How many times have I done this bouncy painful travel thing in Nicaragua? Countless times, I think. And each time it starts the same. I board a gaily colored chicken bus in good spirits. I try to find a seat, if any are available, and settle in for the ride. I smile at my neighbors, I relax into the bumps and jolts of the bad bad roads. I and my fellow travelers cavort and bounce throughout the brightly colored, rolling landscape for the next several hours. Often we move in slow motion, which provides ample opportunity for gazing out the window, studying the countryside and the towns we pass through. I am occasionally charmed, sometimes I learn something, sometimes I see something sad.
Each time we pause, women in aprons swarm the bus, selling ice cold sodas (ice cold! ha!), chicken, fried pork intestines and cole slaw, water, corn on the cob, you name it. A young, conservatively dressed man stands up from his seat and, perspiring madly from his rigidly buttoned clothing, begins to exhort on-board sinners to repent and be saved lest the eternal hellfires feed themselves on our ill-behaved bodies. The guy behind me (the one with the chicken) starts to sing a praise hymn. It's hard to hear him over the loud pop or religious pop music blaring from the bus speakers. The guy next to me gets corn stuck between his teeth and starts picking with his nails and spitting on the back of the seat in front of us. Most of the pieces land in my lap. He appears not to notice my dirty looks. More and more people pile on, and a girl behind me, sitting on her mother's lap, jabs her elbow in my neck. Corn spitting man falls asleep (HOW?!) and starts to lean on my shoulder. So many people get on the bus, more than seems possible, that before I know it I am in a life-or-death battle to guard not just that amorphous sense of "personal space," but the actual space that my body occupies. If I give in, I will end in a pitiful crying bleeding lump on the bus floor, cuddled up with all the discarded corn cobs and styrofoam plates that smell of fried pork intestines.
The bouncing of the bus becomes not just an inconvenience, but actually painful. The thinly padded seats beat a tattoo onto my sits bones that will leave bruises, and I start to count to 60 over and over and over again, trying to take life one minute at a time. Turns out there's an awful lot of minutes in 3 or 5 hours, and this enrages me. By the time we are 45 minutes overdue for our arrival and still bouncing through the countryside with no town in sight, I am ready to tear the beating wings off of butterflies. I would drop kick a bunny rabbit, scare a baby, fart in public, scream senseless absurdities with my hands slapped over my ears. I would slap the evangelical preacher across the face and spew vile curse words at the dirty kid whose grubby mitts keep pinching the hairs on the back of my neck when he grabs the back of my seat. WHY, OH GOD, WHY DIDN'T I RENT A FREAKING CAR!???
When we finally arrive, however, I am so thrilled, so absolutely delighted to be off the bus that I positively beam upon the world. I am a beatific, I smile, I radiate happiness. I bounce off the bus on spring-loaded moonboots, I wink at taxi cab drivers, cheerfully insult the bus lot attendants when they ask me to come home with them. I go home, take a shower, scrub the dust out of my ears and hair, and sigh in a satisfied manner. See? That wasn't so bad, was it. And look at all the money I saved!!