Leaving San Cristobal de las Casas

Riding the all-night bus from San Cristobal de las Casas to Merida made me realize that there are some things I am no longer good at: 14 hours in a sitting position is one of them.

The person in front of me had her seat fully reclined so in fact, she was lying on my lap… Jorge did the gentlemanly thing and insisted on swapping seats with me. Then in Palenque, two people got off and you’d have been shocked at how fast I nipped into their row. With two seats each, we were indeed more comfortable for the rest of the journey…

Mind you, I still couldn’t sleep, and with my i-pod on (I made a great new play list before leaving on this sojourn…) I settled into the dim light and observed my fellow bus-mates. There were three young foreign couples, sporting Chiapas Fashion (Jackets made out of the material we use to mop our floors, embroidered tops and big wide colorfully-striped, wrap-around pants) A couple of the guys sported very long dreads, piercings and tattoos… Draped over one another like puppies, they slept soundly all the way to Mérida.

Contrast this with the Yucatecan mestiza (in her perfectly starched, white huipil) sitting stoically in the front row. It’s doubtful that she closed her eyes for the entire 14 hours. I’m sure she felt her vigilance was all that kept our vehicle from hurtling down over the steep cliffs.

There were a dozen or so young men from the mountains that I could only assume were headed to Yucatán as part of a work crew. Various middle class couples and singles filled up most of the other seats.

But the couple in the 4th right-hand row tore hard on my heartstrings. I judged the young woman to be no older than 15. Dressed in the typical highland heavy wool skirt and satin blouse, her waist-length black hair spilled over her brightly-colored rebozo… and tucked into that thick wool shawl I spied a newborn baby girl. Her partner did not look any older than she did. When morning came I saw how they looked out the window with puzzlement at the Yucatecan landscape… so different from the lush mountain terrain of their native Chiapas. What lay in store for them in this sweltering lowland peninsula?

The differences in my fellow passengers’ apparent attitudes and circumstances seemed to be as deep and wide as the Grand Canyon… We know that economic advantage affords the “luxury” of choice… but what a broadsided example I saw of that this morning.



Filed under Vida Latina, Writing

10 responses to “Broadsided

  1. Lee

    And to think I whined about my 4.5-hr bus trip from Cancun. I have to really toughen up, and remember to load my iPod, if I’m ever going to travel like you do!

    • In my opinion, the iPod is the greatest invention ever made for travelers. Put the ear buds in and you can “sit through” almost anything… next time I go on a long trip, I’ll also load a movie or two… maybe a book.

  2. People watching is one of my favourite things to do. I always wonder what each person’s story is…why are they where they are, where are they going, what difficulties are they facing?

    • Mine too Barb… I often see a complete stranger and wonder what his life is like. Of course I’ll never know, so I develop possible scenarios. I get lots of my characters in this way…

  3. Deanna Lagroix

    Thanks for that insight, Joanna. I just returned from Saskatoon where I had attended a family funeral. The mourners were made up of Metis and First Nations along with the other Canadians of various Ancestries. I, too, watched the different ways we said good-bye to my relative who was surrounded by loved ones who stood in the vast expanse of a Saskatchewan Cemetery bordering the Trans-Canada. Your blog reminded me that we are a part of all around us and that world gets smaller as we join hands and hearts in sorrow and joy.
    Glad you are home safe and sound.

  4. Jan Morgan

    Wonderful writing, as usual. I felt like I was on that bus, but glad I wasn’t!! Welcome home!

  5. Loved that, Joanna! “People watching” is so informative, isn’t it, even if one is sleepy or not feeling well.

    Welcome back, and rest up.

    • I think it is human nature to watch those around us and wonder about them… It is part of our natural curiosity

      • I wonder about that, Joanna–I find a big variation in the “people watching/thinking” in people I know. I suspect it has something to do with introversion-extroversion dimension, but it probably is much more than that. Who knows, maybe it’s birth-order, size of one’s family of origin, or even the mental health of one’s parents.

        I just read an interesting NY Times article on why bi-lingual settings seem to enhance one’s thinking abilities later on–and one factor was that those who had to sort through “what’s that mean” AND “que significa…” developed a
        broader antennae range.

    • Alinde, Jan and Deanna… thanks for your comments and for sharing your “people watching” experiences. It find it interesting how we all observe situations and try to interpret one anothers’ thoughts and reactions… usually based on our own criteria, I guess…

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