Part 4: From Pearl Lagoon to the Back Bay

Updated: February 13, 2007, 12:41 PM ET
By Amy K. Nelson | ESPN The Magazine

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

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These girls in Haulover help us push the boat back to Pearl Lagoon. The children of the Lagoon, for the most part, were some of the friendliest and photogenic I've ever encountered. They open their faces for enormous smiles, and often approach and ask for a shot.

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The setting sun beams on this canary-colored boat in the dock. The pain of Nicaragua's political history and the uncertainty of its future shine symbolically in large, white letters on the side of this dock house. ALN -- one of two main conservative parties in Nicaragua -- just had its candidate lose to Sandinista Ortega. In the 1980s, the Atlantic Coast suffered pillaging and the displacement of its indigenous tribes. Today it continues to serve as a port of drug trade, with Columbian drug lords reportedly using the open waterways for cocaine transport.

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There are very few stores in Pearl Lagoon, but here is the town's version of Best Buy. The only sign of commercialism from the north is a Western Union, right at the dock. The fishing and farming provides most of what the people need. Every morning the electricity is shut off from 2 a.m. to 9 a.m., a fact I forgot when the fan in my room stopped working. That night I was able to watch an NBA game on ESPN with 10 cable channels provided to the town. When the Red Sox appear on ESPN this season, Pearl Lagoon could get a chance to see Hansack.

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Second to baseball, basketball seems to be the preferred sport in this country. Though Nicaragua has a national soccer team, it has never qualified for the World Cup. One large basketball court is located in the center of town where dim orange lights hum. This evening, a women's full-court game ensues. Two little boys playfully ask for their photograph. They view themselves on the small digital screen, then run off in circles giggling. The tone is always friendly and social in Pearl Lagoon. Two 20-year-olds teach me Miskito, an indigenous language, while dozens of people sit and stand in the dark streets surrounding the court, nestled in pockets of conversation. A house to the side holds four men listening to the near ear-splitting music from the bar across the street while they play dominoes as the girls shoot hoops.

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Walking past a small house that is the town's health center (where many of the women give birth), we arrive at this alcove on the shore. There is no beach on the Lagoon, just patches of sand where a canoe can rest. Hansack finally takes off his sunglasses. He wants me to know that this is him, his entire being, and there is no place else where he is complete. When the baseball season ends, he'll be right back here, with his cousin, breathing the fresh Lagoon air.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Amy K. Nelson is a reporter for ESPN The Magazine.

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