Welcome To Nicaragua

“Where are you staying, sir?”

“León”

“Do you have the address?”

“No, not really. My friends are coming on a later flight”

“Well, I can’t let you in the country without an address. You’re gonna have to wait for them.”

Not exactly the warm welcome I expected.

Ramón, my immigrations officer, takes my passport to consult with his superior.

My only two planned days in this trip involve a wedding in a city called León. It’s about two hours northwest of Managua. Population 32,000. Average temperature 34 C.

My friend Emma is getting married to Carlos, an amazing Nicaraguan who fought in the revolution. I’m most fond of him because he lived in Russia, which means he had a Russian bath in his house. Admirable.

“Do you have a phone number, sir?”

“Unfortunately not. My host is coming from Chicago on a flight from El Salvador. She arrives in 2 hours.”

“You’re gonna have to wait.”

I surrender.

“Can I have my passport back?”

“No”

“I’d prefer to have it with me. I’ve had it stolen before.”

I’VE HAD IT STOLEN BEFORE. Great, Luis. You’re never getting that shit back. You just signed up for the Central American sequel of The Terminal. Hope the ketchup is good here.

“I’ll be right back.”

He goes behind the mirrored glass again.

My friends are heavily involved with the social cooperatives movement ­ Emma used to work for an NGO in León and that’s where she met her husband-to-be.

They’re getting married at this beautiful beach. I just don’t have the address to it. Maybe I’ll get away with something made up like:

315 Playa – Leon, Nicaragua 23321

I decide to keep that as my last resort. I have another brilliant idea. “do you have Internet somewhere? I can look up the address online” He goes back to his superior, of course.

This person must have all the answers, I think. Behind that mirrored glass there’s a pair of eyes that see it all ­ that KNOW it all.
They’re covered by mirrored sunglasses. No one can ever know where they look.

Ramón comes back. The eyes belong to a woman.

Enter Ramona. She wouldn’t give me her name, but I envision a world where every person hired to share a workspace is called the same. It facilitates communications. Paychecks can be reused. Must save the trees.

Ramona looks at me by not looking at me but instead glazing over the sides of my eyes ­ a tactic I know well from public officials in Venezuela.

“DO NOT ESTABLISH EYE CONTACT. NEVER CONNECT. Connection makes you vulnerable. You ARE the superior.”

Ramona is fierce and well prepared, but I charm her. I mostly fail, but I try at least. She insists that I wait until my host arrives. After a rather long discussion, she reluctantly agrees to let me use her smartphone so I can look up the NGO’s address.

Success. I’ll show Ramona who’s the superior here. You just wait. I’m gonna kill this.

The site is down. No address. No nothing. The page loads like a Picasso. I click everywhere. Nothing happens.

Ramona not-­looks at me. Ramón looks at me. I look at me. I’ve failed.

“Get the gentleman a chair. The passport stays here.”

my seat while I waited

my seat while I waited

I sit down. Empty baggage carts stack around me.

I write this post. My passport stays here.

I write this post. My passport stays here.

Welcome to Nicaragua.

No Bags, Only Fear

Dec 28th, 2014.

I’m taking a plane to Nicaragua today.

This is not a vacation. I mean, I’ll chill, but that’s beside the point and a bit unavoidable when you’re in close beach proximity. This is a two-month experiment in fear.

The last time I entered the US – passport says it was Jan 11th, 2013 – I came back to finish school and figure out what my next move was. Two months and many coffees after my graduation I moved to New York.

I went there because the city scared me. There were also the parks, the music, not having a car, $1 pizza slices, all of that – but there was mostly fear. I was terrified and I had no idea why, so I went there to find out.

In the following months it became apparent to me that failure was the thing I dreaded the most. I’d love to say this miraculous realization came in a quiet moment of Buddha-like enlightenment, but it was the natural consequence of a stream of events that will go straight into the bloopers of my life.

In little over a year I had to quit a job, got fired from two other, lost major projects, had award-winning dating disasters, lost money in the most stupid ways –the list goes long.

It was a great success at failure, and also a great opportunity: fear had been granted a permanent resident status in my head so I got a chance to study it. The geek in me set out to learn it, and learn it well.

We started hanging out, spending more and more time together, until we eventually became good friends. I mean, we were basically living together and you’ve probably heard how hard it is to find a place in NY, so we had to make it work.

My friend Juan has many world-class qualities that make him one of the best persons to have around. He provides never-ending support and company for any plan regardless if its absurdity, sense of humor beyond belief and a photographic memory that challenges most hard drives in the market today. Unfortunately, he also comes with flawless aim to nail inappropriate comments in equally inappropriate settings, along with an outstanding ability to disclose most kinds of sensitive information that are entrusted to him.

Among the many times I’ve experienced this first hand, there’s that party in high school where he made the most tasteless joke to my then girlfriend about her having sex with me for the first time, just minutes before I discovered that she didn’t have a very developed sense of tolerance, or humor, or forgiveness. (Juan also provided unending support and advice after the breakup that followed a few months after).

After my NY initiation, I’ve discovered that fear is a bit like Juan. It’ll make you go through extremely uncomfortable situations, but in the end you’re grateful for those because they make you realize things you probably should know about and had no clue were there.

I can’t change Juan even if I tried, but it’s not like I’ve ever wanted to. I’m just happy to have him around.

I’ve followed the fear most of my life, but it always seemed to be the enemy. The thing to conquer. The block. The stutter. The “if only” that would never go away. Turns out, the dude is a pretty good friend if you let him in.

I’m not gonna pretend I’ve mastered this – I still resent him from time to time. I still avoid some of his calls, or tell him that I didn’t get his text even though it’s 2014 and we all know that shit never happens. But I’m failing better.

I’m writing this on a plane to Miami, to have some croquetas while I wait for my flight to Nicaragua. I’m going into a two-month exploration to deepen my understanding of mobile work, living with the least amount of things possible and facing uncertainly in a level that is way beyond my grasp.

In preparing for this, I sold most of the things I owned and gave away most of the rest. I have a carry-on with less than 20 items and plans for only 2 days. And I love it. I know it because my newfound friend is waiting for me at the airport to show me all the things I don’t know yet, and I’m really excited to see him.