In Translation

Surfing Miramar, Nicaragua

We aren’t the things we collect, acquire, read. We are, for as long as we are here, only love. The things we loved. The people we loved. And these, I think, really do live on.
-Gabrielle Zevin, The Storied Life of AJ Fikry

The contest at Popoyo was rapidly approaching, the waves becoming increasingly crowded with rippers preparing for their heats. Celia, Lucía, and Loretto made plans to go to Miramar, and invited me to come with them.

It was hard to think about leaving. I had made wonderful friends, and fallen in love with the waves. Part of me wanted to live there, permanently. But another part wanted to continue exploring, to push my comfort level, to do what I had set out to do and complete the trip as I had planned.

I tell myself that I can always come back, but in my heart I know this isn’t true, not really. There have been many places I have wanted to come back to, but life gets in the way. Even the places I have managed to return to have been different. Places change, people change, I change. Terrifying as it is, I believe that each experience in life is my only chance at something. And truly, it is. What else can we count on besides this moment, now?

An important lesson that surfing has taught me, and continues to teach me, is how to let go. It is impossible to possess a wave. Each wave that breaks is a unique compilation of energy which can only be experienced for a finite moment in time. And for that small stretch of time, each wave demands complete dedication, presence, effort, focus. Each wave is everything. And then, it is nothing. It is gone.

Rather than trying to hold too tightly to Popoyo, I decided it was better to let go. I said my goodbyes, packed my bags, got into a taxi with Celia, Lucía, and Loretto, and embarked on the next phase of my adventure.

Miramar is a peculiar town. It is dominated by surf camps, safe behind their locked gates, perched on the edge of a cliff that overlooks several barreling reef breaks, and a spectacular rocky point, capable of transforming sizeable swell into Teahupoo-style barrels. A power plant flanks the north end, an industrial behemoth disproportionate to the patches of dirt defined by crumbling barbed wire, where skeletal horses mouth soiled straw in its shadow.

Driving down the dusty road in search of a place to stay, we knocked on towering gates until they creaked open and cordial heads peaked out. Since the predominate spoken language was English, I acted as translator, for a change.

We settled on a reasonably priced dorm-style camp, though it was more than three times as much as I’d paid in Popoyo. Luckily, the people at the camp turned out to be wonderful, and the food was excellent. After two months of meat and starch, the sight of a beet salad and homemade veggie burgers nearly brought me to tears.

I endured a horrible case of sunburned lips that raged each time they touched saltwater, and was rewarded with fun, punchy, hollow waves. When the wind picked up in the afternoon, we watched surf movies. I even taught a yoga class.

Celia, Lucía, and Loretto spoke rapid-fire Spanish. I tried to follow their conversations, but my comprehension was surely less than 50 percent. No matter. I understood all I needed to from the sparkle in their eyes, the warmth in their smiles, the ring in their laughter. They are good people, good friends.

After a few days, Loretto and Lucía decided to go to San Juan del Sur while Celia stayed on at Miramar with me. Celia negotiated a better rate at an adjacent surf camp, with immaculate grounds, a stunning view of the point, and our own private room. We couldn’t believe our luck, it seemed too good to be true.

And you know how the saying goes, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Three days later, while talking to one of the hotel owners, I discovered that the rate we had thought was per room was actually per person.

Celia is not ignorant. Not only is she extremely intelligent (she’s a doctor), but in the time I had spent with her, she had proven exceptionally sharp at picking up on the subtleties of communication that lie beneath language itself. Moreover, the hotel owner, like her, spoke fluent Spanish. Language was not the problem.

The two of us confronted the owner, and I tried to negotiate a compromise. He wasn’t having it, and the conversation began to take an ugly turn as I tried to force the ball into our court. Graciously, Celia accepted responsibility for the miscommunication and offered to pay for half of my room. I didn’t want to give in, but she wisely insisted that it wasn’t worth a fight.

Later that night, as I recounted our trouble to the other guests, I learned that the problem was commonplace at this particular hotel; countless others had been misquoted. Despite the fact that the mistake was clearly not Celia’s, when I went to check out, I found that she had already paid for half of my room, ever the considerate friend.

My Spanish is decent, her English is good. We bounced between the two, sometimes fumbling over words that we couldn’t quite grasp. We talked about our lives, careers, dreams, our great loves and our sorrows. And when we surfed together, we always knew who’s turn it was, deferring naturally to whoever was in a better position, trading waves and cheering each other on.

The night that we had it out with the hotel owner was a full moon night, the night of the strawberry moon. The power went out, and without fans or AC, the heat of the argument lingered in our room like hot coals. We decided to go down to the beach, and as we ran through the darkness, it started to rain. We stripped down naked and plunged into the ocean, extinguishing our fire in the sea as we battled playfully with the waves. We gathered our wet clothes under the light of the moon and trotted back across the sand, the sound of our laughter worth a thousand words.

3 thoughts on “In Translation

  • Posted on June 6, 2015 at 1:16 pm

    Is Rafael giving you shit? Tell him we will repay him with a guided tour if he ever comes up here.

    • Posted on June 7, 2015 at 8:08 pm

      Totally Rafael!!!

  • Posted on June 6, 2015 at 10:47 am

    How beautifully you have written this…as always. I’m reminded of your favorite song as a little baby. It was “Surfer Girl” by the Beach Boys. Whenever you were crying and I couldn’t get you to stop I would sing “Little Surfer Girl” to you and you would stop crying and smile or laugh. Was this a premonition or what!?!? Luvya so much, Nana


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