An Ode to Bus Stops (A photo journal, not a poem)

Charlotte Robbins - Ecuador


April 3, 2016

This year, finding, walking to, waiting at, and getting off at bus stops has become an incredibly important part of my life. No matter where I've lived in the Cuenca area, I have always been on the blue city bus line, and I've been able to connect the map of bus routes each time I've moved families. I’ve gained so much confidence from knowing that I can get anywhere in the city by myself for 25 cents. Bus stops are places that allow me to escape my homestay reality, and also return to it. They are places where I get lost in a podcast or the Harry Potter audiobooks, and where I stand for half an hour in the pouring rain or sit down on a dirty curb. I've chosen a few of my favorite bus stops to share with stories that make me laugh and cry, because my experiences at these stops is one of the best ways to sum up my year so far.

This was my first bus I ever waited at in Cuenca, the 3 to San Miguel. During Immersion Week I searched all over for this stop, because I imagined it to be “more legit”, not just a tree. One night in the middle of my first host family stay, 3 of my host siblings and I ended up coming home on the same bus, and when we got off they started racing to the house, past all of the terrifying dogs. My 11 year old host brother turned back and yelled "ya vamos Charlotte!" and I remember matching his crazy grin and starting off at a sprint.

About two weeks later I stopped by this spot at 8:30pm and leaned against the tree sobbing to my friend Brianna over the phone about the injustice of the world and the fate of a little boy.

When I was living with my second host family, I would walk to this bus stop at 7:30 am to wait for the private buseta to take me uphill to my apprenticeship. Although I was supposed to be punctual or risk getting left behind, the buseta was almost always very late, so many days I needed to keep myself occupied for the wait. On the day I took this picture, I was sitting (more balancing) on a small rock jutting out of the side of a wall of dirt, crocheting a scarf for my sister in the U.S., listening and singing along to really loud, fast music. I was in such a trance crocheting rapidly and singing loudly, that when the buseta finally arrived I didn't notice for a few minutes and my coworkers and the moms just sat laughing at me.

This stop is also home to a little tienda where they sell Manicho (really good milk chocolate and peanut bars) for 40 cents instead of 50…that’s a big deal.

I wait here with my host sisters now to go into Cuenca city. We wait along the dusty road, talking and laughing, ignoring the men staring out behind the windows of the candle factory where they work. I have also found that the friendliest/most nosy neighbors wait at this stop because someone is always interrogating me about what living with my host family is like.

This is the end of the line for the bus that takes me almost directly to my apprenticeship’s sister shelter in Cuenca. It also has the most astonishingly beautiful view. I waited at this stop at 6:30am frequently in February, and I always stood near a small girl who looked familiar but I never could place her. About a month into waiting next to her, I realized she was my ten year old neighbor and I had accidentally ignored her for a month.

This is what Terminal Terrestre looks like from the hard plastic chairs in front of the sign that says 101 YANATURO, the bus that takes me home. I love the terminal, not for the smell, but for its merits as an easy way to transfer city buses without paying a second time. I generally tune the world out here and listen to podcasts or books, but on this particular day I took out my headphones and laughed with the other people waiting as this dog pranced up and down the lanes.


Charlotte Robbins