Armed with my new knowledge of the bus “system”, for lack of a better word, I hopped on a local and found my way to the monstrosity of a bus terminal to catch an out-of-town bus to Manglaralto. The Terminal Terrestre is an enormous three story bus terminal the size of a mid range airport and with the feel of a crappy shopping mall.
After wandering around in circles looking at the country zone maps and signs, I realized that the problem wasn’t my Spanish. The signs were just giving information that was irrelevant if you don’t know where anything in the building was. Finally in frustration, I gave up and went up to a guard to ask for help. The guard looked pissed. Given the size and incomprehensibleness of the building, I’m sure he gets a lot of confused people asking him for help. I had only made it through a couple sentences when a random, slightly sketchy looking guy came up to us and offered to help. The guard gladly handed me off and walked away. What followed was an extremely in depth tour of the ticketing system and the three stories of arrival and departures. He bought my ticket for me, walked me through what all the random numbers and letters on the paper meant and then showed me where the bus would arrive. Throughout this process, as grateful as I was, I knew there was no possible way he was being that helpful without some expectation. Sure enough, at the end of the tour (the entirely of which was in rapid Spanish, and which I mostly understood, woohoo!), he demanded a tip and a kiss. I gave him both, figuring that the exhaustive explanation was more then worth a couple bucks and a peck on the cheek. After an awkward moment when he ducked in a little to close to my mouth for comfort, I shooed him away and waited for my bus to arrive. Three hours later I was back in the sun and on the sand, grateful that my city of choice is so close to the part of this world that I love and understand.
How to Guide the the crazy ass Terminal Terrestre to come!
Original published February 26, 2011, on tumblr as “El Terrminus Terrestre”.