Danger in Nicaragua

My brother doing "dangerous" yoga (photo by Tianna)

I must admit that when Tim and Natalie first invited us to their wedding in Nicaragua there were a few tinges of–what shall we call it?–apprehension.

A little niggling nervousness.  How safe was Nicaragua anyway?

Would we be shot by rebels, kidnapped by taxi drivers, bullied by gangs?  (Heck, I wasn’t even thinking of earthquakes, even though we later discovered that in December 1972 a major earthquake killed 10,000 in Managua and left 50,000 homeless.) 

If you want to feel a bit more apprehensive–or, shall we say “realistically cautious”–read the travel warnings issued by the U.S. Department of State. 

You might want to stay nice & safe at home if you’re a scaredy-cat.  If you don’t get stung by stingrays in the Pacific Ocean, you’re bound to swallow water when brushing your teeth and end up with Montezuma’s Revenge.  I had this dreaded condition while traveling in Mexico as a high school senior and it’s not pretty.  We decided not to brush our teeth with tap water, eat salads, drink ice tea, have ice, eat unpeeled fruit.

We would be safe, darn it, as safe as the modern Nicaraguan gods would allow.

Dangerous flower

When we first arrived in the country, armed with our hundred and sixteen travel safety concerns, most of us were a bit nervous.  Children hawking goods, people brandishing signs at the airport, horses and carts clipping down the roads.  Everything felt strange and unsettling.  Luckily, our host, Natalie’s dad, Trinidad, arrived with his suave and calm demeanor, seeing us through everything from a lost suitcase to cultural jitters.

When the bus drivers hoisted our luggage atop the buses and tied them down, we all looked around.  We’re not in the States anymore, Toto, are we?  If it rained, our wedding clothes might get wet!

As we drove down the long winding highway past volcanos and tin-roofed shacks we wondered:  Were we really safe in Nicaragua? 

As we drove into the town of San Juan del Sur after dark and saw hundreds of shadowy figures lining the dirt roads, some of us felt our hearts quiver in exhausted unconscious fear.

Here we were in a foreign Central American country.  Would we live to return to our comfort zone?  Would our comfort zone enlarge?  Could we embrace a country beyond our preconceived conveniences, luxuries and comforts?

OK, some more dangerous flowers

I am here to say “yes”. 

So many of us grew leaps and bounds beyond our fears and preconceived ideas. 

We relaxed into our surroundings; we tentatively emerged from the cocoons of our faraway home and sipped the nectar of sweet and colorful flowers of Nicaragua.

The shadowy “danger” that we felt on our first day eased.  We learned to walk confidently in the town.  We let down our cultural barriers.  We emerged.  They greeted us in our emergence with welcome and teachings.

Dangerous dessert, because, well--aren't desserts always dangerous?

Of course, a single woman might not venture into the dark roads of the town at night.  There is a fine distinction between unreasonable fear and common sense. 

There are folks who prey on the innocent, the unprepared, the ignorant, in all countries, including our own. 

I would feel very uncomfortable for–especially–a young woman traveling on her own.  Yet, I saw young women traveling on their own.  Young men. 

One young woman from Oregon said, “There are places in town where I don’t feel safe.  I wouldn’t go out alone after dark.  But the rest of the time I feel perfectly safe.”

Maybe thirty of us walked after dark up to the resort last Monday night after a farewell dinner at El Timon restaurant. 

Fear?  Not a stitch.  A sense of danger?  None.  We later learned that Nicaraguans think their country is one of the safest in Central America.

Danger in artwork. OK, maybe dangerous because it's a coffee shop/bookstore and you might step on a chicken.

In the days of the Sandinista insurrection and the days of the U.S. Contras–another story altogether.  Please click here for a brief history of more tumultuous times in Nicaragua.  Probably not the best days for visiting this beautiful country.

