Welcome to Nicaragua….y policia corrupcion

It was an extremely long day getting from DC to our condo in Nicaragua. After landing in Managua and picking up our rental car (where we were taken through the most thorough rental car inspection of our lives!) we headed south to Playa Coco. We were all a bit nervous about the two hour trip because we heard that signage wasn’t that good and the directions we were given were shoddy at best. No worries though, Rob and I are always up for a little adventure. Or so we thought…

Rob and I have traveled the globe and we have never had any issues driving in a foreign land. After being in country for just a few short hours, and in the car for only two hours, we were pulled over not once, but TWICE! Each time, the police officer got Rob’s driver’s license in hand and basically held it for ransom. Rob and Tami were doing an excellent job using their linguistic skills to try to get us out of a sticky situation while I just sat there wondering what the hell the three of them were saying. Me = no habla.

How it all began:

Unsure if we were driving in the right direction, we decided to turn around to look at the road signs once more and then we pulled to the side of the road to get our bearings straight. Cue traffic stop #1. A police officer pulled up next to us and began listing off all the illegal components of our maneuver. Rob and Tami’s apologetic pleas were getting us nowhere with this police officer. He clearly wanted money, not our pathetic excuses about being confused with our directions. And judging by the way he kept listing off the infractions one by one, this was not going to be cheap. With Rob’s license in his hand he got back on his motorcycle (or maybe it was a moped, I can’t recall) and told us to follow him. We were certain we were going to end up at some police station and pay dearly for the very minor traffic infractions. Instead, he led us just a short way up the road where we talked with two (much nicer and more understanding) police officers. Rob and Tami explained our confusion and apologized for the “illegal” U-turn and other assorted “crimes.” Thankfully, the nice officer pointed us in the right direction and sent us on our way, sans extortion.

At traffic stop #2, we weren’t so lucky. There were police officers standing in the road and they just waved us to pull over for another alleged “infraction.” The officer quickly got Rob’s license in hand and then he just walked away. We just sat there for about ten minutes waiting to see what was going to happen. Finally, Rob got out of the car to see what was going on. Apparently, the officer was just sitting in his little police shack, doing nothing, letting us just sweat it out. He told Rob that we had to pay 400 cordoba (about $16) to get his license back. If we didn’t have the money he was going to send his license to the court building and we would have to go there to pay the fine. Rob handed him 150 cordoba and told him that was all we had. The officer quickly asked what else we could give him. Rob knew he was fishing for American dollars and told him the only other thing we had were credit cards. He begrudgingly handed over the license and sent us on our way.

Our first day driving in Nicaragua was not a pleasant experience. Moral of the story…when driving in Nicaragua and a vehicle-less police officer flags you to pull over….ignore him and keep driving! Since this all happened on day 1 of our trip, I have a feeling we will have ample opportunity to test out this theory.

Our anticipated two hour trip to Playa Coco took much longer, but we arrived at our condo just in time to see the sun setting on the beach. Our condo is fabulous and the view is amazing!


Don’t Take a Train to the Ball

In addition to attending the inauguration, I was also able to get my hands on tickets to the Inaugural Ball. (Another event worthy of a mental check mark on my imaginary bucket list!)


Luckily for Rob, he already had a tuxedo. I, on the other hand, had to find something to wear. I wasn’t looking to break the bank just to attend this event, so I was very happy that I found a gown online that looked like it would fit the bill. And for only $45 to boot!!

Rob donned his tuxedo and I wore my new thrifty gown. As we were getting ready to leave, my dog, Ginger, was following me around the house, as she usually does, and she kept stepping on the very small train of the gown. That should have been my first clue that buying a gown with a train (even a very small one) was a mistake. But Ginger is a dog. She can’t be expected to understand this concept. Surely the humans at the ball would watch where they were stepping?

Rob and I headed to the DC Convention Center and the line to get through security wrapped around several blocks! My initial thought….screw this, lets go home! But once the initial shock of it all passed, I was ready to stick it out. I almost didn’t bring a coat with me so that I wouldn’t have to deal with a coat check (and thousands of other people also checking coats), but after seeing the line I was grateful not to have made that mistake. Without the coat, I’m certain I would have bailed. But everything worked out and we finally made our way into the Convention Center.


Once inside, we quickly headed to the bar. The place was a madhouse and Rob must have waited in line for at least 20 minutes to get us drinks. While Rob was in line at the bar, Alicia Keys took the stage…on the other side of the ballroom. She sounded great and at least I got to see her on the jumbotron.


