Guest Blogger: Randy Gehlert
For the past two days Seth has been sick and not been able to go to school. Normally Megan will take the boys to school on the taxi-bé. I often walk with them to the main road and then continue walking to work while they get on the bus. Many times I will walk to where I have to turn off the main road (about a 5 minute walk) faster than they get to the same place on the taxi-bé because they are stuck in traffic.
However since Seth was sick Megan stayed home with him and I took Cole to school. This meant that I had to go to work from the school which means getting on the bus at a different taxi-bé stop that I had not used before. The bus I wanted was the 114 bus. However there are blue 114 buses and green 114 buses. On the first day when I got on the bus I was not sure which one went where I wanted to go, because even though both have the same number and both list the same stops on the little sign in the windshield – they both go in different directions. So, on Wednesday I just tried one. It turned out to be the wrong one. The one I got on is the one that stops halfway along the way and waits for about ten minutes to fill up with passengers and then it turns off of the road I want which meant I had to walk a little further that morning. I could have switched buses mid-way but I didn't feel like paying an extra 200 aiary (10 cents). When I got to AMI I asked our Malagasy secretary how I could know the difference between the two taxi-bés. She said that the dark blue 114 bus comes here and some of the green 114 buses come here but most of the green ones do not. So, you basically just have to ask if they are going to Ambatolampy (the town just past where I get off for work). “Oh, and by the way what is the name of the bus stop here by AMI?” “Pro Car” (Yes, as in Professional Car – I think it is a mechanic shop.)
So, today I took Cole to school and tried to get on the right bus. I discovered that most of the taxi-bés will not stop at this new stop unless you hail them. Several went right by me. Then I had to ask all the green buses - “Ambatolampy?” Finally one said “yes”.
Now you cannot choose your taxi-bé really. (This morning I got into the one whose horn was wired into the button that was supposed to work the fans.) You also cannot choose your taxi-bé driver. You can't ask for the safe driver with a clean record. This morning I got the overly aggressive driver who must have had to go to the bathroom or something. As we were going along we were passing people who were passing people racing up the hill. Then we passed two guys on foot and the driver talked to them and they got on the bus. At the next stop the driver gets out – with much difficulty as he could not open his door except from the outside – and one of these guys who just got on is now the driver. (And by the way he is wearing a winter coat because he is cold. It is chilly this morning – maybe 70 degrees??) And the new guy had a little trouble getting the bus in gear to get going??
So, I don't really know what happened but it really seemed like the driver just saw one of his friends walking down the road and said “Hey, I have to go do something. Can you drive for me? It's easy you just stop whenever someone points at you or when the guy in the back of the bus whistles.”
The third taxi-bé story: see entry above.