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Gypsy: Part 1

Gypsy: Part 1

15 May.

The early morning began overcast, an expected seasonal May gray in the usual sunny San Diego. She walked the one block to hop the bus and ride to work downtown, the beginning of what would be almost two days travel. As much as she would have liked to think that her responsibilities and reliability were left at home that morning, it is fair to say that it really happened when she shut the office door after eight busy working hours. (And that was a short day, as she was on call 24/7). It would be another cab ride to the train station, only to take another three-hour train ride to get to the airport. After settling into her train seat, the anticipation and excitement of the experience finally escalated to a level that she could feel in her belly and chest.

Nicaragua beckoned.

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It had been a while. Well, she had been on a plane several times in the last year, quick jaunts throughout California and even a five day trip to Canada for work. None of those seemed to count. She hadn’t gotten LOST for awhile. Wandered. Felt a tinge of unsafety. That is what she craved. That was what she had saved up for, and saved up for is fairly loosely stated. This was the most 'well off' she was in her life, and yet it was the least she had gone away. An adventure was past due. Much more she would prefer to seek out a new experience than to buy things to clutter her already comfortable living space.

LAX, 9pm.

TSA, was, to her utter surprise, a fun bunch this time around. In adherence to her usual joke making personality, she made a reference to the movie ‘The Office,’ the scene on the freeway where you changed lanes and therefore, it then stopped. There she was, her shoes hanging from her hands, laptop in the dirty gray container and she couldn’t quite understand why people couldn’t move as quickly as she did through the security clearance madness. Like cows lining up.

Yet she ended up moving through the line quicker than she had anticipated. In the span of the terminals, her eye caught the only lively Bar & Grill near where she thought she needed to be. Seeking out a spot, she hovered close to the bar, as all seating was otherwise full. In the background, the roars sounded like a Friday night; other travelers gathering to imbibe pre-flight. She ate her chopped chicken salad, turning over the greens and vinaigrette components with an overall disinterest. Out loud (and continuously in her head), she complained that the WIFI was not working. All she wanted to do was connect. But really, all she wanted to do was to connect with people, in real life.

After managing to wrangle a barstool from departing patrons, she finally began conversing to those around her. There was the guy from Miami drinking copious Jack and Coke's to sustain a deep sleep on his red-eye flight. The Australian sipped his third $8 American beer. He had a family of three small girls and a wife awaiting his arrival home after five weeks of business travel. The basketball fans gazed at the game on the large flat screens in between sips of Mexican cerveza.

And Her.

She was on her second glass of house Pinot Grigio. It was not her usual choice to drink white wine, but red, she had decided, was too heating for a late night flight in the stuffy airplane cabins. Often she had wondered how people consumed so much alcohol before a flight, it’s obvious side effects of dehydration in an already dry environment. Once on a work trip home from San Francisco, she actually did get airport drunk. That particular Sunday morning she awoke to a ½ glass of oxygenated red wine on the nightstand beside her, and on the other side of the bed; her longtime friend Mike who had kindly shared his comfortable king size bed with her during her stay. Even after that long weekend of incessantly expensive and delicious food and cocktails, she was prepared for a late brunch in a city fashion, with booze - before her quick one hour and ten-minute flight home. It simply translated to that she got too tipsy, was searched by TSA, got upset at one of the workers (for fairly good reason most would believe) and then proceeded to buy another red wine for the plane ride home. Her head had ached at that point, but she could have cared less.

Back to the bar in LAX.

She cringed as another barstool screeched across the tiled floor. The environment was noisy and far too stimulating for the long day she’d had and what was ahead. But there was also nowhere else she would have rather been. There was no falter in the crowd, similar to the song that never ends; an ongoing chatter and energy throughout the overpriced gathering spot. Conversations emanated from all the mouths in the room. For a moment she stopped shoveling the below-average tasting salad into her mouth to again complain about the WIFI connection - simultaneously asking a man swiping his iPad if it was working for him. No luck either. Our whole lives were now based on this thing that does not work. Disconnect.

