First trip to Nicaragua

Due to unreasonably heavy traffic in Los Angeles (before the sun came up!) and a slow, cautious driver (my mother), we arrived at the airport after the designated check-in cutoff. I blame the government for subsidizing the car culture and for erecting a “security” barrier. So, upon arrival to the byzantine LAX, we immediately had to queue into a short line of 7 people that took an hour of wait before we could re-book another flight at exorbitant price. Of course, the new schedule meant that we would have an overnight layover at Miami. I found the new schedule especially frustrating, because our previous flight from Miami to Nicaragua left only 20 minutes after our new flight landed. But 20 minutes is not enough time to pick up a checked bag from the carousel, which lies outside the “security” barrier, and re-enter the airport. As we exited our plane, I chatted on the phone with another member of the party, as they boarded the originally scheduled flight to Nicaragua. We were both in the airport, only a couple terminals distant, and yet government made us impossibly far apart! For its security barrier cost more than the 7 minutes it would have taken to walk between terminals, incurring an overnight layover in Miami.

Fortunately our compatriot travelers were kind enough to stay in a hotel in Managua and wait for us to arrive around lunchtime the next day. My broken schedule notwithstanding, the others were also tired of dealing with the hassle of airport travel, and simply didn’t wish to follow that up with a long drive through the countryside at night. Not to mention that the furniture at our final destination, the Cacao Farm and Eco-Resort, had not yet been fully assembled.

When we arrived in Managua, a guy with our names on a card met us after disembarking the plane, he took our bags to be screened while we waited in nice chairs and had sandwiches and water with our fellow travelers that arrived the day before. Compared to the horror of customs screening when entering the USSA (as a citizen no less!) makes my home country feel uncivilized, paranoid, and backwards. In Managua, I felt like a guest rather than national chattel.

The car trip to the Cacao Farm and Eco-Resort had many rural sights: cows, chickens, pigs (all pretty scrawny by hormone-pumped USSA standards). Folks by the roadside holding up carcasses for sale to the cars passing by. The road had light, and highly diverse traffic, including buses, motorbikes, bicycles, rickshaws, and pedestrians. The green countryside featured rolling hills, blue skies, a large lake. Combined with the temperature in the 80s and high humidity, I felt a glowing, restful, and scenic warmth. Again, in stark contrast to bland concrete, oppressive traffic, noisy bustling of cities the USSA. In Nicaragua, road travel does not induce any feelings of rage.

After about 2.5hrs of driving along the countryside and dodging some obstacles (road rules are widely ignored and not strictly enforced) we arrived at the Farm. A crew of hardworking, and sweaty, lads were busy laying the brick walls of the new shower and toilet facilities. I later found out that our Farm’s construction work had saved the organizer and members in his team from toiling in a minerals mine, and they were quite happy to have the more pleasant labor of erecting small buildings in the open air of the jungle. I noticed that their daily labor acts as a continuous gym exercise, unlike the pale, flabby bodies of desk workers in the First (worst?) World.

That evening a shipment of 500 Cacao plants arrived and we assisted in their unloading through the heavy smell of fertilizer. We failed the race with diminishing natural light, but re-discovered the efficiency of bucket brigade in loading and unloading of crates and wheel barrows. Not having a kitchen of our own, we then re-convened at the neighbors for a meal of rice, beans, tortillas, and salad after a short break once we finished the labor. The bug population loves incandescent lighting and I found a black scorpion in the outhouse.

Throughout the trip weather was quite warm, but not overly hot (unless you happened to be exercising) with high humidity. I found the conditions during the day to be quite enjoyable because the moisture kept the dust down, alleviating my allergies. At night, however, it was a bit too cool for my tastes, and required a light blanket, which felt a little damp.

We took a sweaty excursion around the property in the company of a plantation expert, who pointed out what good soil we had, areas of drainage vs pooling water, the need for shady areas so that young Cacao plants have a chance to develop, etc. The resort has a nice, smallish mountain which possesses a fantastic view and would make an excellent place for a coffee shop or vacation house. There is also a stream burbling through which is already dammed in one place, with plans to provide for water storage that can be used later during the dry season.

The Farm also has a rooster, which crowed all night, and a cow that shat all over the front porch, creating a big mess. Animals do not make very good neighbors and so they shall be taken out to pasture and prevented from entering the resort with a barbed wire fence. The land for the resort contained too much wild brush for me to judge a good place for my plot of land. I decided that I’d feel much more drawing lines when given an overhead picture (akin to plane or satellite). Much to my reassurance, others felt that purchasing a quadcopter to obtain photos of the property would assist both sales and surveying. The resort does not yet have internet access, though Claro provides 2g along the main road. I’ve recently been researching the equipment necessary to provide wifi routing in the main plaza. I think a functional (though low-capacity) ~$300 router could be installed with a day’s labor, and $30 recurring service expense spread across 3 semi-permanent residents and 8 irregular visitors.

The travel back destroyed, the serenity I felt during the visit. Security entering the USSA was a huge hassle, and blatantly ineffective. For example, my mother had with her both a carry-on and a purse. The carry-on contained an unopened, still sealed, bottle of water. You know, the kind that they sell after passing through the hassle point. The bottle was so dangerous it threatened the entire country, and our security official literally tossed it a few feet into a regular trash can. When waiting at the terminal, my mother then found an opened, half-drunk bottle of water in her purse, that passed through the same checkpoint undiscovered! Queuing through the system of lines stressed my need for efficiency, the paperwork felt stupid and pointless, the questions hectored my patience, and the unwarranted invasions made me feel victimized. As a traveler, and chattel of the USSA, I don’t feel any safer for the pretense of security. I feel robbed and extorted, my right to free movement violated.