Over the past month, we have had some odd things happen to us. They make for really interesting stories, but rarely do we talk about these stories on our blog. It may be because we want to protect your view of Nicaragua as we want our friends and family to visit despite an interesting encounter we may have together. Or, it may be the fact that we personally would rather forget that some of these stories have happened to us. But mostly it is because we don't want to misrepresent the wonderful people that we call our friends. When we start telling our stories, we worry that people will think differently of Nicaraguans, categorize them all in one box or assume that they are all one way.
We have encountered a lot of muggings and thefts while we have been here.
Most of them would be considered petty, ones in which we did not find ourselves in danger. But almost every situation still creates a sense of helplessness, fear and has our hearts racing. In our first year here, we had way too many of these encounters, more than you can count on your fingers, so many that we needed to seek out counseling to process the various events. The number of incidents has decreased over the past year and a half, but it is still a regular reality that we face. We always hold onto the fact that Nicaragua is incredibly safe in comparison to its bordering countries. Yes, we will run into some sticky situations, but we will most likely come out okay.
We don't want to make light of the situations, but we thought we would share a couple of our interesting stories with you today.
I (Cassie) was waiting at the bus stop on a Wednesday evening around 7pm. I was carrying several bags and my purse and my first thought was that I should take a taxi home considering the crowded buses and everything that I was hoping to carry on with me. But I decided to stick to the bus plan and waited in hope that an emptier bus would arrive. As I was waiting in the midst of a crowd, an aging lady in her seventies came up to me and asked what bus route I was waiting for. I gave her a few possibilities, 114, 103, 120, 110 and she told me that a 114 had just passed and was waiting up in the front. I thanked her and walked to where she pointed me, but there was no 114. I thought that was odd, but then realized that maybe she was trying to distract me. I checked my purse pockets and my phone, keys and wallet were all still in their places. I walked back to where I was originally waiting until my bus arrived. I hopped on and moved toward the back when a younger guy approached me and told me that an old lady had my phone.
Confused, I checked my pocket and realized that it was gone. I didn't understand how only 30 seconds before I was completely aware of the possibility of theft and then it happened to me without me even knowing. I pounded on the back door of the bus until the driver kindly opened it for me. I hopped off and found the lady behind our bus, trying to cross the street. I quickly approached her and said, "Excuse me, but do you have my phone?" She responded, "yes" and handed it back to me. I thanked her and hopped back on the bus, extremely confused by what had happened, but grateful that I had my phone. I went and sat next to the younger guy that initially helped me, he was very excited to see that I had gotten my phone back. In fact, half of the bus was clapping and cheering. They apologized and expressed their embarrassment that something like this would happen. I told them not to worry at all, that there are very few people that do these kinds of things and that the majority of people want to help. We talked throughout the rest of our ride and I arrived home with a sense of joy, confusion and hope.
I (Kevin) was walking to the bus stop in our community on a Tuesday evening around 5pm. I was only carrying a small backpack containing a water bottle, 2 books, some pens, a plastic container, which held that evenings dessert, and gum. I was leaving in order to meet Cassie and some friends for dinner. I had only briefly stopped home to drop-off the host of supplies that I had been lugging around all day. While at home I had quickly eaten a handful of peanuts. As I began walking down the street I realized that my breath reflected the said peanuts which were spicy. Thus, as I walked I placed a stick of gum into my mouth. As I continued on my five block walk to the nearest bus stop a neighbor approached me wondering if he could have a piece of gum as well. I was more than happy to meet his request as I quickly swung my pack to my front in order to make the gum accessible. We stood and talked for a few minutes.
Soon we were surrounded by three cops who pulled up on motorcycles. They yelled at us, demanding that we stop speaking, move away from each other and show them our hands. We both obliged the officers. They asked to talk with me and wondered what a person from the U.S. was doing in our neighborhood and would not accept the possibility that I actually lived there. They made me empty my pockets, empty my bag, and then still not feeling satisfied, they made me come with them. I was escorted, I walked and they rode behind and on either side of me to the local police trailer to be questioned and stripped searched. I knew I had done nothing wrong and I knew that the man who I had stopped and spoken with struggled with various addictions. Thus, I assumed that I was suspected of buying drugs. I asked to call Cassie and was allowed to do so as the three officers explained the situation to the police chief. For over 45 minutes they talked about the event that had occurred and what they should do about me. Two of the cops believed that I should be stripped searched as they thought I had drugs on my person. Throughout the entire time I was never questioned. Eventually I asked if I could speak. I explained to them that indeed I did live in Tierra Prometida, that these were my house keys and that the home that I share with my wife was only a block and a half away. Eventually, (again escorted) I took them to see my house and explained to them what we do in Nicaragua, who we work for and why we live where we do. I was free to go and since this event the police have been using our bathroom from time to time seeing as they do not have their own.