Old School Buses Never Die!
As Valerie stated in her recent post, I also cannot believe how neglectful we have been about blogging in recent weeks, er months! Thoughts on what to write about have consistently crossed my mind.
However, procrastination has overwhelmed my good intentions. Kind of reminds me of my modus operandi as a student. Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow, right?
Speaking about recollections of school days, I don’t think I had been on a school bus since 1975. Until Valerie and I arrived in Panama for the first time, that is.
You see, old school buses from the U.S. never die………….they just re-route to Central America!
On our way to Boquete for the first time, we were instructed to catch a bus at the terminal in the city of David. After waiting several minutes I was surprised to see a yellow school bus marked David to Boquete pull up to the curb.
Upon entering the vehicle, Valerie and I immediately noticed several safety posters written in English. They read something like stay seated, talk quietly, and be respectful of your bus mates. Upon closer review we saw that they had been issued by the West Virginia Department of Education.
If only the middle school students that cruelly taunted the grandmother school bus monitor in New York last summer had seen, and adhered to, such instruction, huh? But, I digress.
As our travels throughout Panama and into Nicaragua unfolded, I became intrigued by the plethora of school buses that have received a new lease on life. They are rarely used primarily to transport students here but they get quite a workout nonetheless.
Luckily, they appear to be subjected to regular service maintenance and keeping them clean, and running smoothly, seems to allow many young Panamanians, and Nicaraguans, to be gainfully employed.
Painting them, like most structures in Central America, is definitely an art. While some have retained their original yellow coloring, most have been painted eye catching colors and others are used for advertising of all kind, including political campaigns.
Many riders on these buses are fortunate enough to experience some of the most beautiful scenery imaginable. Steep mountainsides with lush greenery, spectacular volcanoes and breathtaking beachfront sunsets are often highlights on trips aboard these resilient vehicles.
Other passengers aren’t always so lucky. Their trips take them to remote, dusty and rocky terrain which can make for some adventurous teeth clenching and jaw jarring bumpy rides.
Even worse, some poor, weary travelers are subjected to riding on buses that show support for some of the evilest of empires!
Of course, in true Central American fashion, more than people are transported on these buses. Sometimes bicycles, wooden carts and walking just won’t cut it!
Back in March, on our last day in the resort town of San Juan Del Sur (Nicaragua), before heading back to the U.S., there were several uniquely painted buses parked along the beachfront. My new found interest immediately got the best of me and, despite our rush to catch our flight in Managua, I grabbed the camera and stopped to take several shots.
Just a few days later we were back in the States, outside of Philadelphia, for my niece’s wedding. Following the ceremony we went back to the hotel to take the pre-arranged transportation for the guests to the reception.
As we waited in the lobby, I elbowed Valerie in the ribs and smiled at the irony as we noticed what was coming to pick up the wedding guests – a big yellow school bus.
Finally, like any conscientious former journalism student I would be neglectful if I did not issue one retraction from the beginning of this piece. Once in a while, one of these school buses does indeed make it to the junkyard in the sky!