Things started out on track this morning with Jewel putting me on a 10am bus destined for who knows where and arranging for the driver to help me transfer to get to my final destination of Rayenda. He even gave me a crash course in Bengali and wrote down some phrases. For the record, ’toilet’ in Bengali is ‘toilet’. Who knew?
Once on the bus I held people’s stares for a little while but eventually they lost interest in me and decided to sleep themselves instead of observing me sleep. How rude of them. After driving for only about 30 minutes we sat in what seemed like a bus parking lot for about two hours, inching forward a few feet every 20 minutes or so. I didn’t have a clue what was going on and nearly peed my pants because I was too afraid to get off the bus in case it suddenly decided to leave. I made a dash when things got desperate though and the bus remained locked in it’s location for another hour after that.
The food looked mostly scary so I subsisted on a few grapes a young university student sitting next to me shared with me and some little chocolate bars I bought in Manila. As the bus inched forward I finally realized that we were in a massive queue waiting for a ferry to take us across some mystery body of water. Getting onto the boat seemed to take a zillion years and getting across seemed to take a zillion more but by about 3pm we were cruising down the centre of the highway honking constantly so that anything smaller would get the hell out of the way.
Driving… driving… driving… sun going down… something isn’t right here. Jewel told me I would be transferring to the second bus at about 4pm at it was well past 7pm at this point. I was actually feeling strangely calm. I sort of like it when I really don’t have a clue how to get somewhere and things are just left to chance so I just listened to some music, relaxed and assumed that I’d make it there somehow.
Well I didn’t make it there. I did, however, make it to a small desk by the side of the road with a kerosene lantern on it and a bunch of men crowded around. The bus driver got off the bus, carried my bag to the desk, explained to the desk guy that I wanted to go to Rayenda and then headed back to drive the bus after holding it up for 15 minutes for my sake.
I sat down beside the table while desk man made a phone call and about 30 other guys gathered around me to stare. Only one of them seemed to speak English and he offered to buy me a tea and we chatted a little bit — where from, what is your qualification, what is your name etc. It wasnt the most inspiring conversation in the world, but it wasn’t the least, either. The tea was tasty but there were mystery floaties in it. I can handle hard floaties but these were kind of soft, gooey floaties so getting the drink down took a bit of concentrating on not spewing on my part.
Desk man told English speaking man that there were no more buses to Rayenda that night and I would have to stay in a hotel until the next morning. About 3 of the staring men took my phone number and desk man, whose name is Mona, led me away to another bus. He carried my bag and wouldn’t let me pay him for my fare and we drove up the road for a few minutes while the entire bus, you guessed it, stared at me.
Then we boarded another bus where I sat right at the front beside the driver. Mona smoked a cigarette and he, the driver, and about 10 men hanging around the front of the bus had a long, animated conversation which seemed to be about buses to Rayenda and hotels in the nearby town. All while staring at me because I am fascinating, after all.
So now, thanks to Mona, I’m sitting comfortably in a hotel room fielding phone calls from random Bangladeshi men and once again amazed at the kindness of strangers. Mona arranged for his brother to meet me tomorrow morning in the hotel lobby to take me back to the desk that I’m guessing is some kind of bus ticket thing place.
So tomorrow I’ll have a second attempt at making my way to Rayenda. If the rest of my days in Bangladesh are anything like this one then I’m in for some very good times.