On the Chicken Bus in Guatemala

March 28, 2008

My arm felt like it was about to wrench out of its socket as I hung on to the bars in the bus to keep myself from falling while we went careening around another curve.

Finally, we went all the way around the curve, and I stood up straight again, as straight as I could with so many people squeezed around me.

While I stood there crammed into the aisle on the bus, I held a suitcase desperately, to keep it from falling on the man sitting by me.He was the third person jammed into the seat made for two people, and he was squashed between the second person in the seat and my mom, who was standing in the aisle pressed up against me. On the other side of my mom, there were three more people jammed into the two-person seat.

As we neared Antigua (a colonial city about an hour from the Guatemalan capital), the man running the system on the bus yelled in his singsong Guatemalan Spanish, “Everyone getting off at Antigua, please come to the front of the bus.”

The people began to get up and squeeze their way through the many passengers standing in the aisle to get to the front.When we were about a block from the stop, the man began to honk the horn like a maniac to let the people waiting at the stop know we were coming. We pulled up, the people got on and off, and we were moving again before the new passengers could even get all the way up the bus steps.

“Please move back to let the new people on,” the voice sang again.

Yeah right, I thought. There was no way to move back with all the other passengers jammed in there. The man who ran the system and also collected the money began to squeeze his way to the back of the bus to charge the fare to some new people who had gotten in through the back emergency door.

Having done this, the man climbed out the back door and up the ladder on the back of the bus. Soon we heard him clambering over the roof and saw him come in the front door again, all this having been done while we were flying down the road at warp speed.

At one point, we had to wait at a construction spot where the road was only one lane while some cars coming from the other direction went through the available lane. When it finally came our turn to go, it was like a race; all the vehicles that had been waiting tried to get through first.

After a total of about two hours of travel and a half an hour of waiting in the bus at the road construction spot, it was our turn to squeeze through the people to get to the front of the bus. The bus came to a stop and we hopped off; then it went honking and speeding away to continue its rapid, crazy journey.

Although we were off the bus, the adventure still continued when we found that our friend’s wallet had been stolen sometime during the voyage…

Daniel Mauger, 16, was born in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania but has been a Costa Rican resident since he was two and a half months old. He lives in San Francisco de Dos Ríos, east of San José, and attends school at Academia el Camino home school. He visited Guatemala with his parents last year.

 

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