Monday, July 19, 2010
Riding the Bars
Every afternoon walking home I marvel at the parents who pick up their kids from school by bike. There are three fathers who wait at the store across from school and when the younger children get out, they each load up three children to their bikes (so 9 in total) and proceed to ride home. In my mind I call them The Bike Brigade and I look forward to seeing them every day, although I also worry that their cheerful waves might cause serious injury to themselves and their small passengers!
I have always wondered just how they can balance so many children safely and this weekend, I had the opportunity to learn first hand! I had greedily taken a late afternoon swim at Lucia’s before heading back to the wharf to catch the last bus home. I knew I was cutting it close time wise, but I thought it would be a shame to miss an opportunity for some tranquil ocean swimming, after all, the opportunity only comes but once a week for people like me who live inland!
I quickly changed, paid my bill and hit the road to walk the mile back to the wharf. Another Peace Corps, AJ rode by on his way home and I strolled along enjoying the peaceful road. And then I rounded a corner and saw a dreadful sight: the ferry docking! When the ferry docks, you have maybe 5 minutes tops before the buses leave. And I still needed to stop in the office! I cursed my luck and started to make a run for in, big red tote bag in one hand, the other holding up my lavalava and sandals. Desperate to make the bus I continued the awkward shuffle for about 2 minutes before AJ came into view: “If you are going to make the bus, you need to get on my handle bars, now!” Neither of us had ever attempted this feat, but I knew it was my only shot. I climbed onto his bike as you would climb a tree. We tried to balance but we couldn’t get it, so I changed my position to sit facing forward on the handles with nothing to hold onto. I think we glided for an inch or two before we decided it was hopeless. AJ offered me his bike but I refused, thinking that even with the bike, I would miss my chance at the bus. It looked like I would be spending the night in town after all. He pedaled off and I accepted the fact that I would be missing the bus.
Then, my luck turned around. A Samoan family was driving down the road in the opposite direction. I flagged them down, and begged them for a ride to the wharf, explaining I was a Peace Corps and could not miss this last bus. The wife jumped out and sat in the back of the car as the husband flipped a quick K-Turn, and to the tune of my repeated thanks, sped off to catch my bus. I ran into the Peace Corps office, grabbed my shopping from the weekend, realized I had no money, and darted towards the buses. I figured the driver would let me ride for free this one time, but then I saw Lili on her bus and quickly spat out, “I have no money! Can you pay my bus fare?” Without hesitation she handed me a ten, and smiled. Lili is my life savor; I seriously do not know what I would do without her! Then again, I would have done the same for her if she had been in my situation. I jumped on the already crowded bus, took a seat towards the back, and breathed. I had made it. Goal for the next year: learn how to ride handlebars.