This blog entry is especially for all those people who have commented to me about how brave I am for travelling on my own. Occasionally I have these experiences that put me in my place where so-called “courage” is concerned. And what is courage, after all?
I am such a chicken when I have to do ANYTHING outside my comfort zone. I cannot imagine how many people would laugh at me at how hard it was for me to finally put myself on a city bus in Arequipa. I had ridden once before, but that was with Adela and she showed me the ropes. But today, I decided to give myself a supposedly simple lesson on riding the bus. This is one aspect of travelling that you cannot research on the internet beforehand. These buses do not publish their routes anywhere.
So I walked over to Ave. Independencia to catch a bus that would take me to the inter-city bus terminal (Terminal Terrestre). Now, as I left the house, I asked myself, “What is the worst that can happen?” (This often puts things into perspective for me.) My answer, “I might get lost and I can always catch one of the ubiquitous taxis for a whole 5 soles ($2) which will bring me home.”
Even so, when I got over to Ave. Independencia, what did I do? For about 20 minutes, I just stood there watching as buses came and went— many that had (among other destinations) “Trm. Terrestre” pasted to the front window. People got off and on; cobradores (conductors) called out the destinations to us; and I stood there, frozen, observing the situation and NOT GETTING ON A BUS. Now, please note, my heart was not racing; my hands were not sweating; I did not feel afraid; and I never considered forgetting the whole endeavor. After a while I began to get embarrassed, because, to bystanders, I was obviously waiting for a bus. Unlike in Seattle, if you are waiting for a bus and you have failed to board one within about 5 minutes, you are not paying attention! Buses to your destination come by about (this is no exaggeration!) every 2 minutes!
Later, journaling about the experience, I realized that, for me, experiencing the process was my way of learning. We are all slow when we are learning new things—how to use a smartphone, knit, speaking Spanish, or riding a bus. It WAS all a bit embarrassing, but you know what? When I was ready to return, I got right on the next bus from which I heard the cobrador call “Plaza de Armas!”