I’m renting a sweet self-contained apartmentito owned by Mr Winnie, which is up on the hill as you head towards the village. I woke up on Christmas Day earlier than is necessary, complete with my usual raging hangover. I trode over the velvety grass to the edge of the cliff which affords sweeping views of the bay. It was a bit of a grey morning and the water looked a bit like the Ganges after all the rain we had had. I wasn’t all that interested in my customary Christmas morning swim. I was however, absolutely starving.
I trundled off Desideri, which everyone on the island calls The Italian. It’s one of the more high-end restaurants on the island and does some amazing cocktails. I had landed a job there the day after I finished up at Tranquilo. Jobs are scarce on the island so I’ve been very fortunate to have them just fall in my lap. Again, this was my first time waitressing. And again it has ratified my respect for those who work in hospitality. It’s bloody hard work. I have been learning a lot from Mai-Lynn about things like wine service & cocktail making.
I took my time over a nice Christmas breakfast of omelette & French-pressed coffee. Miss Gladys must be one of the best chefs on the island and I think I might want to marry her. Afterwards, I took a walk with Louis who was a bit worse for wear for having been out at Aguila’s until daybreak. We went up to his mother-in-law’s house so i could give his gorgeous son, Yarnel (or Little Louis as Steph calls him) a truck for Christmas. Afterwards I visited Flacco & Ilette’s daughter, Rhiani to give her a drum. It was a bit naughty of me as she’s a rowdy-strong-willed-bull-mastif of a 2-year-old. I saw her carrying that thing around all day. Her folks are gunna love me.
I ran into Island Boy and the most Gorgeous Jen (a dive instructor up at Dolphin Dive) who invited me to join them for brekky beers at The Shack. I figured it would be very un-Australian of me to say no. And so Christmas Day began in earnest.
Town power had come on early that day, so we ended up moving our lunch to Happy Hut. Happy Hut is a bar / club / hammock hangout that is managed by Steph (not to be confused with Tranquilo Steph) who is another dive instructor at Dolphin Dive, and her boyfriend, Dariel.
Dolphin Dive Steph left Canada after school, to live in Africa for a couple of years, and she’s been here on the island for a couple of years. She’s just 22 but in many ways, carries herself as a woman beyond her years. She’s told me some interesting stories about how nearly every member of her immediately family has come very close to death. Dariel is a dreaded Orinoco man & he’s always sauntering around the place, with a big bright white smile on his dial, sayin, ‘everybody got to be happy, mahn.’
In amongst all the drinking, we somehow managed to pull together a Christmas lunch of marinaded chicken and mashed potatoes which was super tasty. I spent the rest of the day ambling around, linking up with mates, having a drink, a smoke & a laugh. Later that eve, I went home for a quick disco nap, until Cimba came to wake me up to go dancing.
The only club on the island is a very unique place by the name of Aguila’s (Spanish for ‘eagle’). Tranquilo Steph described it as “the sort of place that 95% of the time, you wish you hadn’t gone.” As a single ‘white’ female, you have to run the gauntlet down a footpath to the entrance, which always has young local lads sitting on the walls ‘welcoming’ you in. At the front of the club there is a brightly lit pool room, filled with old local men, sizing you up in between shots. You’ll grab a drink from the surly staff and make your way to darker recesses of the club. They’re big on strobe lighting and smoke machines here.
And then there’s the music. Oh my god, the music. They play a bit of Latin pop and a bit of Western pop (eg, JLo, Pitbull etc) but mostly you’ll hear reggae and other Caribbean flavours. I want to caveat the following by saying – there’s quite a lot of stuff I’ve heard here, which I really do like. But the music seems to fall into one of two categories:
1. I’m going to fuck you silly. My personal favourite song lyrics are “bend over, bend over, bend over” or “tight-tight-tight-tight-tight-tight-tight-tight, she had the tightest vagina”. (I swear, I am not making this up)
2. I’m sorry baby I was wrong, take me back coz I just can’t live without you. (Umm, maybe you shouldn’t have cheated on her with 2 different women then, asshole. Just sayin.)
The DJs don’t really get the concepts of smooth segues, of build & release, really even of keeping people on the dance floor. Which is kind of the job of a DJ, one might say. You’ll get something super-poppy one second, and the whole place is bumping & grinding. And then they’ll back it with a slow-dance number where couples are basically just hugging & pashing on the dance floor like 14 year old kids at a blue-light disco. Then it’s straight back into Shakira’s Waka Waka song.
Couple of tips for you, should you ever find yourself at Aguila’s, girls:
- Don’t dance with any boys unless you’re perfectly happy to have his (semi) hard-on being shoved (sensually or otherwise) into the region of your pleasure palace for the whole time.
- The slow dance is actually a very aggressive mating ritual. Never slow dance with a guy unless he’s your boyfriend. Or you want him to be. In the latter scenario, it might also be an idea to check if he really is single, first.
