User Error: My On-going Struggle with Incompetence
I’m not allowed to choose taxis anymore – it is officially Febby’s job from now on. A taxi in Papua is like a 7 passenger van; some are local and some go to other towns, and more often than not, you have to transfer at some point. This has all proven to be a little much for me, and on top of all the confusion, my hips are just too wide. Getting in the taxi, I have to duck down to fit through the door. Then I try to squeeze between the middle bench seat and the side of the car to get to the back seat. This is the point where I get stuck.
Needless to say, I prefer to walk or to drive myself, but with other people it is often necessary to take a taxi. Sentani is a town about 30 minutes away and on the way home from a friend’s house there a few weeks ago, I kept stopping taxis on the street that weren’t going where we needed to go. I have a hard time knowing which one is which. Febby was standing off to the side, just shaking her head. She knows all about taxis, so I stood back and let her get us home, which she of course was able to do, no problem.
On Saturday night Febby and I were headed to Sentani for a concert at the International School. We were meeting friends at their house (same one as before) but had to leave late because I was teaching. I stopped a taxi that said “Abe-Waena” on the side. Perfect – we needed to get to the terminal in Waena and then get on a taxi to Sentani. But once we got to Waena, the driver turned off the main road, which is not at all what we wanted. We jumped off and started walking to the terminal, not really sure how far it was, but not wanting to take an additional taxi just to get through town. It turned out to be a tad farther than I’d thought (big surprise).
Then we got on a larger taxi with about 13 other people to Sentani. Our friends had to go ahead to get to the concert on time, so we passed their house and had instructions to stop at Apotek Budi (a drugstore). I had never heard of it before, but hoped it was close to the school.
This is where my paralyzing fear of talking to taxi drivers became a problem. I’m too shy to yell from the very back of a crowded taxi and I usually spend the whole ride rehearsing what I have to say when we’re coming up to my stop, “Om, depan,” and even so, my voice usually cracks when the time comes. And this time, I had to say even more, and for all I knew, we could have already passed the apotek or it could still have been far ahead of us. Fortunately when I got the nerve to tell the driver, it was just up ahead.
The next step on this journey was to take two ojek (a motorcycle taxi) up a long hill to the school. Incidentally, that is when I found out that it’s really hot when your leg touches the exhaust pipe of a motorcycle. Go figure. Anyway, the conert was fun, we only missed half of the first song, and as an added bonus, I had an extremely delicious oreo cupcake during intermission. On the way home, we got a ride along with three friends – which was convenient and fun but also terrifying. Ester and I spent a lot of the ride in the back, hanging on for dear life.
The following day, I was thinking about my taxi issues while going for a drive along the lake. I didn’t think to take a jacket with me, so of course it rained. And that is when I decided that anyone who lives in Papua and leaves home without a jacket is really just asking for it.
These experiences make me wonder if I should even be allowed out of the house. Unfortunately, it recently became clear that I am not even safe in my own home. I found out this weekend that there is solitaire on my ipod, and consequently it now needs to be charged more frequently. That shouldn’t be a problem, except that if you aren’t paying attention (or maybe if you’re borderline incompetent) then you might get a nasty shock – and by that I mean a jolt of electricity flowing through your body. If you hadn’t already noticed that your finger was touching the metal prongs of the plug as you were inserting it into the outlet, you would probably notice after that.
Add to the lengthy list of things I am afraid of: electricity.