Tag Archives: Managua

Never can say Goodbye

By 545am the next day, “the breeze” had dropped off a bit but the seas in the distance were still looking real choppy. It was also raining pretty heavily on & off. A small crowd of tourists gathered round the dock, optimistically. Eventually Louis & Flacco sauntered down the street and informed me they didn’t have the permission from Big Corn to go ahead, but they would take everyone out anyway… they were going to charge everyone double “because it was too dangerous”. I knew they wouldn’t charge me double. That wasn’t my concern.  After some thought, I figured they wouldn’t go if it was so dangerous they were going to endanger people’s lives. They were just being opportunistic. A few Euros got their backs up about it, which was probably fair enough from their POV. But I defended my new friends by citing the economic law of demand & supply.

It started bucketing down as we got on, so we pulled the big black industrial plastic sheet over us and I wished I had thought to buy a garbage bag for my pack. I spent the ride with my head almost between my knees, curled up into a self-protective ball and wishing I believed in God. I swear the boat nearly flipped sideways a couple of times. Every time i got a glimpse of the outside world, all i saw was the inside of waves. Whoosh. Up the boat would rise. Slam. The boat came down. I started to think about strategies for saving my stuff, myself. I got off the boat a shivering wreck, retrieved my dripping pack, and said a sopping wet & sad farewell to the boys.

I then jumped in a cab figuring I would try my luck for the morning flight, given i had nothing better to do. It was bedlam at the airport with dozens of people who’d had reached the night before all there with the same idea. I didn’t even bother trying. Instead I got changed into drier clothes. Smack bang in the middle of the airport. No one seemed to notice it was so chaotic. I hung around to see if I could leave my pack there for the day. I got chatting to a rugged looking man from San Diego who was on vacation in Nicaragua for a few weeks. He was unsuccessful in getting a wait seat, so we decided to hang out.

We went to a restaurant & bar back by the dock and spent the day swapping stories. He was my age, lived in LA, oversaw set design & production for TVCs, and was exceptionally articulate and well-travelled. Spending time with this handsome bloke was a really lovely way of passing the time on such a miserable day. It was a shame we were heading in opposite directions. We returned to the airport, where I saw a bunch of people I had met on Little Corn including the girl Cimba had hooked up with & her friend. It was good to be able to squeeze in a bit more time with them. Smart sassy girls – the pair of them. I particularly gelled with Jess.

As soon as I got on the plane, I started tensing up. I’m not afraid of flying. It was the fake air which was bothering me. Arriving into Managua airport, I started getting even more anxious. So many people. So much noise.

The girls & I had tossed around the idea of sharing a cab to the hostel I always stay at, but in the end they decided to go their own way. There was a part of me that wanted to tag along with them because I was a bit shell-shocked, but I really needed to pick up a bag of TESOL books I’d left at the Backpackers Inn. There was some comfort in knowing Arlen would be on the front desk to welcome me and help me with my Spanish. And that Chris the Canadian, a long-term resident of the place & I would order home delivery Japanese. I also needed to do some shopping and I knew where the mall was. So I stuck to my original plan. I’m glad I did.

I had a hot shower (the first in months) & got an early night. In the morning I jumped online and saw my friends Shannon & Queso from Ometepe were online too. I had been expecting them on Little Corn the previous Wednesday night. I had no idea where they were. I started ‘chatting’ with Queso & found out they were also in Managua!

‘Let’s have dinner tonight!’ She promptly cut me off saying she was really sick & had to go. Umm, okay. I messaged Shannon saying I’d love to see them both, could we make a plan. No response. Weird.

Then they both burst in the door of my dorm & there were lots of Big excited squeals all round!!!

We were all starving, so we went to the mall and had rubbish food hall Chinese food for brekky. I know it was wrong. But it was oh so tasty. The three of us had lots of catching up to do. It was surreal having deep & meaningful in the middle of a brightly lit food hall, filled with well-heeled Nicas in a mall in Managua.

Shannon & I then spent a couple of hours cruising around & doing some shopping. Shannon makes me laugh like my best girls back home: Michelle, Andrea, Lea. You know when you laugh so hard, you think a bit of pee might come out. Shannon’s like that for me. She taught me a new acronym; LTBD (Love That Black Dick) and we had a “Tampon party!” in the supermercado when boxes of the things jumped off the shelf on top of us. Too freakin’ funny.

Queso had been sick and so had stayed in to rest. When we met up with her, she’d been through a horrible ordeal: 3 teenage boys had tried to jump her for her money. Queso’s a tough lil Aussie nugget and she wasn’t having any of it. She bit the guy who put his hand over her mouth and punched & kicked her way out of the situation. The boys ran away, laughing, but completely empty handed and most likely a little shocked. This was in broad bloody daylight. Queso said neighbours came to their security doors to see what the commotion was about but no one came out to help. Typical of big fuckin cities. Queso was of the opinion they were just kids having a go. It was a good job none of them had any weapons. She was naturally a bit rattled but jesus, she took it in her stride. Nothing a hug & a bit of a cry wouldn’t sort out.

