Monday, March 14, 2011

Bus Bum

Before I launch into today's planned blog, two notes. One: I did change my blog appearance.  I just wanted something lighter.  Let me know if you have an opinion. Two: I am miserable.  Physically miserable. It's been upwards of three weeks now that my stomach has gone from trying it's hand as a trapeeze artist to feeling like it contains a heavy weight boxer throwing punches.  I have been reduced to buttered pasta, grilled cheese and white rice with plain chicken as my refuge.  Keep your fingers crossed that giving up fruits, veggies, chocolate and anything with much flavor will help.  Sprite is my new favorite drink because it seems to help settle my stomach a bit.  Stabbing pain, lots of grumbling noises, cramps and pangs of nausea are the main complaints.  If you've got suggestions on what to do or what this is, I'm all ears. Now onward to the planned bus bit.

I've recently discovered that my new apartment makes the use of public transportation in Jakarta possible if not always easy.  I live on one of the main lines, the bus stop is a mere five minute walk from my house.  That walk is along the side of a road with no sidewalk where one has to take their life in their hands, navigate puddles, mudholes, motorbikes, and folks leering and jeering along the way.  Yet only five minutes away. A one way trip, where you can transfer at a couple of stops through long over-road pedestrian walk ways that vaguely remind me of airport gangplanks, cost a measly 3,500 Rp (0.40 USD).   I do love that it's cheap but the best part is that busway has it's own lane on the road and therefore flies through the traffic in Mampang, the main obstacle between my place and down town, or really any part of town except Kemang.  Mampang is notorious for it's traffic jam.  I use a singular form of traffic jam because I think this traffic jam started eight years ago and has been there in perpetuity since.  There is a traffic jam in Mampang at two am, at two pm and every time in between.  I realize it isn't necessarily the best solution to give busway it's own lane; it contributes to the problems for the other cars.  Now that I'm on busway, I find I complain about that much less.

Compared to buses in Europe, busway is cheap, cramped and utilitarian.  I haven't always thought highly of the public transportation system in Seattle, mostly due to the lack of runs.  Once an hour is insufficient by all measures. In comparing the busway to say, buses in Madrid I'm also struck by the difference in riders. Last week, I got on the bus at about quarter to eleven am on a Sunday.  The bus was quiet and I found a seat.   I recognize that Indonesia is a conservative, Muslim country, but if you saw that what I go out for a night of dancing and drinking in is longer than what most of the Indonesian girls wear, you will soon understand why I took note on Sunday.  Mine were the only knees visible on the bus. I was wearing a dress that I wear to teach, it hits my knees.  It's sleeveless so I had a shawl on.  Yet mine were the only bare knees.  I don't know if that's why the three year old sitting across from me was staring.  I suspect the "white worship" starts early but who knows.

There's one more story of note from last weeks busing adventures. On Thursday I went in to town to finalize my new second hand blackberry purchase.  I took the bus in and was able to WALK to the mall from there.  I can't remember the last time I walked outdoors in Jakarta other than from mall Senayan City to mall Plaza Senayan which are across the street from each other.  It was a nice walk through Mega Kuningan which may be the sole location in the city with sidewalks, and spacious ones at that.  I completed my business at the mall and walked a different but still sidewalked path back to the bus.  I made the mistake of wanting to go home (a direction everyone else was going to-out of the city) at about 630 pm.  After buying my ticket, it was eight or nine buses before I got on one.  The buses were coming by every minute or two tops, but they were packed to the rafters. I finally jammed on to one, and moved away from the door up the aisle.  I don't mind standing because at least there is an AC vent blowing directly into you then. I was about three people back from the driver and definitely the only foreigner on the bus.  I had my headphones on and was trying to to count the stops until mine because it feels longer.  It must have been about seven stops after I got on that I felt a tap on my right arm.  I had been holding on with both hands to the hanging rings and kept having to lean forward, towards the seated passengers, to let people by behind me.  The tap came from a miniature woman in her mid thirties.  She was wearing causal but fashionable closes and a jilbob (Muslim head covering). She tapped me specifically to give me her seat.  I was three people to her right, the ones right in front of her were male though the two with their backs to her were female.  She was getting off and offered me her seat.  I was surprised but tired enough to jump at it.  It was mere nanoseconds later that I figured out why.  I'm fairly certain she thought I was pregnant.  Embarrassed? Check. Laying off the beer?  Check. Not too proud to take the seat in a packed bus after a loooong day?  Check.  I'd like to convince myself that she did it to further Indo-American relations, or because I looked so tired, but I am skeptical at best.

At that, maybe this stomach issue will be a parasite and I'll loose my "baby weight".  This is when I laugh to keep from crying and carry on. There will most assuredly be more bus trips in my future, and I'll make up strange stories about the other riders that I'm sure won't come close to the ones they think up about me.


  1. Sprite is good for stomach problems. My mom used to give it to us when we were kids, kinda helps to settle your stomach. Do you have any Gatorade/Aquarious-like drink over there? It helps me when I'm sick, no matter what I have. Also, try a boild potato, put a little bit of butter if you want.

    Buses in Flint are stupid as well. Also there's about an hour waiting time between buses, and Flit is way smaller than Seattle. I think we have been spoiled by the good transport system here in Madrid, and now even more, that most buses have wireless internet!

    I couple of years ago an older woman offered me her seat while on the metro, I'm pretty sure she though I was pregnant, because even though I was at my lightest weight then, I was wearing one of those flowy shirts that have elastic uder your chest and then they are wide.

    Since then I hardly wear that kind of shirts :/


  2. P.S. I like the new layout, it suits the blog's theme.


  3. Thanks Mil. I needed to hear I wasn't the only one who'd had the prego problem. I get it at least a couple of times a term from my students but they're 10 and at just the right height that when they hug me it's right around my middle. UGH, when I get well again I shall be finding a gym or using the pool or something.