Friday, April 5, 2013

The Microbus, Part 2--We have a winner!

All hail the Microbus, the White Van, the workhorse of Nepalese modernization! Ode to the Microbus!  
Wasn’t sure how to title this post with due honor, but today was the day, folks. If ever there was an epitome of “it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey”, this was it.  The Spirit was alive. I believe I found at least a regional champion for Microbus Stuffing. Indeed, the honor goes to the Microbus Team (driver and door man) with nerves of steel, placid temperaments, and an obvious sense of duty—to get everyone possible to his/ her destination.  I anticipate, in this land of temples, gods, and goddesses, that a temple will be erected in their honor sometime very soon.
Let’s take a journey, shall we?
Of course, I had the ultimate vista point in the back of the bus. Talking prime microbus real estate here, albeit prime still equates to “squished”, so I wasn’t totally off the hook. Buses here don’t like to go anywhere until there are a minimum number of people—determined, of course, by the alignment of the lunar and solar calendars, a semblance of hourly time, and the mood of the driver.
As we waited, I was delighted to see the ground through the wooden floorboards of the bus. Easier to get out were the bus to flip over, said my optimistic self.
I apologize for the blurriness of all of these pictures,
but it was a very movement-intensive journey. An
assemblage of rocks masquerading as a road, and no
shocks on the van aren't a good mix for photos.
Then there were the bags of rice (50lb, at least) and potatoes on the floor, serving as impromptu seating. The benches—placed around the bus rather than typical row fashion—began to fill up. Let me explain the Nepali view of “space”.  3-4” of seat showing? Perfect. Come on over and ooze on in. “Personal space”? No such animal. We had a “comfy” 20 or so, and we were off.

The Champion Microbus Stuffing team begins to
demonstrate the art of maximizing van space. Please
notice the smiling faces all around. 
Shoes of the passengers on the roof of the van. Brave souls.

Young and old alike hanging on and taking it
all in stride. 

Our ~10km journey to Bhaktapur entailed at least 5 stops and 4 waits—motor off type of waits. And our mission-driven Microbus Champions-to-be were on a roll loading older people, young people, bags, more rice, more potatoes. I stopped counting passengers at 36. Only because I couldn’t see anything happening near the front of the bus. (Can I remind my readers that a microbus is merely a white van?!) From my viewpoint, I witnessed that age is not a factor in finding a seat. The elderly sat or knelt on the floor in what must have been hellacious pain (The God of Shock Absorbers has yet to make his debut here—although I wonder if such jarring serves to (re)align my chakras?), and chatted merrily with those around them.

My count of 36 did not include those hanging outside the door, sharing space with the Door Man. 

Nor did my count include those on top of the bus.

Nor did it even include the goat, wisely hiding underneath the seat.
The best image I could get of the Wise Goat under the seat. 
I think I still see some space...

Bus passengers hanging onto the door. Again,
taking it all in stride. Nothing but a thing...

As anyone who has partaken in the delights of public transit knows, everyone has a different destination. Hence the need for an exit strategy.
Passengers exiting the bus at various stops upended a good percentage of the other riders, causing a Passenger Repacking—each more efficient than the last. From my seat, I was on the edge of the fray, able to watch every movement with disbelief that all of this entertainment was included in my bus fare.
And every bit happened in true Nepalese fashion—with nary a hint of discontent.

Unless, perhaps, you ask the goat.

When in Nepal, pay due homage to the bus drivers, my friends, and may your views be optimal wherever you find a “space.” 
So, at the end of the journey, people pour out of the
van, and rather than scatter to the winds, they all wait
patiently to pay the Door Man.
The goat's owner finally managed to get him "un-wedged"
from underneath the seat. A victorious day for all. 

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