It wasn’t working. So much was left unsaid, unwritten, untold. How was I supposed to move on without closing out a chapter? It didn’t flow. It didn’t make sense. I stared at the computer screen, the empty Microsoft Word Document in front of me. Where were my thoughts?! My inspiration?! I distracted myself by opening the file folder on my desktop aptly named, “Desktop stuff”. It is something I keep for the things I can’t seem to get rid of. Old pictures, quotes and other junk I can’t find a home for. One small “notepad” document stuck out to me. The “Final Blog” document boldly stood proudly among crap I just couldn’t delete. It dared me to open it. Click. In it I found the conclusion I was looking for. I guess I’ve got to close one door to open another.
And so, I present to you, the door that has been closed this whole time; The final South American blog post that never was. May this push the door to Thailand's written adventures wide open.
I sighed as I spoke to the receptionist about bus tickets. My pack rode heavy on my body today. I was cutting my r&r on the coast of Ecuador short. I had been very ill and finally felt like I was well enough for the ride to Quito where I could get some real medical attention. Along with nasty flu-like symptoms blisters were forming on my hands and feet. It was time to go. As the sun set and I hunkered on the curb, crouching on my backpack, I watched the bus pull up. I found a seat and organized my things around me familiarly, as I had done so many times before. I was putting my earbuds in as I looked up and saw him. With an exasperated sigh I could tell what was coming. This man walking down the aisle would take the seat next to me. He just would. I was tired, sick and emotionally exhausted. I was tired of being asked why I don’t have a boyfriend and propositioned simultaneously. I turned up my music as he plowed into my neighboring seat. for the first 45minutes of our 19hour bus ride he stared a lot. It was clear that he was trying to get my attention, and I was making it clear that that wasn’t going to happen. About 2 hours into the ride we were pulled over by the police. We were all escorted off the bus which meant I had to take off my headphones. Upon re-entering the bus I tried to get my headphones on faster than my neighbor could start a conversation with me; this time I failed.
“where are you from?”
“do you have a boyfriend?”
Really? What the fuck is wrong with people? My patience was already out the window and blindsided this guy with all the Latin rage I could muster.
“NO. I do NOT have a boyfriend. “
“I won’t make things complicated.”
“I don’t want you to be my boyfriend!”
“its NEVER going to happen.”
“come on baby, I’ll be a great boyfriend. I bet you have lots of boyfriends here in South America.”
“IM NOT INTERESTED IN YOU! IM NOT GOING TO TALK ABOUT THIS WITH YOU! STOP TALKING TO ME! THIS IS NOTHING! LEAVE ME ALONE!”
“IS IT BECAUSE I’M UGLY?! IT’S BECAUSE I’M UGLY ISNT IT.” To which I responded by raising my eyebrows in a snotty way and slowly turning the other direction. He soon fell asleep and had a horrible, gaping-mouth look on his face that made me want to scream, “YES IT’S BECAUSE YOU’RE UGLY.” But I took a deep breath and, full of adrenaline, stared out the window. Only 10 hours left, I thought.
Deep in the mountains the bus began to slow and I saw the twinkling of lights ahead. We crawled down the road and the scene became brighter and brighter still. There were people in medical attire carrying and organizing mysterious remains covered in sheets lined up behind the charred remains of a bus, shockingly similar to the bus I was sitting in. It stood, twisted, black, smoking in the night air; A skeleton of its previous state. Doctors and police swarmed around it. My mouth gaped open and steam formed on the window in front of my face as we crept past this disastrous scene. Even when the scene around me darkened again and we picked up our pace I still remained, hand over my mouth, staring out the window. I could try and push it down, bury that emotion deep, but instead I let the feeling that had been overwhelming me for so long boil over. I cried because I was tired, because I had essentially been living on buses for the last 2 weeks. I cried because I didn’t know where I was going or why I felt so sick. I cried for the people that had lost their lives and the awful smell of burning that now wafted through our bus. I cried because that bus looked just like our bus and the charred remains on the side of the road would look just like mine. I cried for their families and friends, for the survivors and the deceased.
And then, by the grace of God, I slept.
On the last day of this journey, how do i feel? People keep asking me this and every time i hesitate and wring my hands a little while i answer. I'm happy to see my family and friends, but if I could return to see them and then leave again that would be ideal. I'm sad to leave these places, I'm sad to put this experience into my past. I'm upset that I have made friends with people I will never see again but I cherish what they have done to change my life. I am sad to leave this lifestyle and I am sad to leave this true independence.
To the people I have met along the way: I wasn't exaggerating, you really have changed my life for the better. I can reflect on every positive and negative relationship I made during the last 8 months and I can see they all have had their part in forming who I have become. But more than that, you have put my faith in fellow human beings back into my life. There was a time when I thought people were inherently malicious and careless. What I have seen the last 8 months has flipped that on its head. I have been helped, befriended and comforted exclusively by complete strangers. Some of those strangers went on to become friends, some still remain unknown. I arrived on this continent alone, without knowing a soul, that feeling was overwhelming. But people had my back. People were excited and welcomed me to their countries, cities and homes. Strangers gave me phone numbers with the expressed intention that, "if you ever need ANYTHING or have any questions please call me. Oh, and if you’re in town next Friday: do you want to come to my son's 9th birthday party??" It was fabulous to feel that I had support in a land unknown. So, thank you strangers. Without you, I would still be lost in the streets of La Paz. I would still be chasing the bus carrying all my worldly possessions down the Colombian highway. I would have been homeless that one night. I would still be in the Panamanian ghetto. I still would be lonely.
I will miss you deeply, South America: you have stolen my heart. Your culture is one I've never seen, your people different from anyone I've ever met, and your natural beauty gets me EVERY. TIME. Damn girl, you got some fiiiine waterfalls, jungles and glaciers.
Now I sit on the bed of my last dormitory, mere hours away from all things “airport”; Hours from English speaking territory, hours from family, from friends, from familiarity. Every hour, at this point, seems to take me farther and farther from a place that I hold so close to my heart. Maybe it’s because that's where I found my happiness again. What I need to remember is to not leave it where I found it. I need to not forget this on the nightstand when I’m packing my backpack tomorrow morning. But, this is not just my keys, my visa or my passport. This is something exceptionally more important.
Wishing on stars and running the same routine in my old life day-in and day-out wasn't working. I have found the secret to happiness. What I see now is that happiness is a choice, you get to choose your outlook on life and, through thick and thin, I choose happiness.
Farewell sweet South America. Nos vemos. Besos. Chau.