You can trust me when I say that any morning beginning with vomit and a side order of anti-diarrheals with breakfast for two thirds of the family is a harbinger of things to come. Add the words “chicken bus” to the breakfast conversation and it’s the perfect storm of endlessly horrific possibilities.
Every single chicken bus ride is worthy of it’s own blog post somewhere. I’ve yet to ride one in which I did not have a near death experience, sit within a whirlpool of humanity that just begged for comment, or just suffered enough to feel justified in a good rant; and that’s without giving time to the animal passengers that enliven the experience from time to time.
There really are no words adequate to the experience of being whisked aboard an old Bluebird bus, painted like a time machine, pimped out like a seventies low-rider and covered inside with enormous neon coloured stickers of the Virgin Mary and others reading things like, “God bless your entrance and exit of this bus,” “Please don’t mistreat the signs,” “Your children’s safety is our priority” (a Bluebird original) “Jesus is my co-pilot” or “Driving slowly saves lives.”
Taking a page out of the Mayan mujeres book it seems entirely reasonable to genuflect slightly to the Mother Mary sticker, cross one’s self and say a quick prayer to the Patron Saint-Of-The-Slightly-Insane for deliverance from this necessary evil.
It’s important to make sure that your bag gets on to the top of the same bus you’re entering, and stays there for the duration of the trip. Tony and I discussed, one more time, the plan for who stays with the kids and who leaps off the bus to follow the departing bag, should the bag migrate without us. This happens. Sometimes its the quiet roof top cargo swap between “amigos” at stoplights. Other times it’s an inadvertent bag-sans-person drop at one of the ridiculously raucous, fast paced bus changes. It hasn’t happened to us. Yet. When it does, we’re ready.
The bus up from Antigua to Chimaltenango gets a gold star for being the most harrowing of our experience thus far. I really did see my life flash before my eyes.
I was reminded of the tornado scene in The Wizard of Oz as I, like Dorothy, watched the swirl of cows, bicicleros, old men with goats and numerous small cars whirl just out of the way of the flying bus. More than one expletive was uttered, in more than one language, by the passengers and there was a muttered undertone, that didn’t need translation, as to the appropriate description for our confident driver.
Getting seven people ON to one chicken bus is one adventure. Making sure you get the same seven OFF at the same stop, is quite another. I confess, on our previous exchange in Chimaltenango, to actually chasing the departing bus down the main street shouting, “HEY!! I’ve got one more kid on there!! Dang it!!” in Spanish before realizing that there were actually two kids, and Daddy too, being whisked away at lightning speed.
Tony was off circulating between the tiendas up and down the block looking for ginger ale with real ginger for Ruth and Ez, who were both feeling green. The rest of us were holding down our piece of sidewalk with the crowd of hopeful passengers waiting for their next bus at the corner of Washington and Jefferson, on the main drag, when it happened.
Ezra groaned, threw back his head in his signature “Oh man!” look and announced, “I have a personal problem!” Which is quite an improvement from where he started at three, in Mexico when he had the same “personal problem” and threw himself down in the Cancun airport shouting, “I’m POOPING TO DEATH!”
I rolled my eyes on the inside and asked, as cheerfully as I could, “I’m sorry, what is it?”
“Remember what Dad said about never trusting a fart… well…”
I rolled my eyes on the outside as the news passed between the children met with varying degrees of guffaw and disgust while Ruth just laughed. Tony passed by, without ginger ale in hand, heard the news and muttered under his breath, “It’s a party now!”
After several moments of drama and debate that I’ll leave to your imagination I found myself standing shoulder to shoulder with my red haired cousin, our backs to a niche in the concrete wall, giggling, uncontrollably.
“You know all those people that send us gushy e-mail, wishing they could travel and have our life?” I snickered to my cousin, “THIS is totally what they’re missing. EVERYONE wants THIS life!”
Ruth, also giggling uncontrollably nodded beneath her straw hat and we peered over our shoulders just in time to see Ez finishing his clean up with what was left of his underwear and getting back into his drawers, commando.
Emerging looking only slightly scathed he settled under his Dad’s big eyeball, trained directly on his two little beady ones, and they made the agreement, one more time: Never, NEVER trust a fart.
The feeling of “coming home” is past description in it’s beauty. Clearly, it’s not a locationally bound emotion for us, but when it happens, we know it and we love it.
- That’s how we felt when we collapsed into the plastic chairs at Josephina’s comededor and ordered lunch in Panajachel.
- That’s how we felt when we looked back to see Elisha driving the boat between Jaibalito and Tzununa.
- That’s how we felt when we threw our bags down in the garden and raced down the path to “check on the lake.”
- That’s how we felt when it took us over an hour to buy three dollars worth of veggies for dinner because we were stopped no less than seven times to catch up with friends or begin plans for Sarah’s baby shower.
- That’s how we felt when, later that night over beers at Paco Real we reduced our friends Jeff and Jake and Derek to near tears as Jake, 17, toasted Tony’s sage wisdom and reiterated, “NEVER trust a fart!”
It’s good to be home.