Friday, January 27, 2006


We have now been here in San Pablo for eight days and it feels like months. I’ve been traveling each day to different communities to meet with jóvenes and people who have an interest in art workshops. Alex, my guide, and I start out at about 7:15 each morning, slowly making our way to the bus stop, 45 minutes uphill. We have regularly scheduled breaks at the different turns in the path and while I go through a full Nalgene of water a morning, trying to make up for the lack of oxygen, Alex breathes calmly and doesn’t take a sip of anything until his coffee at lunch.

From the bus stop I can overlook the surrounding communities and on the other side of the road the peak of the Tacaná Volcano invites one into the next set of valleys. The bus comes only once an hour, never on schedule, so sometimes we wait two minutes and other times we wait more than 60.

How I dread the chicken bus. Old recycled U.S. school buses—painted various outrageous colors and as rickety as can be—are called this because people actually bring their chickens with them. Yesterday a tired old woman carried a tired old rooster in a raggedy canvas bag upon her lap, as if it were a well-groomed poodle in a Gucci dog carrier. The dust is outrageous and flies into my eyes and mouth, the music is going to make us all deaf, and the roads might as well qualify as class-five rapids. On Wednesday, on the way to the village of Conlaj, Alex and I were sitting in the back of the bus when a foul smell and dark smoke started from below us. I asked him if we were going to explode. He shrugged and said moments later, lleva coraje, be brave.

The ride back from Conlaj is tricky. You can leave the town with public transport only twice in the afternoon, at 1:30 or 7. We missed these combis, but with luck we flagged down a truck making its way up to Tacaná. So had everyone else, it seemed. The truck was full of young students, and I held on tight to the rail with my right hand while my left attempted to keep me from falling into the young girls practicing their English and sending me furtive glances. When the raindrops started falling I felt content, somehow finding the breeze, the coldness, and the adventure comforting. Our transport to Linda Vista yesterday took an hour to show up, but even as we were crowding four people into the front I took pleasure in the fact that there was a roof over our heads.

Today I am not making any visits and the best part of this is there is no going anywhere, no hiking breathlessly uphill, no white-knuckling the seat in front of me. Instead, I sit in bed and look out our panoramic window over the mountains. All of the communities I will be working in are far away, between two to three hours, one-direction. It has been suggested a number of times that our residence should be in the city of Tacaná, closer to all of the locations. But as I glide back down the mountain each day, quickly watching my steps and feeling accomplished, I realize that I am anxious to get home. Somehow, I have fallen in love with San Pablo and its people, and I guess I’ll just have to put up with the transporte.


At 8:21 AM, Blogger gtoz said...

Lleva coraje, my dear Brooke. Lleva coraje.

Safety tip of the day, where there is smoke there is fire and you need to get the hell away from the smoke.


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