The Folks That Make it Happen

Published: May 13th 2012
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Travel to new places pits your wits against daily challenges. All new destinations are filled with strangers that you need for directions, food, rooms and basic necessities. Adding to anxiety, all travel books warn about theft, dangers, and the occasional murder. Expatriates encountered on the road usually have a story of someone being robbed of cameras, computers or cash. Locals will warn you of no go places and just to impress, will throw in a story whether recent or long past about a brutal slaying of some unfortunate backpacker. Of course, being the fortunate few from the First World, lugging around electronic devices worth the annual wages around these parts, we feel the target on our backs and more some. Its like the lawyer on the pot in Jurassic Park; pants down, no where to run and facing enormous teeth.

Actually none of our fears have been realized. We keep engaging in smiling and friendly folks. Like Patti, a nice Honduran mother operating a small restaurant along a dirt road. She not only made delicious tamales, but added hugs and kisses as we departed. Or Johnson, our mini-motor taxi driver who apologized profusely for being a bit late in picking us up. He offered to charge us less than normal for his mistake, which was already ridiculously cheap. The hour drive allowed for long conversation. I learned his legs were amputated after hopping trains in Texas. Being illegal, he was sown up, sent home and went to work providing for his family. Local farmers who hopped on board with us all said Luis was now the guy with money in town.

Nicaraguans have only added to a recurring theme, that the majority of folks are downright nice and generous, especially with time since money is in short supply. Arriving in Granada's bus station, Amei and I studied the local map to find our hostel when a curious couple approached to offer help. Without hesitation, they offered us a room in their humble home which we agreed to. Three days later, we've enjoyed Frank and Evelyn's hospitality, experienced a bit of Nicaraguan home life including sun bathing iguanas out back, introductions to the cheapest food stalls and good general local information. Thus a friendly encounter in the street led to lasting memories of Nicaraguan good will.

I guess my point is that with a little common sense and a bit of caution, one can experience more of the good side to Central America than the bad. Guidelines we inherently follow are avoiding lonely places at night, limiting the use of computer and cameras in public, wearing no jewelry and staying sober. All in all, our experiences with the locals have been rewarding. Rewarding with generosity, friendships and smiles with teeth more shiny than sharp.

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