My time in Central America was well spent and gave me a renewed sense of faith in mankind. I chose to celebrate the finish of this trip by spending my last 35 cordobas on a hot dog and a bottle of water in the Managua airport in preparation for the night I was to spend there.
Figuring it was futile to get a room for a mere 12 hours, and being the barrata that I am, I cozied up in my metal mesh chair, draped myself over the arm rest to lay my head on my now, rather odiphorous backpack, in an attempt at slumber. I woke sporadically making note of the cleaning crew and family of 4 who seemed to either share my sense of adventure or my lack of funds and had set up camp adjacent to me.
Having received a request for some duty free accoutrement, I awoke to a crowd gathering around 4:30 am, collected my belongings, and checked in for my flight, Houston bound. Upstairs I saw a deal I could not refuse and used my credit card for the first time in 2 weeks to procure 5 liters of Nicaraguan rum.
A moment of buyer's remorse was soon trumped by the hot water and soft bed I knew was waiting for me on the other side of the border.
As the aircraft set sail into the blue skies I was melancholy but pleased, and thankful, as I feel the success of this trip was largely based on the kindness of strangers.
As I sit here, in the Internet cafe stifled by heat and outdated PCs, I am saddened.
I am saddened to leave Leon. And I am saddened for the impending end of my trip.
With just a few days here, I have feel in love with the city. There are a handful of places I have been in my life to which I would like to return, and Leon is definitely on that list.
Perhaps it is because my day yesterday was spent atop grandiose cathedrals, frolicking in the waves and black sand beaches, and sitting down to a home cooked meal where the warm evening breeze and good conversation brought night to morning.
The fact that I feel amor despite gropie groperson having yelled what I can only imagine are not terribly flattering Spanish epithets at me while zooming by in a cab late last night, proves just how great Leon is, a city I originally had no intention of visiting and one in which I ended up spending most of my time.
Today I have the privilege of 3 separate microbus rides, to head off to see Granada for a day trip before boarding my Continental flight early tomorrow morning in Managua, but, as many travelers understand, the trip is always too short, but feels like it has lasted forever.
I Don´t Do Small Talk
Buenos Dias from Leon,
Another morning run made me feel good this morning. I actually had the balls to use my ipod this morning, as I no longer fear the natives and needed the sweet sounds of Bone Thugs and Biggie to get me through my several mile jog.
I have found my morning runs in Nicaragua, as well as El Salvador, a nice way of seeing the city in which I am from a different perspective. Although often I am cursing myself under my strained breath for not having my camera with me, it gives me the opportunity to really see, hear, and be. Something that becomes more difficult as I am so often a) aware of a potential shot at any given moment and b) aware of the fact that you have a very expensive piece of equipment in a foreign town.
I become more aware of the reverence for said equipment as no one has seemed to feel the least bit reticent about asking me how much it costs. Although I suppose if you are in a country where people ask you, as a woman, about how old you are and your reproductive status during introductions, nothing is off limits.
Perhaps that explains my love for the Latin culture as I am very rarely the one to bite my tongue or feel like a subject matter might be sensitive or inappropriate.
Yesterday started much the same with a morning run in the already sweltering heat as proprietors were opening their store fronts, and children in knee socks and pleated skirts were off to school.
I returned to the hostel to find Kristie alone in the adjacent cafe and we had an amazing breakfast made of local and organic ingredients as the morning light spilled in and filled the tiled floor and stuccoed walls with a new day.
We decided we would meet up for lunch later, with Alex of course, but I took advantage of the morning hours to wander with just me and my main squeeze, my Canon. I headed to the South end of town discovering that only a few blocks out of the main drag, the reality of a non tourist supported economy still existed here.
At the end of one road I found a small cliff that has been turned into a makeshift trash heap with many single shoes amongst the rubble. And at another a small church dedicated to my girl, Guadalupe.
