an email from end of August 2005
Driving is one of the lesser mentioned adventures to be had in Nicaragua. While the roads in this country are greatly improving, the drivers are not and the traffic police, at least in Managua, only add to the color of the experience. As we do lots of driving, either exploring the wilds or simply traveling back and forth to Ochomogo, we have been ill-fated to spend time with cops, buses, and the Nicaraguan legal system.
Our latest fiasco let me know just how well we are adapting to this crazy place we live in. It involved a bus again, of course, but only Big Red's right rear quarter panel sustained damage. The inevitable crowd gathered. A female traffic cop showed up, filled out some paperwork, then hung around until she got her bribe (100 cordobas). The bus driver accepted a 500 cordoba bill to forget it all happened and, after an hour, we were able to head home for our trusty stress busters, cold cervezas.
Yes, the bus driver was at fault. Yes, we were hit from behind (again). Yes, there were plenty of witnesses. Bottom line, Roger is white. In the eyes of Nicaraguan law, he's the guilty party because he has the ability to pay. Not a fair system to be sure, but does that exist anywhere?
After numerous stops by traffic cops (about once a month) for 'driving violations' (rough translation - give me money), Roger has turned it into a game. He just shakes his head and says "I don't speak Spanish" until the cop realizes he's not getting any money from this gringo and gives up. Sometimes it takes a few minutes, other times the officer is especially slow or stubborn and Roger ends up waiting half an hour.
We've had three accidents in our time here. The first ended up costing three grand and took a year to resolve, the second cost 50 cordobas and three weeks of Roger's time during an especially busy period, and this last one cost 600 cords and an hour. The most noticeable difference has been our reaction.
The first accident, pictured above, simply drained us emotionally. We were righteous in our indignation and insisted on adequate compensation. By the second mishap, Roger was still a bit righteous but somewhat wary of what he was getting himself into. This last accident got no more than an eye roll and a heavy sigh from us both. After it happened, Roger got out to inspect the damage, Logan went looking for a translator, and I went to the cybercafe to work on my website. Just another day in the paradise that's Nicaragua.
I'm happy to say that we're learning how to cope and find the bright points in these ridiculous incidents. Over beers that night, we marveled over the quality of workmanship of the Masaya metal worker that had installed a new three inch, iron pipe bumper and trailer hitch only last week. The bus may have torn the quarter panel almost off, but it didn't budge that bumper.
The fact that we only lost $35 and an hour of our time for this latest obstacle has us both smiling, or are we grinning like the truly mad? Hmmm...