Corn Island. It’s “Alright.”

I went to here.

When I pass by anyone in my town, I give them an elongated sing-songy “adioooooooooooooos.” Conversely, in the States, when I pass by someone, if I even acknowledge them, I give them a curt “hi” or “hello” under my breath.  Sometimes it entertains me that the kids in my town say “gooodbyeee” to me as I pass by, because while it’s a direct translation from “adioooooos,” it’s not the correct greeting in English.  Though, nowadays I have been known to throw a “goodbye” at passing American tourists in Nicaragua, or while passing by people in the States during a visit.  I must sound so completely alien to them.

So when I arrived at Big Corn and Little Corn Islands, the two small Caribbean islands off the coast of Nicaragua, I was suddenly paralyzed when I passed by my first person.  I just didn’t know what to say. “Adios” didn’t seem right; people speak Creole English. “Goodbye” sounded forced and awkward.  I finally asked a fellow PCV who lives on the Atlantic Coast what the proper greeting is.  “Alright,” he told me.  “Alright,” I responded.

At first, I was shy and would try saying “alright” to people we passed, but it only came out as a choked whisper. Yet as the days went by, I felt more and more confident saying “alright” to the island passerby. “Alright” is such a fitting greeting.  Life is laid back on the island.  There are no cars. No roads. There are real Rasta men. There’s nowhere to go and  nothing to do but hang with friends and families and go to the beach. In such a small, beautiful place, you may as well just roll with the punches and be “alright.”

In any event, the four days I spent on Little Corn passed by quickly.  It’s an undeveloped Caribbean island paradise, yet it has an odd juxtaposition of having several expat-owned and -run businesses.  For instance, I stayed at the Casa Iguana, which was lovely, but it struck me how few Nicas work there, especially since everyone speaks English on the island.  The whole hotel staff, aside from maintenance and cooking staff, were young 20-something North Americans.  It’s the same set-up in most hotels and restaurants on the island.  I’ve never seen that before in Nicaragua–even in the more touristy destinations such as Granada and San Juan del Sur, Nicas are always employed in the hospitality business, engaging with both foreign and national guests alike.

Anyways, while vacation posts are generally boring and tend to make non-vacationers upset at having not been able to go on vacation, I’ll try to keep it short and sweet with only the most amusing stories from my trip. For more pictures, check out my facebook album:

1. The Panga Ride

Once you fly into Big Corn island, you need to take a small boat, or a panga, across the sea to get to Little Corn island. It’s a 45 minute adventure. I had heard about the panga trip before I traveled to Corn Island from the many PCVs that have gone before me, but no one had warned me quite how intense it would be. Here’s the panga.  Looks painless, right?

And look at that beautiful, seemingly still Caribbean Sea.  How bad can the panga ride be?

Mistake #1: wearing jeans.  After getting soaked on the panga ride, they never dried again during my whole 4 days on the island. On the trip back, I literally just wore a bathing suit, my raincoat, and quick dry athletic shorts.  I recommend this.

Mistake #2: thinking my raincoat would protect my valuables. DO NOT BRING CELL PHONES, CAMERAS, OR EVEN CASH ON THE BOAT.  Just assume everything will get wet, unless you put it with your backpack and things in plastic under the deck.

When we finally pulled out from the dock, we were all excited, as we were a boat-full of tourists  that had just flown across country to go to the most beautiful vacation spot in Nicaragua.  Almost immediately we all collectively “woooooo!”ed  and “woooooahh!”ed as we started going over the waves.  I was laughing hysterically as we got pounded by water over and over.  It was like a water park, with gratuitous crystal-clear waves splashing you in the face.  At some points we even put both arms in the air.  I kept thinking, “what an adventure!” and “I love the Peace Corps!”  Nishant and I made eye contact at one point and threw our heads back in laughter.

About 5 minutes in we all collectively pulled a sheet of plastic over our heads to protect us from the waves.

And after about 10 minutes, we were all collectively silent, trying to make it through the rest of the ride without vomiting. I sat huddled next to a fellow PCV’s mom, cradling my purse full of valuables under my raincoat, while at the same time cursing the relentless waves that dumped gallons of water through the top of my raincoat, rendering it useless.

When we finally arrived 45 minutes later, we were disoriented and above all soaked. Check it check it:  (Note the one dry spot on my purse. So lucky–it saved my valuables!)

