As we walked past the cracked windshield and torn up grill and onto the ripped vinyl stairs of the bus, I just started laughing hysterically.
The unicorn themed sticker display surrounding the driver’s seat and TV, combined with the hideously fabric used for the window and stowage coverings were just too much. I sat down in my seat, where the air was completely still and the outdoors were approaching 100 degrees. My ass immediately started sticking as if a whole bushel of chewed Bazooka was cleverly disguised as the ripped red leather seat that I would call home for the next 150 miles.
The bus driver said 3 hours, which is Cambodian for 5. The seats did have the luxurious option to lay down to a wonderful 140 degree angle, fantastic for pinning your shoulders between the window and the seat next to you in a manner that would cause Houdini to feel claustrophobic.
Fear not though gentle traveler, the person in front of you is a ¾ replica of the average Western man, so he can lay his seat right down into your lap with no issues at all.
I looked gratefully at my last minute decision to grab another 1.5 L bottle of water, and tucked in my headphones for what I knew was going to be a long bumpy ride down another wonderfully unpaved stretch of the Cambodian countryside.
You’ve got to laugh, otherwise you might cry. Otherwise I might have started thinking about the fact that I’ve spent the last 73 nights of my life in no fewer than 35 beds.
Maybe I’d remember that I haven’t been properly dry since landing in Hanoi 34 days ago. I’d probably think how great it’d be great to just have a nice simple hot dog on the grill, complete with MUSTARD and a soft bun. Or how I’d love to be bullshitting with my buddies at a fraternity brother’s wedding this weekend. I might remember the fact that there won’t be cars on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for another 345 days.
Hell I’d give just about anything to have my own deodorant back, as opposed to the underarm Russian Roulette I’ve been playing to find a replacement in a series of pharmacies smaller than the standard supermarket aisle. Brushing my teeth with tap water is yet another luxury I’ve not had in months. Hell, having a shower curtain in Siem Riep was a cause for real joy of the non facetious variety.
I’ve had mornings where I woke up and said, “Hell I can get another job and go home. 71 days is more than enough. What’s a 1 way cost out of (fill in the blank) airport?
Then I get in a tuk tuk and drive straight up a mountain where I came to a view that afforded me the opportunity to see the horizon drop in the distance. I walked into massive caves and could still hear the spectral sounds of babies crying before they were dashed on the rocks and thrown into the pit.
I got the picture of a lifetime, a man praying for his family killed in this very cave 36 years ago in front of an altar full of skulls beside a full Buddhist temple in the middle of the caves where so many lives were lost.
I wouldn’t have had a conversation for 2 hours the day before about the rise of autism in Canada or talked Roman history with a German named Marius while drinking beers and playing ping pong in a bamboo hut.
Wouldn’t have sat overlooking the river as the sun rose, working on writing when the familiar fingernails of a beautiful, honey skinned British girl started raking down my scalp and neck.
Probably wouldn’t have discussed the EU Parliament elections and upcoming World Cup in a rooftop bar in Phnom Penh where the beers were $.75. And I certainly wouldn’t have had monkeys steal the cutlery off the dirty dishes next to me and drop them down the mountain.
I wouldn’t have drank weasel shit coffee or swam in isolated waterfalls without another person for a half mile. Certainly wouldn’t have gotten my Dorothy on while walking through acre after acre of pristine flower farms.
I also wouldn’t have ridden on a bamboo platform at a breakneck 40 MPH over the most warped and winding rails the French ever laid.
I wouldn’t have done all those things because the pile of reasons “I can’t” became bigger than the “Christ that’d be amazing.” I’d go back to everyday life and talk about what I’m going to do in that elusive “next year,” putting off for tomorrow what I was too (busy, lazy, broke, scared, etc) to do today.
The problem is, next year becomes today. Then it is 5 years down the line, and the responsibilities are too great to ever get this done. Then instead of “next year” it is “when I retire.”
It never gets done. Those dreams you said you had once, never got closer than the mountain of reasons ”why not” to reality.
Then you never drink your coffee and watch straw hatted Vietnamese pole down the river to cast their fishing nets or get escorted to a scuba dive site by gunboats because you’re mere miles away from an international conflict.
You have your coffee at Starbucks and head into work. Your last 72 days looked a lot like the 72 before those.
Mine were full of miserable bus rides, ineffective deodorant and toilets flushed with a bucket of water.
But Lord Almighty was there something to see once you arrived.