|Emy Louie, Consulting Services|
|Emy Louie, Consulting Services|
July 12, 2018, 11 pm.
The below, all communicated in Spanish, is what I witnessed during the first 26 hours after my arrival in Nicaragua.
A few months after the protests erupted on April 18, 2018, I arrived at the Managua Airport, at 9:30 pm on a weeknight. Who knows? Did I arrive into a war zone? Upon leaving the airport, I saw this desk located right before the automatic doors—the official exit of the airport arrivals area.
At this desk, I asked, in my broken Spanish, "Where is the official taxi?"
The man behind the desk pointed outside to the two men holding signs which read "official taxi."
Then I proceeded to one of the local men holding the signs. I half blocked the exit and fumbled for my iPad. I showed him the address of the place I was staying overnight. I asked, “how much?" The cab driver gave me a price, and I glared at him, communicating to him "You are kidding me! That price is way too high!"
Then he cut down his price. I nodded. Then, all of a sudden, three men seemed to all at once grabbed my two suitcases and my carryon.
The taxi ride to the accommodations was rather quiet; Managua was quiet. Upon arriving at the accommodation, the receptionist walked out to the curb and took my one roller board and my carry-on inside. While the cab driver placed the last roll-aboard out on the sidewalk, he turned towards the cab to attempt to close the back trunk. At the same time, I went to hold my roller board because it can tip over.
The cab driver then turned back to my roll-aboard and tried to intercept me in holding the roll-aboard. Right then seemed like a very awkward moment as I give him the agreed-upon fare. It was almost as if he was preparing for me to do something weird, like not pay him the fare he quoted. I paid him the $20 US fare, and I said hasta luego meaning "bye-bye." He gave no reaction and left.
The next morning, on a weekday, I took a minibus from Managua to Leon and arrived at the Leon bus station right before lunchtime. Once I stepped off of the bus, a local man in his early 20's immediately came up to me. I showed him my address. He quoted me one price. I knew the price was steep, but I had luggage, and I heard it was hard for cars to drive on the streets. I was feeling humanitarian, so I agreed upon the price. He put my luggage in his pedicab and several times, the pedicab went into small ditches.
Two minutes upon arriving at my destination, my driver asked me three times where is the house despite me showing him the local address in Spanish and despite him asking another local on the street where is the address. About 50 feet away from my destination, I told him to wait until the door to my accommodations opened.
I knocked on the door to my accommodations. A few seconds later, which could have felt a lifetime, the door to my accommodations was opening. I saw my host and said, "hello!" My host looked disheveled and didn't greet the pedicab driver. I gave my luggage to the host at the house. Then I was relatively alone on the street with the pedicab driver again.
While I was handing him payment, the pedicab driver doubled the price. He said it's because of the luggage. I didn't balk. I paid the $10 US fare. I even said hasta luego meaning "bye bye." He gave no reaction and left.
What if I did balk at the price for both the taxicab ride in Managua and the pedicab ride in Leon? For the pedicab ride, what if I told my host about the already high fare before the pedicab driver increased the fare again? Apparently, after the fact, I found out the pedicab fare I paid could have fed the pedicab driver’s family for three days.
Look at it another way: my over-payment is my donation to the peoples of Nicaragua!
Emy Louie is a consultant and the author of "Fast Trains: America's High Speed Future.” From 2009-2016, Emy served as the Director of Public Outreach for the US High Speed Rail Association. Since 2008, she has taught continuing education classes on design and urban development to architects and engineers. In 2007 and 2008, she hosted her radio show. Emy has a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa.