(apologies to Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
FUCK, I didn’t see that coming!
I refer of course to the spread of the Covid-19 virus. I, along with, I think, 90% of the global population thought this was some local Chinese problem. Luckily I’m a bit of a news addict and check global events at least once a day. It gradually started to dawn on me the situation was fast developing into a run away train and I needed to do something.
I was in Costa Rica and it is expensive compared to the rest of C. America and I didn’t want to be trapped there if borders were closed – my daily budget and bank balance would have been seriously compromised! I decided to cross into Nicaragua.
On my travels through the region my time in the east of Nicaragua, a few weeks earlier, were positive, friendly and cheap. So I reasoned travelling up the west of the country, on my slow progress north back through Honduras and across into El Salvador, would be a similar experience. I would find a small family hostel and chill out there for awhile.
The fates, oh and the Corona virus, were to change that and several things happened in quick succession.
I arrived early at the border and first thing the immigration guy asked me, while looking at my passport, is: “are you Italian”?
I had to resist the temptation to say “can’t you fucking read? It says UK in bold type, you fucking moron.”
Then he asked if I’d ever been to Italy. I replied NUNCA with suitable fake indignation – I figured having last been in Italy two years previously didn’t qualify me as a virus carrier.
Next was a panel of health officials who asked a whole barrage of questions then took my temperature.
Next I had to pay a fee. Normally it is $12 but they told me it was now $24 to pay for the screening. They gave me a receipt for $12 – strange that, eh? Fucking crooks. However, over the years I have gradually learnt to ‘choose my arguments;’ I decided to let that one slide.
OK, they said, finally, “you can go.”
I got that stamp!
And that was just to leave Costa Rica.
You’d think they’d be happy to get rid of people at this time!
Now I was in no man’s land with a 1 km walk to the Nicaraguan checkpoint. As I walked along I was reminded of that Tom Hank’s movie ‘The Terminal’ about the guy who was trapped in a transit lounge because of visa/passport problems. I did chuckle at the thought of contacting a friend to send someone down to feed me through the razor wire.
Different office, same shit, one hour later but this time at the Nicaraguan immigration control. Except now they brought the questioning to a whole new higher level. With my passport open in the official’s hand he asked me:
What is your date of birth?”
Now then, everybody knows the details in their passport intimately. And even if you were trying to cross a border on a stolen/fake document you’d actually memorize those sort of details, wouldn’t you? So what’s the point?
I was born in a town called Wantage, as listed in my passport. For some reason non-native English speakers always seem to have problems with the pronunciation of this. So when my, correct, enunciation was received by the guy behind the desk he was immediately suspicious. I tried again by infusing some Spanish inflections into my voice. After several attempts to clear up the confusion he TOLD ME how to pronounce it. OK, as long as he was happy, I couldn’t care less how to pronounce where I was born. Anyway, I passed the exam!
Next is the same medical rigmarole I had on the Costa Rica side. Except this time I’m asked “have you ever had AIDS?”
I mean what the fuck has that to do with Coronavirus? Not to mention the fact that you either have AIDS or you don’t. You can’t have “HAD AIDS”
I was most polite throughout.
I got that stamp!
To end off a perfect day I arrived in the small town of Rivas, close to the border. I checked in to a really charming family hostel and decided to go and get something to eat. After a really terrific and cheap lunch, with a couple of cold ones, I was walking back to my hostel when I was accosted by a man on a motorbike. I paraphrase and shorten a much more convoluted conversation but it went something like this:
“I’m a policeman and I can help you for 500 Cordabas [about $15]”
“Help me with what?” I reply.
“OK, I help you for 400 Cordabas.”
“Yea, but help me with what?” I insist.
Then he quickly flashes a card that looked suspiciously like a driving licence. At this point I lost the plot, I’d had enough bullshit for one day. I did calculate that it was broad daylight and on a relatively busy street. So in my best joined up Spanish I told him, very loudly, to “FUCK OFF.”
The slightly less than perfect end to a decidedly less than perfect day. But what the hell eh?
I had a couple more cold ones and decided to sleep on future plans – always a good policy in my experience; what were problems the night before miraculously resolve themselves over night. Well, sometimes.