I’m pretty sure Rob was still on line at the bar when the Bidens came on stage, once again, at the opposite end of the ballroom. Jamie Foxx was singing and playing the piano while the VP and Dr. Biden danced.

Once we finally had our drinks in hand, we tried to make our way through the crowd to get to the other side of the ballroom. All the while, anyone that got behind me stepped on the train of my gown as I was trying to walk. I don’t always do well dealing with crowds and this was wearing on my nerves rather quickly. I would have just picked up the train to walk unscathed, but with a glass of wine in each hand that was virtually impossible (don’t judge….who would want to stand in line for another 20 minutes to get a 2nd drink?)

We made it to the other end of the ballroom in time for President Obama and the First Lady to take the stage. Jennifer Hudson sang (and looked fantastic!) while they danced. The crowd was basically a sea of cell phones raised up hoping to catch a decent picture. I didn’t bring my good camera with me, but Rob did a pretty good job with the raised cell phone method of the masses.


After the Obamas left and all the hype was over, I desperately needed to sit down and/or take off my shoes. There wasn’t a single chair in the entire place, so to the floor I went! I couldn’t understand why my feet hurt so bad. I had worn these shoes to weddings before and danced the night away without any problems. But, at those weddings there was always a seat available whenever I was ready to sit down. At the Inaugural Ball…not so much.


We came, we saw… although not so sure we conquered. Neither one of us wanted to get in line at the bar for additional drinks and my feet were really not on board with this whole no-chair situation. So we decided to call it a night. I think that makes us officially old, but I’m okay with that.

The following day, so many people asked me if it was fun. No. Fun is definitely not the word I would use here. Don’t get me wrong, it was an awesome experience and I am definitely glad that we went. But if it were fun, I would take that to mean that I would look forward to doing it again. I guess a lot could happen in four years and I might change my mind, but I seriously doubt I would want to attend again.

So Close…Yet So Far Away

While I do love to travel to distant places, sometimes the coolest stuff takes place right in my back yard! Living and working in the DC metro area leads to some amazing opportunities and experiences. I have never actually sat down to physically write out a bucket list, but when I do something that I think might have made the list, I definitely give it a mental check mark. Attending a presidential inauguration – check!

I was fortunate enough to score 3 tickets to the 57th Presidential Inauguration. The tickets were in the Red Southwest standing section and according to the section map, it looked as though we were going to be pretty darn close to all the action!


My friends Brie and Bonnie joined me for the festivities and all 3 of us were uber excited. It took a while for us to get through the security checkpoint, but we finally arrived at our assigned section. It was a bit chilly, but considering it was January it really wasn’t that bad at all.


Soon after we arrived, the reality set in that even though we were SO close, we weren’t actually going to be able to see anything live and in person. There was scaffolding set up for the press on either side of the platform that completely blocked our view of where all the action was going to take place.


This was a huge disappointment, but the 3 of us agreed it was still a pretty awesome experience. Even though we couldn’t see the platform, being there in person will always be more memorable than watching it on TV. (Plus, I was not about to mentally uncheck this from my nonexistent bucket list!)

The good news was we were incredibly close to one of the jumbo-trons set up on Capitol grounds. The bad news was they decided to set it up directly behind a tree! By no means am I suggesting that I would be a master event planner for the masses, but seriously? Is this really the best they could do?


Oh well. At least it was winter time and there weren’t any leaves on the tree. And we weren’t the only ones that had to rely on the jumbo-tron in order to see anything. Even the people in the red seated section (that was closer to center) couldn’t see the platform due to the scaffolding. Rather than looking toward the Capitol, those attendees were looking towards the screen too.



We enjoyed the musical entertainment as well. I’m a James Taylor fan, but to be honest, his performance was a bit underwhelming. However, I thought Kelly Clarkson and Beyonce did a great job. I can be a harsh critic when it comes to the Star Spangled Banner and I absolutely hate it when singers take too many liberties with it. But I thought Beyonce did a fabulous job! I realize there is rumor about the possibility of her lip syncing, but I will take that over someone butchering our national anthem any day.


Regardless of political affiliation, I think it is an amazing opportunity to witness our democratic system in action.


35 : 35

Unfortunately, I am quite behind with my blog posts as I still need to post about the inauguration and the inaugural ball. Additionally, I arrived in Nicaragua yesterday, so of course I will have plenty of travel posts to share as well. But until then, I wanted to point out that I am 35 years old and Nicaragua marks the 35th country I have been to. Not a bad age:travel ratio if you ask me!

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