and now, a post on combis

This blog really wasn’t supposed to be about combis. It’s really supposed to be about the children’s home that I’ve begun visiting/helping at. But a combi is how I got there, and a combi is how I returned. Therefore… a post on combis.

A combi is a bus. They come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Seriously. ALL shapes, ALL sizes, and ALL colors. It’s crazy, really. Each one is owned by a private company and has its own separate route. Well, each route has enough combis that another one comes by about every five minutes. You can tell them apart easily, too. The one that comes by our house is small, blue, and white, and says Monterrey on it. The one that goes to Pachacutec is big, green, and white. I’m learning which bus to take where… but when to get off is another story. And the trip itself is an adventure.

At the beginning of the line they are empty and somewhat comfortable. But toward the end of the line, and during rush hours, these black, exhaust gushing, masses of steel become so packed with people that one can barely breathe. I’ve heard stories from one of my roommates of times she’s literally had to swim off the combi, because no one would move. If I’d have hadta exit before the mass of people, I would have been swimming off of this one tonight, but thankfully the majority left before I did.

One positive to the trip was that I met some great new people. I mean, I became very close to the woman that I was practically sitting on, as well as the fella who was definitely crowding into my personal space as everyone pushed him aside to exit. Oh, and I forgot to mention that the combis help you find your seat quickly, because IF they choose to completely stop for you to get on, they go again immediately. If you haven’t sat down when they go, don’t worry, the lurching of the combi will assist you into a seat, or wherever you happen to land.

The best part of the combis is that they go practically everywhere throughout town. And while a taxi costs around 3-6 soles ($1-$2) per trip, a combi is sixty centimos ($.20).  You might have to walk a little extra to jump on a combi, or after you get off. But really, that’s better for one’s health. And if you’re like me, and you completely miss your stop and get off way late, or lose your way and jump off early, you can add miles onto your daily walking total. Besides the pollution that the black exhaust exudes into the air, there’s really nothing not to like about combis.

I was so proud of myself when I hailed the right combi yesterday, jumped on, ignored everyone’s stares of the white girl who didn’t even need to hold on but instead could press her head into the top of the combi [which most of them couldn’t even touch] for balance. Okay, just fyi, that last sentence was a slight exaggeration…

I was even prouder when we reached Pachacutec [a district in Arequipa] and I knew exactly where we were. Then… the combi took a turn for the worse. Instead of continuing down the road I knew so well, it turned right. I peered out the window as we travelled through rural Pachacutec… hoping to recognize anything in my surroundings. But alas… I could not. Eventually I declared “baja” to the door keeper and jumped off. I immediately did the best thing I knew how… I began walking in circles… Soon thereafter, I acquired directions toward the children’s home… and after backtracking a ways on foot, I successfully found it.

Whelp… this post was supposed to be about the little boys I’ve befriended and have begun helping with their homework on Monday afternoons… and I was going to mention the piano I found and was able to play in an antique store downtown during one of my random treks through the city [after jumping off a combi too early]… it probably also would have been good to tell you that my Spanish is coming along alright, but sometimes the more I learn the more discouraged I am at how little I know… an update on English classes should be thrown in somewhere, but I’m out of time to talk a lot about how we’ve consistently had over ten students per class as of late… and how interesting it is to have my Spanish teacher come to English class; role reversal at its best… so much more to say, but since I tend to be awfully longwinded when it comes to taxis and combis, I’m going to stop here for now.

I love to hear from each of you. If you have facebook look me up… I’m able to put more pictures on there than I am on here. I’ll try to add some more on here when I can. J

With love, Chandler

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