Monday, August 22, 2011


Speaking of spontaneous travel stories… here is one that my former language classmate from out here posted on his blog the other day.

Have you had one of those moments recently when something so outrageous happens all you can do is laugh? I did. And now I'll tell you about it.

It was a short trip east and a bit south of here. By short trip, I mean 30 hours by train. Meeting up with a friend, we headed to the bus station. We had a few small cities we planned to visit and bus seemed the best option. It's cheap and reliable, though I've yet to see a bus here with anything close to resembling what I like to call 'leg room'.

For whatever reason, we were told that foreigners could not take the bus we wanted to take. Not completely understanding we quickly resorted to Plan B. The infamous yet wonderful Santana, or long distance taxi. Santanas derive their name from the Volkswagen Santana, the model of choice for the majority of these taxis. After a quick phone call which involved haggling over a price we waited for our driver who never showed. We finally resorted to flagging down a random Santana which immediately agreed to the price we were told was fair. Great! We jumped in. AND. This driver didn't cram a fourth person in the back. I'm a large man. 4 people in the back of a mid-sized sedan just doesn't work for me.

My rejoicing was short-lived. About an hour into the trip, the driver suddenly pulled over and in hopped a ragged looking migrant worker. Now I was sqished up against the front seat, my friend laughing at me one side and a farmer rattling off about Obama in a local dialect I could barely understand on the other. Off we went again. This time we only got another twenty minutes down the road. After answering a few phone calls (in a dialect, of course, I could not understand) the driver suddenly pulled over. No explanation other than, "Wait a little." Soon, another car full of men in white skull caps pulled up. The hood of our car was opened and all ten or so men hunched over inspecting the underworkings of our vehicle. "Is the car broken?", I asked my new Obama-loving friend. No clear answer was given. Silly me. Thinking the car was broken. Pfff.

Meanwhile cars and bikes are slowing down for a better look at the two whities. One got the feeling they didn't get a lot of foreigners in those parts. Finally, while chatting about what might become of us, the driver turned toward us. Admittedly what came out of his mouth was actually nothing I could have ever expected. "I just sold my car. Now you will take the public bus." So many thoughts passed through my mind. "You ARE selling it? You WILL sell it?" My language skills aren’tt great, but I was sure he just said 'sold'... as in the past tense of 'sell'.

Next my thought was to reason with him. Surely he understood that we had an unspoken agreement; he was under a certain obligation to drive me to my destination, right? SURELY you can't sell your car out from under your passengers?! Silly me. In the next minute our driver flagged down a public bus heading to our destination, he paid our fare, and we were bustled on. Since we were late comers, the only seats available were little plastic stools in the aisle. Strangely, our fellow Santana passengers seemed unphased as they climbed on the bus, like it was normal for their taxi to be sold mid-way through a trip.

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