Sunday, March 11, 2007

We do it for the stories

First of all: Happy birthday, Frida!! Its today, isn't it??

Rob and I decided we needed to go get some money yesterday, so that we can settle our bill at the Hacienda. There have never been any banks on the island (most people wouldn’t use them anyway, since they barely have enough at a time for bus fare or to buy one cigarette), so we needed to go to the ATM in Rivas—the nearest town on the mainland. We left on the 8:30am bus to Moyogalpa, and from there took the 11:30am ferry over to the mainland. As we boarded the ferry, I realized I had not brought any Dramamine with me (a last minute parting gift from my mother-in-law, which has proven to be indispensable). I thought I would probably be okay. The worst of the windy season had passed, and I convinced myself that the lake looked fairly calm. Plus, the vast majority of times I have crossed Lake Nicaragua, I have done it without Dramamine. It hasn’t always been pretty, but I’ve made it.

The ferry ride over to the mainland wasn’t great, but I white-knuckled it and made it to the mainland in one piece. We then had to take a short taxi ride into town, where we made a mad dash to the ATM, and then headed back to dock. We needed to be sure to catch the 1:30 ferry back to Moyogalpa in order to catch the 2:30 bus to Mérida. Otherwise, the next bus did not leave until 4:30 and we wouldn’t get home until 7:00. So the whole trip was dash, dash, dash. We had even packed sandwiches to take with us, so that we wouldn’t have to stop for lunch.

After bus, ferry, and taxi, I was not feeling so great, and I was not looking forward to the final ferry ride back to the island. I’d eaten about half of my sandwich at some point during the trip and by that point I was really wishing that I had not. The time frame of our trip prevented us from taking the “big boat”—which provides a much smoother ride, but would not allow us to make the appropriate bus connections back home. We ended up taking the “Karen Maria” both ways—tiny, crowded, ridiculously rocking. This photo is not from today, it is from last January as we thanked our lucky stars that we were on the “big boat” instead of this one. But it’s the same general idea.

As soon as the Karen Maria launched, my stomach flipped upside down and turned inside out. I had to hang on to the seat with both hands to keep from flying off, and the waves were so high that they were coming in over the sides of the vessel and drenching me. Less than 5 minutes into the trip, I thought, I am never going to make it. I tried to steady myself. Oxygen is half the battle—I forced myself to take slow, steady breaths and avoid hyperventilating or crying hysterically. State of mind is the other half of the battle. Meditate constantly on positive thoughts and do not let the crazies set in. So I tried to think of happy things. Wrinkle Belly is alive! Beyond that, I couldn’t think of anything happy because of the gut-wrenching nausea. Instead, I could only think of my sister’s 9 wretched months of morning sickness (actually morning, noon, and night sickness) and the mind-numbing sea-sickness Cara endured on that fishing trip she went on a while back. I thought of my very first trip to Ometepe, when Professor Pablo threw up 3 times over the side of the boat. Ten minutes into the ride, I stopped trying to convince myself not the throw up: puking actually seemed like it would be welcome relief compared to this nausea that seemed like it would be the end of me. Besides, someday 10 years from now, it would make a funny story, and as Pablo has told me, we do this for the stories. We would be like, “Remember that time I threw up on the ferry? Ha ha, weren’t those the days, when we were young and carefree!” I thought, it won’t be that bad; I will just lift my head up and puke off the side of the boat, no one will be the wiser. But the boat was rocking so violently, I had visions of myself being tossed overboard. I thought, I need to tell Rob to hang onto me when I puke. But at that point, speaking was impossible. In my mind, I tried to sing the words of Amy Ray—the only thing that gotten me through the last 6 miles of so many marathons. But it didn’t work.

Suddenly I was up on my knees with my head over the side. Oh, the insanity. It was like looking into the eyes of my tormentor. The maddeningly violent waves slamming the boat from side to side, and up and down. Puking off the side was not going to be possible. Luckily, Rob anticipated this. He grabbed a filthy bucket full of trash and shoved it toward me just in the nick of time. Up came everything, but none of that blessed relief I had craved. For the remaining half hour of the boat ride, I hunched over the bucket, gripping it so tightly I am surprised my knuckles didn’t crack and bleed. Finally, mercifully, we reached land. Somehow I climbed up the ladder-like stairsteps to get myself off the boat. It was 2:45 but the 2:30 bus was still waiting for the ferry to arrive before departing. I told Rob, “I cannot get on this bus,” and he said, “Okay.” But I headed towards the bus anyway and climbed on, somehow just filled with the desire to get home and end this relentless travel.

