Monday, April 15, 2013

Samoan Buses

Samoan buses are a hoot.  They’re converted flatbed trucks that look like a big wooden bus.  Usually a family will own 3 or 4 of them and operate them in a certain region.  They’ll be painted with various slogans.  I ride bright green ones with I’u O Atua written on the side.  The inside will be crammed with seats and it’s two per seat with the one on the aisle having half a buttcheek hanging off.  Once all the seats are full they’ll start sitting people on top of other people.  Usually it’s a good idea to grab a kid and have them sit on your lap.  It’s better that than someone larger.  The front of the bus on the dashboard is usually blinged up.  Upwards of 15 rear view mirrors will be displayed even though none of them can possibly be used due to the bus being crammed.  There is also usually a feathery boa along the dashboard and necklaces hanging.  Many will also hang tapestries or lavalavas from the ceiling with a good example being my usually bus driver who has a large tiger on his. 

The best way to tell if a bus is coming is by listening.  They tend to blast their music so you can hear them a good ways off.  There aren’t any bus stops in Samoa so all you do is go out to the street, chill in a nearby faleo’o in the shade until you see one coming then just wave it down.  Buses run on a very loose schedule so the general rule is to be there 30min before it’s supposed to come and you’ll most likely catch it within the next hour.  Once you get on, a guy called a supokako will take your bag to stash upfront and point out where you should sit.  This guy is responsible for getting as many people as possible on the bus and to also handle any problems (not that there are many).  Women usually sit up front and guys in the back though if you’re married it’s considered good form to sit on each others laps so that you open up another seat. 

If you’re on a bus leaving Apia you have plenty of opportunities to get food.  First off while it’s sitting in the bus depot waiting for passengers, people will be going by the windows selling food.  There’s been a crackdown recently on parents taking children out of school to sell food to bus riders.  The next opportunity is a few minutes later.  As the bus drives out of town it makes a stop at a place resembling a minimart or convenience store.  All the passengers will unload and pile into the store, loading up on snacks for the ride as well as bread and butter for the family back home.  Once you pile back in, the bus will sometimes make other stops as requested by passengers.  I’ve been in the back lot of Bluebird lumber more times than I can count as lumber gets loaded onto the bus through a door in the back and pushed through the aisle.  Sometimes baskets full of taro will be loaded up the middle of the aisle. 
Finally after all of this you’re on your way home.  The ride in and of itself is an adventure.  Going up hills you wonder if the bus will make it while going down you pray that the breaks were recently checked.

That all being said though, I really appreciate the buses.  I have one every hour in my village and they only cost 3USD to go to Apia.  I can meet new people and join in with village life.  How many other palagis (foreigners) ride the buses?  

1 comment:

  1. hilarious. can't wait to experience a bus ride in Samoa :)