dollarization occurs when the inhabitants of a country use foreign currency in parallel to or instead of the domestic currency as a store of value, unit of account, and/or medium of exchange within the domestic economy.¨  As an ignorant traveler I was surprised to discover my american dollar was readily accepted everywhere I went.  Sometimes prices were exclusively written in dollars rather than cordobas in the case of Nicaragua.  If the price were written in cordoba I could get more for my dollar if the exchange rate is high.

What is the impact of dollarization?

On one side using foreign currency is often a technique to stabilize economies.  Usually it is used to prevent an extreme devaluation of a country’s exchange rate, provide lower interest rates, and attract money from foreign investors.  This at face value may seem beneficial for economically unstable countries, but after talking to many locals I have developed a different perspective of dollarization.  I spent one hungover morning having a good conversation with the security guard at my hostel in San Juan Del Sur.

I was talking to him about the revolution, and what has happened since.  This lead to a discussion on the history of currency in the country.  I asked him how he felt about the dollar’s widespread acceptance in Central America.  He starts off by saying that it has made the price of everything go up.  He tells me about the amount of food he could buy in the pre US dollar acceptance days to now.  Without going into too much political discussion he starts talking about the relationship between current president Daniel Ortega, the IMF, and the World Bank.  He didn’t paint a kind picture.  Overall people I’ve talked to are far over American involvement in the country.  If you want to know about recent American involvement in Latin America, I suggest just googling Central American and US involvement or Latin America and US involvement, or something similar.  It really is modern day imperialism.  This may sound extreme until you objectively look at history.  It’s still going on today.

In my trip one of the biggest shockers was how NOT cheap shit is down here.  I mean it is definitely less, but not proportionately less considering the individual income.

If you know more about these subjects, please message me.  I’m quickly gaining deep interest in these areas.  I could go on and on and on and on.

Enough about that.  It’s really just all part of my traveler’s guilt.  Well more like hating my country’s foreign policy.  But that’s not anything new…

Since my Granadan debacle, I headed back to San Juan Del Sur, and partied for one night.  I met crazy fucking Israelis and ended up in a heavily mysoginistic conversation with an Israeli and a Canadian.  The Canadian said, ¨I know it’s time for me to leave a town when I’ve fucked all the hot chics there.¨ Mind you he was not at all cute.  I’ve met a lot of self-professed man hoes.  Proud man hos.

Feeling disgusted with humanity I hop a long hot bus ride the next morning to Popoyo.  Everyone I’ve met said I’d love it.  They weren’t wrong.  I’ve spent the day in waves, chilling in tidepools, and living the simple life.  Since I’ve been here the powers gone out, the waters gone out, and I made flip flops out of cardboard.  They didn’t last long.  Popoyo is just about being with the ocean, people, and food.  Basic shit that I needed to get back to.  Despite being content to be here now, I wish I wouldve found this spot at the beginning of my trip.  I couldve stayed here for a month.  It’s super fucking mellow.

I’m still here and I want to come back.  Lesson learned.  Never stray from the ocean.  You are it’s bitch.

Good and bad news:  I’m out of money and I don’t have the stamina to continue working.  I feel like I’ve missed out on a lot.  I changed my flight to come home sooner.  My head hangs low, but what can I do?  I’m ready to cut my losses and plan my next trip.  I’m hooked. The world is big.  I am small.  Yesterday I found out I got into the Cal Poly SLO program for City and Regional Planning.  So my future is still in the beautiful Central Coast of my beloved California.  Not a bad prospect.  I hope to get an opportunity to do some work abroad. I am hypnotized by latin america and i havent even seen most of it.  I want to get to know all of it.  it is in my blood.  i feel the ties.

i really want to go to veracruz.

for now, i’ll enjoy my last broke days in nicaragua.  i may have to do a quick crossover into costa rica and live in the airport for a couple days.  at least it’s safe.

 

 

Iron-knee

Irony.  Life.  Blog posts.  So it goes.  Today I was cannabalized.

I was laying in a hammock looking at my Iphone while working reception at La Libertad hostel in Granada.  Recognizing I needed to do something hipster and frugal, I decided to work at a hostel in exchange for board.  I had already worked two days and didn´t want to work anymore because I hadn´t done any cool adventuring in awhile.  No one else could work.  I can´t say no.  Ok I´ll work.  Everything had gone normally until around 330 today.