The bumpy roads seemed almost smooth after the terror of the ferry. At some point during the trip, I heard Rob say “Uh oh,” and was able to raise my head enough to see the driver stop the bus and get off. Apparently a delivery truck full of glass bottles of beer and coca-cola had overturned up ahead and the driver had decided to get off and help clean up. Keep in mind, this is the same driver who stopped the bus one time for more than 20 minutes when we passed a town carnival—he had gotten off and had himself a drink and snack before returning to the bus and continuing with the route. Anyway, we’re still not really sure what the driver was doing at the scene of the over-turn. He appeared to load up one of those green crates with beer bottles, then he took the crate and brought it onto the bus without a word. Hmm. In the photo, the driver is the guy wearing the black cap, white shirt, and khaki pants.

At some point on the trip home, Rob told me, “I don’t know if this will make it better or worse, but as the bus was pulling out of Moyogalpa I saw a new sign, advertising that there is now an ATM machine in Moyogalpa.” An ATM on the island. Ohhh, the irony. All we could do was look at each other and laugh. If only we had known. There would have been no vomitous ferry ride back to the mainland. In fact, Rob would have probably just done the whole thing on a leisurely Saturday morning bike ride to Moyogalpa and back. “Well, at least we know for next time,” I said weakly. At any rate, it makes for a good story.

Thanks for reading. I’ve got to sign off and lay down because my head still hasn’t figured out that I’m off the boat. Until later then.


At 12:56 PM, March 11, 2007, Blogger Foxy Momma said...

WHAT A STORY!!!!!!!!!!! if ONLY it had been JUST a MADE UP STORY!!!!!!!!!!! you poor dear, and please tell me this is NOT how you will have to travel to get to Managua for your trip home!!!!!!!!! just so's you know, somebody would have had to hit me over the head, before I would have EVEN GOT ON THAT BOAT!!!!!!!!!! How utterly terrifying looking at it........ I DO HOPE you had LIFE JACKETS< don't even bother to tell me if you did NOT!!!!!!!!!! let's hope the next trip. will be MUCH BETTER---- Hope by now your head and your body are back in sync.--hang there, not too many more days, left, before you both will be stateside.......... hugs, and luv to you both,....... til later -- take care

At 4:34 PM, March 11, 2007, Blogger Melissa said...

Well, I've got to get off the island somehow for the trip back home. I will look for my dramamine before then and we will probably take the big boat.

Yes, there are life jackets.

See you soon, Momma.

At 12:32 PM, March 12, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know if this is the proper thing to tell you, BUT, I could not stop laughing as I read your story!!! Is that "really" sick of me???? I really do know how getting sick like that is (well kinda) because I have always gotten sick on anything and everything. But, I am soooo glad you are o.k., and yes, like your Mom, I was thinking, "I hope there are life-jackets on that thing. Hope the headache is gone by now and the trip to come home will be a little smoother.
"The Old Friend" Pat

At 3:15 PM, March 12, 2007, Blogger momscho said...

I was so happy to read your aunt Pat's comment. I couldn't stop laughing. I really am glad that it's over and you're feeling better now, but are destined to be a WRITER!!! That was an awesome story.

At 8:35 PM, March 12, 2007, Blogger Melissa said...

Thank you all so much for the comments. I am glad the story made you laugh; for me, I think its a little too soon to be laughing just yet! Maybe in 10 years or so. Honestly, I was still quite a bit urpy today. It didn't help that I was looking up through binoculars all day long at baby Judy who would not stop moving around in circles. Plus I got stung by a bee on my lip. Am hoping for a better day tomorrow!

At 9:53 PM, March 12, 2007, Blogger Aimison said...

thanks for the stories
I still read--just really busy, so no fun comments, but I'm glad to know what's up.
hope we can see you soon!!

At 6:23 AM, March 13, 2007, Blogger Amy, Ben, and Bryn said...

I'm pretty sure that ice cream would make you feel better, but I'm uncertain as to if they have ice cream on your excessively hot remote volcanic island. In any case, I think you are quite the adventurer, so clearly your story is worth it. :)

At 10:00 AM, March 14, 2007, Blogger Cara Knox said...

Melissa! Sorry to hear about the seasickness! When I was throwing up last months' meals James Taylor's "You've got a Friend" was oddly comforting. Just FYI for next time.


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