PMV’s

Yesterday was really neat. We needed to go into town to the market for a few things. Well, town is close enough to walk to if we’re empty handed, and too far if we are carrying something (or someone). The two basic methods of transportation for the average person are 1) walking and 2) taking a PMV. (Public Motor Vehicle – or something to that effect.) Well, Angie had baby Jael with her and I had Shiloh – and we would be coming home with some groceries.

Now, you have to understand some things about PMV’s. Basically, a national driving an old and very compact 15 passenger van with a mini-van sliding door goes back and forth in and out of town – stopping now and again to fill up and unload passengers. It costs 40 toia (about 13 cents) to go into or out of town. I just heard that kids about 12 and under are free – however no one ever said anything when I paid for the kids, too, my first trip. They seem to drive with an organized madness – though I have yet to see an accident. (With so many people crammed into each PMV, even an accident would be fairly cushioned!)

Well, the first two times we took a PMV I was with Joey – and he accomplished the catching of a PMV and paying the driver’s buddy, who always sits up front next to the driver and handles the money and the door. So this trip yesterday was a bit of a trial run. Not to say Angie and I didn’t do our homework. We found out a few days before where to stand in town to catch a PMV going back towards our house. It seems that the corner outside the outdoor veggie market is where people stand to wait for one of the constant ebb and flow of PMV’s. We couldn’t figure out how the line (or lack of one) worked. There are usually between 25 and 100 people standing or sitting on that corner… but when a PMV drives up – about 15 people emerge from the crowd and get in line at the door of the PMV. Now, they do the “stand in line” thing behind the PMV door, but what about the mass of people just waiting around?? I don’t get that yet.

Anyway, we also learned from our language helper where to stand to catch a PMV into town. Now this goes into a little more history – it seems that most streets have a name – though there are no signs. I have heard (?) that there used to be signs and a rebel group tore them all down at one point. Well, they never went back up – if it’s true they were ever up at all. Well, most people seem to be convinced that PMV stops are marked. Or are obvious. I am starting to think it is just a learned thing. I sure haven’t seen anything at all that seems to mark a PMV stop! Time will tell.

So I asked our language helper where the PMV stop outside our apartments that goes INTO town is. She told me (with a little wave of her hand toward the road) – oh, you just stand out there and they will come. Well, my experience has thus far proved otherwise. 🙂 So I pressed her,” Well, where exactly do we stand?” – as we walked closer to the fence. “Oh, just there.” Another little wave. “There?” I point to the little kai bar (little road side restaurant). She gives me a look that means America must be farther off than Mars. “No, there – in front of the Chemica building.” At this point she caught on that I really was clueless. ” You stand there in front of the Chemica building – where those people are – the PMV will come and bring you into town. If you want to go the other way, you stand on the other side of the street.” Well, I am a little less clueless now!!

So back to yesterday – like I said, Angie and I had done some homework and were ready to ride the PMV’s alone. (Alone is relative.) We stood in front of the Chemica building – Jael in arms and Shiloh in tow – money tucked away out of pickpockets sight – and 40t each in hand to pay the PMV guys. There were three people hanging out there already – apparently waiting too. Sure enough, not a full minute went by when a dirty white van with a blue license plate came uncharacteristically slowly around the corner and pulled up to the “PMV stop”. They let people off, and started to leave without any more of us! I was starting to wonder if this is what culture shock feels like – when I realized the tire on the old PMV was all but gone and riding on the rim. They said, “Sori, sori, tyre no gut.” As they drove slowly off and another pulled up in it’s place, I realized people are people, and tires are tyres, and culture shock will have to wait.

We had no trouble getting into town, and even less coming home – though the PMV’s money-taking door-handling buddy did try to convince me to squeeze in next to a young smiling PNG guy when there was a whole empty seat behind him. I (graciously – I think) declined and sat with Shiloh in the empty seat. There are still a lot of things to learn here – and tomorrow’s another day. But yesterday, we rode the PMVs!!

Ok- I must go – yesterday I got groceries, and today a mountain of laundry awaits me 🙂 Another day, another challenge 🙂 Love and hugs to everyone there – Thanks for keeping in touch!! It means so much to me to hear from you!
Love in Christ – the creator of the PMV drivers and the sustainer of our trembling hearts (especially around the corners),
Brooke