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 These buses do not publish their routes anywhere.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!
Finally, after about 10 buses with “Trm. Terrestre” passed me (and, again, I am not exaggerating), I confirmed with the cobrador the destination and climbed on, trying not to look too conspicuous. (I don’t know why—I am nothing if not conspicuous—brown hair, fair skin, taller than many of the men here.) The nice cobrador stopped me when I tried to disembark too early and then he made sure I got off at the right place after I paid my S/.80 fare (about 25 cents). What was I worried about? Sheesh!
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, speak Spanish, or ride 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!”
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