Catching a bus uses the same ubiquitous signal as anywhere else in the world – stick your arm out. Eli has taken to just standing there holding his arm out, very cute. If the bus is full, they’ll flash their headlights and honk the horn. Not to be confused with them doing that to get your attention to see if you want a bus. As the bus pulls up, ‘the woman’ will yell out how far the bus is going (remember there is only one rorad), and you’ll either nod or shake depending on whether it will go where you need. I tend to just yell out where I am going, and the bus will either stop or keep going.
If it stops then you need to work out where to sit. Buses tend to get crowded. My best bus ride was when I got straight into the the front seat with Eli, all the way from home to Bairiki, in an air conditioned bus! It was glorious. I even put it on stalker book it was that good! If you dont get given the front seat, you squeeze in somewhere in the back. If you have a child – they go on your lap if there are no spare seats. Quite often a youund girl would sit on here friends lap to free up a seat for the I-matang– we’re talking in their twenties! I’m not sure if they do this for all, but it definitely happens for me. They also seem to move around seats all the time, if a better one comes up – they’ll take it. The best spots are the front, or the front row in the back. If there are no seats – you’re standing, which is no fun for a 6’2 bloke who gets motion sick and doesn’t really know when to get off.
I dont know how ‘the woman’ does it, but she manages to remember where everyone gets on, and how much they need to pay to get to their destinations. You don’t just pay when you get on, at some indeterminate time, she will ask to collect the payments, collect a number of them, then manages to dole out the change to everyone. I find it incredibly awkward, and I cannot say “excuse me” in kiribati so that I can give her my money, especially if I’m coming up to my destination. I have just started giving my money to ‘the woman’ as I get on the bus, and she’ll give me change at some point, sometimes as I get off.
I still don’t really know the cost of the bus, something like 50c flag fall, plus 10c for each village you go through, except bikinebeu may be more, as it is so big. And then Eli is an extra 20c. And of course they dont tell you how much it will cost, and their english is poor, so I always try to give them a $2 coin, or $5 note, so I always give enough. They look at your really funny if you give them too much in change.
Stopping the bus is also another experience. “akai” is something like “stop”. I was saying “Taiaoka e tai”, which is please stop, but it was awkward to say and everyone else was saying something else, which I later worked out was “e kai ni buti” which translates to “next bus stop”. It also rolls off the tongue nicely. Just try and says it fairly loud as the music can be really loud sometimes. Though I was just told by Elis babysitter that she didnt really know what that menat. So maybe I better go back to taiaoka e tai.