My Travellin’ Adventures From Miami To Nicaragua

In My Adventures by Grace Van BerkumLeave a Comment

After 2 months of being in the Bahamas and Florida (and away from Nicaragua) the time has come to get back to Nicaragua to teach and host a 2 week yoga adventure retreat.

My flight leaving Miami wasn’t till 11:35pm. Perfect. That gave me enough time to try an 8pm anti-gravity yoga class where you are suspended in the air from a yoga hammock and get to hang upside to stretch and re-align your body. The class wasn’t done till 9pm which means that I would be pushing it for time to get to the airport, but honestly, I prefer it that way. Ha!

Fun class! So happy I got to experience it. Got to jo’s house at 9:15pm, changed clothes, took out the garbage, put the key in the mailbox, and got a taxi en route to the airport. Time check: 9:23 pm. Going to have plenty of time. Nice.  “Take me to Miami airport please.”

As we drive up the highway and I see Miami international airport in the distance I suddenly shout: “OH NO!”  Freaked the cabbie out, he says “what?!” I just realized and remembered that my flight was flying out of Fort Lauderdale airport. Ohhhhh gawd, how could I forget such a thing?!  Well the fact that i changed my ticket twice, I had 2 friends leave from Miami airport that week, and that I just bought a bunch of plane tickets to Toronto and Europe that were stopping in Miami probably had something to do with it.

The cabbie says,”No problem girl, for $85 I will get you to Fort Lauderdale airport in 25 min”. I replied, “Whatever you say boss!” Arghhhhh. There’s nothing I can do at this point, but of course I don’t have enough cash so we need to veer off the highway, go to a bank machine, and then get back on the highway the other direction. Time? 9:41 pm. It will be tight.

Arrive to Fort Lauderdale at 10:08 pm. I’m impressed, not with myself, not with the price, but with the speedy cab driver who now wants to come visit me in Nicaragua.

Huge line at Spirit Air of course and a big sign saying that the new weight limit for baggage is 40 lbs, not 50 lbs, and you have to pay $50 if you are over the limit. Put my bag on the scale and it’s 42 lbs. Good enough. I will get out of it. I always do.

Waiting, waiting, waiting in line checking my watch. 10:45 pm and the line isn’t moving that fast. Low and behold, a ticket agent comes out and yells, “Anyone left flying to Managua?” “Oh yes, that would be me sir”, I say in my head as I wave to him and smile. “Welcome to the front of the line miss”, he greets me again and voila, I am now at the front of the line. Yippee!

I get out of paying an overweight charge and head to airport security. Another hugeeeee line-up. Breathe Grace breathe. It’s 11:02 pm. Still have some time (remember my flight leaves at 11:35 pm). The surfer dude in front of me who is also going to Nicaragua is stressing out because his girlfriend has been in San Juan del Sur since May and he has to make this flight to see her!! That makes me smile when he tells me that. It’s okay little buddy, we will make it and then ta-da…they open up another line and we are good to go.

Walk through the x-ray machine…now where are my bags? A security summons me over to her, “Are these your bags?”

“Yes ma’am, they are.”

“Do you have any liquids in them?”


“Then what is this?”, as she pulls out a bottle of organic wine that I bought for my friend. Oooooooohhhhh. I actually didn’t think that counted because it’s unopened. “I guess it’s your lucky day” is what I answered. She smiles as she takes my lovely bottle of organic wine away and I envision her opening it after her shift, putting her feet up on the couch as she takes a sip and doing a cheers to the nice, dumb lady at the airport. She puts all my stuff back in the plastic bin and puts it through the x-ray machine and then comes back to me.

“Do you have any other liquids in your bag ma’am?”

“Not that I’m aware of.”

“Then what’s this?”, as she pulls out a bottle of brand new, unopened contact solution. Ohhhhhhhhhhhh….foiled again.  “But it’s not opened!” I exclaim.  that $5.99 bottle of contact solution costs nearly $30 is Nicaragua!  She tells me she is going to test it. Opens it up, gets a piece of litmus paper, and pours a drop on it. All good. It is indeed contact solution.

