I finally did it today. For the first time since arriving in Brasil, I tried out the public transportation system. I took the bus for the first time. And it only took me, what, 6 months to do it? But, regardless, it was a bit of an experience.
Just figuring out the bus system was complicated enough. I need a map. That's all, just a map. A map that shows me the bus routes. But, I haven't come across as much yet and everyone I ask about how to figure out which bus to take just tells me I need to ask other people at the bus stop or ask the driver when a bus pulls up. Me being me, that wasn't going to be good enough. So yesterday, I made Eric go with me over to the American School so I could look at the bus stop next to it and see if it had any bus numbers listed. It did list one number, and so then I was able to come home and look up the bus schedule online (now that I had a bus line number to search by.) We made a little map ourselves by looking at the schedule and entering addresses into Google Earth. In the end it all worked out and I made it to the school and back just fine today. But the experience I had on the bus was interesting.
Maybe it was guy who sat across from me none-too-discreetly picking his nose for 10 minutes straight. Or maybe it was the really poor area that the bus went through where I saw 2 little kids who couldn't have been a day over 5 years-old digging through a mountain of garbage bags on the side of the street. Or maybe it was the gray-headed woman who sat in front of me and only had one arm - the other one had been removed and by the looks of the scars it was amputated with a dull dinner knife. Yeah, they were really horrific looking scars. Or maybe it was the one-armed lady's little boy who must have been about three years old who came up to me and jumped right into my lap with the biggest smile and big brown eyes until his mom yelled at him to get off of me and come sit with her. But, the whole thing was really kind of moving.
We live in a really nice part of town and while we do come across homeless people or kids juggling at the stoplight and asking for money on a daily basis, I really do not find myself in uncomfortable situations very often. And while I can usually be not-too-overly-grossed-out and handle some guy digging in his nose so fiercely, to see kids living in extreme poverty or to see someone who seems to lack access to decent health care, well, those things are uncomfortable in a "why do these conditions exist" and "wow, how did I end up so amazingly blessed" sort of way. And then you feel sort of guilty about being frustrated because you had to wait two months for your new car to be delivered, or being aggravated because you can't find just the right fabric for a shower curtain, or thinking that life is going to come to a complete standstill if you don't get your hands on some manila folders right now! While I fret over the little challenges in my life there are five year-olds just a few miles from here digging through trash trying to find some food, or something to play with, or something they can sell so they can buy themselves some cigarettes...I don't know what they were looking for, but I do know that never in my life have I felt the need to dig through garbage on the street.
I had really lost most of the "wow" factor that seemed to exist for me when we first came to Brasil. I don't know if I was seeing less poverty living in my little happy neighborhood or if I had just become numb to it, but today shook me back up a little. I have no great ideas on what to do to change anything or how to even help a little bit right now, but, at the very least, it made me appreciate everything that I have been so richly blessed with.