28 July 2007

Buses like pill bugs, slinking around Tana

[ANTANANARIVO, MADAGASCAR --- The van zipped through the streets of this hilly city with me standing on its metal bumper, clinging to the van's back door for dear life. "OK, you really can't die on your first day here," I thought to myself, as we approached a round-about intersection, a thing all Oklahomans fear. This is how I greeted the sun on my first day in Madagascar, and I couldn't have asked for anything more. I have been reading about the 1960s taxis and buses that tote slogs of people around the capitol city of the world's fourth largest island. This bus did not disappoint. There were 40 of us on board, in only five rows -- roughly eight per row. To accomplish such density, the bus has a row of fold-up wooden plank seats in the center, so no space goes unused. The cramming also relies on goofs like myself, who hold onto the back door and watch the pavement sweep by beneath their feet. I read an article in The New Yorker before coming here in which the author compared these buses to wobbly millipedes, crawling all around the city with arms flailing out the windows. Today I am happy to say that one of those arms was mine -- and perhaps one of the legs, too. --John]

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