I’ve ridden hundreds of buses during my time in Latin America. I stopped counting a couple years ago because it became such a part of my life that I didn’t even think about it. What I haven’t forgotten though, are the times that I’ve gotten on a bus that was headed to the wrong destination. (The dramatic irony here is that the bus was not wrong in it’s course to a destination, but I was) Whether it was Guatemala, Nicaragua, or the Dominican Republic, there were many times when I had been nervously sitting in a seat waiting for my stop to come, and it never would. Then I would ask the conductor or the attendant and they would seal my fate and say to me, “This bus does not stop there. You’ll have to get off and transfer at the next station.”
There a few things less enjoyable than realizing that you got on the wrong bus and you are now headed in a direction you don’t want to go, and you cannot get off. You try and protest, and ask them to let you off, but it’s a highway, it’s dark, and you don’t know where you are. They aren’t going to put you a situation you don’t belong, (even though that’s what you’ve done to yourself); they are going to take care of their passenger. You’ll just have to ride it out.
A similar phrase in English is, “You’ve made your bed, now lie in it.” meaning you have to take responsibility for where you’ve put yourself and the decisions you’ve made. I feel like there’s a bit of injustice considering the effects of this phrase. Many times the passenger is innocent and only has with them an intention to get to a destination, and now they are not only delayed, but their safety is in jeopardy. That’s hardly the idea behind someone needing to take responsibility for their actions. But as I’ve seen time and again in my travels, it’s not necessarily a question of justice or injustice, it’s more about ignorance versus knowledge, a choice of bus routes and ignorance stings whether or not you know better.
I had seen a movie about Mexican drug trafficking awhile ago, but because of it’s explicit content, I would wait until it comes out on TV if you have a desire to see it, but anyway it had an interesting quote that I’ll copy here:
“I would urge you to see the truth of the situation you’re in, Counselor. That is my advice. It is not for me to tell you what you should have done or not done. The world in which you seek to undo the mistakes that you made is different from the world where the mistakes were made. You are now at the crossing. And you want to choose, but there is no choosing there. There’s only accepting. The choosing was done a long time ago… Are you there Counselor?”
I find that sometimes I am much like the counselor here, trying to go back in time to retrace my steps and un-make the decision that I made a short while ago, but like it’s referenced in this quote, the consequences of a decision take place in a world that is different than in which they were made. There is no going back, there is only accepting the current situation, and waiting until the next stop to get off.
I think about this “permanence” of consequences when I visit some of these communities in Lima where we hope to pursue the extension of our microlending program to schools. Are these schools, these communities, these children on a bus route in which they can only switch seats but they cannot get off? Or can we change the destination?