Some of us celebrated our arrival more than others:

2. Getting Lost on a (seemingly) Deserted Island

What started off as an innocent “I want to see the rest of the island!” turned out to be a 3-hr sometimes-by-land-and-sometimes-by-sea adventure. All went awry when we left the path.  While it was beautiful (we saw lush green meadows, cliffs over the sea, private beaches, and puppies), when we finally arrived back to civilization (read: beach and bungalow’s bar), we were covered in sand and mud, had scratches all up and down our legs, and were sunburned and thirsty.  It felt like we had been on a deserted island and had just been rescued by the makers of the best bloody marys I had ever had. Not a terrible scenario.

3. Dennis the Menace, who is actually a Run Down God.

Umm….so this is Dennis:

Sam and his counterpart Luis went to Little Corn the day before the rest of us.  While we were still in Managua, Sam calls us to tell us that this guy Dennis wants to make us some run down (a coconut seafood stew native to the region).  He just needs 200 cords from each of us.  Having heard about this sort of thing being done before, we assumed Dennis was with the hotel and was alright. We told Sam sure; we’d love some run down.

Dennis met us at the dock and knew some of our names.  He stood next to the woman that works for Casa Iguana, the hotel we stayed at. He asked us for the 200 cords right there on the dock (remember, we were disoriented at this point), and we each gave him the money. We were going to meet him later that night for some run down, but he never showed up.

When we asked the people at the hotel if they knew Dennis, their faces all scrunched up and they, “Oh, Dennis the Menace, you mean? Yeah, he’s not allowed on our property anymore.”  Apparently he’s all charismatic, promises food, and then learns where you’re staying on the island and robs your room.  Crap, we thought.

But lo and behold, Dennis the Menace came through.  He had gotten stuck on Big Corn the night before due to choppy waters, and we met up later that night for run down (with our guard up, of course). He saw we were a little uneasy and explained what happened (he had made some mistakes, and it’s a small island so people talk, but he just wants to make us a meal, nothing more…etc.)

And he did.  We went to the Reggae Bar, where they had a fire pit set up in the back.  A bunch of his family members and friends came by, and he made a big pot of run down, showing us step-by-step how it’s done.  There was even an impromptu reggae performance by his friend Dariel.  It was a fun evening and no one was robbed.  Here’s the run down right after he threw the fish in:

4. Culinary Adventures, or, What the Hell was Anthony Bourdain Thinking When He Went to that Burger Stand in a Parking Lot in Managua?

He should have went to Corn Island.

Caught eating cookies the size of our faces:

We ate lobster every day.  This particular lobster is from the Cuban place. Go to there.

Curry fish. And tajadas cooked in coconut oil. Oh my goodness.  This one’s from Miss Brigit’s Place.  We ate there twice and I bought three bottles of coconut oil from her.  If you go to Corn Island, I recommend you go there.  You can get her run down (if you ask in advance), lobster (seriously good), or anything other type of seafood, like this fish:

Things tasted so good there I even tried to lick the sunset:

5. Saying Goodbye to my Gigantic Sitemate Sam

Our Corn Island trip was a mix between a despedida (going away party) and a birthday celebration (Nishant’s 24 now).

Sam had already left site the week before the trip, but I knew I didn’t really need to say goodbye because I’d see him on the island.  Well, Sam had to leave the day before we did, so I had to say goodbye to him when he got on the boat to go back to the airport on Big Corn.

It was sad.

Here we are before he got on the boat:

And then he got on the boat. He doesn’t know but I may have been tearing up a bit.

Sam, thank you for being such an awesome sitemate. I miss you already.

6. The Puddle Jumper

Eventually we had to leave the island. The airport waiting room was crowded.  I was relieved, because this meant that we’d most likely get to be on the bigger plane like the one that brought us over.  The bigger plane landed.  I let out a sigh of relief.

They called everyone’s numbers except for our groups’ numbers and one other small group.

I tried to go past the security guard to get on the plane.

He said, this wasn’t our plane.

Oh god, I thought.

And then this thing landed:

For those of you that know me, I don’t love planes to begin with.  So this tiny thing scared the crap out of me.  At least I got to sit behind the pilot:

Most of the ride was pretty smooth, so I was calm.  The best part was we got to see the sunset from the plane:

And so concludes our trip to Little Corn Island.  To anyone looking for a Caribbean vacation spot that’s off the beaten path, go. Do it. You won’t regret it.

Alright? Alright.

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2 Responses to Corn Island. It’s “Alright.”

  1. Jane says:

    Nice Lauren….great blog entry. It sounds out of my comfort zone, but I get the beauty of it all.

  2. Hanna says:

    i became very nervous to read the rest of your entry when i read that you met dennis and gave him 200 cords. i heard not the greatest things about him when i went, and i am glad that all turned out well

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