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  • Hot, sticky and still in our green plastic seats, we wait for the bus to move. To start. To be somewhere other than the station filled with sound and smells. Diesel. Spice. Unwashed humanity. But even this feels part of the experience.

    A man sells snacks on a large wheel, plastic bags filled with crunchy bits in orange, white and green, and calls out in an auctioneer's voice words I don't understand. The lottery ticket man shoots rapid fire words at us, too. His board filled with tickets.

    Those are lottery tickets, right?

    Today's bus seems less crowded than yesterday's with men and women crowded into the aisle for three, three and a half hours, some longer, some shorter. Crotches at shoulders. Inappropriate touching, accidental and otherwise.

    "He did a boob swipe!" a girl in our group told of a group between passengers.

    Men slept as they clung to handles overhead. Buddhist monks dressed in orange claimed the front seat as was their right and read the newspaper.

    Today on the bus, another public bus, still in the station, seats remain open and the engine starts, vibrates throughout, and someone decides to share his music with us. The driver with his flashing Buddha?

    The child in a lap across the aisle seems less than phased by anything other than our light hair and bare legs. Knees. He loses interest as we roll, honking and overtaking, toward Dumballa.

    Along the way, we stop for more passengers. Though, stop might not be the right word. We slow and they jump aboard to stand in the aisles as we speed toward the next rider. Honk. Overtake. Slow. Jump. Speed.

    Men in dress pants and button downs get off with their briefcases in what seems to be a remote area. Women in skirts. Blouses.

    The keening tambourine man with his vibrating voice repeats the call of an unclear tune. Locals give him money. Any of us would pay him to stop.

    At the tall Buddha by a lake, the money man at the front of the bus hops off to put money in a till. At another small shrine, we stop and he takes ashes.

    And the Buddha keeps flashing. The music pounds. Day grows outside the windows. Soon we will be in Dumballa.
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