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Siberian Bus Rides - Getting Funky With Your Bad Self
Living in Siberia for a year allowed me to experience things I never would have in San Diego. Getting funky with your bad self on Siberian bus rides was one such thing.

Slip Sliding Away

The only real disadvantage to living in the Siberian city of Chita was the lack of personal transportation. This was particularly true during the winter when the temperature dropped as low as 40 degrees below zero. That may sound a bit nippy, but any negative temperature is relative. You really can't tell the difference between 15 or 40 below. It's just cold.

My problem concerned the proximity of my apartment and place of work. Put another way, there wasn't any. It was a health 40-minute walk during warmer months, but a frozen baton death march in February. Walking really isn't the right word since everything was covered in ice. To get from point "A" to point "B", one more or less just tried to fall repeatedly in the right direction and hope for a good slide. After a few trips, a sprained ankle, sore butt, incredibly sore elbows and a bit too much medicinal vodka, it was time to explore public transportation.

And The Wheels Go Round and Round

In Chita, overhead electrical lines powered most of the buses. The buses were you basic city buses, which is to say they were large with massive tires and cheesy advertisements on the side. The Gillette shaving cream ads on the side reminded me of home. Ah, sweet capitalism.

Anyway, I wasn't the only person in Chita that felt walking to and fro on sheets of ice was a bad strategy. The buses were packed morning, noon and night. We are talking sardine packed with no one able to move and lots of grunting involved in getting on or off. This condition gave rise to the "Get Funky with Your Bad Self" Siberian bus dance.

Six days a week, I would pile on to a bus every morning with a few hundred other Russians. The first mile was flat and we would all surreptitiously try to position ourselves for the hills. As we waited at a light to turn down the first hill, you could cut the tension in the air. The dance was about to start.

The bus would slow down to about five miles an hour and just creep over the crest of the hill. Then it would begin to slide. Everyone would involuntarily lean backwards so the person in front of you was more or less lying on your chest. Then the wheels would catch and everyone would lurch forward so you were now bent over the person in front of you in a rather compromising position. I often felt as though I should at least buy flowers for the women who happened to stand in front of me. Back and forth you would go until the bottom of the hill was reached.

On occasion, Mother Nature and the bus driver would conspire to create a more aggressive dance step. If the bus gained too much speed going down the hill, it would slide towards the curb and lose contact with the overhead electrical wires. No electricity meant no power and no control. As the bus hit and jumped the street curb, the mass of people would be slammed forwards and to one side before being whipped the other way as the bus stopped.

This particular dance was commonly known as the rib crusher since one tended to smash one's ribs on the edge of the seat backs. There was no need for flowers after a rib crusher dance, unless they were for your funeral.

Riding the winter bus did have one thing going for it. It was a good way to meet people. If you managed to get off at the right stop, everyone had something to chat about.
About the Author
Rick Chapo is with Nomad Journals - makers of travel journals to preserve your travel experiences.
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Submitted by: rick.chapo
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May 9th 2007, by nancyj:
Very funny & I also enjoyed your account of your journey to Chita. Please proofread for typos, though! This one has a lot.
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