October 04, 2004

Notes From Nicaragua

here's the latest from agent mcbryan, penning his thoughts straight outta nicaragua:

    Saturday, October 02, 2004

    Greetings from the Jungle...

    Itís been almost two months and Iíve finally started to feel like Iím getting settled in.

    Hangin' with the fellas

    So, Iím sitting here, starting to write. Jose, the father and a school teacher, is in the doorway preparing his lessons for school, listening to music (the Doobie Brothers, Jose thinks they are ďfunkyĒ), and this door to door salesman walks up. Man, do I wish I understood Spanish. He was going a mile a minute and before I knew it, he had unfurled a rather large cloth scroll of Jesus. I recognized a few words though, and Iím pretty sure he said it would last 20 years and that we could iron in if it got wrinkled.

    I couldnít help it, I started to laugh Ė and so did Jose. That didnít stop the guy though. Actually, I egged him on a little by asking what else he had. Oh boy. He pulled out a flashlight, which plugged right into the wall. Oh yeah, and it also had a compass on it. He was talking a mile a minute too, which sounds even faster in Spanish. Then he started whipping out these ornament things, three types of ceramic dolphins. (Sorry for spoiling the surprise for those of you who end up getting these as Christmas presents)

    This guy was hucking all this stuff around in a huge, heavy bag, in the hot sun while he was wearing a long sleeve shirt and jeans. Finally, he left. Jose and I shared another laugh about it. I guess door-to-door salesmen are just about the same in every country.

    Video Console

    After a month and a half of looking, I finally found and bought a truck. I bought a 1997, Toyota Hilux 4wd pickup. So now Iím driving in Nicaragua. This is definitely an adventure in and of itself.

    I started off the first day in Managua driving the same as I would in the states. After a few close calls with animals and with a little girl running right out in front of me, I realized that I needed to change my driving style.

    Most of the roads down here werenít really meant for cars. In fact, most people donít even have a car. They use the roads for walking, riding their bikes, playing baseball and moving livestock, parties, etc Ė anything but driving. I have been trying to think of the best way to describe it to somebody who hasnít driven here and the closest analogy I can compare it with is playing a video game. You know those games with the steering wheel where things keep coming at you and you have to try to avoid them, where you are supposed to stay on the road, but sometimes the only option to avoid hitting something is to invent your own offroad path. Itís kind of like that here.

    Right Point

    When you are driving, you are constantly trying to avoid things Ė potholes, animals, people, other cars, etc., most of the time the experience seems surreal. The pigs donít even look up because they are always combing the ground looking for food. Sometimes cows crowd the streets making them almost impassable (although the cowboys donít seem to mind when I ďnudgeĒ them with my bumper to get them moving)

    But itís people in the streets who are the worst. They will walk three abreast into the middle of the street Ė even on the PanAm highway at dusk while it is raining. Even going 25 mph, it was hard to see some of them. I feel like most of the time they donít even know how big of a risk they are taking. I think I could stomach hitting an animal, but I am really fearful of hitting a person. So, slow and easy is the way to go. It takes a bit longer, but hey, itís not like I have a schedule to stick to down here.


    I have been enjoying my time living here with the Garciaís. Itís either Garcia or Espinoza. In Nicaragua, the family takes the last name of both the father and the mother so everyone has two last names. I think itís Garcia.

    So, a couple of weeks ago, I came back from surfing shortly after dark. Jose, Roberto and two other guys were sitting out back. They had a bottle of Rum, a liter of Coca Cola and a small cooler with ice. I didnít even make it into the house before I was summoned back to join them. It took me about two minutes and one shot of rum to realize they had been back there a while.

    Goin' Left

    Jose was loaded, and funny as ever. We were listening to salsa music and every time a certain part of a song would come on, he would stand up, sing along and show off his dance moves. Evidently, Jose is/was quite the dancer. Rather than fight the inevitable, I offered my bottle of Flor de Cana (Nicaraguan dark rum) to the occasion and settled in to practice my Spanish for a couple of hours.

    At one point, while it was still early, maybe 8 or 9 pm, Jose disappeared. Turns out, he went into his bedroom and passed out. Go Jose.

    I learned a lot that night. I found out that Jose used to be a pretty good musician - a local legend in San Juan Del Sur. He can play guitar, harmonica and the drums, but says he hasnít played in years. His guitar has no strings, which makes things especially difficult.

    I learned that the Spanish word for ďHippyĒ is ďHippyĒ because thatís what he called himself back in the day. I saw an old picture of him and he looked like Carlos Santana.

    Speaking of Santana, I showed Jose my iPod and all the music I had. I was getting sick of the same 10 cds he kept playing all the time (especially the Air Supply one). Once he saw that I had Santana, it was over. He told me all about the time Santana played in Nicaragua in 1972.

    Even in Spanish, I could sense the reverence in his voice. We spent the good half of Sunday listening to all 4 of my Santana albums. I could tell he was a musician when he listened. At one point, his eyes started watering and he told me it was because the music was so beautiful. Then he went and bought some beer and we got drunk. Not a bad way to finish off a Sunday afternoon.

    Goin' right

    Iím headed out to go surfing, again, so thatís all for now. Despite a few days when Hurricane Ivan turned the wind onshore in early Sept., the waves have been good. We are back to the normal offshore pattern now and I can barely remember the last day when I didnít go surfing. I'm going into my third week straight now. I never thought I would be able to say that. Life is good.


amen, compadre. soak it all in, my brother. for the rest of us...

Posted by bojon at October 4, 2004 11:11 PM