The local children seem to be let out on a break just around the same time and I found myself caught in a throng of adolescents, a few of which asked me to take their photo, and then explained to me that that was a keepsake just for me. Those Latin men are really known for their modest nature as much as their candor, even when they are still unable to grow facial hair.
I headed back to the hostel and with time to spare before my lunch break I headed to the bar across the street to use my newly purchased glue stick and start constructing my journal of lazy mess into one of a more cohesive story of my life, full of enough photos, receipts, and ticket stubs to prove that I exist.
The previous San Mateo inhabitant, Lener, had posted up at the bar and asked if I wanted to go get something to eat, so I went an grabbed the Aussies and we went to the local market with a friend of his to eat a typical Nicaraguan dish. Now, my palate is delicate, and my ability to be grossed out well honed, so I was hesitant to try Baho, but I did. I had a full 2 bites before realizing that I was sticking to orange juice and would save the unidentifiable meat and steamed yucas to the Nicaraguans. I did, however learn that mentioning your penchant for bananas is the same here as in the states, and learned a very valuable lesson as I had very emphatically announced my liking maduros to an amused crowd of young men.
It turns out the number 14 also has a phallic association, in addition to being my lucky number.
A coincidence? I think not.
After lunch we headed to a local museum of modern underwhelming paintings and reproductions of Picasso prints. Needless to say, I was not impressed.
Luckily as Kristie and Alex were taking the tour I had Lener ( a fluent English speaker ) to keep me company.
Another stop at a local watering hole and we all went out separate ways.
At this point, I thought it only prudent to go back to the bar at which I had made plans with the bartender for a 4 o´clock date, which had been confirmed in the morning, but I was about 15 minutes late, and with another man, so he chose to avoid eye contact, while seated next to the groper I had spent the previous evening with, instead of whisking me off my feet. I could have been offended, but could kind of see how it looked that I had already spent time with 2 of his male friends from this bar, so I upped the breezy factor and did my own thing.
I suppose you can take the girl out of the city, but not the city out of the girl.
After checking my email and sorting out the evening plans, Lener and I went to eat at the restaurant I had patronized the day before, only for me to realize that it was not so much of a restaurant as a cafeteria section of a pool hall. Looks like it is only the best for me, whether it is Chili´s on San Juan in Sacramento, or the Billiard Hall in Leon.
Being the lady that I am I inhaled a plate of food that could feed a family of five, actually having the remnants eaten by a boy no older than 9 when I had filled my fat, American belly, chatting all the way.
Across the street Lener and I went to a rooftop eatery overlooking the cement slab that acts as an outdoor multipurpose room for the local children. It was a hot day, and the night offered no reprieve as I drank my orange juice and he had his coke.
It is here that I realized JUST how not good I am at small talk, as we discussed previous relationships, ailing grandparents, and unsatisfying childhoods, but didn´t once mention current events, similar experiences, or pop culture, a favorite topic of mine, as I am fairly well versed.
There is something nice about not having people or places in common and, therefore, not being able to talk about said people or places behind their backs or use your standard go tos when you feel the conversation waning. At this point, it was also obvious that the fact that Lener is just as American, if not more, than he is Nicaraguan was immensely helpful in being able to have a real conversation.
Some of his friends picked us up, as I thought it incredibly intelligent decision to get into a truck with a handful of people I didn´t know in a country, who did´nt,t speak a language I spoke with no one waiting for me at home, or aware of my whereabouts at all.
I try, at every turn, to make my parents as proud as possible.
We couldn´t find the Aussies, so we headed to another bar that was having live music where I watched the largest population of natural blondes I had seen in years and banal backpackers socialize and sample the local spirits, as I sat at a table of Nicaraguan men, most of whom spoke no English whatsoever.
It is moments like this that I wonder what separates me from the blondes. A separation that goes back as long as I can recall.
To be perfectly honest, I think I preferred my sitation. At least I was able to remember it this morning.
