It was a hot summer day and I was with three American guys in a packed, hot, minibus. Now, my three friends were very new to the city of Bishkek and public city transportation. We had to get from the south side of the city to the center on a “marshrutka,” one of the city’s minibuses. We stood at the bus stop and chatted about daily life in the city. I gave them a short description of what to expect on the minibus and explained to my friends that it would be crowded, hot, sweaty and stinky from all the people, you get stared at, and you get shoved a little bit. The bus arrived, and it went something like this:
We paid our bus fare and cautiously found a spot to stand. It was fine for a couple of minutes until reality hit us hard. At the next stop, in flowed a swarm of people stuffing the minibus to an uncomfortable capacity. The guys looked at me with worry. We got separated a bit and I got pushed to the back of the bus. They looked more worried. From the back of the bus I saw a local man talking to one of the guys in English. The other two were crammed against the wall. One of the guys was trying to avoid having his face in a stranger’s armpit. As the bus weaved in and out of traffic, the passengers swayed side to side bumping against each other. The guys were being thrashed about. Toward the end of our trip, a family of three had to get out from the back of the bus. They were not gentle about it. They shoved one of my friends into the seat because the local family was in a rush. Even I knew that was a bit harsh.
So after a few more moments of being glared at, we finally reached our destination and got off the bus. I glanced at the 3 guys and they looked wrecked.
“Well, that’s our public transportation. Do you need a hug?” I asked.
“Yes, I do Derrick,” one of them replied, “Yes, I do.”