Kaleb Rogers is a Community Economic Development (CED) volunteer serving in a pueblo in Atlántico, Colombia.
A lot of Peace Corps volunteers savor going to the head office in Barranquilla. They savor the opportunity to spend a night out of site. They savor (literally) the chance to eat non-pueblo food. They savor seeing friends, being in malls, speaking English, and remembering what it’s like to live in a developed area for a change.
That’s not to say I don’t enjoy these things too. But there’s something else I enjoy more: the bus.
The bus is like clockwork, reliable. Regardless of when I go up the bajada by my house, I never have to wait for long. I shield myself from the advances of motocarros and colectivos. I’m here for my one and only. My one and only is the bus.
I know the bus. I know that if I’m going to Barranquilla in the morning that I should sit to the left of the aisle, facing west. The Caribbean sun will bake even wind-swept skin, so one must take care to avoid it. I know I should sit by a window, which — for some unthinkable reason — does not exist by every seat. The lack of AC will broil me alive if I position myself out of wind’s way. If I sit in the front, I’ll be distracted by the yelling of the cobrador and the surely not OSHA-certified practices of the conductor. If I sit in the back, every crack in the road will send me soaring. Despite boarding the bus while relatively empty, my choice is immediately whittled down to 2–3 seats. Luckily, my site is the first stop. What’s that expression? El gusano temprano consigue el puesto deseado (just kidding I made that up).
The bus is the only place I can actually take a nap. The bus provides just the right amount of noise and discomfort to never let me fall into too deep a sleep. The warmth, the wind, and the slow hum of vallenato cradle me into a slumber, only to be awakened at the next speed bump. Many of my journeys consist of exactly this: a rollercoaster ride slipping in and out of consciousness.
The bus is always there for me. The bus is my meditation. It’s one of those few moments I feel “disconnected.” For much of the ride I don’t have cell service. Luckily, I’m blessed with two gifts: the ability to read in a vehicle without getting sick and Spotify. At times I listen to music for stretches of the ride. Depending on how hopped up I am on caffeine, I may even sing along, drawing the confused attention of my fellow pasajeros. Otherwise, I may read for long portions of the 2-hour journey. I vividly recall vocalizing my frustrations while reading Harvest of Empire, for example. These eccentric expressions surely also pique the interest of those around me.
The best moments, though, are those when I look up from my book for a moment, or when there is a brief pause in between songs on my Spotify playlist. Gazing out the window at the Colombian savannah, I think. I think about things I should write, content I should make, and projects I should pursue. It is no wonder the opening imagery of two of my previous articles Fighting and I’m Going Through Changes begin with scenes from my transportation solitude. It’s one of those few moments where I feel what they say one is supposed to feel while practicing mindfulness. I look out, I feel the breeze, and my thoughts just pass me by.