I hate Valentine’s Day. I always have, regardless if I am with someone or single. For the record, I have been with the same guy for over 10 years now and still hate that dreaded 14th of February.
But this is more of a love story. Not a love story in the traditional boy-meets-girl-on-a-train-in-a-foreign-country sort of way. And no, I did not meet anyone in my travels that would make me want to throw my current relationship, kids and all, to the wayside. Nor did I have a torrid affair with some tall, dark stranger whose language I did not speak, other than the language of love. No. This is a story of a love boat as well as the love I have for a country.
For my friend’s birthday in February 2018, we decided to go on a trip to Nicaragua and Costa Rica. The bonus was that we would be away for Valentine’s Day! Figuring that no other country could be as excited about this greeting-card-roses-and-box-of-chocolates holiday as the United States, this was something we were very excited about.
We were wrong. And, as we soon discovered, Nicaragua is a big fan of Valentine’s Day. A HUGE fan.
We were on Ometepe Island located in Lake Nicaragua, and the only way to get back to the mainland is via ferry. The plan was to take the ferry back across the lake and head onwards to Costa Rica. What we didn’t expect was the ferry to be turned into a love boat.
Greeted by a large sign with the words “Feliz dia del amor y la amistad.” (translation: “Happy day of love and friendship”), we boarded the boat. So much for avoiding all the mushy love stuff in a foreign country!
As we walked onto the ferry, we were greeted by all sorts of Valentine’s Day decor as well as cakes and balloons. There was a festive air about this boat, especially on the second floor where the DJ was playing music very loudly over the sound system. There was no avoiding it now! Whether we liked it or not, we were deep in it.
We thought we were safe with the seats we chose – top floor, towards the bow of the boat, on the opposite (therefore quieter) end from where the DJ was stationed. But, alas, we chose wrong. About 15 minutes after we started moving, the DJ stopped playing, and right in front of us, a man with a microphone appeared. It was time to play some Valentine’s Day games! I looked at my friend, and she and I just laughed. Here we were trying to avoid this day and now it’s staring us in the face.
For the next hour, the man on the mic, along with his assistant, pulled people from the audience. First were three couples, all were asked questions and all received a gift bag with prizes. I have no idea what were in the gift bags, nor did I understand exactly what the game was about since my Spanish, unfortunately, is very limited. All the couples had to kiss in front of everyone before the game ended. There was another game in which, to my understanding, they pulled up a few single girls and tried to play matchmaker with single guys. However, no guy on the boat seemed interested in playing (so typical, right?). Then each girl was asked a question about what they look for in a relationship and they answered. I felt a bit bad for these girls since no man in the audience wanted to play. But at least they each received a gift bag!
On the boat, there were tables set up with people selling baked goods, including this one elderly woman. At one point, while the games were going on, she approached me. Of course, I thought she was going to try to sell me something (I’m an American from New England, after all, and very untrusting of most people.) Instead, she embraced me in the warmest hug of my life! Thanks to this warm, loving Nicaraguan grandmother, at that moment, my icy cold heart melted. That is when I truly fell in love with the Nicaraguan people. Thinking about it, we had encountered so many warm, friendly people who are so full of pride in their country.
The Valentine’s Day love ferry made me feel a little bit differently about this day. It’s not all about having a romantic relationship, but also a celebration of the love for our fellow human. That is the message I received from Nicaragua’s celebration. And here I was on this wonderful Central American trip with my best friend, who I told was my Valentine this particular year!
Wishing you a very happy Valentine’s Day…regardless if you love or hate it!