Approaching the half-way point of my 1.5 month trip I was looking forward to staying in the home of one of my long term friends and former supervisor, Sean. To do this however, I had to take a night bus for ten hours through rural India. The reason for this was because Sean and his wife are doing missionary work in the small city (300,000 people is considered small in India) of Ongole. Because of its size and location there was no reasonable train route that could get me there. Thus: the bus.

The one piece of advice that Sean gave me before I got on this bus was to NOT sleep on one of the top bunks. He didn’t tell me why, though I had my suspicions. Anyways, I get on the bus at 10 PM in Hyderabad and look for my seat, which was thankfully on the bottom bunk. Unfortunately I get to my compartment to see a family with a mother and daughter lying together in my bed! At this point I really wasn’t in the mood, nor did I feel like it was appropriate to ask for my bed and dutifully climbed the ladder to my bed on top. The subsequent ten hours were certainly an adventure and I never really got any sleep.

I have never ready Harry Potter, but after describing it to my girlfriend she said that my experience was pretty much like the “Knight Bus” in the book. I’ll leave it at that.

I was dropped off in a random spot in the middle of this city at 6 AM. with no cell phone and no sign of my friend. I was a bit worried.  A nice man (who didn’t speak any English) then came to my rescue and let me borrow his cell phone which allowed me to reunite with my former boss. Success!

The time I spent in Ongole was both relaxing and enlightening. I got to see the “other” side of India full of tobacco farmers, poverty, and innocence. I spent time with many orphans who have lost their parents for one reason or another and continue to be amazed by the joy that children can find regardless of how much they have. Whether it was watching a simple clock tower display in Hyderabad or letting the kids see the photos they just asked me to take of them, there is just a happiness with things we in the US take for granted. This was one of the most pleasant surprises of my trip. I got to see simple joy in the faces of children when everything seems so complicated here in the U.S. with video games, social networking, and constant demands on our kids’ time.

My time in Ongole ended with me taking a night bus (I absolutely had to!) to Bangalore India, where I would fly to China. This time I got a bottom bunk! It was too bad the child in the top bunk vomited ten minutes into my ride. Next time I’ll just hitchhike.

Photos provided by Zach Tobin

Zach Tobin is a second-year graduate student in Student Affairs Administration at MSU’s College of Education. Zach was born in Seattle, WA and has had the privilege to travel throughout the world including stints in Central America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle  East. Along with traveling, Zach’s interests include higher education policy and Eastern European history and politics. Zach served as a Programming Intern at the Office for International Students and Scholars (OISS).