It was time to say goodbye to Jajce and head to Banja Luka on, once again, a bus that Germans threw out years ago.
Jay and I walked into the bus station (let me ask you, why does every bus station give off this suicide vibe?) bar (bad idea, always).
The waitress was short (both psychically and in her attitude), the men were drunk and the chairs were the metal ones that give off a vibe the owner of the bar doesn’t really want you there, but the law requires him to have chairs, so he went to a nearby junkyard and threw some on the floor.
I ordered a bottled beer (I wouldn’t trust a glass here if it gave me money) and watched the Turbo Folk TV. Ladies with fake lips, breasts, voices and talents lip-synced over us while the men at the bar got drunker and drunker. It’s so sad to see someone complaining they are poor while they drink their money in a bar on a bus station. At least pick a better bar.
Well, it was time for another intense ride through the mountains of Bosnia with a bus driver playing that same Turbo Folk music.
My personal favourite was when he pulled out a phone:
“Hey what’s up, what you up to?” (Hej djes ba, st’ ima?) “Oh…I’m just bored, so I figured I’d give you a call” (Ev’ nista, dosadno, pa reko da te zovnem)
As we drove on a cliff in a mountain overlooking what looked like a really cold river, all kinds of gloomy thoughts went over me, and then I realized… If I keep thinking, I’m gonna think myself into a panic attack.
Sometimes you just have to let go of the need to control everything.
The driver was in the end, really nice, and got us there.
Downtown Banja Luka and The Fatal Return
The next day, after having some morning Rakija (“what do you need water for, there’s Rakija”) we stepped on the local bus to head downtown,
That thing didn’t see a mechanic since Bosnia was in Yugoslavia. We sat in the back and jumped around like a sack of potatoes while the locals stared at us. Not many people blinked.
After a quick walk through the museum of contemporary art or whatever with what looked like statues of dicks in front (it’s art, so penises), a sweet lunch in the downtown core, we decided to head back to our little picturesque village.
The route was simple, take the bus you came to the city with.
The bus came and didn’t stop. Yes, we tried waving and ended up looking like idiots, whatever.
Another five minutes later, a bus shows up with the name of the village we have to go in written on the front.
I asked, “do you go to x?”
“Yes!” – the driver, a little annoyed, said
“Yes” -the people behind me confirmed (pushing me in the bus)
Congratulating ourselves, as usual, Jay and I got on the bus and looked around the scenery.
The bus took a right turn – it wasn’t going by the river any more.
“It’s probably a different route” – I reasoned. “He probably goes over the mountain and then to the village.”
Just to make sure I asked the lady behind me.
“This goes to the village x, right?”
“Why is it going to the mountain?”
Ladies looked at me knowing something I don’t.
“Honey, there are two villages named the same. You are on your way to the upper one.”
Slight panic attack overcame me, Jay doesn’t understand Bosnian so I had to repeat what they just said and in doing so face reality.
I’ll stay calm, this is an easy fix, I reasoned.
“So what can I do?” I asked the nice ladies. “Is there a bus that goes back?”
“Yeees, honey, of course. Just wait on the other side, it should come in three hours”
THREE EFFING HOURS – it was not warm outside people.
“Come out with me now” – the sweet lady continued -“There’s a bar nearby, people here are REALLY nice, I’m sure someone can help you out”
What could we do but go?
One waitress, three teeth, fifteen men, Jay and me.
The moment we walked in this bar silence overcame it. I have never felt so observed in my life.
“Good afternoon” – I spoke first to show we come in peace, bearing gifts.
“May we have two beers, please”
The waitress gave us beers and I realized I am the only woman here, and I probably should have went with a juice or some other bullshit ladylike drink, but I needed a beer. I had to make friends here.
The man across from us didn’t even pretend not to stare down like we are prey.
I was looking for a human here that had some soul behind the eyes and I scooped one.
He had to be my new best friend if I want us out of here.
“Hi” – I said with the softest, least threating voice I could muster. Everyone stared at us. “How can we get back to the bottom of the mountain? Can we walk?” I smiled.
“It’s going to take you three days to walk.”
“O..o..ok” I kept it cool because I had to keep Jay calm and convinced that everything is okay and I had to keep these guys calm.
“How about a taxi?”
“A TAXI?” now the whole bar laughed “Where you gonna find a taxi here?”
I laughed with them like a kid surrounded by bullies trying to look cool so they don’t take his lunch.
Ha – ha – ha -ha we all laughed and I waited till everyone stops so I can ask another question.
“Hm, can we maybe use your phone? Or, or is there maybe a wi-fi?”
I was getting nothing. I didn’t see those nice people that lady was talking about.
“So, where you from?” – My new friend asked, I clearly spoke in a Croatian accent. I didn’t want to throw Croatia in the mix at all, although we are all past the war and it probably wouldn’t matter, I still decided to say. “Toronto.”
“Toronto… what’s that?”
I’ve never met someone who has never heard of Toronto.
“He’s from Canada too?” He pointed at Jay. I know what he meant, you know what he meant too.
“Yes, born and raised there.”
“Where is he really from?”
“Ireland,” I said.
That confused the shit out of him.
Things cooled off a little when I pointed out that Jay is from Canada and not Syria.
“You can use my hotspot,” my friend said “And I’ll try to give my buddy a call, he drives a taxi in the city”
I was so relieved I picked the right guy to make friends with. That guy from across was still staring.
“You can wait three hours for the bus!” my friend said.
I really, really, really didn’t want to spend three hours here.
As I connected to his wifi, I got a message.
“Where are you two?”
Yes! We are safe! Goran is coming to get us!
There’s someone looking for us.
Immediately, we went outside to wait.
“Did you get a ride?” people came out to see.
“Are you going to be ok?”
The attitude towards us changed, we were no longer the foreign substance, now we were two people that needed help.
“Come have a drink with us” they offered.
The guy from across the bar still stared.