Well, the point of a chicken bus is purely transportation, comfort is out of the question. It’s like sitting on a padded board in a wind tunnel. The first time I rode one of these, I wondered to myself why they called it a chicken bus. That is, I wondered until we were halfway through the journey and a rooster started crowing from somewhere behind me.
I ran through the rain and dodged a few motorcycles on my way to this paragon of transport. I clutched my bags close and clambered up the first two steps. The first face I encountered I asked, “Chiang Rai?” and that face stared, then nodded, still dazed by the sudden words from a foreigner.
I scooted back along the aisle, seeing two open seats but beyond them a long bench in the back, quite empty except for one man. Space to spread out a bit. In my excitement I hit someone with my backpack. She clutched her arm, as one wounded.
“Sorry! I’m so sorry!” I rushed to apologize, still on my way back. I hit someone else as I turned and then settled in the far corner. The people I had hit nursed their wounds and glanced back at me with great sadness. I felt like I had made a bad impression. Not only for myself, but for all foreign-kind. So I scrunched my bag close and put my backpack on my lap, trying to take up as little space as possible.
I glanced to my right and noticed another entrance to the bus here in the back. So I could have avoided all the mass destruction on the way to this highly desirable seat.
For, at the time, with the rain pouring down and the the bus station bustling with vendors and passengers, it was cozy. I leaned back. Against the metal rail that ran along the window. Mid-back, right where it’s comfortable.
I eyed the other seats that were still open. Then I pictured the look of fear in everyone’s eyes when they saw me get back up and start towards the front. So I decided against it.
The bus started and we lurched out of the station. My first clue that I should have just gone for one of those seats was when the rain started coming through the door and hit me in the face. Then it became very apparent that the seal on the window was broken. Rain started coming through and dripped down my back.
I sat in misery.
Passengers kept piling on and space became tighter and tighter. The seats that were available were quickly taken and even if I wanted to switch, which I did, I could not have. I became colder and colder.
Rainy season is supposed to be warm right? And maybe it was, but at that point, any movement of air felt cold. When the first shiver hit, I knew with great certainty that I was going to be sick. Possibly I already was. This week at the orphanage, several children had fevers and a few even vomited. I was prime for catching the bug.
So, when I arrived in Chiang Rai, I was ready to be off. The water from behind had soaked me through and thankfully my front had dried once the rain stopped.
The next morning, I was sick. I lay in that bed all day and wondered if it was jungle fever. I was told that it definitely was not. But it sounds so much better than just a regular fever. Anne made the best chicken noodle soup (beside my mother’s) and took wondrous care of me.
I had one last fever on the bus on my way back to the orphanage, and that was the last aftershock of my first sickness during my orphanage stay. I was supposed to call Gik, Pastor Pratuan’s wife, when I was 30 minutes away. She called me and asked where I was, and I had not a clue. When she hung up, two seconds later, I saw a sign for Chiang Kham. It said it was 16 Kilometers away. I went to call her back but my phone refused. Apparently, I had run out of minutes.
I sat back and had to laugh. Of course. When I reached the Chiang Kham bus station, I ran to the nearest coffee shop. After ordering a milk tea, I found that the barista spoke pretty good English. She offered me her phone and I called Gik back.
Gik was taking several boys back to university and she would be another 40 minutes. So I sat with my tea and a book until she came.
Sun was driving, her son, and he had to pick up his motorcycle from the shop. He is restoring an older bike and had to get a piece welded on. The bed of their truck is very short and with every jar of the road I was convinced that that monster of a bike would slide off the edge and cause certain death to the people driving behind.
Thankfully, we made it safe and sound.
I stood on my porch and breathed in the smells of this place and listened to the rowdy boys on their way to dinner. There was the threat of a storm lingering over the mountains and the stillness of the trees reminded me of the calm before Pennsylvania thunderstorms.
I experience very little homesickness. But sometimes tiny things affect me, a certain smell, a word, and right then, the lowering thunderstorm.
When I turned to go inside, I found four ears of corn on my table with a simple note that read ‘Achee.’ That boy has made it his life’s mission to feed me. Unfortunately, he must have left it several days ago, it smelled sour. I regretfully threw it out. But the thought counted.
Even if I had the option to go home, I wouldn’t. I would only sit there in my cozy home, or in my cozy pew at church and think of all these kids.
The day I left my home I was already homesick. I wrote in my journal that I trusted God to give me joy wherever I was. Because I knew He would be with me and in Him is fulness of joy. That was my promise that I claimed and He did not let me down. In fact, there is rarely a moment where I don’t have a smile. And quite often, I’m laughing at something these kids are doing.
The storms do come. Stubborn classrooms, crazy kids, and communication barriers. But all in all, it is worth it. So worth it.
Thank you for reading! And to my supporters, all my love and all my thanks.