Monday, February 18, 2013

Momentito Guatemalteco 3

5:45 am

I am walking with Jenna and Mariah to the Xela bus station.  An ex-yellow school bus that has been painted with assorted words and symbols pulls up in front of us.  It mostly has a lot of hearts, names, and messages about God's love.  On the front window it reads "Xela-Guate."  A young man trots alongside it, yelling "Guate, Guate," as we register that this is our ride.  The guys at school told us to look for a bus headed to Guatemala City via Los Encuentros, and this is one. We say, "Sí," and climb aboard.

6:03 am
I am sitting with Mariah, backpacks on our laps, with Jenna behind us.  We have the seats toward the back of the bus that are over the wheel and therefore come with a built-in footrest.  I flash back to middle school, when I had an hour long ride in a similar bus, and always chose this seat because it was easier to prop up my feet and sleep, head against the window.  Here we are slightly cramped but comfortable.  The bus is actually only half full right now.  I scan the heads in the rows ahead of me, in singles or pairs.  Most have a knit ski hat but there is a man sitting on the right side wearing a cowboy hat and several women with colorful scarves twisted and secured in a loop that leaves their hair visible in the middle.  There are younger women too, one is dressed in jeans and listens to headphones, another is dressed in a traditional floral woven shirt and pinstripe-like skirt of a similar color scheme.

Chicken buses are named as such because commonly people transport poultry and other goods in or atop them to and from markets.  Right now, there are only people.  The driver turns up the volume of the music.  I don't know the actual name for this type of music, but it's akin to Spanish polka.  With more trumpets.  I imagine men with thick mustaches singing and strumming while wearing sombreros and lederhosen.  The young man sits on an upside down bucket next to the driver and periodically swings a large lever to the left to yell out the door, "Guate, Guate!"

6:14 am
The chicken bus driver's assistant begins walking up the aisle to collect our fare.  I have been in Guatemala long enough to know that I generally pay at least 50% more than Guatemaltecos for everything that does not have a posted price, which is most things.  In an attempt to avoid this, I ask the group of gentlemen behind me, "Cuanto cuesta este bus, de Xela a Los Encuentros?"
"Mmmmm, quince," he tells me.
The young man reaches our seat and for the first time, I see that his black knit hat says "BOSS" in white block letters across the front.
"Veinticinco" he tells us.
"Pero él me digó que es 15."
"No, es 25."
I exchange a knowing look with Jenna and Mariah and we fork over our money to The Boss.

6:28 am
The Boss is yelling "Guate, Guate" out the window at a group of people waiting at a gas station along the highway.  There are several small booths selling snacks and one man comes aboard with plastic bags stuffed with peanuts, cashews, and chiclets.  He walks up the aisle advertising the bags' contents and a man towards the front buys himself a snack.  Behind him boards a man carrying two large, white, flat boxes.  As he draws nearer to us, he places the two boxes on the rack over the seats with a hint of delicacy.  I realize that the boxes are chirping.  Full of chirping.

6:30 am
We continue on, the chirping growing louder when the bus speeds around turns, expressing my inner fearful chick, and maintains a steady accompaniment to the Spanish polka music.  I glance up to look at the boxes more closely and recognize the word "pollo" printed on the side.  I notice through a small hole some movement and a likely beak.

Not our chicken bus:

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