In the Backseat 3

Excerpt from my third WP on the topic, as is.

I was in a minivan once, with another American friend, going from Medellín to Cali, Colombia. We’d just run the Medellín half marathon and the next bus to Cali would take nine or ten hours; a minibus service promised six or seven.

Whenever I took a bus in Colombia, the doors would be taped shut at the terminal. The drivers weren’t supposed to pick up additional passengers, but they all did, stopping at cafés in small towns to let out one and let on another. I was new to Colombia. This made me nervous. What made me more nervous was the driver speeding up the mountains, passing on curves.

I closed my eyes, made my body limp. If we crashed, a relaxed body might fare better than a tense, anxious one.

My stomach was a nightmare. Behind me a woman sat with her teenage daughter who, an hour into the trip, began throwing up. It was the calmest vomiting I’d seen ? I passed back my pack of gum. I kept chewing, bile (?) flooding my own mouth. If I’d had to throw up I’d want a ditch somewhere. This driver didn’t slow for anything.

We stopped at a roadside café. I ate a beet salad. I sipped cor carbonated water. Soda water.

In one town, the driver got out and palmed a small white packet. Is that how you say it? Two feet from me, he took a small white packet with a handshake; pesos swiftly tucked away. Dogs and children ran around. I was – it might have been the first time I felt how new the country was to me. I’d just left a city with military police posted on corners, was flying through mountains and small towns lined with plastic cafe chairs, returning to a city whose population was half what my state’s was.

I remember thinking if I died on this winding route from Medellín to Cali. The relief was: over a mountain or slammed into an oncomming bus, at least it wasn’t a pickup truck in Wisconsin, killing me on a curve.

What I’d like to do now is write more about that weekend: dead cockroaches in the hotel bathroom’s clear plastic ceiling; all the visible uniforms and guns; running at an elevation; seeing a motorcycle accident in the dark; the heat of Cali after the cool of Medellin. That weekend was a month or two into my time in Colombia. I knew nothing about being an expat. It was still only adventure.  


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