I arrive at the airport 3 hours early for my flight. I’m usually the most disorganized person; consistently late for everything, yet somehow I spend a lot of time idle and waiting in airport lounges.
I have a long day of waiting ahead of me. In order to afford this little excursion I have to adhere to a budget, which starts with finding the cheapest flight. In this case, the cheapest flight meant accepting a stop-over in Houston, Texas on both the journey there and back. So not only do I have a 3 hour wait to get on my flight, the flight itself is will be 3 hours, then I have to endure a 3 hour stop-over, followed by another 3 hour flight before I finally arrive in Nicaragua this evening. What’s the saying about good things that come in threes?
For those of you that don’t know, Nicaragua is a country in Central America, situated between Honduras and Costa Rica. Their national language is Spanish and their currency is the Córdoba, used in tandem with the US Dollar. I say this, because last week I had somebody ask me if Nicaraguans spoke Swahili when I told them about my trip. I’m certain they were confusing it for Nigeria (where the official language is English, by the way) so I thought it best for a little context…
…and a little back story. The plans for this trip were made quite spontaneously. When I say “plans” I just mean the purchase of a ticket…I have no idea what I’m doing when I get there. I booked just before Christmas, and the next thing I knew it was like oh shoot I have to pack, I leave tomorrow! Though, I will admit that I didn’t really pack until this morning.
I’m meeting my bestie and first travel buddy, Ilona. She’s in Managua right now and has been there for a couple days. She was with me through India, over a month in and out of Thailand that included a trip out to Laos, we lived in a shack on a farm in rural Australia…we’ve gotten good at spending A LOT of time together.
Really, it’s because of her that I’m going to Nicaragua at all. While dreaming of warmer places and something a little more stimulating than waitressing and studying in Toronto, we found ourselves on Skyscanner, having chosen the Toronto to Everywhere option. Nicaragua was among the cheapest flights outside Canada or the US and I’d heard from other traveler friends that it’s beautiful. Ilona was sold, but I held off for a few days. I would be missing a week of school if I were to book it, and I am trying to become a responsible adult. She hit me with that “you’re young and you only live once” line, and my ticket was purchased.
So here I am at Pearson Intl., having to go through more extensive security than usual because I am traveling to The United States. I’ll only be there for a mere 3 hours, but that doesn’t matter. I have to certify that I haven’t touched any farm animals, am not carrying any weapons, food, large sums of money etc., a total of 3 times. A machine takes a picture of my face (which turns out horribly because I blink) and is printed on my declaration card which I submit before getting to the general security area. Here, I am randomly selected and have to go through the giant X-Ray machine. As do the next 2 people behind me in line. Very random.
All so we can enter The Land of the Free.
I wait for what feels like a million hours before finally boarding a very small plane. Serious estimate: 125 person capacity. Takeoff and landing are a little questionable but I arrive alive.
Houston’s airport is huge, and signage is not abundant or very descriptive. I end up having to ask someone where I need to go to get on my next flight, and am directed to the opposite side of the airport. I have to take a little mini-subway car to get to the international departures terminal, where there is a giant line. One little lady sits at a desk scanning passports and boarding passes, while a line of 50 people stand waiting to get through to security. The time is now 5:15, and my flight boards at 5:45. I feel that I’m cutting it a little close. By some miracle I manage to get through security (with another random X-Ray selection) and to the gate by 5:47, where I find out the flight will be delayed an hour. So here I am again….killing time in an airport lounge.
By 7:15 we’re boarded and I am at the very very back seat of the plane. Row 39. Right next to the washroom…. However, BONUS, there is no one in the middle seat between me and the woman sitting in the window seat of our row. She’s friendly as hell and has also been flying all day from Toronto. She says I can share her private shuttle bus into the city with her. She’s going to a hotel that I’m sure I can’t afford but it’ll get me closer to a hostel and cut down on taxi costs so I am in!
But never mind, that doesn’t happen. Instead, we find out our locations are too far apart and the shuttle driver won’t take me. He directs me to a taxi where I barter down the flat rate of $30 to $25. Big savings. He drives me to a little place called Hostal Dona Ida, where the gates are locked and the lights are all off. It is 11pm after all. My driver gets out to rattle the fence a bit and yells something in Spanish. The nicest man ever comes to my rescue in bare feet, and charges me a dorm fee of $12 for the night. There’s a rat in the bathroom, but who am I to complain?