Paraguay’s Commuter Buses

RoadThe bus groans, heaving up the hill. The driver slams the bus into another gear. Someone pulls the cord, there’s a buzz, and then the bus lurches to a stop. Everyone is thrown back—even the people sitting hold on tight. In Paraguay, you can catch the bus anywhere along its route and get off anywhere along the way. You just buzz to stop and put out your hand (like you would hail a taxi) to get the bus to stop.

The bus starts again and the person who got on pushes through the metal turnstiles at the front of the bus and takes a seat. At the back of the bus are maybe five plastic burlap bags with produce. If you can lift it onto the bus you can take it on. The wind whips through the open windows; a welcome coolness to offset the penetrating sun. I should have sat on the shady side.

We jolt to another stop. Some school children get on. They duck under the turnstile because they didn’t pay. A woman next to the seat where I’m sitting presses against my shoulder and the bus roars up the road again. The bus swerves back onto the street from the curve where it had been driving for the past kilometer. The bus puffs black smoke as we pass someone on a dirt bike.

We stop and someone selling apples and someone selling donuts gets on. They make their rounds and get off at the next stop. They carry their goods in baskets and plastic bags.

I wonder how many people on the bus are going to my community. I watch the palm trees wiz by, surrounded by tall grass. There are cows tied up along the edges of the road. The bus driver drinks terere. His windshield is decorated with stickers of Jesus’ face and fringe. When the bus isn’t full, I love the ride.

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