Friday, January 16, 2009

The Fast (van driver) and the Furious (me)

There are moments in your life that can be described as nothing but perfect. Everything seems to be perfectly alligned, and you would never want to change any part of it because nothing could be better.

Then on the other hand, there are moments in life when all you can think to do is a "Zack Morris/Saved by the Bell Time-Out." Today, of all the moments that I've been here in the Philippines, is the day when I would have yelled, "cut!" and stepped out of the situation.

I've riden in a lot of memorable cars. When I think back I remember driving in my parent's stationwagon to Key West when I was in the second grade, sandwiched between my brother and sister; riding in my high school boyfriend's car I unlovingly called "The Death Trap;" and you can't forget the Focus that got a personal introduction to a deer on the ski trip in Tennessee, but nothing, and I repeat NOTHING, beats the van ride I got to go on today.

Transportation in the Philippines is like no other. Whether it be in a bus, pedicab, ferry, trike, or put-put, nothing in America compares. My supervisor and I got to drive back from Tacloban in a van today. It's a 15 passenger van with a sliding door. The adventure started by waiting in the van for 30 minutes so all the passengers could wander in, pay, and finally sit down. Eventually we got started, as did the rain.

So I'm stuck directly in the middle of a van full of people; the lone white girl in a sea of Filipinos. Whatever, I'm used to that, no big deal. I'm not however used to sitting ontop of other people, and I especially don't like it when the guy next to me smells like he hasn't taken a shower in a week. But again, whatever, it could be worse. Oh wait, but then it does get worse. This is when the driver starts to play the music. Bob Marley IS NOT meant to be played to a upbeat, pop-club tempo. It's just not, I'm sorry. Strike one against the driver.

Strike two: Driving 80 miles per hour on roads that are only 2 lanes is also NOT COOL. I know, I probably sound really uptight, but let me try to paint the picture. The entire trip consists of nothing but this one mountain winding road that is not only wet from the constant rain we've been getting for the past 2 weeks, but is also lined with houses, towns, kids playing, bicycle taxis, and carabaos. So as the van goes alone at light speed, it's constantly swerving around bikes and missing cars that are coming in the opposite direction by literally seconds. By this point, my main mission is not to be the first one to throw up in the van.

Strike three came when I began to really look at the van. The driver had tacky stuffed animals all over the front of the van, plus obnoxious hanging slinky animals from the rearview mirror. Then to top it off, he also had a "God Help Us" crochetted banner hanging in the front, which normally I'd be perfectly fine with, but couldn't help but thinking during this situation that it was the driver's cruel way of mocking us.

So by this point in the trip everybody else seems to be asleep in the van, I'm in a sweat because the airconditioning isn't working right and I'm having a panic attack, I'm wonering what would be the best way to prevent my body from flying out of the car if we slide off the mountain because there are no seatbelts, and I'm praying to God to please help us. Alright, now the banner makes perfect sense! This is it, this is when I'd call the time-out.

To wrap it all up, I wasn't the first one to puke. The little Filipno kid behind me made it two hours before he was upchucking into a plastic bag. And me? I plan on staying stantionary for awhile.

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