7: Bus or Bust
I was shocked at the initial bus ride that delivered me to the homemade barbed wire gate guarding the Hospital Escuela. I paid the equivalent of thirty cents to hang from the ceiling handles, vibrating from the bass of the Latino music, throbbing to the point of un-recognition as music, shared by three other travelers. I was stripped of any privacy by the stares of every person on that bus other than the boy who quickly collected my money, as my skin color was of no concern; brown or white, he got his fare.
All fear exposed in the lonely nakedness of truth, I no longer allowed myself to be a white girl in an uncomfortably crowded bus. I took the bag of eggs from the woman struggling with her twin sons, banged my centivos on the ceiling for the bus to stop and exited, as did everyone else – living, surviving, becoming. That day, and for the remainder of my trip, I couldn’t be Kelli, born of goodly parents, given pearl earrings on my sixteenth birthday, driver of a shunned Honda Accord. I was an equal. I no longer searched for American peanut butter in the indoor market and bought the recycled toilet paper re-bagged by the one-legged lady on the side of the bridge. Don’t misunderstand me; I didn’t disengage any previous identity. I merely altered the way in which I was to present it.
Regardless, the buses, be them yellow American school buses or masterpieces with the face of Bob Marley plastered on the rear, always made me a little nervous and have provided for several entertaining stories…
It’s a Sunday and we catch a bus to catacamas called El Boqueron. It was supposedly a place where a mountain split in half and ice cold water started pouring out of it, destroying a city. We were intrigued and made it our day trip. The hike was simply up a riverbed and the mysterious waterfall remained a mystery…perhaps it is invisible – but the area was beautiful. It starts pouring on our way down and we start running, aware of mishaps with flash floods, and of course become completely drenched. We stop for a quick lunch in an abandoned wood shack of Ritz crackers and beef jerky and consider changing into our alternative – clean, soaked clothes.
This is where the bus comes in: it arrives two minutes after we make it down the hill. We ride it, soaking wet, all the way to Juticalpa, where we stood in a long line for tickets to Tegus. From there, our extremely uncomfortable, freezing, standing room only four hour bus ride included running into a second lieutenant in the Honduran Military who had lived in La Mosquitia for two years and had contacts to fly us into this remote jungle region of North-Eastern Honduras. That was the good news! The next part proves me the idiot. So we are both asleep, it’s dark outside and all that I do know is our stop is a Shell station. I wake up and the bus is passing one. I jump up, start banging my centivos on the metal frame, pull Justin down the isle with me and we unload – making quite the scene in my half-asleep frantic state. Juice wakes up and realizes that we are miles away from home – in the middle of the night – soaking wet – waiting to be robbed. We somehow convince a carload of wasted men to drop us off down the road and make it home. There is more than one Shell Station in Honduras.