December 18, 2012
How Best to Spend a Very Hot Day
I left just after midnight Monday morning for a quick trip to Asuncion. Thinking about this heat that the Paraguayans are referring to as deadly, I figured I'd avoid the overcrowded, overheated, often broken down on the side of the road buses that travel in the light of day. Good choice.
I packed a few sets of extra clothes in case I needed to spend a night or two--one never knows in the Big City.
I arrived at 7 AM, happy that no one had gotten nauseous, no one had stood over me the whole time, and I'd not had anyone in my lap. Great trip! Then I stepped off that last step and into the early morning air at the bus station.
It took my breath away.
|Took this pic a few days ago. For|
you Yanks, that's Celsius. That'd
be just over 125* F. Yep, it's hot.
And don't worry--the inside one
hasn't ever worked, so we're not
cooling our car to -26! ;)
I'd opted to splurge for the bus with a/c on the long trips and knew that meant I wouldn't be taking taxi rides that day, so I made my way over to the bus stop across the street. First stop: x-rays.
"You going by the San Roque Hospital?" I ask several drivers. They all tell me other bus line numbers to look for. When that one stopped, the guy waves me on board and said he'd go within a couple of blocks.
Close enough, right? After all, it's early in the day, how hard can it be to walk a couple of blocks at 7 AM? Ummm, with a cane and a limp. And a backpack full of a few changes of clothes, my food for the day, a couple of electronic gadgets like my phone charger, and a ton of medical records. And a cast on my free hand, which was being used like a coat hanger for the extra things that wouldn't fit in the backpack. Doable. Not ideal, but doable. A little later, I questioned that assessment.
I had to give the healthy young lady sitting in the handicapped seat on the bus a major stare-down and finally ask her to get up, then kinda wedge my way into her seat, amidst her grumbling and slinging stuff around. I don't usually stoop to that, but it's totally okay culturally to insist on your rights (the old "everyone does it"), and I figured it was better than falling in her lap. The other passengers are at this point giving me the Good job. That's the way you do it! looks as I slink down into my spot.
A few kilometers later, the bus driver yells over to me, "This is as close as I get to the hospital. Get off here and walk that way, or wait for bus #13 to come by." He dropped me off in the middle of the roughest place in Asuncion--Mercado 4. There's a whole movie made about the crime scene there, and here I trapse off looking like an awfully easy target.
Grab this gal's bags! What will she do, whack you with her cane? Nope, she can't lift her arm that high because of the bags hanging off it!
I had quite a bit of conversation with the Lord as I walked those streets uphill, realizing that no buses actually passed through there. When will I learn that not all bus drivers tell the truth?
I tried to smile and look menacing at the same time, but it must have come off as half-dead. I knew I was looking rough when a 90-year-old lady pushing a severely handicapped young gal in a decrepit wheelchair yelled up the road to me a phrase of encouragement. "Fuerza!" "You can do it!"
Before the day was over, I'd walked about a trillion blocks, hopped a slew of crazy buses, ran into a few old pals, and met some interesting folks. The good news is that when you're walking, the street vendors and stoplight beggars don't hit you up for money.
And those extra duds came in handy. Every time I made a stop, I took a mini-bath in the restroom and changed into the next set of clothes, a bit like those con men in the movies. I was thrilled to have clean clothes and empathizing a bit with the homeless folks who had nowhere to go to escape the heat.
After the x-rays and other errands, I did finally get my cast off, making it worth the trip. I didn't know my skin would be so freaky (why didn't you former cast wearers warn me?), so I was sure that the people I encountered the rest of the evening were viewing me as a leper.
We're still determining if the pain and swelling are a result of being in the cast for so long. I'm banking on that healing, but the doctor wants me to come back in a couple of weeks for further x-rays so he can be as sure as I am.
I left his office under strict orders not to use the hand yet (You do know how I'm traveling, right, dr?), excited that I'd finished the medical stuff and could go back home the same day. Now to get to the bus station in time.
Who was sitting in that special reserved-for-handicapped seat on my last city bus? A 40-something guy getting his flirt on with the batting-her-eyelashes young gal serving him terere. I gave him the look, said the customary "Excuse me" and waited. I bounced around a few times while he tried to avoid eye contact, and then we did a major start-stop that sent me flying.
As he was, of course, a gentleman, he jumped up to catch me, and when I got stabilized, I slid into his seat with my best, "Puh-lease!" It came out more like, "Por faVOR!" Then he did the famous ñembotavy (playing dumb) and acted like it was the first time he noticed me flailing around the bus standing 2 inches from him. Poor guy. Must have had some serious visual impediment.
I got there 5 minutes too late for the 6 PM bus, texted a couple girlfriends who live nearby, visited a bit with them, kept my eye out for suspicious characters in the bus station, met that quota, and generally sat around for my 6-hour wait for the ride back home, where I was just SURE it was Wednesday already. My bed and my shower never felt so good!