Driving Ms. Debbie


“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”
― Lao Tzu

Life is a trip in the land of the not quite right (Nicaragua). I’m learning to expect the unexpected and let reality be reality.  But, occasionally things happen that are so unforeseen, that the only thing to do is let things flow naturally forward in whatever bizarre way they like. It’s the only way to survive in Nicaragua!

Robinson and I went to Granada yesterday to pick-up my new-to-me Scartt dune buggy. I’ve lived in Nicaragua long enough to know that our two-hour drive back to the port to catch the ferry with my conspicuous orange machine would draw a lot of attention….especially from the police.  So, Robinson drove “Ms. Debbie” to the amusement of every trucker, bicycler, cowboy, and vendor along the way.

IMG_4846
We were gifted with thumbs-up, stares, gawks, waves, laughs, and claps on our road trip. It was like riding in a parade.

IMG_4859The day was gorgeous with cattle grazing in the green grass and thunderclouds building for a late evening rain. We passed all the police stops with ease. They just stared and waved us on, which was amazing to me because I was sure we’d be stopped. We had all of our documents with us. Robinson told me not to worry about a thing. We were legal. But, I know it’s Nicaragua and the word “legal” is relative.

IMG_4861I bought the Scartt from my friend, who lived in Granada, and recently passed away. I am usually a worrier, but I felt a warm sense of calmness and serenity. It was almost like my friend, Sonya, was with me.

We drove slowly and carefully, and as a result we missed the four o’clock ferry. So, I treated Robinson to a chocolate mocha helado at Tip Top Restaurant. We needed a break because my Scartt is loud and we couldn’t talk to each other without shouting for two hours on the road.

Robinson loaded the Scartt onto the  five o’clock San José ferry. It was too easy. Our road trip had been perfect. Was I worrying needlessly?

IMG_4863With the Scartt snuggled among the plantain trucks, we enjoyed an hour of peace and relaxation.
IMG_4865The sunset was breathtaking. When we landed on Ometepe Island, it was dark. Robinson drove me home and I fell exhausted into bed.
IMG_4869The next morning, Ron inspected my little orange buggy. I hadn’t driven it yet, so I planned a shopping trip into town after our young helpers were finished macheting our yard. I wanted this dune buggy so bad because I can’t drive Ron’s moto and I needed a sense of independence. I hated depending on Ron or a moto taxi to take me everywhere on la isla.

After our workers were done for the day, Ron and the two boys took a little joy ride. Ron was shirtless without any documents. They squeezed into the two-seater for a quick trip around the block…assuming that no police would be on the dirt roads.

Unbeknownst to them, a robbery had occurred on the dirt road behind ours, Alfonzo was trying to drive the Scartt, and Ron and Jose were hanging out the window/door. The road was teeming with police…drooling over our conspicuous orange dune buggy. What an opportunity!

Two policemen stopped Ron and asked for his documents. “Dame su llaves,” drooled the cop. (Give me your keys.) Jose whispered to Ron, “Don’t give him your keys.” They aren’t allowed to take your car.” Too late! When a cop asks for the keys, we were trained to listen to him.

“Go home and get your documents.” We’ll wait here.”  said the second officer.

When Ron arrived at the house, he told me he had to take the documents back to the police. They were waiting for him near the elementary school. “I know the police,” said Julio. “I’ll go with you.”

Meanwhile, Jose walked back to my house to tell me that the police had driven my dune buggy to the police station in Moyogalpa and Ron was to meet them there with all the documents and they could issue the tickets for driving without a license, driving without seat belts, too many people in the buggy, and an unlicensed driver at the wheel.

Ron returned about 30 minutes later with my buggy, which surprised me.  How he could take care of all the tickets so rapidly? These kind of things have been known to take days.

“Ron, how did you get back so quickly?” I asked. Then, I saw it! My headlight was missing and the dune buggy was smashed in the front! I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry, or scream in anger!

IMG_4870Ron relayed this story: When Julio and I were walking past the ball field, I saw the Scartt.

“Great,” I thought. “I don’t have to walk all the way into town to the police station.”

I laid all my documents on the back of the Scartt to show the policemen, but they were preoccupied on their phones. It seemed really strange to me that they didn’t want to see any of my documents.

” Tengo una problemo,” said the first cop. ( I have a problem.) Then, he showed Ron the missing headlight and the smashed front of the dune buggy.

“We hit a dog,” said the second cop. Ron screamed, “EEY”…that’s the Nicaraguan way to say, “Yes, we have a big problem.” and “Wait until my wife finds out about this!”

There was no dog to be found and the headlight was too high for them to have hit a dog. Then, they saw the tree with the scarred trunk. The police were about to cry. They said they would take the car to be fixed, but Ron had to pay for the tickets, which would amount to about 1,500 cords or $57.

Ron could tell that they were really uncomfortable and nervous if he accepted their offer. Apparently, the temptation to drive my bright orange dune buggy was too great. They took a fast joy ride and couldn’t stop when they came to the construction on our main road. If they told the captain what had happened, they both would be fired.