A glassy-eyed Nica came into the hostel and asked something about doing laundry.  He was speaking semi-erratically.  He then asked for a glass of water.  The hostel charges 5 cords for water.  I share this information with him.  He leaves.  I go lay down in a hammock.  He comes back in.  He asks me the time.  I look down at my watch.  He grabs my wrist and grabs my phone and goes running.

My brain told me to run.  My brain told me kick his ass.  I ran and I ran.  I followed him for blocks yelling like a mad woman.  Mind you in both English and Spanish.

No one helped me.

He turned right and then veered off into a creek bed.  I couldn´t keep up.  I walk around in circles asking if anyone knew the man.  I was so angry at myself for not breaking his hand or being fast enough to tackle him.  In terms of losing my Iphone it is a material possession.  It would of eventually been gone through obsolescence or in a puddle of water.  I end up in the police station staring at mugshots of known thieves.  It apparent the police don´t have any resources.  It smells like a fart when I walk in.  Their computers are ancient.  I feel like throwing up.  Face after misshapen, beaten, desperate face I realize my phone doesn´t matter.  These people are fucked.  Some of them look developmentally disabled or somehow handicapped.  All look like they don´t have much.  I don´t see the guy who took my phone.  The detective I dealt with was still a typical hard-boiled detective.  He stroked his chin while I tell him about the thief.  He tells me to come back tomorrow at 2.  Like in the US there is little that can be done.  I think I´d have better luck finding it.

So no more photos.

What is still pissing me off is the no worries attitude of the hostel owner.  The police tell me the door should have been kept shut.  He never told me this.  When he shows up at the hostel he doesn´t say anything nor relieves me of my duties to go to the police station.  Luckily another girl was there who said she´d cover a little bit.  When I got back from the station she left.  At this point I really don´t care about the hostel since the owner didn´t care about me.  I´ve given away some beers to myself and other guests.   I let someone leave without paying for their room.  I want to go, but I can´t.  I want to get back to the ocean.  It´s what I need.  Granada was already weighing on me.  This is just further verifying I need to get out asap.  Can´t really at this moment.  Now I have obligations.

The shit that´s supposed to protect me will just make me vulnerable.  Words I said before I left.  I knew this would happen.  Didn´t know it would make me vunerable to my own emotions about poverty and mostly vulnerable to recognizing the indifference of people.  One lady told me ¨Of course no one [on that street] would help you.  Everyone keeps to themselves.  You could get murdered and no one would help.¨

At least I didn´t get murdered.  At least I don´t have a drug problem.  At least my parents loved me and gave me shelter, food, and made me go to school.  I´m alright.  Time to move forward.

Well time to mentally move forward and physically sit and simmer in Granada.

Semana Santa

Predator or prey… which one am I? Naive and traveling alone I’ve felt at risk from mosquitos, gargantuan spiders, gnats, disease, rapists, liars, and thieves. Everystep of the way is paved with something I should be worried about. Just when you start to feel comfortable something happens to remind you to be paranoid. IT {it being any of the predators I just listed} is out to get you.

Walking back to the hostel my final night out in Leon with a new friend, we hear some screams. We look down the street. A security guard and a man are yelling at each other. I asked the security guard at the hostel what was going on. Apparently the man was trying to rob someone at the hostel across the street. The melee escalates. The security guard whips out a baton and procedes to beat the shit out of this wannabe thief. I turn away. I had no interest in watching even if the dude was a robber. I just hear the loud thumps of the baton and the man’s screams. The police eventually show up on motorcycles and take the guy away. The incident made my stomach turn. I’m reminded I’m in fucking Nicaragua. Rules are a little different from home.

Before this incident I had gotten quite comfortable walking around Leon alone at night. I got used to all the cat calls. Pssts, kisses, and hey babies are something you hear every few feet when walking around. At first disgusted, I just blocked it out. After the robbery smack down I started getting paranoid again. Although I wanted to stay in Leon up until I had to go farm, the robbery and a couple other incidents my last night out in Leon led me to take off for the mountains. I stay in a treehouse hostel.

