Myanmar (Burma)

My Worst Bus Ride: PT. V, VI

July 19, 2017

PART V: 1:25

Interestingly, as the bus company realized they could make more money by creating more storage space, they actually ripped out 3 rows in the back of the bus so that they could store more cargo.

The party was in the back. About 3 guys had already moved back there. They also had ripped the cushions from their seats, which was attached by velcro and was using that as a mattress. I go back, get my seat cushions and set up my mattress.

The amount of weight in the back of the bus is staggering. The white bags are made of canvas and filled with some sand-like material. They are so dense and so heavy. I try to rearrange a few to make a more comfortable and less lumpy bed, no dice, the bags were too heavy. As I tried to pull the bags, all this white powdered poofed out of the bag and coated my arms and legs. At first I thought it was flour, but I was unsure. A Myanmar man sees my struggle and offers to help. We move the bags together and create a nice sleeping area. But first pretty much covering ourselves in the white powder.
As I lay my head down, closer to the bags, I realize what the fish smell was. The smell was coming from whatever my new bed was placed on. At this point, I wasnโ€™t so much upset, than dissapointed. Considering everything that had happened so far that day, I mentally resigned to defeat and laid down on the bags, resting my head on my balled up sweatshirt, my hands and arms covered in this fish smelling white mystery powder, trying hopefully to fall asleep in the back of this leaking bus. The Myanmar pop music continued.

PART VI: 8:30

I wake up to the bus stopping. I had actually slept pretty well. I rise up, my entire body is convered with this white fish powder stuff. But I really could care less. I couldnโ€™t smell it because I was the smell. If you canโ€™t beat them, join them.
However, the bus broke down.
People were exiting the bus to see what happened. So I joined them. About 10 Myanmar men were squatting outside when I stepped down the stairs.
The front of the bus was smoking. The driver and the man from the bus agency were climbing under the bus, already covered in black grease. I could tell this wasn’t the first time they had fixed this bus.
I, too, took a squat. Around me, the landscape was absolutely beautiful. Green pineapple palm trees roared over the rolling hills. The sweet thickness of the morning air, still cool, rested over the road. Snaking through the hills, our highway, a 2 lane road rolling through southern Myanmar laid itself comfortably over the landscape. Not a sound, not a car, just us. There was such beauty in this moment. It was a moment that I felt connected with Myanmar. With the land, its tropical, wild, dense, unruly jungle. With the people, our eyes, smiling, our bodies squatting, resting next to each other. In the same place, at the same moment, from such different place next to the same bus. Then, I had to pee.
I stumbled into the jungle still sleepy and woozy for the night before. As I stepped over the leaves a few critters bounced around under my feet.The morning song the birds were singing was song loud among the deep silence of the thick jungle.
I returned to the bus and the smell and sight of red beetlnut on the highway. The atmosphere of the group was calm, confident in our drivers to fix this bus that had likely driven these roads tens of thousands of times.
Soon enough, the driver ran back into the bus, and a few ignition fires laters our chariot roared back to life, grumbling like a hungry but obedient bear ready to continue rolling. We hopped back on the bus and were on our way.

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