to curl up
in the contours
to my congenital
state till the sun
could join me.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF ELIZABETH BASNIGHT ’07
where I was going. So I just waited with
my book bag and surfboard. I found it’s
usually better to wait and take a few dusty
breaths, and then make decisions. A little
girl approached and spoke to me slowly,
and so I followed her. Her name was
Amanda, she was 12 and selling beef
wrapped in tortilla and then fried. Her
hands were greasy, but she was smart and
made friends easily.
She waited with me until my bus came.
After two hours of bouncing down a dirt
road with hot bodies and long stares, I got
off in Las Salinas, 8 kilometers from the
beach. I didn’t want to walk so I paid a
shirtless man to drive me. He smelled of
rum, but he was friendly. We drove past salt
fields and white flamingos until we reached
Popoyo, where Donald, a friend of a friend,
had been living for a year.
I rented a room from a family on the
beach. Donald had taught their 16-year-old
son, Elvis, how to surf, and I talked to him
about starting a surf camp. He liked the
idea. It took less than a week to feel a part
of their home. The defining instance came
when I stepped on a devil’s walking stick
and a thorn lodged itself comfortably into
my pinky toe. I burned a needle and tried
to tend to it myself, but I didn’t like stabbing my own flesh. Elvis offered. Instead, I
gave his stepmother the needle, and she
held my sweaty body down and pried the
I would wake up early to surf — when
the air was almost cool, and I would hesitate to cross the river, expecting the water
to be cold, but it wasn’t. The surf break was
a short distance down the beach, a paddle
across the river mouth and a walk around a
cliff with rocks so perfect in their formation and color — gold and brown and
sandy with streaks of red (the streaks were
my favorite), but mostly the rocks were
beautiful because of their shapes.
The smooth shapes made me want to
curl up in the contours and return to my
congenital state till the sun could join me. I
felt the bottom of the ocean with my feet
and walked along the angle of ridged
rocks, and currents eventually swept me
past the breakers. When the sun got so hot
I could feel my skin burning, or when the
tide was so low that ugly rocks loomed
under me as the waves sucked up, I came
in to save my skin and my limbs and to
make instant coffee and eggs and beans.
I liked Nicaragua. That was all. It was a
feeling — like you get with a lover. Or like
when you hear a song you haven’t heard in
a while, a song that takes you back to an
old state of mind, remembering your old
self, your old friend, your old lover.
Nicaragua was like that. It was comfortable.
The surf at Popoyo.
The surf break was a
short distance down
the beach, a paddle
across the river
mouth and a walk
around a cliff with
rocks so perfect in
their formation and
color — gold and
brown and sandy
with streaks of red.