rookie moves

In 7 months it’d be impressive not to have many mishaps just at home, living a normal life. For us here, surrounded by foreign people, places, and languages, we have of course had our fair share of mess-ups. Do-overs if you will. I’d like to share just a few to remind you that sometimes the unfortunate incidents that we run into are our own doing.

Back in the middle of April, when we were in La Paz, I bought a guitar. Learning the guitar is something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time and it came to a point where we were waiting in enough bus stations for enough hours that I decided, why not?- especially in Bolivia where things are so cheap. So we found a nice small one that wouldn’t be too tough to travel with and a cool bag to put it in all for about $35 US.

The question seemed to be not would we lose the guitar, but when. I carried it into Paraguay, back through Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, and Columbia and even across into Central America- all the way annoying people with my lack of skill and constantly trying to pick up tips from other travelers. There were a couple close calls where we barely remembered it but were still able to run back and grab it. Then, just after we got into Panama we took a bus going from the capital to the town of David. We got off in the small town of San Felix. The guitar didn’t.

It took me until we were checking emails in an internet cafe in San Felix to realize that it was gone, but once I did I was crushed. I had grown attached to it. But, proactive as we are, we had the great idea to call the bus company’s office in David to see if they could help us out. The David phone number conveniently printed on our ticket stubs, the nice guy working at the internet place letting us use his phone, and the kind, patient lady searching the bus on the other end came together to provide us with a guitar waiting in David when we passed through 5 days later. The guitar was out of tune, just like I left it.

Earlier in the trip, Karl had just taken out as much money as we would need for the rest of our time in Ecuador. We didn’t know when or if we’d see any ATMs out in the cloud forest, and Ecuador uses the good ‘ol US Dollar, so we figured he couldn’t take out too much. That means he had around $160 in stone cold US twenties in his wallet, safely stored in his pant’s zipper pocket. On the ride out to the forest we didn’t pay for the ticket until we were just about to get off. When the time came to pay, Karl unzipped his pocket, busted out some cash, paid the man, and replaced his wallet, forgetting to again utilize the zipper. Only moments later, we got off the bus with all the bags we were carrying. It took a while because we had just done all the shopping for all the volunteers for a week. It was all very distracting.

Just as the bus drove away I noticed Karl checking his pants pockets and saw his face drop. He immediately turned and ran down the cobblestone road in sandals yelling ‘my wallet!’. That day we found out that those mountain buses haul ass, but Karl kept running. We lost him around the bend and just stood there waiting for what seemed like a while. Eventually he rolled up in the passenger seat of a big white truck with a grin on his face. Apparently he had to flag down some guy coming the other way and ask for his help. They finally caught up to the bus and were able to get them to stop. Karl’s wallet was there, sitting just below the window next to the seat he was in, fat with all the cash he had just taken out, not to mention all his cards. What a relief.

Four days later on our way out of town, we hopped on the same bus but had to get off 5 minutes later, because Karl forgot his passport in the Andean Bear Project house. We tell ourselves we’re getting better.

Months later, around 4 in the morning, just after saying our goodbyes to Daniela in Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, Karl and I took a taxi to the TICA bus office. We had to catch our bus out of the country. When we took our passports out to begin the check-in process, Karl realized that in with his passport was also Daniela’s. Damn. At the few borders we’d all crossed together it was just quicker and easier to keep all our passports together. Well, it wasn’t making things quicker or easier in the moment we realized Karl still had it.

There wasn’t really much of a choice, we couldn’t leave the country with Daniela’s Mexican passport. So, Karl snagged a taxi for a round trip back to the house we were staying at. The whole time he was gone, of course, I was standing around wondering if he’d be back in time to make the bus, and if not, whether I should hit the road without him (only 1 wasted ticket instead of 2!). He made it, of course, with some time to spare. But he did have to spend ten bucks on the trip and that made it so we didn’t have enough money to pay for the entrance into Honduras. Good thing the bus conductor was nice enough to spot us the $2 we were missing.

These are just a few of our many, many mess-ups that threw us for a loop just when we thought the travel couldn’t get any more exciting. That, and they also reminded us how vulnerable we are without the help and kindness of people around us. I’m sending yet another thank you to them, although they may never read it.

Don’t forget your people, and thanks for being mine.

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