How I Conquered Chilean Public Transportation

Hannah Casey is a student at the Virginia Tech and is an ISA Featured Blogger. She is studying abroad  with ISA in Valparaiso, Chile

Today was a big day for me. Within 12 hours I chose a schedule of only Spanish classes, went surfing down the sand dunes of Concón while managing to only wipe out once, and remembered to reapply sunscreen before I started getting burned while pacing the beaches of Reñaca. However, these triumphs pale in comparison to my biggest victory of the day: taking the bus by myself.

The busses in Vina del Mar, Chile, are called micros, and they are ten times more intimidating than any form of public transportation in America. The drivers, or conductores, speed along costal roads with the fervor of a driver from the Fast and Furious franchise and honk at the wind. For someone like me, who hopes to keep all of her limbs intact for the foreseeable future, something as simple as getting to school can become an arduous task.

One of the hundreds of micros that fly through the streets of Valparaíso

My host family accompanied me for my first few trips on the micros, but today I told them, no, I got this, and scurried out the door before they could protest. Two paces away from the door I realized I did not, in fact, got this, because I had no idea where the bus stop was. I sought the help of a nice-looking woman who pointed me in the right direction. She doubled back when she realized I had taken her “allí” to mean a pole 20 meters away from the actual stop, and she smiled as I clambered on the bus to Valparaíso.

El conductor managed to hand me my change and my ticket, close the bus door, and merge his stick-shift bus back into the main lane simultaneously. After a few seconds of contemplating my own mortality and the fragility of life, I managed to shakily make my way to one of the few empty seats. I stared out at the ocean streaming by, not to admire its beauty, but to discern any clues that would tell me when my stop was approaching.

An underpass with graffiti clued me in to the fact that I reached my destination, and I rejoiced as the bus came to a halt. As I exited the bus, I threw one fist in the air like the end of The Breakfast Club because I was so overcome with pride and happiness that I had not only made it where I needed to be, but I made it there on time.

After today, I know I got this. Yeah the busses can be overwhelming, but I realized the secret formula for conquering public transportation: I asked for help when I needed it, I pushed away my fears, I stayed aware of my surroundings, and most of all, I just gave it a shot and trusted myself to figure it out.

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