There’s only one other couple backpacking there. The rest were a bunch of kids from Managua celebrating their friend’s birthday. I am first stand offish. I see a huge spider eating a cicada right next to my hammock. I’m actually somewhat happy. Cicadas are annoying little fuckers. I head back up to the treehouse bar. The Managuan kids are drunk. They start handing me shots. I get drunk with them and the hostel worker. I really don’t even remember what I was talking about, but I got some email addresses. I also bought two tins of pringles and a bag of goldfish. I smoke a joint with the hostel worker and see a crazy looking jungle possum. It was a fun night.

The next day I felt super weird. Maybe it was because I smoked, and I actually hadn’t smoked in a while. Not sure. I take my sunscreen out and leave it sitting near my hammock not thinking anything would happen to it. I start the steep hike up to the showers. I take my cold shower and hike back down to the hammock. My sunscreen was gone. My sunhat was gone. This was the first theft I experienced on the trip. What was unsettling is that I’m pretty sure the only people up in this area are the people staying at the hostel and the hostel workers. Prey. Don’t trust anyone. I slowly pack my shit and go to Granada.for a night. Nothing too exciting happened. I then head to the farm.

I don’t want to write too much about the farm other than I just felt uncomfortable there. A 57 year old wanting to start an intentional community lives alongside a 23 year old Ukranian man who knew near perfect Spanish. Both embrace the power of now. They are kind souls, but I definitely did not feel comfortable or that I wanted to stay. I got massively bit up by mosquitos; the weather was too hot for farm work; the landowner had strong opinions, some of which I disagreed with.

My third day in I borrowed a bike to ride from the farm to Granada.

Everything is slow in Nicaragua. It’s almost as if everything is played out in a plane of molasses or syrup. Actions are long and drawn out because of the heat. Buses don’t run on a reliable schedule. On my bike ride I realized it’s too hot for drivers or pedestrians to even be mad at you. I saw the most disgusting roadkill I’ve ever seen on the carretera. It was a decomposing dog that had been sitting in the tropical heat. It’s corpse was glistening and bloated. I didn’t look for too long.

Everything moves through molasses.

Nica time.

Cars have the right of way. The roads are chaos. It oddly doesn’t feel that dangerous. It doesn’t take me long to get to Granada. I realize I don’t want to go back to the farm. I hadn’t been able to sleep well there. I check into a hostel. I decide I want to drink.

I go and buy a bottle of rum for 75 cordoba. This is about 3 or 4 US dollars.

I get back to the hostel and start drinking with an Argentinian and 3 Frenchmen. We manage to piss off the whole hostel with our drunken loudness. We go to an afterhours club with an empty room with an incredible lazer light show. I think the place was called hypnotik. don’t worry i know how to spell. they spelled it that way.

Today I took the bicyle back to the farm and told the owner I felt too sick to stay there. I feel better. On my way back to the carretera a taxi stops and offers to give me a ride to the main road. I tell him I have no money. He said it’s OK. Once in the car he tells me that it’s dangerous for me to be walking on that road at night. I would get raped and robbed. Reminder: I am prey. I am not a predator.

I’m back at the hostel having a mellow evening. Tomorrow I might work the front desk in exchange for board. This weekend is the culminating point for Semana Santa or Holy Week. There’s a lot of scary saint and Christ statues erected. I would’ve taken a picture except they really scare me. Holy predators batman!

Oh yes, I may have a travel buddy soon. A guy my friend hosted through couchsurfer is in the area and is looking for a travel companion. I agreed. It’ll be a nice change in pace.

I’ll be happy when Semana Santa is over.

I need to learn how to appear like a predator. Maybe I should start pssting at every guy that walks by. I should smush giant spiders with my flip flops. As for mosquitos, I don’t think there is anything I can do to prey upon them.

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Aeropostale or Hollister plz

Sorry for not updating in a more timely manner. I have found myself in many internetless situations.

I am somewhat shocked at the way my journey is unfolding. Usually a party animal I expected my days of adventure to be punctuated by nights of drunken debauchery. Perhaps a mix of my hyper sensitive, overly analytical social consciousness and hypochondria I’ve cloistered myself. I haven’t had a crazy party night since the 17th.

The expensive gringo new agey, yoga, surfer take over of Costa Rica made me feel ill. I crossed into Nicaragua. Immediately the comfortable safety net of Costa Rica was removed.

