Riding the Bus is Hard… and I Speak English

Part 1: Sometimes You Take a Leap

Visit #2… here we go. Remember that they need to ride the bus.

I have never ridden the bus.

Rebecca has never ridden the bus.

I had two kids in tow.

We had 6 people trusting us to teach them how to do this thing they need to survive. [cue a hectic 4 hours that I wouldn’t trade in to do anything else]

Let’s start from the beginning. I don’t know everything Rebecca was doing to prepare, but her husband told her we were going to have “fun” because neither of us had done it before.

I, meanwhile, nearly lost my mind on Tuesday trying to get ahead on work and try to figure out what the hell the Via bus website was good for. (Sorry again David… thanks for stepping in)

Oh, and kids were losing their minds, plus allergies, plus introvert stress, plus… yeah, you get the idea. The peace was gone, and I questioned if it was worth getting it back.

That’s the thing, sometimes you have to work hard for peace. It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s true.

So it’s Wednesday, and we’ve arrived. I have a one-week bus pass (least you can get at HEB); my backpack with purse things and a notebook, pens and pencils, a couple kid books; two kids; a pocket full of change; a water bottle and a few snacks.

Rebecca, luckily, has a purse full of change too.

We met the family and left, showing them how to ride the bus to English class. And let me tell you… that was the easiest part of the day.

We walked to the bus stop, where the directionally confident leader was sure we were where we were supposed to be. The directionally challenged one trusted her, though it didn’t make sense what she thought her map said. We missed a bus on the other side of the street (turns out that was what we needed). When the other bus showed up, we discovered this important fact… Now we knew where we were going.

Kind of.

THEN we discovered the family didn’t have bus passes. Literally not till the correct bus showed up. We thought Catholic Charities was providing some for today, but it didn’t happen. This is a new program, sponsors for refugee families, so things fall through the crack. It happens. But we were in a bit of a pickle.

Remember, we at least have pockets full of change thanks to Rebecca, who enlightened me on this fact the day before. So we all get on the bus and are fine for now.

I’m super uptight by this point. Rebecca at least knows how to laugh at herself. So we’re trying to figure this out. We think the bus driver let us on without paying as much as we needed to, because we lost track. On the way off… we find out we should have asked for a transfer card when we got ON… not when getting off. Peachy. I can ask the next bus driver, but we may have to pay full fare. It just depends.

Just in case, Rebecca goes to the gas station to get some more cash. The attendant asked what she needed change for, so he helped her get dimes and nickels so she would have what she needed to help the refugees learn how to use the bus. Also us poor weirdos who can’t figure this out.

Then we get on the bus and I (as sweetly as I can muster) ask if we can pay the transfer fee even though we don’t have transfer cards because we’re all learning how to ride the bus (gestures to refugee family). He asked how many of us there were and if this was our last transfer.

I told him.. and he just said “come on in, it’s taken care of.”

No lie, us two crazy ladies with a family that trusts and some kids in tow have these amazing people helping us. I got the bus driver’s operator # if I can find a way to send a nice message about him on the Via site (seriously though, you have to already know what you’re doing to find what you need… and there are pieces of info missing)

We finally arrived at the English classes, about an hour later than planned. And they aren’t registering people any more. Again, missing information. Oh well. They got to start the process for us anyway and we get to see what the kid’s class does.

At this point I’ve calmed down enough and felt comfortable enough (partially because Rebecca called her bus-savvy husband to come help) to pull out our notebook and books.

We drew dogs, cats and pigs. We briefly met a dog. We all wrote “CAT”, “DOG”, and “PIG”. Then it was time to go back to the bus stop, but by then the boy (8) had started opening up.

At the very busy bus stop we got out the books and started teaching him colors and animals. The older sisters are paying attention too. Mission = accomplished.

Once again on the bus, discovering that you literally just have to go the opposite on what you did earlier, Chelsea and the boy sat together drawing in the notebook. Aren’t they sweet? After every drawing he proudly showed me.


Remember the really nice bus driver? We had him again, and he talked to Rebecca to give her tips on riding so they would know the best way to ride next time. Seriously, this guy is awesome.

We successfully transferred, and drew some more. The boy wrote his name for me too.

Then we got to walk back to their apartment where they again, while still fasting, made us the rose juice and even got a different juice out for Chelsea.

Between the two of us Rebecca and I told them all the details needed to ride the bus to English classes again tomorrow, what American money is worth, how much is needed to ride the bus, and what they needed to do the same thing on Friday or anywhere else they need to go.

It was hard. Now I’ve ridden the bus, and I’d be okay doing it again.

But I absolutely cannot imagine trying to figure out how to do this if I don’t speak or read the language and have no idea where I’m going. How hard is it to be a refugee? I got literally the tiniest taste today

How do you do this when the place you leave doesn’t care if you live and the place you go doesn’t take the time to love you?

There’s one more detail about today before I attempt to answer that. Do you know how much these girls dote on my kids? Particularly the snugly 3 year old? They pinch his cheek and kiss it. Or just kiss his cheek. Tickle him (even the boy did that today). Hug him. Tell me how beautiful he is. We all got love, hugs and kisses today.

And Rebecca had one of these moments too. One of the sisters was wearing a cute head covering that Rebecca complimented. So the sister said she would give it to her. Rebecca had forgotten, but once we got back to the apartment she went to the back, took it off and gave it to Rebecca as a gift. They have so little, and less that they actually brought from their home. But they still find a way to say thank you and make friends. 

So how do you do this? You know how to find peace… you love and do something for someone else. You try, you learn, and you give… even when you have nothing. 

I like how Rebecca put this in perspective for us too… “We always think we’re going to bless someone and make a difference… a small one at best. But they take the tiniest gestures and make huge impacts on us.”

I was nervous to ride the bus without actually knowing how, but another sponsor had some good wisdom… show them you don’t know everything and that it’s okay to ask an American for help.

I loved this family after the first visit, but I love them even more now.