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3/2/09 Secret Schedules...

Notes written in my journal during my bus ride back from my friend's party. Like so much travel in a developing country, the journey took several stages, and involved several types of transportation. After climbing out of the second sheep-scented taxi, I waited for a bus to pull in, to drive me south. A bus did show up, 45 minutes ahead of schedule, but the waiter at our cafe assured me that it was going a different direction. Made me a little anxious, though. It waited around for ten or so minutes, then pulled out. Fifteen minutes later, another bus pulled in. This time, I walked over to the bus and asked the guy dropping blocks around the back tire where it was headed...

Manis tdit? Where are you going?
Manis trit at-safrt? Where do you want to go?
S [SouqTown]. To SouqTown.
Yalla, alli. C'mon, climb up.

I'd actually been hoping to find out just how far south this particular bus route extended. And my follow-up question would have been to find out where it comes from. (I travel this stretch of highway frequently enough that I know all the major and minor cities along it, but not often enough to have any idea of the schedules or routes of the buses.)

I could ask these more specific questions, of course, leading off with, "Does this bus leave from [a northern city] or [a touristy town just south of it]?" but I'm afraid of the reception I'd get. A look of suspicion, I expect, questioning the cause of my curiosity. Why does she want to know? Is she expecting someone from [a northern city]? A male someone, perhaps? Does she think buses from [that city] are better? Worse? Is it to my benefit if she thinks it's from [that city]? If she doesn't? I imagine these questions flickering across the face of my jumper (the guy who assists the driver and collects the fares).

Curiosity for the sake of curiosity - wanting more knowledge just because I like knowing stuff, and not because I have any pressing reason to apply that knowledge - confuses people, I've found. And given my tarumit appearance, tends to make folks suspect me - ME! - of being a spy.

Well, that's my fear, anyway. Not so much the spy part as the general suspicion. Maybe I'm crazy. Or paranoid. But the hesitation and confusion on the faces of people when I ask questions, and the above-cited tendency of people to answer questions with another question...well, it'll make a body paranoid after a while.

But neither the jumper's reticence nor my paranoia explains why schedules are so poorly publicized, let alone adhered to. *Large* cities have published schedules posted on the wall...on chalkboards, like a special-of-the-day. And as subject to revision. Smaller cities and towns have nothing; you just have to wait for it enough times to learn when it comes by. So locals and PCVs slowly accumulate this knowledge, but travelers and visitors just have to muddle along as best they can. A PCV friend had told me when to expect this bus - which is why I use the phrase "ahead of schedule", perhaps unjustly, above...

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