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humble ode to my beloved chicken buses

GUATEMALA | Thursday, 7 June 2007 | Views [5732]

The current exchange rate is about 1 US Dollar = 7.79740 Guatemalan Quetzales, putting my 12Q chicken bus ride to from Guatemala City to Comalapa at just over $1.50. It is in these cheap, two hour time-frames that I remember so well why I love Guatemala.

In two hours and for under two dollars, I discuss how long the ride will be with the farmer next to me and we complain together of all the road construction..and then laugh heartily about it

For less than two dollars I grasp the metal handlebar in front of me as our bus plunges in and out of low clouds that blanket the lush, green mountains.

For under two dollars I speed by thousands of dilapidated tin homes and see children playing soccer with rolled up cloth for a ball and using tree branches as a goal but being completely involved and enjoying themselves to the fullest.

For under two dollars laugh with the little boy who is making faces at his brother and pretending to sing to the Eagle's song blaring on the bus.

For under two dollars I am given the opportunity to discuss politics with a man dressed to the hilt in his traditional clothing and a big sun hat who, though not sure which candidate to vote for in the upcoming elections, only asks to be able to work his own land be treated fairly.

For under two dollars I squish even more into my seat to make room for a fourth Guatemalan that doesn't appear as though she will find room to sit, but as we make a group-seat effort, somehow we DO all end up fitting on the lightly padded bus seats, all of us giggling away at all our efforts.

For less than two dollars I am able to sit back and from my seat and buy peanuts, agua pura, a toothbrush, or even a lotion sure to cure both malaria and asthma from the many vendors that hop on and off the buses.

For under two dollars I have the thrill ride of my life, complete with close hits with oncoming traffic, sharp corners taken at high speeds, loud music, and breathtaking views.

For less than two dollars I am able to talk with the woman next to me about her traje (traditional outfit) and I realize how many stories one's clothes have the capacity of telling about who you are, what region you are from, and beliefs deeply rooted in tradition.

So for less than two dollars, I am able to take part in a completely different culture and for just two hours observe what it means to get from one place to the next for the average Guatemalan. There are tourist shuttles I could take, there are taxis I could flag down, I have a cousin who would drive me to my destination if I asked nicely...but I'd have it no other way than in the noisy, overstuffed, multicolored chicken buses that I have grown to know and love so well.
The best picture I found on the internet to depict my beloved, over-packed, carefully cared-for, methods of transportation.

The best picture I found on the internet to depict my beloved, over-packed, carefully cared-for, methods of transportation.

Tags: planes trains & automobiles

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