Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Transportation

Claus·tro·pho·bi·a: (noun) extreme or irrational fear of confined places.
People watching at the Malecon 
If you find yourself on the spectrum of claustrophobia, get ready to overcome this fear when traveling within Peru. On foot, I normally take a longer or scenic route, for two reasons. First, to avoid major highways - this is where I experience claustrophobia. The sidewalks are saturated with people, the pollution from bumper-to-bumper traffic penetrates my nostrils, and the constant honking crowds my hearing. And secondly, because the oceanside is stunning in every opposite way I just mentioned. I live in Miraflores, which is in walking distance to the grocery stores, a movie theater, the oceanside, a bank, a post office, and many tourist attractions. Walking is a privilege. Especially when I spend most of my days sitting at a corner desk. In order to enjoy walking in the bustling metropolis, I listen to music. Some evenings I put on my headphones and walk around, smiling because I can people watch without feeling congested. Lima city is a motion picture twenty-four seven.
Avenida Ejercito: the bus stop in front of the United Nations Complex
My work is a 20-minute bus ride north. I leave my apartment at 7:30 am. I walk to the bus stop which is roughly ten minutes away. It is here where I patiently wait for a purple or orange bus - they take me to Ejercito, the main avenue where the United Nations complex is located. My fingers are crossed hoping it is not packed as usual. I am almost always disappointed. Most of the time, it is so full the two exits are bulging, like a beer belly captive in levis jeans one size too small. Although these many people should not be corralled into such a confined space, the Ministry of Transport has defeated the system. Waves of body odor come and go. And body contact, or borderline cuddling, is inevitable. I stand, with my left hand tightly gripping a seat and my right on my backpack, hoping the pause doesn't last long as someone exits or joins the impenetrable crowd.
A not so crowded bus 
At first, I was the outcast and not because I am a foreigner. The constant gas-to-break motion had me stumbling like an inebriated person. Fortunately, after my first week, my gripping reflexes kept me from inconveniencing anyone. It was during this phase where I learned a valuable lesson: don't grip too hard, just go with the flow. I noticed that once I unlocked my knees, held softly, and relaxed my solar plexus, I became one with the passengers. It is fascinating to watch as everyone is in a harmony, like a sea life in the underwater current flowing back and forth. This lesson transcended to other areas of my life, especially my internship.
After work, there are seemingly fewer passengers on the bus. I am exultant as I jog to the double doors and find myself in a vacant bus. The sun is setting, and the heat has lessened. This is my favorite time of the day. The cost is only S/.1.00 wich translates to $.31 cents, each way. I avoid ordering an uber as much as possible. Although there is more room, fresh air, and comfort in a car, the price can range from S/. 9.00 to S/. 21.00 soles, depending on the hour.

Contrary to what you might think, I love taking the bus. I praise and appreciate this human experience. It is rare in life when we are in such close proximity to dozens of people. I often wonder where they are headed or where they are coming from. Mostly, people avoid contact, but I like to sneak in a smile now and then. It is a remarkable gift when a smile, contagious in nature, brings to life a perplexed or exhausted face. I see my stop approaching and say "baja en el paradero". I step off, feeling the cool breeze with all my senses at peace, knowing I get to go home and relax after a hard days work.

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