Waspam….the time that I took an old school bus on a gravel road across Nicaragua.
Many people recommended that I fly, but my desire to see Nicaragua by land, taking the trip like most Nicaraguan’s do, along with my fear of small planes provided me with this amazing opportunity. The 640 kilometer trek, which google maps estimates to take eight hours, actually takes thirty two. It was long and painful at times, but such an opportunity to stop and pass through several towns that I had only ever heard of or seen on a map.
I started off early on a Monday morning and was waiting at the bus station for a couple hours when I was told that the 10am bus would not be leaving due to a lack of passengers. Gratefully, the 6pm bus left which provided me with an all day wait at the market and a super crowded bus that evening. The first few hours of the ride went pretty smooth, but once we were outside of the city and on gravel road, it became interesting. Because we are currently in rainy season, there were a lot of impassable parts on the road where the bus ayudantes would collect rocks and boulders to build a more stable ground for the bus to pass. There were three times where the bus became stuck in the mud and passengers were asked to exit and help push. At one point, a semi truck hooked itself up to the bus and pulled us out.
We crossed over several bridges made of a few wooden logs. We could teeter across, tipping back and forth because of the heavy cargo that was strapped to the top of the bus. At this times, it mostly helped for me to just close my eyes. Bathrooms were sparse which meant that we used the wild outdoors. Men were told to go in front of the bus and women went to the back. Used toilet paper was deposited on the road and left for the next passerby. Towards the end of our trip, we crossed a river on a floating dock. I was told that the town that runs the dock has been offered a bridge by the government, but they have refused it as their economy relies heavily on the money that they can bring in for the ferry crossings.
I must say that despite the above experiences, I wouldn’t have traded this trip for the world. I was able to visit what one book described as “Latin America’s most rural and untouched land.” And the people made my trip phenomenal. I met a couple from Estelí who chatted with me on both legs of the trip, the bus drivers and ayudantes were super friendly and helpful, I enjoyed the various food stops that we made and took the opportunity to find out why the fellow riders were also making this long and arduous trip.
Upon my arrival, I spent four days in Waspam giving a workshop on Conflict Transformation. The workshop was for staff from Accion Medica Cristiana and they were a joy to work with. They had a lot of energy, which allowed for the workshop to be very engaging and interactive. I believe that we all grew and learned from our time together.
On my last day, the group surprised me with a special lunch. We ate their famous ron-don, which is a soup made with fish, peppers, coconut milk, onions, yucca and quequisque. It was delicious and I was extra grateful that the used fish instead of the often used turtle. I also enjoyed trying gaubul, a green banana drink as well as gallo pinto made with coconut milk. This group of people sure made me feel right at home!
And one more amazing thing about the individuals that live in Waspam and the rest of the coast – the majority are bilingual. Much of our workshop was done in Miskito and Spanish. We had translations going back and forth throughout. I was amazed to see at how fluid everyone was between the two languages. Trying to learn a second language and still struggling with this on a daily basis, made me realize what a talent this really is.
It looks like I will be able to return in 2014 for a follow-up workshop with the team. I am looking forward to spending more time with them, learning and strategizing for how to better live out peace in our communities. I am still up in the air as to whether I will fly or go by road.