16 December 2011

Mass Transit - Part Two - Kilometro 21

Please be strapped into your chair as you read this. I do not want anyone getting hurt as their laughter knocks them to the floor.


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This is Kilometro 21.

On the left, the large white building is the gas station with the tan building being a sort of 'convenience' store. On the right of the dirt road, you can barely make out some taxis parked on the corner, with some garages for repair/storage of those taxis just to their south on the dirt road.

I can't believe I was able to locate this place on Google maps!

So here I am standing at Kilometro 21, (not my in-laws house). It is just before 9 pm. The buses I am told, run until 10. I am waiting for the bus to come by. I know the bus I was on was "no longer operating for the evening", but there are multiple buses that run the same route. I know what it looks like. It always stops here. There are other people waiting.

Two words: Taxi driver.

Oh, he seemed so helpful. I knew when he approached me that he was just looking for a fare from the norteamericano. I explained my recent adventure to him. He asked about where my in-laws lived. I gave him the half-tire-my-property-line-Paraguay vs Germany-Vicente-Felipa-three-turns-in-from-the-church 'directions'. He ended up being the only Paraguayan who did not pretend to know everyone in town. He looked puzzled. He calls across the street to some other taxi drivers. About 4 of them now are all talking Guarani seeming as if they are attempting to figure out the great mystery of the ages. One of the younger ones says something and they ALL say, "Oh yes, yes. I know where that is!" "Oh, Great!" I felt more secure with his uncertainty.  He assures me that he knows where this church is and that the young kid actually KNOWS my in-laws. Heh.

Two words: It rained.

As we get into the taxi and drive off, it starts raining; not a lot, but raining. This rain is only the manifestation of the humidity I had been 'enjoying' all evening. I am 6'1" and 280 pounds. I sweat. Humidity condenses on me. He was shorter, but just as stocky for his height. Perspiration? We were equal.

I am not so sure what kind of car this was. It seemed to be a mixture of several different cars all put together in one of those garages. I realized as we drove off that this vehicle was a stick shift with no first gear. We jerked violently to a start. We were off! As we drove along toward the church, which is on this same road, the rain really started coming down. He winds up his window, except for a crack at the top.  I follow suit. He is not using his wipers. We make a turn. I tell him that the church is straight ahead. he assures me that my desired destination is that way.

The car stops. "Is that it?" he asks. I look out the window to see a church. Nice church. Not the church. "Oh, OK", he replies. "It must be the one that is that way. We jerk to a start. We're off again. The rain is really coming down now. He takes me to about 4 different churches. None of them are the right one. If you knew the make-up of this area or any back roads towns in rural Paraguay, you would understand my amazement at the fact that there were even so many churches and that he knew where so many were! I keep trying to explain to him that the church that I am referring to is back on the 'main' dirt road. He assures me again that Fernando and Felipa live that way, and he knows how to get there. Oh, Father! Please come to my aid. It's Vicente and Felipa! Who knows who this Fernando and Felipa are. I am sure they are very nice people and may even take in a lost norteamericano for the night. But my wife and children are at Vicente and Felipa's house.

Three words: Mechanic for hire.

So as we are driving in the manifested humidity, we too big sweaty men in this Toyo-nissa-onda-ford taxi, the windows are fogging up. Now, as I said, he is not using his wipers. Had he used them, he may have avoided the fogging up of his windshield. Now, he is not using the defroster either. Such the foreigner I am! The car stops; and stops in the most secluded, darkest spot on the planet.

He reaches under his steering wheel. Again, I am thinking 'easy prey'. He fiddles around with something.

The engine dies.
The lights go out.

He pulls out a wire from the dashboard and connects it to whatever he was fiddling with under the steering wheel.

The radio, the wipers and the defroster all come on.

We sit there a while, in the dark.

He says nothing.
I am praying.

The windshield clears up.

He disconnects the wires again; dead car, no wipers, no defrost, no radio, no engine, no lights

He reconnects the other wires. The car starts, the lights go on, we violently jump over first gear and we're off again!

After our late night local Capiata church tour, I finally convince him at 9:30 to take me back to Kilometro 21 (not my in-laws house) so that I can at least make one final attempt to get on the last bus. He obliges me. We finally both agree on one thing: Kilometro 21 is (say it with me); that way!

I can now see 'kilometro 21'. It is well lit, there is a gas station, some taxis, some people hanging around, loud music. That is not my in-laws' house. We arrive. He charges me the equivalent of $1.40 for my 45 minute church tour. I pay him the equivalent of $7.00.

It has been almost 3 hours since I last saw Julian.

To be continued....

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