Big Corn Island, Nicaragua -- The entire hotel staff start drinking at 9 am. By noon, they're hammered. I'm the de facto manager in the owner's absence, but I walk away because it's Sunday and there's no interfering with the daylong party.
The islanders drink until they pass out, frequently on the airport runway used as a shortcut into town. Wisely, no flights are scheduled on Sundays.
I take a beat-up golf cart around the island to do the day's shopping and escape the free-for-all I can't prevent. Without a functioning refrigerator, I must shop daily for produce or it simply rots.
It's 10 kilometres around the island on a road made of interlocking bricks, built by Swedish foreign aid. It's two years old and already disintegrating back into sand thanks to dozens of young taxi drivers' drag racing and cruising and very heavy rainy seasons.
The ball game has just ended, and my favourite pulperia across from the stadium is functioning as a drinking club, 5-foot speakers shaking with the same 10 songs I hear everywhere I go: country and country reggae from Honduras. People dance next to bins of carrots and plantain, and the owner gives me a beer as thanks for my regular business.
I try to find chicken, but the supply boat hasn't been unloaded. Two boats have recently capsized as a result of improper loading: cigarettes and paper in the hull, propane and construction materials above.
Insurance fraud may have been the motivation. This island was settled by pirates, including Captain Morgan, and piracy is part of the culture.
I do find a toilet bowl freshener called Terror and buy it as a souvenir. Hairy black spiders like the toilets here. There's seldom any paper, and when there is, it's thrown in buckets to keep septic systems clear. Sinks rarely have water or soap. A sign in the damas at the hotel asks people to please not pee on the floor.
When I return to the hotel, there's an ice crisis at the bar. I go across the street to Brockie's house. Brockie's hammered and tells me his neighbour stole all his ice. He pulls out a pistol and fires it in the air, swearing to kill his neighbour if he catches him.
I'm sent to see Big Boy, whose thumbs are the size of dwarf bananas. He's also hammered and has heard Canadian girls taste sweet. He offers to rip my clothes off with his teeth. I get ice for the promise of a date another day and hurry back to the hotel.
At 5 pm, Brockie comes by to collect $100 U.S. for diesel to power our generator. Melward, the maintenance "boy," tells me in drunken Spanish that I'm being ripped off. We go to Brockie's to get the diesel, and Melward accuses him. He's too drunk to carry the buckets anyway, so I lead him away before he gets shot.
The cook has given up cooking, and the noise volume in the bar makes it impossible to communicate. Someone has put on Kenny Rogers, who I think is singing about 400 children and a crop in the field. No one's collecting cash at the bar any more, so I take over and start drinking myself.
When the power is cut off, as usual, at midnight, with no diesel to run the generator, I start shutting down the bar. Three drunk men arrive and insist on service. Since regional elections are imminent, they're in the middle of a political debate they refuse to end. It's the first time anyone has spoken politics in my presence, so I keep serving them.
The smartest, who calls himself Sir Charles, is a Sandinista. The others are liberals or capitalists, according to Charles.
All refer to Daniel Ortega simply as Daniel as they loudly debate what he did and did not accomplish.
They tell me how the islanders sold their guns to the Colombians during the revolution, telling both sides the enemy stole them. They say the man who distributes beer is running for the Sandinistas and is naturally quite a popular candidate. Some people will transfer money out of the country if Daniel comes back to power, but since the U.S. has offered to monitor the elections, Sir Charles believes that won't happen.
By 2:30 we've all had enough. I go to bed knowing that half the staff won't show up for work. As a result, my day will start at 6 am, but it will be 30 degrees by 8 am, so I may as well get in a swim on a beach without a single person on it.