No Hablo Espanol Muy Bien February 21, 2010Posted by tmorty in Uncategorized.
Since I’ve been unable to fall asleep tonight, I thought that I’d share a story from nearly 12 years ago that popped into my head. In March of 1998, I arrived in the town of Merida in the southern part of Mexico. I was serving an LDS mission. It was my first time being outside of the U.S. and I’d been learning Spanish for two months. When I arrived in Merida, (which is located on the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula) we had dinner with the mission president and his wife and went to sleep. In the morning, we had breakfast and lunch and then I was to catch a bus ride by myself to an old fishing town called Campeche, nearly three hours away.
We were running late that afteroon and so everyone was in a rush to catch their bus. I was given my ticket and hurried on the bus. All of the sudden, I was all alone in the middle of nowhere. Few times in my life have I experienced more fear and anxiety than I did on that bus. Although the trip was supposed to last three hours, it seemed much longer to me. I began to panic and kept looking down at my bus ticket. The bus made several stops in different towns along the way and I wanted to make sure that I got off on the right stop. I noticed that my bus ticket had a different name on it than the town than where I had been told I was going. I decided that I would ask just to make sure. I leaned across the aisle and asked a lady, “Donde esta esto?”, which is “Where is this? As I pointed to my ticket and handed it to her, she acted as though she didn’t understand me at all. Okay, so I knew that my Spanish was horrible, but I was pretty confident about saying simple words. I had no clue what she said to me in response. At the time I thought, “Wow, my Spanish is even worse than I realized.” Come to find out, she didn’t even speak Spanish, she only spoke Mayan.
As we approached the next bus stop, she said some things to the bus driver in Mayan. I’m confident it was not Spanish as Mayan is quite different from Spanish. She motioned to me with hand gestures that this was my stop. I got off the bus and grabbed my suitcases. I had arrived. The bus took off and I was left at the train station alone. It was dark by then and there was no one waiting for me. To make matters worse, it was a small town that didn’t have many streetlights. I sat down for a minute and decided I would make another attempt to communicate with the locals.
“Donde esta la capilla Mormona?” (“Where is the Mormon church?) I said. The man I asked started talking really fast and I have no idea what he said to me, but he pointed down the road as if the church house was located there. It was a small town with only one main road going through it and I thought I might head to the church to be somewhere that seemed familiar. I ultimately decided to stay at the bus station rather than head to the church. Surely someone would arrive to pick me up. I waited for a good twenty minutes and no one came. I think I prayed more desperately than I ever had in my life at that point. Then after about twenty five minutes (which seemed like an eternity), a Mexican missionary arrived on a tricycle taxi (no one had a car in this town) similar to the one in the picture below.
He seemed baffled by my presence. He asked me what I was doing there. I had been sent to the wrong town by mistake. Someone else had my ticket and I was given somebody else’s ticket. He spoke slowly and told me I was in a small Mayan town called Hecelchakan about 40 miles north of where I was supposed to be. Too bad I didn’t have any pesos to get there. I had some American dollars in my wallet, but those were no good in a small Mayan town and I didn’t have enough time to exchange my money while in Merida. The town was full of simple houses built out of sticks and straw. Although the houses they lived in seemed very humble, none of the houses were without a boom box (not a radio, but yes, a boom box) and also a television. The missionary told me that he was only there to pick up his companion that was going to arrive in about an hour or so. He wasn’t there for me.
I told him I didn’t have any pesos to get to Campeche and he paid 50 pesos ($5.00) for my bus ticket to Campeche. I got on the bus and arrived in Campeche a short while later. When I got off the bus, I realized I was quite hungry. My missionary companion Elder Sanchez took me to our house. Immediately we dropped off my stuff and went to a food stand nearby. My companion bought me a hamburger. The hamburgers didn’t taste anything like those in the States, but anything would have tasted good at that point. It had been a difficult journey, but I arrived in Campeche, Mexico in one piece. I reflected back on my adventurous bus ride that night. No one in the world that I knew had any idea where I was that night, but the Lord had known where I was and He had protected me from harm and kept me safe for which I will always be grateful.