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Voyages of los Testigos - Part 15, Page 1

Fleeing the Revolution

Before the 1979 Nicaraguan Revolution, Hotel Europa was a preferred accomodation for León's tourists and bourgeiosie. Since the Revolution, it had also become a favored stopover for high government officials. A large, tree-flecked inner courtyard, hot showers, fan-cooled air, and cold beer combined to attract sellout crowds to the hotel every night.

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Thanks to the Good Sister's astuteness, los Testigos de Cerveza had gotten to the hotel early enough to book two rooms. Unfortunately, despite the comforts that beg for a long, lazy morning, rest was not within their grasp; the train to Nicaragua's capital city, Managua, left town at five AM. And the Good Sister had advised them to get to the station at least an hour early if they wanted a seat on the train.

"Vamonos! It's almost five!" Nuco urged, dragging his oversized suitcase along a dark, dusty street to the train station. Los Testigos double-timed it into the station.

True to the Good Sister's warning, the travelers found a jam-packed train with no seats available. They bullied their way into the caboose, and leaned against the wall and each other for support. After wrestling in place with the mass of humanity surrounding him, Nuco created enough room to place his suitcase on the floor. He sat on its edge.

The trip to Managua was long, hot and overcrowded, so much so that by the third hour the BigGuy proposed abandoning Nicaragua, lobbying instead for a fast plane to Costa Rica. "The question is," he addressed the group, "Do we want to spend the rest of our vacation fighting crowds?"

"This is nothing," protested Nuco. "We'll catch a bus to Costa Rica from Managua. There will be plenty of buses in the capital."

"Hmm," replied the BigGuy. "This from the same guy who suggested that we take a boat to Bluefields after the harbor there had been mined by the CIA."

"We could be there right now, drinking with the natives of Bluefields," Nuco replied.

"Or floating in pieces in the harbor."

The BigGuy's logic carried the day and los Testigos voted to abandon the transportation-troubled, free republic of Nicaragua.

The objectiveto leave Nicaragua immediatelywas easier said than done. Once the train arrived in Managua, the travelers quickly found themselves standing in an abandoned train station. "Where did all the people go?" the BigGuy asked, looking around in bewilderment. "We got off a train that was packed like sardines. Two minutes later, there is no one here. It's like everyone on the train had a ride home except us."

"Not even a taxi," observed Medio.

"Or a bar," added Capn.

"Vamonos," said Nuco, picking up his suitcase and stalking off toward a main thoroughfare.

A hundred yards out of the train station, los Testigos found a lone park bench partially shaded from the already relentless sun, and decided to sit and await a taxi.

The Soviet presence

An hour later, the group still sat on the bench, jostling for what little shade there was. Above them, painted on a distant building, was a giant red sickle and hammer. It hung in the overheated air, as if an ominous warning that they should not expect the comforts of an industrial capitalist society. "Hmmm," said the BigGuy. "The Soviet Communist party symbol."

"The new Nicaraguan government allows all political parties to participate in elections," boasted Nuco.

"Don't try to take a picture of the sign, Señor," warned Medio, "they might drag you off to jail like in East Germany."

"What I'd like to know is how is this revolution successful?" queried the BigGuy, wiping sweat from his brow. "The economy's in dismal shape. Transportation is a disaster. I haven't found anything successful about this Revolution."

"I'm going to find a taxi," Nuco interjected. He started walking, leaving his suitcase leaning into the glaring socialist sun.

"Rah, rah, revolution," cheered the BigGuy, to his compañero's disappearing back.

A mile down the road, Nuco reached a busy intersection. "This'll do," he mumbled to himself, and began waving at the traffic passing by. A half hour later, when he was about to retreat from the heat, a small, Japanese-made sedan pulled over. The taxi driver asked Nuco where he wanted to go. Nuco told him the airport, they agreed on a fare, and the two headed back to pick up the other compañeros.

"Arwin Rodriquez," said the taxi driver, holding out his hand.

"We've been in Nicaragua for two days, but we're leaving," Nuco replied, foregoing pleasantries. "We wanted to continue through the country, but we can't find a bus."

Arwin agreed with the dismal diagnosis; he had just waited in a gas station line for over an hour to fill up his tank.

As they approached the small park where the rest of los Testigos de Cerveza sat, Arwin offered to drive the group through the country. The Costa Rican border was only a few hours away and he could make it there and back on his full tank of gasoline. In addition, he offered to take the group by a market in the town of Masaya so they could spend their Nicaraguan money. Nuco translated the offer to the other Testigos and after settling on a price for the voyage, they agreed and piled into the rear seat of the taxi.

"I love the revolution now!" the BigGuy exclaimed, once the group was on the open road. "Yes, it's much nicer from in here! Now I see what the Good Sister was talking about!"

The ride with Arwin proved to be a tremendous stroke of good luck. The taxi driver took them to Masaya's central market, then a restaurant with steak and cold beer. After some instant calculations involving exchange rates, the BigGuy determined that the steak dinners and numerous cervezas had cost about five dollars US. "I love the revolution now!" he repeated when Nuco pulled out wads of Cordobas to pay the bill. Feelings of royalty infused the group and they left a few thousand extra Cordobas, leaving the rest with Arwin, at the border.

Finally, before dropping them off at the border, Arwin took los Testigos to a beautiful, secluded Pacific coast beach town, San Juan del Sur.

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