October 26, 2006
I woke up today feeling lousy. My whole body ached, I had no energy, and my bowels were unforgiving. It sure is nice to be back in South America.
Even though I didn't have an appetite and I was starting to get a headache, I still wanted to leave town today. To get to my next destination of Bahia de Caraquez, I would have to take several buses, but it was still possible to get there in a day.
On my first bus, I met an Ecuadorian girl who spoke really good English, which is unheard of in these parts. Most people involved in the tourism industry speak some English here, but this girl was fluent. I asked her if she's ever been to another country, and she said she went to the US with her family when she was little, but just Los Angeles and Miami. "Oh yeah," she continued nonchalantly, "and I lived in the Falkland Islands for six months." It turns out she was married to a British guy who was stationed there. There were too many cultural differences, so they split up and she came back home. That makes sense, considering that Ecuador and the Falklands are two of the most different places I've ever visited. It was a really strange conversation. She didn't seem moved at all when I told her that I've been there, yet I was incredibly impressed because she's the first person I've met from South America who's actually been there, despite all of the heated conversations I have had about them in Argentina. She's also the first person I've met from South America who didn't refer to the islands as Las Islas Malvinas.
I got off the bus at a small city called Jipijapa and parted ways with the Ecuadorian girl. Immediately, I was swarmed by at least five guys randomly guessing where I wanted to go next. I was feeling worse than when I woke up, so I kept answering "no" to all of their guesses, but they kept guessing cities until they couldn't think of any more. When I finally declared my next destination as Porto Viejo, one of them whisked me away to his bus before the others could get to me. In this form of capitalism gone mad, you don't really need to know Spanish, or any language for that matter, to go places. Just shout out the name of the place you want to go, and before you know it, you'll be on a bus heading there. Of course, when you are sick and have a headache, you tend to wish there were no competition so you could just sit in peace and quiet all day waiting for the next bus to arrive.
My next bus was characterized by loud music blaring right in my ears. On top of that, it wasn't even anything new. Old music in Spanish from the 1950's seems to be popular here. Despite the music, I tried to close my eyes and sleep off my headache, but that wasn't possible because people kept bumping into me. I don't know why I was suddenly such a big target today, but every person who walked onto and off of the bus always bumped my shoulder or my knee when they walked past me. They weren't trying to rob me either; I think the people in small port towns are simply used to having less personal space. In this case, it was none.
I was feeling absolutely miserable, so for my last bus ride, I decided to go with the best company available. I was happy when I walked onto the bus and saw that it actually had a television that worked. The problem was that the movie being played was some stupid film about a man who looked like a baby. It was dubbed over in Spanish and the sound quality was horrible, so I could barely understand any of it. On top of that, once again it was playing at full volume, and every minute or so, one of the characters let out a deafening, indiscernible scream that bounced around in my head until it stopped and began pulsating at the very center of my brain. When the movie finally ended, I was feeling nauseous, but at least it was over. Or so I thought. Suddenly the radio was turned on and I was once again forced to listen to the same horrible music I had heard the entire day.
When I finally got to Bahia, I got a room in the first motel I could find, popped a concoction of pain killers (I stupidly mixed a bunch of them together in the same bottle in Bolivia and have since forgotten what they all did, but they definitely all had something to do with killing pain), closed my eyes and waited for the throbbing to stop. Remarkably, it seems to have worked. Despite being a small town, Puerto Lopez was an incredibly loud place with diesel engines, honking horns, and screaming street vendors everywhere. I think that despite being a bigger place, Bahia should give me some peace and quiet so hopefully I'll feel better soon.