Riding Along in My Automobile: How to Learn a New City

ImageI had been in a new city for a few days learning my immediate neighborhood, figuring out how to buy groceries even though I didn’t speak any Arabic, and learning how to work my incredibly odd washing machine with all its strange buttons.

And now it was time to venture beyond the confines of my three block radius and get to know my new home.

This is not as easy as it sounds.
1. I don’t have a car.
2. I don’t speak the language.
3. All the maps are labeled wrong and about 25 out of date.

But, being the adventurous person I am, I took the proverbial bull by the horns and stared this challenge in the face.

I got on a servees.

A servees is the mass transit system for this city. Basically 10-25 people get on a 15 passenger van that has a set route, much like a bus would. The challenge is reading the long title of each servees line while it’s barreling down the street and getting on the right one going in the right direction.

So, I grabbed a notebook and hopped on one parked near my apartment waiting to fill up before it started its journey. I noted its squiggly, Arabic name and then ferociously wrote down all the landmarks we passed until the driver told me the route was over.

Then I rode another servees. And another. And another.

Fifteen serveeses later and I had mapped out the city based on landmarks and major intersections. I was now a free woman.

Until two weeks later when they changed all the routes.

Walking it is.

How do you learn a new city?

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