Monday, June 17, 2013

Student Reflection: Minibus taxis - Megan Distler

Minibus Taxis.  A common, inexpensive form of transportation for the residents of Cape Town.  For 6 of us, these taxis became our main form of transportation to and from work.  They seemed practical and safe enough that first day, but little did we know the adventures that were to be had riding these.  After riding them, I firmly believe that you can’t truly know a city until you use its public transportation.
The first two days riding the taxis went well for almost all of us, but we quickly realized the next week just how unreliable they can be.  They all start at Parade, and leave when they have their seats full.  Simple, right?  Except filling the bus can take so long, I don’t know how people ever make it to work on time!   And, they will do anything to get as many people in the mini bus at one time (I think their unofficial motto is “There’s always room for one more!”); stuff it way past capacity, stop for half an hour in the street trying to get more people, anything.  Lauren and I take four different mini bus taxis to get to and from work every day, and every ride is definitely a new experience.  Sometimes, we can’t find a taxi near our house.  Sometimes, the mini bus taxi will take forever at the ranks, waiting for the bus to fill to leave.  Sometimes, you think you’re making great time because you found a taxi near your house, and the taxi at the rank was almost full when you got there, but then the caller person (this guy sticks his head out the side window, and yells where the taxi is headed to see if anyone needs a ride) will leave the mini bus for like half an hour trying to find more riders, while we sit on the mini bus just waiting.  And waiting.  And waiting.  We have always made it to work by 8:15, so I guess we don’t have a lot to complain about.  Rebecca and Matt regularly wait at least 30 minutes just for their taxi to leave the ranks, to head toward Bridgetown.  You just never know what is going to happen on each ride.
After all of these experiences, Lauren and I realized that we could have ridden the bus this whole time to our internship.  Not the minibus taxis, but the bus that Dennis drives, that takes some of the other students in our group out to their internships.  We could have left a half hour later every morning and still been there on time.  We wouldn’t have had to sit cramped on a bus for almost an hour every morning, or walk at least a mile total every morning and afternoon.  We wouldn’t have had hearing damage from the bass which mini bus taxis almost always have turned all the way up.  We wouldn’t have feared for our lives when the mini bus gets gas without turning off the engine.  We wouldn’t have almost been pickpocketed or mugged a couple times by Parade.
But, we also wouldn’t have all these stories about it.  We wouldn’t have gotten to the point where we could only laugh if something new and bizarre happened.  We wouldn’t have gotten to walk with Lara and Sharon from our internship everyday so we could all get a taxi.  We wouldn’t have ever seen Groote Schurr (the hospital where the world’s first heart transplant took place) or gotten over the uncomfortableness I felt whenever someone I didn’t know was that close to me.  As much as I wish we had realized we could have taken the bus earlier, I’m glad we got these great stories!  But, next time, I’ll make sure there isn’t another way of getting there before taking a minibus taxi :)

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