During our time in Cochabamba, Bolivia we traveled through the city in a small bus that had a number 9 written on the front window. It was driven by a very kindhearted man that became known as number 17, “Diecisiete”, on our team because when we would get on we would count off to make sure we were all there. Those of us who had been to Cochabamba the year before were pleased that it was the same bus and driver that we had during last year’s trip. I remembered him saying he especially enjoys times when he works with groups like us because he has more time in between our trips to spend at home with his family.
Upon arriving, bus 9 waited outside the airport to take us to where we would be staying. Since the bus looks like the other public buses (and usually is used for public transportation), it was quite common for us see locals attempt to flag down the bus and get on as we passed by. There usually was another bus like it not too far behind. Bus 9 took us to the NCV homes: Corazon del Pastor, Pedacito Del Cielo, and Sendero de Esperanza. It took us to a retreat center for the church retreat with La Trinidad (yes, there were llamas). There was luggage stacked in the aisles and on laps. Those who were feeling sick opted to sit up in the front of the bus next to the driver. We sometimes packed children from the homes on the bus with us – quite the bonding experience. It took us to the Cristo de la Concordia for a beautiful view of the city. We took the bus to places that had delicious Bolivian food when we were hungry. The bus even took us to the largest open air market place in Bolivia, “La Cancha”.
On bus 9 we prayed, talked, laughed, cried and were quiet together. One time the bus stalled in the middle of a busy intersection and some of our team members got out to push until the engine started up again. The bus was usually on time, but everything usually started late. Our last trip on bus 9 was to the airport. Back where we began, but we were different. “Chao”, we said (goodbye that means we will see you again). God willing, we will be back on bus 9 next time.