What do I see on the bus?

I’m a bus traveller, in or outside of Vietnam wherever I’ve lived. I’ve commuted by bus since I was a highschool girl. Many people keep asking me how can I survive without a motorbike in a country of tens of millions motorbike like Vietnam, where big cities of Saigon and Hanoi are constantly packed with traffic jam.

I simply don’t enjoy driving. Yes, that’s the fact. Driving makes me tired. Though, from time to time I do have to combine both buses and Grabbike when I do not have enough time to get where I need to be. Commuting by bus gives me rest, even if I got stuck in heavy traffic, it is still way better than sitting on a motorbike “eating” terrible smoke discharged from the vehicles. You surely know that once you’ve experienced crazy traffic in Vietnam. If you want to know how crazy is that craziness, simply do Google > Image for “traffic in Vietnam”.

By the time, I’ve realized what is more exciting and why am I so loyal to public buses, if you’re still curious to know. I simply see commuting by bus in the cities give me wonderful opportunities to see life much more than what I could see if I drive a motorbike or a car.

On a bus, I could encounter all kinds of incidents that could be seen or at least I’ve heard of.

On a not so good day, it could bump into a cranky bus driver. On another day it could be a gangster threatening and insulting other passengers and that could get on my nerves. Sometimes, pocket lifters in crowded buses, even perverts. But please don’t be scared. If you encounter any of that kind, please report to the police or call the hotlines of the bus companies, those contacts are available in any buses. Please do not keep silent.

I want to tell you that I do encourage you to travel by bus in the cities in Vietnam if you could. I do see, and mainly encounter, kindness and heart-warming stories. I see in the bus school kids happily chat too loud just like we did when in school. Or the other day a school girl asked me to lend my shoulder for her to sleep on, and that was enough to make my day. And many more…

That day, on a bus in Hanoi, I saw something that I never encountered before and it still aches me somehow.

It was a boiling morning day in June.

I was on a bus heading to a meeting. After a few stops, a mother, carrying a kid on her back, got on to the bus. What caught my attention was the eyes of the woman and the kid on her back, it was a big kid. The woman, full of grey hair, carried a crumble bag knotted with a small plastic chair. She wore a flip flop revealing her cracking heels. Her face was pale. Her eyes were tiring. She looked obviously exhausted, and poor. Her kid, about 10 years old, was suffering from some kind of mental impairment, combined with down syndrome, maybe, I could only tell it by the kid’s eyes.

The ticket seller approached to check the ticket, and she showed him something, maybe her monthly ticket or some similar kind, since I did not see she paid anything.

Once they sat down, everyone recognized that something was not normal with the kid since she kept beating up herself. The girl did not bother anyone, neither made much noise, but her behavior was abnormal enough to make the man, sitting in the opposite chair, keep staring at them. The mother didn’t tell her kid to stop, neither appeared to be bothered at all with that look. She did not explain anything or say a word, like I could see many people would do in the same situation…She maybe was too familiar with that kind of look.

I, too, kept looking at the mother and the poor girl, but in a more sensitive way. As I sat behind them and wore sunglasses, so I could observe them closely and silently without giving the mother an uncomfortable feeling.

They stayed on the bus for about 15 minutes, the bus’ speaker announced that it was approaching the Hospital of Obstetrics and Gynecology (Bệnh viện phụ sản), the mother prepared to drop off.

Where do you want to stop, Ma’am – I asked her, having in my mind that she might not be familiar with the bus route and I wanted to help her.

The Children hospital – She said.

This is Hospital of Obstetrics and Gynecology – I said.

They are the same – She nodded.

(I only realized later on that those two hospitals are located exactly at the same location in Hanoi. I heard it from time to time but I forgot. I felt embarrassed for myself.)

Then, the mother quickly stepped to the back door of the bus, one hand holding the pole, the other hand holding the bag and the chair. The kid was hanging on her back just like a sloth, ready to get off the bus.

After they dropped off, tears kept running on my face, covered by my sunglasses, no one on the bus said a word. Probably, like me, no one was able to find a word to utter. It’s better not saying anything.

When they were on the bus, I honestly wanted to ask, “How is the kid, do you need help?”. I naturally wanted to give her the only note, 200,000 VND, that I had in my pocket besides some small change. But I did not dare to.

I then realized, how ignorant, somehow arrogant I probably was. She had a monthly tịcket or things like that, so she must be an experienced bus traveller and had been to the hospital many times. She did not ask for anything. She did not even need help, neither needed my advice, she knew what she was doing and where she was going. The only thing she needed was a rest for a while. She was too weary, carrying the burden on her shoulders. All what her eyes wanted to say was “I only need a break, please!”

I took courage to take the picture behind them fast enough before they got off, thought I could learn something from it.

I salute to the Mother. Keep asking myself why life gives her so much suffering, then how God gives her equally much strength and power to pick up herself and carry on.

May God bless the mother and her daughter and give them good rest.


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