Early one morning on my way to school, I grabbed a familiar bus on a major road in Lima. There are a handful of buses that go the direction I need, so I generally just hop on one of them. When I first began my bus adventures, I would ask every time to make sure that the bus was going in the right direction. On this particular day, I didn't ask.

I immediately paid my fare and told the coin collector where I was going. He collected my coins and we set out to fight the Lima traffic. This particular route goes straight for what seems like forever until it makes a slight right, a left and then I'm at school.

At one particular stop, I noticed a bus of the same line in front of us. I sighed and knew that soon a battle for the road would soon ensure, resulting in me barely hanging onto my seat as the older-than-me buses fight for the title: King of the Pot Holes. However, this didn't happen. My bus turned left. And it turned left nearly 15 blocks before the usual right hand turn.

"It's ok," I thought, "they want to get around the other bus."

As we continued driving and didn't make any attempt to stop our detour, I began to think about the logic of a bus changing the route and realized it was impossible. So I sat there, staring out the side window, weighing my options.
Do I stay? Do I get off? But I have no idea where I am. I will be late for school. Maybe they will turn back. Surely he is going back. Why do none of these locations sound familiar?
After a few more turns, I saw a familiar street sign. The bus veered right and all my fears disappeared. That is until I realized the slight right turn was only to pick up more passengers and he in fact was turning left. Going far, far away from the familiar street.

"Are you going to the shopping center?"
"No," señorita, "we're not."
"But you told me you were!!"

Panicked, I jumped off the bus in the middle of the intersection and as my feet hit the ground, I heard a whistle, a "mamaccciiita!" and another whistle. Fantastic. I'm lost. Guys are whistling at me. It's too early for this. I'm carrying too many bags. What do I do now?

I started walking down the road with a familiar sounding name and saw a bus stop up ahead. As I approached it, I noticed that the stop was nothing more than a dingy sign placed alongside a dirt median. The stop was covered in trash that welcomed all the dogs and none of the humans. I was standing there alone. None of the buses were stopping. This is when I began to panic.

I quickly changed the game plan from bus to taxi, but soon noticed that the only taxis traveling on that road were "colectivos," which are group taxis that run a set route. I heard Alvaro's voice in the back of my head, "You are to never, ever take one of those."

I tried to flag down another taxi, but no one would stop. I walked further down the road towards a busier intersection and still no one would stop. As they drove by, drivers shook the fingers "no" at me. I felt as if a spotlight had been placed on me and everyone around me knew I didn't belong there. Finally, one taxi driver stopped and I told him my destination,

"No," he said shaking his head, "I don't go there."
Out of sheer desperation, I begged, "Please, please, please."
"Señorita, no, I don't go there."
"Please!" I pleaded as I clutched my belongings and fought back tears.
"Ok, I'll take you to a calmer street and you can catch a bus from there."
"YES!" I screamed and jumped in the cab.

It was only then that I realized I had not yet settled on a price. An amateur mistake in the world of Peruvian taxis where everything is negotiated. If you don't agree before getting in, you are at the mercy of the driver's price point. But at that point I didn't care. I would have paid anything to be taken away from the trash covered bus stop.

As we approached my exit point, I asked him, "How much, sir." And he replied,

"Nada, señorita."

I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Nothing?

"Yes, nothing. I was driving this way anyway and you will never get a taxi on that street. It's better for you to be on this end of the avenue."

I told him a little bit of my story, or as much as I could in my frazzled state. I was scared from getting lost. And confused about not paying for my taxi. And more than anything I wanted to be at school.

I hopped out of his taxi and jumped on the first bus that I knew was going to school. Never mind the fact that it was packed well beyond capacity and I spent the first seven blocks standing on the stairs with nothing but a half open door protecting me from terrain below. I was on my way to school and that was all that mattered.

I finally made it, still shaken up but then discovered that there isn't much that a hug from a first grader can't fix.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to my sweet Peruvian taxi driver who fell for my begging and turned my nightmarish morning completely around.