You’re wanting to know about those “dangerous” photos up above aren’t you?  The first photo of my brother Scot doing a yoga Warrior pose at the edge of the pool overlooking the Pacific Ocean is fabulous, isn’t it?  His daughter, Tianna, took it.  Isn’t she a wonderful photographer?  (Not only that, she took it with either her phone or a point-and-shoot camera!)  There was a small drop-off on the other side of the pool.  We are lucky he did not fall and end up in a Nicaraguan hospital.  Silly brother.

The dangerous flowers are all my fault.  You see, we stayed at a  house or “casa” on a steep hillside.  The roof of the next casa jutted up as the hill dropped steeply. I was sitting each day on the veranda with a cup of coffee or water (yes, the water is all bottled, even the ice cubes, and by Day Two we were brushing our teeth in the sink with running water, just remembering not to swallow, and, yes, we ate fresh fruits and vegetables and nobody got sick) or wine when I got the smart idea how lovely it might be to photograph a yellow butterfly on the beautiful pink flowers.  (I’m sure I was drinking wine at that moment.)

So off I hopped over the five-foot ledge of the veranda with camera and my mother’s startled “KATHY!” like I was a child of twelve mis-behaving.  Of course, I began to lose footing and slide down the hill in sandals, but it didn’t happen.  No butterfly appeared, but it was lovely to photograph the pink flowers against the blue sky.

When suddenly I realized there was no way to climb back up and over the veranda ledge.  Hmmm, yep, a 54-year-old can misbehave.  Fortunately, Mom and Dad thought quickly and lifted a chair down to the hill to rescue their daughter.  I climbed up on the chair and hefted a leg back onto the veranda.  Phew!  Danger averted…

Dangerous buses. In more ways than one.

Want to hear another funny story?  See the bus up above?  There are buses like this all over Nicaragua.  They are usually gaily painted in bright colors and designs.  Many of them drive dangerously everywhere, passing at top speeds, narrowly avoiding pedestrians and horse-carts.

On Sunday–the day after the wedding–several of our party determined to go surfing down the coast.  They shuttled out toward the distant beach on rutted roads, bumping maybe five miles an hour.  They continued south when suddenly someone spotted a school bus.  The bus was broken-down (dangerous, right?)

The funny thing was the name painted on the broken-down school bus.  “Port Sanilac-Carsonville” said the name on the school bus.  Guess what?  That is the name of a school district in lower Michigan, next to where most of my family lives.  How could this be?  Apparently this school bus reached Nicaragua via Mexico, and was now in the possession of Europeans living in its interior.  How cool is that?

Dangerous yoga...OK, I'm stretching this now. Pun intended...

As for the dangerous yoga, on Saturday, just before the wedding, Scot, Tianna and I hiked down the hill to attend a yoga class.  Remember me telling you how I do slllllloooowwwww yoga (as opposed to fast yoga?)  Apparently this yoga–which was truly lovely–was a little too fast for Ms. Kathy.  I blacked out and almost–just almost–fainted to the floor.

Very dangerous, indeed, don’t you think?

A nice cuppa tea revived us mightily.

We survive yoga and celebrate with a little tea.

I am now, finally, happily, safely, at home in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  No exciting dangerous flights home yesterday.  (OK, there were those dangerous moments when we lost the car in the Miami airport and our Google directions failed us and we ended up driving toward Miami in heavy rush-hour traffic rather than away from Miami…but that danger is long past.)

My most current danger is that I need to quit blogging and get to work before it’s too late!  So much to do!

Just wanted to finish up the Nicaraguan magical tale of love and family and danger–no, not too much danger–and show you the last of the photographs.  OK, there are hundreds of other photographs, but I really really must get to work! 

Thank you for being part of our wonderful trip.  Truly, your accompaniment made it very rich and joyous.

Sunset through the casa window in Nicaragua. Adios, dear country...

