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Notes From Nicaragua: Listo or Not

Certainly the thought of zip-lining through the jungle was adding a dash of anxiety to my previously eaten breakfast. "I think I'm going to just read," I said. A Stephen King book on the porch was the kind of jungle thrill I was in the mood for.
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The view is breathtaking. But I vomit anyway.

Let me back up a little.

I was not planning on coming on this zip-lining trip at all. It wasn't that I was scared. I swear.

"Just go without me. It's not worth it," I said this morning after breakfast. I just didn't feel like jumping in the back of the car and driving down the hill. I'm usually not prone to carsickness, but every time we pile into the four-wheel drive and head down the treacherous road into town, I am overwhelmed with nausea. And certainly the thought of zip-lining through the jungle was adding a dash of anxiety to my previously eaten breakfast. "I think I'm going to just read," I said. A Stephen King book on the porch was the kind of jungle thrill I was in the mood for.

"You are definitely going." Jan said flatly, as if the discussion was closed. With Jan, that meant the discussion was closed. And though I know whatever she dictates is generally for my own good, I couldn't help but hold a silent grudge as I tossed my copy of The Stand aside (I am never going to finish it anyway) and began to gather my things. What does one bring to zip-line through the jungles of Nicaragua?

As usual, the drive down from the house made me nauseous, and everyone was sweet and patient when I stood beside the road halfway down the hill, sweating and breathing deeply as I nodded to the man walking his pig.

Once we arrived at Da Flying Frog Canopy Tour ticket hut, I made a quick dash for the restroom. I briefly stood over the bowl, swallowing hard and thinking happy thoughts. My gaze landed on the bright orange air freshener on the back of the toilet. The brand name was Terror.

How odd, I thought, and I was momentarily distracted from my nausea by the irony. Whatever word they named this air-freshener was the same as the English word for "intense fear." (On a side note, I looked it up and the Spanish word terror translates to "terror.")

"¿Listo?" A short Nicaraguan man barked at me as I exited the bathroom. He threw a harness on me, clipping, buckling, strapping, and tying me into the thing. The others looked on, already suited up in their harnesses, helmets, and huge leather gloves. By the time I figured out that he was asking me if I was "ready", he was slapping a helmet on me. "¡Listo!" he told me rather than asking again.

I definitely did not feel listo. But I climbed into the backseat of the jeep anyway.

Now, after about seven very bumpy minutes up the terrain, we spill out of the back of the jeep. I stagger a few steps then look out over the horizon. Our view is spectacular. The ocean glimmers in the morning as -- gur--

I blink away tears, recovering from a threatening dry heave. I catch my breath as a brightly colored bird lands --gur --hurrr --

I take a few steps away from the others, noticing flecks of colors across the jungle from various flowered plant which -- gurr -- gurr -- hurrrrr --

As I rejoin the group a few moments later at the first platform, everyone pretends not to have noticed my vomiting spell, which, in all honesty, was a lot of effort for very little yield. Most of breakfast remains inside me, patiently waiting its turn to make a dramatic exit. Carl puts a comforting arm around me. I am calmed a little by its weight on my shoulders.

"Picture!" he says cheerily, snapping a double selfie of us. Timing has never been his strong suit.

A set from Jurassic Park lays before me, the loose metal wire on which we will zip disappearing into the trees across the ravine below. The brochure has promised us 17 consecutive runs, during which we will suspend ourselves by a pulley from the aforementioned wire and traverse the entirely of this jungle mountain. One of our guides rattles off some information, something about hand signals, speed, and braking -- probably stuff that I should pay attention to. But all I can do is imagine that poor little boy Timmy from Jurassic Park after almost being eaten by a T-Rex. To me, the idea of vomiting over the jungle while dangling from a loosely strung wire is comparable. I can't help but wonder who will be my Sam Neill and tell me it's OK and not to be embarrassed.

"¿Lista?" the guide asks Jan before helping her hoist herself up onto the wire.

"¡Lista!" she cries, throwing both fists into the air.

The guide chuckles and smiles shyly, the way men often do with Jan. "You .. siempre lista."

I'm not sure Jan knows exactly what this means, but he gives her a light shove and sends her across the jungle. Her exultant scream fades by the time she's halfway across the ravine. Sharon jumps up next and departs the platform with such steady grace and calm that I secretly hate her for the moment.

Carl jumps up next. "I love you," I blurt out desperately, in case it's my last chance. But he's gone, screaming and laughing across the ravine.

"¿Listo?" asks the guide.

"Mmmhmmm," I reply. I don't know if I am ever going to actually be listo for this. The picture of the air freshener from the bathroom invades my imagination. Terror it says. This is what you are feeling.

The guide pats me on the shoulder with a heavy leather glove.

"Hey," he says, looking serious. "Iss OK."

He doesn't have to tell me not to be embarrassed for throwing up in the jungle. I read it in his eyes.

I hoist myself up so he can hook me to the wire and try to remember how to break with my leather glove. I imagine the others standing on the opposite platform, awaiting my arrival, wondering if I will go through with it, wondering if they'll hear me coming in by my screams or my heaves. I push the ominous air freshener out of my mind. It's not Terror I'm feeling. It's something else.

"¡Listo!" I yell. And I scream across that ravine. And mercifully, screams and laughter are all that comes out of me for the rest of the trip down.