1/11/10: Central Highlands, Vietnam
It was our third jam-packed day in a row, and I think we all know by now that I hate jam. So as great as our Easy Riders tour has been, Zhou and I are both ready to get back to our bread and butter of getting nothing accomplished. Before we do that though, I’ve cut the crust off of today’s activities and have decided to present you with my favorite story.
Duc loved stopping along the roadside to let me take pictures of the scenery, so often times our bike would fall behind Zhou and Mui. Normally this was not a problem, as Duc drove a bit faster and quite a bit honkier (if I had a dong for every honk, I’d have at least a dollar). For this particular stop, however, our picture-taking breaks put us a bit behind. When we caught up with Zhou and Mui, there they were, hunched over, each with both hands wrapped around the bottom of a tapioca plant. With one Monica Seles like grunt, the roots came out of the ground, exposing the tapioca. At the same time Zhou came out of her comfortable standing position, exposing the soles of her shoes.
As you can see in the picture, this job is normally done by three small women (who all thought Zhou’s fall was the funniest thing ever). As far as I can tell, they probably work more hours than are in a day, pulling out thousands of tapioca roots. Zhou was doing it with Mui, a big (strong?) guy and they only had to pull out one! I couldn’t believe that this simple task made Zhou fall on her butt. How embarrassing! I thought about pretending I didn’t know her, but instead got coerced into trying one myself.
I stepped up to the plant, dug my feet firmly into the ground, tightly clenched the lowest exposed part of the plant with both manly hands, bent at the waist (use your legs, not your back), and pulled. And pulled again!
On the second pull, the root tore from the ground a bit quicker than I thought, and I began tilting backwards a bit. Oh no! I can’t look bad too! No problem, I’ll catch myself on the plants behind me. I grabbed aimlessly for the next plant behind me, but at this point I was in full fall and there was no way the skinny tapioca trunks were going to break it. I held on for dear life with my left hand, and groped for one more plant with my left. Instead of prickly bark, I felt vinyl. It was Mui! For the last half second of my tumble, I had a handful of Mui’s jacket to take down with me. I would up five feet from where I pulled the root, with Mui in the dirt next to me and the three small ladies having a field day. Not the shining moment in my traveling career.
Here are some of the other things we saw and learned about today:
We did about 250 kilometers on the motorbike today, and that allowed for much brainstorming on my part. At one point I remember discovering the cure for cancer, at another I figured out how to beat the stock market. Then a rock hit my head and I forgot both of those, so I made up a song to the tune of “Stacey’s Mom” by Fountains of Wayne. I will leave you with the catchy chorus, and a final picture of our Easy Riders team.
Vietnam has got it going on
It’s silk is smooth, coffee is so strong
Too many sites to see
Such a beautiful country
I know we’re not here long so
We’ll come back to Vietnam
Pictures of the Day: While Duc honks his way down the road, I take pictures of myself in the rearview mirror.