Written by: Grace Galloway, Princeton in Latin America Fellow, 2015-2016, Comunidad Connect
Since moving to San Juan del Sur in early August as the new Princeton in Latin America fellow with Comunidad Connect, I’ve spent a lot of time on buses.
I never sleep on buses. People tell you not to sleep because someone might take your stuff, but I don’t sleep because I don’t want to miss anything. In two years in Panama with my previous job, I essentially memorized the Pan-American from Panama City till it turned into a jungle. I want to memorize the highways here as well.
In Nicaragua, what’s happening inside the buses is even more exciting than the beautiful landscapes racing by. Each public bus is the home to multiple business and people from all walks of life. At every stop a woman, man, or chavalo (kid) steps onto the bus with a bucket of something delicious, useful, or useless to sell to the passengers. Once I saw a man hop on the bus with a briefcase filled with toothbrushes, toothbrush covers, mini flashlights, and extra mini flashlights. As he gave us his spiel about his special products I was shocked to see people buying mini and extra mini flashlights, as well as toothbrush covers. You never know when you might urgently need a toothbrush cover on a bus. More recently I saw two women walk into the bus with steaming buckets resting on their heads. In these buckets, they yelled to us, they had “empanadas, con pollo, empanadas” and “tacos, con pollo, los tacos”. Soon all the non-vegetarians’ (everyone in Nicaragua but me) mouths were watering, and many people enjoyed a full meal on the bus.
During this particular time I was being moderately crushed by the backpack of the woman beside me. She was being completely crushed by her sleeping child. We talked a bit, and she thanked me for the use of my lap as storage. She laughed heartily and helped me when I fell/slid/walked out of the bus at our destination.
To me, the bus salespeople are heroes. They have incredible balance, endless endurance, and can count change, bag empanadas and pour soda into disposable cups all while holding onto a chair. I hope to someday to do my job with similar skill and style.