Sunday, September 26, 2010

At the Beach

This Saturday found us with plans to travel down to the pacific coast in order to pay a visit to the beach. We left Jubilee House around the unholy hour of 9 am, The collective volunteers and siblings Murdock piled into one of the old ambulances that serve as transportation. We had hoped to take the van, but it had just finished being fixed and the higher powers were concerned that it might break down over the hour and a half drive to the beach.

Time estimations proved to be inaccurate. It took us around four. The major cause of this was a slight mechanical failure. A small black tube connecting the radiator to the engine decided that it was meant for better things and burst lose in a desperate bid for freedom.
At the time we were winding up a mountain road, having just come around a sharp turn. There was a sharp noise, like a popping tired, smoke from under the hood, and the car rudely stopped moving. We found ourselves stranded in the middle lane.

Unfortunately the emergency brake decided to follow suit, and fell apart as Matt attempted to use it. Forcing Matt to spend the entire debacle with his foot squarely on the break. After a few harrowing minutes Matt negotiated the car down the hill and out of the middle of the road. We ended up next to the hard turn. So that oncoming cars would notice and avoid hitting our crippled car, we stationed people and reflective orange triangles behind us.

One of the nice things about Nica's is that they look out for those around them. A passing motorcyclist, who happened to own a small toolbox, stopped when he saw our distressed vehicle and offered his assistance in reattaching the tube. The tube proved to be more stubborn than anticipated, and refused to reconnect, rudely opposing the various efforts of Daniel, the awesome strength of Felicia, and our helpful Nicaraguan friend.

Rojelio, the JHC's head of construction and savior of stranded gringos, arrived on the scene after an hour. With his own toolbox. In five minutes, the tube was reattached, the car was starting. Which just shows that you can do just about anything song long as you have the right tool.
After that we made good time, or tried too. The whole "tube debacle" took three or so hours out of our beach time, and we were eager to salvage the somewhat disheartening day. We progressed for awhile, until it was revealed that the "people who actually knew where we were going" were not paying attention, and those who were ignorant assumed that we were on track. The question eventually came up, and when it was discovered, we quickly stopped and asked directions. As it turns out, we had overshot the turn.

Making it back to the turn we got our first glimpse of hope: breaks in the distant clouds, sky outside of the fog that had clung to us since the car stopped. Transferring to a road that was lacking in maintenance, we descended from the mountains and headed to the beach. Rattling in our seats, The Murdock boys decided to instigate a sing along. We passed through a beach side town with half the car singing Barenaked Ladies' songs, to the bemusement of the locals.
We quickly ran out of common music, but we're saved from a prolonged concert by our arrival at the beach. Must like mating birds, the cabana workers swooped at our car, calling out reasons why they were above the rest of the competition. Promises of great restaurants, and surfing lessons and the like. I am curious how similar the cabana we stayed at is to the others offered up at us. They appeared to be relatively similar: A few hammocks, thatched roofs, a bar of sorts.

We ordered lunch and disappeared into the ocean. The water was welcoming and warm, a nice shield from the drizzling mist. After making up for our hours of immobility, we trudged back to shore and into the cabana. Finding it filled with people hawking their various sea shell turtles and shark's teeth necklace. It was like being canvased by a souvenir store. Coury bought some caramelized papaya. It's been said that papaya is somewhat of a hit or miss fruit, regardless of personal opinion, the papaya was thrown out when it was found that no one could stomach the 5 Cordoba treat.

We sat and talked for awhile, eagerly anticipating lunch. Eventually our orders came through and our food finally arrived. Hearing that the seafood was excellent, Kim ordered a lobster plate, which at 170 Cordobas (around 8 dollars) was probably the least expensive lobtser I've witnessed. Much smaller than their beefy cousins in the north, the local lobsters look more like really big crayfish than little lobsters.
While not as good as Bruno beach food, lunch was enjoyed by all and after,we celebrated the intermittent sunlight and took a walk down the beach. Upon our return we found that some of the children had ambushed Coury, who had stayed behind to doze in the hammock and watch our stuff, and he had now purchased a a lipstick wearing turtle and an armadillo glue-gunned out of countless sea shells.

