Saturday, October 3, 2009

dodging traffic

I will start with where I am right now and hopefully from here I can get out all the words that seem to spill out whenever I am out on a run, or on the train, or walking around and can't get my fingers to a keyboard.

I've started running again, for a number of reasons, which aren't exciting or worth discussion, but it has been an interesting cultural study. Namely because people here in Asia rarely run. Usually if you do see them 'running' it looks more like a shuffle in plastic sandals with a towel tied about their head or neck while they are clothed like they are ready to go off to the market or to work. Then picture me, tall, foreign, bouncing along in my trainers in running shorts sweating like crazy. The thought actually makes me want to laugh, which people do, sometimes they shout, the more polite ones just stare, and the kids all yell, 'HELLO!' Adding to this is that there is almost nowhere to run. The main streets are clogged with a constant howling stream of motos, trucks, buses, and people all scrambling to get somewhere. Sidewalks are collections of broken french colonial tiles, cracked pavement, rebar, trash, shit, people, parked motos, and ankle biting dogs. No wonder I lay in bed so many mornings talking myself into getting up and strapping on my shoes.

But like anything there is the good as well. Asia gets going early and running HAS to happen early (midday heat starts to get crippling about 9 am). 6 am Vietnam looks pretty different to 8:30 am Vietnam: past 8 the freshly caught fish are on their lasts breaths and the morning dew has dried off the produce. There is something magic about being out on the streets as Indochina revs her engines to start another day. I've run past monks collecting their alms, a man cutting ice with an electric saw, flapping baskets of the freshest fish one can encounter, past a huge rat that had been killed by a street dog, and had my fair share of dog run-ins (and as Mandy knows 'I'm afeared of dogs').

Running here is a metaphor for doing practically anything else here, it is exhausting, frustrating, chaotic, exhilarating, and exciting. I wouldn't give up my trail runs in the Marin hills, but dodging motor bikes while trying to maintain a steady pace has its charm.

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