One of my favorite things about living in my new neighborhood – Phu My Hung – is the relative lack of traffic as compared with the downtown districts of HCMC. It is really not safe to go running on the streets of downtown HCMC – you’re constantly dodging motorbikes, vendors, squid bikes, etc. – so unless you live near a park or the zoo or something, you’re pretty much bound to the treadmill if you value your life.
It’s not like that at all in PMH. Even on the main streets there is not nearly the amount of traffic as in downtown HCMC, and what traffic is there is not as congested/dense as the traffic downtown. But it’s also very easy to get off of the main roads and be out running on these country roads that literally have no traffic on them. I love it.
I’ve finally gotten back up where I can run 6 miles at a time, which is the distance I like tor run. I’ve run 6 miles three times this past week, and also ran a quick 3 miles last night. I’m taking tonight off because my legs are very sore – well, not exactly sore, but just don’t feel like they have very much spring in them.
So two nights ago, I was in about mile 4 of a 6-mile run, and I was running across this little bridge over a river out on a country road. Except for the full moon, it was completely dark around me – no lights and no traffic. As I ran out onto the bridge, I saw a canoe slowly making it’s way down the river toward me. I stopped and stood at the edge of the bridge, took my iPod headphones off, and just watched the canoe coming down the river.
There were two Vietnamese women on the canoe. One was sitting in the front of the canoe and the other was standing up at the back of the canoe, propelling the canoe down the river with one long oar. They were clearly making their way back from some market in downtown HCMC, as the middle of the canoe was full of empty boxes that looked like produce boxes. They were quietly speaking in Vietnamese, but other than their voices and the sound of the oar hitting the water every few seconds, it was completely quiet.
I don’t think they even saw me up on the bridge, so I just stood there quietly watching them make their way down the river under the full moon. It was so peaceful. There is no way for me to describe it to do it justice, and I don’t think even a photo or video would really capture it – it was just one of those moments that kind of hits you and takes you out of your element and makes you think “Wow, I am really lucky to be right here, right at this moment.”
The last moment I remember like that occurred about two years ago when I was snowboarding out at Lake Tahoe, California. I’d taken a two-month sabbatical from my job with an Atlanta law firm, and spent a month of it snowboarding in Tahoe. I think I got in 21 days of snowboarding during that month. Anyway, I remember one day it had snowed several feet of snow the night before and there was this incredible powder up on the mountain at Heavenly where I had my season pass. I was coming down the mountain through a forested area – not going too fast, just zig-zagging down through the trees. I had my iPod on, but it must have just finished a song with a lot of dead space at the end of it because for a few moments it was completely quiet and all I could hear was the sound of my board moving across the snow. Then, all of a sudden, Led Zeppelin’s “No Quarter” started playing on my iPod.
The opening part of that song is incredibly powerful anyway, but it seemed extra powerful in that setting – especially when the harder guitar line kicked in. And then even the opening lyrics seemed especially suitable:
Close the doors, put out the light
You know they won’t be home tonight
The snow falls hard and don’t you know
The winds of Thor are blowing cold
They’re wearing steel that’s bright and true
They carry news that must get through
They choose the path where no-one goes
They hold no quarter,
They hold no quarter.
It was just one of those moments. Anyway, I’ll try to post a link to the song later – I’m not on my normal computer right now.
I’ve also seen a few owls while I’ve been out running here at night. The first owl I saw freaked me out. There are a lot of bats here, so I’ve gotten used to seeing bats looping around the streetlights or just flying over me. But earlier in the week I was running and I saw what I initially thought was a huge bat – but as I watched it I realized from the way it flew and the shape of its body and head that it was actually a big owl, not a bat. It flew by me and landed on the top of a lightpost. And then, as I got closer to it, it got spooked and took off again. It was amazing how silent it was as it flew. I was thinking “Those poor mice don’t have a chance.” Anyway, since then I guess I’ve kind of been on the lookout for owls, because I’ve seen two more – or maybe it was that same one two other times – since then. Pretty cool.