Alas, the music was beautiful and the amber glow of the bar left me feeling warm and peaceful, as a summer night.
When the rest of Lener´s posse joined us, including a very sweet girl who spoke English well, I thought my time was up and I could head back to the pitch black hostel to be "helped/handled" back to my room by the night watchman, but it turns out I had another cultural experience I needed to experience.
A Nicaraguan Karaoke Bar.
Nothing like not only understanding what everyone is saying, but when it is sung, poorly, at maximum volume, its like the perfect trifecta. I was a trooper and stuck it out, despite my frustration with not being able to communicate and my increasing fatigue, to a respectable 3 am and was escorted by the immensely nice Nicaraguan version of ´"Friends" to be met my the overly friendly night watchman who immediately asked me why I was not with the tall moreno from teh night before, right before grabbing the small of my back, which is just a nice way of saying the north of my ass, and leading me back to my room.
It looks like much like in Washington Heights, or perhaps anywhere in the world, being seen with different men on successive nights makes you look like a ho.
If only they knew.
Did I mention I changed my flight and decided to stay another night?
Well, I am off for now.
I Love Leon/Men Are The Same In Every Language/I'm Engaged
I awoke this morning feeling old.
This trip has made me feel old.
I rose to a hot, sweaty room filled with 20 somethings in my clothes from last night this morning and was smacked in the face with the reality that my 20s are coming to a close any moment now, and that things like 'youth hostels' awill soon enough be a thing of the past. I refuse to be the old lady holding on too tight to her youth and making everyone uncomfortable or, like the woman at the bar yesterday who, from afar looked like a poorly styled 29 year old, but up close was more like a rapidly degenerating 40 year old.
My antiquity was further realized as I stepped into the mornign sun at the outdoor sinks in the hostel and the dark circles that traveled with me last week from New York were still everpresent. Gone are the days of a fresh faced morning.
I do have to say though, while on my 12 hour bus ride the other day, with plenty of time to debate life´s more important topics, like Brandon or Dylan; creamy or chunky; to shave or tp wax, I thought to myself, how much cooler it was to be 29 than it was to be 18, because I have had all of these totally worthwhile experiences in that decade. I only wish my taut skin and youthful exuberance (yeah right, like I ever had that) got to come along for the entire ride.
Ok, enough about that.
Just as I met the possible love of my life, Casper, at the hostel in Managua, I had to pick up and go. Once again, with my Aussies in tow, we headed to the bus station. I had been told by an Isreali in San Salvador that Uca was the most important bus station, so you can imagine my surprise when I walked up to the chaos of homemade empandads and a fleet of minivans used to cart the locals and tourists all over the country.
We piled into the silver rocket with fingers crossed that our bags, precariously perched atop the vehicle, would be joining us at the end of the hour+ voyage and hit the road, heading to Leon.
Of course, I chose to sit towards the front and in the center, to avoid the inevitable motion sickness which plagues me daily. This positioning also left me sandwiched between a 20 year old hell bent on our knees touching throughout the duration of the trip on my right and a nice 39 year old Karate instructor to my left. Now, I am painfully aware that my Spanish is not very good. At all. But I spent the entire voyage immersed in Spanish conversation where everything from diet, to my imaginery boyfriend were discussed. Although I am an awful liar, I find sometimes its just easier to tell my foreign friends I have a boyfriend a) so they will hopefully lay low, as I believe I am involved is the universal sign for I am just not that into you and b) so they will not give me the lecture about being old and childless, a lecture I have received several times in the past week alone. Of course, my pretend novio did not stop the Karate Kid from going on and on about how a woman my age is too old for kids and how I have wasted my life. Ah, Latinos!
Once the conversation turned sour, in the way of homeboy asking me if my boyfriend was good in bed, I remained quiet for the duration of the ride.
I am not a prude, but somethings are just off limits.
Even if it is pretend.
