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Monday, October 06, 2008

The Day We Met - Part II

*If you didn't read Part I of The Day We Met you can scroll down a few posts to find it. You can't miss it...big red heart.

We were about a block away when I saw a bus leaving the terminal. I looked at my watch. Eleven O’clock on the nose. Could that be my bus to Fronteras? For a second I thought to hail a cab and chase it down. But what if it wasn’t? I would feel like a fool chasing down and stopping the wrong bus. I decided to remain calm. Surely that wasn’t the bus I was supposed to be on. And even if it was, there was always another bus. Always.

When I got to the terminal the young girl at the ticket window informed me that the nonstop bus to Fronteras had just left, and, no, there wasn’t another one leaving today. There would be another one leaving tomorrow at 11AM she offered helpfully. Great, I thought. If I hadn’t spent 8 minutes on the sidewalk repairing my pack I would have made that bus. Again I thought to myself, "What bad luck." Seeing the disappointment or perhaps the hopelessness in my face, the girl looked back at her schedule. There would be a bus leaving at 1PM for Morales where I could transfer to Fronteras. It was a longer ride with more stops on an older bus, but I took it, gladly. I smiled gratefully as I handed over my 21 quetzales ($2.10) and received my receipt and a transfer ticket for the second leg.

I picked a sunny seat in a window of the terminal to wait out my 2 hours. I noticed my Austrian friend boarding a bus to Tikal and with a quick wave he was gone. I killed some time reading, bought a tamale for less than a dollar, and wrote a postcard. I didn’t have a stamp and to this day I still have that unsent postcard. I also spent some time perfecting the repair job on my pack. I still had quite a ways to go and I couldn’t bare a repeat of the sidewalk scene.

We pulled out of the terminal at exactly 1PM (they were, apparently, very serious about punctuality at this station) and headed in the direction of Morales. We hadn’t left the city limits when we made our first of what would be many stops along the way. I started out with a seat to myself but the bus quickly filled, and I found myself next to a pretty girl of 16 or 17. She was a student at the University in Guatemala City and was on her way home to Morales for the weekend. We talked quite a bit about our families and the differences in our respective cultures. I remember trying to explain Santa Claus to her. I don’t think she ever quite understood. After about 3 hours she told me we were almost there. Yeah!

I reached into my pocket for my transfer ticket and leaned forward to show it to the fellow riding shotgun. In Guatemala, most buses, especially longer distance buses, have a “navigator” who rides shotgun. He serves as the driver’s right hand man. He handles the public relations on the bus. He’s the guy who loads and unloads all of the luggage. He stops traffic so the driver can parallel park on a busy city street. He runs into a restaurant to see if their restroom is functioning and available to his passengers. Then he’ll return to tell everyone that yes the restroom is available, and for an additional quetzal you can purchase toilet paper from the clerk. He makes sure everyone is back on the bus before the driver takes off again. He lets you know when your stop is coming up. And he handles transfers.

So I tapped him on the shoulder and gave him my transfer slip. He looked at it and furrowed his brow slightly. That made me nervous. He held up one finger and said, “Momento”. He turned to consult with the driver who obviously did not like to be interrupted with such nonsense. They had a brief, curt conversation that I didn't quite catch, ending with the driver giving an irritated wave of his hand. What did it all mean? Obviously, something was amiss. The navigator leaned back in my direction and tried to explain that we might not be able to make it in time to catch my transfer. My stomach did a somersault, and I thought of Ellen back in Antigua. Maybe I should have stayed. This day was going from bad to worse. I could hardly imagine being stranded overnight in a strange town all by myself. The sound of a blaring horn brought me back from the depths of self pity. Who was honking and at what?

I looked up to see that we were coming into an odd clearing in the center of town where several other buses were parked at strange angles to the streets. There were Mayan vendors holding up their wares to the windows of the buses trying to entice the seated passengers. I noticed one of the buses starting to pull away and it looked like our driver was intent on getting his spot as we were approaching the back of the departing bus with alarming speed. Again a horn blared. This time I realized where the sound was coming from. Our driver laid into his horn spewing three long irritated blasts. By now the vendors, and anyone else in the nearby vicinity, were staring at us with considerable concern, and still we barreled towards the rear end of this bus. Our driver slowed a little, shouted something to our navigator, and motioned to him with that same irritated hand gesture. With my transfer ticket still in hand our brave navigator leapt from the moving bus and raced ahead toward the bus that was still trying to make a clean get away. Our driver gave two more lengthy blasts at the same time our navigator was shouting and banging with his hand along the length of the bus ahead of us. I watched in complete confusion as the bus stopped with a lurch and our navigator sprinted the rest of the distance to its now open doors. Panting, he climbed up the first step and leaned in towards the alarmed driver. I saw him hold up my ticket and point back to our bus as he explained himself. Suddenly, I realized what was going on. They had stopped that bus so that I could get on it. That was the bus to Fronteras. The raucous to which I had just bore witness had been for my sake. I was stunned. And rather embarrassed. Our navigator hurried back and ushered me off the bus. With swift precision he extracted my tattered pack from the underbelly of our bus and quickly headed across the clearing. I was amazed that he remembered which pack was mine and which bin it was in having packed it away three hours earlier. As we hurried toward the waiting bus I glanced back at our driver and said, “Gracias.” I’m sure he couldn’t hear me, but he nodded his head and gave a little wave. And, with that, I was on my way.

To be Continued....

Please consider joining us in posting your own love story. It's October after all - Love Story Month!

P.S. Jodi ~ When you read this (and I know you will) you should consider yourself "tagged". In other words, time to update your blog, Baby! We miss you! Now, I certainly do not expect you to fill us in on the going-ons of the whole year. Just start with today. (You can always fill in the gaps later). I would love, love, love to see some recent pics of the kiddos and to hear what's going on with you. Hugs, Heather


Jennifer said...

No fair!!! You leave me wanting more every. single. time!!!!

Candace said...

What a great story - great story teller! I can't wait until you meet him. Or did you already?! He's the Austrian isn't he?!!!!

Jenni said...

This is the coolest story. How interesting about the unsent postcard! I can't wait to hear more...

nicaudfamily said...

I am loving the storyI can not believe you tagged me on your blog!Okay okay I will get to updating soon. Email me and I will atleast send you some pics in the mean time. I don't have your e-mail address.
Keep the story coming to!