Coming to Nicaragua

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So, almost 10 years ago, me and the girlfriend of the moment were sitting around one day grumbling about about the Rat Race and were pretty much over it. It all seemed like such a farce and we truly felt, like I explain to Nicaraguan friends that ask about the US government vs their own government, that: in the US we get screwed with just a little more finesse. We were true ex-pats (not extended vacationers) still living in enemy territory. We picked up the latest issue of The Caretakers Gazette (Google it) and kept coming back to this ad calling for a couple to come work at a tropical island off the coast of Nicaragua as a chef and handyman. (She was a helluva cook.) Knowing next to nothing about Nicaragua at the time (Isn't there a war going on down there?) we fired off an email expounding our various qualifications. We immediately received a reply saying that we sounded perfect. (A flag should have went up, but didn't.) The original owners of Casa Iguana on Little Corn informed us that they would be in Florida in a couple of weeks and we should all to get together for an interview of sorts. We did meet up in Tallahassee and we found out more about the situation and they continued to be thrilled with us. This would be the beginning of what would become a delayed response epiphany to the effect of: "People will lie to you to get you to come and work in paradise." (Probably could cut that down to: "People will lie to you.") Anyway we were briefed on the situation: hours, responsibilities, days off, the room and board and pittance of salary. We decided to do it.

Man! It takes awhile to be disentangled from all the materialism that you had once told yourself you would never be weighed down with: cars, stuff, pets, stuff, goodbyes, stuff. It was a lot more than grabbing a swimsuit and a shaving kit and heading for the airport.

By the time we were ready to head for the airport we looked at our itinerary, and still very much in the American state of mind, sort of squeamishly asked our employers if they would mind if we overnight-ed in MGA on the way down instead of making the whole run from TPA-MIA-MGA-Big Corn in one day. Seems funny now that we were so intent on making a good first impression and thinking that an additional nights delay would make a difference. Especially with the chaos we were to encounter and the vast differences in the situation than was described in Tallahassee.

We knew we were headed to the "Frontier" and we were ok with that. The positions turned out to be "anything at any time." With little exaggeration, on a typical day I could be tasked to leave in the panga at 5am to catch barracuda for the restaurant, return to clean fish, be a handyman and manager during the daylight hours, clean up to serve cocktails at dusk and be busing tables at 8 pm and be told at 9 pm, without regard that you had worked the last 8 days straight on a similar schedule, that your day off tomorrow was canceled. (rat race, rat race) Tips, an important part of the service industry, especially when you are making a pittance, were "rerouted" away from us. Another couple, 10 years our junior (they early 20s, us early 30s) were made our masters and received the stolen tips. Lots of little crap started to add up. You realize you have a lot invested into the lie you bought into.

Casa Iguana was able to offer select guests what was probably the most expensive fish dinner available in the Corn Islands. How to do this is get said guest to sign up for a fishing trip. Have guest pay for the fishing trip and then confiscate fish at the end of the trip. Then you sell them, at a premium price, a fresh fish dinner featuring the fish they caught this morning on their paid charter, unbeknownst or possible beknownst to them. But no arguments that was the system and we were ordered to uphold it and deflect any questions that may arise.

Shit began to happen. We knew it would be the frontier, but even on, or especially on, the frontier thoughts of self preservation arise. And it wasn't that stuff was happening "over there." At that time Little Corn was not afforded the luxury of a police presence, only occasional visits. It was during this time that the Narcos killed the cops in the police station in Bluefields. Closer to us, many mornings brought reports of a guy name Horse on Little Corn who would get drunk and chop on people with his machete. Then in broad daylight a couple staying with us was robbed at machete point on the beach. The beginning of the end for us was when a fellow employee was jumped by 3 guys from Puerta Cabezas, again in broad daylight, with the intent of raping her. She was a big girl, probably every bit of 6'3" and 250 lbs and it was her size and fighting back that probably saved her. My hat is off to the Coconut Telegraph which spread word rapidly and locals and guns quickly appeared and these 3 were apprehended, duct taped and shipped off to the big island. The response in the following days was troublesome. The girl wanted to shrug it off and continue in her post. The employers pressured her to leave as they found her presence to be a downer and feared it would affect business negatively. It appeared to be an abhorrent "blaming of the victim" and bothered me greatly. That and had it been my girlfriend, who at about 5'6" and 99 lbs, who was attacked she would probably be dead. While she came to the frontier on her own accord, the idea of "not on my watch" dominated my thoughts. Together we arrived at the decision that there was nothing worth dying for in the Corn Islands. I understand current security on the Corns to be improved, remind readers this story is from 8 years ago and isn't meant to dissuade anyone from going there now.

to be cont'd...

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  1. ejb3's Avatar
    Updated 02-26-2014 at 08:17 PM by ejb3 (moved)
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