May The Seat Rise To Meet You

Oh my God is that a gun! Only an hour ago I was wondering in the sultry heat of Orchidtown Road, drinking in with envy the latest high-end fashions. The stores luring me inside with their promise of self confidence and fine materials. The welcome coolness of the air-conditioner once inside was reason enough to just look and not buy. That and the fact I was on the last leg of my first sojourn overseas and therefore just about broke.

The border police with their guns and kaki uniforms are so close to the bus as we travel from Singapore into Malaysia. Iím glad when the smelly, crowded bus moves past the check point, glad to be on the smelly, crowded bus driving further away from the menacing sight.

Deep, lush, green scenery slowly passes by. The bus seems to be taking up the whole road and not moving for motor bikes, cars or trucks. Plantations of rubber trees row after straight row being the only sign of orderliness. Weary, contented faces of the locals greet us on our comfort stops. These comprised of a square cement (what looked like) shower floor with a small hole in the corner. What am I supposed to do here? I donít really know Iím just glad I had a small packet of tissues in my bag!

The amenities on the bus consisted of a dunny can, literally. The stench was overpowering at the back of the bus and after the first stop I scrambled to the front of the bus and forced open the windows as far as they would go.

Some time later, was it a day or two? we made it to the ferry to sail over to the island of Penang. Stunning journey. Fresh air breezes, blue water and space. On arriving in the port itís time to get a bus into town. Easy. Once on the bus though we discover the drivers are paid on how many trips they make per shift from port to town. I did notice when I sat down how many people were gripping onto the seat in front of them. Corners were mere swerves on the landscape, other vehicles just obstacle's in front of the monthly pay cheque. The unawares (myself) quickly ended up scrambling for luggage while madly striving for balance. This was a short journey due to the constant activity of chasing bags, finding a quick grip to hang on to and the challenge of actually sitting down. The seat never did seem to rise to meet me.

Welcome smiles and friendly greetings were in abundance at the end of the ride. My host family so happy to see us all in one piece.

N Campbell

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