|Me, Michael, Matt and Jeremy.|
The ride home today was one of those breaking points of sanity. The in country travel here definitely tests your patience. I live in Cahul which is approximately 150km south of Chisinau, the capital. To get to Chisinau, I have to take a bus. There are buses to pretty much every village in the country but they are sparse. I am fortunate to live in a bigger town so I can catch a bus pretty much every hour from 6am - 5pm. Some of my colleagues are not so lucky. If I catch a rutiera (Root-ee-ara), it takes approximately 3 hours to get to Chisinau. If I take an autobus, it takes about 4. Or I can take an illegal illicit car and that takes about 2.5 hours. If you're closer to Chisinau, you can hitch...yeah that is still big here without all the serial killer implications it has back home. So what are the differences?
A rutiera (or a mashrutka in Russian) is a mini bus. It usually seats about 20 people in seats. 20 people in a minibus, that sounds crowded. Ha. There are 20 seats...but I've seen up to 40 people in it. Even if all the seats are full, they pile people in like sardines and they stand for hours to get to their destination. I do not buy a ticket unless I have a seat, I'm funny like that, but many people do. There is absolutely no leg room in the seats and your feet are usually elevated on things that are on the floor. During the summer time, the locals refuse to open windows as they have a deep superstition about the current (or wind) and refuse to let 'fresh air' into a moving vehicle. Dripping in sweat, surrounded by a stench that is inexplicable, these are not the most comfortable rides ever. I prefer traveling in the winter as at least you don't need an open window to survive, but now you are also adding in the benefit of big fluffy winter coats and hats. These are definitely the extreme cases. I have had rides on these where I've been plenty comfortable, but there have also been some hellish trips. My iPod is my link to sanity. I am lucky to have the ability to completely check out of a situation and lose myself in a podcast or in music and try and focus on that.
An autobus is a large bus that seats closer to 75-100 people. These are way more roomy even though they sometimes still stack people in the aisle. The disadvantages of these are they take way longer and that is where people bring live animals on such as chickens for the trip. Or if you're carrying luggage you have to take one of these as there is no room for it on the smaller transportation vehicles.
The illicit cars are the most ideal. This is someone driving a minivan and there are usually only 6 or 7 people in it. In the summer they have air conditioning, in the winter they have heat, there is leg room, it is quiet and everyone has to have a seat. What are the disadvantages? Well...it's pretty illegal so they can get in a lot of trouble for doing it. These, obviously, are a little bit harder to find, but they are ideal.
As for hitchiking, I haven't done it. No real desire to try. Most of my friends have done it without a problem but I guess growing up in the 70's i have seen way too many horror films to feel secure in doing it. Plus, I am just not confident in my language to negotiate such a thing.
Why am I going on about transportation? This morning was one of those hellish rutiera rides that I spoke of. It was a rainy Saturday morning and after leaving the airport I went right to the bus station to get a bus back home. I just wanted to be in my bed to enjoy the rain. Jeremy had left me 2 big bags of coffee which was great except I had nothing to carry them in. So I was holding two bags of coffee and my camera bag. I got a seat next to the window but there was no leg room (as usual) and I was over the tire so my knees were basically at my chest along with the 3 bags on my lap. I lost myself in a podcast for the first hour and managed to actually doze off. When I woke up we were in an area I wasn't familiar with at all. I have traveled this road many times and yet I recognized none of the scenery. Come to find out, the main road had been closed and we had to take the back road through some of the villages. It doubled the time of the trip as well as driving on dirt roads covered in potholes with your knees up to your chest? Not pleasant! I managed to maneuver my three bags between the side of the bus and me so i at least had a lap. A lady sat down next to me with 2 kids, one a newborn and one about 2 years old. She threw the 2 year old on my lap and breast fed the newborn. Yes...this is a completely normal occurrence for strangers to throw their child on your lap to make more room. It has happened to me more than once. It usually doesn't phase me but at this point, I had no lap so the kid was literally in my face and on the bouncy road he was inadvertently punching me repeatedly. This went on for about 2 hours. Oh...did I mention I had to pee? I sat with my headphones on blaring Les Miserables trying to escape into the French Revolution where I would feel more comfortable while I was being bruised, holding my bladder and trying to not let my coffee beans explode all over the bus. (That is not a metaphor, the bag of coffee had opened...but it smelled better than anything else on the bus so I just let it waft.) Throughout the 2 hours, although I had a blank look on my face, my inner monologue was screaming the entire time. Why was i on this road? Why had I drank 3 cups of coffee before this trip? Why didn't I just go sleep for a while before I went back to site? Why did Jeremy have to give me 2 pounds of coffee before he left? Why didn't the Nationals beat the Cardinals? Why in the world was Romney gaining on Obama? Why didn't I save the Vampire Diaries episode when I knew I would want to watch it again? Why didn't I remember to buy curry paste when I was in Chisinau? Why did I bring my camera bag...I didn't even take photos? Would anyone 'really' notice if I tossed this kid out the window? Oh wait...I can't...BECAUSE NO ONE WILL OPEN A WINDOW!
And then the bus comes to a screeching halt...why? GEESE! F&#*ing GEESE! There was a huge gaggle of Geese crossing the GD road and the driver didn't want to hurt the stupid ass geese! Inner monologue...is it a gaggle? WHY DO I KNOW THAT WORD!!!!!!??? So now I am sitting in this horrible position (literally and figuratively) and my iPod dies. So how am I to pass the time without going insane? I START COUNTING THE GEESE. There were 27 in case you were interested. 27 freaking geese. If there were 28, I may have lost it.
We finally pulled into Cahul what seemed like 14 hours later (real time 4 hours). The woman took her child...oh, YOU'RE WELCOME! I got off the bus and walked over to a cement building and just leaned against it. My inner monologue was silently screaming, my knees were so glad to be stretched, I inhaled my coffee, stretched out my back and started the 4 block walk back to my house.
An old lady walked by me.
Доброе утро. (Doh-bray oo-tro/good morning)
Доброе утро. I said to her. And I started laughing. What the hell is my life?
And there I was...leaning against a cement building in the middle of Eastern Europe laughing like a mental patient as this little old Moldovan woman slowly backed away from the crazy American who was slowly losing her mind.
And then...it was just another day.