My first ride on the city bus was not my favorite experience in Madagascar. Thankfully, the Mada-Gar 7 ups were still all together in Ansirabe along with our coordinators and our Malagasy teachers. The bus was packed full and there was hardly any space to move. It was overwhelming to say the least. I remember getting off the bus and saying, “Well, if I never have to do that again that’d be fine by me”! However, ask me today and I’ll tell you that riding the city bus is one of my favorite things to do!
Fianarantsoa is a really big city so riding the bus, although not a must, is preferable for some destinations. Although, I must give myself plenty of time to get to where I’m going. There is a bus stop about a ten-minute walk from my house. Sometimes a bus is there and sometimes I have to wait a little while. That particular bus stop is part of four different routes. Back in September, I was only brave enough to take on one of the routes. Today, I can hop on any of them and confidently navigate where I am going!
When a bus comes, I greet the man collecting the money and get on. Most buses have about five or six rows of two-seater benches on both sides with a tiny aisle between. There is also the best seat on the bus, right next to the driver. Typically, that seat holds two people. When all the seats are filled up, people must stand in the aisle and in the back of the bus. The stop by my house is one of the first, so I almost always have a seat going into to town but going back home, I’m more likely to stand.
There is a cool culture on the bus. If there is a woman who is pregnant or carrying a small child when there are no seats left, men, children, and other women will give up their seat for her. Same thing goes for an elderly person that comes on the bus. On several occasions, men have even given up their seat for me. I love seeing people respecting and serving other people.
I always seem to make a friend or two on the bus. I sit down and usually greet a few people to make their stares less awkward. Eventually, someone wants to test how far my Malagasy goes and will strike up a conversation. I continue as far as my language skills allow which always gives the people around me great joy. Now I have group of bus friends between the drivers, workers, and other frequent riders!