We arrived in Leon in the afternoon and it immediately made me feel comfortable. This is the kind of Latin American town I like. Maybe a little too tousity, but it is most certainly not a capitol city, and its cheap and safe. Whats not to like?
Once settled into our hostel, the 3 of us headed across the street to a cute little bar with a pool table and Nicaraguan men to spare. My bottled coke hit the spot in this sweltering heat and I met a young man by the name or Mayner who, not only spoke English very well, but also gave me attitide right off the start. Ill admit, I was intrigued.
The rebel couple with which I have been traveling wanted to go to the Museo de Revolucion, so I escorted them there and then went to hang out in the square and buy Hattie her standard Nani's Trip doll.
I went back the museum maybe 40 mintures later to find they were still on the tour, and I was offered a seat in the breezy foyer by an older man with silver teeth. I sat there quietly for a while, amongt the group of Nicaraguan Revolucionaries until Sergio struck up a conversation with me. None of them spoke English, yet all were highly amused at speaking to the girl from the United States. When I told them where I was from and they didn't immediately pull out their assault riffles, I knew I was good money. I knew this even more when, after about 20 mintues of chit chat Sergio informed me that he needed an American girl to get him to the states. He asked when I was returning to Nicaragua, and I informed him not for 2 years. We made a date, and it seems that in 2 years I will return here to wed 50 something Sergio and live every little girls fantasy of marrying a poor older man for his citizenship. Don' t worry, I did inform him that for our courtship to be solidified, I would need a very big ring.
We will be regersted at Target, Pottery Barn, and the NRA. Keep an eye out for your save the date cards.
The ritual checking of emails and sorting of beds in the dorm room took place and I took my journal, a book I have not touched in months at this point, and headed back the bar solo.
I have been blessed by the company and assistance of Kristie and Alex, but I have to admit being alone, and by being alone I mean meeting locals, feels good.
I sat there with another soda and a pen for a couple of hours waxing poetic on my journey and on life. Of course, the solo gringa next to a pool table filled with Central American men can cause some commotion and I met Leonard, who spent part of his childhood in San Mateo, California and Moses, with whom I think I have plans today. In addition to these young bucks, I met an older man from Arkansas who fits the Latin American Ex-Pat descripton to a T and who asked me to return to the watering hole the following day to discuss photography, as that seems to be what he did through the 70s and 80s. Basically, I was having a great time.
Mayner also made another appearance, this time with a bottle of rum in hand and that undeniable smirk of arrogance and aggression I find so many Latin men possess. He mentioned a place for salsa dancing later, and I was hooked.
The Aussie couple returned and asked if I wanted to go for a wander, so we ended up going to a chicken restaurant that served me a sandwich that either would have made me throw up if I had in fact consumed the thing, or looked like the throw up someone else produced after eating it in the first place. In short, it was nasty, and I headed back to the hostel to nosh on crakers in the rocking chair outside of my room.
Kristie and Alex showered and prepared for the big night out, as we were disgusting from traveling and sweat. I put a flower in my hair and called it a day.
The bar at which we met Mayner was just across the street from the discoteque and although the couple from down under gave it the old college try, their battle with a sense of rhythum was eventually lost and they headed home as I went from salsa to reggaton with Mayner and a group of locals in no time.
At this point it was clear to me that Mayner had an agenda, but as most of you know when it comes to the dance, I don't care who it is with, as long as I am having a good time. Then he began to lay it on thick, asking what the future could possibly hold for us.
Then it was on to how, although I am beautiful, it is the fact that I am so intelligent that he is so drawn to me. How anyone can figure this out by our broken banter is beyond me, but clearly he is a man wise beyond his 25 years.
He told me that my face was amazing (that one almost got me) and then he leaned into kiss me. On the dance floor.
Now, not only was I not feeling it, although if it were his inappropriate erection while dancing like we were at homecoming I was, but I am far to old to make out with strangers at foreign discoteques.
