Nicaraguan Newbie – Day 2

Sheree goes back to Managua…

Day 2 of our trip, which was really Day 1 in Nicaragua, started in the cutest of hotel rooms. Our bed had a fun tree painted over it. The kitchen was vibrant and colorful. And the bathroom door had the loudest hinges of any I’ve ever heard. (In case you woke up today wondering how a person could quiet squeaky hinges with only the bare essentials of travel, I’m here to tell you Baby Powder Scented Spray-On Deodorant works like magic!)

And once the door could easily close, it was time to wash the soda and memories of yesterday away in our large, luxurious shower. Knowing that many hotels in Nicaragua do not have hot water to the showers, I was pleasantly surprised when the water turned a perfect temperature and I hopped in. Just as my hair was sufficiently lathered, however, the water sputtered and slowly turned to ice. Seriously. Little ice cubes were being hurled at my warm head! Jumping out of the line of fire, (I may have screamed a little), I started laughing hysterically and I’m fairly certain Allen thought I had succumbed to the insanity that always threatens to overcome me. Just as I told him my story and tried to summon the courage to finish my shower in ice cubes, the water sputtered again and started to warm. “Oh!”, I told Allen, “It was just a fluke. It’s getting hot ag….. OWWWWW” Suddenly, fire from the hottest volcano (they have one there!) came from the showerhead, melting all the ice cubes — and my skin. I finally understood the reason the shower was so spacious. It’s so we can play a little game of “Hop In the Water For the 5 Seconds It’s the Right Temperature Every 3 Minutes and Then Hop Out Again Before You Die.” It’s a fun little game. Allen and I got quite good at it.   And to be honest, I’ve never laughed so much in a shower in my whole life! Kinda fun !

Anyway, I did eventually end up clean and we went to breakfast at the hotel. Mario met us there, this time with Michael and Miriam (translators for the two of us). This hotel has only been open 3 months, so there are a few little “bugs” in the system, but I have to say, this was the funnest, prettiest, most hospitable hotel! And the food was AMAZING! The owner herself cooks breakfast every morning. This particular morning it was eggs, beans and rice, toast, and ham. These items were all delicious in and of themselves, but then she brought out fruit and juice. Can I just tell you Nicaragua is THE place for fruit and juice? As everyone else talked, I scooped a bowl of fruit from the container and tasted the best mango and pineapple I’ve ever had. They kept talking, so I kept scooping. Unfortunately for those talk-y people, the fruit was pretty well gone by the time they stopped the chatting. But you snooze, you lose, you know? Mario finally said “Vamonos!”, which Google translates as “Let’s Go!” but in this instance meant “Save Sheree from herself and leave some fruit for others on the planet!”

The plan was to go back to Managua to get the water filtration buckets (that had arrived the week before but our Nicaraguan friends had so far been unable to spring from “customs jail”). No problem! We’ll just drive the 50 million kilometers (they made me do math to convert to miles and I’m sure 50 million was right, no matter how hard they laughed at me!) and pick those buckets up!

Our first stop was a hardware store, to pick up the items we would need once we had the filters. I’m not sure what Miriam and I were thinking, but we let 3 men go in there… by themselves. While we waited the very long time we should have anticipated waiting, we got to know one another and watched horses pull carts of dirt from a nearby business to I don’t know where. Presumably a dirty place.

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We did eventually leave the hardware store and after a long conversation about why the number 2 was painted on posts along the road and a funny story about meeting the President’s wife, we finally made it back to Managua, though we did have an extra guest in our car…

Did I mention the traffic there? My husband is allowed to drive in Nicaragua and loves the challenge. I, on the other hand, couldn’t be paid enough money to do the same. I think there must be some sort of code everyone there follows but is a secret to rule-followers such as myself.  The donkey/horse carts are right there on the road with the cars. Motorcycles drive wherever they want. Buses come up behind you at startling speeds and then either swerve at the last minute or stop, miraculously, inches from your petrified back seat occupants. This is scary enough, but there’s an added dimension… Pedestrians. Countless numbers of people are outside, walking on the street, crossing the street – like a giant reality version of Frogger or Crossy-Road! Horns honk constantly (and this is where I’m certain there is a code). Sometimes the honk means, “I’m over here.” Sometimes it’s “Get out of the way”. Other times “Hey look! I have a horn!”. There must be a horn guide somewhere on the internet I can get my hands on, because Nicaraguans all know what the honks mean, but I am completely in the dark! All I know is if I had a horn, it would have meant “No Muerte Today Please!”

