Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Little Corn Island

As the elastic fingers of globalization continue to reach further and further away from the United States, and each day we come closer to the day when McDonald's and Starbucks will be commonplace in Bangladeshi villages and on Ecuadorian hillsides, it's refreshing to discover a place that's still undeveloped.

This is the charm of Little Corn Island. It's located in the Caribbean Sea, 45 miles off the eastern coast of Nicaragua. Getting there involves first taking a boat or small plane to Big Corn Island and then transfering to a small panga (motorboat) for a 20 mile ride. The island is inhabited by fewer than 1000 people, mostly of African descent who speak a Creole language that's a mixture of English, Spanish, and Miskito (a Native Indian language). There are no cars. Just boats. Most islanders make their living catching fish and lobster.

Little Corn Island has beautiful beaches. White sand. Turquose water. Lots of palm trees. But there's no fancy beach resort here. No Club Med. Just simple beachside cabins.

I spent my days swimming in the 80 degree water, reading books, exploring the island on foot, learning to SCUBA dive, and eating delicious seafood.

The food was delicious. Of course there was seafood....On my first night I had garlic lobster which was fantastic. Miss Martha runs a little restaurant with excellent fried fish and beef tacos. But there was good food besides seafood, too. There's a Cuban couple who serve some of the tastiest grilled beef and chicken. One of the biggest surprises was the incredible Italian dinner I had at the home of an Italian woman named Paola who moved to the island from Rome over 10 years ago. To start off she cooked up penne pasta with brocolli and parmesian, then she brought out a freshly baked calzone made of imported mozerella. And dessert consisted of cream custard with cherry sauce. We accompanied the meal with a bottle of Italian wine. She buys all of her supplies from an Italian food importer in Managua (so to stock up on wine and cheese she has to take a 45 minute panga boat ride to Big Corn Island and then an hour-and-a-half flight to Managua).

The SCUBA diving was great fun. I was a bit nervious about it, but the four day course that I took was very comprehensive, and my instructor Audrey was an excellent teacher. After learning how to assemble SCUBA equipment, I practiced using the tank in the shallow water of the bay in front of the dive shop (most people do these skills in a swimming pool, but there are no swimming pools on little corn island). Then after mastering the necessary skills, I did four open water dives on the coral reef surrounding the island. The highlights included seeing many nurse sharks, sting rays, eagle rays, and even a hawkback sea turtle. Now that I'm certified, I can go SCUBA diving anywhere in the world.