Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Message from the Road: Managua

Both Marie and I had to supervise exams for our homerooms on Monday morning and when we were done we caught a ride to Juticalpa with Ricardo to begin our journey.  The “executive” bus to Tegucigalpa wasn’t leaving until 12:30 so we decided to take the leisurely indirect bus which stops every 5 minutes to pick up new passengers regardless of available space.  The indirect bus is a gutted American school bus custom fitted with reclinable seats and overhead compartments.  We passed the town Talanga in which we were stranded just a few weeks ago trying to find a bus back to Olancho.  It was one of the weirdest places we have seen in Honduras with some of the oddest occupants.  The people would come up to us, stare, and try speaking English in some Spanglish hybrid.  As we passed Marie saw a welcome to Talanga sign, population 25,000.  She said, “I can’t believe 25,000 people live in this place.”
“Yeah”, I responded, “that’s a hell of a lot of pedophiles.”

Instead of the normal 3 hour bus ride, this ride took 5 because of the sheer amount of stops we made.  I’m on vacation though.  I am trying to keep a level head.
We got to Tegucigalpa well into the afternoon and decided to lock in our tickets for the morning trip to Managua.  I hadn’t eaten all day and I wasn’t in a careful mindset.  Trying to step into a cab my foot landed on uneven ground and I sprained my ankle.  It was one of those sprains where the outside of your ankle actually hits the ground because your foot completely gives out.  I let my body go limp so there wasn’t as much weight on that foot and I caught my fall square on my knee leaving a massive hole in my jeans.  It didn’t leave a scrape on my jeans or my knee.  It was a definite impact wound.  My knee split open along with my pants and I was lying on the ground absolutely overcome by pain.  I honestly didn’t think I was going to be able to get up.  The sleezeball taxi driver kept saying “levantase” or “get up”.  “Dame un momento”, I said, “Give me a second”.  Finally, I was able to get up with his help to see ripped jeans covered in dirt and blood.  I was so overwhelmed by the pain I just got in the cab and didn’t say another word the rest of the ride.

This was the start to what was on the surface a pretty bad day.  I have been waiting on a package to arrive in Honduras and it has taken forever.  I was keeping tabs on it while in San Francisco and was told that it would arrive just a day after I needed to leave for Costa Rica, which was obviously terrible news.  The package was stalled in Tegucigalpa before it made the grueling journey to Olancho.  I thought since I was going to be in Tegucigalpa that I could just pick it up.  I did some research, called the post office, and gave them a tracking number for the package only to find out that it left Tegucigalpa some 6 days before and had arrived in Olancho already.  Either the package is lost, or the people I was in contact with at the Olancho post office didn’t even look for it.  I will go with the latter for now.

At this point I was in a fluster.  I managed to either lose 300 Lempiras or get it stolen from me.  That was the icing on the cake.  While traveling, especially in a region like Central America, when it rains, it pours.  It is a testament to how much luck and coincidence you rely on to get where you need to go. 

I was invited to Catacamas the other week to guest lecture a college English class at an agricultural university.  The class started at 3 p.m. and is about an hour and a half from San Francisco de la Paz.  Regardless of logistical concerns, I decided it was a great opportunity to get in front of some older students.  The lecture went well.  When I was done I had no idea how I was going to get back.  I took a taxi to the college which is quite a bit outside the city, but taxis rarely patrol that area for pick ups.  I sat outside the college in a fluster waiting to see if a cab would magically appear.  I knew the bus toward my town left from the city at 4:45.  It was 4:30 and I still hadn’t found a way into the city to take the bus.  I had to hitchhike.  After several failed attempts, I found a huge truck with a group of construction workers hanging off the back.  I didn’t just flag the truck down; I stood in the middle of the street and basically forced them to stop.  After hitching a ride to the city center I ran to the bus station and jumped on the bus as it was literally moving.  In order to get to my city, you have to take an additional bus north for 20 minutes.  The exchange needs to be timed exactly.  As I arrived to the second bus, I literally jumped on while it was driving away again.  If one miniscule moment had gone differently, if I had waited for the next truck to stop, and if I hadn’t run to the bus station, I would have put myself in a very bad situation.   My point is that things can go right when traveling in Latin America.  When they go right it is a really amazing feeling.  It feels like a miracle.  When things go wrong and the travel gods don’t bless your journey it does suck and it feels like you have a black cloud over your head; though, it is much easier to write it off as one of the many downfalls of third world travel.  You only need the sentiment that tomorrow is another day, another chance to get it right.

So here I am, writing in Managua.  Managua has been a great city to pass through.  It was devastated by an earthquake in ’72 and hasn’t completely recovered.  There was a much publicized revolution in the ‘70s and ‘80s with substantial U.S. involvement.  It is still a highly politicized city.  FSLN posters still decorate the city saying “Viva la Revolucion.”  The American Embassy in Managua is a beautiful, large building; a testament to their significant involvement in Nicaraguan history.  Tomorrow is another early bus ride, but one that I look forward to.  Tomorrow night, it is likely that I will be writing from one of the most beautiful beaches our world has to offer. 

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