AS THE DAY ENDS (Read first: "As The Day Begins")
My moto driver and only hope for survival in this jungle of people returned just in time for us to catch our bus leaving the station. Seven or eight minutes into the ride, she asked, “Hungry?” What she could have done about it at that time, I have no clue. But I lied—"No!” I assured her that I was okay. The two pieces of dry, brown bread left over from yesterday’s dinner laying in the pit of my stomach said otherwise. But they were not in charge. The bus sped along, honking at everything in its way. And they moved, for, after all, we are now the biggest vehicle on the road. The distance to our destination…still unknown.
My hostess is tired from the hard drive. She makes herself comfortable, curled up in her seat. Neither the honking of the bus’s air horn, the blaring rasp of the TV monitor, nor the bus swaying from side to side on a broken support spring, could keep her from falling asleep. Slowly, gradually as her sleep deepened, her head tilted to the side and eventually found its resting spot on my shoulder.
Somewhere…two hours or more from here, 50-60 pastors are gathering to learn some principles of spiritual warfare as they are determined to lead their congregations out into the battle for lost souls.
In due time, we arrived at our destination. Taxi? No! At least not what you or I would expect. Rather, two motorcycle taxis! My driver followed as closely as he dared. Neither he nor I wanted to lose sight of our guide. The streets of this town were not very crowded. Probably people were already where they had to be for the day. As we disembarked, she again asked, “Hungry?” Without needing to ask nor waiting for my answer, she ushered me to a chair and table set out on the sidewalk by a street vender. Besides noodles (which I could recognize), I have no idea what else was in my bowl. But it all went down…and stayed down.
I was surprised that we were right next door to the church! We walked in and were warmly greeted by the seminar host. The smell led me easily to the toilet room. Not seeing two doors, I rightly surmised that this one was for men and women. Fortunately, there was a door to close. No lock, but with the heel of one foot holding the door closed, I was able to accomplish the task at hand.
I was introduced to the two translators they had provided. I quickly assessed that one of them might have a bit of a problem. But…? The people came. The seminar began. The morning translator, however, could not even get out my introductory sentence: “It is a privilege to be with you today.” Whether it was her inability or just “stage fright”, we knew this would not work. Fortunately, the other lady was well-prepared in both languages. And did a fine job throughout the day. Break time. Lunch time. Restroom time. Break time. And the seminar concludes.
I spend my time shaking hands and responding with a smile and the one word in their language I knew—Cảm ơn bạn, thank you—to whatever they were saying. I was hoping for a break in this ritual of saying good-bye to make another visit to that hole in the floor. However, in an instant, a helmet was put into my hand and I was ushered to the door. The motorcycle taxis were waiting. We had to leave—now!
Now, I have a good bladder. It has done me well for many years, ever since my mother taught me how to control it. No problem. I can wait. But at the bus station, our bus was just leaving. We got on as it was already moving. No problem. I have a strong bladder. I can find suitable privacy at the next station while my driver retrieves her motorcycle. But, anxious to get home, my driver gave me no time at that station to find a toilet. No problem. I think I have a more than adequate bladder. The bumpy motorcycle ride does give me some anxious moments. But, no problem. I am confident of my strong bladder.
Then, on a crowded boulevard, we see a bus coming from the opposite direction. His horn is blaring, trying to get the motorcycles to move to the side to let him pass. They don’t stray from their intentions of staying the course. They will not let him pass. Thus, he pulls his massive missile of metal into our lane. A motorcycle is on our right. We cannot move closer to the curb. He is bearing down on us, straight into our path. My driver, with nerves of steel, does not alter her course, nor slow down. I press my left knee in as close as I can to the side of our cycle. The bus brushes by with no more than three inches between my knee and his side panel. The heat of his exhaust burns hot on my leg! No problem. That experience proved to me that I have a really strong bladder! Not even a drop leaked out!
Thinking we cannot be far from the hotel, I begin dreaming of a long, satisfying evacuation of my now stretched-to-the-limit bladder. My revelry is interrupted by my driver saying, “My house. Dinner.” My dreams shattered, I assure myself that a fine depository will be available there. She deftly steers the motorcycle through a labyrinth of brick-paved walkways between dark-walled buildings. Bright lights from one doorway and another show that families have returned from the day’s activities. Finally, we are there.
My day-long guide gives the motorcycle to her son-in-law, who stores it in one corner of the living room. “Mom” immediately climbs a ladder of rungs embedded in the wall. She lifts the trap door and places her bag of belongings in some upper chamber. I quickly survey the room. The main furniture in this room is a bed! In another corner is a TV. Dishes are already placed on a mat on the floor. Beyond this room, through an open doorway and a half-step up, is a narrow room. Smells let me know that our dinner is cooking there. My host introduces me to his wife’s sister, who continues to set the “table”. His wife pokes her head around the left side of the kitchen doorway and says, “Hi.”
And now, believing that the customarily appropriate greeting time has passed, I ask my host if he would please direct me to the toilet room. He motioned toward the open doorway. I took a step up, intending to turn right. (After all, his wife had greeted me from the left. So, I “knew” the toilet would be on the right. Right?) But there is a blank wall.
I step back down into the living room. My host motions that the toilet is to the left. I step up again. I look left. In this narrow (no more than three feet wide) room, I see his wife at the stove. To her left is a makeshift sink with one water spicket. And to the left of that is a hole in the floor! I step back down into the living room. My host says, “My wife will leave the room, if you prefer!” Oh…my, bladder! Have mercy on me!
Now, I have traveled to many cultures. And think myself quite able to adapt cross-culturally. But I am also a very private person. So, I say to my host that I can wait. It is 9:30pm. And dinner is ready. I now must maneuver my body down to the floor without putting undue pressure on my bladder. I extend my legs in a semi-reclined position rather than sitting cross-legged as the family sat. Even still, it is beyond painful. A leisurely dinner with talk of the day’s happenings. Good-byes are said. Thanks for a great day!
My host and his wife walk me through the maze of pathways onto the main street. Three blocks on and I recognize the area of my hotel. After another appropriate leave-taking good-bye, I retrieve my keys from the clerk and climb the four flights of stairs to my room. No more welcoming sight could have greeted me than that white porcelain bowl in the privacy of my own room! Flush!
READ more stories by Neal and Yvonne Pirolo!