November 30, 2017
Something random happened. We were googling things in Central America that we could do and it came up on our radar that the Harlem Globetrotters were playing a game in Managua (about 3 hours from where we were staying!!!).
I’ve always wanted to go to a game because back in the day when I was in Jr. High playing basketball, all the girls in club got to go see them.. and I hadn’t had the chance. So I made a promise to myself, if I’m ever somewhere they are playing — I have to go.
So in the spirit of being random, we got the tickets!! And to do so, had to purchase them on I think Central America’s version of Ticket Master “Todoticket” and it kind of felt like a scam since the website felt like it was from 1990 and unclear if after giving my credit card if the purchase went through.
In addition to the sketchy site, the game details were mixed up on the Harlem Globetrotters official site vs. the TodoTicket site… Oli was super nervous that I had just bought into a scam but 2 hours later, I got the confirmation email and we were good to go!
We took a chicken bus into Managua as it was the cheapest option. I looked online, and it said on a random website that there was a 10am express bus directly to our destination. At this moment ladies and gentlemen, I learned the true meaning of “Nica time” which is that there is no official schedule or time for anything… like… the stores hours of operation, the public transportation schedules, or even special events [ I heard a story of someone getting married here, and the wedding invitation said 6pm, so the North American guests all showed up at 5:30pm.. only to find that the venue wasn’t even open, and they waited around for 2 hours, when finally staff appeared to start setting up.. and around 8pm all the local guests came and the wedding actually started at 8:30pm.] so its any ones best guess to when a bus comes and leaves.
The bus ended up pulling in around 11:15am and the game started at 6pm, so we had plenty of time to get there and eat something. So the Chicken Bus is the main means of transportation for locals and is super cheap — 2$ US for a 3 hour ride vs a $80 cab ride to the city. Oli and I agreed that it’s an experience.. and we should ride the bus. I expected it to be somewhat like Japan.. where they shove as many people on to the train as possible, but boy was I wrong. This was NOTHING like Japan. The bus stops every 5–10 min at places that are not necessarily bus stops, adding more time to reach the final destination. On top of that, it is jam packed with people hanging off the sides, sometimes on the roof and standing and sitting inside. But they carry the most incredible things on the bus.... a women had packed 3 mattress and strapped them to the roof. A teenager had rolls of barbwire he was bringing back to his farm. An older woman had huge (I think) rice bags that she was carrying on her head and two large additional bags in both her hands.
We lucked out and got a seat on the bus — most people were standing. They pack in so tightly that some people just rest their bags, themselves or their children against you. On top of that… [note the Canadian girl who hasn’t adjusted to the humidity here… ] the bus was crazy hot from body heat and the humidity. Once the bus got to the highway, you had the breeze from the windows open, but each stop was heat wave.
After a bus transfer, we made it to Managua around 4pm and decided to stay at a hostel that night just in case the game goes late so we didn’t have to worry about a 3 hour ride back in the dark.
We learned that the stadium the Globetrotters were playing is was BRAND NEW and had opened the day before. Turns out, the Central America Games are coming to town and Managua developed some new buildings to accommodate. The Central America Games is like the Olympics — it happens every 4 years and brings some of the actual athletes from the Olympics in these countries to play! So we got to the stadium, it was built with all cement and the court is changeable so they can host different spots.
We walk to our seats and to our pleasant surprise, we are 3 rows away from floor / still on the court!
So we sat down, ready for the game to begin when they started the megatron TV and screens around the court to get everyone excited and welcome the opening act when and all of a sudden…. the whole stadium turned off — power cut off completely. (remember me talking about the power outages? I wasn’t kidding)
So… that took time for them to get it back up and running..
We decided to grab dinner at the stadium and the only thing they were serving was pizza, hot dogs, crêpes and chicken wings. So we get in line for food.. for probably 40 min.. and by the time we get to the front of the line, are told the only thing we can order is pizza because each line is different for the type of food you want. But to be clear… there was no line labels, or instructions to what line served what food.. it is pure choas.
Oli bit the bullet and said we would wait in line again for the hot dogs since that is what we were hoping to get.
After waiting another 30 min in line.. he gave up and decided to just watch the game which started at 8pm.
But It was awesome. Oli and I were talking, and a lot of the people who came to the game — it must have been so expensive. We learned that the average salary in Nicaragua is $420 US per year. And tickets to the game cost 11$ in the nosebleeds and court side was $50 — $90. I am feeling extra lucky right now that I had the chance to go, and the chance to meet them.
The pace of the game was a bit different than I had expected, but I loved the dunks and listening to a stadium full of fans cheering so loudly for every joke, shot and act.
The game finished and being so close to the court… we were able to meet Hi-Lite, a retired Chicago Bulls player whos career was cut short due to an injury. But he loves the Globetrotters because he can teach kids about basketball, travel and well give back to the community through all the programs and non-profits they support. :) He was awesome.
As we were walking back to our hostel and the main street was filled with these stages of decorations for each country for the Central America Olympics. They were Christmas themed, sports themed and some had music playing in the background. The street was packed with cars and taxis of people leaving the game.
One taxi passed us, and a guy asked where we were from, we said Canada. He mentioned he was from Miami, but grew up in Nicaragua. And told us to get into a cab asap since the area wasn’t safe and not to take out our cellphones. We knew this, but like a good terrified tourist, we listened and got in to the next cab, and rode the 4 min ride back.
So that was a stressful reality check. The next morning took the bus back to San Juan — we made it in one piece, didn’t die, watched some basketball and listened to a girl on the bus say how she would take 10 buses to Costa Rica to avoid having to travel to Managua. I guess now I know why.
All around, it was a super awesome and fun night. ☺️