So, we took the bus, which always provides a lot of writing material. In fact, most of the oddities that happened on this trip involved buses.
First of all, we attracted a lot of attention of course. It wouldn't be a normal trip in Sichuan without being under the constant (and often slack-jawed) observation of our fellow passengers.
And from what I myself observed, human beings weren't the only passengers on that bus. After an hour or so into the trip, my seatmate Laura (yes, the Bug Girl... or rather, the Anti-Bug Girl) hit me and squeaked. Before I could voice the objection that was on the tip of my tongue, she pointed at my backpack on my lap and started what I can only describe as whisper-shrieking: "Get it off! Get it off!!!"
I looked at my bag and saw what I thought was a brown beetle cheerfully strolling around on my bag as if it were a park, and I promptly brushed the intruder off into the aisle. Louder whisper-shrieking ensued: "KILL it!!!"
Now, I'd like you to know that Laura is one of the most independent people I know, and is a little on the adventurous side. She is able to keep calm under most conditions, but if an ant crosses her path she gets squeamish, which means she'd probably provide a lot of entertainment at picnics and camping excursions. It was certainly amusing enough to witness her freak out on the bus.
Anyway, I squashed Laura's Bane since I was sitting in the aisle seat and then tried to go on with life. A little while later I turned around to reply to something Matt had said when I noticed another one of those brown bugs sitting quite cozily on the side of his headrest, probably about three inches from his ear.
Then I looked at what all was behind Matt's headrest, as well as behind Deborah's, Sarah's, and our TA's as everyone but Laura and me were sitting in the very back row of seats on the bus. I really had no idea how I missed this sight when I boarded, but crammed between the headrests and the rear window of the bus was what some people might consider a trash heap or almost a compost pile; layers of food wrappers, orange peels, soda bottles, peanut shells, and lots of other delights.
And that was when I saw a baby of the species crawling up the back window.
Yes, definitely Laura's Bane.
"I think this bus is infested with roaches," I quietly said to Laura.
"Don't say that!!!"
"Why not? I'm warning you in case one starts crawling on your bag."
"Well," she chuckled nervously, "a couple of roaches doesn't constitute an infestation!"
Au contraire! For every single one you see, five zillion more are behind a wall or under the sink planning an invasion. I pointed out the following logic to her: the sighting of the baby bug, assuming the roaches haven't imposed a one-egg policy on themselves, means eggs. Eggs mean nest. Nest means habitation. Habitation means... yeah, infestation.
We started hearing another disagreement coming from behind us regarding the time it was taking us to get to the bamboo forest as Sarah called The Judge, and then the TA started asking other passengers questions, and this was when we got the news that though we had already been on the road for about four hours, it would take almost another two hours to get to the forest and the only ride from the forest that would take us back to Chengdu would leave fifteen minutes after we'd get there.
Did you catch that? Drive over five hours to browse a large bamboo forest for fifteen minutes and then drive five more hours back to Chengdu?
The bus had pulled off at a rest stop and basically everyone got off the bus except for the Yanks in the back as we were busily discussing our options. At one point my attention, along with Laura's, strayed to this kid from the local rest stop that for some reason decided to board the bus and was staring at us while standing in the aisle smoking a cigarette. By the word "kid" you might think I'm talking about a sixteen-year-old, but this fella hadn't even hit puberty yet - he looked about eight years old. As he turned to leave we noticed he had a baby strapped to his back.
It was such an odd sight it took a couple of minutes for us to realize what we saw.
Our group did finally solve the puzzle of how we were going to get home that night and made it into the bamboo forest, which was very pretty and quiet. Some farmers lived around the area, so it wasn't deserted. We eventually trekked along one of their paths that went up a hill and then through one of their neighborhoods. It was very refreshing to be out of the city.
Unfortunately, we had this constant shadow trailing us everywhere as one man smelled an opportunity to make money and could not stop trying to pressure us into giving us a tour of the forest in his vehicle. Knowing very well by now how the Chinese do their touring, we decided to go our own way... and he decided to follow / tag along. He reminded me of Gollum.
As for the trip home, we caught a "fast bus" (meaning a six hour drive done in four) back to Chengdu. One passenger near me smoked one cigarette right after another which left me pining for a window I could actually open. Just as I was about to fall asleep I realized a bug was crawling on the curtain of the window I was sitting next to, and then realized it was... yeah, a cockroach.
And I had originally decided this trip was how I was going to celebrate my birthday. Funny, I don't think I had invited cockroaches and Gollum to the party...
Anyway, click on the thumbnails below to view the pictures I took. Enjoy!