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I leave my house for work and get called over by two village women awaiting their chance to do business with the chief. The first smiles...

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Transportation Tuesday: Five Reasons to Befriend Your Taxi Crew

Getting around in Lesotho without a personal car is surprisingly easy…if you have a lot of patience and even more time. Public transportation—in the form of large vans and small buses-goes almost everywhere, but the taxis make frequent stops, will not leave a population locale unless full, tend to cram as many people and supplies in as possible, and blast music at deafening volumes. Over the next month or so, I will be sharing a series of posts called Transportation Tuesday, which will highlight different aspects of transportation in Lesotho.

Befriending the guys responsible for getting you from your village to the nearest town/transportation hub is invaluable in Lesotho. I was lucky enough to do this fairly quickly and have lived to appreciate it every single time I am on one of my taxis.

5. Free Baggage
In my area, people pay for large bags—whether luggage or 50kg of maizemeal. If you have more than fits on your own lap and feet, you pay. Unless, apparently, you have spent your time cultivating friendships with your taxi drivers and conductors. Then, they will simply shake their head “no” when you ask how much you owe for the large bag they have just hefted into the taxi for you.

4. Protection
Carrie Underwood would be proud of my taxi-
Jesus takes the wheel in the most literal sense. #Protection
Some annoying and drunk man hitting on you in the taxi rank? The crew simply will not stand for that. You will be promptly shuffled into a well-protected seat away from such nuisances.

Someone trying to pester you for money before you are white (which is synonymous with wealthy here)? The taxi crew has your back there too, quickly defending you as “Mosotho.”

3. You’ll be Home Before Dark
Sometimes, town is so loaded with people that there simply are not enough seats to go around. People are stuck waiting in town for the taxis to travel to the villages and back, making the lines incredibly long. When dusk approaches though, your taxi crew will make sure people let you “cut” the line so you can get home safely before your Peace Corps curfew. On the chance the taxi arrives in village after dark, they will make sure you have an escort to walk you home before they move on up the road.

2. They’ll Wait for You
When your friends catch one of the last taxis to your camp town and your taxi driver is itching to head home for the day, you will watch the taxi rank gradually empty itself of people and cars, but your driver will wait for your friends anyway.

If it is raining andyou are walking out of another village with women from your organization and your taxi crew sees your bright white skin glowing like a lighthouse, they will drive 2km up the road to pick everyone up, making you the most popular person in your group.

1. Prime Seating!
Nobody wants to sit in the back row of a taxi, where you are squeezed in four-across and there is no leg or head space. While they cannot always spoil you, once you are besties with your taxi crew, they will do their best to give you the front seat or one of the front rows. If other folks try to grab the seat they have earmarked for you, the seat thief will be quickly redirected and moved.

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