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Sunday, 31 May 2009

Solo Bus Adventures: Atacama to Salta - Page 2

Written by Kara Carlson
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I had been traveling alone through South America for three weeks when I awoke the morning of my 20-hour bus ride from San Pedro de Atacama, Chile, to Salta, Argentina, with a throbbing headache and transported myself to the bus stop more slowly than my brain deciphers long division.


Nellie demanded I teach her a song, and then interrupted her own explanation of desiring to teach it to her class by telling me she had friends all over the world. I endeavored to appeal to my brain for a song but the best I could engineer was the alphabet, which she clearly already knew. With all this thinking, my cranium threatened to detonate and I could sense the commencement of a coma. She misinterpreted my sunken head in hands as encouragement, conjured photos of her and her class like Merlin the wizard, and then sang Madonna’s Material Girl. “I love Madonna!” Nellie exclaimed excitedly. I handed her my iPod, scrolled to Madonna, and pressed play. Nellie persisted singing, but as she was not directly addressing me, I felt at ease to attempt sleep and bowed back my head (i.e. anvil).

Madonna songs only survived for one and a half precious hours before we struck the border and exited the bus. I stood in line contentedly envisioning my bed when I heard my name in a now-familiar accent. Before I could finish the word, “what?” Nellie was towing me away to take a photo with her. One photo became 17 as we assembled in varying poses. This had to resemble a marriage photo shoot, or at least an engagement photo shoot. As I envisioned the six Peruvian children we would surely adopt, I would never have predicted I would end up with someone named Nellie, man or woman.

Back on the bus, Nellie requested my e-mail address. Sure, of course. She handed me a paper she had written out with lines for my first and last name, e-mail, telephone number, address, birthday, and parent’s address. I filled this out and handed it back, at which point she presented me with a paper with her identifying information. She studied my responses, clarified and re-wrote some, and then proclaimed she would call me on my birthday and visit me in California within the following year. “Ok, great,” I replied with enthusiasm paralleling that of the Simpson’s Mr. Burns. I just wanted sleep. She sang Happy Birthday to me. This woman was evidently under the impression that she was Mariah Carey.

Solo Bus Adventures: Atacama to Salta, travel chile, travel argentina

“See, I have friends over the world!” she broadcast at the conclusion of Happy Birthday with such enthusiasm nine passengers spun around to stare at us. She then presented me with a bracelet. The bracelet consisted of lime green bulky beads and resembled something my cousin’s six-year-old would construct. I felt indebted and gazed at my own wrists. Aside from the newly acquired Peruvian present, I was wearing two black hair things. I removed one, put it around her wrist, and then was as lost as George W. Bush at a spelling bee, so I kissed her on the cheek and smiled. At this time the movie 2 Fast 2 Furious sparkled across the televisions. I submerged myself in my chair and revolved my eyes to the screens. Nellie produced a book entitled, ‘How to Teach English.’ This book was fifty pages long in size 16 font complete with pictures, and was identical in style to something a seven-year-old would read.

The opening scene of the movie corresponded to Nellie’s questioning. As she labored over the English words, she asked me questions. “How you say ‘educate’ in Spanish?” “How you say ‘they’ in Spanish?” “What it mean?” “What the Spanish word for ‘students’?” This word I knew: estudiante. This woman was clearly delusional in her estimation of my Spanish abilities. I have the language skills of a mentally handicapped walrus. I did enunciate the correct way to say ‘the’ to her 19 times, but aside from that, I was not much assistance.  She composed pronunciation notes in her booklet/pamphlet.

(Page 2 of 3)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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