Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Hotels, Hostels and Hospitals: Stories from A to Z

At noon we checked out and went to the street to signal a cab. Since it cost us 3000 Chilean pesos from the bus station to our hotel, Forrest was prepared with 3000 pesos counted out and ready. 

A cab picked us up and dropped us off in front of the bus station. Once again, we trudged up the stairs with my oversized suitcases. At the top, we turned to the right as yesterday’s ticket teller had directed us. We found our bus right where she said we would. They were already loading bags at the side. We showed our tickets, watched them load our things, then climbed in to find our seats. 

Accustomed to Guatemalan chicken buses and Mexican travel vans, I was surprised by this sleek, two-story, passenger bus. The seats were more spacious and luxurious than first-class airplane seats. We could stretch out our legs, recline for sleeping, and visit the on-board bathroom whenever we wanted. 

I started out with the window seat, but Forrest soon got annoyed by my frequent bathroom visits. We traded seats, then changed again every couple of hours. I was surprised at how brown and desert-like Chile was. I had imagined green hills and forests intermingled with the Pacific coastline and sandy beaches, like the coastal highways in California. This looked more like Utah desert country. 

Occasionally, we’d pass through a populated area, a town or village with grassy sections and sparsely planted palm trees or other decorative shrubs and trees. Then right back to the desert. 

Forrest napped and made notes in his diary. I read my Kindle and wrote in a notebook. Mostly we talked, since our minds were at rest now that we were on our way to Coquimbo. 

Originally, we had planned to stay in La Serena, a college town and twin city to Coquimbo. But lodgings were scarce and expensive due to the eclipse. Hotels and Airbnb’s were overpriced and disappearing as fast as I found them. 

Finally, I came across an apartment in Coquimbo at $500 for a week’s stay, while hotels started at $180-200 a night. Split both ways $500 wasn’t too bad, since it included a fully equipped kitchen. We could cook our own food and save money. And only steps away from the beach, a perfect location for viewing the eclipse. 

During our long bus ride, Forrest and I covered a wide range of topics. He asked me what I thought makes a good marriage. He told me which of his siblings he felt had the best marriages and did the best at raising their kids. 

He knew exactly what he was looking for in a future wife. “I don’t want to marry someone in college or right out of college. I’d like her to have some real-life experience, worked at different jobs, maybe already started her career.” 

“You’ve said before you want to marry someone who can cook. It sounds like you’re after a superwoman who can ‘bring home the bacon and cook it in a pan.'” 

“No, just someone really intelligent and accomplished in a lot of areas.” 

I asked about a few of the girls he had dated, who he had seemed serious about then broken up with. Like the girl who complained about carrying boxes downstairs when he was helping her move out of her apartment.

“I can’t marry someone who's afraid to work or share the load,” he said.

“I lost interest in someone when we made cookies together,” I reflected. "He pointed out my so-called mistakes. ‘This is how my mom does it," he kept saying. That’s it, I thought. This is our last date.” 

“What was it about Dad that you liked?” Forrest asked.

"There were a lot of things, but one incident in particular reeled me in. It was our second date. Not really a date. He had dropped by my apartment to see if I wanted to go on a walk. We climbed a hill near campus and on this trail, I went ahead and said, ‘Let’s go this way.’ He didn’t follow me. Instead, he turned off a side trail, and I ended up turning around and following him.” 

“How was that significant?” 

“Because up to then I could pretty much wrap any boy around my little finger. And here was one who clearly liked me but wasn’t so smitten that he followed me around like a puppy dog. After that, I saw him as different from others I’d dated. He was kind, interested in me, attentive, yet knew his own mind.” 

It was nice having Forrest talk to me about serious subjects. “I feel like I haven’t even been around for your early adult years, Forrest. You went into the Marines right after high school. Then two years on your mission. You no sooner get back from your mission than we go to Guatemala. I cried and cried about leaving you back then.” 

“Yeah, but Mom, I was fine. I wasn’t going to live at home and go to school. I wanted to get out on my own.” 

“Well, this is nice having this time together. It’s one reason I wanted to come with you.” 

“Yes, it is nice.” 

What a good sport he was. This was meant to be him going off alone and traveling in his own way. Instead, there's me and my luggage, and having to stay at hotels instead of couch-surfing or crashing at a hostel for two dollars a night. I was okay with couch-surfing, but in a hostel, I would want a private room and bath, which costs more. 

We talked about Dad and about those four months in the hospital, after his aortic repair and before he died. 

“A year ago this month, Dad was still hanging on to life in Promise Hospital,” I said. “With that Dr. Death trying to get me to ‘let him go’ because there was 'no hope of improvement.' I hated that guy. Whenever he saw me, he’d bring it up, and I would say no, I don't want to have this conversation. He was always carrying on about how my husband won't improve and I should let him go.” 

“If you had listened to him, Mom, Dad would have died at Promise, without ever saying his last words and without us getting those videos of him talking. We wouldn’t have those six weeks when he regained consciousness and got moved to St. Joseph’s.”

 “Dr. Death would’ve gotten his way. He must have gotten a bonus from the insurance companies for every patient he kills. There had to be some reason he kept pushing his end-of-life procedure or whatever they call it.”

"You were right to keep saying no to him, Mom." 

Sadness overwhelmed me and I turned away to watch the brown, desert hills of central Chile pass by outside the windows. Stupid Dr. Death.


  1. You definitely are the word master. Both the pain and pleasure show in your writing. You have got me hooked.

    1. Thank you, Sue! I'm glad we found each other on the A to Z Challenge, because I am enjoying your posts this month as well.

  2. Forrest certainly is super picky, and good for him. Love that he knew you had the good wisdom to pick well and asked you about it.

    1. At our stage of life especially, we understand how good it is to be picky about such a major decision, don't we, Mirka?

  3. How nice to have this special time with Forrest in such a special place.

  4. This is Birgit…I’m so glad you had this time with your son. Your son know what he wants in a woman and good for him. I’m Glad you stood your ground with that dr.

  5. I'm so glad you all got those extra six weeks near your husband's passing, and I'm glad you and Forrest are sharing special time together now. Bless you both.

  6. What a wonderful bus trip that turned out to be. I've never been in South America but I know we get a lot of fruit from Chile in our winter (I love grapes from Chile, especially at this time of year) and your description of the scenery surprised me.

    1. Alana, Imported grapes from Chile and from Peru are seriously the best grapes I've ever had.

  7. Just like a son to get annoyed by mom getting up to go to the bathroom! I'm sorry that doctor was so unfeeling. I'd like to think he meant well but lacked social-emotional skills. How precious to get those extra 6 weeks!


Comments are welcome!