Monthly Archives: December 2011

One more time!

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:

  1. Get my photos up online.
  2. Drink less.
  3. Write more.
  4. Don’t hurry love.
  5. Strive for simplicity.

Happy new year, folks!

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How to make gravy

The Aussies & Pinky stayed on for another week or so. They were at once both smart & silly boys and so, Steph & I hung out with them a bit in our free time.  Sometimes it’s reassuring meeting people from back home. Todd & Piers reminded me of boys I love back home: Snowy, Toby, Tyler, Scotte…

For me, they couldn’t have come at a better time. Island Boy had picked up with an American tourist and even though i knew it was never meant to be for he & I – it still felt like a slap in the face. Egos are a fragile thing, aren’t they?

The island began to shrink, and there were days when i just wanted to get the hell out of here.

When you arrive by panga in the morning sun to live on a small island for a month or more, you are full of anticipation. What a wonderful life awaits. Sunny days, blue seas, white sands, amazing diving, fruity cocktails, blazing sunsets, dirty dancing, hot sex. You know. That sort of thing.

At first everything seems so uncomplicated, charming, chilled. And on some levels, it absolutely is.

We drink water that we pull from a well. We eat beef that has been butchered by our neighbours in their front yard that day. We give thanks when the ‘town’ generator gets up and we have electricity for ½ a day. There are no roads. No cars. No malls. No cinemas. No bookstores. Just a handful of places to eat & drink. And only two places to bump & grind. Albeit, to invariably rubbish music. And with boys i have absolutely zero interest in.

In other words, there are not many distractions. And for the most part, I’m not a person who needs many distractions. I’m an only child. I can happily entertain myself in a million ways.

It’s been raining most days that i’ve been here. Sometimes for just an hour, sometimes all day. The rain doesn’t bother me so much. But it does make for shitty dive conditions. And it means there’s been a lot of just sitting around. I’ve spent a good whack of time getting stoned. Which isn’t something i normally do. But, when in Rome.

One of the great things about getting stoned, is just having shits & giggles with your mates. I love noting more than shooting the breeze with friends.

One of the downsides is you spend a lot of time looking for things you just put down. I also find i spend quite a bit of time taking a good long hard look at myself. Facing your demons can be a good thing. But sometimes you can get too much into your own headspace. There have been days and nights when i’ve definitely had island fever.

But it’s also an extremely difficult place to leave. I’ve made some really beau’ful friendships. Both with expats and locals. And I have fallen in love with more than one little person. They do make gorgeous kids here.

I had a lovely couple of days with them just this week – helping out with a beach clean-up that a visiting kiwi organised. And also with the creation of a colourful Christmas tree made from bits of plastic washed up on the beach. I now have three lil island boyfriends who come racing up to me with big hugs whenever they see me. What a way to make a girl feel special.

I came back to Little Corn Island because the universe conspired to have me here. A job and a house fell into my lap. Even if Island Boy hadn’t been part of the equation I would have come. It was disappointing things didn’t work out between us. It was hurtful to see him with another woman. But she left. I got over it. He & I have talked and we’re all good. We’re doing Christmas with our mutual friends up at his place. I’m grateful to my friends, especially Cimba, for convincing me to stay on for Christmas.

I believe now, I came here because I was supposed to learn a lesson. That being, to not push things. To just let it come.

I remember in my 20s having a ‘shroom-induced conversation with a good friend, who was a bit of a long-haired, patchouli wearing hippy, who said “you need to go with the flow, man.”
I replied, “only dead fish go with the flow.”
He shot back, “they’re all dead because they get around like you, y’fucker.”
It’s only now, I see he could well be right.

* * *

So, going back to the tropical island fantasy checklist: Sunny days (for the most part, no), blue seas (sometimes), white sands (potential without all that rubbish), amazing diving (one out of 10 so far & i still hold out hope), fruity cocktails (far too many), blazing sunsets (a couple), dirty dancing (don’t even go there), and hot sex (maybe Santa can help out here).