About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
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70 Responses to Danger in Nicaragua

  1. Fountainpen says:

    Kathy, I am happy for you and for your family, however, you have seen only one of the many “faces” of Nicaragua…..indeed there are many…..as is true of the US as well….very true of the US as well…….Perhaps none of us take the time to see “many faces” of a country. They are not to be taken lightly, in Nicaragua or in the United States, or any country for that matter. I am happy that you are safely returning to the UP, and I think we would agree, there are dangers in the UP as well, perhaps not as covert as elsewhere………


    • Kathy says:

      Oh, indeed, yes, Fountainpen. There are so many faces of every country, every town, every family, every person. It is hard to learn the “many faces” when you are only visiting for six days. I told this story from a single viewpoint. Some of my family members might have a totally different story! As for dangers in the UP, there are dangers here all the time. Someone was just beaten up in a nearby town recently. Others have been murdered. As I said: There is a fine distinction between unreasonable fear and common sense. That is what this blog tried to portray.

  2. Welcome home! What a fun time I’ve had living vicariously through you. Especially the veranda-hopping part!

    • Kathy says:

      It’s good to be home, Laurie. I think I shared 500 stories with Barry for an hour and a half without stopping on Thursday evening! Glad you’ve enjoyed.

  3. Brenda Hardie says:

    Welcome Home Dear Kathy!
    I am so so so happy you made it home safely and that you braved all the dangers of Nicaragua!
    Your pictures are beautiful…I love the one of your brother, tell your niece its a great shot! The flowers are so bright and cheery! They brought a welcome spot of color on this dreary day. And I love the yoga picture where you are on that lovely veranda….what a prefect setting for exercise.
    Well, I’m heading back to bed…been terribly sick this week. 😦 Need to make some chicken soup with extra spice this weekend and maybe that will open up my sinuses.
    Again, welcome home!! I’m glad you’re back ♥

    • Kathy says:

      I am hoping my niece read all these comments, Brenda. Thank you…but am very sorry to hear you’ve been ill. I hope this weekend finds you feeling better. That isn’t fun. I did make it home safely but almost slipped on ice the next morning. (Wouldn’t that have been an encore for this blog?)

  4. What a wonderful trip! And there’s no place like home right? 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      Oh, for sure, Nicole. It is great to be home. Especially since it’s sunny and above freezing and quite lovely–for winter. I hope you are doing well!

  5. debyemm says:

    I had noted in my wonderful notifications that your destination was Nicaragua; and I thought “good Lord !!” – what a destination for a wedding !! Yes, thinking it must be very dangerous. Then, I looked at the map and saw it was nestled between Honduras (where my husband once had a memorable and happy adventure scuba diving, before we met) and Costa Rica (which last I heard was where Brian Johnson the founder of Zaadz was living); and I thought, well, how dangerous could that actually be ?? But I did forget about the Contras and Sandinistas . . . another time, another “place”, it seems happily.

    Mexico is horrid, at the moment. I grew up in El Paso TX; and my little known nickname (among some friends) is “Juarez”, which I love and have taken to heart, though I rarely share that. I am heartbroken, over how dangerous it actually is there now. I was uneasy during my last visit to my childhood hometown of El Paso; and glad to leave. Oh, I wish for improvement; and soon, very soon. (tristemente llorando – sadly weeping)

    Oh yes, and happy you have returned home safe and full of wonderful memories of a tropical clime in mid-winter !!

    • Kathy says:

      Deb, I have heard that Mexico isn’t the safest right now. I, too, pray for improvement… My son went to Mexico for a wedding a year or so ago and I was kinda nervous the whole time he was gone. They took a bus and masked police with machine guns kept stopping the bus…well, just glad he got back to San Diego safely. Nicaragua is supposed to be the safest country in Central America. It feels like I and others were able to negotiate into a good place which moderated unreasonable fear and replaced it with respectful caution and discernment.

