04 April 2010

A Vindication for Audacity

I spent my last afternoon in Chennai at Mocha, a hookah bar clad with tapestries and dim hanging lights and gem-toned embroidered pillows to lounge on. Friends and I posted up outside to sip chai tea under a the green canopy and write some postcards.

My message to my family couldn’t fit in the scarce white space on my postcard, so I composed a letter in my journal instead. Here’s an excerpt.

          This trip has taken me so far from my comfort zone in so many ways –just as I had hoped. Before the first port, I made it my goal to take a risk in every country, or at least try something new. I would do something that terrified me, or something that I would absolutely refuse to do at home.

         I hiked LenSois and jumped off cliffs in Brazil. I get nervous while precariously hiking because I don’t know where to put my feet and II was once terrified of heights because of what jagged, deathly edge I could land on. I surrendered to all that, though, and finished the six-hour, potentially treacherous hike in its entirety. I marched to the top of the rocks, and dove fearlessly into the dark waters... And I lived.

         I went sand boarding in Namibia. I’m the shameful Coloradoan who has never skied or snowb.oarded in her life. When my traveling group in Africa decided to board down a sand dune, there was no way I could continue being so lame. I lugged my heavy board up the dune and crashed, tumbled and struggled the entire way down... And I loved it.

         I went skydiving in South Africa. At this point, I was a self-proclaimed thrill-seeker, an adrenaline junkie. I had newfound confidence from jumping off cliffs and falling down sand, so I decided the best option for this port would be jumping out of an airplane. I can honestly say that those four minutes of soaring through the sky and falling toward Table Mountain were the most alive I’ve ever felt.

         Now I’m writing from India, where a week ago I was raring to go on the next adventure that would speed my heartbeat and mess up my hair.

But India didn’t have any extreme sports or natural structures that I could jump off of. Although I felt overwhelmed with the intensity of the traffic and crowds of people, I never felt fearful. There was only one instance when I felt especially out of my comfort zone.

         A friend and I wanted to buy silk scarves and saris, so we hailed a rickshaw driver and eventually broke past the language barrier to explain to the driver that we wanted “shopping.” He bobbled his head, which we took as “yes I know exactly where you want to go.” When he drove us to St. Thomas Basilica, we realized that the bobble head meant “I have different plans for you.”

         He drove us to a variety of destinations, and in between each stop we tried to tell him where we wanted to go, each time in a different way –hand gestures, different words for shopping and scarves, drawing stick figures on our arms with a pen – and each time he bobbled his head back and forth, grinned happily and zoomed down the highway. He would pull hastily to a hault at his next stop and wave for us to follow him. He speedily ran everywhere he went. We would shake our heads and submit to his strides. This went on for several hours.

At the mercy of our rickshaw driver and unable to communicate, we never did make it to the shopping center. We did; however, observe a prayer grotto, visit remains of the tsunami damage on the shore, enjoy a snake charming show down a dusty dirt path, and sip spicy tea while at a carpet-weaving lesson in a rug and silk shop. We even arrived back to the ship on time.

         Well, it seems that I did find my risk. I trusted a man whose language I did not speak to transport me through a country I’d never been to before. I kept getting back into the rickshaw after each stop, well aware that I had no clue where I’d be going next. I risked getting lost and missing the ship’s departure. Now that I write about it all, my heartbeat is pumping a little faster. The windy rickshaw ride tangled my hair, too. 

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