Queso’s a hairdresser by trade, so we took her mind off things, with a much needed haircut for me. (I love it!) Later that night we cooked up a super delicious & healthy meal of loads of green vegetables (I couldn’t even tell you the last time I had asparagus). I’m not a fan of big cities in Central America but they are great for getting your greens!

Yesterday, we said our goodbyes. I am hoping to see Shannon in Colombia later in the year. Queso? Who knows when. Probably back home one day. We shared a cab to our respective bus stations. And then i was all alone again. It’s been a while.

I choose to travel by chicken buses rather than the international buses simply because of the massive price difference. I wouldn’t think twice about spending $20 on a bottle of wine but i resent paying the same for a bus ride which i know i can get for $2. It just seems like such a waste of money. The thing is, it’s always a little bit more hectic doing it yourself. I ended up catching 4 different buses and walking across the border which is at least a kilometre form checkpoint to checkpoint.

Border crossings are no fun at the best of times. They’re certainly no fun when you’re on your own. And it’s hot. And you’re sweating under a 20-something kilo pack. My Spanish is pretty shithouse, and so if things aren’t easy, they’re really difficult. I was sent to an office over an anomaly in my paperwork. There was a lot of debate in Spanish as to what took precedence: the 20 weeks I had accumulated in all C4 countries (you’re only supposed to have 90 days all up) or the 90 days I had been given just for Nicaragua. If they’d wanted to be arseholes about it, they could have given me a massive “fine”. After a lot of umming & ahhing, they decided to let me go.

After 8 hours of travel I found myself a room in Playa del Coco in Costa Rica. I washed and just laid on my bed to decompress a bit. I had found the day pretty stressful: So many times I nearly stepped out in front of cars. So many times I had to stop myself from drinking from a tap. There was such a big part of me that wanted to turn right back around & go back to my Likke Corn.



I’d been invited to Island Boy’s home for his birthday / New Year’s Eve dinner with the crew. He lives in a beautiful old house that’s been in his family for generations. It’s up on the opposite hill to the one I live on, and has very similar views of the bay – just from a different perspective.

He & I had been able to spend time in each other’s company with a lot more ease since the girl’d gone back home. We were back to bantering & laughing again. I figured now was as a good as time as any to start ‘striving for simplicity.’

We had a super tasty meal of lionfish which the boys had caught that day served with mashed potato. We made a start on one of 3 bottles of Flor de Cana we had between us, danced around a bit and then headed down to the party at Tranquilo.

The whole island must have been there, and then some. The place was absolutely jumping but for some reason I felt a little out of sync. Possibly just not drunk enough. Possibly something else. At any rate I headed straight for the bar, gave Steph & Lisa a hug and proceeded to quickly down a few rum & cokes (“coke for colour”). I wandered around just talking shit with people i knew and a few i didn’t. A lovely bloke I’d gotten to know a little over the past few days came up & started telling me how wonderful he thought i was. But i wasn’t really interested & I escaped into an empty space.

I found myself alone, again, right at midnight, staring up at the sky exploding into a hundred different colours, and feeling a bit sad. In that moment between the years, i have come to realise i would rather be on my own than with someone i didn’t really care about. So i hugged myself, made a wish, and then wandered about a bit more, looking for familiar faces to wish a happy new year to.

Cimba was getting it on with a pretty girl he’d met the day before. I was über happy for him as he’d had a bit of a rough quarter in the romance stakes, and absolutely deserved some happiness in that department. Steph & Lisa were getting slammed by the punters at the bar, so were too busy to hang out. All my other mates were shitshows in the making. And although I wasn’t a picture of sobriety by any means – I wasn’t keeping pace with them either. I caught sight of Island Boy making moves on a let’s say, rather generously proportioned girl and I felt another little wave of jealousy / insecurity wash over me. It passed quickly but I was feeling a bit lost, so i took off down the beach for a bit.

I ran into a local lad who was barely legal who’d been trying to seduce me for quite some time now. I’d been waving him off telling him i was old enough to be his mother. Heck, I was probably older than his mother. This did not deter Legal one little bit and he’d really begun ramping things up of late. So naturally he decided he should accompany me on my walk. We laid around on a grassy patch near the beach, smoking a joint and making out. He was a damn good kisser for someone of his age. And so the night ended on a bit of a high. In more ways than one.

I woke up on the 1st feeling better than average and excited about the day. We were going to be celebrating Gorgeous Jen’s birthday back up at Island Boy’s house. The sun was out, and it was shaping up to be another beautiful day. Steph & Lisa had the day off so they could join us, which i was well excited about. This would very likely be the last time all my favourite people would be in the same place at the same time.

