I had some minor [major] car troubles yesterday, while Justin was out of town, and it reminded me of this early experience I had in Nicaragua…
Shortly after Justin and I moved to San Juan, he took off for a weeklong bachelor party in Colombia. I knew the trip was planned before we even set foot on Nicaraguan soil, but I don’t think I truly believed that Justin would actually leave me sola in Nicaragua just 5 weeks into our adventure, until he did. Nevertheless, I wasn’t going to be the girl who stood between Justin and his best buddy’s bachelor party, even if it was 1,000 miles away.
We had just purchased our new (old) car – a 1997 Isuzu Trooper, so I drove Justin to the airport in Managua and then planned to drive back to San Juan on my own. Even now, after 4 years of life here, I can’t believe that I actually agreed to drive back from Managua, on my own, with absolutely no knowledge of Managua, the route to San Juan, or the transit “laws.” I did it anyway. Thankfully, our new friend, Baldo, was in Managua the same day and offered to ride back with me. So after leaving Justin at the airport, I went to meet Baldo at Metrocentro, a mall just 15 minutes away and also a place I’d never been, but was certain that I could find easily. A mere 4 hours later, I pulled into the parking lot and we were on our way.
I handed the keys over to Baldo, exhausted from my half-day trek around the winding streets of Managua, and we set off for San Juan. As we neared Rivas, and dusk, our new (old) car began to show signs of distress. First the interior dashboard lights began to dim and shortly thereafter, the radio stopped working. Baldo assured me that we were fine, so we continued on our way. We rounded the corner at La Virgen and embarked on the final passage home. These days, that last stretch of road takes about 15 minutes to cover, end to end, but 4 years ago, that tiny stretch of highway required a 45-minute commitment thanks to giant potholes and endless desvios (detours). So, it should come as no surprise to anyone that shortly after we made that turn, the sun set, the car stalled, and our headlights went out.
I encouraged Baldo to pull over – perhaps we could call a tow truck, I suggested. Baldo just laughed and pointed out that not only were we in the black hole for cell phone signal, but it would be a long wait for Triple A. Instead, he hopped out, push-started the car, jumped back in and we continued down the highway. This time, Baldo only accelerated when climbing a hill. The rest of the journey, we relied on dear old Newton and his Law of Motion, chugging up hills, using the gas, and coasting down hills using sheer momentum. He did his best to get behind other vehicles (which were few and far between) to light our way home.
To reassure me [and to calm my intermittent hysterics and quiet my naïve mechanical suggestions], for the remainder of the ride, Baldo regaled me with stories of his teenage years. He’d been in this very situation before, except that when the headlights went out, his buddy walked alongside the car, illuminating their way home with a Bic cigarette lighter.
At one point, the wind picked up, swirling dust into the car, so [naturally] I closed my [electric] window for protection to which Baldo sighed loudly and reminded me that we were trying to conserve the car’s energy, not deplete it. You can imagine how thrilled he was when, a few minutes later, I began to lower the window to relieve my forehead from the beads of sweat forming across my brow.
Eventually, we rolled [quite literally] into town, stopping at the Texaco to charge up the Trooper’s battery for the final push up the giant hill in Pacific Marlin, where we were staying with friends. Barely in the door, I burst into tears, cursed Justin and our dear Trooper, and fell into a dead sleep.
The following morning, I rose early in an attempt to get a jump on the day and a jumpstart for the car. I walked out the door only to find a flat tire and decided it was the Trooper waving her white flag in surrender. I laughed to myself, turned around, walked back inside the house and gave her a nice 7-day rest. Because a Trooper she is.