An Excerpt from 'My Other Country'
We left Guatemala on St. Patrick’s Day. After a brief visit to the capital we boarded a bus for the long trip to the Honduran border. Guatemalan public transit had one more adventure in store for us on our way out the door.
Guatemala City sits in the country’s highlands. At five thousand feet and in mid-March, the air is still cool and mild. For the five-hour bus ride south we scored actual seats and settled in. As we slowly descended along the curvy road to the lowlands, the air outside went from cool to scorching and so did the beat-up metal frame of the bus.
I’m not sure when we noticed the first of the cockroaches, but I remember that they were huge by U.S. standards, not like the small ones who used to populate the kitchen of my old Boston apartment. As we descended and the bus grew hotter, the population of roaches scurrying in the aisle increased. It didn’t take long until the entire bus became a full-on highway of giant black crawling roaches. The bus, as it turned out, was home to a small metropolis of them, resting happily in the metal frame until it became
a rolling oven and they fled en masse into the bus cabin.
It was when they started crawling up the legs of our pants that Lynn and I started to lose it. For hours all we did was swat at roaches trying to get intimate, crushing those we could under our trademark gringo boots, and dreaming of that precise moment still many miles ahead when the bus would stop and we could race for the door and to the nearest cheap hotel with an operational shower. The ‘bug bus,’ as we would later call it, was Guatemala’s odd way of bidding us farewell.