  6. What a great story! Welcome home! 🙂

  7. Carol says:

    Reading your words and looking at your lovely (as always) pictures reminded me of a trip I took to Mexico several years ago. I was headed to a Club Med, but a snafu by the travel agent caused me to miss the plane, and I had to head down the next day on another plane. I arrived in Puerto Vallarta, by myself instead of with a group as it was supposed to be, speaking no Spanish. I finally found a gentleman who spoke English and got a “cab” for me – an old Volkswagon van. I got in the van, and so did he. Huh? We drove down the main street and turned off into a little dirt road. Huh? The driver was taking the airport man home. Okay, disaster averted. Then we drove the highway for what seemed forever, the driver waving to men walking along the roadside, me thinking “no, don’t stop, don’t stop”. We did arrive at my destination safely, but there were moments. . . . Oh, yes, what I didn’t tell you was I read an article in Newsweek on the plane going to Mexico about some Americans that had gone there and disappeared – never to be seen again. Bad move on my part! So happy you had a good, safe, happy trip.

    • Kathy says:

      What a story you have to tell! My goodness…glad you arrived safely. You never know… That story about Mexico and disappearances gives me the shivers. So many different sides to a country–and so many different possibilities about what can happen. We celebrated a happy story.

  8. Robin says:

    Welcome home, Kathy. Thank you so much for taking us along on your “dangerous” adventure. 🙂

  9. Heather says:

    Sounds like a wholly successful trip. It’s funny how accustomed we grow to our own surroundings and how shut-in we can get. I’d have serious trepidation about visiting New York City, and I know there are lifelong city dwellers who would struggle visiting me. I’m glad you decided to go anyway. These kinds of trips always offer an opportunity to grow, and it seems like you did, indeed. Welcome home!

    • Kathy says:

      Heather, want to know a little secret? I was just a bit nervous visiting my daughter in NYC, too! (But I probably wouldn’t struggle visiting you.) Gosh, did we ever grow. Slept for ten hours last night. Thanks for the welcome home.

  10. So glad to hear you are safely and securely home! Truly sounds like an amazing adventure.

    Having lived in Haiti for a year, I will always compare levels of danger to those in Port-au-Prince, where we had to have two armed guards outside our house round the clock–kidnapping threat quite high. So Nicaragua would seem, by comparison, fairly safe. But most folks don’t live like Sara and I do. Maybe we’re nuts.

    Regardless, it’s good to be home, isn’t it? I bet Barry is glad to see you!


    • Kathy says:

      Two armed guards? Yikes! OK, now I’m scared… Yes, it sounds like Haiti is not as safe as Nicaragua. Although Nicaragua is not free from danger. Oh, yes, Barry was glad to see me. I mentioned in a comment up above–I talked non-stop for one and a half hours that first day. He probably wished I would quit talking! **grin** not really…

  11. lisaspiral says:

    What a wonderful time you had with your family in a beautiful country. Thank you so much for sharing it with us!

    • Kathy says:

      I am thrilled to be able to share it with all of you, Lisa. So very very glad to spend that time with my birth family. The last time we spent a vacation all together was–maybe?–35 years ago? Or more? Yikes!

  12. john says:

    Gosh do I love that closing sunset picture. What an adventure! I haven’t had anything like that for more years than I care to remember, I do so love living vicariously through your stories. What an amazing family you have.

    • Kathy says:

      It was an absolutely special sunset, John. Nicaragua was gifting us one last time. I’m not sure we’re that amazing, though. We’re pretty ordinary. We were all stunned that we had the opportunity to visit Nicaragua. None of us could believe we were there.

  13. kiwidutch says:

    Kathy, I read this and see in my heart that you are completely unaware of the very VERY grave DANGER you are in…

    …You are in grave danger of falling in love with Nicaragua,
    ….you are in grave danger of being bewitched by her and returning,
    ….you are in grave danger of having learned that travelling safely has often more to do with keeping eyes and open and using common sense than it does on the name of your geographical location,
    ….You are in grave danger of realising that for every single bandit, there are 100 000 beautiful people who would be beyond horrified if any harm came to you whilst you were visiting their country and would take you in, help you and feed you even if they went hungry themselves.
    … you are in grave danger of becoming daring enough to consider visiting another “dangerous” country in the future.
    … you are in grave danger of having the passport of your land revoked (not in a literal sense) and replaced with one wrapped in hugs and smiles bearing the simple name ….”citizen of planet earth”
    LOL…. isn’t living dangerously the BEST???!!!!!

    p.s. I’m just recently back from our own travels, I will take great pleasure in catching up with your posts, this one is Fabulous!

    p.p.s. LOVE what you wrote here:

    “Danger in artwork. OK, maybe dangerous because it’s a coffee shop/bookstore and you might step on a chicken.”

