Purgatory is a whirring bus ride with a stop at the mystery cafeteria

I am, for the first time in a month, on interent that is not costing minute by minute. Sitting in this hostel in San Jose, I thought to use this time to write about life lived on Taboga Island. But there is a more pressing story to be told.

Two days ago we decided to go to Costa Rica. Last night at 10:45pm we boarded a bus for the Panama-Costa Rica border. Full of riders, the capsule carried through the night, stopping only once at 2:00am. It was a twilight zone of a rest stop. As soon as our charter pulled to a stop all other passengers were ready and on their still sleeping feet, soon shuffling off the bus to what amounted to a Purgatorial Luby´s in the middle of Panamanian Nowhere. Served one at a time by late night lunch ladies, the passengers still in their bus seat sleepiness piled up ribs and rice and meat and meat and meat. Piles of meat. At two in the morning. Like drones.
I, like a typical CenTex youth group kid driving home from a middle school retreat, bought a pack of Pringles and a soda. Somehow that makes more sense at two in the morning that a pile of ribs.
On the bus again, snacking, I watch the meat eaters file back on and take their seats as the bus took off for the border. And it Took Off. Took off. All the sudden this sleepy bus turned into a theme park style terror ride. Going 90 mph down a hardly two lane highway in the middle of a rainforest corridor. The window fog shown blue from the bus lights reflecting on tree branches and creepers racing all around us. And on every curve the bus tilted as if it was not on wheels at all but actually flying above the ground and leaning into the turns. Carla, sitting across the isle got so frightened on one turn she reached up for the seat in front of her but instead grabbed the seat´s rider´s head. The confused man just brushed her off. It was a perfect ride into this Halloween day.
Then, at the border in 6 in the morning we still hadn´t decided where in Costa Rica we were going. While waiting on our exit stamp from Panama, we borrowed a travel book from the Aussie couple in front of us and decided on San Jose. The border crossing took all of two hours during which a small Panamanian lady launched a verbal assault on us because she said we were in a wrong line. She actually got on the phone and complained about the ¨mess¨we were making.
We finally arrived in Costa Rica after another 6 hours on the bus. We decided this afternoon that our final destination is Monteverde. What will we do there? Rainforest type things maybe. We´re not sure. It will likely just happen to us.


Finally, a post.

Things are so much different than I expected on Taboga Island…

1. No internet, phone or address
2. No easy way to get to and from the city (ie… I’m more or less marooned.)
3. I am almost talking-to-wilson crazy at least once a week
4. I found refried beans!
5. Carla and Erin coming here made all the difference in terms of social sanity.
6. I’m going to Costa Rica in a few hours!

And more… internet it expensive these days, so I will not be able to post much. I wrote what I think is quite a nice post a couple weeks ago only to be told I couldn’t use my flash drive on what is the only public access computer on Taboga Island. So… this could be it for a while. But eventually I will post a nice, creative bit on island experience. Best I can do now is a list.

Favorite moments-
1. Snorkelling. Being surround by fish… watching a sting ray glide beneath me.
2. Island dance party.
3. Beach beach beach. And more beach.
4. The arrival of Carla and Erin.

Each could be a blog entry… but for now, I’m going to Pizza Hut. We’re in the city, waiting for our overnight bus to Costa Rica. It’s bound to be quite the adventure as we haven’t actually picked a Costa Rican destination yet. Just the idea is enough to set us on our way.

Toes out over the edge

I don’t know why I beg for the hopelessly cheesy soundtrack of violins followed a couple of scenes later by plucky folk, but I do. When sitting on the slick and suddenly expansive wood floor of my empty room, I want to hear the violins in a slow moving tone, pulling out the tears with a gentle guiding tug. Then, a couple of days later when I am driving down the road in my new-life-chapter location, the finger picking will match the sway, the hopefull movement, the wind in my hair as I lean out the window of a moving car, white teeth to the sun, all the world in my eyes.

It all could come with a disc. These moments would be colored with song. Some of them were:
-Last Saturday night a few of my close friends and I grabbed my change jar and floated to the dime arcade. There are no great games here. But they all cost a dime. On a few dollars you can roll the skeeball, shoot hoops, have an air hockey tournament and get a snack at the play-til-you-win candy crane. After gathering our tickets I got a pair of oversized orange sunglasses and an splatting egg ball. But the real prize was a suggestion on the way home from my backseated friend who yelled out over the music that since we were downtown we should pull over and dance. We did, ending the night sweaty with a few onlookers and all of us crowded around Kelly who was impressively deep voiced miming the end of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”.
-Being in my empty room. Yes, I thought violins sitting there on the wood floor.
-Today, hanging out with my little sister, who was skipping school to hang out with me. I encouraged this of course, because I’d hoped we would make sock puppets. I wanted to spend the day making some puppets and rehearsing a show the two of us could put on for our family. Am I an awesome big brother? I didn’t do it because I wanted to be great. I did it because I’ve always wanted to be a muppeteer. And maybe because I thought she’d think it was cool. We made the puppets. “Thriller” again made the show. And Michael Jackson-Sock was smo. King. The sock was getting it. The family laughed.
-Hugging my oldest sister in the driver way. Sometimes we feel the world spinning, and we are thrown by the pull of it. I think my sister’s life has thrown her, and our hug felt like the world could settle down, if just in that moment. Like when I lay down on the floor sometimes and stare at the ceiling. I feel it in my core; everything feels like its slurring around me until all the sudden it all slow-brakes to a halt and settles. Our hug did that.

