Thursday, December 16, 2010

A person’s lap is an official seat for another

Most common form of transportation…buses. However like many other things, Samoan buses are unlike anything I have ever experienced. Imagine a city bus where you live. Okay now take that bus and minimize it by ¼. Turn the bus into wood including the seats. Now put a person in every seat. Then take that same amount of people and add it again to the bus. I’m sure you’re asking yourself, “well where are thos people going to go?” Well on the laps of the people sitting in the seats of course! Literally strangers are sitting on one another’s laps. Then add about another 20 people who stand in the aisle. And of course the bus can’t be complete without blaring, and I do mean blaring hip hop remixed with Samoan twist music. There you have it ladies and gentleman, a typical Samoan bus ride. Where the max person capacity is 32 people and you have managed to squeeze in over 70. However I will say that this madness comes with a certain unwritten system of cultural do’s and don’ts So much so that the Peace Corps dedicated a whole session on how to ride the bus properly, without doing anything taboo. For example, men sit in the back of the bus, women up front. (That’s a major one) Try not to keep your bags in your lap because essentially that’s a seat. Men sit on men’s laps, while women sit on other women’s laps. (I usually try to get a kid to sit on me because its much more comfortable then having a full grown person sitting on you. If a women who is older than you gets on the bus, you give up your seat. Seats in the very front are offered for elderly and or men who are chiefs in their villages. Its taboo for a woman to sit on a mans lap, and vise versa. However, I have seen it on more than one occasion. Which leads me to believe you only sit with the opposite sex if there really is no other room. Also another thing I should mention is there is no bus schedule and there are no real bus stops. Which, just makes things more chaotic for a foreigner like me!  Another fascinating thing about riding the buses is that nowhere is it written how much it costs to get from point A to point B. its all just kind of known by the locals. You would think that a person could lie to the driver and pay less than you really owe, but somehow the driver is all knowing and he knows exactly how much each passenger should be paying. I have yet to figure out how they do this. Basically riding the buses here is an adventure all in its own. It can be an enjoyable, or it can leave you with sore legs, bruises, and a headache. Nevertheless I have come to realize that the bus system in Samoa is as much a part of the culture as the food, language, and music.

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