Monday, July 28, 2014

Viva Nicaragua

-Coffee, death, coffee, death, Dave says as he taps his finger on my forehead -That's what you're always thinking about. Where am I going to get my coffee and what is going to kill me today?

He's right! Today the answers do not require too much thinking: the coffee will come from a steaming urn on the flight attendant's cart, and I will die when the tiny airplane goes crashing down over the Caribbean. Mode of Disaster is obvious on travel days. Yesterday it was the little sinking boat that took us seven miles from the little island to the big island. I'm still not sure how it managed to not flip and trap and drown us all; it was nothing short of a miracle.
There are three drink choices on the 8am La Costana flight from Big Corn to Managua: rum with seven up, rum with purple drink, or coffee. The rum is clear, and I watch as she fills the Styrofoam cup almost to the top before adding a little splash of soda and placing it on Dave's tray table.

She looks at me expectantly. And here is my dilemma.

If I drink the coffee, vastly preferable over the alcohol, I will remain awake and alert for the duration of the flight. My anxiety will increase, but so will my ability to save myself, and Dave, and maybe even a few others, when the plane starts to go down. I've read that if you're planning on surviving any sort of vessel disaster, you have to be on your guard, hyperaware, thinking one step ahead of the game. Also, wear non-synthetic pants, like jeans.

If I drink that cup of rum, on the other hand, I'll be much more relaxed and maybe even enjoy the ride. But in the event of catastrophe, the one that's always lurking on the horizon for me and everybody I love and care about, I'll be useless. And then if we do land, somehow, the way the sinking boat miraculously pulled up to the harbor at big corn island, I'll be so sickly from all that Flor De Cana, it might ruin the rest of the day.

If there is a rest of the day. There's always the cab ride into the city to consider. The state department's online warning assured me that if we take the cheap cabs, the ones across the street from the airport, I will be held at knife point, made to empty my bank account in maximum daily allotments from the ATM, and then abandoned on the side of the road, if I'm lucky.

And we always take the cheap cabs.

Today, I take all of this into consideration, and then I decide to be brave. I ask for the coffee.
When I worked on the ship, I once got leave at the same time as the first mate and the engineer. We were all seated in the exit row together on the plane from Juneau. We'd been onboard the Endeavour for six weeks and we were still completely in 'crew mode.' When the flight attendant asked if we could perform our exit row duties we took it very seriously. That meant no Ativan, alcohol, Ipod or reading materials. We napped in shifts for the entire hour and fifteen minute flight. Unbeknownst to the other passengers, I was in charge of their safety, and they were in good hands. That was the bravest I've ever been.

I take a little sip of the coffee. It's sweet, ridiculously, unbelievably sweet, as if a brick of sugar has been melted into the pot. -You're not going to drink it, are you? Asks Dave. I shake my head. He's not surprised. He calls me 'The starter' because of my propensity to take a few sips of drinks- juice, coffee, beer- and then forget about them.

He's a 'Finisher.' He won't let anything go to waste, and this morning he finishes his rum and my saccharin coffee. I call it a Nicaraguan Speed Ball. He's in a great mood when, against every odd, we land without incident.

Then we go a block away to get the cheap cab. It will save us ten dollars, the equivalent of about fifteen fresh juices. I weigh the idea of all that juice against the State Department's warning. We get in the cab. The driver is chewing on a match in a menacing way. He has a scar on his face. Dave is speaking to him in spanish which I can't understand. If their whole conversation had been about which fresh fruit would make a lovely jugo, I'd understand. But it's not. We're way past juice and we're going to be robbed and kidnapped.

I lean my face against the window and try to spot significant landmarks to that I can find my way back to the airport after we've been abandoned by the side of the Oriental Market. The state department warned me about that place, too. I see seven glowing cardboard trees and an untold number of Chavez posters.
When we arrive at the hotel, with barbed wire gates and rows of caged parrots, I jump out of the taxi and stand there, rocking on my heels, until Dave has paid the driver and they finish up their conversation. Then the driver smiles at us, says goodbye and leaves.

What luck that we survived another one of the cheap cabs! I am met with an unnatural burst of energy and enthusiasm. For Dave, he's thinking -We're at the hotel. Nice. And I'm thinking, -We made it! We beat the odds! We're alive Thanks GOD! Life is a grand adventure and for the next twelve hours we will be safe (enough) inside this hotel, let's spring for an air conditioner tonight! VIVA NICARAGUA!

My anxiety makes me a wildly imaginative and immeasurably fun traveling companion. But I think that's obvious.


Anonymous said...

YOU ARE WRITING AGAIN!!!!!! MORE! MORE! MORE!! Sorry about the caps, but I'm very excited. More about Nicaragua, please! And I'm also very interested in your new house?!

katrkatekate said...

I needed this today, both to read an entertaining piece by Melina and to know I'm not the only one needlessly worrying about death. Thanks, lady!

Kate in Bama

Lyn said...

Oh haha,,,this was great! That's my thought process always....which disaster will strike next! Its very exhausting, isn't it? Glad you made it safely!

Heather Goodell said...

Great post! And glad you could drink the juice. When I went to Peru this spring, I managed to get sick from fresh juice...too bad cause it was so tasty!

rosedel said...

So glad to hear from you! But, Nicaragua? Why?

Gretel said...

I was so happy to see you pop up in my reader with a new post! I love your writing, you have a real talent, Melina. I wish I could tell stories like you. I hope you have time to write more soon!

Christal said...

Great to hear from you again. Isn't there another part to this story? Last time I read, you were in North Carolina (my old home state).

I am also the worrying type. Especially since hubby tells us a couple of things each time we fly. First he says the best place to sit on a plane is the seats right next to the wings. (Nose crashes into ground/water. Tail rips off. Wings rip off--- but the center section the wings attach to will be what remains from some crashes. No guarantees.) He also tells us to practice ripping the seat belt open/off with one hand/eyes closed, so you can remove it easily. He repeatedly tells us people are disoriented when they crash land in water and try to swim out and end up swimming down because of the sediment/silt, when they should just float up. And finally-- NEVER take your shoes off when flying... if you crash you want your feet protected from the metal and glass.

Yes, he is a barrel of fun on flights. But he has also been dumped into water where he had to escape the sinking aircraft in both simulator helicopters and airplanes a couple of times. He's now a retired pilot with thousands of hours of flight time and beau coup search & rescue time in Western & Central Alaska including Mt. McKinley/ Alyeska. And he knows how to make snow caves and survive the winter land crashes too.

Sian said...

Oh I love your writing!!!

You always leave me wanting more! x

Jess said...

This was such a fantastic post! I am also a worrier, but have been working hard over the last few years to temper that a little bit and relax. :) Thanks for sharing!

Kristi said...

I love this post! Your travel style writing is totally relatable.

Michlle said...

I just moved to Australia. I'm also absurdly focused in coffee and death. Thanks for this - made my day!

Anonymous said...

Ha! I'm the for me is constant swinging between terror, and exhilaration that we survived. Yes, we may be a tiny boiling room with a hard bed and a broken shower and no food for 24 hours, but we made it down the mountain!!! We can do this!

Christian M said...

Yay! Would love to hear more about your adventure!!