They say you spend your life waiting for a bus, and then suddenly three turn up. Today I discovered the part they leave out of this saying – it doesn’t matter how many turn up after waiting; not one of them will get you home.
5.45 = hometime on a Saturday. Eagerly running through the rain to find my bus stop overflowing with people, I discovered my bus to be grossly over capacity with a queue of people still somehow pushing themselves on. This was my first solo test of Chinese transport since moving to Fuzhou.
I’ve never been one to travel during rush hour if possible, and the odds seemed in my favour – the next bus will logically be emptier. With taxis here going by time and not distance, rush hour would make a £3 taxi into a £25 one very quickly, so I confidently hedged my bets.
Standing in the rain for half an hour without any waterproof protection, my error became clear. The 80, 111 and the 65 continued to churn past me and through the city. New people were appearing and disappearing around me frequently, and I started to question if the 66 actually existed or by this point was a figment of my imagination.
One man also hadn’t left in a while, through which I deduced he must be as distressed by the lack of 66’s as myself, so I shot him a look of solidarity. As a strong believer that it’s better to be miserable with company than alone, I was saddened to discover that he didn’t share my thought process, and miserably watched him move behind the sign; a successful way to cull any further attempts on my behalf to communicate/make eye contact.
A further lonely half an hour later and with only 20% left on my phone that I was relying on to get back home, the bus arrived. Somehow more packed than the last, I decided once again to avoid it. As the doors started to close, I threw away my fears and jumped on, squeezing myself between two elderly men who couldn’t have been any happier with the situation than I was. The 20-minute journey took a solid 50 minutes, and as I finally went to leave and squeeze through the bus, I slipped and knocked a woman in the face rather heavily with my arm. Perhaps that’s a common occurrence, however given that most of the bus had eyes on me and the fact I couldn’t communicate how sorry I was without missing my stop, I ran off, cringing to myself.
2 hours in, I approached the gate to my apartment block discovering that my key would not work and the electric gate was faulty – but fear not, the guards let me in! Given that it was my first time catching the bus home alone, I put the sudden appearance of a convenience store behind the gate down to entering from another side of the complex. That happens, right? We never notice everything instantly when faced with a big life change?
I walked around for 30 minutes in the pitch black and the pouring rain, my brand new shoes now soaked through, and my once straightened hair fluffier than usual. Putting my socially awkward attitude to the side, and on a poor 6% battery, I approached a security guard.
“Help!” I barked at him.
He stared, inquisitively. Having only learnt how to count to 7 so far, I wrote the number 13 (my apartment block) on a text for him instead of attempting to say it, but he proceeded to read the text instead, looking more and more confused.
He ushered me under his umbrella and continued to talk to me in Chinese as I pulled faces to communicate. A while later, having gotten nowhere and clearly taken the kind man away from his allocated duties, I thanked him and continued in the rain. He yelled after me but with the obvious language barrier, I cheerfully yelled ‘xiéxié’ (thank you) to prevent him fretting over me.
I continued to walk, praying a little in the hope that my vaguely religious background might influence my current situation. Instead, I realised that the apartment buildings in the vicinity only reached 6 – which explained the confusion – and decided to put pride aside and ask my flatmate for the location pin to our apartment on my remaining 3%. To my amusement, I realised I was 15 minutes away from my complex, and infact had been let in to a private property nowhere near my own.
Laughing to myself, I attempted to make a speedy exit. A mere 100 yards away, I heard my beloved security friend yell to me. Turning to face him, he pointed somewhere for me to go.
“no no! I’ve found my map!” I replied.
He continued to stare blankly and pointed again, repeating his request more firmly.
I realised our efforts of communication for now were fruitless, and so I blew him a kiss goodbye to let him know that 1. I was leaving and 2. I appreciated the confusing moment we had shared beneath his umbrella.
A mere 3 hours after my leaving the school and embarking on what should have been a short bus ride, I returned home, sodden but pride still intact.
Entering the lift, I turned to the woman behind me who looked baffled by my soaked appearance and smiled. What an exciting year I have ahead of me!
Ces Lewis is a British teacher at our Da Ru branch.