Transportation P.S.

>> Saturday, June 02, 2007

I had mentioned that there's a legal limit to the number of passengers on a bus, but what happens if there's a violation of that limit? Well, I can tell you because our bus today got pulled over by the police for having 20+ people when the limit is 15.

We pulled over to the side of the road and I thought someone was getting out--you can get out wherever you want along the side of the road--but only the driver got up. He opened my door and grabbed a plastic bag from under my seat and started walking toward the officer. He handed him the bag and told him that there were bananas and other snacks in there. Holly and I exchanged a glance like, "did you see what I just saw?" We did and it was. The question that I'm stuck on now is what was that bag doing there? Was it the driver's lunch or is there always a prepared bribery goody bag in the van? I'll have to keep my eye out for these things in the future.


Nica Time

This Wednesday was Mother's Day in Nicaragua. I quickly learned that Mother's Day here is a really big deal--there's no school on Mother's day, and the stores and markets are all really busy with people buying cakes and gifts for their moms. The night before Mother's Day, a band of teenagers from the church goes to the house of each mother to serenade them and to celebrate their motherhood... Tuesday night, they were at my host mom's house at 5:00 am. It was still dark and I thought I was dreaming when I heard the music playing, but then I realized that it was the band outside. Some moms wake up and go outside to say thank you for coming... I'm not sure if my host mom went outside, because I pressed my pillow firmly to my ears and just tried to go back to sleep.

The other interesting thing that happened this week was that there was a new bridge being dedicated in the next pueblo over from my little town. A group of people from Japan paid for the bridge to be widened, so there was a big ceremony with the Japanese people, the mayor and other VIPs from our towns, and the little sister of Shannon (the trainee in my town with whom I have Spanish classes) was going to be dancing at the ceremony. Shannon and I convinved our language facilitator to let us go and watch the ceremony even though it was kind of drizzly and raining. We grabbed our jackets and cameras and caught the microbus to go to the bridge. The ceremony was supposed to start at 9:00 am, so we when we decided to go at 9:15, we were a little worried we'd have missed the whole thing.

That was a very stupid thing to worry about. Our biggest mistake was that we forgot about Nica Time... nothing in Nicaragua ever starts on time. It is perfectly acceptable to arrive late for things, so it's really silly to arrive early or on time.

We got to the bridge at about 9:25 and there were only a few people there and some kids from the nearby school. There were some plastic chairs stacked up and the bridge looked nice and new, but it certainly didn't look ready for a big ceremony. After we had been there for perhaps two minutes, it started to pour. We had our jackets, ponchos, and umbrellas, but that really didn't matter. We realized that there was no way the ceremony was going to start any time soon and we were soaked, so we were just ready to go back and resume Spanish classes. However, because it was raining, the microbuses run less frequently, so we had to wait for nearly an hour for the microbus to come back through the bridge to take us back to my town. By the time the microbus came back, the mayor and other people had started to arrive, but everyone was soaked from head to toe (very few people had jackets or umbrellas) and we were pretty sure that no dancing or cool ceremony was going to happen.

We later found out that the rain had made some other bridge impassable for the Japanese people, so the ceremony never happened at all. Everyone waited around at the bridge until after 11 because they didn't want the guests of honor to get there to find the bridge abandoned. We went back to our town, changed clothes (we felt really bad for our language facilitator because she didn't have a dry change of clothes; we finally convinced her to borrow a dry pair of socks from me), and resumed our Spanish classes. We didn't get to take cool pictures of a cultural event or see Shannon's sister dance, but it was an adventure nonetheless.

I learned one other important lesson on Thursday. Shannon and I have a youth group that we lead every Thursday and Sunday. The goal of the group is to do a project in the community, give them charlas (little talks) on topics of interest, and have fun and get to know each other. Our first Charla was Thursday and the kids had asked us to talk about how to prepare for a job interview in Nicaragua. We worked really hard the whole week to make papelogrofos (posters), plan a skit, have games, blow up balloons for one of the games, buy soda and snacks, not to mention practice our Spanish a lot so that we could say a few coherent sentences to them. Usually our group actually arrives on time (I think they have learned that gringos expect them to come on time), but the meeting was scheduled for 5:00 pm and 5:15, 5:30, and 5:45 passed with not one single youth group member. It turns out we needed to learn a second important lesson: when it rains, no one really does anything. With our balloons and snacks and everything ready, Shannon and I both felt like little kids who had a birthday party and nobody came. We'll re-give our charla next week, so I just hope it doesn't rain!

Paul and I leave tomorrow to visit another married TEFL volunteer couple, so we're really excited about that. We'll be gone from Sunday to Wednesday and plan to bring our camera and take lots of pictures--expect a full account when we get back!


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