My eyes squint as they meet the afternoon sun. It’s been a full of day of travelling and still another bus is left on the itinerary.
It’s 35 degrees celsius and I’m wearing a cotton, full length dress. Sweat gathers between my boobs and clings to the cotton material, only making it hotter to sit still. A part of me wonders if this trip is worth it, as I try to separate my legs that are currently stuck together by sweat.
I’ve never been to such a hot country and am slightly frightened about going to a rural village alone with just Charlotte by my side.
The bus station is crowded. We want to walk around to stretch our legs but don’t have the energy to do so. We’ve been travelling for over 30 hours, living on dried Indomi noodle packages and water sachets. Our final bus approaches down the dirt road through the metal gate entrance of the bus terminal. Black smoke escapes its exhaust and I choke on just the idea that I’m constantly breathing in such a mix of chaos and chemicals.
I wake up and it’s sunset. We exit the bus, with full bladders, and gaze at the sky ablaze with beautiful, vibrant colours of yellow, orange, and pink. 630 kilometres in under 40 hours, with cramped necks. Yet, my anxiety and stress of such a long journey leaves me.
We cross the road and land in front of the Salia Brother’s Guesthouse; a faded aqua-green coloured home with a front yard area filled with rocks and goats. We walk through the front door and meet Muhammad, one of the twin Salia brothers. He greets us and shows us to our room, also offering the rooftop where he has put a mattress and light blanket down for us to sleep on. We jump at the idea of sleeping on the rooftop and thank him for his kindness. Dropping our bags in the main room, we make our way back out to the main street for dinner.
Sitting in a small shop, we chow down on a rice dish, sipping Sprites and watching the sunset. The only things in view are the identical shops across the dirt road, the gorgeous sky, and children running past us in Barcelona jerseys. We ask the young shopkeeper what the chaos is all about. Barcelona is about to play a massive game and the entire village is rooting them on. Within minutes the sun is down and we are being pulled along with groups of children to join in on watching the match.
We follow down small paths and around metal fences until we reach a shack with a small door and the roar of excited children inside. We open the door and the room is packed. Children are sitting everywhere. On top of each other, standing in the corners where bums can’t fit. On a bench in the back they are joined by a few fathers holding tiny babies on their laps. I giggle as I feel the energy of these little football lovers start to enter my being, and I begin to grow just as excited for a sport I know absolutely nothing about.
One of the fathers scoots everyone down on the back bench, allowing a small spot for Charlotte and I to sit down. We both squish into the seat, looking each other in the eye with the biggest smiles plastered across our faces. Ten years of friendship and I don’t think we’ve ever been in such tight quarters.
Each goal brings a roar from the audience, kids jump up and down and share high fives. The room is hot and sweaty, and I am extremely uncomfortable, but I won’t dare get up. The whole event is so random and adorable, I don’t even allow myself to step outside for air. Their little smiles, their genuine excitement watching their favourite team kick butt, and the thrill of their two foreign guests joining in on the action; priceless.
When the game comes to an end with a final winning goal from Barcelona, the kids start to scream with joy and begin exiting the small room by running back to the main street and through the village to share the good news with family and friends. We follow suit and run like goons through the streets, laughing child-like and foolishly as we mimic their screams, and dance with them in the main road. Mothers and sisters come out to clap and cheer on the excitement. It is pitch black, except for the light of the blanket of stars overhead, helping light the small faces filled with toothy smiles and sweat.
Charlotte and I ascend the handmade wooden ladder to the rooftop and lay down on the mattress to look up at the stars. Mohammad is also on the rooftop, adjacent to us, listening to the radio. The village has finally gone silent and all that surrounds us is the sound of nature and a small, handheld radio, the announcer speaking in Arabic. We slowly begin to tire.
My eyes close and I can still see every star in the Larabanga sky.