In between the packing, end of the school year and visa woes, I’ve been heading off every afternoon to my pool-in-the-middle-of-nowhere. Banging along country roads, crammed on board with all the Guangxi farm and village folk heading back after a morning in town, is a refreshing get-out-of-town time for me. Plus the silent, long march to the pool surrounded by banana trees, pineapple fields and rugged mountain ranges, is soothing for the soul. Rural southern China is really beautiful and something I am definitely going to miss.
Naturally, all these journeys to the pool have gotten me to know the bus drivers quite well. As reported before, the buses run every half hour, sometimes every15 minutes, depending on who is at the wheel. My habit is to bounce on board, give a big smile and “Ni hao! (hi)” to the driver and announce I’m off to the pool. It’s just something to say and I always say it loud enough so the locals on board hear. They’re curious as to why the foreigner is climbing on a bus going so far into the countryside. Might as well stop them from wondering and let them have something to share with others at the dinner table.
Waiting For The Bus: Our Sour Driver
Today, our Road 2 bus driver was late to arrive for the 1 p.m. pick-up route to the countryside. There was a crowd gathering at the stop and it was already going on 1:10 p.m. Drivers are always on time but this was the sour driver. I remember him from a few weeks ago. He is never cheerful and is always rather snarly. Makes sense that he, the unhappy one, would be the late one to pick us up.
It was very hot outside, even under the streetside mango trees. We were all anxiously looking up the road, waiting for the bus, including all our ancient, wrinkled, stooped country grannies with their town shopping bags. Many were munching on steamed corn-on-the-cob or enjoying a baggie of chou dofu (stinky tufu) they’d gotten from the nearby sellers. Everyone was very quietly waiting except for one loud, boisterous elderly woman.
I’ll call her Buddha Granny as she had this huge, round belly and her personality was just that of Buddha: laughing constantly, chattering away and a very happy, jovial soul. She was hunkered down in a big plastic lawn chair with arm rests and hanging out with her other large friend. The two women were going on about who knows what. It was all Guangxi dialect so I had not a clue what it was about but they were sure having a good time.
I thought the chair belonged to the shop in front of us but when the bus pulled up, Buddha Granny was picking it up to bring with her.
My habit for these bus trips is to hang back and let the elderly and mothers with babies get on first to find a seat. Everyone scrambles as they don’t want to stand but I really don’t mind, especially when I see such hard-working people in need of a rest.
Well, Buddha Granny was having a great deal of trouble with that huge chair of hers so I told her to get on the bus and I’d carry it on for her. It was a big, awkward thing. Even I had to struggle with it to get it in the door.
I bumped and maneuvered the chair around the driver while she laughed and carried on about the foreigner giving her a hand, I assume.
The driver, all this time, was just scowling at us. Everyone else on the bus was into the spirit of my kind efforts, smiling away because Buddha Granny’s happiness was so infectious.
Eventually, I got the thing into the bus. Buddha Granny grabbed a reserved seat in the front, for the elderly and handicapped, and I put the chair toward the middle of aisle. She wanted me to sit in it but I thought the nearby mother with her baby should have that honor. All the seats were taken and our little momma was left standing until she gratefully plopped down into the empty chair.
The driver wasn’t very pleased about that visiting seat, for some reason. Maybe he thought it was dangerous. I have no idea. He just kept peering at it in his rearview mirror, looking on with obvious disapproval.
He finally started up the bus for our departure and pulled away from the stop. Buddha Granny continued to chatter happily away, even to the driver, until she finally won him over. He began to join in on her comments and bantering which seemed to lighten his mood somewhat. No smiles but you could tell he was feeling better and not quite so bad-tempered.
15 minutes later, I arrived at the pool crossroads where I hopped off before Buddha Granny. She was heading on to her small village, the very last stop, along with everyone else.
Before I left, we exchanged acknowledging nods and I gave her a friendly wave. She just laughed whole-heartedly, as seemed to be her nature, and that was the last I saw of her.
I hope someone helped her off the bus with her chair but even if no one did, I have not a doubt she didn’t care. Most likely, she was giggling the entire time while dragging that thing down the bus steps and through the streets while going home.
What’s Really Important in Life?
Don’t we all wish we could have that kind of sunny disposition throughout life, a fun-loving spirit so contagious that it makes everyone else happy too?
Who’d have thought that a bus ride with a little old countryside woman would put all my packing worries and visa woes to rest.
At least for today, anyway, that seems to be the case.
From Longzhou, China, here’s wishing you Ping An (Peace) for your day.