That scandalous little s with the tail is pronounced like ‘sh’. Marşrutkas are the primary mode of transport around here, especially for me. For some who are closer to the city, they can catch a #30 or a #7 avtobus, much like our buses at home. For those who live a little further out of the way, it’s marşrutkas, tallish, narrow, extended vans that have extra seats packed into them. They buzz around town for 20 qepik a ride, and are an interesting sociological experiment.
First, I don’t fit in marşrutkas. It’s a daily occurrence that I’ll get into a crowded van and I’ll have to stand hunched over, holding onto my bag and looking rather silly amongst the other passengers. This was especially the case when it was me standing next to a particularly short midget. And then, when a seat is available for me, there is more than likely no leg room.
The sociological experiment comes in because observing the movements on the marşrutka can be fascinating. Some general rules: 1) Men sit in the back and in the front; women sit in the middle rows of seats or the front. 2) It is always appropriate to get up for someone else who is older, female, has children, or is carrying something. 3) Young men don’t sit by women, unless they know them. 4) Depending on where your sitting, at anytime children and goods may be passed to you for safekeeping.
What you end up with, then, is a game of musical chairs, without the music, on your marşrutka ride. While all over the world, it is polite to give your seat to someone less able to stand than yourself, the added gender consideration makes things particularly sensitive. I have taken rides where I’ve stood up and sat down in different seats 3-4 times over a 15 minute ride. Each time someone gets on or off the van, everyone reshuffles to the appropriate configuration of sitting or standing.