Friday, March 24, 2006

Going where no bus was ever, ever, ever meant to go

This morning at 8:30 we left on a school trip to visit a school up in the mountains. We left school and walked down the street to the biblio bus - bookmobile! It's basically your standard school bus with a few seats taken out and a some bookshelves in it. There are also shelves full of books above the seats the entire length of the bus - both sides. On top of the bus were tied 50 desks for the school - those little one piece things.

After 20 minutes of driving or so we hit the mountain. I thought the cobblestone streets of Antigua were bad (and cobblestone would actually be a vast improvement, let me tell you!) - these mountain roads were unbelievable!

There were mostly dirt and gravel. There are no siderails so when we got up high, on one side was the mountain and the other you could look way, way, way down into these deep valleys. The shocks are so good and the road is really rough so it was like sitting in one of those vibrating massage chairs. Add to that the rutted road and switchback curves hugging the mountain - it was like riding in one of those chairs on a little boat in choppy seas, going about 40 miles an hour - for 2 1/2 hours!!

I truly believed today would be my last day on earth.

All the way up the mountain huge trucks were coming down the road and we had to get over to the right, precariously close to the edge, while still driving and rocking back and forth. Ay! I was gripping my shoes with my toes so hard - as if hanging on to my shoes would save us from a plunge to our deaths! Sometimes I just had to close my eyes.

When we finally arrived at the school there were several kids to greet us. As we got out of the bus they were very excited and wanted us to take their pictures. They were amazed by the digital cameras and seeing their photos right away. After a few minutes and exchanging names and trying to understand what they were saying, I heard this noise. I looked up and from a block up the hill came dozens and dozens of children running down the road toward us yelling and laughing - they were so excited to see us! It was an amazing experience. Amazing.

Of course all the new kids wanted photos to. I immediately had several new friends attached to both hands and whatever else they could get hold of. Several of them asked Marcos to take a picture. He turned his camera on us and the other kids saw this. There was a huge rush and suddenly I was surrounded by maybe 30 or 40 kids jumping up and down trying to get in the picture and giving the peace sign. Again, it was amazing.

As soon as we had arrived the kids climbed to the top of the bus and started handing down the desks. In no time they had all the desks down, then each picked up a desk and started walking up to the school. A little boy, perhaps 8, wanted to hold my hand and carry a chair on his back at the same time. I tried to help, or offer him his other hand, but he liked it that way.

We got the school and all the kids had paper and pens and wanted all of us to write down our names and other things - where we lived, what our job was. I was signing autographs forever! It was such a funny experience - I felt famous. =)

Then all the students go organized in chairs, with us up on the stage. They had a little assembly to thank PROBIGUA for the chairs and other things and thank us for our help. There were many speeches and much clapping, singing of the country anthem, etc, etc. Then the women of the school had lunch for us.

We did more and saw more and (obviously) made it home safely, but I have to leave now - the place is closing! I leave for home at 4:00 in the morning and will see some of you soon!



cosand said...

So let me get this straight:

-You ride on a rickety bus on a frightening road
-Have crowds of children mob you
-then they leap on top of your vehicle and start taking things

And you call this a vacation? Sounds like a bad dream to me! ;)

Just teasin'. Glad you enjoyed it. Hopefully the bookmobile had a lip on those shelves so you weren't being threatened by flying/ falling literature.

Aaaah, that's me. Ever the pragmatist. ;)

Aimee said...

I forgot to mention the books were leaping up and down on the shelves the whole way. There was a little lip and an extra piece of wood in front of all the shelves. Nothing fell out, though I thought we were close a few times.