Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Culture of the Micros (Buses):

Here in Chile most people do not own vehicles and therefore, rely on public transportation to get around, including buses, colectivos (basically cheap taxis that drive you to your destination while picking up and dropping others off along the way) and real taxis. My primary transportation is the Micro and let me tell you, it’s nothing like my busing experience in Grand Rapids. First of all, you can catch a bus (of course if it’s the one that serves you) by standing anywhere on its route and simply flagging it down by a wave of your hand or sticking up your pointer finger. In other words, time schedules and bus stops do not exist. Physically, the bus stops exists and they usually do consist of many people waiting but what I’m trying to say is, you can stand 20 feet away from the stop and still flag the bus down to jump on. Although this method is convenient for the lazy person, it gets real old if you’re already riding the bus and we have to constantly stop and go every 2 feet.

However, the real excitement is riding the bus during rush hour or any time the driver feels like stopping for every single person in its route. (Note: There are several buses that have similar routes. In other words, they overlap each other and for this reason, it’s not necessary to stop for every person. Chances are there is another bus 2 seconds behind them that can pick the person up) Often times I think it’s a game to see how many people we can fit inside the bus and it doesn’t matter whose face you have your butt in or that the doors don’t completely shut all the way. The best part of this experience is trying to hang on while the bus driver travels at speeds nearly off the speedometer. And when someone pushes the button to get off, the driver breaks to a screeching halt and despite how “sardine-like packed” we are, there is enough room for everyone one standing to fall onto the person in front of them like dominoes. I quickly caught on to this “game” and learned to sit or stand as close as possible to the door so I could ensure my exit. I especially love riding the ones rollin’ to Reggaeton music and black lights. Oh how I am going to miss this daily excitement of my Chilean life!