This is my sixth week living in Saudi Arabia (and it's actually raining here today, in the desert, which amuses me greatly), and one of the things that I've been doing a lot of is riding on buses. Obviously.
For the most part, I like this aspect of life here. I get to sit and knit or read or chat with the other ladies while someone else deals with the predictably unpredictable traffic. The buses are unfailingly clean. They play music I like over the speaker. Some even have wi-fi (and it's much faster than in our apartment, so a wi-fi bus is the best place to download podcasts).
This is my sixth week here, and two problems with the buses have become apparent.
1 - The buses aren't quite frequent enough. My kids go to school on a private compound, and I had a meeting with Sadie's teacher after school last Tuesday to discuss how she's been doing and what to expect for the rest of her year in kindergarten. To get to her school by the appointment time of 3:15 pm, I had to leave my apartment at 1:50 pm, and then wait around the school office for about 45 minutes, because there no later bus that would work. Then, my kid and I had to wait around her deserted school for about an hour, so that we could catch the 5 pm bus back to our home. We walked in our door at about 5:50 pm. One bus every half-hour would go a long way to make life off-compound a lot smoother. A meeting with a teacher shouldn't be a four-hour undertaking, you know?
2 - The buses don't follow the route they're supposed to. It's maddening! I've taken it to the compound (which is oddly like the Dharma Initiative from Lost, but that's a story for another day) in the evening, and it's skipped going past the middle school because no one was getting off there, but what if there were people needing to be picked up? This past weekend, the four of us were taking the bus to get lunch at the Mexican restaurant by the golf course, and from prior trips, I knew that the golf course should appear out the left window. Except it didn't. We got off the bus at a completely unfamiliar place which turned out to be on the wrong side of the golf course, and 5 km away from the restaurant. So, we all got our cardio in that day, and I also got a pretty bad sunburn on my lower neck! Last night, I pulled out the "official" map of the bus route, and discovered that on Saturday, it drove up the completely wrong road! Yes, the golf course should have been on the left after all ...