For hours, Lulu and I drove deeper and deeper into the Vietnamese jungle, towards the famed four waterfalls. The day wore on and the sun pounded down. Lulu pointed, as we drove, to a clearing in the thick green. “Cambodia just over there,” he said. We were far out.
When we staggered off the motorcycle at the first waterfall, I was coated in red road dust and black exhaust. Lulu laughed and pointed at my face. “You look like Obama daughter!” he guffawed. I was too tired to react.
The first waterfall was huge and gushing, as waterfalls are wont to be. Cool! Watery! Powerful! I snapped a few lackluster photos and clomped back towards the bike. It was swelteringly hot.
The second waterfall was at the end of a half-hour hike through thick jungle. Lulu walked far ahead of me and I started swearing under my breath. When I finally caught up to him, I asked, panting, “Is the third waterfall this far?”
“Don’t worry, be happy!” Lulu replied with a leer. This was NOT an acceptable answer for me, a teacher of six years who has had to plan every second and scope far ahead to avoid chaos. This was also NOT an acceptable answer to me, a seasoned world traveler who had just had her two month anniversary of solo voyaging from Boston through Asia.
“I’m tired and want to go to the town if the third waterfall is far,” I said. “Nono, not far,” said Lulu, and set off again through the jungle. I clambered behind him, swearing more loudly than before.
My guide explained that the final waterfall was on the path back, so I continued following, passing a giant Korean tour group of one hundred elders who I vowed to run to for help if things got much worse.
Lulu followed slowly behind, smoking his cigarette and aware that I was upset. Out of sheer exhaustion, I started to cry. Lulu sprinted up and shushed me, pulling me into the women’s bathroom to hide me so the kiosk workers wouldn’t see me sob. “Aha–” I remembered, “I forgot about Vietnamese Shame Culture…”
I made a mental note to remember Shame Culture for future use, if need be. I didn’t realize it then, but within a few hours it would prove essential.
It all goes down in Part 8, Folks.
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