“Can we do that with the wine?”, I ask half  jokingly.

“No ma’am, this is allowed because it’s medicinal”, she answers……and then adds, “Although some people would argue that wine is also medicinal.”

We both chuckle and I imagine that she is one of those people that thinks wine is medicinal.

Finally, I am allowed to go minus one bottle of wine, but still have my bottle of contact solution at least. Time?  11:28pm.

And in true Grace fashion I briskly walked to my gate (I didn’t even run) as the last 2 people are boarding, and get on that plane. 11:31pm. Flight departing at 11:35 pm. I made it….whooohooooooo!

But the story isn’t over yet……

I find my seat and it turns out that I am sandwiched between an old Nicaraguan lady with bad hearing and a young Texan/Nicaraguan who hasn’t been home in 5 years. I smell trouble. Literally. The old woman keeps talking to me in fast Spanish and with bad breath.  “No entiendo” I keep replying. That means I don’t understand, but she doesn’t care. She keeps speaking. Texan Nicaraguan calms her down. She wants us to remind her that she has a bag in the overhead bin and she doesn’t want to forget it. No problemo. Tranquillo.

Texan Nicaragua proceeds to grill me with personal questions about myself. What are you doing in Nicaragua? What do you  do? Where are you from? Are you married? The usual stuff. I am soooo tired. Must sleep. He starts asking me about yoga. I tell him a bit and encourage him to try it. I then close my weary eyes…….10 minutes later he starts bellowing in my ear, “ARE YOU DOING YOGA?”

Say what?! What is this guy talking about. I open my eyes, turn my head ever so slowly and say, “No. I am not doing yoga. I am sleeping.” I then turn my head and resume my sitting/sleeping position.

Suddenly I hear commotion in the back of the plane. It is now 11:49 pm and the plane still hasn’t left. Two emergency medical staff come on the plane and take a woman away who is feeling sick. Texan Nicaragua moans and swears loudly. He is not happy with this poor sick woman that has delayed our flight, and he is not shy to let everyone on the plane know about his discontentment.

12:10 am. plane takes off.  Hooray. I made the flight and I’m going back to Nicaragua!   

12:21 am. Here we go again……”ARE YOU DOING YOGA? OR ARE YOU SLEEPING?” What is wrong with this guy? Seriously. I open one eye and say “I…….AM……..SLEEPING.” He laughs. He thinks he’s funny and guess what? I don’t.

Soooooo, this Texan Nicaraguan decides that he is going to have a full on conversation with the almost deaf Nicaraguan lady beside me, even though he is aware that I am trying to sleep. They are full on shouting and laughing to each other  in Spanish like I’m not there.  Annoying…. and let’s not forget stinky (the old woman has bad breath). I squint my eyes and see that heads keep turning looking at our seats in bewilderment and frustration, wondering why a man is yelling when an entire plane is trying to sleep!  The little surfer dude who misses his girlfriend is even looking at me with a pitiful look on his face. To make matters worse, Mr. Texan Nicaraguan decides he’s going to order a double Johnny Walker on the rocks. This is only going to get worse.

BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, BLAHHHHHHHHHHHH. Make it stop! I open my eyes again and ask him politely to be quiet. DO YOU KNOW WHAT HE SAYS TO ME????!!!!

“ARE YOU SLEEPING, OR DOING YOGA???” oh my god. I can’t even answer him. I am not playing his crazy game. I just ignore him.

Four more Johnny Walkers later the stewardess comes over and asks him how many drinks he has had. He lies and says one! I actually find this comical.  This man is a piece of work. She calls him on his crap and he asks if she is going to arrest him. Wow!

