You're Not in Kansas Anymore, Part III / by Alan Strathman

Many people on St. Lucia do not have cars and so rely on the bus system.  Other than the fact that busses here and in the U.S. take people from one place to another there is no similarity between the two bus systems.

This is what busses here look like.  Though this is much newer than most.  I think this is referred to as a mini-bus.  It holds 12-14 passengers.  Each mini-bus is owned by an individual who has a contract with the...island (I guess) to run a particular route.

Here is the best thing about the bus system.  Whenever anyone boards a bus they greet those already on the bus with good morning, good afternoon, or good night (which they use like we use good evening).  And everyone on the bus returns the greeting.  It immediately makes the environment pleasant and friendly.  I just love how polite people are here.

There are no bus times and the idea that you could get online and see when a bus will be at your stop is laughable. Since the busses are contractors they are not required, per se, to pick up passengers.  They stop if they want to and not if they don't. If you get on a bus at a terminus or a main stop then you have to sit and wait until the bus fills up.  Sometimes waiting for 14 passengers can take a while.

Predicting how long it will take you to get to your destination is iffy at best. Now, many people here are on island time.  If they say to meet at 1 pm, they could show up anywhere from 1:30 on. But there is really much less island time than people generally think.  My daily Peace Corps training starts at 8:30 am and they don't like it when you arrive late.  Though one trainee shows up whenever he/she wants anyway (very frustrating). Schools start on time. Cricket matches do too.  And people have to be to work on time.

As I said in my last post I live in a part of Babonneau called Plateau.  In my part of town Plateau is the farthest area out and most bus drivers are not willing to go that far.  So, usually, I have to get a bus to La Guerre, the area before Plateau, and walk home.  The two routes up (and I mean steeply up) are called Red Road and Chicken Back Street, though these are only informal because they could only  be described as paths. Both routes are off the beaten track and my family has suggested that I should not walk in those parts at night.  They don't say that anything bad will necessarily happen, but a strange white guy walking at night might not be appreciated.

I live far enough from the training center that I need to get a bus to and from each day. Given the system I just described, getting there and back takes a bit of effort.  Ideally, when I get assigned to my school, it will be in a small enough town or village that I will be able to walk to and from school.  One of the trainees told me today that the PC staff have made all the assignments, though they are not scheduled to tell us for two more weeks.  I will wait patiently to find out.