After strike 1 he told me he would walk me home where he kept trying to hold my hand and put his arm around me. I felt as though I should just sit down so he could piss a circle around me, showering me with the smell of his urine, so all could know that I was his.
And then, the manipluationbegan. Now I have experienced this in the states, more than I care to remember and Ill admit, that it has worked before. I have felt badly for the guy, or didn't want to upset him so I have given him what he wants.
No longer will I put out to make YOU feel better.
Mayner went on about how ugly he must be because I don't want him and how all he wants to do is kiss my beautiful face. Barf. He even said just kissing my cheek or forehead was enough. Yeah right.
Now here I ask, is there a playbook men have access too (that has clearly been translated into 50 languages) where they know if they compliment a girl enough and degrade themselves enough they will get what they want?
Or has history just dicated this?
At the door to my hostel he tried once more. And got denied.
Now, I think the appropriate thing to do here would be to say goodnight, kiss me on the cheek and head on your merry way.
Instead he hopped in the cab driving by without so much as a backward glance.
What the hell?
Oh well, I suppose my Nicaraguan babies are not to be. At least not with him. I've still got Sergio in my back pocket.
In Nicaragua In No Time...
And by no time, I mean 12 hours. On a bus. Jealous?
Yesterday was another morning run and then I was off to Lake Ilanpango with my makeshift travel mates to marvel at the wonders of a crater lake, replete with Salvadorean tourists snapping photos, children splashing at the shore, and garbage bags floating to the surface. Heaven.
Luckily there was a pool not 50 feet away where for $1 you can watch the interesting swimwear choices of the locals, slide down a precarious water slide and, as was the case for me, befriend a very loud and very drunk 16 year old who, despite having lived in Queens for 2 years, speaks not a word of English, but is certain that the louder he says something, the more you will understand. He made such a spectacle of our strained communication, that a crowd gathered. Literally. Included one of the many rank dogs that populate the Central American country side.He was escorted out of the swimming area about 10 minutes later and I felt awful. Apparently you cannot harrass the white people here and get away with it.
After filling up on greasy chicken and doughy tortillas, while listening to ¨The Sound of Silence¨en espanol, I felt it was time for me to join my Aussie pal, Kristie, in the pool. This decision was based largely on the fact that the hair on your eyebrows were singed the moment you walk into the swimming area the pool is so chalked full of chlorine. So I felt safe. I did not feel so safe when I disrobed and actually felt leered at. One would think, living where I live, and conducting myself the way I conduct myself I would have become accustomed to this, but it is still off putting when a bunch of men have their afternoon snack on your ass with their surprisingly pretty eyes, but I digress...
A bus ride back to the hostel and a stop at the very authentic China Wok on the Boulevard of Heroes and our night was done. Not without my first falling in love with our waiter, Francisco, who saw the motley crew of gringos from the parking lot and ran to get the door as it was the perfect opportunity for him to practice his English. Despite the fact that I found him to be totally adorable, it was in a totally maternal way. I swear. My Mrs. Robinson needs to be put in check and the 21 year old waiter at the Panda Express of San Salvador is just not ready to be my Dustin Hoffman.
I big adieu to Tarik, our British friend of the past couple of days. I make special mention of him because he has been a significant marker. His presennce has proved wrong a theory all of you have been forming for years. I can, actually be attracted to a white man, and a Brit at that! Who´d a thought? Apparently a sharp tongue and a quick mind, in that order, go just as far as street swag and a good tan. I never cease to amaze myself.
Kristie, Alex and I rushed to the bus station eary this morning, where we had purchased tickets the day before for our 8 am bus which, we discover when we arrive, will now be leaving at 9. We board at 9:30, drive around the block, and then sit at a service station for 2 hours with no word as to what the delay was. I swear, sometimes I love living in the US.
It didn´t hit me until later that I dealt with this is such an easy breezy manor that you would all be amazed. I have theorized, that the fact that I deal with a lack of regard for other people´s time professionally now has perhaps given me a little more patience personally. That and, I learned long ago that things in Latin America NEVER run on time.
