I think the thing that most surprised me though, was when she told me that the entire population of Nicaragua totalled only 6 million people. I grew up in New York City which has a population of 8 million. It's just now hitting me that this might have been a little rude (damnit N.Y.) but I think I blurted out a "WHAT?!" as we pulled out of the cloud cover and descended down to the airport. I think that's when it dawned on me just what I was getting into. New York City, which takes about an hour and a half to get from one end to the other via auto, is home to 2 million more people than a country 165 times its size.
At that moment the airport pulled into view. It looked more like a ball field than an airport. I was landing in Managua, the capitol city of Nicaragua, but I couldn't really see any buildings - or any sign that it was a city for that matter. The only really noticeable thing was a Russian military helicopter to the side of the runway.
" Is that it?" I asked my guide.
The transition through the airport was pretty standard. I changed some dollars for Cordobas, paid a small fee to get my passport stamped, handed some dude a bunch of coins (no idea how much it was worth) in exchange for my board bag, told customs that my three cameras and water housing were indeed for hobby use, and walked out into the hot Nicaraguan air fucking stoked.
It was at that point that I realized that the only instruction I was given once I arrived in Nicaragua was to wait for a guy named Danny (Dani?) with a Hyundai. Ok. 5 minutes passed. Ten. Fifteen. There I was, my first time in a third world country with two and a half thousand dollars worth of camera equipment, three surfboards, a duffel bag, and a backpack, all while wearing boardshorts, flip flops, and a backwards RVCA cap waiting for a guy named "Danny." I suddenly became acutely aware of all of those details. I also had no idea what Danny even looked like.
After a few sweaty minutes, luckily, a Nica dude strolled up to me, announced that he was from Giant's Foot and just like that all was well. Turns out the car wasn't a Hyundai but some offbrand Russian model from the 90's but it was all good. I said fuck it, threw my bags in the car, strapped the boards to the roof and with a sense of relief I cannot possibly convey through the internet, took off on a two and a half hour journey into the middle of the jungle to where I'd be spending the next three months of my life.
To be honest there wasn't much to say about Managua. We got out of there as soon as possible. About the rest of the trip I can't say much either. I remember driving entirely on a two lane road passing countless banana trees, a couple of volcanoes, and a lot of tin shacks with no running water or paved floors yet satellite dishes on the roof. The last thirty minutes were on a purely dirt road. I remember the car stalling out multiple times. Luckily I could speak Spanish since Danny didn't know any English and the drive went by quickly. Apparently he had been working with Conrad and Bryce (my two bosses) for a while now, and things were going well. That was a good sign.
When I finally arrived at the camp it was empty. The camp is basically set up as a large house with multiple rooms for guests, a large living room, and a large kitchen. After unloading my bags, I walked through the house, stepped right out of the kitchen on to the sand, and stared straight out into the ocean. From the inside of the house to the high tide line was about 50 feet. I couldn't believe it. You could lay in the hammocks out front and hear the sound of the waves crashing on shore. It was/is unreal.
Eventually Conrad came and welcomed me to the camp. I met Paul the social media guy, and the rest of the local Nica staff. I unpacked my things and am currently sleeping in one of the extra guest rooms, although I hear I'll be moving to an undisclosed location called "the Loma" at some point in the future.
The bathroom has no door, all the roads are dirt, and there are pigs, cows, chickens and dogs running rampant through the streets but it's all good.
I made it. I'm alive, and I made it.