Friday, July 11, 2014

Taxi or Bus?

 No pictures today, I just thought I'd tell a story.
 The first time I went into town for money and groceries, I took the girls and Jeff stayed home. I went first to the ATM where I had the option of taking dollars or Cordobas out, and taking them out of Savings or AD..R?..ADH? (some acronym!)account and I had no idea what it was. That was choosing the English option too. I made try after try and it wouldn't work. I went to a second ATM, tried everything. I did an inquiry to see how much we had. It was plenty. Couldn't get money. I finally went to the bank next door and asked for help. They told me that two of the three ATM's I was trying only took VISA not MasterCard. How would I even know that? No signs. Anyway, finally went to the right ATM, tried the right option, and got 200 dollars, and then the same amount in Cordobas. What a relief. We got groceries, and after a long wait finally got the bus home.

Meanwhile, Jeff at home is climbing the walls. Capitol One sends him an email saying there is likely fraudulent activity on our account. He gets on Skype with them and they tell him how some person was trying all of these ATM's and did a balance inquiry, etc.  They advise him to cancel the card. He says he wants to wait since he knows I need to buy groceries, but waits and never sees the transaction for groceries because I bought them with cash. I thought they didn't take cards, and why I thought I needed to go to the bank. Jeff's worried we've been robbed and are bleeding in a back alley somewhere. He can't even call me because we have no service here.

He cancels the credit card.  Capitol One asks where to send the replacement card, and guess what? Around here nobody has an address. No real address here where we are living, just Playa el Coco. Remember the church in Rivas only had the address "one block east and one block south of San Pedro". We ask the rental agency lady in town (that we rented from) if she can get our mail for us and she kind of freaks out.

 "email? can't they just send an email? How about a fax? can't they send a fax?"
 "No" we tell her. "it has to be an actual paper letter"
"let me get this straight" she says. "An airplane comes into Managua with a letter, and then a truck drives it here? I guess that should be OK, everyone knows our business"
"what about an address?" we ask. "Can't we give them your address?"
 "they should know where we are, just tell them near the restaurant El Timon --walk one block east. Will I have to sign for it?" Anyway, she finally agrees to take the letter.

I go yesterday into town (after Capitol One confirms the cards came) with Tia alone because we only have enough change for 2 bus fares. The fare guy really doesn't like it if you hand them an American $20. The bus breaks down on the way, and three people from inside the bus climb out with tools and bang around on it for about half an hour before they get it up and going again. With the heat and exhaust I'm carsick by the time we reach town. We go first to the rental agency and ask for our mail. I bring out my driver's license and she studies it before handing me the UPS envelope. I leave and do my other errands: get some groceries, some more cash, and find a taxi to take us and our groceries home.

The taxuero is a really nice guy (although he has a long pinkie nail --doesn't that mean he does cocaine? I just ignored it and hoped my friends in High School had told me wrong). We talk about how long we're staying, and what I like about Nicaragua. I tell him the wildlife/nature, and we try to figure out the name in Spanish for possum --Jeff had seen one last night. We finally figure it out between the two of us (zarigüeya), and he takes us about 1/4 of the way home before he says he needs to put water in the car. He goes around to the back and pours in about a gallon of water. We go about three blocks. He stops at a little shack and asks for more water. He puts in another gallon or so. There are two turkeys in the yard and asks me if I know the name of those. I do. A woman and little boy stare at us as they help fill the gallon jug. A truck stops and the driver gets out and gives advice. A third car comes through and weaves between the truck and the taxi. Dust is everywhere although a cool breeze is blowing and the trees are nice.

Our driver gets back in, and we go maybe a quarter of a mile before he is worried again and asks if it's all right to call his brother. "Whatever" I say. He tells us he can't get a signal and backs the car up a while, then pulls off to the side, yelling into the phone. He's pretty embarrassed about the car. "Tranquilo, tranquilo" he says. He says sometimes foreigners are worried a driver will hurt them or something.  I wasn't worried until maybe that exact moment. I knew he couldn't fake radiator problems with all of those gallons of water? Could he?

"You're a licensed taxi driver right?" He shows us his badge. We wait for the brother. Tia and I take out our books which have come in handy more than once that day, and start to read. He starts talking about his family, and his university studies, how hard it is to become an accountant which is what he is studying for. I don't get much reading done.

Finally the brother comes, who is also nice, but doesn't look anything like the other driver. I call him on it - "are you sure you're brothers?" I ask. "you don't look alike"

"Si" he says. "my brother and sister both got the light skin, but me and my other brother are dark" I feel bad wondering if he thought that's what I had a problem with. I just wanted to make sure people weren't lying to me. I spend the next few minutes thinking of what I could have said -"your faces are shaped differently" what is the word for shape? Would he think I was calling him fat? I gave up.

I ask him if he's studying too, and he tells me no, that he has a wife and child, and she's studying, but he's just paying the bills. He said he for sure only wanted the one child because it was so much to support kids, and pay for schooling etc.  "It's very hard here" he says. That's what our last taxi driver had told us --that Nicaragua was the second poorest country in the world. I was pretty sure that couldn't be statistically true, but if that's the way it seemed to him it was true enough.

We finally got home, and started putting away the groceries. I was tired. I ate some oreos that I'd been tempted by in the grocery store. The chocolate and sugar helped. I was hoping we could go out for dinner because I didn't want to cook. Jeff asked if I got the cards ok. For some reason that "s" made me nervous.

"I went and picked up the letter at the rental place" I said, and got it out. I opened it, and pulled out one card.

"They didn't give you both letters?!"
"I'm so sorry, I didn't know there were two! I'm so sorry"
"It's not your job to know there were two! That's their job! That lady, every time she does this kind of stuff. It's never easy with her! I'm calling her now"

I guess we are going back into town.



belann said...

Okay, this post really made me nervous. Glad you got back okay. Hopefully, Jeff can go with you when you go back.

Sheri said...

This adventure sounds so typical of our trip there last summer! We discovered Nicaragua is the 2nd poorest country in the Americas...right behind Haiti. I love reading your stories!

Terry Earley said...

Good that you are writing as you go so you remember all of the adventures. Please stay safe!

Deja said...

Yikes! That sounds totally terrifying. I'm glad you bought the Oreos. I probably woulda busted them out in the car. ;)