3:15 am. the plane starts to descend. During that flight Texan Nicaraguan asks me at least 3 more times if I’m sleeping or doing yoga as I’m sitting there with my eyes closed. I swear. I don’t even acknowledge him anymore. As the plane is getting closer and closer to the Managua airport and I am groggily waking up, Texan Nicaraguan decides this is the best time to start miming.  No joke.  He starts pointing to things out the window, makes hand gestures at the old woman, and mouths words with no sounds coming out. For the last 2.5 hours he has been boisterously shouting on a plane and then when I finally decide to open my eyes and wake up, he decides he is going to start miming!! Unrealllllllllll.

Ok we land at the airport. I’m off the plane and walk over to customs. The customs officer won’t give me my $10 change back for the entrance fee into the country. For no reason. I ask for my change and he ignores me and moves on to the next person.  I am not going to stand for it.  I summon another officer to come over and I get my change. (Mental note, always bring the right amount of entrance money when arriving to Nicaragua to avoid this!)

I grab my bags without hassle and out the airport door I go. Where’s my taxi guy that was supposed to be there to get me? Waiting, waiting, waiting.  everyone is leaving the airport. The sketchy Nicaraguan airport guys are eerily staring at the gringo lady in a long yellow dress. Maybe my friend forgot to call the taxi for me?  Hmmmmmm, so tired and this isn’t like home…I don’t want to get into just any taxi driver’s car at this time of night. Who knows if they’re even taxi drivers. I’ve heard some scary stories…. PLUS I am going to the volcanic lagoon and it’s difficult to get there if you don’t know where it is, and my Spanish isn’t good enough to explain it. Greattttttt.

SUDDENLY…this man comes running up to me with a sign that says “GRACE”.  Hoo-mother flippin-ray!! “I’m so sorry”, he exclaims. “My taxi broke down! We must go to it right now!”  Ok. So we go to his taxi as he explains that he is driving someone else taxi. We drive down this long, dark windy road….where the heck am I going? What is happening? A man is standing beside a white car pulled off to the side of the road. They start fiddling with the car and pushing it near some trees behind me. I hear some noises up ahead. I clutch my purse and peer into the trees up ahead. Is it another car? Is it a robber?  Is it a monkey? Nope…just some drunk guy sleeping on the road.

The taxi guy jumps into the taxi and starts driving off, leaving his friend to sleep in his car till he can come back with a mechanic. We are off…or are we??! I don’t know what to expect considering how this night has gone. Driving in the dark, getting out of dirty, big city Managua, passing cows, horses, drunk guys on the street, the stench of garbage, kids sitting on the curbs in their school uniforms. What?! Wait a minute…. what are kids doing up at this time of night??! I am too tired to even ask him. Twisting, turning, up, down, bumpy…this drive is one big blur, and then he stops. I stumble out of the car onto the deserted gravel, dirt road. Where am I? This ain’t south beach. Oh yeah. I’m in Nicaragua, up ahead I see lights in the darkness. It’s my friend Shamus coming to pick me up here as you can’t go any further at this point without a 4X4 truck because you are going into the jungle.

Ten minutes later of crazy bumpy roads and neck jolts through the bush,  I HAVE FINALLY ARRIVED! 5:01 am.  CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?! WHAT A NIGHT!  What an adventure, what a laugh, and what a story!  Buenas noches!!

As iI write this the next day, I am sitting here so content, peaceful, and blissful with my computer at a desk sitting on a deck that overlooks the majestic volcanic lagoon. There are banana trees and papaya trees all around me. I can hear monkeys in the distance, beautiful birds, frogs and other sounds from animals I can’t distinguish, but  that’s ok. The air smells fresh and amazing. Maude, one of the dogs is  sleeping on my yoga mat. I am sipping on a banana chocolate smoothie made from fresh, raw Nicaraguan cacao beans. There is a gecko on the wall. Sasha and Shamus are painting big canvas paintings. Their pet goat (yes, pet goat) just walked down the steps in front of me. Good music is cranked. The sun is shining between intermittent bouts of warm rain.

Ahhhhhh…Welcome to Nicaragua.


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