We were eventually transferred to another bus where I was instantly soothed by some mashup of adult contemporary jams. "Every Rose Has It´s Thorn" and " Lady In Red" brought a smile to my face the first, possibly even the second time the were played, but 1 CD of Y92´s greatest hits does not last a 12 hour bus ride. Trust.
We were deboarded from the King Quality bus about 2 hours into our voyage to patronize the local gas station, and switch buses, yet again. Thank god my bag was actually transferred each time.
Crossing the boarder from El Salvador to Honduras cost me $3 and brought me a little entertainment on an otherwise droll day, as I was unaware that a) the bus windows were not at all tinted and b) the young officers guarding the boarder had much better eyesight than I thought. I basically stared at this young officer for about 5 minutes, before realizing he was staring right back. The wave as I departed solidified our romance, if only momentarily. A 5 minute romance with a man who most certainly does not speak English. My specialty.
What can I say, I love a man with a big gun (sorry, Dad). Also, the Che camo doesn´t hurt.
As night fell either bombs or fireworks filled the air and I nodded in and out or slumber while dubbed Spiderman provided the melodious soundtrack.
Do people really think Kirsten Dunst is attractive?
My traveler skills were brought to the forefront as we landed in Managua, Nicaragua and I was not only able to communicate with the throng of cabdrivers, but I was also able to negotiate the cost of a cab ride, with sass.
Although my Spanish is not as good as many others, my accent is pretty on point. So as long as I can sass my way through it. I'm golden.
Now at the Backpackers Inn Managua, a reccomendation from an Isreali in San Salvador who has been traveling for 3 years, I am ready to fall asleep as soon as I step away from this computer, which like the bathroom, is flanked by large, red ants. Should I be concerned?
Buenos Noches for Now.
San Salvador, Still...
Buenos Tardes Amigos,
Here I am on a beautiful sunny afternoon feeling much better than yesterday. Last night, after wandering the mall and dining at the local BK (there are 2 within a block) I not only came to terms with the fact that BK always gives me a sense of home in a land that is foreign, but I also came to terms with the fact that this is just going to be a much more hostel-oriented voyage and spent the evening watching some Discovery Channel special with an Austrlian girl, Christy, and an American Peace Corps volunteer, Lauren.
A few of us headed to a local papuseria and then over to a bar where I had a real coke made with sugar and listened to real karaoke made by drunken Salvadoreans.
I would like to make note that during this outing I was also asked if I find that I can pass for Salvadorean...I´m just saying.
Some other travelers joined us, all from the states, and went on to talk about Aventura coming to town (exciting) and how they were from Harlem (misguided).
The Dominicana in me immediately came out and I had to rep my hood. Hard. These kids know nothing about Washington Heights!
That being said, the Australian and her boyfriend, Alex, who are traveling for a year and I made plans to go to the Central the following morning and I felt a little more at ease knowing I could explore with a posse.
After a relatively early night I woke around 7 and went for a half ass run in the suburban neighborhood in which I am staying. Now, in the Heights when I run I fold over the top of my little pink shorts and essentially make them public-appropriate underwear. These are the very same shorts that caught the attention of a little known local, Danny, many years ago. I chose to go the modest route in this heat and left the shorts long and the tshirt discreet. Didnt feel very Briana, but certainly felt like a wiser choice.
After a run and a surprisingly hot shower I was served breakfast and pretended I ate fried eggs till we were off on our adveture for the day. On foot.
As all of you know, I very much consider myself a Californian, but when I am rocking hoops, a skirt, and ankle boots in a third world country, I cannot help but think New York has permeated the surface. We headed to the main Cathedral to meet another hosteler named Tarik from the UK, but seeing as we had time we stopped in at a church, where I lit a candle for Brie, as I have in every country I have visited. A visit to the market was high on my list, as I am always looking for munecas for my neice, Hattie, another of my traveling traditions. Unfortunately the market here seems to be more about crotchless panties than hand made crafts and I had to settle for a cheap tank top. Additionally, it seems to be totally acceptable to have the proprietor of the store reach out and touch you as part of their barganing tools.