    I soooooo GET that! (try taking a ferry where there are live piglets as well as chickens on deck LOL…I did, in the Solomon Islands!)

    • Kathy says:

      My dearest Kiwi, this is the GREATEST comment ever! (OK, I shouldn’t say that because the other commenters will come at me dangerously…lol…) But seriously, I LOVE that you compared the thousands of wonderful people to the bandit. We met wonderful folks everywhere. I so love your attitude!

  14. Beautiful journey as seen through your eyes. Loved every minute and @kiwidutch….great comment!

  15. Welcome home, Kathy! What a thrilling trip your family had. Thanks for sharing your pictures of a colorful land so far away – I enjoyed following your adventures. You certainly gave your parents a scare. (Sometimes you remind me of my daughter….) The sunset is stunning!

    • Kathy says:

      It was thrilling, Barbara. I just wrote up above that it is already starting to feel like a dream. Did it really happen? Another good reason for writing a blog! You can prove to yourself that it happened. 🙂

      Isn’t it strange that the same person can be a combination of absolute thoughtful cautious behavior AND impulsive and free? It’s interesting to see what side comes out at any moment!

  16. Marcie says:

    What an exciting trip!! And – I just love the images. Hardly ‘dangerous’..more filled with beauty and peace!

  17. Barb says:

    A little adventure is good for the spirit. I’m glad to hear that you’re still misbehaving. Hope you recuperate form your exciting trip over the weekend. (Any snow there in the UP? I hope you’re not hogging it.)

    • Kathy says:

      Ha ha, Barb. Misbehaving… Trying to recuperate. Trying to get caught up. Still kinda tired. There IS snow here, but the temps are unbelievably mild–between 35-40 degrees. I thought you guys were getting a snowstorm?

  18. OM says:

    Wow. And some of the comments, wow.
    I do know one can “adapt” to almost anything, as I did to Manhatten….
    Gorgeous photos!
    Thank you so much for your musings and sharings!
    Love, OM

    • Kathy says:

      Hi OM! I always love it when you pop up. You are right about adapting–it is possible. Not always easy, but always possible. I am glad you liked the photos and the musings and sharings. Now I am going to sleep for days. LOL!

  19. OM says:

    Manhattan. Don’t write the word more than once a quarter-century, GOL!!

  20. Susan D. says:

    What a TREAT to see you today – an unexpected surprise, seeing the traveling tia back on U.P. soil (okay, snow. Is there anything more dangerous in the world than Skanee Rd, in the wintertime?).

    Your insight, as always, is keen and heartfelt. There is a “new” element to these wonderful chronicles of Nicaragua. Kathy PLUS. I am in love with your writing, as ever! Thank you so much for sharing the journey, all if it, with its many layers, complexities, and sheer beauty! Hope you find time for some rest this weekend.

    • Kathy says:

      It was WONDERFUL to see you so soon after getting home. Surprise, Surprise! Did I tell you I almost fell on the ice in the parking lot at the school? Wouldn’t that have been a dangerous return home? Wondering what you are perceiving as the “new” element…? Maybe because I was writing so quickly all the time, not even editing, just trying to get it down? Trying to rest, Susan D, really trying…still much to catch up. Thank you for your words, always.

  21. Colleen says:

    Welcome home Kathy and thank you SO much for sharing this. I’ve not been to Central America but Rick has much love and appreciation for this area of the world. Wondering if it feels a bit surreal, being back home. Rest well 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      I am glad Rick has enjoyed some of the beauties of Central America, Colleen. I think you would like it, too. (Although maybe you’d be a bit of a scaredy-cat like me?) “Surreal” was my mom’s word for our time in Nicaragua. Yep, I’d say “surreal” describes my state of mind since getting home… Thank you.

