Monday, November 17, 2008

Timing is Everything

Well initially I felt a little guilty about taking about 2 and a half weeks of vacation down here, but in retrospect, it turns out that I am a certified genius.  Election violence is really wild down here, and it's been impossible to get anything done in Managua at all for the past week. I called around to the archives, and most of them are closed, or only open for a few hours a day with limited services.  The Sandinistas "won" the municipal elections, but there are widespread accusations of fraud.  As a result, riots, demonstrations, violence.  So far two people have been killed when riot police fired into a crowd, though much of the violence is lower key than that. Moxita went to León on Sunday and arrived here in Managua this morning, as the demonstrations were so violent and huge that she was effectively trapped in the hostel once she got there.  And getting there itself was terrifying, as there were roadblocks, and people kept stopping her bus, boarding it, threatening people, and smashing the bus windows.  Finally the police boarded and the driver decided to continue on to León with that added protection, but it was dicey.  I'm so relieved she's ok.   I checked my email a little while ago and got an Embassy update advising of planned 'demonstrations' (read: riots) in Managua tomorrow (read:  all week). This is an excerpt from the report:

U.S. citizens traveling to or already in Nicaragua are reminded to maintain a high level of vigilance and to take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness.
Violent demonstrations and road blockages continue and numerous injuries have been reported. The situation remains fluid. Street protests and/or clashes are likely to continue in the coming days and can be unpredictable in time, place, and intensity.
Activities observed during protests include, but are not limited to tear gas, rubber bullets, setting off fireworks, rock-throwing, tire burning, road blocks, bus/vehicle burning and some degree of physical violence between law enforcement and protestors or between rival political parties or individuals. Activities tend to intensify in violence beginning in the early afternoon. Passersby and observers are not immune from the effects of these protests.

To make the whole situation a little worse, I've just learned that a friend of mine was killed while traveling up to Guatemala (which Moxita and I had initially planned to do). He was on a bus where I guess somebody was transporting drugs of some kind, though the other passengers didn't know about it. The details aren't clear, but essentially the bus was having problems and turned down a less-traveled road as a short cut to Guatemala City. A drug gang stopped the bus, executed everybody on board (15 Nicaraguan tourists and this guy Rob) and then burned the bus and bodies. It had nothing to do with the current election violence in Nicaragua, but still a sobering reminder of the very real dangers that exist for travelers in some of these places. I still feel pretty stunned. I didn't know Rob well by any means, but we spent a day traveling together in a small group of friends to the Laguna de Apoyo. I remember him particularly because we spent hours talking while floating in the lake, bobbing about in inner tubes. So we wouldn't drift apart, we held hands as we floated, staring up at the puffy white clouds in a blue sky. I still can't believe he's dead, and in such a random and violent way. The guy I held hands with for two hours three weeks ago is dead now.

I'm getting out on the first plane tomorrow morning, and will be cooling my heels on the Atlantic seaboard until the weekend. Again, not sure about internet access, though the hotel did recommend we bring flashlights, which I've interpreted as a clue, so no promises for updates until next weekend.


Kate said...

Be safe. I will be praying for you and Rob's family.

PrincessPi said...

Dude, that's really scary. Doesn't it make you wanna come home?

Anonymous said...

Ok, times up. Please come home?

If thats not an option right now, please seriously consider the purchase of a bodyguard. or several. or guns. or pitt bulls. or a tank. or all of the above.

Please stay safe. And call me lots. Just so i know.

The Fairy King

ps - I am very sorry about your friend. i am glad you have such a wonderful memory of him.

clergywm said...

Must come home now! So Sorry about Rob, but it is a reminder of just how unpredictable these things are.
Just come home

Cheasty said...

hey, folks, really don't freak out. it's a little crazy here, but i'll be safe and stay out of trouble.

Evan Ross said...

Sounds incredibly unsafe. Is there a difference between the buses you were riding the past two weeks and the bus Rob was on? A difference in who controls the geography where you were travelling? If not, words and sentiments of saftety don't mean anything. And if chance is cutting down folks around you left and right, you're not being safe, you're being chancey.

Renny said...

Oh man, Cheasty, that's so scary. Can you just stay on the coast until all the craziness is over? It sounds like the second-best thing to do is to hunker down and stay inside (the best, of course, would be to COME HOME).

Anonymous said...

you have to come home now. i would die if even just one rubber bullet hit you or if you had to cry all day because of the tear gas. i love you please please be safe! don't do anything risky.
xoxo crase

judy_watts said...

Hey to my crazy Bratislavan seestas - please be very careful! It may not seem crazy now but later you will look back on this and say "wow that was pretty crazy."

Oh, and come home now!

: )

ChristopherPaul said...

That's a weird feeling I know of it. It's like losing an arm only you still think it's there. "It was there yesterday, where'd it go?"

clergywm said...

The comment that I made last night didn't come up, so let me say it again, PLEASE COME HOME!!! - YESTERDAY would not be too soon! I am so sorry about Rob and all the others who were on the bus. I can't imagine how horrible it was for them. They and all those who mourn them are in my thoughts and prayers.
When I spoke with you last night, I hadn't read your latest post- which is probably a good thing - because when I spoke with you I was only majorly concerned. After reading it I'm only slightly more than HYSTERICAL!!! Do you need a plane ticket?!?
I love you - be safe (which is another way of saying PLEASE COME HOME) and keep VERY ALERT to your surroundings. When in doubt - or not - RUN the other way! I hope that you are on the coast when you read this comment.
Love, hugs and kisses,
Captain Mommypants
PS the other comment from clergywm was Dad using my sign on name