I dismissed the public minibus in Addis as impossible means of transport for me due to my severe claustrophobia.
Considering I am still not driving in the city (Not that we didn’t try. It lasted all of 3/4 of a mile. I rolled backwards, lurched forward, someone honked, Little A screamed, I freaked, pulled over and traded Jon), I am either walking or counting on Jon to haul me where I need to go. I haven’t driven for seven months now. Isn’t that crazy?
Usually Jon has errands and projects in the afternoons. He has been working on some landscape designs and after language school, he would have had to drive one hour across town to take me home, and then another hour back, and bless him, he would have done it but my practical side apparently was even stronger than my fear of tight spaces.
I walked to the bus station and waited nervously. The buses stop at marked sidewalks and you know if it’s your ride by the caller, who leans out the window, loudly announcing the destination. “Kazanchis, Kazanchis, Kazanchis”.
(The green shirted man is the caller)
Stereotypically, Ethiopians are described as being very friendly and polite people and I cannot imagine a more accommodating, gracious host culture. However, waiting in Ethiopia is very different than waiting in the USA and if not understood, it looks extremely rude as no line forms. Instead, when the right taxi comes your way, this process is followed,
1)Start running, try to end up exactly where the minibus will make it’s stop
2)Make yourself wide-if you are a small person, use your elbows to appear bigger.
3)Move forward into the crush of people, trying to find a gap big enough to squeeze yourself through.
4)If you make it onto the minibus, grab a seat!
This process doesn’t always need to be followed. Off hours of the day, usually you can just hop on as there are always empty seats. Also, now in Addis, police are starting to organize lines in really busy areas or times and the lines are respected. Elderly people are also generally treated with high respect and would be helped on to the transport or a person would get off to make room for someone who looks like it would be difficult for them to press through the lines or run for the next one
Usually they have custom decor
Side note about the not lining up issue. It is culturally not rude. People don’t get mad. I was with an Ethiopian friend in an office waiting for some documents, there were just people everywhere but no lines, I felt like I was standing in line and someone moved quickly in front of me, this happened about three times before I was getting really bugged. I asked my friend what he thought and he just shrugged and said, “They must have something very important to do and can’t wait anymore.”
Travel on the minibus is literally cents and it drops you at the destination and then you usually walk a short distance and catch your next one.
You guys, once I got used to the process, it’s kind of fun (unless you are the fourth person in the back row, still don’t love that, sometimes I have to remind myself to take deep breaths and pray I don’t start freaking out :) If you happen to be an MTI friend, I know you are proud of me).
While I still don’t have it mastered how to haul groceries or children by public transport, I feel like a whole new world has opened up to me.