Monday, January 9, 2017

Maybe This is How I Die

The calm before the storm
(before we'd reached open water, when I was still thought it was fun.) 
There are moments in life when you stop to ponder your mortality.  And there are moments when you don't stop to ponder your mortality because your mortality is thrust upon you and you're too busy freaking out to stop and ponder.  We experienced a few of them in Vietnam.  From the cut on my foot that got infected walking through the mud and dirty streets in sandals, reminding me of the beginning of every episode of Monster Inside Me that I'd ever seen. To the little kayak excursion with my husband that turned into an open water paddle for our lives on the swells of the Gulf of Tonkin, which began cresting over and into the boat.  But, those weren't even the top two of our trip to Vietnam.  Although, the kayak experience comes in a close third and the intestinal parasite I contracted later in the trip ranks a very distant fourth.

Both of our near death experiences occurred in traffic.
And oddly, not on that 8 hour motorbike tour we took in the rain.

First, you need to understand traffic in Vietnam, where recently paved roads connecting the country helped to propel it into becoming a tourist destination.  Next, you need to realize that it's organized chaos.  Where you can commit a whole slew of traffic infractions if only you honk to warn other drivers you're coming up on their left.  Or their right.  Or right behind them.  If in doubt as to whether you need to honk or not, just honk anyway.  It safeguards you like an aspirin does to prevent blood clots (which is what we do for long flights.) 

Anyhow, it was on an early morning taxi ride on the way to the airport for a short flight from Na Trang to Da Nang before the sun came up, where I first questioned if this was how I die.  Our family of six was split between two cabs.  My husband, River and Ember in one.  Me, Sky and Jade in the other.  Sky, the only extrovert in our family, knows from our other travels to take front seat with the driver in case there is any chit chat to be had.  Which in this case there wasn't, because our driver didn't speak English.  The first half of the 50 minute ride from town to the airport was uneventful.

Then, the car started slowing down for no apparent reason.  And our driver pulled the car over, got out, opened the trunk and splashed water on his face.  Because he was falling asleep.  We formulated a plan.  We'd talk loudly in an effort to keep him awake and Sky was designated to be on high alert to take the wheel.  Thank god for my social anxiety and hiding in the back of the cab where I'm merely a lookout with a clear shot of the driver's eyes in the rear view mirror.  After much head bobbing from our driver, it happened; his eyes closed completely for a nanosecond.  And I barked my loudest bark and the driver's eyes thrust open. We had 10 more minutes until the airport and I've never been more religious in my life. Which is probably why we actually got to the airport, because I'm pretty sure Jesus took the wheel. But, that wasn't the worst maybe this is how I die moment.

The worst came on a three and a half hour van ride from Hue to the jungle of Phong Nha.  Our driver had a wicked, deep, throaty cough we thought might be from Tuberculosis.  But, who knew, it could also be SARS.  Then there was the seemingly random alarm that kept going off that the driver ignored.  What did it mean?  We found out later, it meant he was driving too fast. Which is no consolation when you're driving down the middle of a two lane road dodging one of countless mopeds overloaded with a family of four and two chickens riding on it.  That's when I saw headlights coming directly toward us from an oncoming truck passing a car.  This is definitely how we all die.  I didn't even have time or the inclination to bark.  Death seemed imminent.  There was nothing to do but succumb to it.  It was completely, eerily quiet when our driver hit the brakes and the truck somehow managed to nudge past the car it was passing before careening back into its own lane just in the nick of time.  

We'll live to see another adventure.
And ponder, maybe this is how I die, another day.


JoAnn Grant said...

OMG, I laughed totally understanding your terror! Don't go for a walk in the woods today either. With the hurricane winds right here at home! Yikes! Glad you all made it through ALL of those 'adventures'

Gerard said...

The combo of beet juice, parasites and frequent frights for your life must have kept you at Shart Alert - Level BROWN a lot on this trip! Intense!!

Lassie would be proud of your quick action when the droopy driver dozed off! Good girl!! Disaster averted.

Looking forward to the next episode!

Mackenzie Glanville said...

oh gosh I would have freaked out completely! Glad your time wasn't up!

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

I have just caught up with your travel stories and I am both amused - because you do know how to tell a harrowing story and make it funny - and impressed that once again you have managed to take your children on an awesome trip to a faraway place most of us will never see. And you managed to bring them all back mostly unscathed!


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