A Lesson Learned
How Asian Public transport has taught me patience

from : Traveller's Hostel, Beach Road, Singapore.

I read an article here in the Red Rock News (via the internet of course, since for some reason we can't find a real one here in Singapore) about a construction blast that caused lengthy traffic delays on Hwy. 179 some weeks ago. It referred to one plucky family that spent the time singing songs while others furiously and futilely honked their car horns. I realized that, alas, I would once have been one of the honkers, fuming over a situation beyond my control (not unlike the widening of the highway in the first place) and it underscored one of the lessons I shall bring home with me.

On a crowded bus descending from the highlands of Burma one night, some crucial element dropped out of the engine and we came to a shuddering halt. Without a word all the men piled out of the bus and began building a big bonfire on the roadside to ward of the night's chill while the driver hammered away at the offending part under a flashlight's feeble glow. The women remained on the bus and when I looked in, many former strangers were asleep on each other's shoulders. Two hours later, we were under way less than five minutes when the same thing happened again and the driver had to run back to collect the pieces. The entire process was repeated. I stood watching the firelight flicker on the men's faces as they good naturedly murmured commentary on the renewed hammering while the women all peacefully slumbered. I thought of how this situation might have been handled back home. I, for one, might have asked for a refund after being delayed four hours. No one here made a peep of protest. In fact we all rather enjoyed ourselves in spite of the language barrier.

Every country we visited and every mode of transport we used had at least one incident of unexpected delay of various length and mysterious cause, but always with one common thread - everyone around seemed the picture of patience. It is indicative of the way the people of these developing nations deal with situations beyond their control. From bus delays to repressive and brutal governments, intractable occurrences are met with a patience and acceptance that confers a kind of quiet dignity.

So it comes to this. If I ever head to the village for a Krispy Kreme Kalorie fix (another article I recently read here) and find myself stuck behind a slow moving RV, I'll think of some of the people I shared delays with in Asia. If we were all a little more like them we wouldn't need the four lanes being blasted in the first place. It would save a lot of money for the fellows buying us the highway (wait, that's us!) and keep those beautiful views intact. If we have to drive a little slower at least we'll be able to appreciate them.

~ Nigel




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