You have to get up pretty early in the morning to get to
It took a few hours to get to the border, where we got out of the bus in order to go through exit and entry procedures in the immigration and customs departments of each country. It was around this point that it became clear to me that I was possibly sitting next to The Biggest Bitch in The World. I had greeted her with a friendly “Buenos Días” when I got on, but after getting no reply, I just went to sleep. Fuck you, too, then. All the way from San Ramón to the Nicaraguan border, this same fat lady next to me was mumbling to herself and shaking her head. I just thought she was crazy, but it turns out she was much worse. From a glance at her passport, and from her insistence on speaking in snippy English at the conductor to berate him, I knew that she was American, and that her name was Deborah. But for the sake of a smooth story and to not name names, let’s just call her Hoebag.
Anyhow, to leave
I sort of doubted Hoebag’s injured eye story, considering that she was wearing large eyeglasses and a hat, but if I did “hit” her in the eye, perhaps it was just the universe working itself out. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live in a world where bitches don’t get hit in the eye with luggage. Besides, a few minutes later I wished that my backpack had somehow popped her eye right out of the socket when Hoebag put on another presentation.
Everyone from the bus was waiting with their bags in a line, and an old lady in her 70s or 80s hobbled up with her bags and a confused expression on her face. She seemed to be trying to figure out if she was supposed to wait in this line, when Hoebag offered the lady the following piece of advice: “No no, you have to wait in the back of the line just like all the rest of us!” She began yelling at the poor lady. “You get your ass back there; there’s no way you’re getting in front of me!” The poor lady, who obviously didn’t understand English, made a soothing gesture with her hand, the universal signal for “take it easy,” which pissed off Hoebag even more. Hoebag once again ordered the lady to the back of the line. After we got our bags checked, we all waited outside the bus for about 30 minutes, including Hoebag, the little old lady, and myself.
When we got back on, some British girls had changed buses, and Samuel and I took their seats immediately. Hoebag presumably continued on to her final destination of
So, the remainder of the first bus went pretty smoothly, but by the time we got to
In any case, to make things worse, by the time we got out of the bus, a wave of heat enveloped us. I headed directly to the bathroom, and while Samuel waited outside with my bags, I had a nice series of dry heaves and then desperately evacuated my bowels over the seat-less toilet. Neither of which was particularly fun but, hey, vacations are about trying new, exciting things, right?
I came out of the bathroom and sat on the floor. Samuel had already enthusiastically procured a taxi to take us to the next bus station, conveniently located on the other side of the sprawling Nicaraguan capital. I objected, saying I thought it might be best to just sit on the floor for a while and then die, but he and the taxi driver assured me that after getting out into the fresh air of the taxi, I’d feel better. So with my head sticking out of the open window of the taxi to better inhale the pestilent, polluted air of
We had missed the bus to Jinotega by a fair shot, but apparently there was a bus to Matagalpa, from which we’d be able to catch the last bus to Jinotega. Possibly. At the bus station, the taxi let us out, and I walked over to a stand of bushes and threw up. A minute or two later, as I was sitting on the ground with my eyes closed and trembling quietly, a man started shouting at me. I replied with a meek, “
How can you argue with reasoning like that? For the next three hours or days, I sat in a seat in the back of the bus with my eyes closed, as I for some reason clutched a long-sleeved T-shirt in my hands. I think I believed it was the only thing keeping me alive, somehow. I was buffeted by a constant flurry of hot dusty air, which left what passes for my hair these days blown back and caked stiff, and left my left ear black with soot and dust. A few hours into that ride, I was quietly praying that I’d get randomly shot by some Bedouin sheepherder like Cate Blanchett in “
Occasionally, I did in fact stick my head out the window to throw up a bit, and remarked to myself at the abstract beauty of my foamy vomit flying back behind me like sticky, white streamers, making the colorfully-decorated bus look like a float in the world’s worst Homecoming parade. It was kind of fun, all things considered.
When we got to Matagalpa, we quickly changed buses for Jinotega. I actually have no recollection of this part of the journey, but I believe that on that bus, I sat next to Samuel while my head bobbed back and forth like a jack-in-the-box. I offered him my peanut butter and jelly sandwich I’d brought, and I began to feel better. My only clear recollection is actually not really clear, mainly because it was based on such a strange event. I remember waking up at one point when I realized that the bus had been stopped for two or three minutes. I asked Samuel what was going on, and it turns out that the bus had stopped because in the yard of a house we were passing by, two boys were out front playing with machetes, trying to attack each other. Our bus driver had pulled over to yell at them. I guess that’s just one of the hazards that comes with living, loving, and leaving in machete country.
In Jinotega, we’d missed the last bus to Pantasma. According to a group of old drunks on a bench, though, we’d only missed it by five minutes, so we commissioned a taxi to take us on a mad dash to catch up with the bus, already on its way to Pantasma. Somehow we made it (well, I say “somehow” as if I didn’t actually understand how we caught up with the bus; we caught it because the driver hauled major balls on some seriously potholed country roads using techniques that would make Bo and Luke Duke proud).
The bus from Jinotega to Pantasma was actually sort of enjoyable. Early in the trip, I gave up my seat so a girl and her mother could sit down, and I walked to the back of the converted school bus, where the last row or two of seats had been removed for cargo or standing passengers. I was taller than most people and I had to crane my neck just to stand there, and my head still often hit the ceiling when the bus went over holes in the road. Still, the reason it was kind of fun was that it turned out the back of the bus is where all the manual laborers sit around on bags of corn and drink beer. After I was standing there for only about one minute, they offered me a beer, which I politely declined, saying with regret in my voice that I’d thrown up on the last few buses, and that it might be better to not repeat that. After about the fourth time they insisted, I finally accepted a beer. It was shitty and probably one of the worst beers there is out there (Let’s put it this way: there’s a reason
Before they got off the bus, the workers offered me two or three more beers, which I subtly passed on to one of their cohorts, a young 22-year-old man named Jenny (really). He was a very nice guy who asked me questions about the
After however many hours of traveling, we finally pulled to a stop on the side of a dark road, and Samuel told me it was time to get off the bus. The
Samuel had told me that his house was humble, but I hadn’t realized how humble it actually was. It was really a one room wood house, but since it was on a slope, the area beneath the room had also been turned into a sort of second room. Off to the side of the upstairs room was a kitchen with a dirt floor and a wood-burning stove, the smoke from which exited through cracks in the wall and an area between the wall and the ceiling. In the yard behind the house were three outhouses and a bucket shower, which a few of the neighbors seemed to share.
As for the cast of characters, I immediately got a lot of names thrown at me, and I was never entirely clear on the names or the relations of the people that I met. I was also unsure whether it was appropriate to ask or not. Samuel usually just introduced people as “my (type of relation),” for example, “my niece.” To make things more complicated, he tended to refer to most males as “
When we got to the house, though, I was pretty exhausted. Samuel and I ate a meal of rice and beans alone in the kitchen, and we chatted a bit. I could hardly eat anything, since my appetite was still off, but he assured me that if I didn’t finish the food, someone else would.
After that, we sat in chairs and chatted with some members of his family, and when he saw me nodding off in my chair, he helped me to fix up our sleeping area. We slept on the planks of the wood floor, which we covered with a piece of cardboard and a sheet. Fortunately, I’d brought a blanket. I rolled up an extra pair of pants inside my lifesaving T-shirt, and as Samuel chatted away I fell into sleep like a rock.
Samuel’s sister preparing something in the kitchen at night. The bottom flame is the stove, and the top is a cluster of candles. It was dark when they cut the electricity, but kinda cozy.
You have to get up pretty early in the morning to get to