We arrived in Nicaragua on April 9th, 2018. On April 18th, we got news that President Ortega had put into law a new social security reform which would negatively affect the entire population. The students took to the streets to protest, and in what would become the historical beginning to this crazy civil war that they have now entered, over 70 people were killed, mostly students, and many more hundreds were injured, around the country. On May 10th, we began a housesitting job in Rivas. Things had calmed down a bit, and we felt right in our decision to stay in the country. The violence had’t reached where we were, we really felt like it would stay calm. Day by day we watched as things escalated around us. We started to feel trapped. Roadblocks made travelling impossible and we weren’t sure if it was even safe to go anywhere. Maybe it is best where we are, we thought. On May 30th, a peaceful Mother’s Day March took place in Managua, the capital of the country. Estimates of 200 000 people took to the street to show solidarity and a will to make a point, to tell Ortega they wanted him out. They marched to remember their children that had already been lost in this bloody war. They were thousands upon thousands strong, mostly waving the Blue and White striped flag of Nicaragua. It was a sight to behold and I felt a surge of pride for the country and what it was representing. We read the following morning that late in the day, Snipers located high off the ground, started shooting into the crowd. That day they killed upwards of 15 people and injured hundreds more. One boy was shot right from his mother’s arms. On Mother’s Day. This was the turning point for us. This unspeakable and despicable act is what forced us from the country. Because you realize that if a person is capable of that, he is capable of anything. This is our story of 8 weeks in Nicaragua, when a civil war broke out.
I think back to the days when we were at Amanda’s farm and wonder what our decision would have been had we not have been housesitting. Would we have stayed in Nicaragua anyways?
We stayed on the farm for a week more, just to see what would happen. We were safe there, it is a remote area well off the main roads, and her small community has a road that links directly to the local center, where we would go to the market and do our shopping. As it was, we knew that we didn’t want to go to Granada, but where else would we have gone? The north end of the country would have been hard to get around, as Leon, Masaya and Matagalpa were hot spots right off the bat. Perhaps we would have chosen to go see the Corn Islands off the East Coast of the country? As it turned out, one of the guys staying at Amanda’s farm ended up doing just that on May 4th, and wasn’t able to return to Managua by road, he had to fly as the roads were all blockaded and no buses were running.
However, as it was, we were supposed to be housesitting starting somewhere near the beginning of May, so we decided to stay. The town where we were going, Rivas, is in the south of the country, there had been no violent conflicts there so we felt that it was safe to stay there, and we would just take it day by day and see how things went. We rationalized that if we didn’t find ourselves in any danger, then what was the problem?
It seemed simple enough.
As stated in the previous post we had had it with the conditions on the farm, and we really just wanted a bed to sleep in and a dry place to hang out as the rainy season was just beginning, and having a sopping wet tent day in and day out didn’t seem like much fun. Plus there was the fact that my business is based online, and with having no wifi access for 3 weeks, it was time to get somewhere that I could get all caught up.
We weighed our options and knowing that the North of the country was already unstable, we opted to just head straight to Rivas and hang out there until our housesit started.
We arrived in Rivas on April 29th, 11 days after the chaos had begun. Rivas was business as usual. Tourism had dropped a little bit, but we stayed in one of the more popular hostel type hotels in the area , Hostel Julieta. When we arrived, we were the only ones there, but over the course of the next few days, a few more travellers arrived here and there and it seemed to be business as usual. Some of them had retreated south from some of the Northern Cities and were leaving Nicaragua. Some were staying, but were headed to quiet and quaint San Juan del Sur which is just down the road.
During this time things had calmed down a little bit. However, we did hear reports of attacks on the Universities, and even reports of some of the students being poisoned by the rations and water that were being brought in for the ones that had holed up in there. So I guess in saying that it “calmed down”, was relative to where you were in the country. The Universities had become battlegrounds, and the buildings served as make shift fortress’. There were still demonstrations and small road blocks up north, but Ortega had agreed to talks with the church at this time, so it seemed to be like everyone was just holding their breath to see what would happen next, after the “talks.”
