21 May 2006
The four of us hopped on the bus in Kashka Suu, about 20 km south of Bishkek. As usual, it was a minibus and had seats for 14, including the driver. Since we were so far out of town, the price to downtown Bishkek was 15 som each instead of the 5 som we pay in town.
We’d flagged him down a few hundred meters before the true beginning point for the route because he was looking for passengers. We waited at the official starting point for 10 minutes and were off to Bishkek with a total of 6 passengers on the bus.
The driver continued to look for passengers, waiting for several to run to the bus. Then we started to pick people up from the side of the road, as usual (you don’t see a lot of drivers waiting for passengers). When we were up to 17 people in the bus (the three children were on their respective parents’ laps), we picked up what looked like a soccer team of around 10 teenaged boys. They stayed crowded in the front of the bus and hopped off a few kilometers later in another town. We also picked up a few more people along the way and let off a couple of people.
We drove on for a few kilometers, picking up more people than we let off, including a woman with a baby and a toddler. Of course, one of the younger people in the front of the bus gave her his seat. As we turned onto what would became Manas street, we picked up around 10 little girls who had just spent the day at an amusement park south of town. They were all quite cheery a bouncing little rubber balls that lit up. They perched themselves around the bus wherever they could with a few passengers holding some.
At this point we counted about 30 people on the bus. We were sandwiched in the very back corner and were wondering how we were going to be able to get off on our street without disgorging all the passengers in front of us since it’s a lot easier to wriggle past 15 people when you’re not carrying two large bags and shepherding two children also. Luckily, the crew of cheery little girls was getting off on the same street we were and we emptied the bus of all extra passengers so everyone could sit down. It went on its way for a few more minutes to Osh Bazaar.