* * *

So it’s Christmas Eve today. Christmas Day back home in Australia. The sun’s out here and it will be back home too. I’m super excited about tomorrow. But it won’t be the same. This will be my first Christmas away from home.

I will miss my morning swim at Bondi beach. I will miss me Mum & Dad. I will miss Champagne and stuffed turkey. And I will most certainly miss my friends. I want to send a special shout out especially to Lyn, Scott, Shell, Lea, Andrea & Dave and Toby and all their families.

(you gotta) Walk & don’t look back

So this particular post has been a real challenge to write as things between Island Boy & I swung pendulum-like from Amazing to god-fucking Awful, on a near daily basis for the first two weeks I was here. I have added, edited, changed and deleted the hell out of the bits of this post that would probably interest you the most.

Why? Firstly, I find it a real challenge to be completely honest with myself when I’m in These Situations. My desire for true intimacy and my eternal optimism overrides any worldliness I might have gathered. All I want is to love and be loved. Even if only for a moment in time. Despite more knockbacks than most, I’ve always maintained hope.

Secondly, I think I’ve known for the longest time that I am just a little bit crazy. A friend once said to me: “You are no crazier than the rest of us, Chelle. You just say things that most of us don’t have the guts to.” And no one wants to really expose themselves in this way – do they?

At least not in the moment, when you know you can’t really see yourself clearly, and you know it is least safe. Maybe in the retrospective when there’s been some time to develop a post-mortem on The Situation which makes you sound somewhat evolved.

The issue of vulnerability. And honest writing. I’m putting them both in the “too-hard basket” and will avoid all exposition regarding The Situation between Island Boy and myself for the time being. If only for the fact that I – we are still living here on this ridiculously small island and our circles are so closely entwined, to post about it would be the ultimate airing of dirty laundry. Which is just not me.

Besides, I have other things to talk about.

* * *

I spent another night in Managua before catching the Monday morning flight out to Little Corn Island. Steph was there to welcome me with open arms. I stepped off the panga literally dripping wet (schoolgirl error in seat selection. A word of advice: do as the locals do; sit in the middle, not on the side.)

She brought me back to the house I would be sitting for the next few weeks. I clasped eyes on its cute little concrete porch with glimpses of the sea and started squealing with joy! It was a proper 2 bedroom fibro house, painted in the ubiquitous rasta red & green; it had a proper lil kitchen with an oven & a stovetop (I could cook again!); a herb garden; a well!; and a little outhouse.

I don’t know what i was expecting, but i think I had been expecting a much more basic thatched roof hut with the most simplest of amenities. I was absolutely thrilled. I don’t think I stopped dancing that day. Steph introduced me to the neighbours, Flacco and Louis the young dudes who ran the panga back & forth to Big Corn. Italian Stefano (Cimba) & Island Boy came by from the dive shop where they both work, shortly after I arrived. Smiles, hugs all round.

I spent the afternoon settling into my new home & catching up with Steph. I had a quick kip, had a wash, and then walked the whole 60 seconds up the dirt path to work.

My first day working as a barmaid. There was a lot to take in, but Steph has been a generous teacher, showing me how to mix coladas, daiquiris and margaritas. After not working for 9 months, I found the first night completely exhausting: You’re on your feet for anywhere up to 9 hours. You’ve got to be able to juggle & smile at the same time. You need a good memory, be good at maths, and be able to deal with people who apparently have never been taught manners (as a barmaid, I can’t tell people what I think of them). Apart from that – it’s piss easy.

Meeting new people, having a drink & a bit of a jibber, making sure everyone’s having a good time, and a bit of a bounce around to your own playlists. Call this work? I call that a fun night out. I go to work barefoot and get to see the sunset over the ocean every day. I get paid next to nothing (I earned in my first week, what I normally would in an hour back home) and i’ve never been happier. We had heaps of laughs that night. And have had every night since. I love working with Steph. She’s a positive, smart girl with a cheeky sense of humour.

