(Taking up where I left off)...
Sitting down finally on the bus. I was exhausted by then and just wanted to lie down...but bus seats are not made for lying down thats for sure. It was about 10 minutes down the road when I realized there was no bathroom on that bus...it was about 10 seconds after that when I realized I was going to either embarrass myself in front of all these strangers (except for the 3 people I knew) or manage in some small way to control myself until the next stop. Thankfully my stomach had settled down...all though it was still hurting me...it had nothing further to offer up to the "gods". My nether regions were a different story...they had plenty to complain about and werent shy to vocalize....(ahem...sorry).
As if not having a bathroom was not bad enough...the a.c. on the bus was not working properly. The darn thing was dripping in numerous places up and down the bus onto passengers. Before long there were a myriad of contraptions designed to send the dripping water somewhere else...usually on your neighbor. And to top it off...for some reason the floor of the bus was almost too hot to bear. Many of us removed our shoes for the long journey but ended up either putting them back on or placing a bag or something for our feet to rest on...otherwise they were toasted.
Since I was the last person on the bus...I got the "crap" seat. The very back of the bus has an entire row of seats that go all the way across. Two window seats and two center seats. I was in one of the center seats. So there I was...exhausted...in serious pain from vomiting...continuously cramping which meant I seriously needed a bathroom again (ASAP), my feet were being scorched, my head dripped on...and to make matters worse...because I was in the middle I couldnt lie against the window or even down in the seat...so I made most of that journey unable to even really relax because to do so would have probably meant falling asleep and falling over onto one of my seat partners. I also had a sneaky suspicion to fall asleep would have resulted in me losing control of my shaky bowels...ouch! No thank you.
Our first stop was for fajr prayers in a small town with a medium sized mosque. I was barely able to walk well enough to get off the bus. I found it strange that all though many of the women seemed sympathetic to my plight, enquiring as to my well being numerous times...none of them volunteered to switch seats with me to allow me maybe rest against the window...and none of them offered to help me from the bus or asked me if I needed anything from the cold store that everyone rushed too. As soon as everyone got off...my son came back and helped me off then ran to bring me water etc.
As I hobbled my way towards the back of the mosque where I heard the bathrooms were I was finding it more difficult to "maintain control" at the thought that soon I wouldnt have too. However, once I came around the corner it was as if I had hit a wall...a powerfully putrid smelling wall. Many of the ladies were hanging around outside unwilling to enter...others were plugging their noses and going for it. I had no choice, so to speak, and stepped hesitantly in. Oh the horrors of what I faced. I have never seen such a filthy and disgusting bathroom in my life. The floor was unspeakable...the sinks and walls were likewise...and the toilets were just holes in the floor that were either overflowing...or looked almost too dangerous to even approach as you felt it might break away and you would end up somewhere under the dark recesses of the mosque. Under any other circumstances I would not even had thought twice about turning around and getting back on the bus and waiting for the next stop...it was that bad...but I was absolutely positive I would not make it to the next stop without dire consequences...so I swallowed my disgust...lifted my abaya (way high) and found the least horrible cess pit of the lot.(it didnt win by much but it did have a workable lock). It was then I realized it had no water...no kleenex...nothing to facilitate proper cleaning.(thankfully I had a bottle of water and some kleenex in my bag...all though the way I was feeling I would have had to have "gone" anyhow and cleaned up best I could) Sorry for the graphics people but it was that bad.
Navigating my way through the bathroom ordeal was exhausting and extremely frustrating. Several times I nearly fell into the muck...and when I reached out to grab something to save myself...I would end up grabbing something equally horrible...(shoot me now ...please). Ugh!! Eventually I noticed it had gotten very quiet and than realized I was the last one in the bathroom. When I exited the bathroom my son was anxiously waiting outside wondering if he should risk it and come inside and see if I was ok...everyone else had finished prayers and were headed back for the bus...and I was barely able to shuffle towards the mosque. Thankfully my friends brother was in charge of the crowd and made sure a headcount was done each time we got on and off...or I feel I might have been left behind..along with my son while he stood outside one bathroom or another waiting nervously for me.
Basically the rest of the trip to Mecca was just a repeat of that first bathroom experience...exhaustion...filth...no water or very little...even the mosques themselves were generally unkempt and in need of a good cleaning. We even found a group of ladies smoking hubbly bubbly in one mosque...the smoke and stink was horrible. I find it very strange that Gods Houses are allowed to go unmaintained like that...what a horrible thing to greet Muslims at nearly every stop.
A side note here...I am allergic to some insects...ants being one of them. In one mosque there were very large, chunky black ants roaming all over the place...inside and out. I even seen them crawling over some of the ladies that were praying. My first instinct was to not pray as I was horrified at the thought of one of those goliaths biting me and me dying in the middle of nowhere in a dirty little mosque (not much better than in a bathroom on the bridge is it) but I was worried I wouldnt get the chance to perform this prayer before the next one was due..so decided to take my chances. So I prayed as best I could (being exhausted and all) among the largest blackest ants Ive ever seen in my life. Im happy to say they did not bother me...thank you God.
I dont remember what town we stopped in in order for the men to don the white cloths and for the ladies to do their thing (I was basically a walking zombie by then) as most of that trip was just an exhaustive haze in which I was barely registering anything other than the need for a bathroom and desire to just sleep for a year or two...but we finally arrived among much excitement and flurry of activity. The bus was parked in a large parking lot sort of at the bottom of a hill...and the showers and mosque were on an upward slope...waaay up there. While everyone else hurried off...I leaned against my son and hobbled up this Mt Olympus that took me nearly 20 min to summit.
I found all the ladies cheerfully engaged in the pre Umrah ritual of showering and donning plain dresses...no makeup...perfume or jewlery of any kind....then heading further up the hill to the mosque for the next prayer. I entered one of the shower stalls and was greeted with very very cold water and no hooks to hang my clothes from...not to mention I had forgotten my towel way back down the hill in the bus...try getting dressed again when your only tshirt dried and chattering so much from the cold your almost biting your tongue off (not to mention almost too tired to chatter). I was soooo dog tired that when a wasp flew into the shower stall I just blinked at it and wished it away rather than go into a "dont sting me Im allergic" panic and jump out of the shower naked as I might have done under other circumstances...he didnt like the cold water anymore than I did apparently as he flew back out the window just as quick.
It took me nearly 40 min to shower, change and trudge up the hill to the mosque and perform my prayers. Once in the mosque I needed the bathroom again and had to trudge back down...do my thing...and trudge back up again. That added another 20 min and everyone else was back at the bus by then. My son was patiently waiting...and escorted me back aboard. I dont recall hearing anyone complain that I was "holding up" the rest of them...but then again I have to really pay attention to Arabic to understand it...and in my zombie like state I wasnt understanding any of it...so who knows.
Next stop Mecca.
*to be continued