The Life of a Bus Vendor

In Paraguay, the bus system is extensive and the main form of transportation. Many people don’t own cars, so unless something is walking distance or within your town’s limits (close enough to ride to on a dirt bike) you take the bus. Even if you’re used to riding buses in the States, you would be surprised by the bus vendor culture in Paraguay.

As you pass through almost any town, a chipa vendor will hop on the bus, calling “chipa, chipa, chipa” in a voice similar to that used at baseball games by the vendors who walk up and down the stands. Those chipa ladies will work their way down the entire length of the bus, no matter how packed it is. During rush hour, the bus aisle is so full there’s no room to turn and nothing left onto you can hold. How the chipa vendors get through that crowd is a mystery.

In more urban areas, or where there are a lot of people getting on and off buses, vendors sell things like gum, soda, cell phone chargers, fruit, dish towels, lottery tickets…really anything. These vendors sweat to earn their keep. They hop on and off the bus while it’s still moving, how? I don’t know. They jump the bus turnstiles and can spot interested buyers before those buyers seem to know they want to buy. They carry heavy baskets. They work during the hottest time of the day. They start early. They end late.

They make their money twenty, thirty, fifty cents at a time. Everyday, whenever the buses are running, is a workday for them.

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