The Australian man bid her adieu to catch his flight: “Don’t think too much about home,” he said with a father like a smile as to relax her tattered nerves. “I’m doing alright, but give me two days, in two days I won’t have a care.” What she was referencing was that it was the first holiday she had taken from her professional and quite demanding job in over a year. The week before she had started, she was living in the Bahamas on a farm, teaching yoga and jumping off cliffs into the Caribbean Sea at noon on a Tuesday. Then, poof. Her inclination to fly home landed her a job she had wanted, yet was not quite prepared for. Island life to the city grind, instantaneously. This was her first opportunity in a while to live the free existence that was at the core of her being. No alarm clocks, plans, or responsibility for hundreds of thousands of dollars in decision making. Just what to eat, what to do, where to go. It was so easy, she had almost forgotten how.

Her plate, still mounded with salad, had now grown room temperature but she went on to finish it while speaking to a high school football coach about travelling in the Dominican Republic. His brother lived there and that was where he was en route too tonight. She had been their once before - trading riding camels and surfing in Morocco for the much cheaper alternative of a leaky hut and bad weather in the Dominican. Ah, the places we go. A gentleman saddled up next to her in the empty bar stool to finish his whiskey on the rocks. She wanted a whiskey. Bad. A Bourbon to be more specific. Upon realizing that she had only one hour until her flight boarded, she instead ordered another overpriced white wine.

Now mid-conversation with a young London lad named Alex who had missed his flight, he getting ‘piss’ drunk (as he profoundly put it). They must have talked for a while, as the waitress had brought out her check. “Actually, one more wine, and a water, no ice,” she said sort of defensively. Always no ice. She believed it destroyed your digestive fire, a recommendation drawn from the science of Ayurveda. The new bill arrived, $42.51 for one salad and three wines. She was a bit drunk by then. The sugar in the alcohol had already set into a headache.

Alex engaged with her again, and they exchanged words as one did in these circumstances: Where are you from? What do you do? Alex was 21, from London, studying abroad. He had missed his flight in Albuquerque and ended up in Los Angeles to catch a new flight home. His American experience was nearing its end. The two of them began talking with an older man in his 60’s who was headed to Tennessee for a 20-year Dental school reunion. He had quite nice teeth and she was glad that she finally did - $7,000 had been invested in her mouth to give her a stack of confidence when she smiled. Even now that it was going slightly crooked again, it was still cute. That moment was her mental note to get a new night retainer.

The older man was being called to board his flight. He shook both her and Alex’s hands and wished them both the safest of travels. The now non-chilled wine touched her lips for a final sip and she shook Alex’s hand goodbye, awkwardly...twice. He was a handsome young man from the UK, but she was 30 now. Whatever that meant.

Now she wandered the corridors of LAX for a WIFI signal and became frustrated. No signal. Pacing, tucking in and out of corners, back to a 4G-ish network. In her mind, she thought “this is what I pay for every month, right?” One last bathroom stop before the flight. All those years of travel, hiking and her punk rock days had mastered her at the art of the pee squat. Washing her hands, she gazed in the hazy mirror at her slightly inebriated face and tired eyes. From her backpack, she pulled out a cucumber facial towelette to wipe away the day's makeup, dirt, and disoriented self. Gone.

Next, she grabbed her vibrant pink sports bottle from a side pocket and chugged an ice cold gulp of water that smartly she had filled up at the bar. Although she knew that she needed to hydrate, its primary purpose was to chase the melatonin pills to ease her rest on the red-eye flight.

LAX to Miami.

24 hours of travel awaited her. For being a well-seasoned traveler, she still got cranky in conditions that left her without long periods of sleep, food, or with dry eyes. It equated to a grumpy yet soul-satisfied woman; she never hesitated to journey on.

The flight left 10 minutes early. By the time she had settled into her seat, carefully molded and inserted her yellow foam earplugs and lay the white satin eye mask across her face, her body craved sleep. To her surprise, the neck wrenching partial 5-hour nap to the East Coast ended fairly quickly. A message from the Pilot belted over the loudspeaker informing the passengers of the soon-to-land plane. Someone across the aisle from her had already opened the window cover and the sun was screaming light into her eyes. Tough wake up call.

