I wrote the post below a week and a half ago on my way home from Chihuahua. Since then, I’ve been to a conference (for work) in Orlando, I’ve been to Las Vegas (where I met up with Josh for the weekend) and I’ve been in Tucson (again, for work). During all of this traveling, the same theme has come up, over and over: some of my best conversations come from sitting next to a stranger in a car/plane/bus/train. That being said, I AM SO HAPPY TO BE BACK IN MY BED.
Have I mentioned that I’m working on my thesis? No? That’s pretty miraculous, because it’s ALL I THINK ABOUT. It also fuels 99% of my complaints, but I’ll try to keep those off the blog (thesis = stress/exhaustion/hunger). This is all to say that this weekend, I enjoyed a quick little trip to my parents’ home in Chihuahua to do (what else?) thesis stuff. Since Josh didn’t have a long weekend like I did (thank you, American Presidents!), I went down on the shuttle.
The shuttle: 12-15 passenger van that takes people from Phoenix, Mesa and Tucson to various parts of northern Mexico (and back).
The shuttle is fascinating, you guys. You are close enough to your seatmates to basically smell everyone’s breakfast breath, but unlike the subway, the bus or the plane, this particular form of public transportation means encounters are loooong, not fleeting. Being so close to strangers for such a long time makes for an interesting experience, as you all try to give each other space while being (basically) up in each others’ grill for like, 8 hours.
My least favorite part of the shuttle trip is the border crossing. At the border, all the bags must be opened and checked, and everyone tries to avert her eyes as the border agents paw through our treasures: white socks and notebooks brought back for the kids, a pair of pink panties, sheets for la abuela, boots and three “leather” jackets to sell. Bags are filled to overflowing with things imported for family members in Mexico, and those of us who tend to over-pack (ahem) hastily struggle to close our bulging bags as everyone else pretends not to notice all the things we brought spilling out. It’s a private moment obligatorily shared with strangers, and it feels like you’ve walked in on something you weren’t meant to see.
My favorite part of the shuttle trip is the way you catch the stories of people’s lives amidst the sharing of gum, napkins and chips. I learned about the lady who takes turns with her three sisters to care for a disabled elderly sibling. They each make the long journey from various U.S. states to stay with her for one week each month: four siblings for four weeks, each taking her turn ever since their mom died. I also learned one man’s cure for lombrices: first thing in the morning, you eat a spoonful of sugar. Then you immediately take a shot of tequila. That way, all the lombrices are looking up with mouths open after the sugar, expecting more, and then you drown them with alcohol! (Please picture this in your mind, it is hilarious and I was dying.)
The sweet and the sad, the funny and the bitter, no matter where I’m going, it’s the stories I collect in the process that make the trip worthwhile.