On Monday afternoon, I put on my green coat and my blue hat, slung my purse over my shoulder, and marched down to the bus station, determined to discover the fate of my suitcase. The bus driver had assured me that by Saturday he would drop off my bag, but Saturday was 2 days old, and there was no sign of the suitcase.
I waited until everyone got off the bus, and then I approached the bus driver. He was still sheepish and apologetic, and he tried to explain to me in Hungarian the mechanics of why he still couldn’t open the back hatch. “Do you understand?” he asked at the end.
“A little.” I replied. I searched for the words. “You still can’t do it,” was all I came up with. But that was the main idea.
I explained to him that I needed the bag as soon as possible because I was travelling again this week, and he told me that for sure by Wednesday morning he would have freed the suitcase. That was cutting it close – my trip to Lithuania begins today – but there wasn’t much else I could ask for.
Wednesday morning slipped by like the misty-muddy day it was, and there was no sign of my suitcase. So once again, I donned my green coat and my blue hat, zipped up my new suede boots, and headed to the bus station. Before I left the school compound, I stopped by the porter’s room to see if he had shuffled the suitcase somewhere out of sight. The porter hadn’t, but in the room talking with him was the pastor from the Péterfalva church (not to be confused with the church in Tivadar, which is technically where I live; don’t worry about it – it’s not important). Sándor is his name, I believe, and he offered to drive me down to the bus stop.
When we arrived, about a half hour early for the bus by my reckoning, Sándor began talking with a kerchiefed old woman standing at the bus stop, and before I knew it we were back in the car again, zipping off in the opposite direction. I eventually figured out that Sándor had misunderstood which bus I was looking for and that we were hurtling down the road to catch a bus that had left 10 minutes ago. I had to bite the insides of my mouth to keep from Cheshire-cat-smiling at the beautiful absurdity of my life. We whizzed past muddy fields and dripping trees, dodged potholes the size of zoo animals, and skirted grey-tiled, bright-walled houses. Sometimes I closed my eyes. The pastor waved his hand at everyone he knew, and, I think, at many people he didn’t know, until it looked like his hand had developed a twitch. We passed fisherman on bikes (who could have reached out and grabbed hold of the side mirrors if they had cared to), children coming home from school, women in improbable boots and coats. I eventually confirmed that the bus we were approaching was not the bus we were looking for, so we turned around and repeated the race back to the bus stop. I don’t know how he got his little Lada to go so fast.
When the Beregszasz bus arrived, the driver still looked sheepish, and he still could not produce my suitcase. Sándor, however, could understand what the bus driver was saying and thus could do something about it. He agreed to meet the bus driver again in about an hour after the bus’ last run of the day; and we were meeting at a mechanic’s shop.
As Sándor and I stood on the side of the road near the chosen mechanic’s shop, waiting to flag down the bus so the driver knew where we were, I told Sándor that the whole thing was very amusing to me. He chuckled and said to me, “Well, this is Ukraine. It’s the way things are.” Or something like that.
When the bus got to the mechanic, I anxiously watched them pull and prod the door, not really following the technical conversation. All I got out of it is that the bus was made in India. Maybe that’s why it’s pink and purple.
With a little innovation and some tools to take the handle apart, the two mechanics and the bus driver were finally able to liberate my suitcase. There was much rejoicing.
And now I have all the necessary items for my trip to Lithuania, which lasts until Tuesday. I’m only taking a backpack because I don’t much feel like dealing with anything bigger at the moment.