Now, I am not a prude, nor am I scared to touch strangers. In fact, touching strangers is somewhat of a specialty of mine, however, I did not enjoy this sales tactic and didn´t feel compelled to purchase their goods, especially when I can find the same goods in my neighborhood for half the cost. Have I mentioned how much I love Washington Heights?!?
We ended up at the Cathedral just in time to get a couple shots of the amazing architecture and to catch the first 5 mintues of mass, in addition to perhaps a Melody-inspired emotional moment when thinking of the friends of mine who left El Salvador during the revolution. Usually not much on sentimentality during travels, I can´t seem to help it with this one.
A sweaty walk to a local park that seemed to be a self-serve Fairytale Town-Parking Lot Carnival and a stop at a local Museo de Arte Popular, in which a pinanta of Spiderman was features (authentic local craftsmanship, evidently) and we wandered back to the hostel for beers. And by we I mean the 3 travel mates of the day are sipping the local brew in the living room and I am sitting in a darkened room with my orange juice writing to the people that matter the most...yall!
Despite my father becoming a nervous nelly everytime I cross a border, I think Nicaragua will be next. It seems Belize is too far, and too expensive.
But, its me, so who the hell knows!
2nd Country, 2nd Day...
After an uneventful night of giving a 40 year old woman child rearing advice in my hostel (yes, thats right, I know how to live everyone else's life better than my own) and I feel asleep atop my bottom bunk chatting with my Peace Corps boyfriends and anxiously awaiting the nearly 9 hour bus ride I was to embark upon the following morning with them.
Morning came early, in the form of our English roomie at some ungodly hour waking and turning the bathroom light on right in my face...cheers, mate! I never fully went back to sleep and was able to hear the alarm go off at a quarter to six loud and clear.
A morning cab ride to the bus station was peaceful and with a little help from my new found, fluent friends I purchased a one way ticket to San Salvador, the location from which I am writing you now. The bus ride started out ok, and the Honduras scenery was beautiful but as we got closer and closer to the El Salvador border and the dubbed Cammie D-Ashton Kutcher flick rolled on the 13 inch screen bolted to the ceiling, my life long battle with motion sickness was lost. By me. For those of you who experience said affliciton, you know the pain. I tried to sleep on and off throughout the voyage, awaking only to eat simple carbohydrates and soda.
You know how people "splurge" when they are on vaca? I suppose I do the same in the form of eating pure shit in the povern stricken countries to which I choose to visit. I had a roll, a cookie, and a 7 up today, all things I would never let pass my lips in the continental United States, but alas...while in Rome.
There was some issue with me at the border, as always seems to be the case with me, but as I had already lost an earring on the bus ride, I was in no mood for friction, and after some questions in Spanish I understood minimally at best, we rolled on into the country about which I have read so much, yet know so little. I do admit, that visiting these countries from which some of my dearest friends escaped makes me feel connected to them, and although I know Amil has not been able to come home to El Salvador in over 15 years now, I hope he feel my sojourn was on behalf of us both.
As my father warned me, traveling while sick with the flu is not so awesome, and that, coupled with bus sickness has given me a nice chartruese sheen. ërhapsthe green palor I am sporting will perhaps keep the latinos away from my otherwise irresistable spandex-clad bootie. Gotta think positive, right?
Arriving late this afternoon has left me at the Peace Corps hang out, Hostel Estancia in San Salvador. Rhett actually escorted me here and drew me a local map. Southern gentlemen, at least, still exist.
Seeing as it is late afternoon, I don´t really want to venture out, as I am well aware of the dangers that exist after dark and, contrary to popular belief, I do occasionally listen to the advice I am given.
