The Guardian of the Bodega

Once again, it feels so good to be home. Back in California it’s easy to forget. I relax and appreciate the easy Internet access, running water, flushing toilet, smoothly paved skateboardable streets, and three grocery stores within walking distance. I start thinking that California is pretty nice, and maybe I don’t want to spend 100% of my time in Nicaragua after all.

And then I get back down here. I wake up before sunrise and light candles, make coffee, and sit on the porch with a view of the ocean with the dog while the sun rises over the volcano. Surfboard waxed and sunscreen applied, I carefully climb through strands of barbed wire to walk down a muddy road to a driftwood decorated beach and paddle out into bathwater warm hollow waves that I don’t have to fight over. This one’s mine and that one too, and I’ll take them both, thank you.

Waxing up in the casita. Don Emilio finally installed the shelves over the countertop!

I haven’t surfed enough lately and paddling feels a little awkward. My arms are weak, my timing just a little off, but I know that within a few days that will change. On my third wave I take off to the left, see the lump down the line that I know is gonna tube, and a smile overwhelms me as I pull in and reconnect. When the tide gets too low, I step to the sand invigorated. Feeling tired but alive. The first few pumps of that well only reinforce the feeling. It’s so good to be home and I don’t ever want to leave.

Ducha on the porch.

The back porch is filled with plants.

I was away for a little over two months and a few things have changed. The papaya tree has doubled in size as well as a few of the others. The garden is spotted with the colors of ripening chiles. The caretaker’s house is finished and Ducha the little dog that has stolen my heart is pregnant. She jumped and whimpered when she saw us and sniffed us and realized we were back. She remembered how to sit. She lays on the porch with a fat belly and swollen nipples looking uncomfortable and unhappy, but wags her tail whenever we come her way. I hope she will have her puppies in the next two weeks so that I’ll be here to see it.

We were sad to see Ducha so skinny despite her puppy-filled belly. Her hip bones and spine are way too noticeable so we are feeding her three times a day and hoping that she has plenty of sustenance to get her through giving birth. We were told the last time she had puppies that she nearly died.

The caretaker’s house.

The caretakers have hung their iron from the palapa and it just looks so cool and rustic.

I should probably be more afraid of snakes. Especially here in Central America, where snakes are plentiful and likely to be lurking in corners and under beds, waiting to strike, forcing you to make a quick decision as to whether or not the snake was harmless or if you have less than fifteen minutes to live, it’s probably wise to be wary. But just like sharks, snakes fascinate me. While digging around in la bodega Ryan constantly warns me to “watch out for snakes,” but I’m secretly hoping I’ll find one. The bodega rarely lets me down.

Yesterday afternoon I went looking for the yoga mat that I’m sure I left down here last time but somehow can’t seem to find. I figured I must have rolled it up and slid it behind the surfboards in the back corner. Ryan went in there first and was kneeling down to peer into the dark corner and suddenly jumped up and said, “well there’s a snake back there and it’s either really big or there might be two!”

“Where? I wanna see!”

I traded places with him and looked in between the tails of the stacked row of surfboards and saw the calico patterned scales of what looked to be a pretty solid snake.

“Epic! Look at that thing!’

“Not epic, what do we do with it?”

Ryan grabbed the blue and yellow umbrella that we got as a “free gift” when we bought the propane counter top stove, and used it to try to scare the snake out of the corner. Instead, the snake struck at the umbrella with menacing speed.

Plan B involved pulling out the surfboards one at a time so that the snake was more exposed. Once that was accomplished there was another moment of asking each other “now what?”

I had the shovel ready to strike back in case the snake decided to attack, while Ryan used the rake to scoop the snake out of the bodega and fling it in my direction. It landed in the grass a few feet away and started scurrying off. We didn’t really want to kill it in case it was a harmless snake, but also didn’t necessarily want to lose it in the weeds in case it was poisonous and would return for vengeance. I slapped the ground with the shovel and it slithered up into our biggest almond tree and stretched out along the lowest layer of branches. Once again, “now what?”

We wanted our caretaker Osmar to come by to identify the snake, but instead we saw a few of the local surf groms cruising along the road. We called them in to take a look. They were all pretty impressed by the snake. The youngest two immediately showed fear and said “one bite and you’re dead!” They jumped back and gave the snake in the tree plenty of room. The older two called it a Boa but still gave the snake plenty of respect. They took up the shovel and rake, with one swift swoop knocked it out of the tree, and then to everyone’s horror, Felipe reached down and expertly grabbed it just behind the head, lifting it up for all to see as the snake tried desperately to bite him.

Felipe assured us it isn’t dangerous and offered to let it go on the hill. He took off on his bike with the snake still in his hand. We figured he’d take it at least further down the road and out of sight, but only crossed the road, let it go, and then gave us a big smiling wave. Thanks a lot, Felipe!

When our caretaker Osmar finally did show up I told him about the snake and since it is the second one we’ve found in there, he just shrugged and said it was “la guardiana de la bodega,” the bodega’s guardian.

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