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.
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?
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.
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.
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…
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?
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.
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.