To us, it was business as usual. I think we both still felt like things would just blow over. At some point this craziness will all end. Won’t it?
We walked the streets at night, we hung out in the central park and watched the kids play and the world go by. Nothing, I mean nothing, seemed out of sorts at that point. It really felt safe, and we maintained that until we felt unsafe, we weren’t going anywhere. We didn’t want to jump the gun and deny ourselves of a great opportunity to see and experience Nicaragua by letting fear get the best of us.
But on the other hand, we also didn’t want to act like we had our heads in the sand. It was important to stay on top of the news and to pay attention to what was going on. I joined a couple facebook pages for Expats in Nicaragua, and followed along on the progression as good as I could. And of course there were still horrors happening, but our immediate experience was just so safe and non threatening, I think we brushed it off a little bit and just thought of it as a problem in the North, not where we were.
On May 3rd we met the home owners that we were supposed housesit for. Our housesit was to start on May 10th, and while we were now all in the same city together, it just made sense to get together with them and get to know them a little bit. We had a hilarious first 5 minutes of conversation as we found out that they are from British Columbia, Canada, the same province we had been living in before leaving on our travels. We thought they were Americans for some reason, and unbeknownst to us they thought we were Americans. Nobody knows where either of us got that info from, but here we were…….practically neighbours after all.
As we hit it off so well with them over Pizza at a local restaurant, we decided that it be best if we just went and stayed with them for a few days before we started the housesit, so that they could introduce us to their friends, and show us the good spots to go around in the neighbourhood.
We headed to their place on May 7th, giving us a full two days to do some touring around, meeting people and learning the ropes of Rivas, before they left on the 10th. Things really seemed to have stabilized at that point. We went down to Cardenas, along the south shore of Lake Nicaragua, and a stones throw from the Costa Rica border. As the entrance off the highway to Cardenas was pretty much right at the border crossing to Costa Rica, we saw miles and miles of trucks lined up along the road, waiting to cross the border. I was told that this was the normal scene down here, always tons of trucks.
We visited their friend Kelly in Cardenas and spent the night in an idyllic setting. We chatted about what was going on, but really at that point it wasn’t affecting peoples lives the way that it would in the weeks to come. Kelly has lived in Nicaragua for 15 years, and even has a resident status. So clearly, she had a much bigger concern on her hands then we did. Of course, we were all horrified by the lives that were being lost by the hands of the government, but the ‘talks’ were coming, surely something would be sorted out then.
The owners of the house where we were to housesit left on May 10th to fly out of Managua. It was clear sailing all the way to the airport, no blockades, no hassles. Good news, things MUST be getting back to normal up there!
We had almost 4 months in front of us in a great Nica house, in a tiny Nica neighbourhood, in a safe city, and we really felt hopeful that everything was going to be just fine.
Disclaimer: The information provided in my writing is based on articles that I have read from many publications, information gathered from Nicaraguan Expats and Locals, and from videos that I have seen posted online. I don’t pretend to be an expert on Nicaraguan politics, and if you feel like I have misrepresented information in anyway, please email me at email@example.com.
For news on what is happening in Nicaragua and to learn all about this crisis, please visit the La Prensa website. Their online newspaper has covered this from the beginning.
After selling all of our possessions in Canada in 2017, we flew to Costa Rica to do an initial housesit for 2 months. Our journey has continued and we have now been ‘on the road’ for almost 8 months.
Current Location: We are currently in Samara, Costa Rica where we are staying in a familiar hostel with 2 others that left Nicaragua in the last few days. We have also met 5 other people in town that just left. We call ourselves the Nicaraguan Refugees.
Travelling Plans: Our ‘plans’ have been flipped upside down and we are now trying to figure out a new one.
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