The Mark Blog

Nicaragua

When we boarded the first of our return flights this afternoon—the one from Managua to Houston, before Houston to LAX—we found our seats beside the same elderly gentleman from Mexico City who we flew beside on the way down, eight days ago. As the plane ascended, the Lago de Managua spread below the plastic double-pane window, its clay shores the color of chocolate, the lush fields around it so fresh they looked wet, the older man reached from his aisle seat and tapped the pane. The plane was nosing the underside of the lowest clouds. “It is a sin,” he said, nodding to the miniature land, “to not watch until it disappears.”

When we arrived at the hotel near the airport on our first night we were hesitant, confused by the language barrier, when we were told our luggage had to be tucked behind a column, out of sight, while we checked in. As the lobby flushed with media, the manager beamed a little: “I am not authorized to say who.” Then the doors slid open and we heard, El presidente, el presidente. In the elevator, when we asked the bellman if he liked his country’s president, he said, vehemently, no—Liars—and when the doors opened and we saw the secret service agent manning the hall, we were silent.

After this, on the long beaches of the Pacific coast of Nicaragua, we saw that the big swell had thrown fish from the sea to the sand, dozens of large ones struck dead along the high tide line—swollen bubbles for eyes, swim bladders like balloons expanded from their mouths, some with spikes that were frightening even on land.

One night, the thunder and lightning were so close it was impossible to sleep. The next morning, a local boy said he’d taken off his metal bracelet and climbed from his bed, afraid that perhaps he was feeling a zing run through the mattress’ springs.

On this flight home, I realize that traveling opens my eyes to what can also be done in the everyday. I remind myself to really pay attention, moment by moment, interaction by interaction, spark by spark. Because, to not—perhaps as a writer, certainly as a human being—would be to miss out on some of the world’s fullness.