* * *

Next morning, I went to the doctor’s that morning to see about my toes. I had had a birthday mani & pedi a week before in Managua and it had gone terribly wrong. The stupid bitch had cut down the inside of my toenails on both of my big toes. She had split the nails and a nasty infection had started manifesting. It had gotten so bad, even water pressure from a shower hurt them. I had taken to walking with both of my toes off the ground. At Little Morgan’s, a GP had prescribed some antibiotics which had had little traction.

There was a doctor up the road from my house. All health care is free in Nicaragua. Even for tourists. (Now, why can’t we do that in the 1st world?) Apparently, in order to remove the fleshy bleeding red, puffy yellow pus mess that had started growing over the nail, she would first need to give me 2 injections of local anaesthetic in each toe. Then she produced a needle longer than the span of her hands.

I’m generally okay with needles but I didn’t really like the idea of being jabbed in the top of my toes with them. It was as every bit unpleasant as it sounds. I laid back, did some deep yoga breathing, tried to go my happy place… But as the needle pierced my skin, I scratched at the wall behind me as if I was trying to escape a coffin. I was in a world of pain.

The anaesthetic kicked in quickly and she went to work on my toes. By the time she was finished there was ALOT of blood. It looked as though she had just sliced off the corners of my toes. She proudly displayed two large shards of nails that she had cut off. I nearly fucking fainted.

She told me I couldn’t go swimming in the sea. WTF. She then asked me if i had a ‘husband’ on the island. And then proceeded to tell me i couldn’t have sex for 3 days. Apparently, the infection could spread through to my heart, which wouldn’t be good for the relationship.

She wrapped my toes with thick layers of gauze and the blood immediately started seeping through on the right one. I stumbled home, trying not to pass out. On the way back, I met a couple of people I knew who wanted to stop for a chat. I didn’t want to appear rude, so I obliged. It felt like an eternity but I eventually made it back to the house. Steph was there, asked me how it went, and I burst into tears. A hug always makes it better.

* * *

I have a fan in my room but often there’s no power throughout the night and it can get quite stuffy, so I keep the windows open for a bit of a breeze. I wake to the sounds of roosters crowing, and chickens scratching around in my backyard, looking for scraps to eat. It’s usually around 545am. The day has already broken and I jump out of bed to see what the sea is doing. Around the village side of the island, the bay is usually quite calm but sometimes there’s a lot of current. A length of the bay is roughly 1km, so very similar to Bondi Beach. I’ve been swimming more or less every day and have worked my way up to two laps.

Cimba has gotten into the habit of swinging by for a properly brewed coffee and a chat on the arm chairs out on the front porch. I love his company. He’s an emotionally intelligent man who’s told me what I needed to hear, when I’ve needed it the most. He has really opened up to me. I love when you get go beyond the surface with someone new. In some ways, it’s easier to do this when you’re on the road. We share a similar schoolboy sense of humour & laugh lots when we’re together. We also share a love of g-o-o-d food. Sometimes if there’s time before he starts work at the dive shop, and if I have ingredients, we will cook up a tasty breakfast together.

Some of the local boys will sometimes swing by to impress me with their machete skills. They cut down coconuts from the trees in my yard and bring me their sweet juices to drink.

One of my neighbours is an older partially blind man who will come round to my split back door and impart unsolicited advice and tell tall stories to me for as long as I will listen. I’ve been avoiding him since he admonished me for not already having had children by now, and predicted I would get eaten by a shark if I kept swimming in the sea.

My other neighbour, Louis comes around with the big Caribbean call of “wrop op, mohn”. And so we skin up and have a smoke and chat and a laugh. One thing leads to another and before you know it, there are anywhere three and a dozen people on my porch, and more than one joint going around. I’ve learned a little bit about the island and its history and culture and I’ve got to hear some beautiful personal stories. But what I really love, is the unexpected pearls of wisdom that one of them will drop.

