the nicaraguan chronicles – part 8


It’s been raining for nearly six days now. Standing under the archway leading into our hostel, I watch the downpour continue unabated. Nobody runs through the rain like they do in the States, shoulders hunched, faces all scrunched up, as if somehow those actions will keep us dry. Or do any good at all. The Nicaraguans just accept it and move on, faces merely slightly scrunched, most times in a smile, but still diligently managing their sidewalk kiosks, selling what they can sell, everything covered in plastic until someone wants to examine it. Given the rain’s on-and-off nature, many groups huddle temporarily under awnings and in doorways to shops and restaurants. Nobody shoos them off. I like that.

The pattering on the awning above me, I smile, feeling for a moment like I’m in a Bruce Hornsby song, listening to the dull wash of raindrops, knowing this experience is coming to an end.

The roads to Chinandega are still closed. Leon, and Bigfoot, is our residence for our last true day in this strange and wonderful country. I say “true” because tomorrow we head back to Managua, the capital, to be near the airport for our 7 a.m. flight the following day.

Alas, all must come to an end – but not before we’ve had our way with it.

the nicaraguan chronicles – part 8
adventures in the rain

We’re all in last-day mode now, figuring out things we can do that will make our last day memorable, trying not to let our moods be affected by the rain and grey skies. After a delicious breakfast – our last taste of gallo pinto – we became pseudo-hipsters for an afternoon. Wandering in and out of various coffee shops and bars, sometimes drinking beer, sometimes drinking smoothies, sometimes drinking lemonade. All depends on the mood of the hour.

We wander through the open-air market in the middle of town, explore the largest cathedral in Central America, and buy gifts for friends and family back home. Apparently that’s something you need to do when you go on trips like this. I wandered away from the group at one point and headed to the nearest hardware store. I had my own souvenirs to purchase.

A and C exploring in the rain

A hardware store in Leon – and maybe the rest of the country for all I know – consists of an 8’x8′ room with shelves towering to the ceiling, holding rusty tools and myriad cans of paint, as well as a medley of other odds and ends, varying greatly depending on the store.

“Tienes un machete?” I ask the portly storekeeper.

“Si,” she nods, quickly saying something else as she moves to grab the item.

I laugh and say, “No entiendo. Lo siento. Mi espanol esta horible.” No idea how my conjugation and sentence structure is playing out. After eight days in the country, I’ve realized I can scrape by with a few simple words, hand gestures and a sincere smile. Interacting with the locals was the most rewarding aspect of the trip, and I was awful at it.

The storekeeper smiles and slides a machete off the ground, out from under a box that was under a few cans of paint that was under a box filled with a random selection of hand tools. Rust spots abound along the “hand tool,” but it looks in decent enough condition.

“Gracias. Tres, por favor?”

She nods and motions for a coworker to help me. He wraps the three machetes in newspaper and packing tape so I won’t accidentally cut a bitch or shank a ho. I pay the storekeeper 80 cords a piece (that’s less than $4 for a Nicaraguan hand tool that, when brought to the U.S., will be considered a legit sword). As I really take in the size of these blades, I find myself hoping they’ll fit in my pack.

Machete, to show you the scale

Sidenote: Nicaraguans view the machete not as a sword but as a hand tool, similar to how Americans view the hammer. Our first night in Nicaragua we passed a teenager sitting in the bed of a truck cutting up a piece of fruit with a giant machete. No big deal.

After a few more hours exploring the trendy spots in the city, and another two hours engrossed in a Spanish version of Monopoly (which, by the way, I now hate), we head back to the hostel to freshen up, which means putting on our least-moldy-smelling clothes, gelling our hair and fluffing whatever needs fluffing. Of course, this guy was the first one ready (that’s what happens when you travel with all girls :). I’m used to it though – I live with a girl). Oh yeah, we’re ready. This is our last night. Taking no chances. No prisoners. Only names. Do or die. We’re getting trashed and we’re not ashamed of it. In the words of a good friend of mine, “Sorry for partying.”

the wild night is callin’

Our first stop is all class: a fancy restaurant whose name I can’t recall, drinking a bottle of wine whose name I can – Lazo Merlot. Best Merlot I’ve had, hands down. My meal, along with the bottle of wine (split between us all) and a couple Heinekens cost me $15. Oh we’re fancy, huh.

Getting to this restaurant was no small feat, though. For the first time in the trip, we got lost and wandered through what I saw as more unsavory areas – back alleys and dark side streets. This may sound terrible, but I made sure to have a knife on me at (almost) all time throughout this trip. Maybe another sign that I’m a world-traveling rookie, but I didn’t care. I felt more secure with it on me. This was the only point in the trip I felt like I may need it, so I kept my hand ready and the safety clasp off. Thankfully, we made it to the restaurant without incident. Needless to say, we did not take the same meandering route when we departed.

banana tree

Banana Tree!

We made the acquaintance of two more single-serving friends at the first bar we moseyed into. Sebastian and Greg were two surfer boys from San Diego traveling in Nicaragua for a month. Both of them were very friendly toward me, and I later came to the conclusion that it was only because I was in the company of three beautiful women. Oh well, I’ll still call them friends for a night!

This was also my first sober introduction to salsa dancing. After my first attempt at it, my respect grew immensely for Shakira and the couples salsa dancing. That shit’s impossible. So I said screw it and headed for the bar to throw back a couple shots. I’m good at that, at least.

a first for everything

Although I try to avoid them at all costs, I have reluctantly entered a fair amount of clubs in my day. Never have I entered a club where: 1.) someone wasn’t trying to start a fight, 2.) nobody sported a faux-hawk or pink popped collar, 3.) I had fun. The club we ventured to, La Cameleon, defied all my expectations. It was light-hearted, people were more focused on having fun than they were on looking hotter than everyone else, and no dick-measuring took place. I was baffled.

By this point we were all pretty drunk and flying high. Sebastian and Greg were excellent conversationalists and everybody was having a blast, flying a magic carpet comprised of rum, beer and sexy time. One of my favorite parts of the night was when I was outside the club chatting it up with M and C steps outside with two beers in her hand. “JEFF! I HAVE YOUR BEER!” echoed through the streets of Leon, sound waves reverberating off every nearby alleyway and electrical pole, hindered only by the pouring rain that tore through the night. Couldn’t help but laugh.

Five minutes later inside the club I dropped said beer and the glass shattered, costing me 20 cords because the bars recycle the beer bottles and get a refund for the glass. Whoops.

All in all, a fantastic evening and one hell of a way to spend our last night not worried about catching a 7 a.m. plane.


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One Response to “the nicaraguan chronicles – part 8”

  1. Tammara Says:

    Hi, Jeff I like it thats hot! I like the pic of the banana tree that made me laugh.. and the part about the machete was cool to..Happy New Year:)

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