Getting out of my campo isn’t too easy. As far as I know, which as we’ve already established, isn’t much, four buses pass through in the morning. Two for the capital and the other two go to nearby towns. Everywhere else, or any other time of day, requires a motorcycle ride. And neither bus nor motorcycle is very affordable for me (aka it’s not free).

I’ve been to one of the towns I’m sandwiched between (twice in fact), but I still hadn’t dragged myself to the other one. Until, finally! I went. It was…you know, a town. But there was a nice plaza and a big white church and a supermarket and places that have internet! So that was exciting.

Getting there and back was perhaps more exciting.

In the morning, I’d be heading out with Censo, who I’d never met before, in his truck (the truck counts as one of the buses though. And the other buses are actually vans).

“It’s busy on Saturday!” people had warned me, but I’d shrugged it off.

Saturday morning I slung my backpack over my shoulder and wandered over to the main street after my host mom shouted at me that Censo was passing through.

I think I actually stopped in my tracks. The cab of the truck was with maybe 10 people and the back of the truck was just bodies. And big containers of water or tanks of gas and a tire.

“You should just take a motorcycle partway there and then get a car,” a neighbor suggested. I think she thought I couldn’t handle it. But I didn’t have the money for that and I also had no idea where or how to ‘get a car.’

“Laura, are you trying to go with us?” A girl shouted in disbelief from her spot on the back of the truck.

“Yes!”

People shoved over, making space. There were 18 of us in the back. I counted. For the next 40 minutes I perched on a woman’s knee until she couldn’t take it anymore and then balanced clumsily on a tire as we drove on the worst unpaved roads I’ve ever been on, up and down hills until we finally, finally, made it to paved roads.

Only three of us were standing and I felt a kinship with them. One woman sitting on the back almost fell off. A young guy who was standing on the bumper got told to go sit on the front of the truck. When I finally got out of the back my legs were wobbly and I tried to make it look like a casual stroll but I was just stumbling around.

Coming home was a lot more peaceful, but a bit stranger. I was waiting where Censo had pointed when he’d dropped me off but he hadn’t passed by. Then a friend called me, “Hey I just saw Censo and he said he couldn’t find you!” “Oh my god, did he leave?” I hung up on my friend and called him: “Oh Laura, I didn’t see you, I’m coming now!” Twenty minutes passed and I called him again fearing he hadn’t been able to find me. “I’m getting there now!” he explained. Ten minutes.  Nothing. I called him again this time wondering if he’d missed me and didn’t have saldo on his phone to call me. “I’m just arriving!” It went on like this for a while.

Finally we found each other. He’d gotten out of the truck and found me in the plaza. I gave him an awkward half hug when I found him, I was that relieved. I got into the truck, shotgun this time.  I was the only one heading back with him.

And then we stopped five minutes later. We pulled up to a wooden shack surrounded by cars – I hesitate to say ‘cars’ because they were just piles of metals scraps in varying states of disrepair. We were at an auto mechanic’s shop.

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I was on the phone when we arrived and so I awkwardly sat in the car while a group of five men stared at me. After another five minutes I realized that Censo was not just saying hi, so I got out of the truck and walked over to a broken down car, away from all the men, in order to keep talking in the shade. Finally my friend and I hung up and I wandered over to Censo and the group of guys who at this point just looked confused.

Saludos,” I said as I sat down on a broken chair Censo had steered me to. I reveled in their mumbled clumsy responses. For once the overconfident men of this country seemed shy! Most of the guys scattered, heading back to work, and I stared at my phone, wondering who I could call to pass the time.

After a while I asked the only guy remaining who was sitting in the other broken chair, “Who owns this place?”

“Uhhh. Mundito,” he said, pointing at the guy laying underneath a truck. I nodded.

The guys trickled away until it was only Censo, Mundito, and me and two hours had gone by. Censo and the mechanic had taken off to get a part for the truck and that left me in front of the shack, alone, on my broken chair.

A guy walked down the road and, looking around the deserted premises, approached me: “I wanted to get my motorcycle?”

I nodded, “You’re gonna have to talk to Mundito about that.”

“I did. He said I could come get it?” He raised his shoulders a bit like he wasn’t quite sure and gestured with a hand.

I turned to look at the  motorcycle in the back and figured it was most likely his.

“Alright. Have a good day.” I went back to reading old text messages and tried to look as uninterested as possible.

As soon he drove off I looked up and laughed out loud, delighted. The fact that this random old dude thought that some 16-year-old looking girl from the United States was Mundito’s apprenctice mechanic, living in the middle of the countryside in the Dominican Republic causes me great happiness.

I hope he was as confused as he’d looked.

Not long after that, Censo and Mundito finally got the tire replaced and Censo and I headed home.

And then we stopped so that Censo could run some errands, get gas, pick up groceries for elderly women, and buy each of us a platter of fruit!

I failed to mention that at this point in the journey, I was pretty disgusting. I hadn’t showered in a significant amount of time. I was breaking out and I’d noticed at Mundito’s that flies seemed to be congregating around me. I was that person. My clothes hadn’t been washed in a while and I started fearing that I could smell my shirt. I hadn’t brushed my teeth that morning and my skin was peeling. As we were driving, fruit juice spilled out of the corner of the Styrofoam box onto the crotch of my jeans. That is just PERFECT!  What makes it better is the papaya was so bad neither of us ate it. It was nearly rotting and the fruit juice was putrid.

I arrived home, stripped off the clothes, and bucket bathed using, for the first time, a full bucket of water.  I dressed in my nicer clothes, getting ready for Chicho’s funeral. Ana got home and we said hello.

“Are you ready for Chicho’s funeral?” I asked looking at the clock. It was 4.

“Oh Laura, that just ended!”

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My sister’s face pretty much sums up how I felt. 

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