Recently I have been riding the bus to get into town for grocery shopping, laundry and other errands. It has been an interesting experience!
One convenience is that I get door-to-door service. I just have to cross the street from my apartment and wait about 5 minutes until the next minivan going my direction stops to pick me up. If I am only going to the Maxi (like a small Gautemalan Walmart) it costs Q7 or about $1. If I am going to the Flores, I take the same bus, get off at the round-about, and get in a tuk-tuk to go the remaining distance for an additional Q5. If I want to go to San Benito, I get off at the round-about, and get in a tuk-tuk for an additional Q10. I reverse the procedure to get home.
Most minvans are the 18-seaters with a high roof. Most are in very good condition. There are two people running the service. One person drives. I have yet to see a woman driver. His job is simple--to get to where he is going as fast as he can....literally! The second person, also likely a man, has more to do. He is the one who will signal out the side window as the minivan approaches you. If you signal back it means you want to get on. If you don't, then they will just zip past. He is also the one who opens the sliding door so that he can step off to let you step on. Generally, he will direct you to a seat or a place to stand that gives the easiest access to where you want to get off. He also will stand in the doorway with his feet on the step with both arms extending across the doorway as the driver takes off before the new passenger is settled among the old. He will eventually close the door. He is responsible for watching the traffic on the blind curves and telling the driver when it is clear. He keeps track of where everyone is going and signals the driver when to stop to let off a passenger. He also collects the fare and gives change.
Recently, I came home in an 18-seater with 28 people, 10 of whom were standing including me! It is amazing how much people respect one another and give one another some body space even among the crowd. I have yet to see a minivan pass up a passenger because of being too full.
But today, I saw it all! I got on a 22-seater. As I got on I could see there was a seat in the way back. At least I thought there was. As I got closer, I saw that the seat was actually taken. There was a man with his hands and feet tied together tightly behind his back laying on the seat facing the back. I am not sure if this is the way to get a drunken relative home or a way to get a prisoner to jail! You just never know in Guatemala!!
Sr. Pam Buganski
Sr. Pam joined SewHope as our first American Project Coordinator in 2012