After nearly getting pickpocketed at the border I waited in a long, rowdy line to cross over. Once in Nicaragua I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing. I hesitantly consulted my travel guide.

Two immediate options: 1) go to San Juan del Sur and be near the ocean in a growing party hearty tourist destination, or 2) go to the island of omotepe, an island in the middle of lake cocibolca to look at volcanoes and agrarian life. Perched at the duty free for half an hour I eventually chose the latter.

Confused as a motherfucker I wandered the market of Peñas Blancas with my backpack looking for the bus to Rivas. As a little boy was pushing my bag into the lower compartment of a nice tour bus, a fat man yelled “are you stupid?!” grabbed my pack and threw it on a chicken bus. On most of the busses I took in Costa Rica I was surrounded by other dorky looking tourists with huge backpacks. In Nicaragua this was not the case. I was initially scared when I saw I was the only dumb fuck on the bus.

I sat close to my shit.

My guidebook told me to.

Walking over to the boat to Omotepe from San Jorge, a couple stopped me and started speaking to me in Spanish. It’s a couple from Managua who were taking a small vacay on the isle. The woman starts to reveal little bits of information, “I’m 41 and he’s 28… He’s an artist and paints boats for the wealthy… We met in rehab.” I was mildly interested until we started talking to an older couple from Iowa (in english) who sell soda tab bracelets to raise money for a school and how they want to retire on the island. Bored I slip away to enjoy the rocky boat ride and talk to locals about their thoughts on tourismo (mostly positive), and don’t think much about the Managuan couple. Little did I know how they would be a large part of my time on Omotepe.

Omotepe consists of numerous small, rural villages and two larger towns, myogalpa and altagracia. The main economic drivers are tourism and agriculture. Tourism has proved so profitable many of the island’s main roads are getting paved and a controversial airport is in the works. Islanders make clear distinctions between the mundo tranquillo on the island and the chaos of life on the mainland. Hailey, a local elementary school teacher who studied at the U of Managua told me that people on the island are poor but are content because they know how to grow food so they are never starving like those in the city. She said she saw many brutal situations in Managua and has never fathomed going back despite the limited job opportunities on the Omotepe.

The island is littered with 20 something backpackers. I am disgusted with myself. Once again I hesitantly open my guidebook. I don’t know where I’m going. I wander around the main town, myogalpa for a few minutes. I get solicited by a million business proprietors. I say no a million times. I drink a bag of strawberry milk. Unimpressed by the main village, I get on a bus for Altagracia. Over an hour later I arrive. I go into the first hostel I see, Hotel Central. For a whopping $12 after tax, I get my own clean 1 bd cabina, complete with a rocking chair and bathroom. A cold shower later I hit the rockin streets of altagracia. Five minutes afterward I walk back to hotel central. I see a shaggy haired gringo in aviators on a rocking chair on the sidewalk in front of the hotel drinking a liter of Toña. It looked fun so I grabbed a beer and joined him.

Turns out his lady friend and him were from the east coast of Australia and had been traveling down through the Americas for the past 6 mths. They are the 1st of many long term travelers who I’ve met. A scooter stops in front of me. It’s the Managuan couple. They tell me they are staying at villa paraiso. That is the most expensive place on the island. They zip off.

Next I get introduced to Stanley, a landlord from Michigan in his 50s or 60s who had googley eyes and a treasure trove of travel stories. Stanley tells me that he used to do dope, well actually still does sometimes, doesn’t drink hard alcohol because it makes him an asshole, travels have taught him to fear nothing, and he loves the farmacia. Stanley and I go for a little walk to go get some diazepam. Unsuccessful in our quest, he offers to buy me a drink. I tell him I want to go back to join the others at the bar by the hotel.

Tito bar has dirt floors, marco Antonio solis videos on the TV, and a bitchin deal on rum. Six dollars for a bottle 1.5 liters of rum and a bottle of coke. Nicaragua has a lot of cheap rum. I was elated. The Aussies were down to rage, but I learned the aussies are insane and always down to cause mayhem.

Jonay, a local volcano guide also joined us. The Australian woman and a German friend had attempted to climb volcano concepcion earlier that day. The guide also invited his girlfriend, an engineering student from the u of Managua helping with the new airport. She tells me it’d be cool to find a job in the tourist industry. I notice she is the only one not drinking any alcohol. Almost all of us get shitfaced.

