Friday, February 13, 2009

Excuse me, may I sit on your lap?

Samoa has lots of interesting places to explore…reefs, beaches, waterfalls, caves, mountains, jungle trails, lava tubes, blow holes, etc. But for the real adventure seeker, take a trip on a bus and your adventure needs will be quite fulfilled. First, the buses are old rickety wooden buses the DOT would not allow on any road in the US. But in Samoa, those buses are good because if they tip over, the wood will split and allow people to crawl out (regardless of the fact the wood will split and the weight of the bus will crush people). When looking at the driver’s seat, which is actually a seat from a car, one will see a colorful array of cords and wires delicately hanging down from the engine block, which is all that keeps the bus running. To most Americans, a full bus is one where all the seats are taken. Not so in Samoa. A bus is not considered full until all seats are taken, people are sitting on each other’s laps, people are standing in the isle, and one can not see deeper than the first row of seats. Then and only then is the bus full an will leave, but not before picking up more people along the way, which leaves people hanging out the doorway (good thing there is no door to close because the bus is so full there is no way it would shut). Needless to say, sitting on some stranger’s lap has become a non-issue and is no longer considered weird to me. I have seen children passed out the window, why make them walk up the crowded isle when passing them out is much easier. Most people would not take an animal on a public bus for fear of allergies or people being bit; however in Samoa, not a problem. If the bus won’t start, the young men get out and give the old bus a push until the engine turns over. There is an order to sitting position on the bus as well. The young men (sole) will sit in the very back or stand in the isle if no room. The older people sit in the front. So many times a young person will get up and move to the back or move to someone’s lap when an older person gets on the bus. It is interesting the watch the delicate movement of people trying to make room on the bus. Taking a bus in Samoa never fails to have some sort of happening which would be considered an oddity in America, but as my time in Samoa goes on I rather enjoy the phenomenon known as riding the bus.

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