Case in point: Talking about ‘white lobster’ (also known as Bendiciones de Dios or ‘godsends’, white lobster is packages of cocaine, direct form the source, that wash up on the shoreline here when transporters ditch their goods overboard upon being searched by the coast guards) – Louis says: “If a package has got Peter’s name on it, Paul won’t find it.” Mind you, Louis also says, “Shake it, don’t break it, coz your mama took 9 months to make it.”

Another friend of mine, Pelon (an original Islander with a Chinese grandfather), says to me sagely “Everything has its time.”

It’ll be midday all of a sudden, and time to think about lunch. Sometimes I’ll spend the afternoon reading or writing. Sometimes not even that. If I’m feeling social, I’ll go for a short walk up to the dive shop and have a chat to the staff there who I’m getting to know and beginning to love.

Everything feels amplified on a small island. Personalities. Time. Weather. Emotions. Island Boy asked me if I thought I could ever live here. I told him no, but it feels like home already in so many ways. I’ve slipped right in. I spend a lot of time with locals, some of whom call me Chinita (little Chinese girl). The place suits me. The people suit me. The lifestyle suits me. It’s all very simple in the most obvious of ways. But things can be a lot more complex here too. I think for the fact that there are just not a lot of distractions.

To that end, meals have become a bit of a focus for me on the island. I love having a kitchen. And friends who love food. The island is not always the abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables that you’d envisage. Seafood, yes. Cimba has brought me lionfish on more than one occasion. Muy delicioso! We’ve taken to having ‘family’ meals at mine when one of us feels like cooking up a storm. The other day I made a massive vegetable pasta bake. Cimba, Steph & a sweet man who stole a bit of her heart, took the dining table out onto the green green grass. We had a glass of red and toasted sunny days. Two nights ago, I cooked a roast dinner for a new friend who helped me celebrate my birthday – a top English lad by the name of Pinky and his two big burly Aussie mates, who are just absolute legends, Todd and Piers. I am considering running away with them when they leave later this week.

I’m big on reading ‘signs’. Lisa (the manager of the bar) is coming back next week – which means Steph will move back into ‘my’ house and I’ll need to find a new living arrangement. The boss told me today he won’t know if there’s more work until it gets busier, which is fair enough. And a recent development in The Situation might mean it’s time to move on. It’s also been extraordinarily shite weather.

On the flip side, I have made a lot of beau’ful new friends here on the island – both locals and expats who all want me to stay on for Christmas. Originally this was part of my plan: renting a house by the sea somewhere for the month of December. I just thought it was going to be in Colombia.

I did flip a coin today. And even went best out 3. It didn’t help. I’m not sure what I’ll do yet. Grateful for any advice x

Sweet dreams

I was welcomed back to Little Morgan’s with wide open arms. It was a good feeling to come back to somewhere I’d been before, have new friends smile with recognition, and not have to go through The Standard Questions again (where are you from? how long you been on the road for? headed for central or south america? yadda yadda yadda

One of the reasons I came back to Little Morgan’s was because the girls who worked there were all leaving the following week and because Morgan had said if I came back, he’d throw me a party. Actually it might have been his sister who had said that. But same same.

I am luckyluckylucky to have a ridiculously good bunch of people back home who I call friends, who I would normally celebrate my birthday with. i knew I would be missing them all sorely. So I really liked the idea of partying in a trippy pretty place with loveable mad hatters I had already met and had shared some seriously fun times with. Morgan had to pick up his little boy on the day of my birthday, so we decided to have to the party on the Thursday night.

Before I had left the girls had decided it would be an 80s theme night. Back home this would be a simple trip to Vinnies on Hall St and the local $2 Shop. Bit harder to coordinate when you’re on a tiny island in the middle of a lake in Nicaragua. But I had miraculously found a party shop in Managua and had picked up a few bits & pieces including a couple of wigs. My wig-wearing friends back home would have been proud.

Just before things kicked off I jumped on the one computer they have there with dodgy internet connection and checked my emails. Because of the time difference, it was already my birthday back home so messages were beginning to filter through. The best of them though, almost brought me to my knees.

