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Tales of Thompsons' Trips Issue #27 May 2014 Culture Shock in Nicaragua
May 09, 2014

Greetings once again from the Thompsons. It seems like it’s been a good while since I last wrote an update for everyone. For us this trip has been culture shock in Nicaragua.

This morning I’m writing from the city of Diriamba in Nicaragua. We're enjoying a delicious breakfast in an Internet Cafe called La Nani. The food here is really good and we just finished eating a couple of Nacatamales accompanied with delicious bread, butter, and a drink. It cost about $5.00. We usually eat out about once a day since that is our only way of accessing the internet. The meal usually costs us four to eight dollars for both of us, and we have free internet usage for as long as we need it around the meal.

We were supposed to have internet where we are staying, but the best we were ever able to get there was one bar, and out of five, that isn’t enough signal to accomplish much of anything. In fact, we could say it is totally useless, since most of the time we couldn’t even get that.

Culture Shock in Nicaragua
Expectations vs. Reality

We came here over nine weeks ago hoping to get permanent resident visas. That whole process could be a web page in its own right, and maybe one of us will get that posted soon after we get home while the experience is still fresh in our minds. But for now, we won’t focus on it.

I prayed long and hard before we came here, and asked the Lord for two things:

  • That the visa process, and the whole trip would go smoothly without major difficulties
  • That the Lord would show us the things we needed to know if we were to come here to live.

Unfortunately, I’m afraid I hadn’t thought that through very well. What I’ve realized is that seeing the things we needed to know to live here, might of necessity mean the trip wouldn’t go all that smoothly.

I must admit He has shown me a tremendous amount of things we really needed to know although those demonstrations have made for a fairly difficult experience. To date we've had seven earthquakes above 5 on the Richter scale, seven scorpions we've killed in the house, seven times without water, and six without lights, and we still have twelve days left.

Yet I’m not sure if we’d had the smooth experience I prayed for, we could have learned the necessary lessons to prepare us for a move here.

Culture Shock in Nicaragua
A Different Mindset

The way people think here is so different. Two of the major differences we’ve seen during this trip, are:
  • Their view of time
  • The way the transportation system works

Here, an appointed time is just a suggestion, not a commitment. If you have an appointed time to meet with someone and you are there at that time, you’ll likely be anywhere from thirty minutes to three hours early.

If you need to take care of some piece of business that might take anywhere from a half hour to two hours in the states, it will take at least half a day here, and maybe a whole day. This is particularly true if you need to go into Managua (the capital city). Here in Nicaragua “mañana” (tomorrow) is a serious representation of their attitude toward time, especially if you want to get something done. If it doesn’t get done today, there is always tomorrow.

Yet, this is not totally bad! If you know it ahead of time, it can lead to a more relaxed and peaceful lifestyle. The problem comes in adjusting to it when you are so used to living a faster lifestyle, and planning your day to get a certain amount done. Then it can be very unsettling. It definitely takes some getting used to!

Culture Shock in Nicaragua
Not So Fast...

We’re in a country where only the major highways are paved, and more than half of the streets in every major city are dirt. Additionally ninety percent of the major highways are only two lanes. Believe me, this causes real problems and major challenges if you try to get anywhere quickly, not to mention regular emotional stress

And make no mistake, road conditions aren’t the only challenges in moving about the country. We also have many different types of vehicles to contend with. There are ox carts, donkey carts, horse carts, bicycles, motorcycles, three wheeled taxis run by motorcycle engines, three wheeled taxis pedaled like a bicycle, thousands of regular taxis, thousands of vans used for public transportation called “publicos”, and full sized school buses also used for public transport between cities and towns.

Private modes of transport include thousands of Toyota quad cab diesel pickups, and large SUV models as well. American made cars are fairly scarce but there are plenty of other Japanese, Korean, and European makes to take their place. For a country that has an average income of $200-$400 a month, mass transit is a must. Yet we’re amazed at the large number of $30,000 to $75,000 vehicles we see on the roads.

Driving in this environment is an experience that is difficult to describe. Passing on crowded roads with taxis, vans, and busses stopping, to load and unload people, at a moments notice, in every conceivable location, is a necessity. Nonetheless, you are never sure when someone may step in front of you, or pull out in front of you, so you literally need to be looking in every direction at the same time. Additionally, a high percentage of vehicles will have no brake lights so you must stay alert at all times.

If you are driving at night, you must be constantly aware that there will be both vehicles, bikes and pedestrians in the road without any types of lights or reflectors at all, and in dark clothing. You must beware the shadows! Consequently we try very hard not to drive after dark here. Our only exceptions have been attending evening church services. Returning from those services has been a very tense time for us.

Even during the daytime, many pedestrians seem to believe that they have the right to walk in the middle of the road, although they know a car is coming. We’re not talking children here, but adults as well. Needless to say, this makes it difficult for the cars to get anywhere.

Culture Shock in Nicaragua
Impromptu Prelude

The truth is, this trip wasn’t really planned ahead of time. We actually had only about a day and a half to get our tickets and pack. To say these were unusual circumstances is a major understatement. We had hoped to come, but the Lord had to open many doors and remove just as many road blocks to make it possible. By the time we knew He had accomplished His work, we had less then twenty-four hours to pack and go, to make our window of opportunity in Nicaragua.

We were assured that if we had all of our applications and paper work in order, that we’d have no real problems getting our visas during the trip we had planned. We were given a sheet of instructions that supposedly listed all we needed to have done before we arrived. We’d been hard at work on those things since January 1st, and by God’s grace, we were able to finish them before leaving home.

After arriving here, everything had to be translated to Spanish at a specific university here in Nicaragua. That took about three weeks after we arrived and then we submitted it all to the proper authorities here, and they assured us that everything was correct.

Culture Shock in Nicaragua
Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Although the government here loudly proclaims they welcome retirees, it was at this point that their actions began to speak louder than their words. After informing us that all the paperwork was accurate and done correctly, they then told us we had to have one more step since Dennis is retired.

Everything had to be submitted to another government agency, the tourist bureau. Four copies of every single form and piece of information had to be submitted in addition to an additional form and letter, if I recall correctly. The lawyer spent a whole week-end getting everything done correctly, but after we submitted it there, we were informed that they always took six months to process it! Sometime during that six months, they plan to interview us....

As I write this letter we have twelve more days before we need to leave for home, and we are still waiting. Pray that this interview will take place before we leave. If it does not, we are expected to come back for it. However, that might be very difficult, and it will undoubtedly be very expensive. We continue to pray that God’s will be done.

Needless to say, according to their actions we haven’t felt they really want us here! Nonetheless, if God does, He can over rule and work things out.

We’ve additionally asked the Lord to help us sell the lot we have in Indiana along with our house within a year’s time, if He wants us to move here. We aren’t financially able to keep up with two homes at the same time. As you’re aware, this isn’t the best time to sell property, so if the Lord works these things out, we’ll be confident that it is His doing, and that by His grace He’ll enable us to make the adjustments to the culture here.

We covet your prayers as we wait on Him!

Electrifying for Eternity,

Dennis & Sherilyn (Nutting) Thompson

P.S. Please note, our sending church's address has changed to the new Pastor's, since we don't actually get mail at the church.

Sending Church:
Central Baptist Church
c/o Pastor David Simpson 483 County Road 300 North
Sullivan, IN 47882

The church accepts tax deductible contributions for us.

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