Sunday, April 29, 2012


As I grew older, my passion for fantastical adventures kept growing.  I fell in love with Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Legend of Zelda and countless others.  Later in life, I started to get involved in anime conventions and renaissance festivals.

Science fiction and Fantasy media was completely changing how I saw the world and what I wanted to be in it.  I studied journalism and archaeology and I would be lying if I said I didn’t dream of Indiana Jones adventures along the way.  I joined Peace Corps in part to have my own adventure in the real world.  But it was here in Nicaragua, the real world caught up to me.

Let me say this, Nicaragua is poor.  It ranks as 3rd in the western hemisphere after Haiti and Bolivia.  A good portion of this country lives on less than a dollar a day.  That leaves very little money for people to expose themselves to the same media that I had. This translates into a much lower presence of even the concept of fantasy.

When I first realized this, I was shocked and wanted to do what I could to introduce as much as possible.  I brought movies, and tried to tell anyone who would listen to me about this side of imagination.  I soon realized that a lot of the people I was talking to just weren’t really interested in sci-fi or fantasy.

I then changed tactics, I wanted to know why the Nicas that I was talking to weren’t as enthused as I had hoped they would be.  I started watching the novelas and WWF wrestling, which they love, along with them.  I think my face might have given myself away when my host sister realized I wasn’t a fan.  I asked her why she prefers to watch this over my superhero movies.

She said, “Well that’s just so fake.  It’s not real.” 

As she said this, we were watching a novella series in which a Columbian cocaine dealer was making breast implants out of coke and putting them into all these supermodel women to transport them to the states. However the implants exploded on the plane, which does not happen in the real world either, by the way.  And upon landing, one of  the gorgeous women collapses into the arms of her lover complete with running mascara, water park tears and her latino lover’s shirt blowing open in the wind.

When this happened, I couldn’t contain myself and blurted out, “Well how real was that?”  Everyone laughed.

Not all the Nicas are quite as opposed to a world of pure imagination as others (5 points to anyone who gets that reference).  I lucked out massively when I found that my girlfriend was also a big fan of fantasy, superhero and other kinds of movies.  She even likes some video games including a few classics.

In the end, I guess this is probably my biggest culture shock, the almost absence of love for the fantastically unreal.  Here, stories tend to look as real as possible while including elements that would never happen in the mundane world.  This is something that I’ve missed a great deal from my home culture, daring to dream.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Tranquility at its Finest: Great Corn Island

The shade of palm trees brought the temperature to a perfect feeling while turquoise waves washed over pure white sands. My girlfriend, Kathya, and I laid in perfect peace on Long Bay beach, Great Corn Island.

Semana Santa, Holy Week in English, is the one time during the school year that we can really get away from the stresses of Peace Corps service and explore Nicaragua.  This would be the perfect time, I thought, to visit the Corn Islands. 

 In the USA, I had never heard of this place, nor have any of my friends and family who I asked when I decided to spend the vacation there.  After a bit more research, I was convinced that there could be no purer island getaway.   

According to Lonely Planet travel guides, Great and Little Corn Islands are in the running for the most authentic Caribbean island experience.  You won’t see any sort of mega-developments here and the tallest hotels stand at a very modest two stories. But the hotels that are there have some of the most friendly owners and staff I’ve ever met.  I accidentally overpaid at the Hotel G&G.  The next morning the owner, a large, bubbly Creole lady, Geraldine, found me. 

“I woke up this morning and I said to myself, you know, I think he paid the wrong price on that room!” Geraldine said.

 I was surprised completely.  She had charged me the price of a room with air conditioning, which really isn’t necessary there by the way. For the four nights we stayed there, the difference was 40 dollars. That much could go a long way in Nicaragua.

“You know,” I told her. “Most places that I’ve been to would have probably not said anything unless I brought it up.”

 She gave me a stern yet comforting smile that had the look of “Silly Rabbit, Trix are for kids. “That would be wrong.” She said with a laugh as if I hadn't thought of it myself. Within the next few minutes we were all squared up.

Kathya and I then set out to explore the beaches. We walked all the way around the south end of the island in about two to three hours pausing often to swim, sit and take lots of pictures.

 We were almost alone for the entire walk.  We would occasionally walk past a group of tall Creole men pushing their fishing boat into the crystalline waters to catch a day’s pay.  Their wives would sometimes be on the shore, under palms watching over kids playing soccer on the sands. 

When the kids saw my large camera hung around my neck, they would stop what they were doing and come running, some almost naked, like I was giving away free ice cream.

“Una foto! Una foto! Tomeme una foto!” they would scream as they
bolted down the sands before striking poses for the camera.  They didn’t even want the pictures that they were yelling for.  They really just wanted to pose and look cool and see themselves in the playback of my camera screen.  After showing them the pictures, they would laugh and smile before dashing off down the sands.

One of the moms on the sidelines told us that the kids adore the tourists because they have traveled so far to come see their homes. “They want to make you feel welcome,” she said.

In the evenings, Kathya and I would dine on seafood soups and lobster along the fishing wharfs as the sun fell from the sky, bathing the island in pink and purple light.  After it got dark, we would head over to bambule just north of Long Bay for ToƱas and music. 

The locals taste in music really was the final reflection of their characters.  Everything could be heard in that bar from bachata to Bob Marley to Hank Williams.  Going from classic island reggae to good old country was a something I was not prepared for, but after a while I could start to see the links.  The songs were all about chilling out, having a drink and being with that one you love.  Each song perfectly reflected that Corn Island culture.

“The people here don’t want anything,” said Kathya slightly amazed. “They have everything they really need.”

It certainly seemed true to me as I took another sip.  They really do have all that matters in life here: the sun, a beer and a boat to drink them in.