Suddenly Jonay starts hitting on me. At first I ignore it. He persists. I then tell him no. This is when he starts getting aggressive and mean. Mind you he’s doing this in front of his lady friend who is a million times smarter than he is. She eventually gets up and leaves. I start go off on a feminist rant, yelling at Jonay. The Aussie guy and I are near ready to start a drunken brawl. In my haze I wasn’t ready to deal with machismo regardless of where the fuck I was. Stanley tells the bartender. Jonay gets kicked out.

A group of locals come and apologize, telling us they love tourists and most islanders are not like that. I felt like I was in the twilight zone. I head back to the hotel. Jonay is sitting out front. I run back to my room and freak the fuck out.

Cloister no. 1: I wake up the next morning feeling that partying is not good. I catch a bus to the town of Balgue and hike up to the famed Finca Magdalena, a working coffee farm and hostel owned and operated by 27 families. There’s a lot of Sandinista graffiti all over the island. On the walk up to Magdalena I feel like I’m in a new world. There’s a dead bat on the road. Men are on horses. A goat and it’s kid chew on some grass. Cool. It’s the country. I made the right choice. I get up to the Finca set up my hammock and fall asleep. I paid $2.75 a night. I wake up a handful of hours later and catch a breathtaking sunset.

All the guests gather on the porch to order dinner from the kitchen. I get some tostones con queso aka fried plantains topped with a square of dry rubbery white cheese. I order a liter of Toña. The Managuan couple stumble in with a very handsome, yet short in stature blond haired blue-eyed man. Turns out they gave him a lift when they saw him walking down the road. The Managuan woman, Claudia, started whispering to us after her mate walked away to eat a bowl of fish soup. “he doesn’t love me. I’m an alcoholic.”. I’m just thinking oh god end this, I’ve attracted another crazy. I wanted to know more about their passenger, a Chilean near licensed as a psychologist, Jose Miguel. They leave and I come to find out he hates American tourists. Oh well. I spend the next few days hiking volcanoes, mountain biking, and bumping into the Managuan couple wearing matching hotel paraiso t-shirts. On my last day at Magdalena I wake up from a nap in my hammock to see Claudia next to me almost in tears.

“I’ve come looking for you. I don’t know what to do. The police and my cousin came to the room and took everything because I escaped. I broke my toe.” Turns out Claudia is from a well to do family of jewelry makers. She had been kept under lock and key at home by her mother because of her substance abuse issues. Although Claudia is 41 she looks, acts, and is treated like a child.

She starts telling me her lover has left her and all she wants is him. In coming to drop her off they crashed because they were drunk and she broke her toe. Ten minutes after telling me he’s never coming back, her lover pulls up on the scooter with Jose Manuel. It’s all too much for me. I listen to their upper class drama for the next 2 hours until Jose Manuel walks off when they make it known they are Pinochet fans. This is my out and I go sit with Jose Manuel and talk about the power of now.

I leave the next morning.

My brain was back in party mode. Side note take great caution eating the food sold on busses. Nicaraguan churros are no Mexican churros. I got sick. I get into San Juan del Sur an head to the most infamous party hostel in town, the Naked Tiger. Opened a year ago by two east bay expats, the hostel is basically a big beautiful house filled with beautiful people. I sign in reluctantly, my stomach in pain. One of the owners a sexy short porn star of the man, has me take a shot. I drink for the next five hours, unable to get my mind fully in party mode. The people at the tiger are rad. If you ever want a good time head there. I freaked out the next morning when I woke up.

Cloister #2: I go to the surf shop asking where I can find somewhere tranquillo on the beach. I am directed to playa maderas, specifically this spot called matilda’s. I have to hike 10 minutes down a beach at the end of a dirt road. There were a lot of Canadians escaping winter by spending time in Nicaragua living a Jimmy Buffet dream. The first night I was there some forty something Canuck was pouring red bulls into a can of Toña. He then skied some slopes if you know what I’m saying. His eyes were bugging out of his head by the end of the night. Despite the partying I kept to myself and went to sleep around 930 for three or four nights.

I enjoyed it.

Up next… I return to San Juan del Sur.

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