Board the chicken bus with Cece as she goes on a multi-country odyssey with Janet LoSole
Board the chicken bus with Cece as she goes on a multi-country odyssey with Janet LoSole
During these nose-nipping, finger-freezing frosty cold days, ones where you’d swear you’d seen, through the blinding snow squalls, a brass monkey running around without some of his ‘best parts,’ a time when we are not allowed to travel to the sun’s healing manna, is the absolute perfect time to take a trip, if only vicariously, to the steamy climes of Central America.
Janet LoSole, author of Adventure by Chicken Bus, and her husband, Lloyd, both certified teachers, agreed that when their children came along, Janet would be a stay-at-home mom who would homeschool their kids through both elementary and high school classes.
“Our goal was to focus, one hundred percent, on the well-being of our family, and provide the girls, Jocelyn and Natalie, with as many educational opportunities as possible without the confines of a government-imposed curriculum,” Janet says.
But the couple’s original blueprint of cultivating deeper bonds within the family unit as an integral part of homeschooling started to go off the rails as the couple got into more and more debt. One salary just wasn’t cutting it, so Janet took on teaching contracts in the evening after Lloyd came home from his day job as a teacher.
Realizing that their plan of spending more time together was being completely sabotaged by one of them working days and the other nights, as well as not seeing any real dent in their debt, the couple decided to make a list of what was most important to each of them, all of the things that they wanted to do with their lives. When they finished their lists and swapped them, both Janet and Lloyd had written ‘travel’ as their number one wish.
“We looked at each other and the decision was made – we were going to travel,” Janet says with a laugh. “The only thing that we had to figure out was how to accomplish that, given we had the girls, Natalie who at the time was five, and Jocelyn, who was eight. Lloyd and I both agreed that travelling would be an amazing opportunity for the kids to see other parts of the world and learn other languages. And because we were homeschooling, we had the opportunity to make that decision. As soon as the weather got nice, we began holding perpetual garage sales, virtually selling every fork and every grain of salt to pay down our debt and finance the trip. The only thing we didn’t sell was the house, which we rented while we were gone.”
The couple also applied for and secured positions teaching English as a second language (ESL) in Costa Rica. However, just before they left Canada, Janet got a call from the school saying the positions had already been filled. Undeterred, the couple, with the garage sale proceeds securely tucked into their money belts, created a stringent monthly budget, which quickly became a philosophic teaching component of their trip.
“We wanted the girls to see how other people lived; we wanted them to learn other languages. And because we were travelling on an extreme budget, they could see what it was like to live with limited financial resources, similar to the people we would be living among,” Janet says.
The love for travel has been an integral part of Janet’s raison d’etre since she was a teenager; travel ignites and satiates her bottomless sense of adventure, her curiosity about nature and far-flung countries, as well as her commitment to the environment, (of which she is a devoted advocate). It is a love affair that she celebrates with come-alive imagery and flair in her book, Adventure by Chicken Bus.
Chicken buses acted as a stage, with us as the audience
“I started travelling when I was 17,” the author says. “I developed a passion for it, and once I got going, I didn’t want to stop. (Quick aside: I concur!). On this particular trip, however, while I still had that burning curiosity, I was also worried about keeping everybody safe and healthy, something every parent must do when they take their kids on a trip of this nature. There was at times some anxiety and stress, but the curiosity that comes with travel far overweighed those feelings; travel actually builds confidence. This is, in fact, one of the reasons we took the girls on the trip; as females, we wanted them to learn about problem solving, trying different foods, and solving communication breakdowns. Lloyd and I wanted Jocelyn and Natalie to have the confidence to travel when they grew up.”
Being an avid traveler to Costa Rica for the past twenty (glorious) years, I am well familiar with both the country and the Latin American culture. And so, as I turned the pages of Janet’s book, pages that painted the intimate details of the Tico life in Costa Rica, the rural village settings, the flavourful foods, the bountiful coconuts that thunk to the ground and once split, can be savoured for their sweet meat and milk, the boisterous Sunday soccer games on the beach, the smell of Tico BBQs permeating the ocean breeze, the farting backfire of the ever-ubiquitous motorcycles that carry families of four and five, who clutch tightly to each other’s waists as their bikes skid along the ruts and juts in the road, are all details that Janet captures in deliciously authentic detail.
