El Transito, Nicaragua
Twelve years ago I woke up on a deserted beach in Sicily with a drenched bathing suit unable to open my left eye. I'd been attacked by mosquitoes before I was abruptly awoken from a very uncomfortable slumber by two of the biggest, most ravenous dogs I'd ever seen. At about 4:00 am they decided to stroll just a few yards away from me before planting themselves in the sand watching my every move. I climbed a ledge and spent a few awkward hours trying to fall asleep on an elevated slab of concrete before the dogs grew bored and went to terrorize someone else.
It sounds like the makings of another, Hangover film but my eventful night was less about an evening of debauchery and more a failure to take a peek at a bus schedule. By the time I'd reached the beach after an endless train ride from Florence, I didn't pay much mind to how I was going to get back to Siracusa.
But the following morning I walked nearly 7 miles and watched through one eye as a glorious sun slowly rose on a southern Italian sky. I then stumbled upon ancient theaters, catacombs, and various ruins dating back to the Peloponnesian Wars. That evening I had the best risotto I'd ever had as a nearby band played traditional Italian music. I gazed blissfully upon a cathedral nearly three times older than the United States. An inauspicious night had given way to one of the best days of my young life.
Two nights ago I was reminded of that night when I woke up drenched as I swung from a hammock in El Transito. Throughout the course of the night I was awoken by chickens, roosters, and what I made out to be firecrackers. To top it all off, when I got ready the following morning one of the sheets I'd slept in was mysteriously missing. "Maybe one of the chickens took it," Uncle Ray joked.
After a quick breakfast I hopped in the car with Raymundo and his wife headed for Managua to catch a bus for San Juan del Sur -- a popular beach town on the southwest coast of Nicaragua. With the few hours before my bus's departure we decided to head to a nearby park -- a cross between Oakland's Fairyland and somewhere you might go miniature golfing.
As we pulled up to the entrance I offered to pay for parking. "Please, let me exercise my right as a senior citizen," he contested. He showed the parking attendance his I.D. card and sped ahead without spending a dime. "It pays to be old," he beamed.
The three of us took a seat overlooking the Managua Lake. "Years ago, some genius politician decided to put our raw sewage into that lake. Now German engineers are helping us clean it up," he told me.
A few minutes later Raymundo glanced at his watch. "Time to go," he told me. We hopped in the car headed back to the bus station just as it started pouring. I hastily ran to catch my bus hugging Raymundo and thanking him for his hospitality. I wondered if and when I'd ever see him again. As I grabbed my seat I looked out the window to see make sure he and his wife had gotten out of the frenzied terminal safely.
Both he and the rain were suddenly gone.