I was walking around among my kinsman, blending in, and I happened to notice a slight difference between me and the other Nicaraguans: their skin is quite dark, and mine is more of an in-doorsy hue. Well, I thought to myself, maybe the power of the sun is just different here. After all, Superman has unlimited power under the Earth’s sun, while on Krypton he’s no more than a regular Clarke Kent. Hm, maybe I should just disrobe and soak in the Nicaraguan sun? Maybe after an hour of solar exposure, my 25% Nica-blood will overpower the other 75% Euro-blood, and I’ll start speaking fluent Spanish, and I’ll stop trying to take over weaker nations, exporting my religion and culture. Austin, Keila, and I, on our second day in Nicaragua went to Granada, a quaint lake-town that was once a hub of Central America. But just before arrival, we stopped at La Laguna de Apollo, a lake formed over a mile-wide volcanic crater. My friend, Baker, who we were on our way to see in Granada, recommended a couple different spots; we chose La Abuela due to its high pier for jumping.
After a taxi ride and a stroll down a dirt road, we arrived. There was barely anyone there; a few couples were dining at the restaurant overlooking the lagoon. Austin promptly did a gainer off the high pier, and I followed it by doing a wimpy flip off the low pier. As far as my theory was concerned, the Nicaraguan sun was blocked by Nicaraguan clouds, so my metamorphosis would have to wait. But after we finished swimming, we went up to the restaurant to lounge to spend our required 200 Cordobas a person, and I had a revelation. We were drinking our Nicaraguan rum-infused (Flor de Canya rum) drinks, and a few tables over there was a group of yuppy-kids partying in sear-sucker shorts and bikini tops; Austin said he felt like he was in Charlottesville. They were speaking Spanish, but their skin was light. At that moment I knew: these are my people. My grandfather was from the upper class in Nicaragua that descended from Spain, and he must have had skin like these kids. After this realization, one of them even reminded me of my mother in her wedding pictures. It was a little weird. Keila translated something she overheard them say: “I had like 12 beers last night. It was crazy!” Needless to say, I was proud to be a Nicaraguan, a white-skinned Nicaraguan.
After a blissful afternoon, we traveled the rest of the way to Granada. Baker was ecstatic to see us. His only roommate had just recently moved out and he was alone in a beautiful 3-bedroom (very affordable) house. After introductions, Baker was ready to relax. “Okay guys,” he said, “I thought we’d grab some Nica food around the corner. Then maybe we can drink some rum and Cokes with Nica rum. So, I’ll head out to the store, get some rum and Coke, and be right back. Jon, did you want to use my computer?” “Definitely,” internet is important to me. Baker bolted up the spiral staircase solely leading to his bedroom, and then sauntered back downstairs. Austin and I overheard him on the phone: “Um, someone stole my laptop…” Baker’s night of relaxation had quickly taken a twist toward tragedy. So, we ordered pizza and held down the fort as Baker dealt with the police. As it turned out, it was a blessing we were there. After all the paperwork and stress later that night, Baker was finally able to sit with us, drink rum and Cokes, and sigh and laugh.
The next day we rented bikes from Baker’s bike rental shop and rode toward Lake Nicaragua, one of the only fresh water lakes in the world containing sharks, big Bull Sharks. I had heard about this before the trip, but didn’t make the connection until we were disrobing on the boat for a swim in the lake. I just had to keep telling myself, “it’s just like the ocean; this IS the ocean.”
That evening we returned to Managua and ate Curry Chicken at Sara’s Restaurant, across the street from our hostel, for the 2rd time in three nights. But it wasn’t until the 3rd time, the next night, that we started to become friends with the staff. After dinner the three of us, the only customers, were enjoying a couple Tona’s (the local beer) at our outdoor fold-out tables; at any give time there might be only 6-10 customers, all sitting outside on the sidewalk. Inside sat the family, the kitchen, and the TV set; Sara was the grandma of a growing brood. As we drank and chatted we couldn’t help but be engrossed by the scene inside: a large middle-aged man and a woman in her mid-twenties were watching music video after music video, drinking drink after drink, and dancing with enthusiasm to each song. Even the kids were joining in. Every time either a song began or the large man got up to dance, the woman would let out a scream of pleasure, “Ahhhhhahahaha!” Eventually, someone noticed us watching and told us to join them. Of course, Austin and Keila pointed at me, not only because I can “grate the cheese” with excellence, but because it’s easier to enjoy the single guy make a fool of himself. I gave in. After a couple songs, I was able to force Keila inside. Big mistake. Austin wasn’t joining because he didn’t want to; Keila refused at first because she knew that if she started she couldn’t stop. It only took several songs for Austin and I to sweat through our shirts and try to signal to Keila that we were ready to go; no dice. So, we continued. Eventually, the cute girl who had served us each night offered to me that we should go to “the disco.” Okay, I thought, my last night in Nicaragua should probably be spent dancing with strange women in a disco. So, we went, and we danced, and we danced. I couldn’t believe how absolutely every person in that club was a great dancer. I’ve been to American clubs and the white guys raising the roof were nowhere to be found. Everyone in there was getting down and knew how to. I’d like to think I got the hang of things… After a shower and a power nap, we had to make it back to the bus station at 4:30am. After that it was time to do some serious catching up on sleep. Even after I slept though most of the bus ride, when we got back to Keila’s house I fell into my bed and took a 3 hour nap. Anyone that knows me knows I don’t do that, but this was an emergency.