Take this instance from the book, for example, one which drops the reader right into one of the family’s rented cabinas:
“Despite its questionable electrical safety, the cabina had three things going for it: the price, the lookout onto the orchard, and the large laundry sink we could use to wash vegetables to prepare a cold supper. Using the five adventure-by-chicken-bus essential items—a knife, a can opener, a grater, a garlic press, and a peeler—we could prepare a cold stew of chopped avocado, corn niblets, chickpeas, grated cheese, diced carrots, chopped tomatoes, and cucumber.”
Or here, where Janet describes an afternoon tour with the family:
“The fifteen minute ride afforded spectacular scenes that rose above us on the lush river banks. Lloyd pointed out cormorants drying their wings on jutting stumps. A water buffalo grazed quietly on reeds, undisturbed by the buzz of the motor. He lifted his head and looked right at Natalie, who was studying him. When the animal turned away, she shot me a look, her eyes wide and her mouth shaped into an “o” of wonder.”
Of course, the many adventures by chicken bus, the exploits and exploration, are captivatingly captured by Janet:
“The next day we traveled a short hop by chicken bus to the spectacular Pulhapanzak Falls. Trundling along, I saw campesinos toiling on farms terraced against the rolling green countryside. I felt like I had stepped back in time. Young boys straddled burros, looking like Huckleberry Finn in threadbare trousers cinched at the waist with rope and wearing straw hats. We stopped occasionally to pick up passengers and in one town, at the very cusp of the main road, a woman, illustrating expertly the concept of “location, location, location,” sold beer and gallo pinto from a stall erected from cinder block and corrugated metal. The bus honked its arrival and three men swigged the last of their beers, paid up, and hopped on the bus.”
And while there are some things that stand out in one’s memory, no matter how young, (or how old), Janet wanted to ensure that Jocelyn and Natalie, who in very short order were able to hablar español con fluidez, (speak Spanish fluently), would have a record of this rich and poignant two-year journey of adventure as a family.
“I wanted to write the book, (which was originally a series of blogs), so that the girls would have a record of our time together, all of the places that we saw, all of the adventures that we experienced,” Janet says. “There are a lot of travel books and travel memoirs out there, but as far as books that are actually written by families who take their kids on these kinds of trips, the number is minimal, probably less than ten. I was honest about what it is really like to travel with two kids in the developing world, so I included some funny stories so that readers could see that sometimes the reality of it all was funny, and sometimes it was hairy, and sometimes it was absolutely heart pounding.”
Of course any traveller worth their air miles usually wants to know which countries a seasoned traveler such as Janet would recommend, what countries or cities she would go back to again…and again.
“The reason why some of the countries stick out in our minds as favorites is because of the people that we met. There was a bus driver in Panama City who was trying to drop us off at the closest stop to the museum but he didn’t quite know where it was, so he turned to the passengers and asked, “Does anyone know where the museum is?” Therein ensued a funny debate among the passengers: “It’s here; no it is on the next street.” Finally, they all agreed where the bus should stop. As we got off, several of the people gave directions, telling me which street to walk down and where to turn left,” Janet says with a fond laugh. “We got off the bus, but it didn’t leave when we disembarked. As we walked away, the bus waited to make sure that we were going in the right direction. At one point, I turned around and several people were at the window watching us. I stuck out my arm indicating I was turning left and they all nodded. I told the girls to wave to them and everyone on the bus leaned out the window and waved back. These are the kinds of experiences that you would never experience here, in Canada. It is definitely the people that we met that stick out the most in our minds.”
While they lived for many months in the rural Costa Rican village of Quebrada Ganado, located on the Pacific Coast, the family often travelled to several of the bigger cities, where Lloyd would teach. There were often times, as well, when Janet utilized her teaching schools as an ESL instructor.
Panama, Nicaragua, Belize, Guatemala and Mexico were also countries that the LoSole family explored as they created new memories together during their two year adventure.
Summing up her family’s multi-country odyssey into a one sentence nutshell, Janet laughingly says,
“Nothing can take the place of a chicken bus for getting to know and appreciate a culture.”
Make sure to pop by next week when Cece chats with Catherine McKenzie, international bestselling author of ten novels, including her latest book, You Can’t Catch Me.
Did you miss the clues to the Barry and Honey Sherman murders? Read author Kevin Donovan’s The Billionaire Murders profile here…
Cece is the feature cover writer for several prestigious publications, and is an informed, connected and enthusiastic book blogger at cecescott.com. Her first book, The Love Story, was published in 2019. Her second book will be coming out in the spring of 2021. Cece is also working on a book of Daily Reflections for Auto Immune Condition Warriors.
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