Thursday, May 26, 2011

the one in which she took on a bus and lost

I posted the Coles Notes version of this story on Facebook and Twitter, but in case you missed it -or were curious for more details- here's the full deal...

Tuesday morning I left the house around 9:30am, headed to one of my last (!) doctor's appointments. Peter and I just talked last night about cancelling, but I had a few questions about the process for when labour actually starts, the set up for the homebirth, etc. I was also hoping he could look at my throat... I'd been up since about 2am with a wicked bad sore throat and was hoping I hadn't caught Peter's strep from a couple weeks ago.

Pretty much as soon as I got down to the main road (the Septima, for anyone familiar with Bogota) the traffic seemed crazy. My appointments are ALWAYS either 10am or 10:30am, Tues or Wed morning. By that time, there's usually very little traffic (comparatively), but that day it was busy right from the get go. I took the Circumvalar (a windy road that goes up around the Parque National) and by the time I actually got downtown, it was INSANE.

The problem is that I know EXACTLY ONE ROUTE to get to the doctor's office. One. I know the way there and DO NOT DEVIATE from said route. Downtown is just too crazy and there are too many one-ways and too many people/cars/taxis/buses/motorbikes/vendors, etc. And the office is on a one way, so I know if I go past it, it'll be a nightmare to get back.

Well, when I got through the park and was about to take my usual left hand turn towards the doctor's office, there was an old guy standing on the corner, shaking his head and waving his arms... clearly telling me not to go that way. That's also when I noticed people walking around with signs. Seems I'd made my way into the middle of a protest of some sort. 


Generally the security head at the Embassy sends out email notifications of protests and rallies and what areas to avoid on what days. But since I'd slept so terribly, I'd fallen asleep on the couch for about half an hour that morning and didn't have time to check my email before leaving. Also, since the protests are meant to make a scene and disrupt traffic and life in general, there's usually not much advanced notice if any. I tried calling Peter's office and cell, but didn't get an answer. So I tried a friend (the wife of the head of security) to see if she'd gotten an email. She said no and that her husband was in meetings all morning, so he wouldn't have even gotten any bulletins.

At that point, I did think about turning around, but knew I was only about 7-8 blocks from the office. I had a pretty good idea where to go and how to get there, so keep on. At one point, I did end up in the Transmilenio lane (rapid, dedicated bus/emergency lane) by mistake, but only for about a block before I got back where I should've been. This was an honest mistake as the lanes are kind of tricky to figure out... until you realize you're in the wrong one!

A couple blocks later, I recognized the street I wanted to turn on, and could see other cars turning left there, so figure it'd be fine... 

...until it was my turn and I somehow managed to turn right into the path of one of the Transmilenio buses.

One of the big, red, double-length, accordion style, massive busses like this:

Bogota Transmilenio
photo via colombia_magica on Flickr

In our little Kia.

I pulled right over to the median... and immediately started crying. There were police there immediately (since they were all around for the protests) , but none of them spoke English. I was crying and scared and shaken up and couldn't even communicate with anyone. And had just gotten into an accident WITH A BUS.

I tried calling Peter several times, but again couldn't get ahold of him. I knew the security guy was in meetings, so I called his wife back and told her what happened. She was able to get ahold of him and he went to find Peter... who was in a meeting with the ambassador. I guess they asked if it was an emergency and he was, like, "Um, yeah, it is." So Peter called me and I was able to pass the phone to one of the police officers who was standing at my window. In the time that it took for me to get Peter on the phone, however, somehow between my hysterics and pretty-much-complete-lack-of-Spanish, the police office got the impression that I was, in fact, the Canadian Ambassador's wife. Which explains why, within about 20 minutes, there were two ambulances, over a dozen police, several Transmilenio staff/guards AND A TV CREW there.

It was super.

They took Andrew and I into one of the ambulances to check my blood pressure, pulse, and check on the baby. All were fine. Then they made us get on a gurney and be wheeled to the other ambulance. What a scene. They whole time they were insisting that we be taken to the hospital, only Peter'd told me repeatedly NOT TO GO ANYWHERE. I wasn't even supposed to have gotten out of the car (!), but couldn't argue with two dozen well-meaning, non-English-speaking Colombian men.

