Boleteros and little lies

I guess everyone tells a little white lie sometimes.

The 4 year old who asks how you liked his singing or drawing:

Answer: “I loved it sweetheart”

Someone special cooked or prepared something that maybe wasn’t your favorite:

Answer: “I loved it sweetheart”

All pretty commonplace and harmless. But I think little lies are more common in Peru than in the US, just casual observation.

When I was teaching ESL the students would constantly tell me little lies about their absences, even when it was blatantly obvious. One day there was a big Cienciano soccer game. This was a few years ago when Cienciano, the local Cusco soccer team, was pretty good in Peru. The game was at 9:00 pm. One girl came to me at the beginning of my evening class and asked for permission to leave early, around 8:45. When I asked her why, she said “eerrgh, I have to attend a meeting at 9:00”, without even making an effort to sound sincere.

I grabbed her by her shoulders and turned her towards the class…

“Hey class…
Andrea wants to leave early, around 8:45
You can all see she’s wearing a red shirt …
a red hat …
and red shoes”

Everyone laughing, red being the colors of Cienciano.

“And she said she’s going to a meeting at 9:00…”

I’m sure she hated me 🙂

Even the staff at our institute was a bit like that. For example, we had various weekend meetings and events that I often couldn’t make, because it was just a part-time, evening fun-job for me. Every time some of the other teachers suggested if I couldn’t make a meeting that I’d tell the academic director something like “I have to travel this weekend” or “The baby is sick” etc.

In my professional experience back in the US, that would be a big no-no. At GE you didn’t make up excuses, if you couldn’t be somewhere for personal reasons, you just say it’s a personal reason.

Anyway, back to the boleteros. If you’re not familiar with public transportation (buses/combis) in Lima, most buses have both a driver and a “boletero” who takes the passengers fares and yells out the bus route at each stop. For my IO-30 combi from Miraflores to Breña, it goes something like this:

“Larco, Ovalo todo Arequipa. Arequipa Arequipa todo Arequipaaaaaa”

And when the bus gets a bit further down Av. Arequipa, the boletero yells at each stop:

“Todo Arequipa. Arica Arica Duenas. Arica Arica Duenaaaas”

Keep in mind that the boletero’s job is to try and get as many people in the combi as possible. More passengers means more money. The busses get full pretty quick in many stretches, so when there are empty seats the boleteros often yell “Hay asiento” (there are seats) and when the car is practically empty, they sometimes say “Carro vacio”, meaning, empty car.

Now twice in the past week the following happened to me:

I was in a combi which was full of people leaving Miraflores, and I’m standing in the aisle. Not real comfortable for someone 6’3″, but no big deal either. As we got further down Av. Arequipa, some people jumped out at their work or school, and I found a seat. Moments later at the next stop the boletero jumps out…

“Arequipa todo Arequipa… hay asientos”

Fair enough. Another stop later:

“Arequipa todo Arequipa… hay asientos. Carro vacio, Carro vacio”

I just couldn’t help but look around and count the empty seats. There were 2, no mas. 2 out of about 20 seats are available – no exaggeration – and the guy jumps out in a street full of people and yells “empty car”, “empty car”.

This happened twice on different cars. No big deal, it just sort of reminded me that little lies are often a bit comical and seem more prevalent here in Peru than back in the US or Europe.

I was expecting boletero to offer hot meals and on-demand movies next 😉

Bus / combi fares in Lima

Here’s a question: What are the fares I’m supposed to pay for the busses / combis in Lima?

I’ve been in Lima for a few days now, taking combis to various places, and I can’t seem to figure out the fares. I’ve been paying S/. 1.00 for almost every trip, long, short, or in between. It’s not a big issue because 1 Sol is not a lot of money (~0.35 US$), but I’m just curious.

Here’s some examples:

  • I took a combi from the “Ovalo” in Miraflores to “Naciones Unidos” @ “Zorritos” in downtown Lima, about a 45 minute trip during the day. I gave the boletero S/. 1.00 and he accepted it.
  • On the way back from “Zorritos” I took the exact same route (Arica – 28 Julio – todo Arequiiiiipaaaaa) but in a different company. Since I didn’t have S/. 1.00 on me, I gave the boletero S/. 2.00 and he gave me S/. 0.60 change I believe.
  • The next day I took a combi from the “Ovalo” again going up Arequipa, but I told the boletero that I’d be jumping out at “Javier Prado”, so this trip was less than half the distance of the previous one. Again I gave the boletero S/. 1.00 and he accepted it, no change.

On the short trips, I see many of the locals give the boletero some change that is less than S/. 1.00, but I don’t know how much. I’ve asked “cuanto?” a few times, but the boleteros just look at me confused and I end up giving them my 1 Sol as usual. I’m kind of leery to ask, because the rates that are posted inside the combis are actually much higher, usually starting at S/. 1.50 and up to S/. 2.80 or something like that. Plus, I don’t want to look the part of the dumb gringo who doesn’t know his way around.

Again, it’s just small change, but I’m just curious as to what everyone else is paying. When in Lima, I guess I like to do like the Limenians 🙂