04.05.2012 - 04.05.2012
Before I give this account I want to lay out a disclaimer. This trip, the planning and its execution, revealed to me many times a certain paradox. I heard (before and after I crossed the border) more stories of crime, corruption, and general evil in Latin America then I did of anything happy and good. And yet, I experienced more hospitality, good cheer and general pleasantness in person in relation to anything that could be interpreted as dark. And there is the paradox: The attention-getting bad news paints a picture of a dark, evil, dangerous, lucky-if-you- make-it-out-with-your-shirt-on place when in fact it's of the majority cheery and safe.
So, I have come across the bad on this trip, but in relation to the good, it is nothing. In fact the more I travel, the more I'm convinced that the world is well over the majority in the favor of good, at least when you put two fellow humans together face to face.
Now, with that, I will recount a little bit of the bad...You gotta hear this though, it was crazy, these cops were so dirty (etc. etc.)...
I spent some time on the old wide web before I crossed into the parenthesis, particularly spent my time on forums, and especially one particular forum on driving in Mexico. It was there where I became familiar with the word "La Mordida" which translates into "The Bite." The Bite is a donation, a little gift, a suggestion, a little piece of money - these are the names I've heard it called in person by the person on the other side of Cheek's car door. This one forum was particular about fighting against The Bite and they laid out a couple of tactics which I absorbed and used in real time, never in Mexico, but further south and in this instance outside the city of Manugua in Nicarragua. In a nutshell the advice was simple: First ask, and if not received, demand Due Process.
view near the rim of volcano masaya
It was the four of us - Cheeks, the Aussies and myself - and we came up a small hill climbing out of the city. We were headed to the Volcano Masaya when we were flagged to the side of the road by two officers standing next to a little compact police car. The younger officer confiscated my license as he explained I was "driving too close to the car in front of me". This immediately triggered my senses - everyone and their mother drives close to the other cars in front of them there, one would think it was in Nicaragua's DMV handbook, and at that, I questioned to myself if I really was driving too close to the car in front.
The second officer, an older man came behind and fanned out half a dozen other licenses that had been confiscated. I noticed half of them to be fake. This was fishy. I proceeded with the protocol laid out in the forum:
James: Ok, well what do we do, officer?
Young Officer: Well the ticket is $80
James: Well, rules are rules, right? Where do I pay the ticket?
Young Officer: Oh well you pay right here
James: Oh no that can't be, you have to pay the fine in the court, right?, That's always what has to be done, right? And I need a physical ticket, right?
Young Officer: No, but you see the court is all the way back in Managua.
James: No problem! Just give us the ticket and we'll spin around and pay it without a problem. Then I get my license back, right?
Young Officer: No, the court is closed today so you have to stay overnight (but it was a weekday)
James: No problem, we love Managua. Can you recommend us a place to stay?
Young Officer: No, you can pay the $40 now and go one your way (he was slipping and so we already earned a 50% discount). and then he said...the court is closed for 5 days.
James: No problem! We love it here! Just give us the ticket and we'll head back into the city. at this point the Aussies caught on to the strategy and said "Yeah this city is beautiful, we love it here."
The young officer went back to speak to the older one. The older came back with my license and gave us an "Adelante!" which in that circumstance meant more or less "be on your way".
It was a triumph. We had fought La Mordida and won!
volcano island, lake nicaragua