Today I took my first solo ride on a Combi, one of the buses here, sucessfully. As I write bus I can't help but smile, these are nothing like the ordely numbered clean vehicles of King County Metro. There are two types of combis in Lima. One,unfortunatly more common, resenmbles a Mini-Van with three rows of seats stuffed inside, when the seats are full passengers stand doubled-over and wait for an empty seat. My much prefered combi looks a lot like a school bus that has been painted flourescent colors. I am still unsure of how the routes work, the names of the sub-districts the combi goes to are painted on the sides and the paraderos (bus stops) have no logic, not to meantion the combi doesn't always stop at every paradero. Once think you found the right bus you jump on, litteraly jump because they have been known to leave without passengers who take too long. The driver drives like a maniac through Lima traffic and you try to stay upright as you wait for a seat to free up. Remaining vertical is a skill I haven't yet mastered, and remains a constant source of amusement for my Peruvian friends. Offen someone boards the bus selling chicklet (gum) or singing a song, a snack and some entertainment on the bus. There is a man who walks down the bus clicking coins allerting the passengers that it's time to pay. You have to know how much you should be paying and insist on recieving correct change. Eventually you think you are near your destination you ask the driver to "baja aca" or stop here and hope he actually stopes long enough to get off the bus. I am always quite thankful to still be alive and at my destination sucessfuly.
In a lot of ways combis represent the Perivian mind set. The whole affair is chaotic and disorderly with crouds of people, but no one seems to mind. Getting lost is not really an issue because people here enjoy the journey. They are contented to wait talking with a friend, exchanging recipies for Lomo Saltado with a neighbor or even teaching a child the ABCs.