My skilled driver of a husband got us to Managua “safely” – that’s in quotes because it means we didn’t die. The guys had to go to the customs office to pick up the buckets and filter systems, but we girls were not going to be allowed in (because our names weren’t on the paperwork).   It was decided that Miriam and I should be dropped off at the local mall for the couple hours it would take. I needed some shoes for the government meetings (since all I have are flip-flops and boots) so this seemed like a good plan. Unfortunately, neither Miriam nor I actually enjoy shopping. We found some shoes, walked around all 4 floors of the mall several times and were completely done within the first hour. That’s ok. Maybe the guys would be done early! Or…. maybe their task would be a huge disaster and they would spend the ENTIRE day trying fervently to rescue the poor buckets from their captivity. Yeah. It was the second scenario.

The poor men got no lunch, sat in the heat, ran all over town trying to get the paperwork straightened out, made phone call after phone call, begged, pleaded… Meanwhile, Miriam and I talked about life and laughed a lot. I taught her how to count floors in a Mall (she insisted there were three because she didn’t count the floor she was on!). She laughed at me when I thought I was crazy because 2 of the floors have a Cinema as you step off the escalator, but if you don’t know this, you wonder how you are going up the escalator to the same floor you were just on when you don’t remember ever going down! We finally decided to see Finding Dory – in Spanish, of course. I only caught about 5 words but I’m pretty sure it ended happily because the music was upbeat and the fish were smiling. Miriam seemed to enjoy it, so when I needed to use the restroom, I told her to stay and watch because certainly I could find my way to a bathroom. Bano – right? Easy! I found the nearest person, asked for the bano, went in the direction they pointed, and voila! A bathroom. As I proudly entered the empty room, I noticed the broken stall lock – the lever was stripped. Easy fix though – I just manually pushed the metal bracket into the lock, not stopping to realize that pulling the bracket back out with nothing with which to grip it, might be a problem. I had just listened to Dory call for help, so I knew “Ayuadame!”, but the bathroom was empty even if someone could have unlocked the door from the other side.   I began to assess my options. There was about a foot of space under the door, but the floor was pretty dirty and I didn’t relish the thought of doing the army crawl on it. But the stalls were pretty tall, and I didn’t want to break myself going over the top either. Option 3  – working desperately at the moving the lock – seemed best, so I pinched and pulled a bit at a time until I finally got it! Crisis averted, but not my last bathroom issue of the day.

The guys finally returned, but they returned without the buckets, tired, hungry, and discouraged – an entire day intended for ministry to the Nicaraguan people had been wasted. We drove back to Diriamba, still making phone calls on the way, trying to line up help for a repeat trip the next day.

We ate dinner at place called “Terri’s” which serves American food and was just down the street from our hotel. It was also the location of my second bathroom incident of the day. When I entered the bathroom, I could see the toilet hadn’t been flushed. In trying to flush it, I realized why – the handle was broken. Normally I would have just waited and used another bathroom later, but in Nicaragua, Americans get easily dehydrated and I had been working hard to avoid that. There was no way I was going to be able to wait until we got to another bathroom. Thankfully, my dad had taught me the basic workings of the toilet and Handymann Sheree could surely get it to flush. So I used it, then instantly regretted my decision. The inner workings were also broken. Try as I might to pull the chain, or the flapper, or the float, nothing filled or drained. The only thing filling with water was my hand. Luckily, there was an industrial-sized mustard container there which I could fill with water in order to flush the toilet manually. But turning on the sink revealed yet another issue – water barely trickled out. So I waited, and waited, and waited for it to fill. Just as I went to grab it, a group of men pounded suddenly and loudly at the door, yelling something in Spanish! I couldn’t tell if it was “The restaurant is on fire!” or “Hey lady! You got a problem in there?” For all I know they could have been quoting Shakespeare to me, but it was slightly scary and I made a bit of a mess with the water. Oh dear. No towels with which to clean that mess either. And just FYI – toilet paper doesn’t mop up water well. I finally left the bathroom in a state worse than I found it, with disgusting hands (there was no soap), and a general reticence for EVER having to use the restroom again. I was, however, thankful I had used the restroom because I quickly found out that this week in Nicaragua is a celebration to commemorate their revolution. They do this by randomly exploding firecrackers until wimpy blonde Americans have heart attacks while they try to eat a hamburger with toilet hands.

Thankfully, our cute, clean little hotel room with the fun game was not far away and we were able to wash away the day’s problems and spend some time problem solving.

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We went to sleep wondering if our nice, little innocent buckets would ever be ours to distribute.

About Pastor Allen Mann

President/CEO of GraceWorks Global; Music and Worship Pastor, Pastor of Evangelism and Outreach at Ponderosa Bible Church.
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