Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Bus

I can’t emphasize enough what an interesting experience the bus is in Samoa. Having gone to school in Boulder, I consider myself pretty well-versed in buses, but the buses in Samoa take it to a whole new level.

Buses rarely ever pass people without picking them up. Unless people are hanging out the door because it is so completely packed, the bus will usually stop. The way to fit this many people on the bus is to put all bags under seats, people sit on laps so instead of two to a seat you fit four to a seat (sometimes more if it’s children sharing the seat) and when all seats are full, people are finally allowed to stand in the aisle.

Furthermore, any item can be put on a bus. The amount of shopping on a bus after a Saturday in Apia is almost equal to the amount of people squeezed on the bus. A few days after moving to my site, I went in with my family to do some shopping in Apia. I bought some shelves that we couldn’t take home in the car because they took up too much room for everyone to fit in the car, so we put them on the bus. This is the magic part of items on the bus – everyone always knows what bags belong to who, so they always get passed up the aisle and out the door at the right stop. The next level of magic is the delivery aspect of the bus. I didn’t get on the bus with my shelves, we just put them there. The bus knew exactly where to stop and someone – I’m not sure who – was at my fale to pick them up when the bus dropped them off. They just appeared at my fale – it was amazing!

The bus is also the source of much music entertainment in Samoa. People are willing to spend a lot of money on good sound systems in Samoa, so the music is almost deafening, but you get used to it. I remember when I first got here, I wanted to wear earplugs on the bus. Now, I’ve sat up front on somebody’s lap so that my head was level with the speaker, and other than a little ringing in my ears afterwards, no problem. Despite all this – sitting on laps or being sat on, pounding music, and various other things poking into your personal space so that it no longer exists – most people manage to sleep on the bus. I like to read, although this isn’t always possible. I took the last bus home on a Friday the other day and there wasn’t enough room to hold my book out in front of me, so I just looked out what little part of the windows I could see. I would argue I have one of the prettiest bus rides in the world. Better than Boulder at least.

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