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