Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Dry Run: Nicaragua Part II

In Nicaragua, one must get used to the water.  It is the rainy season, so that may have something to do with it.  Also, the Boss and I just seem to be drawn to bodies of water.  Of all shapes and sizes.

Rainy afternoons.  
I share a bond with this Nicaraguan as we both sit and watch the storm roll through Chichigalpa.

Las Penitas.
First time I've seen a sunset over the ocean.  Pacific for the win.

Some afternoon reading and relaxing.  Not much has changed from Charleston.
Except the hammock.  It's a nice touch.

Water sports!  
Kayaking in the Laguna de Apoya.  Old volcano turned peaceful 200 meter deep lagoon.

Lake Nicaragua.  
This sucker is massive.  Seriously, go check a map.  So massive that it has fresh water sharks. And an island where we saw monkeys!

Me on a boat in Lake Nicaragua.  Drinking a tasty beverage.

Picture uploading problem resolved: check.  Borrowed watch: check.

I've got less than a week to go.  Hopefully when I get in the States I can sit down and properly recount some of my adventuring.  Till then.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Dry Run: Nicaragua Part I

That's right, I'm fortunate enough to get to pretend to be in the Peace Corps before I'm actually in the Peace Corps.  This thanks mostly to the grace of Boss Tony.  And a cheap plane ticket.

Lesson one: Gather important information prior to leaving country.
Half of that lesson is knowing what exactly one might need.  Some smart doctor-like friends were kind enough to mention I might need such things as anti-malaria meds before going.  Booked an appointment the week before departure and discovered a few avoidance shots were also necessary.  No, I don't want Hep A or Typhoid, though I've no idea what either do.  Actually, I've no idea what Malaria does.  They are all bad and possibly deadly.  So I lucked into avoiding those things.

It did not really occur to me (or the others that take care of me) that I might need simple information like an address or a phone number where I can be reached in country.  These are things for which both the US Department of State and Nicaraguan Customs asks.  Whoops.

The kindly Nicaraguan lady asks:  "So where are you staying?  In Managua (that's that capital where I landed)?"
Me, thinking:  "No, pretty sure my friend doesn't live there..."
Her:  "So where does your friend live?"
Me:  "I think the... north... west maybe?"
I have to stop her in the middle of a long list of places I've never heard of.  I'm pretty sure I never even bothered to ask.  Tony was just picking me up at the airport and in my mind that's all the info I required.  And no, I don't really know what I would have done if we missed each other.  Hung out at a nearby bar till he showed up... or didn't.

Lesson dos:  Learn the local language as fast as possible.
Last time I studied Spanish was in middle school.  Can't recall a damn word of it to be frank.  I have managed to learned a couple the past few days in Chichigalpa (see, I eventually figured it out...), like "non comprendo" or "non sei".  Tony filling in as personal translator.

Today, though, I had mostly to myself.  Tony was running around doing important Peace Corps things so I stayed at the family compound.  This place is alive with people.  Coming in an out all day and, somewhat annoyingly, all night.  I've no idea how many people live here, but there are at least five bedrooms and apparently a guy who sleeps outside in a hammock.  I'd wager a dozen people are here at any given moment.  And not a one of them speaks a lick of English (that may be harsh to one of the boys here who recited a story in English... or the little girls who proudly competed to show me how high they could count).

They have a big courtyard area with an outdoor kitchen, a bunch of animals, and a variety of fruit trees (I recognized mango and avocado).  I rather liked all the animals as they spoke about as much Spanish as me.  Well I was on par with the chickens, ducks, parrots, and cat.  The dogs may have had me by a hair.  I sat mostly and ate well (ha! had the dogs on that one).  The ladies were always cooking: some of the stuff they sold, some of the stuff we ate.  I did engage them in conversation or, rather, they tried to pull me in.  I learned "caliente" on account of my propensity toward fire.  I must say everyone is incredibly nice to the useless "gringo".  The best I can do is try to show them I am at least incredibly appreciative of their hospitality.

I fared much better with the children when they all got home from school.  We could do things like whistle at each other and snap our fingers.  Took to the streets to play catch.  Or race each other in a variety of ways.  I totally would have won the one-footed hop, but they all cheated and just ran.  I also learned some versions of pattie-cake pattie-cake, though I've no idea what they had me saying.  Picked it up rather quickly though if I do say so myself.  They also gave me my first real Spanish lesson as we pointed at different things and taught each other how to say them in our respective languages.  That's right, two days in Nicaragua and I'm already teaching English as a second language!

Regardless, I've a strong inclination to pound the ole French language books like a man possessed when I get back stateside.

Lesson three:  Bring your damn camera cord.
Apologies, everyone.  I'll have to add pictures later.  But hey, this is why we have test runs.  Other things to bring: something to sleep in, a watch, hand soap.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Charleston in the rear view

Anyone who has lived in Charleston loves the bridges. (Well, save one friend who invariably would get on the wrong one and have to wait till the end to u-turn.)  They always offer a grand view of the water, the marshes, and the city.  I've left and come back a few times and, just like seeing the Washington Monument in the distance when I lived in DC, crossing over a bridge into the city lightens the heart.  That feeling of coming home.  It's hard to see that in the rear view and know you won't be returning for a long, long time.

I've been having trouble writing of late.  Hell, I've been having trouble doing anything productive really.  It's these incessant goodbyes.  I've been hitting one after the other for the past month.  Traveling is worth writing about (aka productive in my limited scope) but the time to write is always after I've left.  Immediately after another goodbye.

Normally goodbyes don't bother me.  I usually joke around with whoever it may be and toss in a playful "forever".  My mother particularly loves it when I'm off someplace, look deep into her eyes, and say, "I love you, Mom.  Goodbye.  Forever."   Maybe a "you were a good mother to me" for good measure.  (Yes, I'm probably a horrid son.  No worries, she has another.)  Goodbyes always seem easy for me.  Moving has never been all that far and trips never for all that long.  And in this day in age, those things hardly matter.  With phones, the internet, and facebook, it is incredibly easy to keep in touch.  Many of my greatest--hell, closest--friends are far away, but I always, ALWAYS have the luxury of sending them a note whenever I please.  I've never had difficulty keeping in touch with people as long as they want to keep in touch with me.  I try to remind myself that I will have some of that in Africa too.  Just not often.  And certainly not whenever I please.  Alas, I am greedy.

I think it is really the disconnect that I fear.  Time breeds disconnect.  Time is change.  Only some of the people you leave behind ever stay in your life.  Only some of them will write back.  Only some of them you will get to see again.  And all of them will change.  Get married, have kids, move, get new jobs, or...  anything.  And you never know how that will change your relationship.  Shit, two years in Africa, I'm the one who is going to be different!

Charleston feels worse.  The goodbyes with family and old friends, well, at least I know they will be back.  I will see them again.  It's hard sure, but we've done change and time and distance and we've survived.  The goodbyes with the Maybes scare me more.  The ones that may be final.  And Charleston… well, they are all new.  That means they haven't had enough time to properly be infected with the drug that is me.  To draw them unwittingly back into my net.

Note: Once addiction to said drug sets in, there is only one known cure: dating me.  
And even that only has about a 50% effectiveness.