The boss of this restaurant, a young Turkish man, guided me inside the busy restaurant and let me sit on one of the tables with electricity socket beside. I could charge my phone, my laptop and do something on it. At that time I did not have a smartphone at all. Instead I had this old-fashioned phone, actually the same one as one of the grannies in our laboratory. However, it did have two amazing functions — texting and calling! WOWO! That would suffice for me.
I started sorting photos on my laptop when I realized that the waiting would take longer than I thought. The polite and always smiling young man said he would ask passing-by drivers if they were going to Plovdiv and could take me along. The restaurant was not big, yet busy.I saw the young man talking to many people, smiling, nodding, laughing and sometimes pointing at me and I felt hope but gradually, I realized it was not as easy as I thought to find a ride at this hour.
There was no wifi there but they did have a computer connected with wide-band. I asked for permission to use it for just a couple of minutes. There is something urgent I must do — to inform my Couchsurfing host that I might not arrive in Plovdiv tonight and I would contact her later or tomorrow.
When it was almost 2 hours later, I was so tired that I fell asleep with my laptop on. When I woke up, the light inside the restaurant felt so dazzling, like the thorns of roses sticking into my eyes. The young man always maintained his polite smile. Now he saw me awoke, came to me and asked “food?”
When I was on my way to pick up some bread and sausages, I first time saw the face of the waitress. She was a very pretty girl, Bulgarian obviously. She looked at me and smiled:”You are going to Plovdiv?”
“Yes, where are you from? not Plovdiv right?”
“No, I am from a small town just near here.”
I liked the Bulgarian accent in her English and wanted to chat more but she was busy; also as I was under other people’s roof, I had got to behave decently and hey, flirting was not really a decent thing.
Moreover, as now I perceive, the polite young man must be a religious person. His smile told me so. I saw same smile on the faces of some people living in Konya and later in Iran and India. The smile was calm, confident and brave. It felt like the smile was saying”I have nothing to fear as I have given up my total destiny to Allah”. Flirting with the Bulgarian waitress in the face of them would not be a good idea indeed.
When I finished my meal, for which, as you could imagine, the hospitable Turkish people did not charge me. The young man led an old man with a big belly to me and said in some English words:”He, Plovdiv!”
I was saved! I happily packed up my backpack, put it on and thanked the young man. When I hit my head with his, making our temples touch, as they did inside Turkey, he laughed gladly, obviously not expecting this from a Chinese guy.
I jumped into the truck and saw there was already a girl, with high boots and quite fashionable outfit sitting on the co-pilot seat. The driver with a big belly said something to her. She moved to the back of the seats, where there was the bed for drivers to rest and I took the co-pilot seat.
The roaring of the big truck disturbed the peaceful Balkan sky and we got on the journey!
As I tried to start some communication, I soon realized that the driver was reluctant to take me as he had this girl with him. He only agreed because the young man was a friend of him. The young girl? Soon as I saw he touched her long legs and kissed her cheeks in such a casual way, I realized that she was a prostitute. Right! Roadside prostitute, specialized in truck drivers. I guess everyone who had hitchhiked in Turkey had heard of them.
They were talking and I could see that the driver was tired and did not want to talk much. The road got from bad to better, narrow to wider. As we were approaching Plovdiv, it was almost imperial — big flat roads with no other vehicles.
I was watching the road signs which flew by the truck window and reflecting how weird and yet interesting it was to hitchhike with a prostitute inside the truck. The unfortunate part was that none of them spoke English or had the desire to communicate, otherwise I really would like to know their stories, a story I otherwise would not have the chance to hear first-handed, a story which had been so devilized by public media.
“Here, go direct, Plovdiv!” Before he turned towards Sofia, he pointed me the direction. I thanked him and landed on the lonesome road, lit by the yellow lamps. Cold air blew on my face, there was absolutely nobody around, with the only sound being the trucks’ engine afar. Thus had I arrived in Plovdiv!