I Was Ready to Face the Chicken Bus.

Ever been 75% ready for a new experience and, at the same time, full of apprehension? Ya, me too.

Before leaving for Nicaragua I had imagined taking Sam on the traditional “chicken bus,” the way most Nicaraguans get around. Yet we’d been there for 4 months and I still hadn’t done it. There it sat in my stomach…Fear.

What if I don’t know where to get off? What if I get lost with my kid? What if we don’t get a seat? What if it feels really awkward?

That weekend we’d taken the comfortable shuttle vehicle that most tourists take when traveling between towns. It was just us, one other passenger and the driver taking us to our beach excursion nearly 2 hours away. Very comfortable. Very tidy. But as we made our way back from our excursion, while sitting in clean and tidy comfort, I realized I was ready to face my fear. I was ready for the chicken bus, despite the presence of the butterflies in my stomach.

It was Sunday afternoon in a town we’d never been to. Our driver dropped us at a bus stop and assured me the Granada bus would come along. There were already about 8 others waiting at the bus stop and there was just enough space on the bench for Sam and me on the little seat. Not two minutes after we’d sat down Sam whispered in my ear that he needed to go to the bathroom.

“Oh…..No…” and more butterflies…A Nica Chicken Bus.

I didn’t exactly know when the next bus would arrive but I knew we’d likely have an hour or more wait if we missed it.  So, I politely asked the young woman holding the baby next to me if there was a baño nearby and she looked at me apologetically with the universal “I have no idea” look in her eyes.  An older gentleman, standing nearby, took pity and said,” Come on,” waving for us to follow. He walked us over to a business near the bus stop to ask for the baño. My butterflies were in frenzied flight when we were told there were no facilities. We turned around and saw that our Granada bus was nearing the stop. Everything was urgent: my butterflies, Sam’s bladder, the imminent bus departure… Our kind bathroom escort quickly asked me what Sam needed, “Number 1 or number 2?” I translated to Sam, who responded to me and then I quickly relayed Sam’s plea; all this was happening in the presence of an audience, which added to Sam’s dismay.

Butterflies were in full flutter…Everyone nearby could hear us. All were pointing to the giant tree behind the bus stop. All were urging Sam to hurry. The gentleman even tried to help me usher him along…

Sam lost it and began to cry from the mounting pressure. I couldn’t blame him… I know I’d feel the same if everyone was directing me to, “Pee already!” and, “Do it now!” all while looking at me intently. Mortifying.

Our fellow travelers, the driver, and our bus stop compadres took pity on us (or perhaps this kindness was their norm), waited patiently for Sam and me to come back from around the tree (which was a process that seemed to take forever) and helped us get loaded onto the bus. It was as if everyone there was rooting for us to reach our final destination. Granada here we come!

This was truly one of those moments where I felt like, “Wow, I love Nicaragua!”  In an instant, I had been transformed from a mother who felt completely stressed and alone to one who felt supported and welcomed. To add to our sense of welcome, a man gave up his seat so that I could get off my feet. Sam got up on my lap and I felt safe and full of gratitude. Many people traveled standing for the full 90 minutes of our journey.

This was Sam’s first ride on a Nicaraguan public bus. He got to see close-up how most Nicaraguans travel each day. He got to feel the awkwardness of being in tight quarters with total strangers. He watched and listened to everything around him on that long ride. He also experienced seeing the kindness of strangers up-close. We would have missed all of these experiences had we been traveling in our comfy, private transport.

So, it’s time for your experience now. Are you ready?

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