Ride the bus with me!

11 10 2009

This is my second post today – if you’re starting here, you might want to go back and get the first one.

While riding the bus yesterday, I did some writing.  I don’t like James Joyce at all, but here is a sort of stream-of-consciousness piece for you, if you like it!  I will restrict myself to minor edits, and leave some of the mistakes/Freudian slips for Manuel.

I got to the terminal just after 8 – most of the seats were still vacant, and I got my pick.  I watched people until about 9:45, when they started loading the 10:00 bus.  They filed everyone through a metal detector so sensitive that we all triggered the alarm, and no one paid attention.  A lady peeked into all the hand luggage.  I misunderstood instructions & got corrected.  Picking up my backpack, I almost stepped backwards over a curb, and the guy who had corrected me smiled and said, “¡Cuidado!” [Be careful!]  And I suddenly loved La fell in love with Latin America all over again.

We pulled out, and it started to drizzle.  The lady at an orange juice stand put up its umbrella.  We drove past people … people in shops, in doorways, on sidewalks.  I was seized so strongly with a desire to write that I rummaged through my backpack & finally committed a sort of sacrilege: There were two empty pages in the back of Crime and Punishment – a Norton’s Critical Edition – and I have ripped one of them out  am writing on it very small.  That means I have missed seeing lots of people, but now I can write my impressions before they blur.

We’re going through narrow streets & slummish cement block walls with purple bougainvillea lavishly spilling over the tops, and open shop fronts painted in primary colors.  We’re crossing bridges looking off into lush valleys, and the side streets go steeply up or down and are even narrower.  There are buzzards soaring above that valley.  The tops of the mountains in the distance are blurred by fog and clouds.  This valley has little shacks in it with tin roofs, all up and down the slope.  But all the time, I like Bolivia better.  I constantly think we’re almost out of the city, but then I see more of it.  I can’t decide how flowers react to poverty here – it is either disrespect or impartiality.  I think it’s the latter.  Greenery is everywhere, even poking out of rock faces.  This valley, with a small dried stand of cornstalks left in it, has a foul-looking, sluggish brown stream winding through the bottom.  And on the clothesline in front of that isolated shack along the road, a pink quilt with pictures of Tweety Bird is drying.

They are playing an annoying movie of American authenticities ethnicities [that was an interesting mistake I didn’t catch till today] overdubbed in Spanish.  At least that’s not as bad as the cowboys and Indians love story, overdubbed in Spain with a definite – Castilian? – accent, that they played between Sucre & La Paz for an audience with the heritage of Quechua Indians.

We are definitely out of town now.  We’ve just passed the turn-off back to Jalapa.  I am exulting in the feeling of being on my own, sink or swim, much the same as when I was stranded in Santa Cruz for 3 days.  Of course I recognize that it is serious, even life & death.  (So is driving to work every day.)  But there’s something about accepting that challenge, and putting my skills against it, and making my mistakes, talking to friendly people, and seeing experiencing things I never thought to see outside of books.  I’ll never climb mountains do mountain climbing, and don’t want to.  But if I married a man or had a friend (amiga) who was up to it, I definitely would backpack through Bolivia.

I think I’m noticing a change in the scenery now.  Perhaps it is a lower altitude.  The greenery & trees are becoming more “scrubby,” and there are cactus “trees.”  Seriously!  I didn’t even know that was a prickly pear’s natural growth habit.

… And here, I got a glimpse into countryside a hillside covered with palms.  At 1:30, as promised, we pulled into a little wayside restaurant.  Everyone piled out & got a sit-down meal on glass dishes from a cafeteria-style line.  I got rice and meat.  It tasted like beef, and was deliciously roasted, in a sauce that would have been stew if it had vegetables.  That was $4.50, and I splurged with another $1.25 on a big fruit cup … melons, papaya (I think), apple (I think) … Don’t remind me that I don’t like canteloupe; I like everything here.  (Still except raw vegetables.)  I am back on the bus now, deliciously full.  Habit was too strong for me in one respect … when they asked what I wanted to drink, I said “Pepsi.”

