Happy birthday to me. Sunday was my time to shine, so I copied my cousin Martin's concept of hosting an all-day open house where people could bring food and drinks fitting the time of day. As a fun addition to the concept, I decided to take a group picture of the party every hour:
The party went great, a lot of people came over, even people who had big papers due at midnight or the next day. That's love. Thanks guys.
More pictures from the birthday here (click to go to album):
The night before Sunday I came back from four days in Nicaragua. A few of our programmes were supposed to have gone there this week to monitor Sunday's elections, but Nicaragua cancelled the delegation so I had the week off instead. And on Tuesday, I decided to pack my stuff and go with my Ethiopian/Canadian classmate Atkilt to Managua, the capital of Nicaragua.
As we didn't plan the trip properly, I didn't get to see a lot of Nicaragua's popular sights but we had a good time. Thursday night Atkilt left for a 6 hour bus ride and a 4 hour boat ride to the secluded Caribbean town of Bluefields to do research for a documentary he's doing with some of our other classmates. Luckily, we had met some nice backpackers with whom I hung out until I had to go back to Costa Rica on Saturday. The backpackers were called Josefine and Kerstin from Germany and Nick from Canada/Colombia. They look like this:
The big thingy in the background is a huge "acoustic shell" designed by the American Glen Howard. It was overlooking a huge square (Plaza de la Fé) filled with empty merry-go-rounds and other rides. We were let in by a lazy security guard and took some nice pictures.
More pictures from Nicaragua (click to go to album):
Kerstin, Josefine and NIck had rented a car and were going north west to the town of León where two of my UPEACE friends (Jasmine, US, and Dobrawa, Norway/Poland) were supposedly staying. So I caught a ride with them and wrote to my UPEACE friends that I was coming to León. Our Costa Rican phones didn't work in Nicaragua so when they never replied on Facebook, I didn't really know if I would even meet them there.
When we arrived in León, I checked into a hostel and stayed there a bit with the backpackers. Suddenly Jasmine and Dobrawa walk in the front door. They hadn't gotten my message, they just saw someone they knew. Unfortunately, they were on their way south, so I decided to hang out with the backpackers a bit longer and go to the beach for the night. We made it to a rustic beach cabin and spent a nice evening eating seafood and playing pool. Next morning I had to leave and travelled all of Saturday to make it home in the evening.
Nicaragua was interesting, and I will definitely go back. Next time with actual plans. It's more exotic than Costa Rica, in a good and a bad way. There's much more life around you and street stalls selling food but also a lot of begging and - reportedly - a lot more crime. I was paranoid about my nice big Canon EOS 60D D-SLR camera, and that's why I took so few pictures.
A last little anecdote. My friend Elizabeth (of former blog post fame) texted me that the last buses from San José to Ciudad Colón left the Coca-Cola bus station (yeah) around 10:30 pm. This was around 9:45 pm and I was still in the bus on the way to the Tica Bus terminal. (The bus was scheduled to leave Managua at 12 noon but left at 1:30 pm and took forever at the border.) So when the bus pulled up, I jumped out, waited impatiently for my luggage and jumped into a taxi. "Coca-Cola por favor," I said. The driver thought I was another tourist so he offered to take me all the way to Ciudad Colón. It would only be around 8,000 Colones. 8,000, I thought. "OK, let's go if you can do it for 8,000," I told him. In Spanish. But the guy didn't turn off the meter. "Are you going to leave that on? Because then it's going to be at least 16,000. I live there. Otherwise, let's go to Coca-Cola." After a few grimaces, he turned off the meter and took me all the way home to my casa for ... 8,000 Colones. Booyah.
31 days and nights. 5 weekends. And now it's over. At 00:00 last night, I popped open the bottle of 10 years old Laphroaig that I bought at the airport in Newark and had a drink. My roomie Alvaro was there, as was my Mexican friend César and my Egyptian friend Marina. OcSober was officially over.
So, what has OcSober given me?
It was actually surprisingly, and increasingly, easy not to have alcohol. In the beginning it was mostly about fighting a reflex, and by the end of the month, it felt quite natural.
Missing alcohol never made me crave it which I interpret as a very good thing; I'm not addicted. It didn't make me more tense or grumpy (I think). Au contraire, it made me more relaxed and focused. A tiny bit more Zen.
I think I will drink less from now on. I learned that parties can still be fun, I can still be social, and I even sometimes dance - all without alcohol. That was nice.
But I also appreciate how non-drinkers feel in the company of drinkers. In this social context, I actually never really felt left out or annoyed by being one of the only people not drinking, but there were times when I wished I were a little tipsy in order to appreciate their ramblings or even their mood.
So, what's next? I don't have the genes to participate in Movember, but perhaps a Veguary or a No Starch March? Let's see. Feel free to provide me with ideas.