It is so common, in yoga and in life, to fly through transitions. I find it a very human reaction to be so focused on what is to come next that one neglects to consider the process of getting from here to there. As Steven Tyler said, “Life’s a journey not a destination.”
It’s easier to focus on the transitions in Nicaragua because they take longer. When you’re on foot and on a bus, your transition differs greatly than when you’re in a car of your own speeding from destination to destination. I traveled this weekend to Esteli in Northern Nicaragua. Below are some notes from the ride…
Romantic Latin music plays, accompanied by video, from the front of the bus. Vendors carrying plastic bags of tomatoes and green peppers squeeze up and down the central aisle to sing-song calls of “Tomate, tomate, tomate! Chiltoma, chiltoma, chiltoma!” No need to travel all the way to el mercado for tonight’s meal. The aire here is cooler , three hours North of Granada. “Fresco, no frio,” I’m told when I mention the coolness to fellow travelers. Fresh, not cold.
It’s three bus rides from Granada to Esteli, and my first time traveling alone in Nicaragua. The first bus dropped me at a Texaco, with a sign faded from bright red to light pink, located in Masaya. The station, pronounced texAco, would almost have been missed were it not the only Texaco station I’ve seen today. Bus riders, food vendors, beggars, and street dogs milled around in the still humid air, the morning’s rain long forgotten as the day began to heat up. I waited there in vain for my second bus to Tipitapa. I saw one crowded minivan drive by and not stop, an amazing fact because conductors en Nicaragua never seem to feel that their rides are full. After a wait of twenty minutes or so, a taxi driver came by offering his cab to Tipitapa. The other five people waiting for the bus all agreed to share the cab, and we piled in, two in front and four in back. The driver instructed the young chavalla sharing the front seat with me to duck whenever we drove by a police man. Luckily, she was flexible enough to duck completely out of sight each time.
Los Nicaraguenses are such a friendly people that it’s difficult to ever feel truly alone here. Conversations begin and friendships form with ease. One of my favorite things about the Nicaraguan people is how quickly they are to laugh and joke around. In Tipitapa, it was another wait for a bus going to Esteli. While waiting, I struck up a conversation with the father of the young girl who I shared the front seat of the taxi with. It turned out that he was headed to Esteli as well. A man with a protective, fatherly energy, Jose quickly took me under his wing by informing me of when the bus would arrive and pointing out the bus when it eventually did pull up. Thank goodness for his help, because this particular bus did not have the name Esteli written on it’s front, as most other buses do.
While riding on that long bus ride to the city, I was grateful that I had splurged on a bag of homemade potato chips, crispying saltily in my mouth and temporarily sating my hunger. As the bus stops at larger stops, riders crowd off and on, everyone somehow squeezing through the same small space. Interspersed with the riders are food vendors balancing large baskets on their heads or carrying bags and bags of food. The vendors saturate the bus with offerings of goodies – bags of chips, popcorn, pan dulce, cornmeal cookies, sliced mangoes in a bath of salt, vinegar, and chile, or plastic bags filled with water, fresco, or soda. All the snacks usually cost between 10-20 cordobas, less than $1. I found myself especially tempted by the bright pink and dark brown galletas – cookies – that floated by at nose level. I was gifted a cookie by Jose, who saw me eying the cookies questionably. I’ll be sure not to hold back next time I see a tray of these offered – they are sweet coconut creations that burst with flavor.
While on the bus to Esteli, Jose made sure to check in on me from time to time. He was especially protective when a young chavallo seated next to me was searched three times after a girl in the aisle realized that her wallet was missing. (My seat mate turned out to be innocent, as the wallet was found moments later on the floor under a seat.) Jose stayed close throughout the long bus ride to Esteli, and made sure I had a friend coming to the bus station for me before continuing on to his final destination in the city.
I was lucky enough to have a friend of a friend headed back to Managua at the same time as me. That saved me two bus rides and allowed me time to truly enjoy the few of mountains and farmland stretching out to the horizon in all directions. We listened to the radio sporadically as reception allowed and practice our language skills with each other, my Spanish and his English. My friend dropped me at the bus station directly in front of a direct bus heading back to Granada – what luck!
I got on the half full bus and quickly secured a seat to myself. It turned out that the two gentlemen seated behind me were Americans living in Granada, and friends of friends as well. I felt truly blessed to have a seat as the bus filled with people crowding up and down the aisle. Imagine my chagrin when I realized I had to use el bano, and badly. There was still more than an hour left to Granada and the sky had just opened up with a heavy summer storm, but there was no helping the situation. When I spied a gas station on the side of the road, I elbowed my way to the front of the bus and hopped off, making a run for the bathroom. Luck stayed with me as the rain stopped shortly after I emerged from the gas station, leaving me relatively dry as I waited roadside for the next bus brightly painted with the name of my destination.
A short wait later, and a minvan stopped. The door opened and I saw arms and elbows sticking out everywhere. I squeezed on, sure that the bus could not take another person, and was quickly proved wrong when a mother and her young son got on after me. I counted seats and faces, and realized there were 30 people squeezed into a small van meant to carry no more than 15. The ride was bumpy, as the driver wove in and out of cars, bicycles, and people on foot. I made it back to Granada in record time, with a bit of a woozy stomach thanks to the rapid ride. At the Parque Central in Granada, I saw the two men who had been seated behind me at the first bus, astonished that I had landed in Granada at the same time as them!
The heat in Granada met me, radiating up from the pavement, but I was glad to be home. Weary from my ride, I made my way home to shower and prepare for the evening’s yoga class.