I am leaving for Panama in a couple of days. Actually the day ater tomorrow I will be there. I don’t really know what’s coming. I feel on edge, really. On the edge of my life about to jump. Like the first time I bungee jumped in New Zealand, having never seen it done, having no idea how it really worked, no idea if the cord would hold, and if it did, to what anchor.

The guy said to me on that Taupo cliff, “Alright now, just walk your toes out over the edge and have a go.”


I love Loretta.  This is a wonderful old woman in a visor with her walker-walking husband who, following Loretta, blessed me like a bedoin guru that traded in his loincloth for blue-jeans with an elastic waistband, a thin polo and a straw hat.  They brought their shrimpy rat-dog who they “can’t go anywhere without” to the park to join us, Abilenians of one sort or another, gathered to celebrate World Refugee Day a few months late.

This was last Sunday night.  Working for the International Rescue Committee has been unbelievable.  Really.  From the time I applied to now, the whole thing has been a beautiful gift.
Some favorite moments?  Glad you asked.
-Seeing some refugees who had taken the wrong bus, passing them in my car in a hurry with no time to give them a ride as they walked past my car toward the office.  They were a mixed group, a particularly tall family of Africans walking far ahead of a scrambling-to-keep-up short family of Bhutanese.  You could almost read the emotions on each face, the feeling of improperness of the tall, aged and experienced mother, the impatience of her son, the respect of the other family’s short father, the kindness of the one farthest back, the short sister who knows no English but is proud to go with the flow, proud that she has not lost them all who seem to go ahead of her with their long legs and their knowledge and worldly perspective.
-A new mother telling me that all had changed after her son was born, that “he is [her] heart”, that she is able to see herself really for the first time.
-Seeing a favorite of mine, a young woman, standing in a soft pink, ’80’s style dress, with shoulder pads like tiny angel wings protesting their being hidden.  Her standing there at the bus stop with the clear plastic book cover she used as a purse, waiting alone in a contented posture, almost looking pleased that she is who she is where she is.
-Burundians, Congolese, Liberians, Sierra-Leonese, Bhutanese, Cubans, Texans and more, all mixing in amongst live performances of song and dance, ethnic foods, fashions, and inflatable moon-bouncers.  I believe everyone enjoyed everyone last Sunday.  I saw every face I have loved, every smile I have chased around town to scold and save from job termination, every hand I have shaken upon first meeting, every smile that has grown from mutual admiration and recognition of respect.  It all mixed around me for a few hours.
I don’t think you can experience this with the non-human things you may love.  You will not see your beloved dog mix with your most-admired paintings and your love for Canadian wilderness and sunsets into something that combines them all in one being to love.  Such things cannot meld into a single beloved, a dog with sunset-toned acrylic fur and Canadian foliage for legs.  Such a thing cannot sit before you, jump in you lap smearing paint and warm-light licks.
But to see so many people that you love see each other, present themselves to one another, and then to be accepted is a phenomenon.  They the, from 5-9 on a Sunday evening, become one entity, a community to embrace, to enter and let swirl around you on all sides  Every sense was electrified.  The thing loved me with handshakes and hugs, with dhal and casava leaves, with swahili lyrics and talk of familia, with visions of saris and sarongs and dignity, with the wind of each pull and push of it.  I swam in it and drank from it.  I left the night full and hungry still.
That’s how I feel leaving the IRC.  Full and hungry still.

In conclusion, I’d like to begin with a quote…

I will formally begin leaving here, with this post.

First, my current position.  I am sitting here in my underwear on a Saturday morning just about to head into September.  My computer is surrounded by loose compact discs, sketch paper, letters, magazines and somewhere in here are three check books I began using, each as a replacement for the other as I could not find the previously started books among the pile.  My room is in a similar state; the white $10-at-a-garage-sale leather couch is covered in a clothes blob that turns over like a lake (but with a fresher smell) about once a week as I use all the underwear within it.  Creaky shorts hang stiff under a beach towel on the bathroom racks having dried some time ago.  Around ten or so toilet paper rolls wait in front of the porcelain chair where I am often sitting, using the time to think about how I can creatively use said cardboard rolls, or rather, how I can excuse their being there.
This place is in such a state because I am leaving.  I have lived in Abilene, Texas long enough.  I have gotten lost in every corner of town.  I have shopped every thrift store for years over, made myself a regular at at least four restaurants, attended perhaps every cultural event in this place. I have tried to no avail to make a habit of running the two-mile Lunsford Trail around ACU’s campus and its dirt-rut predecessor.  I have attended three different churches ‘regularly’. I have made friends with unmeasurable quality. I have come back to Abilene more times than I can count because here I have lived the leap into my twenties.
I came back for the last time a couple weeks ago, and now I’ve got boxes stacked outside my door waiting to come in and carry everything out of here.
In a few weeks I’ll be going to Panama for some months, then hopefully India for some, and finally, with much providence and diligence, Peace Corps for two years next summer.
Should you be interested, you will hopefully be able to live some of this with me, read some of it with me at least.
We’ll start with packing.