Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Bus Love

I am a proud bus rider here in Springfieldee. People like to complain about the bus system here, but I think it's great! It's a little more expensive than I'd like (higher than what I've seen in other cities), but luckily I make enough money that it doesn't break the bank (and it's certainly cheaper than a car).

Why do I love thee, bus system? Let me count the ways:

1. I almost never have to wait more than 5-10 minutes. If I do, it's usually because I just missed the previous bus.

2. The buses stop on the shoulders of the highway. The safety of this practice is questionable, but it's very convenient when you live right by the highway (like I do). Don't worry, it's not a crazy California freeway or anything.

3. The city has a website that can help you plan your trip -- well, sort of. I think the interface is from 1995, and it craps out inexplicably sometimes, but if you can learn its crazy quirks, then you can get some use out of it. It's certainly better than needing to ask people on the street.

4. The city bus system utilizes a little card (like in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, and kind of like in San Diego, CA). I can put credits on it so I don't have to carry cash around, and if I transfer buses within a certain amount of time, I don't have to pay again, even if I take a bus from a different company.

5. My bus riding requires a lot of walking. This is a bad thing on very hot or very cold days, but in general it's really nice. It gives me a bit of extra exercise every day, and it also results in "me time", if you will -- 10 to 15-minute walks that I can spend just thinking about random stuff. (This is also a great way to see new birds. :)

6. I don't have to drive! Driving around here is stressful and, at times, terrifying. Talk about road rage! It's like playing Crazy Taxi.

7. The bus is usually relaxing. Because I rarely take the bus at rush hour or to very popular places (like downtown at 8:00am), I almost always get a seat and people are generally mild-mannered. Of course you get the occasional weirdos or annoying people trying to sell pencils or Halls cough drops, but I'll take them over an aggressive douche or drunk driver any day. (FYI, aggressive douches and drunk drivers are all too common on the roads around here.) 

8. I don't have to pay for a car! Holy hell! Cars are expensive in this country. The car itself would cost about a year's salary for me (and that's if I chose something basic, and American basic is not Brazilian basic when it comes to cars). Car registration is also excessively expensive in Brazil, and then there's still insurance, gasoline/ethanol, and maintenance. I think I would easily have to spend about 25% of my monthly income on a car. With my bus pass, I keep my costs down, and there are no surprises! Oh, and I still haven't gone through the extensive and overpriced process of transferring over my driver license, which includes paying for an official translation and taking a psychological test (?), or so I've heard. That's a whole new bureaucratic beast that I don't want to deal with. So Alexandre and I have an agreement that he pays for the car, but he gets priority over it and drives me around sometimes, and I only drive when I really, really need to.

9. I see more cool things and interesting people that I probably wouldn't have noticed had I been driving. I also learn alternative routes to places, which is helpful on days when roads are under construction. I'd argue that I know the city better than Alexandre does because I sometimes take the wrong bus and get lost because the bus forces me to go on indirect routes sometimes, and I build a cognitive map and also pass by new restaurants and stores and stuff.

10. Of course, there are the environmental benefits! Buses are greener and all that.

So hooray for the buses! I'm lucky enough not to work at rush hour, to live in a neighborhood where enough buses go, and to not need to get around town late at night by myself. All of that, combined with my list above, makes my trips on the bus quite enjoyable.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Crunch

So every time I go back to California to visit, I experience a phenomenon that I'd like to call "the crunch." Perhaps you are familiar with it:

When you buy your tickets to go back to your homeland, you stare at the little airline purchasing calendar, negotiating between your head, your heart, your schedule in your second home, and your wallet. You remember a time that you went to the motherland for too long, and you started to feel bored, and like you were intruding on everyone's workdays. You remember a time when you went to the motherland for too short of a trip, and everything was rushed and tiring. You try to choose an amount of time that's somewhere in between.

But as soon as you make the purchase and announce your visit to your friends and family, the crunch begins. Suddenly, you realize that you could easily spend the entire trip with each person who gets in touch with you and says they want to see you. You try to map out an itinerary that fits everyone in, but people are in different cities, people have kids and jobs, you don't have a car, and you want to spend as much quality time with your dear grandmother as you can! Crunch goes your schedule. Crunch goes your wallet. Crunch goes your heart. The guilt can really weigh on you!

You know it's ridiculous, but you actually start to feel sorry for yourself because you have so many awesome people in your life and not enough time to spend with all of them.

Has anyone else experienced the crunch? Is anyone else experiencing it right now, like I am, while trying to plan their trip home for the holidays?

I'm so happy to be going back to the US for a visit, but I'm feeling really, really guilty about not being able to spend more time with everyone.
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