For months, I had been looking forward to the day when I would see my friends in Managua, particularly my good friend Adrian (no offense, Cheryl). Adrian is from Buenos Aires and some years earlier he married Cheryl, a gal I had grown up with back in Tacoma. They are now missionaries and have lived in various and sundry locations in Latin America. When I got far enough along my route, we finally determined that I would arrive when Cheryl’s parents were there, so I would see the whole clan. Moreover, I would get to enjoy a good, old-fashioned Thanksgiving dinner.
Although probably 8 months had passed since I got robbed blind in Buenos Aires, I was still feeling the repercussions. Emergency passports have far fewer pages than a standard passport and mine was full before I left the shores of Colombia. Luckily, Central American countries don’t seem to care about stamping your passport. They just make sure it’s current and that you don’t look like a criminal and then wave you through. So, I made it to Nicaragua with my thin passport. Managua would be a perfect place to replace my temporary passport with a full-blown one. I wouldn’t mind the wait because I’d be with friends and wouldn’t need to worry about spending the last little bit of my money on a long-term stay. One of the beauties of friends.
Long story short, I went to the US embassy—the most expensive building in Managua—within a day or two of arriving, submitted the passport application, and my new passport arrived from The States in less than two weeks. I stayed a few more days before continuing on my way.
Upon arriving in Managua on the crazy bus ride from Costa Rica—things had calmed down by this point—I showed the driver’s assistant the piece of paper with the Mingos’ address written on it and asked him where I should get off to place me closest to their house. He actually told me to get off right where we were parked—the bus had just let a few people off and hadn’t yet begun moving again. Moreover, the driver and his right hand man were trying to kick off some deadbeats who hadn’t paid and who were refusing to disembark. Although the other passengers were already gone, this little insurrection gave me plenty of time to gather my things and set foot on Nicaraguan soil.
Apparently, this was the terminal, although the bus was to continue through the city and this looked simply like a seedy and dirty market. When some taxistas approached me, I told them I needed to call a friend who lived nearby who would come get me. One of the drivers gave me his cell phone and I called Cheryl. I told her I was in town and gave the phone back to the taxista and asked him to tell my friend where we were so she could come and get me. The taxista charged me 20 Cordobas—about a dollar—for the call.
After I got off the phone, a hooker—and not an attractive one—approached me and attempted to sell me her services. I said no thanks. With that, one of the taxistas made some comment about possibly giving my business to one of his buddies—a guy. I told them I wasn’t gay. By this time, we were all having a pretty good laugh.
I thanked them for their help, picked up my things, and walked out of the market and over to the street to wait for Cheryl. By the time she arrived, I had told probably a dozen passing taxis that I didn’t need a ride and, when they looked at me cross eyed, that someone else was coming to pick me up. I was relieved to see Cheryl. I hadn’t seen anyone that I knew for about 10 months. It was good to see a friendly face—an old friend. Although I was now accustomed to the common Latin American greeting—a kiss on the cheek—I gave her a good old-fashioned Williams greeting—a big hug.
Cheryl’s parents—Chuck and Dottie Tucker—were already there visiting and stayed until after Thanksgiving. It was great to see them, too. They spent several hours every day repainting the outside of the house. They finished the job right before they left.
My first order of business was to get to the US embassy and get a new passport. Cheryl took me there within a couple days and we got that ball rolling. The rest of my time there consisted mostly of relaxing. I made a permanent imprint on their sofa. Think Homer Simpson. I spent loads of time on my laptop, watched a fair amount of TV, and the kids even got me to try their dance pad—Dance Dance Revolution. They all made fun of me, but I think I probably did about as well as the average first-timer. I think they would say I was much worse.
Each morning when I got up, I would eat a bowl of cereal and then hop on my laptop to check e-mail. I would do this in my permanent seat on the sofa. Right about this time, the maid would show up. She would ask me to move, then she would proceed to move all the chairs and sofas out from the walls throughout the house. Next, she would sweep and dust the entire house. A few hours later, she would move my sofa back against the wall. Why couldn’t she just sweep behind my sofa, then move it back against the wall so I could sit back down while she cleaned the rest of the house? I think she was just trying to annoy the gringo. It worked.
Adrian acted as my guide for a couple day trips to nearby towns. I consider him one of my very best friends. Not infrequently when we’re together, we laugh so hard we cry. This visit was no exception. Thankfully, he didn’t crash his pickup truck during these episodes.
We visited León, about 50 miles to the north, Salinas Grandes, a fishing village near there where the Mingos work with the local people, Masaya, which is about 15 miles to the south, and Granada, about 10 miles past that. We mostly just hit the main squares and markets.
While in Granada, we swung by Lake Nicaragua for just a peek. It’s the largest lake in Central America—just a bit smaller than Lake Titicaca in South America—and the 21st largest lake in the world. Another interesting thing we saw was an artist carving a beautiful design into a pair of maracas. These are gourds from the jicaro tree and are used as a percussion instrument. This was one of many instances during my trip where I witnessed a truly skillful artist. The most excitement we had, however, was when the pickup broke down in Granada. Adrian said it was a bad part of town, but we lived to tell about it.
We sat and chatted with the locals until a tow truck showed up and gave us a lift back to Managua. About an hour into the ordeal while Adrian waited with his dear truck, some kids and I walked to a pizza joint and I bought some pizza for Adrian and me and some for the kids. One of the guys that was hanging around with the truck and us had a freaky pot belly with a gargantuan scar. He said the police did it, but who knows the true story.
When the tow truck first showed up, Adrian told me the driver said he had to ride in the car behind the cab—it was on a flatbed—but he agreed with me that that was ridiculous and the driver relented and let us both ride up with him. So, we chowed down on our pizza and guzzled our Cokes on the way home.
Thanksgiving was another matter. No pizza. With a house full of Americans, there was only one option—a full blown turkey dinner with all the trimmings…except a turkey costs over $50, so we made due with a chicken. Including the maid, we were a baker’s dozen.
For most other meals, we were a mere dozen. I don’t know how Cheryl does it. If she weren’t so easy going, I bet her head would explode. Six crazy kids and a psycho husband’ll do that to you. The Brady Bunch was tame.
Although I loved seeing my friends, my head was about to explode. I had dropped scuba diving from my itinerary due to pecuniary problemas, but I reserve the right to change my mind at any time for any reason. I decided to go through with the underwater adventure. So, the northern coast of Honduras—specifically the island of Útila—was my next stop. Chau, good friends.
Adrian and I were sitting inside on the sofa when I looked out the window and saw what looked like heavy rainfall. As it turned out, it was just this variegated squirrel who had gotten into a coconut and spilled its milk all over creation.