Wednesday, April 08, 2009

I've Gotten Soft

When I was in the Peace Corps, to travel anywhere, I walked into the center of town and caught a bus. There were no bathrooms on the busses (of course), or any other amenities.

I lived in a small city on a big river, a river whose source was way up in the mountains near a resort town. To get up to the resort town or the medium sized city in a mountain valley not far from the resort town, they'd built a road along the river ravine. It was a dirt and gravel road, mostly just wide enough for one small bus. Being that the road was on the side of a ravine, and there were occasional accidents where busses fell off, I never relished being on the steep part of the road after dark.

And they were always working on it, so that our city had a special schedule. While the rest of the country worked Monday through Friday, and then had a weekend on Saturday and Sunday, we worked Tuesday through Saturday. That meant that the road was closed Tuesday through Saturday, and more or less open (depending on how construction was going amid the rains) from Saturday afternoon through Monday afternoon. Mail came to town Saturday, pretty much as soon as the road had opened, and went up the same afternoon, on the back of a motorcycle. (Packages didn't come. You had to go pick them up in the medium sized city in the mountain valley on a Monday, when the mail office there was open.)

If you wanted to go up when the road was closed, you had two choices. You could go to the next small city to the north, about two hours by dirt road, and then catch a bus up; that strategy added at least an hour to the trip (and more if the bus schedules didn't line up well). Or you could go transbordo. Transbordo meant you took a bus to the construction site, and then walked from that bus across whatever construction was happening to the other side of the construction, and then waited in hopes that the bus company had decided it was worthwhile to send another bus down from the medium city in the mountain valley. Sometimes transbordo meant you walked a hundred feet or so, over relatively dry stuff. Sometimes it meant you walked half a mile through serious mud and rain.

If everything went really well, it took six hours by bus from my small city to the big bus station at the southern end of the capital. If it didn't go well, it could take longer.

The Peace Corps office, of course, went on a regular schedule, so they were only open Monday through Friday. That meant, if you needed your gamma globulin shot, 5ccs of ice cold nastiness in your upper butt, you got on a bus on Saturday or Sunday for a six hour ride, half of it on the dirt road, spent the night in the capital (where you probably knew other volunteers, so it was good to visit), then went into the office early on Monday to get your shot, and then immediately scurried off to the bus station to get on the bus to ride back down the dirt road with your rear full of gamma globulin so that you could be back at work on Tuesday.

The thing is, I scheduled my shuttle service for tomorrow's trip to DC. I have to be on the shuttle at 2:45 am, to get to the airport in time for my flight at 7:10 am, to get to DC in time to make it to the hotel by the time for my session in the mid-afternoon.

And I was feeling particularly whiny about having to take the shuttle into the big city airport and sit around and change planes. I started writing a blog post about how much I hate living in the middle of nowhere.

And then I stopped...

because where I lived in the Peace Corps wasn't nearly as difficult to travel to and from as where a lot of other volunteers live. And we had a whole lot more resources and easier travel than a lot of people in those areas.

I've gotten really soft and I am disappointed.


  1. Since I was never so hardcore to begin with, this reminds me that I have to arrange a 6:15am flight from Portland back to NYC in May, and I am already crying about what that means for when I'll have to wake up.

  2. Yes, but remember, when you were in the PC, you were somewhat younger than you are now. What's an adventure at 24 is just tiring 15 years later. . .
    I'm an early morning person, but I still think getting up at 3 AM to get a plane is rough.

  3. Nice post, and a nice reminder to all of us.