Single mom surfing in Nicaragua PART 1 – who took care of my child

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When we arrived in San Juan del Sur, in Nicaragua, we went straight to meet a couchsurfing friend who helped us find our accommodation. We ended up staying at a guest house and surf school. We rented a room for US$6.00 with a shared bathroom, wi-fi, and use of the kitchen, although we pretty much ate out all the time. Typical lunch (rice and beans, meat and salad) can be found for US3.00 and so I could keep our trip at a very low budget.

I surfed 17 days out of the 20 we spent there. What a way to celebrate 7 years of surfing! Now, how did I do it? Who took care of Luísa? Every time this was an adventure and had room for improvisation. Out of the 17 surfed days, she stayed with about 10 different people: a babysitter, another mom, a woman working at a hostel, a woman watching a beach shack, dads without their children, a family, a 10-year old girl and new found surfer mates.

Leaving my daughter with random people for me to surf – really

The guest house we stayed was run by a couple with a 2-year old boy. They had a woman coming everyday to help with the house and the boy, so a few days I left Luísa there and gave the woman some money. The children played all the time together.

They have a big TV that´s always on, so I´m pretty sure Luísa watched TV for half of the time she was being taken care there (maybe I´m being too optimist). It made me nervous, it was probably more TV during this vacation than in all the previous year, but I just took it as it was. A good thing is that they put on this Dora the Explorer DVD most of the time, so less inappropriate content and advertising on her mind, I guess. It was good for her Spanish learning at least.

Families on the road taking care of each other

At Madera´s beach, I went for the first time without much intention to surf. I took my board and all, but I also took Luísa, so I had to see if I would meet anyone there who could watch her. We met this mom with a 2-year old boy. Luísa and the boy started playing immediately and the mom offered herself to watch them while I surfed.

The next time I went there, again without knowing if I would have the chance to surf, the same mom was there and I caught the best wave of my trip.

At Remanso beach, I had a family we had met a few days before that had a girl that was playing all the time with Luísa, they were good together, helping each other to eat the healthy snacks and not using their hats…

Making her stay with strangers without wanting it

The third time we went to Madera´s, the new mom-friend wasn´t around. Another friend of mine had been there a few weeks back with her 3-year old daughter and told me about this hostel in front of the beach, where she left her child with the lady who works there and watches a few other kids.

I went there, met the lady and there were 3 girls (2, 5 and 7 years old). Luísa already knew about my plan to leave her and was not keen on the idea. I asked the lady about the possibility to leave Luísa with them, she said yes. Luísa felt really uncomfortable with this, there were the 3 girls and 2 adults watching her, she got very shy.

She didn´t want to stay with those people. She needed more time to relax, but I was too anxious to get in the water (I haven´t found anything more addictive than catching waves yet) and I bribed her with a juice she wanted, left her there and when I came out, one hour later, she was sitting at the same chair, just waiting for me with an upset face (I totally betrayed her for some little waves and lots of jelly fish in the water, but I thought she would start playing with those girls in no time).

Luísa is in the back chair, eating her fingers away, nervous and uncomfortable.

Once I spent time with her and the new people, she was fine, started playing and we had a good time together.

Luísa doesn´t want to be left with people she just met, that´s her rule, unless she starts playing with their children and I´m there for a while. Intuitively, she knows that parents are ok, but alone adults are not her thing, unless she knows them a little. Other times I tried it she wouldn´t do it, no way. I respected that after the episode I just described, because it was pretty obvious she needed me closer.

In Hermosa beach, there was a 10-year old girl, whose mom worked at this restaurant. I went and aksed her if she could watch Luísa for one hour. Luísa said: ¨No, I don´t want to stay with her, you watch me!¨. I said it was fine, no problem, I´d stay with her.

Only that after a while, they started playing together, chasing chickens and putting one to sleep in a hammock. We were hanging out for a coupple of hours and Luísa was out and running with this girl, so the next time she came close to me, I asked her: ¨Is it ok if I go surfing for a little while now and you keep playing with Virginia?¨ She said that sure, it was fine and gave me a goodbye kiss.

Men watched her too

I had just published that post about leaving Luísa walk a bit on her own twice and the comments made me quite paranoid, I still left Luísa with random people anyway, the difference was that I couldn´t relax about it while surfing, thinking about child abuse and all that stuff and looking back to the beach more than out to the waves.

Still, besides other moms and some girls that I surfed together, we had an older man surfing in our group who came out of the water to watch Luísa. He´s a grandpa already and a kind man enough to cut his surf session so that I could have a go.

Another time, Luísa would only accept staying with this surfer dude we´ve been hanging out on the beach with for a couple of days, a dad traveling by himself.

How can I rely on these people? Well, we surfed, we talked, we connected somehow. They could have been full of shit, but I didn´t think so, I trusted them, that´s it.

There´s  an imposed fear on parents by the mainstream media or the FBI saying be afraid, be very afraid for your kids with twitched statistics that I keep myself away from.

One of those men helping out was our new friend John. He not only offered himself to take turns with me with surfing and being with Luísa (which wasn´t needed, we had our beach help figured out), but he also watched her in town for me to get waxed and do some paper work. He invited us to his place, where he was paying US$15.00 a night and had this swimming pool for us to hang out when we weren´t at the beach.

Nice hang out escape. On our last 4 nights I decided to splurge and spent US$15.00 a night here.

It´s not only moms helping moms out there, it´s everyone helping everyone. I know we live in a sad sick world, but when you travel alone, you receive help from strangers and you help strangers too, that´s what many of us do on the road, for me it´s inevitable and a wonderful thing to be part of.

This is a two part series. On the second part, I talk about the surf, making friends, being the only guest with a child and watching other moms on the road.

This article was originally posted on Tripping Mom by Marilia Di Cesare on August 15, 2011. Republished with authorization. Click here for all other posts.


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Single mom surfing in Nicaragua PART 2 – the surf, making friends, being the only guest with a child and watching other moms


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