I think some of the best stories from countries come from public transportation. This is to be the first of what I am sure will be many public transportation stories during my 2 years here. If you think that traveling around NYC is hard (and I know some of my friends do), you haven’t seen anything yet.
In the Dominican Republic, there are three main modes of public transportation: the guagua (public bus), the carro publico (or shared taxi), and the motoconcho (or motorcycle taxi). This transportation adventure involved the first one. Our adventure was an applied Spanish lesson – we had to take public transportation into the city, find the Peace Corps office, the Clinica Abreu, and the Hostel Bella Epoca, three important places for all PCVs to know (the office, the hospital, and the approved hotel).
First, we took the guagua into the city center. A guagua is the Dominican version of a bus. Imagine a bus that is built for about 8 rows of 4 people, approximately 30-35 people. Now imagine fitting 50 or more people into that bus. That’s how buses in the DR work – there is always room for “one more” person. These buses are hot. We’re talking sweat dripping down your back hot. If you are lucky enough to be one of the last people on the bus, you stand. There aren’t any good handholds. Imagine standing in a bus of 50 people (which is similar to the subway in NYC during rush hour), hanging onto the windowsill for dear life, trying to not fall into the lap of anyone or knock anyone over every time the bus driver suddenly breaks (which is about once every 5 seconds). Oh yes, and it’s raining outside, so rain is coming in through the open window. And then imagine this for an hour straight. That’s the guagua ride I had today! It definitely prepared me for the “worst case scenario”! It’s actually a pretty amusing situation, once you realize you have to have a sense of humor to get through life as a PCT/PCV. I feel fairly confident about public transportation after today, which is good – next week I will be traveling into the interior by myself to visit a current volunteer, so I better be ready!
Also to all my friends from Gainesville, I ran into a group of UF students doing missionary work in the DR> The Gator Nation truly is everywhere!