I thought I would post a snippet of Foreign, the memoir I am (very slowly) trying to write about my travels across Latin America and the United States last year.
It’s really fun to write, and to look back on such happy memories, but getting into the routine of getting the stories out is a lot harder. While I struggle on, here’s a piece I’m fairly content with, from bus stations across Bolivia.
Bus stations in Bolivia are filled with chaos. There must be few places on earth which provide such an attack on the senses, and the terminals I spent time in that March were some of the most vividly exotic places I’ve ever seen.
Old women carry impossibly heavy weights, their girlish plaits hanging down over their packs. Children run and scream but it’s difficult to hear them over the caterwauling of people selling bus tickets. At first I thought they were just doing it for fun, but eventually I make out what they are screeching; the names of the destinations they offer, sung in a style close to yodelling (just less tuneful).
Vendors weave in and out bearing snacks – things I eat but remain unable to categorise. Bright indigenous fabric flashes like jewels beneath the dirt and the dust, and somewhere in the middle of all this is me.
It’s the first time I’ve travelled alone, and the only time I’ve ever been the tallest person in the room. I am young, with a handful of nervous Spanish. I stick out.
Often, these bus stations are uncomfortable places to be in. At the very least the noise feels like a physical force, starting at dawn and roaring until late. There’s a set of rules which I do not understand. Here is where I learn what ‘foreign’ really means.
Let me know what you think! Or if you’ve ever been through some of these stations, I’d love to hear how you found it.