In the end, Peter and one of the Embassy drivers came and stayed with the car while I took a taxi to the hospital that's right near our place. I was pretty sure any damage was just muscular (ie, no broken bones), but Peter wanted me to get checked out. Thankfully, the Embassy sent a guy to meet me at the ER and stay with me and Andrew the whole time, so that made things easier. By the time I was through at the ER (diagnosis: whiplash), Peter'd realized that he had the car/house keys and he was still downtown. I called a friend and ended up spending the afternoon at her place with Andrew, where she fed both our tummies and our souls... not much that chai tea and a warm bowl of soup can't soothe!

During the time I was at the hospital, Peter'd received calls from friends, co-workers, the ambassador AND someone from the office of the Colombian Foreign Affairs Minister. Not only that, but our ambassador down here had gotten a call from Ottawa from Colombia's ambassador to Canada.

Good news travels fast! 

Oh, and after Peter picked me up from my friend's and we were driving back to our place, he bumped into the car in front of us while stopped at a light.

I wish I was kidding.

Luckily he was hardly moving, so it did absolutely nothing... but I'm not going to lie... a few choice words might've been uttered at that point.

Suffice to say, the accident could've been much, much worse. Those buses are HUGE. And with me being (just over) 38 weeks pregnant and having Andrew in the car, etc, etc... I think a few guardian angels sacrificed themselves to keep us safe!

For those who read/understand Spanish, here's the protest I was trying to avoid, and here's a short article about the accident.  I have no idea what the comments are saying, but my guess is that they're along the lines of "Stupid foreign lady! Driving in the bus lane to avoid the traffic because she thinks she can do whatever she wants being a diplomat!" which totally wasn't the case.

So, yeah, there's the long and not-so-short of it.

Either way, if being HIT BY A BUS isn't enough to shake this baby loose, she's clearly not quite ready to come. It would've been a great excuse!

Our car will need a bit of work over the course of the next week (but looks remarkably good for having tried to take on a bus!), but other than a bit of whiplash, I'm fine. Andrew is fine. And baby girl is still cooking.

The amount of stress this cause Peter and the money this is likely to cost us in the end make me feel sick, but I have to remind myself that it's just money. If pressed to pick a winner between a double-length, accordion Transmilenio bus and a little Kia Soul, pretty sure most people would put their money on the bus, eh?


  1. Oh, Amy, you do things up royally!!! Now they are not only talking about the crazy Canadian who speaks Argentine Spanish BUT his wife who takes on the big bus!! Yes, news travels fast! They'll be waiting for you in Ottawa!! Teasing aside, we are SO THANKFUL that all three of you are ok. Love, Mom/Mora/Nana

  2. boy, Amy, you know how to make a stir. But seriously, I'm relieved to know you all are doing well. I used to ride those buses (they have them in some parts of Europe) and they are nothing to toy with. So you definitely need to thank those guardian angels (and their Coordinator) for keeping you all safe. Now get some rest, woman.

  3. OH...MY...GOD!! I was stressed out at the part about getting lost downtown, then the BUS?! My heart is racing just reading that. I am SO happy you're all ok. You definitely had some divine intervention.

  4. way to go big sis! i should've sent a memo down there to NOT mess with you! haha! i'm really glad you're ok... all 3 of you! i translated those comments, and bogotaians sure have it out for the trasit system there! but they are glad that Mrs. Canada is ok. yup, that's what they were calling you. bwahahahahaha!

  5. Oh Amy, darling, what a disaster. It reminds me of the time my van got incinerated -- no real harm done to me or Lucas, but the van was torched and I was a mess for a long time afterward. I was just out at lunch time driving and had to make the same sort of turn that caused the accident and I flashed back to it again -- two years later, the psychological scars are still fresh. I'm so so so glad it all turned out okay, and it *does* make a hell of a story!

  6. Amy I am sooooo glad you are okay. So glad!!! (I am calling my Columbian friend over right away to translate that news report ;) )

  7. Amy,
    I did find the 140 Twitter characters a little short on details :-). Glad to hear you are ultimately all right. Thanks for the tale - it was entertaining - albeit not the happiest story.

  8. So so so glad you, baby, and Andrew are okay.

  9. Amy, That had to be quite the experience for Mrs. Canada! So glad you and your 2 babies are okay (I guess Andrew isn't a baby anymore). Hugs, A. Dianne

  10. As a Colombian(Bogotano)-Canadian I enjoyed so much reading your story. Glad things turn out just fine. It funny to hear the Canadian perspective of customary things i grew up with in my beloved Bogota.



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