  22. Dawn says:

    Glad you’re back safe and sound! I was flying home yesterday too! Maybe we were in the airport at the same time! 🙂 Beautiful photos. Will go read more now..well..in a bit. Katie is messing with me so I have to take a moment or more off from the computer.

  23. Karma says:

    What a wonderful adventure. I’ve loved reading about each step of the way. Thanks for sharing. I’m curious, will the young couple be honeymooning in another fabulous locale?

  24. Like most “dangers”, it is our own ignorance which feeds it. Lovely photos and a nice one to end your tale.

  25. P.j. grath says:

    Thank you for sharing your lovely, dangerous, boundary-enlarging trip, Kathy. I feel like I’ve been somewhere far, far away–and very beautiful!

  26. Kala says:

    Fantastic photos. I’m glad you enjoyed your time there. I would like to visit one day myself.

    • Kathy says:

      Kala, it was fun taking photos in a new and interesting and beautiful country. Do consider visiting! Bring along your courage and a sense of adventure–and perhaps a friend or two, as well. 🙂

  27. I see you already have a ton of responses here, so I’ll make it short and sweet! Gorgeous photos!! So glad you had a good time! You certainly are braver than I would be – I’ve seen too many movies about traveling to different countries, and horrible things happened…… 😛 I would have breathed a sigh of relief to come back home!!

    • Kathy says:

      Holly, I really didn’t feel all that brave. I just decided to make the scaredy-cat come on vacation and hope she had a good time. LOL! If we let fear rule our lives, we probably wouldn’t go anywhere–I sure wouldn’t even go out in our slippery driveway right now! (It’s so dangerous you wouldn’t believe since everything turned to ice.)

  28. I love that first yoga photo. Great!

  29. Dana says:

    Glad to hear that you are home safely after several days spent living dangerously– haha. That veranda story had me in stitches. That’s totally something I would do as well. 🙂

    Beautiful photos as always– thank you for sharing your adventures with us and for helping us all feel like we were part of such an exciting, tropical vacation!

    • Kathy says:

      Dana, I am thrilled that you enjoyed the veranda story!! Ha ha, I love it that you would have done the same and someone would have been rolling their eyes and saying “DANA!” as you went over the ledge. It was a lovely vacation. I am sad to be home, although adjusting as well as can be expected when bananas talk to you. (another post, never mind.)

  30. Laurie says:

    Kathy, I just wanted to tell you how very much I’ve enjoyed reading your blog on our trip to Nicaragua! You have a wonderful way of telling the story of our unique experiences while there. Thanks!! Laurie

    • Kathy says:

      Laurie, your comment made me SO happy! I am glad you liked this. Didn’t we have so much fun? Once again, I loved getting to know you and Ron. Hope to see you again sometime soon! And maybe someday you’ll meet Barry…

  31. Pingback: I’ve returned to Nicaragua! « Lake Superior Spirit

  32. caffeinefueledfool says:

    Tianna here! What beautiful photos. It is weird to see “my” name in a post that isnt about me. Tianna seems to continue to be a rare name, especially spelled this way. 🙂 This post makes me want to visit Nicaragua!

    • Kathy says:

      It’s my new Tianna-friend! Thank you for stopping here. You would like my niece. She’s 21 years old and a sweetheart. Hope you get to visit Nicaragua some day! By the way, have you ever met anyone else named Tianna?

  33. Pingback: Who says we can’t go back to Nicaragua again? | Lake Superior Spirit

  34. We all need those reminders to let go of stereotypes and unreasonable fears sometimes, and just go with commonsense to open ourselves to adventures like these. Wonderful posts on a corner of the world most people overlook ~ Kat

    • Kathy says:

      Kat, every time I let go of a stereotype (or see someone else do so) it feels so good. Thank you for clicking and looking back at our adventures one year ago.

Thank you for reading. May you be blessed in your life...may you find joy in the simple things...

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