This is part two of Megan's travel diaries from Nicaragua, part one can be found here. We had been mildly planning for a few months. Mildly, meaning ordering Lonely Planet's guide to Nicaragua and Google imaging the places that sounded cool. My college girlfriend/favorite travel buddy/sister soulmate, Wanna and I are both business owners who had been working our asses off for the past couple of years and we needed a vacation---vacation, meaning an adventure. We weren't the types to plan out the entire trip's itinerary or relax on lounge chairs while a hot pool boy hands us piña coladas all day. We wanted to go with the flow and see, hear, touch, taste, and smell a new culture. We wanted an EXPERIENCE.
One place that stuck out in our limited research was a tiny island off the Caribbean coast called Little Corn Island. It was off the beaten path, a serious adventure-seeker's paradise. You had to take a plane, a taxi, and a scary little boat over huge ocean surges to get there. And once there, the only way to get around was by foot. There were no cars or roads on the entire island, just a poorly paved sidewalk through the village and dirt paths through the jungle that led to the pretty beaches. It was exactly what we wanted.
We made camp at the most magical little eco lodge called Ensueños on the Northside of the island. The modest accommodations were just what we needed: a palm frond-covered hut with two mosquito-netted beds, steps away from the ocean.
We slept like babies, ate like queens, swam like fish, and zenned out like Buddhas. There were plans for further Nicaraguan explorations but we were so enchanted by the island, we made it home for 2 weeks. Before long, we befriended some of the locals. There was the Spanish ex-pat lodge owner/painter/philosopher who expanded our minds over bonfires, the Italian chef who blared reggae from the kitchen while he prepared delicious meals, the bad-ass female British scuba diving instructor who had sailed the world, and the two groovy Nicaraguan sisters who could have been our alter egos.
After exploring North of our beach one day, we happened upon what we thought was the best beach on the island.
It was an empty expanse of smooth white sand, the warmest bit of perfectly clear turquoise water, and lovely gentle waves. There was a blue house set a few steps back with a hammock on the porch, some roosters, and a couple dogs wandering about. Nailed to the leaning palm tree that crossed the beach's path was a hand-drawn sign that simply read "Hay Cerveza."
After hours of walking, swimming, and sunning, a frosty beer sounded just right, but there was no one around for us to order one. Soon enough, two lovely island girls made their presence and in our broken Spanish we asked for beers. A little hungry at that point, we asked if they possibly had any snacks. They looked at each other, walked away, then came back holding up a huge, freshly-caught fish. We nodded and gave them the universal thumbs up.
Twenty minutes later, we were presented with the most beautiful plate of food. It was hands down one of the top 5 meals of my life. There was something about the freshness, the combination of tastes and textures, and the care put into the presentation. Wanna and I felt like the most fortunate girls in the world eating that small feast. We hugged and thanked the sisters, Darinia and Muriel, and gave them a giant tip.
From then on we were the ambassadors of "the blue house." The first thing we said to every new traveler we met was "Have you been to the blue house? They make AMAZING food! You must go." Soon enough, it was the talk amongst travelers on the island. We had figured this was common knowledge with the locals, but as it turned out, this was a new venture for the girls. One night in the village, we met up with the sisters and discovered that Wanna and I were the first ones to ask them for food. They had never considered cooking for people before, but since we had been sending people their way, a new business venture was budding. We figured this must be some sort of synchronicity.
There was talk of making it a business . . . the dream was to have a real restaurant for tourists and eventually build huts on the property. We loved the idea of these two women pursuing a dream---I think we saw a little of ourselves in them. Wanna and I decided long ago that we didn't want to rely on being taken care of. We wanted to support our own lives and provide for our own futures. And after getting to know these girls a bit, we were hopeful that they could do the same. It was going to take a little start-up cash to get a new kitchen going and we were totally willing to donate our hard-earned cash to the cause. We were elated to be involved in potentially changing the lives of virtual strangers a world away from us. We had big plans to support the sisters in making their dream a reality.
Once back on our home turf there was a lot of Facebook messaging and Google translating to work out the next steps. After a couple months, despite everyone's hard work and big dreams, the restaurant had to be put on hold due to family complications. Wanna and I felt we had seen a reflection of ourselves in these women (maybe more than was actually there) and we had good intentions. We were probably overly optimistic and a little naive in thinking that we could blindly send money and change these women's lives. Even though our hearts were in the right place, we realized that our goal of supporting women in their efforts to come into their own might be better realized through an established organization such as Kiva. It might sounds cliché, but we did come away with an important travel lesson from all of this: live and learn!