Saturday, September 25, 2010

Behold He Comes

[A new voice, new eyes seeing SVG. Unusually well written. This will be interesting to follow.]

Perhaps the most exciting cultural experience I have had yet on St. Vincent has been the use of public transportation.  The commute from my assigned village to the Peace Corps training site in Kingstown is over an hour long, and consists of a narrow winding road up and down the island’s sloping mountainous terrain, combined with non-existent speed limit laws and sardine-packed vans that don’t have seat belts.

Many of the vans have interesting names plastered across the front, like Stick Man, Lamo, and Axcess.  Others have names with a biblical reference such as Exodus, and the one I hopped on yesterday morning, Behold He Comes.  My theory for these religious names is that Vincentians believe it takes God’s good graces to drive amidst such challenging conditions and still arrive at your destination in one piece.  After four days here, I’m a believer too.  On the flip side, should the van happen to flip over the side of the road to meet its end at the bottom of the mountain, you’re probably better off being in a vehicle with a name that can deliver you to the pearly gates of heaven in its afterlife.

After getting on my mini-bus yesterday, everything was fine until a blue van in front of us failed to pull off to the side of the road in order to allow new passengers to board.  This happened multiple times, each time with a more rambunctious reaction from those on my van, until our driver decided to get out and yell at the other driver for not allowing us to pass.  The driver of the blue van did this again at the next stop and this time our driver, visibly upset, reached for his machete conveniently located adjacent to the steering wheel.

At this point, I could feel my eyes bulging out of their sockets, and my knuckles were white from clenching my fists in tension.  But some of my fellow passengers yelled to our driver, “Don’t do it, mon.  He’s just lookin’ for some conflict,” and our driver put the machete down.  God bless the peace-loving people of St. Vincent.

After finally passing the other van, our driver engaged in a game of ‘Look Who’s Got Control of the Road Now,’ driving at about 5mph in the middle of the road to piss off the other guy, until he finally got over it.  An hour and 15 minutes after getting onto the bus, I got off at my stop in front of the Peace Corps office, thankful that Behold He didn’t Cometh for anyone on those two buses that day.