Wednesday, May 7, 2008
Two nights ago was my first true migrant experience although it only lasted a few hours. There is a bus that leaves Tegucigalpa every night at 10:00 pm for the border of Guatemala. I was told it was the bus that most migrants take so off I went. When I arrived at the station it was already overflowing with working age men. They all seemed somewhat on edge and besides few brief conversations, they mostly kept to themselves.
Earlier that morning as I was planning the trip, Jo Ann (Calvin Professor and wife of Kurt Ver Beek) said I should buy the ticket early in case the bus filled up. The bus certainly filled up but buying a ticket would not have been a problem. Once the seats were full we started filling in the isle. Standing room only was quickly becoming a reality. I was by far the tallest person on the bus and the ceiling left room just for my shoulders. I started envisioning what my body would feel like after riding eight hours in a semi-upright position. The prospect was not good.
In the Meantime some of the guys around me learned I was from the U.S. and I quickly became a center of attention. I tried to turn conversation around and ask them about their upcoming journey but it was no use. I was the odd man out. One guy asked if I liked ´musica negra´and in a moment of relaxed judgment, I pulled out a few rap lines from high school. For the rest of the night I could hear guys chattering about Eminem in the back of the bus.
It took less than fifteen minutes to be sick of standing up. I tried to convince the guys around me that if we all sat down there would be enough room but that was not happening. Instead, I found and empty spot in front of the guy next to me and left the others to practice sleeping on their feet. By shoving my legs under one seat and my head under another I discovered I could lay out almost flat. It was not terribly comfortable but it beat standing. I spent the rest of the bus ride there on the floor.
At 1:30 am we arrived in San Pedro Sula where those going directly to Guatemala City were filtered out from those stopping at the border which happened to be most of the bus. The migrants stayed in their same cramped space while we precious few were ushered onto a brand new movie equipped, air conditioned, air suspension bus. My legs which are so used to being discriminated against by public transportation were excited to see the generous seat spacing and before we left the station, I was out cold. That next morning I discovered we were following the same bus I had taken from Tegucigalpa. Even though there were seats to spare in our heaven on wheels those who were to be dropped off at the border rode like sardines. As we approached the border the other bus pulled off at the last Honduran stop so its inhabitants could find their way across without documents being checked. We took the more formal route and after our passports were checked, we crossed into Guatemala without event.
This time I went the easy way. This time all it took was a nod from the border patrol but soon we will discover what happens when that other bus pulls off. Where do those migrants go? How do they cross the border? At the crossing in to Mexico we will search out the subtleties of what it takes to cross a national border.
at 10:56 AM