The day after we arrived in Ceilandia we went with Eloisa to Brasilia to see some more sites. However, when we got there we discovered that a bus strike had begun that day and so we wouldn’t be able to get around very easily. Earlier that morning we’d heard about the strike, but it wasn’t until we got to the city that we really saw the havoc that it was causing.
Many people who work in Brasilia live an hour or more away, and the bus is the primary means of getting to and from work each day. It’s also an important part of the intracity transit system. So, as a result, there were tons of stranded people everywhere. We had arrived in town via Brasilia’s meager subway that only has one and half lines, and when we got off in the bus station there were long lines of people everywhere, but no buses. On a grassy area near the station there was a mass of people trying to get rides from anyone who would offer them. Sometimes, a private (and technically pirate) bus would come by and the entire mass of people would hurry over, hoping that it was going in their general direction. And the whole time there were rumors of people who were using their cars to shuttle people around, though I never actually saw one.
The whole situation was really kind of a pain for everyone who lived there, but as a visitor to the city I couldn’t help finding it facinating. While it prevented us from seeing all the things we had hoped to see, it may actually have been more interesting.
Eventually, after it got dark, we were walking around when we saw a massive traffic jam. As we got closer, we saw that it was caused by a crowd of people standing in the middle of the street. Apparently, the protesters had decided to block the roads too. We decided that the subway might be next so, with a lot of other people, we hurried back down to the subway station and got a train back to Ceilandia.
While the strike intrigued me on Monday, it posed a significant problem for us on Tuesday because we had a flight to catch. I figured we could take the subway back into Brasilia, but that wouldn’t get us to the airport and without a bus our only option would be to take a very expensive taxi. The whole process would also take a long time and our flight was supposed to leave just after 10 am.
Eloisa, who had spent her entire day off with us and had been showing us around, also realized that the bus strike would pose a challenge. As a result, she took it upon her to find us a ride. Along with several members of the ward, she started calling everyone who had a car and might not have to work (which isn’t a lot of people).
Though it took a while, she eventually recruited someone to take us (it was the current bishop), and the next morning he and his wife drove us for an hour through heavy, strike-induced traffic to the airport.
The incident was amazing to me. I had never met the bishop until the day before, and he definitely had nothing to gain by driving us. Yet he still did, and seemed pretty happy about it. As with the effort Eloisa put in to finding us a ride, it was an example of people bending over backward to help us out.
Similarly, the family we stayed with treated us like kings. They put us in the master bedroom, and ever single meal was like a feast. They washed our clothes for us (including washing Laura’s shorts by hand) and gave us piles of candy for the plane ride. Despite our contantly asking to help out in some way and trying to be low-impact visitors, we were bascially waited on magnificently.
For us, that kind of generosity was amazing, even difficult to accept. Everywhere we went people tried to feed us and do whatever they could to make us feel welcome. That resulted in our having a place to stay, a ride to the airport, and an experience with Brazil’s legendary hospitality.