Here am I, here I am, in Granada, Nicaragua. A little worse for the wear and a whole lot sweatier, but I made it. It’s been a very long two days. I don’t know if wearing a watch (a new habit) augments this fact, but time seems to be just as sluggish as the weather down here. After the day I’ve had, it should really be like 8 p.m on Tuesday, and time to go to bed, but my watch says it’s only 3:17 on Saturday.
I walked out of a terminal in Managua at 10 p.m. last night and saw a man wearing a Paxeos hat and a sign with the words “Megan Kimble” on it—and I about wanted to hug him. To backtrack: I arrived in Miami with no problems. Watched Kung Fu Panda (a cartoon with Jack Black) on the way. Boarded my plane to Managua and sunk into my lovely window seat, where I then sat for the following three hours before the plane took off. The problem? The front toilet leaked (an overflow? a clogged toilet from an overzealous traveler? we didn’t know) on the previous flight, dripping water all over the front of the plane, and perhaps, as the captain informed us, on mechanical ‘things’ below the bathroom. So, ‘it was checked out’ while we sat on the plane, at the gate. For three hours. But, the captain informed us, he had managed to get us a movie! Kung Fu Panda. It was either watch it again or listen to the man next to me singing (and I mean singing) along with his iPhone. So, nary two hours later, I watched the movie again, this time choosing the Spanish audio. Spanish vocabulary words gained: noodles, dragon scroll, and dumpling. (sidenote: in true Latin machismo style, my Nica seatmate made full use of his E middle seat, spreading out onto our ‘shared’ armrest and into my F seat space, so that I was almost on top of the window I had been so happy about earlier. Also, to my E seat mate: just because you know the words to “labios compartidos” doesn’t mean you’re cool or that you have to sing them out loud. Hell, I know all the words to “labios compartidos” and I’m not cool or even a native Spanish speaker. It’s like sitting next to a 40 year-old American man belting out “Shape of my heart” in full earnestness.)
We touched down in Managua two hours behind schedule, putting us at 8:30 p.m. I had arranged for a shuttle to pick me up at 7:30 and asked the owner of the hostel I was to stay in to remain open for me until 8:30, but at this point I have no idea whether either are going to work out. So, I bolt out of the plane to encounter: customs. Oh, la aduana. At an average of 3 minutes per single person, 5 per family, and 25 people in front of me… Maddening. A nice bloke from Belgium next to me in line could sense my frustration, probably from the fact that I had tuffs of hair in my hands and was batting at imaginary mosquitoes, and tried to strike up a conversation. For all his good intentions, when he informed me that he thought the buses stopped running at 10 to Granada (it’s now 9:50 at the back of the line), I almost cried. So, yeah, at this point, I’m pretty scared. Managua was not somewhere I wanted to spend any time by myself. By trying to remember all the lyrics to every song I know and chanting ‘this too shall pass’ I made it through the customs line. I ran into baggage claim and found my backpack right away, wrestled it on, and geared myself up for plan B. But then, I saw, behind the glass partition separating us passengers from those lucky non-passengers—a sign with my name on it! The wave I gave that man, wearing a Paxeos shuttle hat…I think he thought I was crazy. He was so nice. He had been waiting there since 7 for me and offered to help me find another hostel in the case that mine was closed. But, more nice people I found, as the hostel owner and her husband had waited up until 11 for my arrival and even denied my room to some inquiring folks earlier. I have a single room, complete with a bathroom and a cold, amazing shower. ‘Estoy muy emocionada de estar aqui’ was all I could manage for the lovely owner.
I gotta say: I didn’t anticipate how much harder everything is when you’re doing it alone. It’s not even the language—it’s just the isolation of when things go wrong (as they always do, didn’t you learn that in Argentina, meg?) you and you alone have to deal with it. And the voices in your head tend to get more shrill and irrational than they normally do when you actually speak them out loud. Luckily, I had some very nice Nicas that followed through so last night worked out perfectly, just a little delayed. My Spanish is coming back nicely, and the shuttle driver even told me my accent was ‘bella’.
I’ve walked around most of the city today (at least twice) so I feel like I have a pretty good lay of the land. My hostel is in the “market” region. Sounds nice, right? It’s very loud, as I found out this morning at 7. I got dressed and headed out, intending to find a cup of coffee. I stumbled out into the middle of…downtown Los Angeles garment district, 3rd world edition. It was not the most pleasant way to begin my solo adventure, less so half an hour after waking and with no coffee. I found my way out of it and ate in a nice café off the main plaza, followed by a long wander through the streets of Granada. It’s a pleasant town, with colorful houses and a colonial feel. It’s a third world city, to be sure. What that means I’m not sure yet, but I’m experiencing I guess a sort of culture shock that I didn’t expect. I have to keep reminding myself that wherever I’ve traveled to and however much Spanish I speak, it’s still my first day in a very foreign country and to not expect too much from myself. Also, the heat. Oh the heat. I’ll spare you the details, but I really just can’t wait for my sweat glands to shrink up and die.
Today has also been different and more difficult than I imagined it. Traveling alone is weird. I don’t have anyone to talk to, so I’m writing non-stop in my journal. But even so, there is something about the reality of traveling alone that means also everything is you, which is peculiar under any circumstance. I thought that I would see people in my hostel to talk to, but apart from a group of three American girls I passed by last night, I haven’t seen anyone. It’s nice to do whatever I want to do, but I didn’t fully appreciate how social and full of chatter my life normally is. Again, it’s my first day—only two days ago I was sitting in my house surrounded by people, family, and modern-ness—so things are just different, rather than bad. The lack of modern appliances (cell phone, tv, constant internet) only augments the silence. It’s a weird silence, in a bustling city full of color and life and sounds and Spanish. All the Spanish is exhilarating and reminds me of why I’m even here. I’m getting my mouth back into shape to handle all the vowels and double rr’s, which is always fun. Actually, I’m coming up with stuff I didn’t even know I knew, much to my surprise and delight (and the surprise of everyone I encounter, who take me for a silly gringa. I’ll show them, muahaha).
Also, being a single, woman traveler is more…pervasive than I anticipated. I feel very safe and in no way threatened, but it’s just so obvious. I’m very aware of people’s reaction to me as unusual, which could very well be my imagination, and also the reality of any tourist here. Obviously, my height—one of the things that enables me to feel safe as a woman traveler—does nothing to help this situation. I’m just enormous here. As of this morning and probably only until tomorrow, I’m parading as a married woman (hilarious, I know). I switched my right hand band to the good ‘ol ring finger on my left hand, which probably does nothing, but feels like a nice placebo protection. A funny, young Nica came up to me in the main plaza as I sat eating my fiber one bar and asked me if I wanted to smoke some ganja with him. I told him no thanks, I had to meet my husband. At least I got a good chuckle out of it.
I suppose I’ve prattled on long enough. I feel a bit more connected now, via blog, so that’s nice. Now, more than ever, I’m very excited to meet up with Rob and get myself situated in Playa Gigante. Yay!