So, another low key night here in Central America. Tomorrow I think I will go to Centro to check out the Catherdral and the market, but I am thinking my time in El Salvador should be brief, as a woman of almost 30 who still listens to her Daddy. I have found being in the first countries in which I am actually a little fearful has left me feeling a little land locked and out of sorts. Perhaps Nicaragua will feel more comfortable, or a flight to Belize might be in order.
Should I attempt the ridiculous and get all 4 countries under my belt? Thoughts?
Apologies for my day not being more eventful. Hopefully tomorrow will offer more adventure and color, and not in the form of my face!
La Primera Dia
Here I am, in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.
What the fuck was I thinking...
Lets start at the beginning. I had one of the nicest airport departures I have ever experienced, resulting in tears of joy at security (thanks for listening Simmers) and the empty calories of the seasonal pumpkin muffins at Au Bon Pain in the wee hours of the morning at Laguardia airport. This was followed by my first class flight upgrade to Houston, succeeded by my flight to Honduras.
I am sure most people prefer first class, but it just makes me feel MORE low class, as I never really know what to do with that warm towel they hand you and find the tiny salt and pepper shakers not only superfluous, but wasteful.
On this leg of my flight I sat next to a nice Honduran by way of Chicago named Oscar, who...wait for it, thought that I was from Honduras too! That's right...the perfect start to a Latin excursion.
He and I chatted the entire flight and he gave me tips and commended me on my ridiculous goal of 20 countries in my 20s. He also was so bold as to suggest I try to tackle the 4 remaining Central American countries as opposed to the 3 I had intended on visiting. We deboarded together and he was helpful in procuring me a cab from the airport, located in a seemingly untouched marshland which rapidly turned into the city. As we got closer and closer to San Pedro Sula the decaying buildings, lack of sanitation, and barefoot children came into view. The non regulated smog of the vehicles and the men precariously perched atop work trucks were plentiful, and I knew I was home.
I am not sure what it is about the lack of sophistication in these countries that endears me so, but it does.
It was devastatingly charming until I arrived at my hostel and met the one other woman who it currently housed.
The woman was shaking and speaking in broken Spanish to the proprietor when I arrived, so I thought I could offer some assistance. Little did I know this friendly gesture would result in her retelling of the story of her friend being cut into tiny chunks (her words) with machetes recently during a barroom brawl and being transported to SPS for plastic surgery. Welcome to Honduras!
Exhausted and in no need to please or meet anyone else's deadlines, I took a much needed nap to be awakened by my brand new roommate, Ben, asking for conditioner. He proceeded to tell me about how he had JUST been robbed of almost all of his worldly possessions at gunpoint.
In short, I was feeling really safe.
Luckily, 2 Peace Corps members joined us shortly and that magic that happens in hostels took place in the 4 of us heading to the Taco Bell of Honduras for some local delicacies and a local watering hole in which I had to listen to Lady Gaga on repeat. She is everywhere!
Back at the hostel we met some missionaries from the ATL who worked with AIDS infected orphans and I became thoroughly depressed.
(On a high note, her daughter's name is also Briana and when I asked how she spelled it, she told me, "The Latin way, B-R-I-A-N-A." Once again, my Latina destiny is right on track.)
If I don't have y'all holding the lady bic to your wrists, or at least contacting the American Consulate at this point, I have clearly not done my job.
Although my original "plan," and I use that word loosely, was to head to Belize tomorrow, I think I will now tag along with Rhett Butler (yeah, that is right Flea...that is ACTUALLY his name) and Senior Alvarez to San Salvador on a bus early tomorrow.
Now, I know what you're thinking...are you even seeing the countries you are visiting? And I see your point, but I am a woman on a mission. I have 10 months left till the big 3-0 and I have 5 countries to go. I can't waste anytime.
I will keep you all posted as to my whereabouts and general well being in the coming days.