Friday, March 13, 2009
In the last couple of days I've had my first adventures on the Quito buses, without the gracious company of my host family. (They were taking me everywhere for awhile.) The buses are quite an experience here. There are tons of them, they are efficient, but not easy for the foreigner. Here's my bus trip today:
I leave the hospital at 8am. I'm walking up the street and think I see my bus crossing in front. So I start a slight run. As the bus is moving away, the fare collector (let's call him the conductor) sees me. He shouts to the bus driver to slow it up a little (Note: Not STOP). The back door flings open and I jump on. I'm on my way cruising down the Pan American Highway.
Now I have to figure out when to get off. All I know is that I get off right after the giant Movistar (mobile phone company sign). Got it. Got to get off quickly. Press the button on the bus, and I jump off. The conductor comes to collect my fare, and because he is in a rush and give him the change in my pocket. He runs back on the bus and I realized I gave him 50 cents! (It only costs 25cents. Oh no!)
Now the hard part: finding the special bus that goes to where I'm living. So I wait on the corner. Many buses go by. Their are all filthy diesel, so I breathe in the nasty fumes as they all pass.
[Side note: People don't have right of way in the streets and it looks like cars often try and run people over. But today a dog walked out into the middle of the highway and the cars stopped for him! I guess dogs get more respect.]
The buses have 20 names in their front window: all places they might, could, and will go at some point within the next 2 hours. My job was to find the one that said, "El Ejenuto" in GREEN on one of the many signs in the window (click on the picture above for a more detailed view of the difficulty of this). To help you with this, the "conductor" yells out a million places the bus is going as it is passing. I understand none of what he says, as it's kind of like the conductor naming the stops on the NYC subway. But they try to get people on their bus, so they make more money. (And are very nice helping people on and off.)
I waited about 20-30 minutes and no bus. (The bus I need doesn't come that often.) So I ask the bus time recorder guy if I'm in the right place. And just then, a bus with many signs, one of which says "El Ejenuto" in GREEN comes my way. I jump on and am on my way again.
When you want to get off, you tell the conductor guy, give him 25 cents and they slow down the bus so you can get off. (Unless you are an older person, in which case the bus actually stops.)
Well I made it home. It was fun. But wouldn't it be nice to be taken around on one of these: