Transcendence on a bus

In Medellin, young lads often get on the busses with their boom boxes and perform a rap for their captive audience. A friend of mine calls them urban prophets and their critique of modern life is often sharp and moving.

But one day, a rapper got and said he was going to do something a bit different.

What he did was recite an old poem, a kind of melodramatic ballad about love, betrayal and death, over the backing of some classical piano music – maybe Chopin – that he had found on YouTube.

The result was the the most mesmerizing three-minute experience. The combination of words and music created a dramatic, tension-filled atmosphere and you could almost forget you were jolting along on a bus.

Welcome to Colombia, where the hustlers on the busses are artists at heart.

Share this post:Facebooktwitterredditlinkedin

Something that happened

For a variety of reasons I travelled on my own to the camp on the Coast this weekend.

The highlight of the journey was being called “patroncita” by the taxi driver on the last leg of the journey. This is pretty much untranslatable but if you know “patrona” means boss and the “ita” ending is a diminutive, you can maybe work it out.

Anyway, my plan was to travel back to Medellin by bus with my colleague Maria, who had bought her return ticket when she set off for the Coast on Thursday night. Someone “de confianza” (=trustworthy) was dispatched to buy my ticket on Saturday afternoon.

When we got to the bus station on Sunday afternoon we met one of our Children’s Club leaders, who was travelling to Medellin to sit an entrance exam at the public university here. He was from an indigenous background and this was the first time he had ever travelled outside his local area.

On my way to the bus station I had started to fret about our seats, would someone be kind enough to move seats so my colleague and I could sit together because what were the chances of our seats being near each other, right? (This may give you a bit of an insight into the way my mind works!)

“What number is your ticket?” I asked Maria.

“18. Yours?”


Our indigenous friend’s, 16.

Oh, and the camp was great.

Share this post:Facebooktwitterredditlinkedin

From the bus (2)

A little boy is walking along with his dad.

There are some big bags of rubbish on the pavement and the little boy wants to leap over them so his dad obliges, lifting him up by the arms so he can swing triumphantly over them.

A bit like this:

For by you I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall (or a rubbish bag, in this case). Psalm 18:29

Share this post:Facebooktwitterredditlinkedin

From the bus (1)

Two little boys run away from their mum and hide behind a wall.

The bus rushes on so I don’t see what happens next but I can guess: they are going to jump out at their mum and she is going to pretend to get a fright.

It never gets old.

Share this post:Facebooktwitterredditlinkedin

How about this for personalized transport provision?

I was getting the bus up to work, when it stopped and a man got off. All perfectly normal.

But then the bus driver shouted after him, “Hurry up!”

We waited for about 5 minutes and the man came running back, holding something that looked like a bank statement in his hand, and off we set, once more.

Share this post:Facebooktwitterredditlinkedin

Conversation on a bus

A lad got on the bus and sat beside me.

This is some of the conversation we had:

Him: Could you spare me some change for some breakfast?

Me: Isn’t there something else you could do? Like sell sweets?

Him: Later on that’s what I’ll do. But first, I have to get money for breakfast for my little brother and sister because there’s no food in the house. [Before you read on, try and imagine that. Literally no food in your house.] Then I’ll buy a box of chewing gum and go to work.

Me: How does that work out for you?

Him: It depends. Chewing gum is good. I pay $2,000 for the box and I can make $5,000 to $10,000 in day.

Me: What about your parents?

Him: My mum works as a housekeeper in another part of the city and I never knew my dad. My mum comes on Sundays. My little brother was injured in an accident to his spine and can’t work. But he gets a pension.My little sister is doing well, she’s in Primary 4. I studied to Primary 7 but I’m not studying now.

Me: And how old are you?

Him: 17.

Share this post:Facebooktwitterredditlinkedin

The bus ride home

When it rains, as it did today, it gets very difficult to get a taxi (I’ve complained about this before) so when I saw there wasn’t a long queue for the bus, I decided to join it and I didn’t have too long to wait.

The peanut seller who works the bus queues said, “Oh, they’ve let you come to these parts again,” and I said, “I usually get a taxi because it is such a pain to get the bus” and he said, “You’re posh, you.”

As it worked out, the bus wasn’t too full for most of 20-minute journey up the hill and then, two minutes from home, we stopped and an overfull bus in front off-loaded 10 to 15 passengers who all got on our bus.

So when I had to get off, I had to force my way through a scrum of bodies; somebody got her long hair painfully yanked; toes were stood on; tummies squished.

When I finally stood on the step I turned back and said, a bit grandly, “I apologize to everybody I may have crushed,” and some gracious people laughed.

When I got off the bus, my heart was pounding, I was short of breath, I was sweating – it felt like I had been at the gym.

Taxi tomorrow, I think.

Share this post:Facebooktwitterredditlinkedin

Double take

Tattoos are not uncommon here and I spotted one on a woman’s arm as I waited for the bus this morning.

That’s an unusual tattoo, I thought. I’ve not seen one like that before with lots of little writing and little logo.

Then I realized I was seeing the safety information on the bus window between me and the woman.

In my defence, I will say that it was very early in the morning.

Share this post:Facebooktwitterredditlinkedin

The early bird

News this week of the capture of a criminal who got up early to steal from commuters on Bogotá’s Transmilenio transport system.

For several months he was getting up at 4am to start his nefarious activities.

His nickname was The Cockerel.

Share this post:Facebooktwitterredditlinkedin

An angel with a shabby guitar

Last week an older man carrying an extremely battered guitar got on the bus I was on, greeted us and began to sing. I have to say, I didn’t have high expectations, but he had a remarkably tuneful voice and I almost immediately recognised the song, a setting of Psalm 37 v.4: Delight yourself in God and he will give you the desires of your heart.

This was so perfect for what I was thinking and feeling that day, that I instantly felt utterly blessed and knew that God had sent this man onto that bus – which made him an angel, even if his guitar was a wreck.

Share this post:Facebooktwitterredditlinkedin