David Romtvedt

Letters From Mexico

Publisher: The Kutenai Press

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Letters From Mexico reads like a journal of the unique people and experiences David Romtvedt experienced on a trip to the Baja Peninsula of Mexico.



Selections from Letters From Mexico

A Bus Ride
On one of our first days here Michelle and I stood waiting for a bus. We'd just come from the Mainland and weren't used to how many fewer buses there are on the lower Baja. We were sitting on our packs along the road- paved. There was a smaller dirt road coming in from Rancho Tres Palos- Three Sticks Ranch. That's how the nearby trees looked- like sticks. There was a little store where the two roads came together. The store carried sodas, Pan Bimbo (a Mexican version of Wonder Bread), a few dulces and several thousand flies. There was a sweet tempered dog with three good legs and a fourth that trailed along behind him, chewed up and worn away at the end.. Dust covered everything including my tongue. It was hot. The road dropped sharply off onto the desert floor. We were waiting. There was a big rock sitting by itself about ten feet from us. We stood up and pitched pesos at it, trying to see whose peso landed the nearest without touching the rock. Michelle was on a streak. And she was keeping my pesos.

Two hours gone by the bus came, a decrepit looking rust-colored version of a Bluebird school bus. We got up and began to lift our packs but the bus went right on by. The driver leaned around to look at us, the passengers leaned around to look at us. There was no glass in the windows so some people learned right out the openings into the light. Their faces looked like their minds were asking who is this crazy gringa with her crazy gringo husband standing out here in Baja California Sur wearing sunglasses and no hats?

We waved and screamed. The bus driver's eyes popped wide and the bus came to a halt. We ran for it. It started to back up. We met, panting and sweating on both sides. I was so dusty that the sweat running down the side of my face made a little river of mud from temple to neck. I wiped the river with my hand then wiped my hand on my pants. I smiled and Michelle asked how much it was to Auga Santisima, our planned home. "Cuanto es para Agua Santisima?" she said without exposing a tooth. The driver took ten pesos and waved us away liek he was waving away flies.

I went back to my seat hoping I wouldn't have to pee. I was just beginning to notice the scenery when smoke began rising from the engine compartment next to the driver. It started out gray, then got more gray and finally black. The driver down-shifted and cursed. I didn't recognize any of the words he used and neither they nor the downshifting seemed to help. More smoke billowed. Then the bus seemed to seize up- like all the metal parts grabbed hard for each other and held on for love- and we came to a sharp stop in the middle of the road. The driver was still cursing. He opened the engine cover and the smoke raced raced out filling the bus. Looked like the driver would have to come up with some real good curses. Instead, he shrugged, kicked the gearshift lever, laughed and jumped down onto the road where he lit a cigarette.

All the men jumped off the bus. I did too thinking we'd push it off to the side and try to get it going again. But we didn't push it off to the side; we pushed it right off the road and down the embankment. Away it rolled, groaning and bumping, sheetmetal flapping like wings. It was a gorgeous sight. Then I remembered Michelle- she was still on board. I looked at all the women standing around with their babies and children. And they were looking at me, smiling, their teeth brilliantly white against their lips. We all looked at the bus as it came to a rest. Almost invisible in the cloud of dust and smoke there arose Michelle, one pack on her back and one held in front of her like a bag of groceries. She came up the embankment, handed me my pack and stopped without a word. Quiet.

"La suerte de la guera." someone said, pointing at her.

"What's that?" I asked.

"Blondie's luck." Michelle answered, touching her light brown hair. Blondie's luck. But it's unclear to me if it was the good luck that Michelle got out of the bus, or the bad luck that we got on the bus and it blew up. Se Murio el camion is a phrase I learned that day. The bus died.