The sky was a beautiful blue with clouds left entirely to the imagination. The sun crept above the row of shops to the east, peering over rooftops and stretching a slender hand along the street.
Sitting on a makeshift bench outside the convenience store, he waited patiently, sipping some water as he enjoyed the morning calm in the shadowed silence underneath the shop canopy.
The water felt cool as it flowed through him, awakening his mouth and chest. A thousand miles away, his mind wandered ahead of time, already visualizing the weekend that lay before….
A distant growl from the corner wrenched him back to the present and he turned his head in time to see its nose peeking around the corner.
He quickly tightened the bottle-cap and lifted his bag, standing up to get ready as it hurtled towards him.
The Korean bus pulled in fast and looked set to take off in the same fashion – lucky the cash was in hand.
Jumping on, he paid swiftly and scanned the bus.
It was busy today and his usual haunt at the back had been snapped up by some early birds. Not entertaining any hesitation, the driver immediately put the foot down.
Seizing the very front seat on the right hand side, he fell into it with a bang against the window as the floor shifted forward beneath him.
He settled in for the long ride ahead; 45 minutes of bliss before two back-to-back double periods with rowdy mixed-grade students. Fridays were the toughest day.
The town was quickly left behind and his mind drifted once more. The landscape changed to mountains and lush green fields that rolled down towards rice paddies, tended to by local villagers.
The bus careered forward, skipping from one small village to the next at a relentless pace, bouncing over hills and slaloming round mountain bends without fear.
The sun blazed through the window, reflecting into his face and baking him where he sat.
Mourning the foolish decision to wear a cardigan, he loosened his tie. Rolling up the sleeves, he eyed some seats on the opposite side of the bus, vacant since the last stop, and in relative shade.
Contemplating a move, he was quickly warned against it as the bus read his mind, whizzing around a corner and throwing the occupants to the right. A woman’s bag flew from her hands and slapped against the wall.
He gripped the handle of the seat in front to hold on. Waiting patiently, he knew a stop was coming soon.
He could feel the sweat forming on his back now as the sun showed no remorse, gleefully cooking him now that it had risen high above all trees and hills. The stop was close, he told himself.
Another corner, this time to the left. Everyone braced and his knuckles turned white around the handle. The woman’s bag returned to her, sliding across to her feet. She stamped on the strap before it escaped again. The bus snorted and growled, as if displeased.
Speeding up on straight as it approached a town, it roared ferociously and a box slid from the back of the bus along the floor.
He turned to watch it escape the desperate clutches of the old man who grasped in vain at his belongings. He could only hope it would return to him like the woman’s bag.
Just then, the stop appeared. This was his chance to move. Sure, he would still be in the belly of the crazy bus but at least he could escape the sun. That left side looked so serene and cool.
Squinting through the sunlight, he rubbed the sweat from his brow.
This was it.
Suddenly, to his horror, he saw there was a huge crowd at the bus stop.
No, a huge gaggle of ajummas. He wasn’t very good at estimating crowds, but if he had to guess, there was probably a million.
The bus grinded to a halt and the doors flew open. The first ajumma crawled on, and held out her paw with the ticket. Seeing the herd behind her, he released there was too many for the remaining seats.
He could be a gentleman and wait for them to board before moving seat but that was a big gamble.
Without a second thought, he leapt up, cut across the first ajumma and dived into the empty seat on the left.
The brood wobbled on, clucking their way down the bus and filling all the remaining seats. Several were left standing.
He turned his head and caught a mixture of bemused and slightly perturbed faces, mainly from the first couple of Ajummas who had almost been taken out by the foreigner’s long jump attempt across the bus.
Lowering his sunglasses, he turned back towards the front as the bus rocketed off once again.
Enjoying his shaded haven, he closed his eyes to relax for the final 20 minutes before arriving, all the while hoping the bus doesn’t send some old people rolling around the floor like skittles.
That would really make him feel guilty. Well, perhaps just a little bit.
Have you had any crazy bus journeys in Korea or other parts of Asia? I’d love to hear about them!
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