Island Boy & I spent most of the morning in the kitchen singing sweet songs, cooking up a storm. We share a love of making meals for others and work well together in that space. The others entertained us in between smokes and drinks with their shenanigans. Cimba’s girl and her friend (who turned out to be the one Island Boy had slept with) came along. Turns out, they’re both Extremely Lovely. It was easier to be around her than the first one. The first one after you is always the hardest. Not quite apples for apples, but I found myself thinking of Roger’s ex-wife. She never forgave me for being the first one after her. Something I only really got, during an abusive phone call I received from her, shortly after the funeral.

We had a bountiful late lunch of marinaded, barbequed chicken and three different types of salad. Island Boy and Gorgeous Jen had a few crates of beer ‘barrowed up the hill and we finished off the rest of the rum. There was lots of dancing that day. And at the end of it, we all watched the sun set into the ocean. For me, it had been one of the best days on the island. What more could you want for? Friends, sunshine, music, food, dancing, banter, booze. I enjoyed myself more on the 1st day of the year, than I had the previous night.

The weather started turning over the next few days. It became windy and rainy and grey and miserable. The hoodies came out and there was a lot of talk about “the breeze”. The dive boats all got cancelled.

I had planned to leave a few days later and so begun seeking out quality time with my favourite people.

On Tuesday eve, Cimba took me to one of the nicest restaurants on the island for dinner. We shared super tasty Cuban steak – his came with chorizo! Earlier in the week, he had given me a pretty bracelet with turquoise semi-precious stones entwined into the delicate handcrafted piece. I felt very loved. I knew I was going to bawl like a baby the moment it hit me i wasn’t going to be seeing him everyday. We had become super close.

I spent lots of time with Steph & Lisa on my old porch, just doing what we do best: drinking gazillion cups of coffee, talking shit & laughing loads. I knew I was going to be seeing Steph in a matter of weeks in Colombia, so the thought of leaving her was a little easier to digest. I felt sorry that I wasn’t going to get to know Lisa a bit better.

I squeezed in some last minute girly chats with Gorgeous Jen & got some hammock time in with DDSteph & Dariel too. I visited my neighbours and kissed Yandell until he got sick of it. I bid a teary farewell to the ladies in the kitchen at the Italian. I gave Rodcliffe a big hug for all the big brekkies. Trouble followed me around for a good portion of my last days. I think she knew I was leaving. I was going to miss her sorely.

The only person who I hadn’t said goodbye to was Island Boy. He knew I was leaving. If for no other reason than the fact that we had done some 15 dives together, I think he could have had the decency to come find me & say goodbye. I know our mutual friends were as disappointed in him as I was.

On the morning I was supposed to leave, I was feeling right out of sorts. The weather got so bad – it looked as though the afternoon panga which would link me up with my flight would be cancelled. And while being stuck on a tropical island isn’t the worst thing that can happen by any stretch of the imagination – I wanted out. I had said my goodbyes to everyone who mattered. I had packed my bag. Left my apartment. And was sitting in a weird panga limbo in a practically empty bar. I was ready. Or so I thought. Cimba & Steph turned up and it suddenly dawned on me I was leaving an island & people who had worked their way into my heart.

And then i started Sobbing.

Later I rang the airline to defer my flight to the next day. Turns out I had actually booked my flight for the day before. Muppet. I thought I’d have to buy a new ticket. They were super chilled out about it. And charged me $15 for the change. As Steph pointed out: you pay $15 for a bottle of freakin water in the UK.

I got myself a room at the conveniently located Lobster Inn and took myself off to the Italian for a tasty pesto pasta, a warming bottle of red and the book I’d been struggling through for the last 7 weeks. I needed time out on my own.

When it came down to it, I couldn’t read. Busy busy mind. It was a day of real mixed emotions. I ended up getting quite pissy on that bottle of red.

I couldn’t help but feel a bit awkward. Have you ever been on a bus chatting with someone you know and then you say goodbye to them thinking they were going to get off at the next stop. But they don’t. Then you’re still standing next to them for four more stops. And there’s that awkward silence. It was a bit like that.

I was also feeling anxious about travelling again. I realised I don’t actually like the travelling bit. You can stick that ‘it’s the journey not the destination’ rubbish up your arse. I like being in places. Not on buses. I was stressing over the thought of my first chicken bus depot (man, those places are stressful even when you’re coming from a big city, let alone when you’re coming from a place that has no cars).

I was not looking forward to Managua. One little bit. But, Costa Rica. Now there’s a place I could get excited about. I’ve been dreaming about this place ever since my friend Greer worked & lived there almost a decade ago. Now everyone tells me it’s super expensive & very touristy. But also that it’s totally worth it.

New Year. New country. After nearly 3 months in Nicaragua, it felt like time for a change.

Up to Friday 6 Jan

(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.