Customs and 'Exercise...'

Trip Start Sep 28, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Nicaragua  ,
Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Alright so here we go.  I've managed to convince a half English, half Spanish type to come with me on the mission.  Since without a Spanish speaker I would probably never come back alive, Miguel has very kindly (foolishly) offered to help.  We find ourselves on a bus to Managua at 6.45am.

Trying to sleep on these things is a total nightmare.  It's lucky I'm sitting next to someone I know, as I'm always conscious I'll drool on a locals shoulder.  At least with Miguel I couldn't care less.  In fact I want to drool on him.  I'd go out of my way to do so.  Sleep doesn't really come though, as the vendors and beggars trill their wares and generally don't leave anyone alone.  Itīs a pretty rough trip.

I'm on super high alert as soon as we step off the bus at the end of the two hour odd journey.  The pepper spray begins to make an indentation on the skin of my hand.  Every guy who approaches within a few feet is scrutinized.  I don't trust anyone.  If a local so much as lears in my direction I'm going to unload in their face.  Not in the hard core porn money shot way.

We reach the customs place without event, which is a shame because I've nothing to write about.  For all the horror stories about this city, it actually seems OK.  I think pretty much everywhere you go, it's a 'wrong place, wrong time' scenario.  So long as you're not a white guy running through Harlem screaming "seig hiel" wearing a 'f**k black people' T-shirt, you should be fine.  Unless you're me.  I just attract trouble.  And people like Miguel...

It's fair to say without him I wouldn't have got anywhere.  I would in fact have been found stuffed in a FedEx box.  As much as it pains me to thank him, I should do so.  Thank you Miguel.  Uggggrrrrhhh.  That hurt.

It is with his Spanish fluency that we negotiate our way into and through the Managuan customs and shall I put it?  Farce.  Oh and it's Christmas.  The perfect time to have to come to a dangerous city and visit a huge warehouse with hundreds of peoples stuff inside.  Why a visit here is not listed in the lonely planet is beyond me.  We queue outside for what seems like hours.  That's because it was.  The population appeared to have descended on customs, all of whom had bought wide screen TV's.  Every other package appearing from the warehouse doors was a 52" monster Sony.  They've been pulling the wool over everyone's eyes playing the impoverished card...

At one o'clock, the staff leave for lunch.  Now you would think that they would provide appropriate lunch cover?  That's pretty standard.  When I say everyone leaves for lunch, I mean everyone.  It's totally incomprehensible.  We slump to the ground and start singing.  Only thing for it.  It's a sad state of affairs when you can't remember the first verse of always look on the bright side of life.

Eventually we're told we might not get in, and the FedEx people have gone.  You're joking me?  You're actually taking the piss.  I'm tempted to take this jobsworth security guards' metal detector and shove it up his arse.  Yet after some serious pleading from Miguel, we manage to get through and into the welcome air conditioning.

OK, now what?  There appears to be no system in place at all.  A throng of people clammer for a ticket, to get a paper, to have it stamped, to pay a tax, to wait for an age, to maybe get their package.  Its a cattle market.  These people have never heard of queues.  I yearn for Royal Mail..

So I've become aware I'm waffling on here and this entry is far too long for a blog post.  Let's get to the important bit.  Miguel spins the sob story to a FedEx guy, while I stand there with puppy dog eyes.  Now I'm going to be totally honest in that there is no other way to describe this man than an utter legend.  He bustles away, we wait, he comes back, and somehow he's managed to by pass the red tape and bureaucratic bullshit, and he slips me my new wallet, intact, card inside.  The FedEx guy is my new hero.  Between him and Miguel, my faith in humanity is restored.  Temporarily.

My new card is in my hands.  Bank of Scotland.  My last card was black, whereas this has a picture of Dunnotar Castle near Stonehaven.  I choke back a little emotion.  I once took a special girl there.  The image invokes some nice memories, so much so I forget to properly thank my saviour.  It's lucky that Miguel makes sure he does.  I didn't even have to pay the tax.  This guy risked his job to help someone.  Mr FedEx man at the customs office in Managua; I salute you.  You will reap what you sow.

Wander around a few shops; pick up new contact lenses, have some food, feel the freedom again.  Bus to Rivas, Lada to San Juan Del Sur.  A 1967 Lada.  Instead of taking a reputable cab, Miguel somehow manages to get a local to drive his sardine can.  I fear for my life, not so much from our driver, as for the death trap we find ourselves in.  Yet I do it an injustice; these little cars are built to run and run, and it brings back memories of Russia.  I'm writing this, so I made it back in one piece, with card, happy with a surprisingly successful day.

I'm away to lift loads of money, get drunk, robbed, raped, and left face down in the lapping tide.



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