Saturday, May 24, 2014

Things Are Looking Up

Today's photos come from the rooftops of Danang, Vietnam, where my adventures led me to the fifth floor of my daughter's classroom building and the fourth floor laundry room of her home. At these heights, the city takes on a calm if still a bit jumbly air, and I enjoyed the perspective of these peaceful vistas.

But my story takes place on the street.

So, along about mid-afternoon, after several errands and jaunts here and there across town, I was cruising down a crowded street on my motorbike. Now I'm not going to pretend for one second that I'm altogether comfortable navigating these Vietnamese rivers of chaos. But in the past four days, I've come several steps down the white-knuckle scale of fear and trembling, and I'm starting to feel the flow. 

My incremental bits of confidence must have been showing  - or maybe it was just the rare flash of pale skin - because as I drove through an intersection, I noticed a pedestrian waving me down. 

Well, technically I saw two men, obviously together and notable for their own pale skin and shell-shocked expressions. Clearly, these guys needed help. White people are a rarity in Danang and let's be honest, white people on motorbikes carry a definitive air of authority and authenticity. As I quickly pulled my bike to the curb, I couldn't help but feel sorry for these men. Surely my inexperience was about to dash their hopes for a savior. 

"Can you help us?" pleaded the taller man. "We're trying to find some mall with grocery store? We need to buy some food."

Wait. I'd just been to that supermarket a few hours earlier. I couldn't retrace my route for love or money, but at least I remembered the name. "It's called Big C," I offered. "I can't give you directions but it's not far."

"Oh my gosh, thank you!" the first man gushed as his friend grinned at me in relief. "We don't need directions; we'll take a taxi!"

"You're totally welcome. Glad I could help," I called back. As I revved my bike and eased back into the absurd swarm of traffic, I'm pretty sure I sat a little bit taller in the saddle. 

Give me a few more weeks and I may just make sense of this urban jungle after all. 

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Read more stories about looking up, down. and all around:

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