We stayed long enough to break the weird "not Frisbee" throwing hoop thing, enjoy the waves, and showcase Daniel's affinity for football. After a few more hours we packed up and head back JHC, leaving with the sun. We skirted the mountains, hoping to stress the car less and instead made friends with a myriad of potholes. Luckily we made it back with out any break downs, and with relatively clear weather.
Despite the earlier setbacks, and lackluster weather (one cannot complain to much as we are approaching the peak of the rainy season), it was a fun day. Eventually it cleared up and even while it was raining we enjoyed ourselves at the beach. Going to the beach in Nicaragua is not like going to Edisto or Pensacola, the beach front is more developed and there is the need to keep someone with your bags at all times, but it still had it's charms. The staff facilitating our laziness, and bringing us lunch while we lounged under the cabana was definitely one of them.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Night in the Land of Lakes and Volcanoes

Amongst the other volunteers I am an anomaly. My tendency to stay up late leaves me as the sole person clinging to consciousness seemingly every night. I sit at the communal table reading or clicking away at my computer while the others retire to their respective rooms.
Nightly silence flows in and I can hear the distant chirp of bugs and the chatter of geckos. Most nights the rain has come and lent it's voice to the night sounds. Drumming on the roof and occasionally knocking debris free from the trees above us, which collide against the tin with the heavy reverberations of impacted metal.

Last night I found myself unexpectedly roused from my slumber. The night symphony was much livelier than it is currently. The songs of the insects mingled with the slow murmur of the fan by my bed and in the distance I could hear thunder pummeling the air as an inconsistent percussion. Preceding each beat was a flash of light that illuminate the whole of my room in a dull white light.

None of this is what had woken me up. I have grown accustom to the rumble of thunder, and can even find sleep when the storm is above me, pounding down upon the roof and splitting the sky. What pulled me back into consciousness was the short, wretched cries of a child in the distance.

All the sounds swirled together and mixed over me as I lay in my bed. I felt helpless and immobile. I wanted to find this child and do something to stop it's crying but knew the impossibility of my desire. Fear and logic kept me from moving.

I could not discern the cause of the crying, perhaps the child is sick, maybe it is simply upset because it was woken up late at night. It could be in danger, it could be morning the unexpected death of it's mother. Maybe it is just temperamental. I excused my inaction by telling myself that it was not my problem, that a gringo with shaky Spanish could do very little good by wandering around the streets of Ciudad Sandino late at night trying to find a crying child. That there are other people, more capable of dealing with the child, already out there and probably trying to help it. Logic kept me off my feet and in my bed. Safe in the locked dorm, in the walled compound, listening to the periodic whistles of the night security. I tell myself that maybe one of them will seek out the child and comfort it.

Eventually the child ceases it's wailing, leaving the chorus of noises conversing with my mind. In the distant lightning bludgeons the landscape. I hope that the child has found a joyful resolution. Listening to the susurrations of the artificial breeze I convinced my consciousness to relinquish it's grip and slip back into sleep.

I dreamed that I was in a familiar place. It was the first time I had set my eyes upon the scenery but it was not the first time I dug my feet into it's soil. Once again I walked through the landscape of my dreams and smelled the scent of dirt and pine on the breeze. It had changed. A massive tree I had expected has died, it remained as a large stump. Easily twice my height, there was a small group of people sitting on it. Concentric circles spread out under them, betraying a life incomprehensible in it's length. There were others around and I demanded an explanation for the giant's demise. It was a natural occurance but that did little to alleviate the wound. Looking at the forest around me I wondered how many more could rival the age of deceased ancient.

Descending into the final destination of consciousness is a bumpy landing. I skid in and out of the waking world, my thoughts slowly picking up with purpose and meaning. A jumble of the previous nights events. The last few minutes before the inevitable stretch into an eternity that ends far too soon. Flickering views of my dreams churn through my awakening mind, the corroded end of a film reel.

I lurch into the vertical world and with the excepting of a brief greeting move silently through my morning routine. I try and grasp the strands of my night and pull them together so that they will not escape into the rising sun. Already they have begun to slip away and I wage a mental battle to contain them. My dreams seem important, significant in ways I can't quite understand. Something that I should strive to hold onto. Many have wriggled free, but I have capture some with my pen, though I cannot fully describe them I can contain some of their essence and through that I can start to recall the dream.

I could not tell if the crying child that visited me in the night was real. The time I spent listening in silence is as surreal as the following dream and I wonder if the child's was ever actually distressed.

The thunder has once again returned, flashes of white illuminate the distance. Now that I have finished capturing the events of my last night (and finally put an update on the blog) I am headed toward sleep. Tonight I can hear dogs barking and people yelling jovially. I wonder what it is that I will dream of, and what I will hold onto as I wake up once again in the land of Lakes and Volcanoes.