Her body needed to relieve itself, so she waited in the long plane restroom line and in the meantime, asked the attendants to fill her reusable water bottle with more H2O.


Before backtracking to Central America?! You could thank the now compressed amount of flights that disembarked from California, despite her flight being cheaper than she had spent on many things. There were 3 hours of waiting before her next flight, but she loved to walk. After a few rounds through the entire Terminal D, she decided that it was time to walk the several flights of steps that amassed before her - raise the heart rate, essentially, wake up! Up and down those white marble steps her feet pounded and her backpack shook. An older man who, upon the observance of her intentions, said: “You’re just working out, aren't you?!”  “Yes, I sure am,” she replied with vigor and a fake aliveness. “Good for you, good for you,” the man exclaimed as he walked away with a slow gait and expression of admiration. By then, a satisfactory beat had built up in her chest from the ascent and descent of climbing which is the point where she had decided that it was time for breakfast.

A self-defined “special diet traveler,” makes eating that the more challenging. Back in her kitchen, a typical breakfast would be fresh spinach, garlic, organic black beans all sauteed in virgin coconut oil, more than likely topped with a proper cage-free poached egg; then sprinkled with fancy flavored sea salt she had acquired as a gift from her bosses for a job well done.

Not here.

At Miami International, the options were limited. Had I mentioned that she preferred Yerba Mate instead of coffee? There was a small part of herself that had prepared (at least for a few days) and she reached into her trusty backpack to retrieve two tea packets of the Brazilian rainforest tea. Now her only mission was to acquire a cup of hot water and a scone, perhaps?  The greasy cafeteria with stainless steel trays full of indistinguishable eggs and processed meat did not look stomachable. To accompany her tea, she again fumbled in her bag to pull out a medium-sized Red Delicious apple. Breakfast, done. Her incessant need for exercise and breakfast had made time feel like it swiftly passed. It was time to board her flight to Nicaragua and the travel exhaustion was setting in.

In the terminal, she found a seat next to a plug so as to give her mobile device a small chance to charge. Not that she would be using it much upon arrival, but it was a habit. Her mom was more than likely waiting anxiously for a text (who pretends to not freak out by using a disconcerting positive tone to her reply but inevitably always was.) Within less than ten minutes she had shut off her phone to prepare to board. With tired yet still residual anticipation for her arrival to a new country, she hopped up to wait in line for her group and began conversing with a Nicaraguan native named Herald, from Esteli. He had been staying in the States for five months and was about to return home. Herald spoke brilliant English and had a natural ease and friendliness to him. They exchanged information and he invited her to visit Esteli for dancing and exploring should she find herself his way.

Upon boarding the plane she realized all the seats surrounding her (but one, and that is next) were filled by a large group of young missionary workers. It drove her mad to listen to the high school drama talks and raging hormones. As a result, she popped in her earplugs to assist her need to cop a nap. This was the last leg of flying, only two hours and ten minutes remained.

In her row sat a man who appeared to travel to Nica often, or who possibly lived there. Weathered from the sun and salty blended hair had her guess that he was in his late fifties. On his head, he wore a faded baseball cap with a surf company logo on it. It became clear he was an expat who moved to the simpler life...she knew his kind. (She’d done it once too)

They talked during the last hour of the flight and she gathered some much-needed information about what to expect from Nica. It was classic of her to not prepare for her trips - she generally spent more time searching the best cost flights than the country at hand. Years back in an attempt to fly out of Costa Rica, she was cashless and in need to pay a departure tax that she had had no idea existed. At least this time she was aware that her Visa entry fee was $10 and her departure tax was $42, but luckily that was included in her flight price. No shots or vaccinations required.

Arrival to Managua, Nicaragua.

The bustle of customs and loudspeaker Spanish that she could barely understand, combined with the lack of sleep and the new wave of tropic heat made her feel disoriented. She eventually found her way to the van that she had hired for the 3.25-hour drive to Jiquilillo - a black sand beach situated on the northern Pacific side of the country. She felt afraid, alone, hot, hungry and had no idea what was in store for the 10 days ahead.

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