Countless times I watched in envy the buses that are zipping past me. Full of tourists that don’t have to do anything to get to the next place – apart from buying a ticket, taking their seat and waiting. And then – by magic – they arrive. While I was working my way along the road, up the hill… feeling tired.
(And of course there were the times when I thought how lucky I am not to depend on buses, independent and loving cycling – otherwise I wouldn’t be doing it again and again.)
But now – I was one of them! Sitting on this bus, finally getting around to answer all the messenger messages I got, have a nap and listen to an audio-book. Apart from listening to the audio book I wouldn’t do any of them. I would even get a caffeine drink to make sure I keep my eyes open when we had a break.
Before: I am standing in front of the bus. The boot is almost empty, plenty of space for my bike, my bags and other people bags. But the bus driver is shoving me away, shaking his head, twisting his hands – not saying a word. While everybody else is shoving their luggage into the boot. Which is slowly but surely filling. My bike still waiting outside. That’s when I spot the blond guy I’ve seen before in the hall. He’s on the same bus. I catch is eye over the top of the head off the other travelers. „You speak by any chance Chinese?“ as the bus driver was ignoring everything I was saying, only twisting his hands in the air while I was getting more and more frustrated. He didn’t. But his girlfriend. Fluent in Mandarin-Chinese and English. My saviour. To her the bus driver talked.
His refusal to talk to me came out of his not being comfortable speaking Mandarin-Chinese himself – as he is usually using the local dialect. It’s something I so easily forget. For many people Mandarin, the language I learned, it’s also a language they learned at school and speak at home, at work, with their friends and family one of the many local dialects or languages. One of the Chinese words used for Mandarin-Chinese is Putonghua – basically meaning „the correct language“ and schools would have signs up reminding the students to only speak Putonghua instead of their family language. Some of these are very similiar to Mandarin, others have about as much in common with Mandarin as English and Finnish.
So my poor Mandarin got him worried about me not understanding him, so it felt better for him to not talk to me. This way, we won’t have any embarrassing misunderstandings. Imagine me taking a deep sigh at this point.
So eventually, he agreed. Paying half the price as I paid for my ticket I was finally granted putting my dismanteld bike into the trunk of the bus. Happily I took one of the last free seats in the back of the bus. As we drove on a straight road out of the city, the girl in front of me was already crunched over her plastic bag, her face pale. I was reading a bit on my phone about Lugu Hu, the glacier lake I was headed to.
We got into the mountains, the roads went around one bent after another and I realized I better keep my head up. The girl in front of me didn’t have anything left in her stomach but didn’t look any better.
Another corner, another time the bus driver hit the gas and brakes shortly after another, I stopped reading and braced myself. The girl was kneeling on the floor, her upper body resting on the seat. She seemed to be dozing off and I really wished for her she was.
I closed my eyes for a bit, dozing off felt like a great idea. I was tired and sleeping felt like the best way to pass time on a bus when you can’t read or write. In an instance I opened them again. We went around another corner, the bus driver kept playing his own stop-and-go game. No way I could stop looking out of the window for more than the time I needed to blink. No way I could let my neck relax. The girl in front of me wasn’t dozing anymore. She was back in her misery and even worse. And by now, even blinking became difficult for me. My brain needed the information I got by looking out of the window to calculate the position of my body sufficently to not feel sick.
When we stopped for a break, everyone that hadn’t thrown up yet was talking about feeling sick and I downed an energy drink to keep awake for the rest of the ride.