Sri Lanka is one of the best places in Asia for public transit. The bus system here goes everywhere! You’ll find yourself in the middle of the jungle and hear a rumbling bus pass by thinking, “What? Was that a bus?” And it’s one of the cheapest I’ve found throughout Asia 🙂
On this particular day my friend and I were taking a bus to an animal shelter in Kandy called Tikiri Trust (FB Page) (Read more about my stay at Tikiri Trust). All going smooth…as smooth as things can go in countries with no English writing and no set time schedules 😉
Getting close to our destination, the bus stops and a rather larger gentleman gets on. The only seat left being with me, he sits next to me on the small bench designed for two…two of me, one of him. Now I’m smooshed against the window, my right shoulder pressed against some metal bars running on the internal wall, trying to enjoy listening to music on my phone.
Then this guy begins to eat shelled peanuts. Pulling out the shells from his bag, a strong peanut odor launches upon my nostrils. It’s not a terrible smell, but it’s not a smell I feel like smelling at this particular moment. Lastly, after each peanut he breaks open, he reaches behind my head and releases the garbage out of the bus window. So this moment of the bus journey goes like this: smoosh, smell, crunch, first-date reach around.
I’m focusing on allowing this guy to be this guy. He happens to be big, thats fine, the bus is a bit small. He wants to eat some peanuts, that’s fine, I too enjoy peanuts. He wants to throw shells out the window, he isn’t touching me or knocking my head, that’s fine. I try to just enjoy my music and not feel annoyed or judgemental.
Then I also begin to watch as the little arrow on MAPS.ME approaches closer and closer to our destination. “Can I listen to one more song? Should I just stand up now for the next 5-10 minutes – would that be better than sitting with this guy? I should have moved to the seat Vikki is at before he sat down,” my thoughts react. I turn off my music, I stand up early, I focus on the map – on the arrow. The stop comes, I grab my bag, that mindfulness challenge has come to an end!
WAIT! Did I say “bag”? I should have said “bags”! SHIT!!! My ukelele, my kindle, my notebook, my sarang…they’re all in my other bag, which is now flying away on the bus! “Vikkie! I forgot my uke. Stay here, I’m gonna run after it!” I throw my bag down, “Watch my bag!”.
Vikkie says with a slight look of disdain, “Run?! Take a tuk tuk…”
Constantly blinded by the pain of spending money, I told myself running would be good enough, but Vikkie is very right! There are some tuk tuks just here. I hurry over to a guy and make a backpack gesture, “I forgot my bag. I need to catch the bus.”. He looks confused, “My bag. Bus! Bus!” I throw my hand forward, down the road as I say “bus.” His eyes widen – he understands.
He gets into the tuk tuk and I hop in back. We’re off! “Follow that bus!” It feels like one of those action movie car chases. “Follow that bus! I need my bag!” I say again to the driver. He says, “Yes, Yes.” As we’re moving, the bus isn’t there. What feels like a minute goes by and I can’t see the bus and I’m thinking “How much is this gonna cost?!” (yes, I have a problem, but it’s also so much better than in the past). Then, the bright blue bus shows itself up again – like a great blue whale (now I feel like Captain Ahab!). But there’s a tuk tuk and a white car in front of us.
We’re trying to pass the white car, but the road is small and windy and the tuk tuk has no power! FInally we manage to pass after several failed attempts. I’m hanging out of the tuk tuk doorway waving behind the bus. The driver yells at me to sit down, but I remain hanging. After a 2.5km (1.5mi) chase, the bus stops, the tuk tuk parks in front of it, I jump off and run to the doorway – there’s my bag! It’s in the shelf area above my seat. I grab it, smile with a chuckle, and calmly walk back to the tuk tuk. “Thank you tuk tuk man. Thank you.”
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