- Go home before you get too wasted otherwise the vultures will circle until you weaken. And remember, 99% of the blokes here don’t walk you home because they’re a gentleman.
It is possible to have a good time at Aguila’s if: You don’t go too often. You don’t stay too long. You stand in the sandy patch between pool room and the club (the lighting & sound is as good as it gets, here). You are with all of your friends. You are drunk / stoned / high. You only dance with your mates. You avoid all conversations about sex. You wear or borrow footwear for the Trainspotting bathroom. You leave on a high note: Don’t wait for it to get better. Waka waka.
Boxing Day was a bit quiet. I think the whole island had worn itself out from a pretty debaucherous Christmas Eve & Christmas Day. I must admit I missed home: There were no champagne brekkies. No ham off the bone & hot English mustard on fresh grainy bread. No watching the Sydney to Hobart yacht race from the Botanical Gardens. None of mum’s leftover stuffed turkey. No trashy house parties with bangin tunes. Put it this way, despite having had a super time – I’ll definitely be home for Christmas next year.
I talked a lot about leaving, so I could have NYE in Costa Rica but the truth of it is I’m finding it really hard to leave now. The sun has finally come out – it seems for good, and so my energy levels have ramped up a notch.
The water’s clearing up, I’ve some great dives (finally saw a turtle and some sharks!) and just in general, the place is starting to look more and more like a tropical island paradise.
I’m getting used to having Cimba & Tranquilo Steph around. The three of us went for a dive one morning and I was so loved up, I just had to give them a big hug underwater. They were so good to me when I was picking up the pieces of my ego after The Situation with Island Boy. I’m glad they’re getting to see Happy Chelle in full flight again. I laugh so much with the pair of them.
I’ve started getting to know Gorgeous Jen a little bit better. And she is just that: Gorgeous. She’s naturally quite shy but I think we’re all witnessing a woman in the making. Her & I and DD Steph had a much-needed bit of girl time one night after I finished work. We sat on the dock watching eagle rays glide around while we drank a couple of bottles of red. It’s up there in my one of my favourite Little Corn moments.
The funny, sweet, hardworking girls in the kitchen at Desideri, who have nicknamed me ‘Sexy’, are pleading with me to stay “one more month”. They’ve been helping me with my Spanish & Miss Gladys has taken to stealth persuasion by way of lobster au gratin. To die for.
Yep, there are a lot of reasons to stay. I have made a lot of new friends. I feel like I have a place here. I love that locals know me by name and stop in at the restaurant to say hello. I love the hugs that the l’il local boys bestow upon me. I love that Radcliff from The Shack knows what I want for breakfast. I love that all the island dogs come bounding up for a pat & a play.
Tourists are often curious as to how I ended up living & working on a little tiny island off the coast of Nicaragua. Truth is, I really don’t know. Put it this way: if you told me a year ago, I’d be here – I would have laughed in your face. Granted, I did meet a few people on my travels, who told me I should visit this place. But it very nearly didn’t happen. And I was most certainly not returning after the first time. But then I met Steph on the panga. And everything changed.
I knew if I didn’t book a flight out, I’d get ‘stuck’ here. And while that might not a bad thing in some ways. I also know I‘ve got to keep on moving.
So, I leave on the 4th of Jan.
Today is the 31st of December.
A time for reflecting on the year that’s passed. In January, I made a decision to travel again. In March, I finished up at the Opera House after five years. In May, I was on a plane bound for New York. By July, I had decided to tear up my ticket home. At the end of August, I was undertaking a teaching qualification in a place I never intended to even visit. In October, I ended up travelling with a mate from back home. And then somehow in the middle of November, I decided to come back to live & work in a place, I didn’t even know existed 4 months prior.
All these decisions, which have nearly all been made in single moment – have changed my life forever. I have made a lot of new friends. I have learned some valuable lessons. I have had some moments which will stay with me forever. And I have become a different person in some ways.
Facebook tells me that at the end of 2007, I made a wish “to be whisked away to a small latin village where the nights are sultry, people dance out on the streets, and the drinks feature lots of fresh limes”.
I know that that was a completely, utterly whimsical wish. I didn’t ever imagine this. Full Stop. That what I’m doing right now would become my reality? It just didn’t seem possible. There were a lot of things holding me back. And I couldn’t see a way out. And then an opportunity came my way that would change things forever. And I made choices that would change things forever.
Right now, I know am so so very fortunate to be living a life where I can just decide at the drop of a hat to be someplace else, doing something completely different.
Right now, I am very grateful. I’ll be making another whimsical wish tonight. I’m super excited to see what 2012 and beyond has in store for me.
PS: Forgot about the resolutions. In no particular order I think these ones will do the job:
- Get my photos up online.
- Drink less.
- Write more.
- Don’t hurry love.
- Strive for simplicity.
Happy new year, folks!