It was only my second ride on a chicken bus. The first go had been everything I expected: crowded, blaringly loud music, lots of sweat, and yes, even a chicken.
It was later this time around, and the crowd had lessened. The air was cooler and the music just a little bit less abrasive as I took a seat next to a man eating an entire roasted corn on the cob as his travel snack.
The mother and her two children boarded the bus shortly after me. I noticed them immediately. Both the youngsters had light, blonde hair – uncommon in this part of the world. The youngest was maybe a year old, and sat on his mother’s lap directly in front of me. His sister looked to be five or six, and bounced into the seat across the aisle from her family, catty-corner to me.
Almost immediately the girl turned around, her dark eyes sparkling. She gave me a big, deeply dimpled smile. I smiled back.
Throughout the ride she continued to turn and make faces. She was delighted by my overenthusiastic responses. Eventually the bench behind me opened up, and my travel buddy slipped in so that we could sit together. I left the man with the corn without thinking how the girl might react. Only moments after my move, I saw her look to where I had been sitting. Her brow furrowed in confusion as she turned again to face the front. We were both disappointed then.
But she twisted once more only a few moments later, and this time she found me. At almost the exact same moment the person sitting next to her exited the bus, leaving her with the window seat. The girl’s smile was huge now, and I recognized the mischief in her expression. She immediately stood up on the bench and stuck her entire head out of the window. Every now and then she would turn to me, her hair and eyes equally wild, her expression daring me to tell her to stop. Her mom was asleep, and it was clear she was reveling in her freedom. I wasn’t about to take that away from her.
This is why I’d come to Nicaragua, after all.