But the really wonderful thing is, this bus route is horribly indirect.   For a long time while, we have been running so close to the border with Honduras (according to the map they gave me) that I’m pretty sure the other side doesn’t look much different.  And … we are going to cross a little neck of a bay opening onto the Gulf of Mexico.  Assuming it is salt water, that is as close as I’m likely to get to the ocean for a while!  Right now the mountains are much more distant than they have been during the past month.  There are actually wide fields thinly sprinkled with cattle.  But lots more trees (and palms) than Kansas.  And I just realized I am understanding most of the Spanish in the movies, even though I’m mostly looking out my window.

Speaking of contrasts again – The first two movies are surely rated something the US that would keep them out of the public.  One had some men quite fixated on the screen at points … the other one, its audio still English, had quite strong language.  The third? Fireproof, a movie quite popular in US Christian evangelical circles about how Jesus & salvation are the answer to marital problems.  It took me quite a while to recognize it realize what it was.  Well, I suppose after the first two they probably can use this one.

We just stopped at an obligatory checkpoint.  Most of the passengers got off, and 3 officials came through squeezing hand luggage without speaking.  A sign threatened a $1,000 to $3,000 fine for “obstaculizing” the process.  (I am aware that is too literal a translation, but you get the picture.)  My backpack is under my seat instead of stowed overhead, & it just might have been hard to see past my skirt as I sat curiously watching.  But hey, if they don’t ask, why would I volunteer?  I think if I ever go into smuggling, it will be in Latin America.

After that, it was too dark to write.  And yes, that was all on less than one and a half sides of that sheet of thin paper from the back of a normal-sized book.

We pulled into Flores eventually … there is so much more I want to write, but I can’t spend forever on here.  I paid twice too much ($4) for a taxi.  I figured it was too much, but didn’t know what to bring him down to, and again, a dollar means more to him than to me.  He knew the hostel where I wanted to stay, which didn’t even bother putting an address on their website, and waited until she showed me my room, which I thought curious – until I saw her give him a commission when I followed her back down.  It was $10 a night, and well-recommended.  I like the place all right, but it had a very … college student atmosphere.  I moved this morning to a place that costs $27 a night, but I only have two nights left here, and I decided the $34 difference was worth it.  Oh, it was cute – when I bent down to write my name in the guest book, the girl reached up and felt of my hair!  Then she asked if it was real, I think.  When I said it was mine, she felt it again.  Lots of the indigenous women have long hair, but they don’t comb it like this. And tourists sure don’t.

I meant to take more pictures there … I was on a sort of second story, and the best way I can describe the sensation after looking out this morning is, like sleeping in a treehouse in the Jungle House at the zoo.  I guess that means the zoo did a good job.  It was horribly humid and sticky.  There was a fan, but that actually made me cold.  And I still couldn’t take the humidity.  I decided this morning that a hair dryer would have been more what I was after.  The place wasn’t rowdy at all.  But as usual down here, you can hear everything, down to clinking coins, from inside a room.  So I could hear people sit around talking until after 11:00.  It rained quite a while after midnight.  And I wasn’t tired enough to sleep much.  Church bells started chiming at 6:00, and I didn’t sleep any more.  Hopefully I will get tired enough this afternoon to take a nap.

I walked around some time this morning without encountering an evangelical church.  I would have visited the Catholic church, but it started at 8:00.  I got up and my hair was a frizzy mess, and I decided to wash it then instead of waiting till this afternoon.  Beside, I felt like a shower again anyway!   I couldn’t detect hot water, but I didn’t miss it.

While walking around, I came across this hotel and moved … and here I am.  I will get off of here and go back to my room, which is actually air-conditioned.  A blog kind of seems a strange place to request this, but I have a lot of people reading it, and if you want something to pray about, I need everything to go smoothly Tuesday night.  I don’t want to spend the night in Guatemala City, since it is said to be pretty dangerous, and I am going to take the night bus there Tuesday night.  It leaves at 9:00.  It is supposed to be an 8-hour trip, and my plane leaves just before 8:00 a.m.  I have to have a taxi (recommended by the missionaries) try to meet me at the bus terminal at 5:00 a.m.  I don’t have a cell phone.  Also, buses aren’t necessarily exactly on time.  It was an hour late last night when we got clear stopped.  So I really need all to go well.  I think this is the right thing to do, but I just don’t want major problems.

With that, I will close for now.  Thanks to my readers for your attention, your support, and (in many cases) your prayers!

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