Thursday, November 27, 2008

Overnight journey

I woke up to the hissing sound of a bus door opening; my face was covered with a light scarf, some Asian words were yelled to the outside as I uncovered my face to discover a foul smell that perhaps was the reason for which I had covered myself. I am laying down under a thick blanket, I look outside the window as I usually do, not to recognize where we are because I am barely ever in a place I know, but to see if I can find something that will stick to my memories.

Many times I’ve woken up like this, not knowing where I am for a few seconds, trying to find something familiar in my surroundings, I look around to make sure David is with me, he is still sleeping in the sleeper on the left side below me with his hood on and covered with a blanket just like the one I had. As the cold humid weather hits my sticky face I can recall that we are somewhere in China on our way to hit the border with Vietnam.

The bus door closes and the vehicle continues its way, it is a bumpy road, the same kind that has rocked me to sleep many times before. Dawn gives the landscape a very gray and cold look, my blanket and scarf are damp and the window is covered with moisture.

I tried to look at the time, but my 3 dollar watch that I had purchased in a street market in Hong Kong got stuck at 4:45 am. I have no idea of how long I’ve been sleeping or at what time we got in this ride. I can recall that the night before we had got in a different bus overloaded with families and a very strong smell of urine, we had made sure that the travel agency where we booked the trip guaranteed that we would have regular seats, lesson that we had learned by experience. People were sitting on hard tiny stools in the bus isle, we were told that the bus would stop in Nanning 4 hours later to shift buses and continue our way to Pinxang. We got in the bus at 11 pm, and last time I could see the time we had been driving for 5 hours already.

We stopped in a sketchy bus station where we got off; half asleep we followed by instinct the other 80 passengers that were leaving. For half an hour we waited in a dusty corner that had a few seats while covering our faces to avoid the urine smell that had coated our backpacks and the other unidentifiable smells that poisoned our surroundings. A middle aged looking woman stayed nearby to stare at us, smiling at her we realized how used we were to that type of behavior.

As a big surprise to our tired bodies, a bus with sleepers picked us up. An old bold man with a big smile that smoked around 4 cigarettes in less than 20 min spoke to us in Mandarin in an attempt to explain what will happen after getting off our next bus, while lifting my backpack I turned around to face our observant whose baby was waving us goodbye as she grabbed his hand, I could see in her wondering smile that she wanted to talk to us, but the language barrier as usual stopped that conversation.

We haven’t been somewhere long enough to learn the language, always on the move we have only learned to follow our instincts and got quite inventive in using signs. It has been 10 continuous months of travel now, preceded by a couple of years of often moves.

We met for the first time in Mexico City while David was traveling, went to Cuba and back to Mexico, then we parted ways, he went to Europe for 6 months and I moved to VancouverCanada. Many months later we found ourselves traveling together again through the States and all the way to Costa Rica and Panama, finally we moved to Portland, Oregon. 10 months later bored by the routine and eager for new complications we moved to NYC where I got a normal job and we both had a normal life interrupted by a couple of weeks in Brazil. 1 year and 2 months later we hit the road again, from Belize to Guatemala, Mexico, California and on to our most exhausting and long trip.

All that we own is packed in two big and heavy backpacks and each other’s company, not knowing what we are looking for, we travel to see and experience, amused by our capacity to stand extremes in situations completely foreign to the lives we used to have before we met each other.

After I recollect in my mind where and when am I, and how did I get there, I sit up and put on my headphones to listen to the same play list I’ve played every time we take a bus or train since we arrived into China; this is the best way for me to remember in the future how I felt in what I consider stages of my life, a band called Mercurio and Molotown reminds me of when I was in junior high; aerosmith and metallica when I was in highschool; Satoshi Tomiie and old disco remixes remind me of the early years in College; Phsycodelic trance and Cold Play of my early 20s; Feist takes me back to Canada and North Cali; Mika to NYC along with Fergie; “The Bula song” of Fiji, and so forth…Now David Gray, Phill Collins, and Cat Power the ones who will take me back here to make me feel exactly like I do in this bus, to smell the same smells, have the same emotions in my heart and feel the same uncertainty of this wondering around.

No comments: