RainForest Bus Ride Home

by John White

If you read the Coral Snake Blog you will recognize this as a follow-on.  

Jeanie came out of the clinic with the kids and as we were taking them home I told her of my exciting adventure with Don Quixote and the coral snake. She didn't bat an eye and started to tell me about the Fer-de-lance and Bushmaster snakes she had found in her house. Then she told me about the baby mice that fell through the ceiling and landed in her hair...in bed, at night.

We arrived home right at dark and Denis had dinner cooking. We prayed, had supper and moved to the porch for a hot diet coke. I've liked them hot ever since.

Then it was time for bed. I went into my room and stood there with the lantern. Oh no, I'm not getting into that bed until I strip it down and remake it. And that closet...when was the last time anyone emptied it? So I emptied the closet and rearranged everything. A quick survey of the floor area convinced me there were no snakes or mice lurking about. So I went to bed...hoping there was enough fuel in that lamp until morning.

The next morning I had breakfast and prepared to leave. It was time for the bus ride to the city. Denis and Jeanie dropped me off at the bus stop. It is just a spot in the road near Santa Fe where the bus stops. The first person I recognized was the nurse from the previous day's adventure. She had the coral snake in a small jar or some vial from the clinic. She told me she was taking it home to show Mama. Poor Mama.

Anyway, we are off and the bus is moving out. Panamanian bus drivers are all frustrated Indy racetrack wannabees. Plus the seats are placed close together because the folks are all short. You quickly learn to get an aisle seat so you can stick your legs out in the aisle. 

We are winging along uneventfully when the driver pulls over to the side and orders everyone off. I get off with everyone else and learn we are all going to be tested for cholera. It seems there has been an outbreak in the Darien and they are not going to take a chance of us bringing it to the city.

So I get in line and as the line moves closer and closer to this little wooden shack I could see that they were pricking fingers with a razor and putting a drop of blood on a slide. Then they wanted your telephone number and/or address. I guess they were going to call you and tell you that you were dying if you tested positive. When it was my turn I whipped out my own pocketknife and pricked my own finger, thinking these guys aren't going to give me HIV. 

We were then required to wait for an hour before leaving so they could observe us for the symptoms of cholera. Symptoms include profuse watery diarrehea, vomiting and leg cramps. So there we sat in a ditch in the shade of the bus. Of course the locals had caught on to the process and started selling empanadas, yuca and you name it. I bought an orange soda. 

As I sat there I thought, wait a minute...we have two nurses on this bus. If someone develops cholera symptoms they can help and then report the suffering rascal to the authorities when we get to the bus terminal. But I knew if I brought this argument up it would be ignored. I am just a gringo. So I turned to this empanada munching woman next to me and ran it by her. She brushed the crumbs away, jumped up, straightened her dress and off she went. I crossed my fingers. In five minutes the driver yelled ALL ABOARD, or something like that. The woman and I shared smiles and off to town we went. 

My baskets? They were in toe sacks on top of the bus.


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