The Bus Ride That Is Life

Kenya Barbosa-McCauley - Brazil


December 10, 2016

I pop my headphones in and sit down on the metal benches as the cracking yellow paint rubs on my pants. I lean my tired, heavy head on the plastic, graffiti-etched backing that holds it all together. The bus stop.They all look the same, blue, white and yellow just like the buses. 

When I see the blue, white and yellow blob peering around the edge I stand up and lean my arm out. Turn Your Lights Down Low is playing in my headphones as I step onto the bus and I realize Bob Marley and Lauryn Hill's voices have distracted me and I've forgot to say "bom dia" after paying the ticket guy. I find a seat and look around at all the faces. I've always been a people watcher. I smile to myself and remember my granddad, I got that from him. A woman across from me tries to keep her son still as he squirms in his seat, chomping on his pão de qeijo. Behind her, two young hippies stand up, firmly holding on to their jewelry boards. I assume the two of them are heading into the centrinho to sell their art to the eager, naive gringos looking for some "authentic brazilian jewelry". My people watching is interrupted as I feel myself being watched. I glance out of the corner of my eye and the guy next to me is shamelessly grinning ear to ear in my direction. Irritated and confrontational as I am, I look at him and roll my eyes. "Oi linda tudo bem?", he says to me. A droplet of his spit flies and clings to my shoulder. Gross, I think. I don't respond and turn to look out the window. He continues by asking me if I have a boyfriend and where I'm from. I pretend I can't hear him, letting my headphones be my excuse.
We're passing the lake now and I smile to the people walking along the lake. Natirruts is ringing through my headphones and I feel at home. I see young men playing a pickup soccer game, and my body yearns to jump in. As I study the faces of the people along the street, I feel a yank and my headphone falls out of my right ear. "Linda, tem uma festa hoje…vamos?" I decline and watch his ear to ear grin turn into an irritated eye roll. I look back out the window and smile to myself. Can't please everyone, I think.
I love this part of my day. My daily trip to work by bus is "me time". It's become my time to reflect on all I've learned here so far. My people watching time. The woman and her son remind me of the under appreciation of women, and I remember my single mom and all she's done for me in my eighteen years. The two hippies selling jewelry remind me of the creativity and innovation and desire in the country's youth and I remember my own dreams. The relentless man next to me reminds me of the overpowering male presence and machismo here. Each of these people on the bus represent something different that I've learned about myself, humans and specifically Brasil's culture. Everyone is on their way somewhere, different dreams and concerns moving rapidly in their minds. These bus rides have taught me about the importance of diversity and impact each of us has. I'm excited to make my mark on this world and eager to learn about my importance and place here.
I arrive to work and step off the bus, immediately greeted by the kids I work with's suffocating hugs. We walk inside and I remind myself of the impact these kids and I have on each other, and all I've yet to learn from them. I smile at this thought and begin my day. 

Kenya Barbosa-McCauley