Thursday, January 18, 2007
I spent my first holiday away from the family and the U.S. this year. It was hard watching so many volunteers take off for the states, but with just 6 months in site I wasn’t ready to travel back to the states yet. Instead I planned a trip with a bilingual school teacher in the nearby town of Gracias, Jordan from the state of Washington. We planned to meet in Nicaragua and go south to Panama. I set off, shedding my identity as a Peace Corps Volunteer and assuming that of a backpacker. It’s a bit different being a backpacker, just passing through hopping from one tourist destination to another. It’s a fun bubble to be in but one doesn’t really learn about the culture or the country, as a PCV I have that inside edge… and I speak the language. But the trip got off to a rough start as I realized right before venturing to the Nicaragua-Honduras border that I had brought the wrong passport. Peace Corps issues Volunteers special passports, I had brought my personal which doesn’t have that crucial entry stamp. I tried my luck pleading with border authorities, throwing my weight as a PCV. After an episode you’d see in a movie involving the border boss “El Chino”, $71, and Coca-Colas for all the border workers, I was allowed to pass.
I headed down to Leon where I met up with Jordan. We kicked off our first night of the trip with mojito inspired dancing through the streets. The next morning, Christmas Eve, we headed down the coast of Nicaragua, to San Juan del Sur – a popular tourist beach spot and it was of course flooded with backpackers. But it was nice to be at the beach and we happened upon a cool little jewelry store and Jordan apparently shares my obsession for such things. We had our goods wrapped and Christmas morning in our hostel, over Nutella and crackers we gift exchanged!
The day after Christmas we started down for our ultimate destination – Bocas del Toro, an island on the north Caribbean side of Panama. This included a night in San Jose enhanced by Pizza Hut goodness. San Jose is the capital city of Costa Rica I swear you’d think you were in the US. 12 hours later we arrived in Bocas. I had no idea what to expect, I had never heard of it and I thought it would be more beachy, less touristy but it was the opposite. It was totally packed with beautiful people who all had come to celebrate New Years and we barely found a place to stay but at last landed at a small, less flashy, but way chill little hostel. The following 5 days included a little rum, meringue, fully clothed swims at midnight (naturally, since all of the bars are on the water), acrobatics and Jordan’s near death experiences (see previous), snorkeling, exotic specie spotting, and, alas, way too much money withdrawn from the ATM. The day after New Years I had to face the harsh reality of returning to Honduras, which required a 3 day bus trip. It was especially difficult meeting so many travelers heading next to South America – sometimes I just feel that continent is magnetically pulling at me, but right now I have some commitments. If anything this “need” to go to South America is inspiration to get done what I need to do here and get out! But I will say Bocas del Toro was one of the funnest trips I’ve had, most likely due to such good company, thanks Jordan! In the end, spending the holidays in Central America was not such a bad move.