A six-year-old girl in her school uniform, khaki skirt and blue shirt, was half sitting on my lap and half on her mother’s. My left side was wedged against the door with the handle leaving its mark on my upper thigh. Sitting directly across from me was an older woman carrying two chickens in a burlap sack and next to her my mom sat perched on my dad’s lap. Bachata was blaring through the speakers of the minivan and the driver was singing along. We were traveling west along Route 5 on the north coast of the Dominican Republic between Cabarete and Puerto Plata in a gua gua. The popular minivans have been modified to seat over 20 people—normal capacity is around 11. Sitting on laps is expected and if you bring too much luggage you can plan on paying an extra fee for the space it takes up. With daily temperatures hovering around 85 degrees with 85% humidity, you can also expect it to be a little stinky. Hot, sweaty, smelly and cramped, but cheap and friendly.
I glanced over at my parents, “okay?” They both grinned, enjoying the experience. Behind me and to the right, a conversation was getting louder. A few more people joined in and the driver turned the music down. The discussion continued for the next twenty minutes into town with the volume getting louder, fists waving, some shouting. The driver continued down the highway. I looked over at my parents and they were no longer smiling. The gua gua emptied at the bus station in downtown Puerto Plata and people went their separate ways, shouting over the shoulders at each other, not quite wanting the conversation to finish. My mom grabbed me by the upper arm “what was that all about?” “I thought the driver was going to pull over for a roadside brawl.” My dad exclaimed. I laughed and hugged my mom. “no worries, they were debating the interpretation of a specific section of the Bible!”