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Lesson Time

NICARAGUA | Wednesday, 18 June 2008 | Views [448]

I have learned many lessons on this trip, some of them more important than others.  For instance, I have always known that wearing sunscreen is of utmost importance when your skin has the natural hue of a ghost.  However, what I have learned is that applying sunscreen and then rubbing away peeling skin is a self-defeating gesture as I have now revealed new, unprotected skin to the sun. Moreover, the tan lines created by such an incident are even more unattractive than those created by bikini straps or edges of life jackets.  Therefore, Lesson 1: exfoliate vigorously *before* applying sunscreen.  Then keep your hands to yourself while in the sun.

Lesson 2:  try to balance out your injuries between both sides of your body.  I managed to sprain my left ankle only two days after suffering a hefty scrape to my left shin.  Both of these injuries were inflicted within the same week that I earned second-degree sunburns on both of my knees.  The burns healed in about a week, the sprain is on its last bits of tenderness nine days after the incident, but the scrape? Easily the least serious of my injuries has yet to heal, nearly two weeks after I fell.  It barely scabbed over in the first week and now has taken a lovely shade of rosy pink to its outer edges.  I have been diligently applying antibacterial ointment since only moments after I fell (thanks, Chris!) but it stubbornly refuses to heal.  I have come to the conclusion, seconded by a doctor on my kayaking trip this morning, that my body chose to attend to the more serious injuries first and is only now getting around to addressing this surface wound. Perhaps if I had sprained the other ankle, they both would have healed by now. 

Every other backpacker out there is also reading Lonely Planet.  They are going to choose the same hostels are you based on the same descriptions and recommendations on which you chose.  Thus, in this low-season of tourism, when reservations are rare and the more common practice is to just show up looking for a bed, Lesson 3: be the first backpacker in that line.  The Bearded Monkey is the third hostel at which I was given one of the last beds while the seven or eight travelers queued behind me were turned away.  Luckily, I have long legs and happen to walk fast from the bus stations.  For this I have been rewarded accordingly. 

Lastly, since people who are already considered tall in the US are pretty much giants in Central AmericaLesson 4: give up all hope of being comfortable while seated and learn to ignore the comments in the street as you pass.  On my first full day in Costa Rica I visited the National Theater in San Jose.  It is a truly beautiful theater and at the guide’s suggestion, I attempted to take a seat in the orchestra section.  Unfortunately my knees hit the seat in front of me before I had wedged myself more than 2/3 of the way into the row.  Not wanting to insult the rather eager guide I re-angled my legs into a male, spread-eagle position and slid down with a thud.  In retrospect I should have swung both legs in the same direction and sat on a diagonal, because in my attempt to stand I found myself in a rather precarious squat and regained my vertical stance only after being hauled upright under the armpits by a sturdy man passing by. Similarly, transportation has been a bit of a problem, but I’ve survived by insisting on an aisle seat (with all gestures and Spanglish required of a traveler insisting on anything).  And to all of those men commenting (and in one case, grabbing my elbow) as I walk: simply pretend you are passing a construction site in New York.  Does the trick every time.

Tags: granada, life lessons, nicaragua

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