Friday, July 02, 2010

Ode to the Sleeper Bus – The Continuing Story

In honor of reaching the big 300 post mark I thought I would fulfill a promise made in one of my first posts. Ahhh, the sleeper bus, really is an experience that is hard to capture with words. This past week I once again found myself enduring long hours of this mode of transportation. In five days my friend and I figured we spent a total of 55 hours riding the bus.

The friend travelling with me had just come from the US and so much of what we saw and experience was new to her, especially the bathroom situation. So like I promised way back in 2006 the following is a description the rest stops along the highways of Central Asia.

(Warning the following is not for the faint of heart, or for the germiphobe )

Most sleeper buses do not come equipped with a bathroom per say, some drivers will stick a bucket on the stairs by the door to handle emergencies if someone just cannot hold it the six hours between stops. When the bus does actually pull into a rest stop it is often just a shack with one side labeled men and the other women. Inside are half wall dividers between each stall, none of them have doors on the front. In each section there is a big hole in the floor that you are meant to straddle and squat over. (If you have seen the movie “Slum Dog Millionaire” than you have a fair idea of what can be clearly seen and smelled from each hole and I can save us both the disgusting details). That’s it. There is nothing else in this washroom. No flushing toilets, not sinks to wash your hands, no toilet paper or hand dryers. All there is, is a row of about 4 holes, and a smell that tells you no one has cleaned up in a long time. Sadly some ladies can’t seem to wait for a hole to become free, so you do have to pay close attention as you walk across the floor.

Because of my legs I can’t really squat all that well which, trust me, all of the locals notice. Since there are no doors I have had many of them gather around the front of my hole (as I am relieving myself) and comment to each other “she’s doing it wrong” or “doesn’t she know how to go the bathroom”. Since I speak enough language I have one of two choices, try to ignore the growing group of women who want to watch me go, or try to explain why I can’t do it right. Once, when choosing the latter, I had a woman who was so excited that I could interact with her that she asked on the spot if we could be friends. I have to admit that I was tempted to yell “I’m going poo here, can you just give me a little privacy, you are already seeing me in a much more intimate situation than most of my friends”, but I bit back my sharp retort and gave her my phone number.

The best thing about last week’s trip was that my travel companion had brought that anti bacterial hand sanitizer stuff which she willingly shared. I can’t tell you how great Bath and Body Works products smell in contrast to a stinky Central Asian roadside washroom.


Anonymous said...

Ahhhhh. sorry, but I'm laughing here reading this ;) After living in AFrica, I must admit I prefer just digging a hole out in the bush than pretty much any other public way now.

Ohh, and congrats on the milestone!!! ;)

Beth said...

this post made me laugh a lot!!!

and to confirm I'm a real person, blogspot is now making me type the word "photti" :)