A long time ago, in a different life, I worked aboard an ocean-going tug boat, the Falcon. Our crew personified “Southern American.” I was the youngest member of the crew by almost 10 years and had more formal education than anyone else on board. When we were tasked to haul a barge loaded with grain to Nicaragua, everyone was excited. We often traveled to other countries in Latin America, but had never been through the Panama Canal, adventure awaited us!
We prepped everything for the trip over the course of a few days and set sail. We made it through the Panama Canal and up the west coast of Central America to our destination, Corinto, Nicaragua. We arrived a full day before our unloading crew, which normally wouldn’t be a problem, except that the customs official didn’t speak very much English. I had taken several years of Spanish in high school, so I was the default translator for our crew until help arrived. Luckily, the customs official had taken it upon himself to hire us a “guide” for our time in Corinto, a young local boy named Jeri, who spoke as much English as I did Spanish. Together we learned to understand each other to the level needed to pass through customs and acquire passes for the crew to leave the tug boat and explore the town.
Frustrating doesn’t begin to explain how the first 24 hours of our time in Corinto went. We had to deal with customs, the local fuel depot, and security for the night until our crew arrived the next day. After arranging everything, I decided to take Jeri to dinner to one of the three local bars. Much to my surprise, the bartender of the first bar we went to was from Denver, Colorado! He had married a local woman and spent six months of the year in Corinto. He gave me some tips about the local town and said I was lucky to find Jeri, who was a very good kid and would earn every penny we paid for his services. He also offered to help us negotiate a better security deal the next day when our unloading crew arrived.
After a very frustrating day of trying to recall as much elementary Spanish as possible and trying to translate my intentions to someone who spoke elementary English, I was exhausted. After two weeks in Corinto, my Spanish was 10 times better because of my full immersion into the language. If I had access to the resources we have today, I’m sure it would have been smooth sailing for the crew of the Falcon.
Mike Leydet is an avid traveler and woodworking hobbyist home-based in sunny Virginia Beach, VA. He has traveled on miles and points to over 20 countries and across the United States. He has two cats who both dislike travel, but allow him several weeks a year to be out and about exploring the world without too much grief when he returns. You can follow his adventures on Facebook: Explore the World With Mike