I like riding the local buses. Many Cuencanos tell me that this is dangerous, although a little questioning reveals they’ve actually never ridden a bus. “But I saw on the news--------.”
It’s not about saving money. Sure, bus fare is 25 cents (half that if you’re 65 or older) and a cab costs $1.50-2.00. Times are not so hard that I don’t have an extra $1.75.
Riding buses helps keep me grounded. I see the “real” Cuenca here—students, indigenous women with kids strapped on their back, professionals sitting and standing side by side.
There’s an interesting ritual in which I sometimes participate just like a local. Bus drivers are loath to give you change. All you’ve got is a 50 cent piece. You tap the shoulder of the person in front of you, show him your coin, and if he has a quarter he gives it to you, takes yours and pays for both of you. No Spanish required. How cool!
Then you’ve got the traveling salesmen who hop aboard for a couple of stops shouting out their sad story and hawking anything from pencils (pencils??) to candy bars. Or musicians who entertain you for spare change.
It’s all great fun, and I’m sorry I see so few expat passengers. Many only seem to hang out with each other, eat/drink at “gringo” restaurants and bars, and own cars so neither buses or taxis are ridden. We don’t have gated communities here, but it appears some of my compatriots are creating “gated existences” for themselves, associating with the local people and culture only when absolutely required.
I find it puzzling to travel so far away to a foreign country, then do everything you can to pretend you don’t really live there.
I’ll just keep riding the bus, thank you. Hey, do you have a quarter? All I’ve got is this 50 cent piece.