They were remorseful, and told Ron, “Just leave and you don’t have to pay any tickets.” So, Ron gathered up the headlight and headed home.

After listening to Ron’s saga, I was furious. I wanted to go right to the police station and talk to the captain. “They had no right to take our buggy in the first place, and now they’ve crashed it.” “I want justice!”

But, Nicaraguan justice is all relative, like being “legal”. Ron talked to a mechanic, who could fix it just like new for $50. It is going to the mechanic tomorrow morning. Alfonzo was afraid he would get in serious trouble for driving without a license, and he was relieved that the cops let Ron go without any tickets. Not to mention how relieved the cops were when Ron said he’d fix it himself. They hugged him. Yes! Really!

Sometimes, we just have to let go and accept reality. Life is a series of ‘unnatural’
(especially in Nicaragua) and spontaneous changes. Resisting the changes would only create more sorrow, aggravation, and frustration.

In forgiving the policemen for their impulsive joy ride, they will be our friends forever and help us when we need help.
We won’t have any hassles with the Scartt on the island because word spreads quickly, especially among the cops…don’t hassle the people in the bright orange dune buggy!

Ron learned to never give his keys to any police officer, to always carry the proper documents, and never let an unlicensed driver attempt to drive. The police were so grateful, they told Ron, “Let your young friends practice driving on the baseball field anytime!”

In the afternoon, I drove the Scartt into town to do some shopping. I smiled at the police as I drove by and shouted out the window, “Remember me always. We are now good friends.” I think they saluted me, either that or they tried to give me a hug in passing.

Let reality be reality. Life is never going to be perfect…but, it sure beats the heck out of living a passionless life in the states. I’ve made new friends who will protect me and watch out for me. Everyone is happy, and tomorrow I’ll have my bright orange dune buggy back to normal in the land of the not quite right.

What would you do in a situation like ours? Do you think we made the right choice?

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33 thoughts on “Driving Ms. Debbie

  1. I’m so glad things worked out after the police encounter. Unlike their US counterparts making $100,000/year they work for almost nothing and do a good job with next to no resources. Had you pushed the issue it most likely would have been disastrous to their personal lives. Thanks for doing the right thing. Every few months I drop off a pizza or a case of sodas at the office as a way of saying thanks.

    I was ready to email you from the new Mar Dulce restaurant but read your post first. I can’t believe a restaurant of this calibre is here on the island and affordable to boot! I ate here Sunday and managed to stay away until today. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

  2. I was so curious as to what (mis)-adventure could have led to your Scart’s first ding – and hopefully last ding! It’s crazy. All’s well that ends well – and you made some friends with the local police! That can’t hurt right? 🙂

    It was really great meeting you. I’m also glad your cat is doing better.

    • Rich, it was great to meet you, too. Things are slowly looking up on Ometepe. The Scartt is almost all fixed up better than new. We just have to take it to the mechanic for a paint job to fix the paint that was scraped off onto the tree. So crazy! It almost seems unreal. 🙂

    • Isn’t it crazy, Nicole? We’ve only been back a week and we had to deal with a very sick cat, the police crashing my dune buggy, my other cat, Ocho, who was AWOL for 5 days, a leaky water tower ( because the city installed a new pump and the pressure is so great it blew out some of our water lines), …and the list goes on. I woke up this morning feeling sick…I think the stress got to me. 😦

  3. Awww, I can just see the policemen so upset and worried and remorseful about what happened. We know a job is an important thing and you saved their jobs, saved youselves the legal problems, and now have friends on the police force. I’d say it’s a win-win solution for $50. How could you do anything else?

  4. What a terrific story and I was able to picture your voyage on the ferry, your time in Granada and driving back along the Pan American highway to everyone’s delight! We had the privilege of meeting and getting to know Sonja while we were in Granada and enjoyed a group trip with her to Selva Negra in April. She was an amazing lady who would truly appreciate your opening quote by Lao Tzu and I bet she’d be delighted that you are the guardian of her treasured dune buggy! Anita

  5. “The land of the not quite right” … when Mark and I tell our stories of our month on Ometepe, we often mention you, your blog, and that very apt tagline that you’ve created. It is particularly fitting for this story. Congratulations to you both for navigating the situation with such grace!

  6. What a great story, I can’t imagine this could happen in my country! Hahaha
    But while traveling in other parts of the world I did learn the most unexpected always can happen :)And “creative thinking” and unusual solutions work out the best for everyone in most of such cases!
    And now you even are lucky to have the police as your best friend on Ometepe!

  7. Inspired by your positivism!
    It sure is the right way to see life and admire how easy you forgive, forget and move on 😉
    Though I am not an expat, I know and agree when you say that Nicaragua is the country of the unexpected… Not that I do not love the country I was born, it is just that there are a lot of things we need to do better!!!

    • Holly, your comment is so touching to me. Thank you so much my friend. I’m a little emotional today after all the excitement. Plus, I have to write a post about our cat, Black Jack’s near death illness. That’s why Ron couldn’t go with me to Granada. He had to stay at home and take care of Black Jack. He’s doing much better now. And so is Ron. 🙂

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