A few minutes into my shower with a head full of conditioner, my water goes ice cold. This happens on occasion, and I generally chalk it up to paying nominal rent. I stepped back and waited, as usual, for the water to heat back up. It didn't. At least not for a good five freezing minutes, complete with me stepping out of the shower, contemplating sticking my head in the sink, and wondering if maybe perfume in the morning would have been a better option than this shower.
When I was eighteen, I went to visit my sister who was serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ecuador. It's true, we're those obnoxious do-gooder sisters. Go go civil service! However, I recall showering at her house there and having to do jumping jacks prior to hopping into what was truly a freezing shower, with no hot water available. I skipped conditioner every day I was there, to avoid the very conundrum I found myself in today.
My sister used to send out mass emails to those of us state-side during her time as a PCV, to let us know she was alive and to keep us abreast of her adventures. I bring you her adventures on an Ecuadorian bus, circa 2007.
For all of you Peace Corps volunteers, past and present, thank you. Thank you for being solid representatives of us abroad, proving the importance of global citizenship. Thank you for all you've done, and all you continue to do. Thank you for your inspiration. (Sister, that means you!)
Written by: Hermana Oso
During my last day in Quito, I was able to meet up with Lauren from my freshman hall at William and Mary. Lauren is studying in Quito on a Rotary Scholarship, and it was great to meet up with her two years after graduation. The time absolutely flew by, and I am still waiting on her to call me up and announce she is coming to visit me in Cuenca (that´s a hint, Lauren!).
Also while in Quito, it dawned on me that I could request 100 PC Ecuador folders to use during the upcoming Anti Trafficking Conference. Patting myself on the back for thinking ahead, I joined the line to board the 10pm night bus back to my home in Cuenca, all the while toting my backpack that held the contents of three days of survival in the capital city, and lugging the 100 folders as well as a plastic bag of small candle molds I had inherited from the PC Office.
The bus line my friend Matt (or, here in Ecuador, Mateo) and I take from Quito to Cuenca is the Panamericana. Due to it`s lack of heat while taking on the frigid temperatures of the Sierran Panamerican highway in the middle of the night, ancient seats, and the lone TV from 1983 blasting such unknown American classics such as "Komodo vs. Cobra" or anything violent with Jean Claude Van Damme or Sylvester Stallone, we affectionately call this bus line The People's Bus. Don't knock the People's Bus, though. If you still can't figure out where the People's Bus´ more posh and expensive big brother bus line Flota Imbabura is located, The People's Bus gets the job done.
Imagine my surprise when trying to board the People's Bus the attendant stares at my innocent backpack and says: That needs to go under the bus.
I'm sorry, what?
That needs to go under the bus.
(Now, I have heard enough stories of peoples´ stuff getting robbed from underneath the bus that I know better than to trust this lady. Right, like I haven't been taking night busses for two years in this country. You think you're messing with your everyday gringa? Think again, lady.)
Um, well, I took this same bus line up from Cuenca and they let me bring it up top. Look, I know it looks large, and maybe I have been accused more than once of overpacking in my lifetime, but trust me. Don't worry, it fits in the overhead bin.
That needs to go under the bus.
(As I open my mouth to protest, she busts out with…)
We aren't letting anyone bring anything up because the luggage will block the heating vents.
Heating vents? On the People's Bus? I must have the wrong bus line! As I silently revel in my good fortune, I hand over my backpack to another attendant wrestling luggage from other stubborn passengers like myself. The monstrous bag of Peace Corps folders and candle molds, however, I sneak past the attendant. There is no way I am putting these under the bus, just to get to Cuenca to discover they have been abused and smashed beyond all recognition by the unforgiving curves of the mountain road.
Before I settle into my seat, I take in this new addition to the People's Bus fleet. This baby has comfortable, clean reclining seats, a flatscreen TV, and sure enough, the upper bin is empty so as not to block the heating vents. I take the lead of some other rebellious passengers and place my bag of cherished PC folders up top. Certainly one bag won't really make a difference in the heat circulation of this beautiful bus? I smile, pop a Dramamine, and, after thinking, ¨Maybe night buses aren't so bad after all¨, am off to sleep…
…until about 4 hours later (on this 10 hour journey) when we hit the major curves of the Panamerican highway and all I (and the other 44 passengers on the bus) can hear is the WHOOSH of the bag of my coveted PC folders as it slides back and forth, threatening to slide off the bin which is not really a bin at all but more of a ledge, actually. Each turn, each curve, is one step closer to impending doom for the passengers ahead of me. I can see the headlines already. Panamericana passengers injured due to PC folder injuries. Doctors save Quiteño from gringo paper cuts.
Maybe it was the Dramamine making me loopy, but I couldn't sleep for the rest of the night. Do I stand up and try and adjust the bag's location? Then I´d be admitting the bag was mine. No, better lay low. It won't fall, right? As I try to ignore the whooshing bag and try and return to my pimped out People's Bus slumber, I suddenly hear a new noise. CLANK. CLANK CLANK. CLANKCLANKCLANKCLANK. Ah yes. It seems that the candle molds Irene, the friendly PC secretary, had regalar´d (gifted) me, were feeling rebellious and had escaped from their cozy bed of PC folders to explore the upper storage bin of the People's Bus. Again, picture the headlines. Well, you get the idea.
Admitting defeat, I arose from my plush People's Bus armchair to survey the damage. Expertly balancing myself against the swaying chariot so as not to be propelled into the lap of the man next to me, I did the best I could to stuff the folders and molds back into the bag, now torn with battle wounds from hours of Sierran highway curves. Hoping I had avoided catastrophe and that the 44 pairs of glaring eyes would forgive me and my funda of PC folders, I settled back into my seat and hoped that sleep would arrive before the dawning Equatorial sun.
But alas. Sleep was not in the cards for me that night, nor for my fellow passengers. The plastic bag, the folders, and the molds were not to be silenced. Twenty minutes later, they were at it again, robbing the Peoples´ Bus of precious slumber. It finally occurred to me to place the bag under my seat. Brilliant. I blame the Dramamine for not thinking of this sooner. That, or I was just too stubborn to give in so easily. While this solved the problem, I was so afraid of a bus uprising against me that I did not shut my eyes until we rolled into Cuenca at 7 am and I was safely in my bed.
There are now WANTED posters of me in all offices of the Panamericana. Next time, I´ll just take Flota . And put my stuff under the bus.