I’ve got 3 hours to kill before my bus leaves. I started to fret at the ticket counter, like the old days, searching for a way around the problem – if I got to Silao, there’s a connection to SLP. Ah, no seat. If I went via Leon it would be longer, but …STOP, I decided. Take what you get. 5:30 departure, getting in 8 pm, then connection to Rioverde…depending on the delay there I should be home around midnight. Ni modo, so it goes. As I setup camp next to the Virgencita altar, I realize I could be killing time in worse places. It’s new years day – good day to do nothing but recover from the bad champagne hangover from last night. (Bad champagne, not a particularly bad hangover.)
It’s your basic Mexican bus station, all seem to be build to the same blueprint – though this one has quite an extensive gift shop, final chance to make your Mummies of Guanajuato t-shirt purchase. There’s a Comida Mexicana ‘Restaurant’, more like a snack counter, with a tough senorita behind the register who’s been telling customers ‘sorry, no tenemos,’ for years. There are four ticket stalls, twice the size of Rioverde Central: Vencedor, El Norte, and the elite Primera Plus which we do not have. The overlit waiting area has ten rows of connected seats all facing in the same direction, toward the WCs with the killer metal turn-styles and standard 4-peso entry fee. Trying to get me and my bags through is always a Survivor feat.
I’ve got a snazzy glass-top table and four chairs to call my own in front of the Restaurant. I try reading my book while I await my order of tacos. But I can’t help glancing up to watch the people approach the altar to say their travel prayers, gazing into the nativity scene pensively – lips barely move, then they cross them with a thumb and seal it with a kiss. The ninos bound up wide-eyed, like they’re ready to dive right into the scene and vistit with Baby Jesus. I finally take a peek over the plywood wall and discover this baby jesus is a huge doll dressed in a nightie with scores of farm animals gathered ‘round, and of course the three wise guys, but diminutive in proportion. There’s a soft floor of curly tree moss the Mexican’s call pastle (sp? not in the dictionary) – this time of year, the camposinos sell grocery bags of the stuff the collect in the forest for 10 pesos a bag so you can decorate your own altar.
I just read in a Guanajuato tourism guide that Mexican kids their get presents from the wise guys, Los Reyes Magos. They have to wait until the seventh, a week after Christmas, just as the Baby Jesus had to. And they eat a cake called Rosco that’s baked with little plastic baby Christs inside. If you get a Christ in your slice you’re responsible for making tamales for everyone at the next fiesta.
On the other side of my encampment is the Minerales Sante Fe shop – now this is something we don’t have in Green River. This Guanjuato area was a rich mining area – the city in fact is a maze of underground roads that utilize the old mining tunnels and give the place a unique feel – at the same time claustrophobic and enchanting. The shops sells elastic bracelets strung with colored rocks, like candy, quartz crosses in three sizes and various pastel colors, masks carved out of stone, and polished stones of all color and types piled in wood barrels…tigers eyes and turquoise and topaz. Reminds me that I was a rock collector in my youth; how could I almost forget. I’d have gone crazy in this place to find new pieces to add to my collection. I never had my own rock tumbler, but the Robbins brothers next door did and we’d spend hour polishing and organizing and identifying our specimens. Jeff Robbins died in a motorcycle accident a few years back. He was a daredevil kid and I wasn’t too surprised he went that way. I never even had a chance to friend him on Facebook.
A soothing hush fills the terminal, the quiet anticipatory energy of travel. Then a pack of tardy travelers breaks the silence, dashing through the hall, roller bags clickety-clacking across the tile floor, anxious voices, this way, vamanos. They disappear through the glass doors. If I see them again I’ll know they missed their bus.
I bite into – but at least they’re warm and salty. My body craves anything that will absorb the volatile esters of last night’s New year’s binge – beer, wine, bubbly at the stroke of midnight, and the bag of 12 grapes, one for each second counting down to midnight. Thank god I stopped short of tequila shots. I had a little bit of sense entering 2012. Maybe this bodes well for my new year, my new empty journal of musings, a clean slate, and penned into the first page: my aspirations for a 2012 of creativity, connection, y corozon.
I look up from my snack, my book splayed open on the table, and there’s Regina and her friend Luz, two tables down from me, now heading straight toward me smiling behind movie star shades: a late night for them too. We failed to connect last night – my text message never reached them – so we were meant to run into each other at the station today, obviously, just before our departures from Gto.
We share new year’s greetings and kisses, all agree there’s a karma to our last-minute rendezvous that we need to honor. We recommit to seeing each other in 2012 – in Leon, where Luz lives, or in DF where Regina lives, or perhaps in Michoacan where’s she’s starting her project. But please not Green River. I tell them one of my new year’s resolutions is to escape Rioverde as frequently as I can and connect with other people and places of Mexico – so when I finally go home home (wherever home may be by the end of the Peace Corps chapter), my picture of Mexico will a bit more complete. I take the opportunity to share this possibility aloud with the muchachas, in clear, plain English, which makes me more accountable to live it.
It occurs to me, how open and free I’m feeling at the very start of this new year. Looking back, seems like I spent the entirety of 2011 closed off, closed in, protecting myself. I wonder if this has been going on for some time, the last few years, maybe forever – and I’m just now noticing it. Noticing it because …I have some distance from it – at this moment anyway. So I’ll try to explain it: I protect myself from the disappointment of people. My quiet survival strategy over this past taxing year has been to seclude myself. Tired of reaching out, I’ve decided to just stop showing interest, becoming ever more independent, self-sufficient, and in turn isolated, though protected from the inevitable disappointment.
Huh, I’m wearing one of Octavio Paz’s Mexican Masks (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Octavio_Paz). Maybe I AM becoming Mexican, going native, adapting to my surroundings like a chameleon. They say children of alcoholics learn to do this well. And how convenient a mask – hiding as I make my way down the street each day, so conspicuous – the people eying me – I feel their sideways glances - what’s the gringa doing now? Running?! In this heat? Is she loca?!
The problem is: the mask doesn’t work for long. Perhaps I needed the distance in 2011 – time to reflect, recharge, reorient – so I would survive this experience. But that can’t last forever. I can’t just turn-off my need to connect with others – like it’s a light switch and I’m saving energy. Humans energize me; they are a life force. (And yes, they also sap me.)
So I need to be more choosey – I can listen to my intuition about situations – and I can deal with the disappointment that will likely come by acknowledging it if it does come and not making myself wrong for ‘caring’ so much. But I can’t turn-off such a vibrant part of me to protect myself from those feelings of sadness and loss that are inevitable.
How do I work with them creatively, appreciatively, lovingly?
Yes, this is the stance for 2012.
Thanks for Regina and Luz’s presence in the bus station to help me articulate that. Thanks to Karen’s warm energy for illuminating this for me too. Thanks to Gabriel at Todos Os Santos Hostel – and to Jeffery and Monica the black and white couple who invited me in to help celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary that coincided with new years. I had a chance to see during these final days of 2011, in Gto, what I want for myself for this coming year.