Once upon a time, I sat on top of a jeepney roaring along the roads with the wind in my hair. The top is the best place to be- away from the adhesive humidity, the elders chewing betel nut, the sticky children selling balut (bird embryo), the toothless women sucking said balut, the act of balancing one cheek on a seat sliver (we’ve all been there). I sat atop spare tires, sacks of rice, duct taped Islanders (the slipper of all thongs); shared space with chooks in cages and locals who thought me ‘cowboy’ but not in a good way. Some how, the soundtrack of Wedding Singer diffused the air, as the jeepney swerved with its elephantine carriage and motored incrementally up the mountainside. I was also comically hoisted through the window right when I thought I had the perfect place to sit.
So trust me when I say transport is about the journey and the destination. Which is why I am pleased to bring you this week’s book Off to Market by Elizabeth Dale and Erika Pal. Inspired by Dale’s adventures riding a matatu (minibus) in Uganda, it is about families hopping into a bus to journey to the local market. More and more passengers (animal, vegetable and mineral) are squeezed in alongside young Keb.
Young Keb, who is sitting on top
of a goat and two sheep who all wriggle non-stop.
The weight of the carriage, however, forces the bus to a standstill until young Keb volunteers a solution which engages the entire bus to get to market on time. The double-paged spread evokes the real life how many can we squeeze in and let’s squeeze even more scenarios of transport in provincial areas. The illustrations also delightfully render a communal bond among neighbours and within the market.
Ankle biter mildly enjoyed this book. Although he couldn’t comprehend that goats and ducks ride in buses (“Why are the goats riding on buses? They belong on farms”); he liked the fact that one day, there may be an opportunity for him to ride on goats IN A BUS. (Sorry Charlie, probably not here.) The message of a small person making a difference was also a bit lost in him. Perhaps we’ll revisit this later. I liked it for the aforementioned remembrance of good times past and the mindful realisation that we are fortunate to have a network of public transport as well as destinations within walkable and cycling distances. Although nothing beats good stories emanating from frigid encapsulation on red-eye foreign forms of public transport. Share some favourites below, I’d love to hear!