Despite the fact that I sing “Wheels on the Bus” every single day with rambunctious first graders who despite my attempts to make it civil would just rather sing while running around the classroom like a bunch of retarded monkeys, I love to ride the bus.
I don’t ride it every day, but I do ride it at least four times a week.
I remember it took us weeks to figure out the bus system here in Gwangju, where the only information we could find about it was in Korean at a time when we didn’t know one character of the language. We would start in our neighborhood with a destination in mind and end up in the exact opposite place. Even as recently as two months ago I ended up in the wrong place and had to jump ship (ahem. bus) and take a cab. The sign of failure.
But, these days, I am a bus-riding pro.
I have my special blue and red bus card that I simply swipe quickly on my way to fight for a seat. I use my elbows to get in front of students in school-girl skirts and backpacks. They have been sitting down all day, I say to myself.
While it’s usually a rough ride given the terrible driving in Korea, I have become accustomed to the break-neck speed, the brakes slamming, the bus turning so quickly I fall from my seat and into the nice halmoni’s beside me.
I am accustomed to racing to the bus door, breaking line at least twice (you have to, people, if you want to survive in Korea), throwing a few elbows, climbing over a person so I can sit next to the window despite the fact the person sat on the outside to prevent a person from sitting inside. And once I sit down, I sleep.
I sleep through it all. The stares. The “O-ma! Migukun (Mom, an American!)” The potholes. The break-neck speed. The abrupt stops every five seconds. The nice Korean woman’s voice on the card swiping maching that says over and over, “Kamsa Hamnida. Kamsa Hamnida. Kamsa Hamnida.”
Despite it all. I sleep. Soundly. So soundly, that I sometimes miss my stop. Or like today, get off too early and have to walk three extra blocks. But that’s OK. I love walking as much as I love riding the bus.
And as you can see from the photos, I come by it naturally.