7 The Journey Back

It had to end.

A Anarchy

We waited under the great ceibas for a bus on Tuesday morning. Two passed—one full and one ignoring us—before we got into the third. On our way we ignored passengers signaling. I’d never seen that happen in Colombia yet. They way back was illuminated—as opposed to our nocturnal arrival. The road is covered with overarching acacias and is lined with stone fences.

B Bedlam

At 9AM in Neiva there were no buses leaving till 1, or 3 or 4. After we went around and finally decided on the one leaving at 1, it was sold out. What next?

Marcela went around investigating. She was hoping for a supplementary bus. I was hoping we’d be stranded there long enough to watch the Uruguay-Holland game. The glorious bus terminal of the capital of Huila aint so bad.

Finally Marcela said, “Hagale, preste que hay uno para la una.” I gave her the money and she went and bought us tickets for 1PM. So we parked out baggage at an overflowing holding place manned by a lethargic woman (Esa vieja como que no tiene ganas de trabajar hoy), and wandered into Neiva.

Neiva is the hot confluence of several rivers, including the muddy monster Magdalena (on the verge of overflowing nowadays, along with the Orinoco). The acacias of Neiva give some welcome shade. We had a too-expensive lunch which Marcela protested (we found out the price after eating, it’s the way lunch works here sometimes), hastened back to the terminal in a taxi and stood in line waiting for the bus.

C Chaos

This was the bus ride in which they subjected us to Fireproof. Afterward, they put on some ultra-violent movie about prison inmates in armed, armored-racing cars that the system apparently couldn’t handle, after which the music came as something of a relief.

D Delays

Yes, because with everything else a truck was blocking the road and so we were stopped for a half-hour or so, and eventually delayed some two hours.

E Everything Else

I wish I could convey the sense of the Huilense people. Maybe it’s just hot weather Colombians, but they wheel and barter, haggle and scoff, toss their arm back with that curious limp-wristed gesture and speak volubly without ever pronouncing a single sibilant (“Hagale que nojotroh to-oh ya pagamoh;” and I should have had a section entitled, Cries of “Hagale!”). There is a wide-spread bias against the letter S that crops up in many places, and Huila is no exception, though it isn’t as marked as elsewhere, and an exaggeration on my part to say they never use sibilants. The S is substituted there with an English H or the velar fricative that in Spanish is nowadays a J in many occasions. The Huilans are happy and mostly peasant people, and their encounterings all unselfconscious.

Z Arrival

One is glad whenever returning to Bogota. It really is a place to love and hate both. It was dark, it was raining, it was cooler than formerly we had it, and the lines for an official taxi were enormous. We tramped through the terminal with its empty eateries and counters full of the oranges, yellows and browns of fine fried food and found our way into the rain, flagged a taxi in no time, stepped over the puddles getting in, and were soon stuck in traffic.

Marcela was prepared. On the bus she’d purchased from a guy who hopped in at one town and then hopped of at the next some stale almojabanas in a plastic bag for one incredible low price.

I have mixed feelings about eventually becoming a rolo. If you’re from the capital they’ll call you a rolo. Most people prefer to keep something of a moderated local accent to their speech because of their pride of identity, and after being in Huila I wish I could be more provincial. For now I’m still enough a foreigner, though this trip was real good on my Spanish.

But I’d really have to go native, move out of the city to pick up a different accent. I have the feeling, not having experimented for any long periods of time, that I’d like that. But I have more than a feeling, and here I must stay anyway. Ah well, farewell Huila . . . for now.


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