Welcome To Nicaragua

“Where are you staying, sir?”

“León”

“Do you have the address?”

“No, not really. My friends are coming on a later flight”

“Well, I can’t let you in the country without an address. You’re gonna have to wait for them.”

Not exactly the warm welcome I expected.

Ramón, my immigrations officer, takes my passport to consult with his superior.

My only two planned days in this trip involve a wedding in a city called León. It’s about two hours northwest of Managua. Population 32,000. Average temperature 34 C.

My friend Emma is getting married to Carlos, an amazing Nicaraguan who fought in the revolution. I’m most fond of him because he lived in Russia, which means he had a Russian bath in his house. Admirable.

“Do you have a phone number, sir?”

“Unfortunately not. My host is coming from Chicago on a flight from El Salvador. She arrives in 2 hours.”

“You’re gonna have to wait.”

I surrender.

“Can I have my passport back?”

“No”

“I’d prefer to have it with me. I’ve had it stolen before.”

I’VE HAD IT STOLEN BEFORE. Great, Luis. You’re never getting that shit back. You just signed up for the Central American sequel of The Terminal. Hope the ketchup is good here.

“I’ll be right back.”

He goes behind the mirrored glass again.

My friends are heavily involved with the social cooperatives movement ­ Emma used to work for an NGO in León and that’s where she met her husband-to-be.

They’re getting married at this beautiful beach. I just don’t have the address to it. Maybe I’ll get away with something made up like:

315 Playa – Leon, Nicaragua 23321

I decide to keep that as my last resort. I have another brilliant idea. “do you have Internet somewhere? I can look up the address online” He goes back to his superior, of course.

This person must have all the answers, I think. Behind that mirrored glass there’s a pair of eyes that see it all ­ that KNOW it all.
They’re covered by mirrored sunglasses. No one can ever know where they look.

Ramón comes back. The eyes belong to a woman.

Enter Ramona. She wouldn’t give me her name, but I envision a world where every person hired to share a workspace is called the same. It facilitates communications. Paychecks can be reused. Must save the trees.

Ramona looks at me by not looking at me but instead glazing over the sides of my eyes ­ a tactic I know well from public officials in Venezuela.

“DO NOT ESTABLISH EYE CONTACT. NEVER CONNECT. Connection makes you vulnerable. You ARE the superior.”

Ramona is fierce and well prepared, but I charm her. I mostly fail, but I try at least. She insists that I wait until my host arrives. After a rather long discussion, she reluctantly agrees to let me use her smartphone so I can look up the NGO’s address.

Success. I’ll show Ramona who’s the superior here. You just wait. I’m gonna kill this.

The site is down. No address. No nothing. The page loads like a Picasso. I click everywhere. Nothing happens.

Ramona not-­looks at me. Ramón looks at me. I look at me. I’ve failed.

“Get the gentleman a chair. The passport stays here.”

my seat while I waited

my seat while I waited

I sit down. Empty baggage carts stack around me.

I write this post. My passport stays here.

I write this post. My passport stays here.

Welcome to Nicaragua.

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