==This post is an excerpt from my upcoming book, Changing Gears: A Family Odyssey to the End of the World. While we are hiking the Colorado Trail from Denver to Durango this summer, I’ll post an excerpt every Monday.==
An old school bus that had long ago given up the ghost in the USA had been revived in Honduras was parked in a large gravel parking lot. Shortly after we claimed seats, a young boy about eight years old climbed up the steps carrying a plastic tub full of bottles.
“Refresco! Refresco!” he shouted as he made his way to the back of the bus. “Sodas! Sodas!”
A couple seconds later, a teenage boy came in. Plastic bags filled with various vegetables hung from his shoulders and arms. More bags were tied to his belt loops and dangled around his knees.
“Chiles! Tomates! Cebolla!” he cried, competing with the soda vendor in volume. “Ten lempira per bag! Only ten lempira!”
Then came an older woman with an apron wrapped around her waist. “Mangos!” she called. “You want mango? With salt and chili?”
The vendors worked their way through the aisle of the old bus, selling their wares of whoever indicated the slightest bit of interest. Passengers squeezed past the throng of humanity crowded into the aisle to take their seats.
Our friends, who had been riding local chicken buses for quite a while, ignored the mayhem. Davy and Daryl, new to this novel method of transport, watched with wide-eyed amazement.
A man climbed aboard and stationed himself a short way from the doorway. “Ladies and gentlemen!” he announced in Spanish. “I’ve got here the most unique, the most effective, the best program for learning English you’ve ever seen. What makes it so unique, you ask? It is unique because this program not only gives you the English word for things, but also has those words written phonetically in Spanish….” All the people on the bus listened to the salesman with rapt attention.
Once the English language vendor had finished his spiel, he made his way through the bus and numerous people bought his program.
He pushed and shoved through the other vendors to get back to the front of the bus, carefully stashed his fabulous, unique English program in a bag and pulled out a small container of cream.
“Ladies and gentlemen!” he hollered. “I have here the most amazing, the most remarkable cream…”
By this time, we were in stitches at the mayhem, commotion, and sights and sounds around us. Even though we wanted to get back to Omoa, we couldn’t help but relax and enjoy everything going on.
The whole time the English/cream salesman was talking, another man was quietly waiting in the stairwell of the bus. In time, the cream spiel ended, he collected money throughout the bus and departed – and the other guy took his spot.
“Brothers and sisters!” he announced as another soda kid squeezed past him. “I am here to tell you about the love of God.” After preaching to the crowd for a few minutes, he pulled out a pile of nail clippers. “And to remind you that God loves you, I’ve got some nail clippers here for only twenty lempira each. Each nail clipper has a picture of the virgin Mary on it, so every time you clip your fingernails you will be reminded of God’s love. And furthermore – these nail clippers come complete with a bottle opener so each and every time you open a beer bottle you will be reminded…”
Right about then, the bus left the parking lot. Two blocks later, the bus stopped.
The nail clipper preacher climbed down the steps to leave the bus, a soda vendor climbed on. “Sodas! Cold sodas!”
A vegetable vendor climbed on carrying plastic bags draped over his shoulders. “Tomatoes! Onions! Ten lempira per bag! You want tomatoes?”
It took well over an hour to ride the ten miles back to the small town we were staying in, but it was the most entertaining hour we’d had for a long time.