I was close to being run over last night on my way to dinner. No, I wasn’t drunk, high on shrooms or wearing clogs. I was simply walking along the sidewalk towards Bamboo, our favorite eatery here in Hoi An. Had my focus just slipped a little, or, if I’d misstepped ever-so slightly… BOOM!…I would of been a pile of aged dead meat on the street. “Good to see you didn’t end up as roadkill”, one buddy pointed out.
Though initially intended for pedestrians, most sidewalks here are in reality multifunctional spaces used for every imaginable/unimaginable purpose – most commonly as haphazard parking spots for scooters. Dodging and zigzagging in between mopeds, bicycles and other rigid, often rusty yet sharp obstacles is simply part the urban fidelity, I suppose.
Just before finally making it to the restaurant, I had this wonderful epiphany. I realized that it was likely the chaos and idiosyncrasies that make me feel so tuned-in to life whenever I’m in South East Asia. Admittedly, it can take a while before I calm down and stop cursing about the constant onslaught of death-defying road warriors that make crossing a street like Russian roulette, or, how even walking on a sidewalk feels like being trapped within a pinball machine.
Where countries in most of northern Europe stubbornly strive for a glossy, picture-perfect society, in developing countries like Vietnam, for most folks, there’s really no option other than to accept, embrace and integrate one’s life as seamlessly as possible within the imperfect, the chaotic and dysfunctional. And though we’re here as privileged guests and can easily pay our way to sidestep most discomforts (I could have taken a taxi to Bamboo last night), it’s truly humbling to take part of at least a wafer thin slice of everyday life here – and be reminded of how sterile and boring it would be without life’s wonderfully liberating imperfections.