Camioneta Dreaming, Part 2

IMG_0784Central Belt Shuffler and Dr D are back at the side of the road, waiting for the camioneta home. The light is starting to fade.

We stand a few paces away from three men, two older, fatter ones, wearing straw cowboy hats, and a younger, thinner one. They drink from beer cans, their language slurred. They’re doing a sum, ’17 and 17 is 42’, says one. ‘Oh God,’ says Dr D. ‘I hope they’re not getting on the camioneta with us. If a taxi arrives, let’s take it.’

A taxi comes, but it’s headed in the opposite direction from where we want to go.

A camioneta arrives, also heading in the opposite direction. The drunk men ask the driver something, then, as the camioneta heads off, swear at its retreating exhaust.

Walking down the road comes a small group of Mexicans, accompanying a tall, thin black man, smartly dressed with a calm demeanor. A visiting preacher from Paraguay. The drunks recognise one of the women walking with him, and say hello. She replies, nervously. The preacher calmly greets them, ‘Buenas tardes.’

Another camioneta arrives, heading in the right direction. It’s already quite full, and we get on quickly, making our way to the front. The three men also get on, causing a commotion on the camioneta. A few of the Mexicans look at them in disapproval, and shift around to give them space to sit together. A little girl is carrying a tiny puppy, which a woman then takes on her lap as the camioneta sways with the number of people on it. Several men are standing on the back bumper.

The drunks fall asleep. One lets fall an unopened beer can, which the younger man picks up. A family starts singing, the young boy repeating the words, to everyone’s delight. Then, the clear strong voice of the grandma singing by herself. Most of the camioneta join in for a moment, and laugh together at the end of the song.

An older woman, large in frame, gets on. One of the drunk men wakes up and tries to give her his seat. The woman, quickly assessing the situation, tries to dissuade his alcohol-fuelled courtesy, but he is insistent. She sits down, and he stands, swaying.

I reach my stop, and struggle to make my way through the throng to the back of the bus. The other passengers helpfully shout so that the driver knows to wait, and to the drunk, so he gets out of the way.

I squeeze my way out, then reach into my purse, counting out my 6 pesos, handing it to the driver. The camioneta continues onwards, passengers still clinging to the back. I hope Dr D manages to get out in due course. I head for some shopping, and a cooling margarita.

Dr D later reports on the continuation of this journey. The drunks start swearing, and she tells them off, reminding them there are children in the camioneta. When she reaches her stop, she climbs down. ‘Suerte,’ (Good luck), she says to those passengers continuing the journey.

They laugh.

 

Cats on Tracks

Yesterday saw the funeral of the Japanese station cat Tama, attended by 3000 mourning the death of a feline who had single-pawedly saved a rural railway line, and lifted the local tourist economy. She has been made a Shinto goddess, and a successor duly appointed to watch over the station and wear a funny hat.

Credit: Anthony Bale

Credit: Anthony Bale

Apposite news, as ‘Where’s the cat?’, and ‘Where’s the incredibly fast & exciting train?’, are more or less the only things Central Belt Shuffler can say in Japanese (neko wa doko desuka and shinkansen wa doko desuka, respectively). Japan is a world of cat wonder and weirdness, from Hello Kitty to cat cafes, from the movie Rent-a-Cat to cat island, and to pretty much every book that Haruki Murakami has ever written.

But for a little transcultural memorialising of Tama, here’s a picture of a cat patrolling the tracks in rural France, courtesy of a friend. Good night, and travel well, sweet Tama…

Shuffle Adventurously

photo (3)Many of us return to work tomorrow (apologies to those of you who have already, or have been working through the festive period to keep us safe, well and well-stocked of crucial Christmas goods). It’s never the most cheerful day of the year.

Central Belt Shuffler spent Christmas resting up south of the border in Kendal. Kendal is home to the fascinating Quaker Tapestry. Each panel was designed and created by different groups round the world, depicting aspects of Quaker history and philosophy.

One panel celebrates ‘Quaker Enterprise and the Early Railways’, and is decorated with wagons passing over a bridge, a stream rushing down below. Another, with a fully-rigged ship, encourages us to ‘Live Adventurously’, while advocating one of the key tenets of the Quakers: pacifism.

MoreFreedomAnother – Central Belt Shuffler’s favourite – depicts a long-skirted woman on a bike. ‘More Freedom,’ reads the legend. (Quakers were quick to the cause of women’s rights, anti-slavery and gay rights.)

These motifs of travel and tolerance, and a life lived adventurously, with freedom and equality, are good ones to take into the new year shuffle.