Sunday, May 29, 2011

Chicken Bus 101

In Guatemala, or specifically Antigua, the main form of transportation are buses the locals call "Las Camionetas", the tourists call them chicken buses.

1. Personal space: this does not exist on a chicken bus. There are 3 people per seat, people in the aisles, and people on each others laps...all in the size of a small school bus. 
Normal capacity: 50 school children
Chicken Bus capacity: 90-100 adults.

2. El Ayudante: this is the man who assists the driver in collecting money from all of the pasajeros (passengers). Unlike in the states, money is collected after you are on the bus, which means the ayudante must crawl, push, shimmy, and squeeze through the 100+ passengers, collecting money and giving change to each one. Woof.

3. Speed over Safety: there are no seat belts, hairpin turns, and drivers who get paid by the amount of rounds completed, not per hour. Therefore, the personal space and ayudante rules are then complicated with the buses' roller-coaster like pace. It's like riding the madderhorn with 5x as many people and a man running over the coaster-cars collecting your ticket.

4. Loading the bus: you have 2-3 seconds to get on and off the student was left hanging onto the back as the bus started to speed away (don't worry, he's fine) 

5. The Evil Eye: this is a Guatemalan superstition; mothers believe that if a gringo (foreigner) looks at their baby or child for too long the child will get the "evil eye" and exhibit behavior such as crying, spitting up, etc. So on the chicken buses, is is imperative to keep your eyes to yourself, otherwise you might be asked to move (see rules 1-3 to comprehend the difficulty of this task)

6. Backpacks: always wear them on your chest, pickpocketing is common on the chicken buses. So all of us gringas end up looking like awkward pregnant women

7. Vendadors: and finally, as if this wasn't enough, there are people who board this bus and try to sell you things like children's books, shoes, bracelets, and jade knives.

Best. Ride. Ever.

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