My besties Andrea and Scott had produced a 2 min Youtube photo collage of friends from all over the world holding up signs with “HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CHELLE” or variations of (i particularly loved the “felic cumpleanos” by the Rollstons!) I started weeping as it commenced and was a blubbering mess by the end of it. The thought & energy that would have gone into making it happen. All the happy faces of people I love. I was floored that someone would do something like that for me. I felt a bit honoured and pretty fucking loved. Just the ticket when you’re miles away from those who know you, love you anyway, and make you laugh like a 5 year old.

My other birthday present was word from Steph that John had given the okay for me to come work at Tranquilo, back on Little Corn Island. She would move into the manager’s room at the back of the bar. And I would take over her house-sitting gig. It was just for a month. Starting on Monday.

I didn’t really need the work – for me this would be more about just having the experience. (What a luxury to be able to say that, hey?) I had always fancied the idea of working in a bar. And what better place to do it than on a Caribbean island. I also really liked Steph & just knew we would have a bunch of seriously fun times working together.

I loathe to admit that Island Boy might have had something to do with my excitement as well.

We partied hard that night. There was a talent show. Which most of us weren’t prepared for. But fun all the same. Morgan & Kate’s mum took on the role of Dicko (from Australian Idol) in terms of being a harsh judge. A few guests made the effort to make something from nothing and give a nod of the head to the 80s theme. There was a lot of bad music. And much singing and dancing. At one point Morgan had me in a headlock and was bellowing at me about how great my nipples were. I’d call that a good night.

The next day – my actual birthday – was a quiet one. I watched the multitudes of butterflies do their opening act for what would be a very peaceful, tranquil day. I thought a bit about what had transpired over the last year. The year leading up to my 40th birthday had been a sad one for me. I was sad for a lot of reasons. Things I didn’t have. Things I couldn’t control. Love. Children. The White Picket Fence. And Roger, still.

The year leading up to my 41st birthday had been quite the opposite. All those things I didn’t have became the reasons I was able to take this opportunity. I don’t know if it’s part of my destiny to have those things. In my heart of hearts, I really hope so. In the meantime, travelling around Central and South America sure does make for a damn fine distraction.

I went for a swim in the lake with its amazing view of Concepcion & its cloudy mushroom top. Never in a million years, would have I imagined this was how I would spend any of my birthdays. I was thankful for the way things had panned out, and the choices I had made. I sat around & drank endless cups of black coffee with shots of dark Nicaraguan rum (Skye: I am now officially a rum drinker!) and I made plans.

I climbed into a bed that night which was tucked away in the corner of a treehouse with a thatched roof, and watched the gheckos do their pushups from under my mosquito net. I listened to the ‘waves’ lapping the lake’s edge and gave thanks for the cool night breeze. I was one very happy birthday girl.

All the ladies were leaving the following day (Saturday). Shannon & Queso were heading to a place on the coast called Gigante to rent a house for a month & do some volunteer work. Kate & her mum were going to Costa Rica for a border run. While Sabine was headed back to Germany for good. So we had a lovely farewell dinner that night, at one of the little comedors in Santa Domingo. Which incidentally comes with a free motorbike ride home. (Yes, I know I said i’d never get on the back of a bike again, but you know. Hot young Nicaraguan boy. What’s a hot blooded woman to do?)

Kate, Queso and Shannon had all said they would come visit me on Little Corn Island around New Year’s, so it was a bye for now, rather than a bye for ever. It was weird after they left. I spent the rest of the day just chilling out with Richard, Kiara Morgan and Morgan-cito. I bid them farewell the next morning.

The last image I have of the place, is Morgan and his son waving wildly at me from their porch as my taxi climbed the steep long rocky driveway. I was sad to be leaving Ometepe. But on the other hand I was very excited about going back to Little Corn. From one island to another. My chicken bus ride back to Managua was filled with island dreaming.