Sunday, February 26, 2012

the saga of Transporte Escolar

I shared last year about our decision to move Sebastian to the school where I work.  Way back in September when I enrolled him, I asked the school's van driver if he could drive Sebastian.   School transportation is one of those realities that one has to deal with here.  If you have the ability, you send your kids to private schools.  But, private schools don't offer (free) transportation.  I wonder if free public transportation for school children is a phenomena unique to the United States.  So if you can't walk to school or take the kids yourself, you have to hire a van.

Most of the time, these vans are operated by people who are not associated with the schools.  In Belo Horizonte, you can go the BHTrans website and find companies that work with your child's school and service your neighborhood.  However, Sebastian's school has it's own van (kind of).  The owner's husband purchased a van, and he can be hired to pick up and drop off your child.  How convenient!  I already knew the guy, he knows the school, he's good with kids.  Great.

So, back in December, I talk to him, and he tells me that they are probably going to have to buy another van, but again he reassures me it's no problem.  This is when I should have been worried.  And it very well may have been that he was giving me some big, Brazilian clues (inferred, implied) that I should look into other options.  However, I'm not Brazilian.  And my Portuguese does not include inferences and subtle hints.  And Mineiros (Brazilians?!?) don't like to say no.  So I took him for his word.  He told me to contact him in January.  I got his email.  And like a good and responsible mom, I emailed him in January, assuming that it was still going to be "no problem." 

He mentioned that he needed to make another route, and he would be in touch with me.  Again, I should have seen the warning signs.  But at this point I was still in the states, and I didn't know what else I could do.

We returned to Brazil two days before school started, so I knew that I wasn't going to be able to figure this out for the first day.  I had already planned to drive to Sebastian to school (especially since I would be working there the first day).  After teaching, I searched out the van driver, and tried to get an answer from him.  And finally he was straight answer:  there wasn't room in the van.  They needed another van.  He didn't know when that was going to happen.  Then I started to panic--did he know anyone who could help me?  Any suggestions, and he said he would help.  At least as far as I could understand.

The next few days I probably made 50 different phone calls.  I called all the numbers on the BHTrans website.  I wrote down every number of every van I saw in the general vicinity of the school.  I called friends asking for help.  I talked to parents.  And all the while I was calling the van driver, asking for help.  No luck.  I also spent between 2 and 3 hours each day driving across town to get Sebastian to and from school.  Traffic has gotten worse.  It was not fun.

After a week and a half, the driver tells me that they have an opening in the evening, and he can take Sebastian home from school.  Great!  I asked when he thought he'd get Sebastian home.  "Oh, about 7:30 pm."  An hour after school is done.  Not great, but not bad.  Unfortunately it ended up taking almost 2 hours for Sebastian to get home.  We started getting worried, and Sebastian was miserable.  And I don't blame him:  who wants to spend that much time in a van?!

I spent another few hours making phone calls, and realized that we were going to have to go the route of a motorista (driver).  I'd heard other people talking about drivers, and always thought, "I'd never be one of those kind of people."  Well, never say never.  On Friday, I finally talked to a motorista that wasn't charging an arm and a leg, and said he was willing to do it.  So, hopefully tomorrow we'll be testing out this driver, and Sebastian and I will be riding across town in the comfort of someone else's car.

What have I learned from this?  Unfortunately, I think that I've learned that I need to be a little more careful in trusting promises.  I probably should have learned this based on the vazamento experience.  I also (again) have realized that I need to continue to work on my Portuguese.  I wish I could say that I've also realized that "it will all work out in the end," because it always does (by some miracle).  But in this case,  I just feel more frustrated than thankful that it has "worked out."  But, if it all does work out, I can feel good that I was able to make all those phone calls in Portuguese and actually be understood!


  1. The fact that Brazilians never say NO - can be a psin sometimes. Good luck!

  2. I think (p)sin might be a good description. The bible does say

    Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. (Matthew5:37).

    But thankfully the motorista showed up today! And Sebastian made it to school and back home. Things are looking up!