Monday, August 29, 2011

I flew all the way back from Indonesia for this?!?

A few days after the fact: The Chiang Mai Saturday Market was indeed better than the normal night market, and I happily stuffed my face with all sorts of wonderful street food for roughly 15 cents a pop. The Ping River cruise was drizzly but nice, though a little pricey for what it was. My last morning there I went and got a mani-pedi, which was desperately needed, then flew out to Singapore.

One more travel tip: if you’re choosing between places to stay in a foreign city, always pick the one in Chinatown. My Singapore hostel – an actual hostel this time around, because private rooms there are ridiculously expensive – was right in the middle of things, which made for delicious meals and fun walking. Singapore’s got a great zoo and some interesting cultural sites, but the real reason to go there is the food, especially since I already saw the zoo and the cultural sites last summer with E-Ching. But the food in Singapore is awesome, and particularly so in Chinatown. In the morning I wandered around the neighborhood, bought some fancy tea, and saw a temple claiming to hold a bit of the buddha’s tooth; in the afternoon I trekked up to Little India for an incredible chicken biryani and then over to Arab Street to poke around in shops. Little India just smells amazing, what with all the big baskets of spices and things out for sale. In the evening I went back to E-Ching’s house to pick up the flippers I’d left there at the start of my trip, then off to the airport for my 1:40am flight home.

The flight from Singapore to Dubai takes a little over 6 hours, and I slept for the first five or so. Disembarking in Dubai I went to grab my carry-on from by my feet and felt it was a little wet. When I took a sniff, I realized I’d been sleeping so soundly I’d totally missed the guy next to me throwing up, and he’s apparently not noticed missing the bag a little. Eew.

Four hours in the Dubai airport, then a 13-hour flight to JFK. All was well until the very end, when we started doing circles above New York. The captain came on the intercom and pointed this out, saying there’s been a minor earthquake on the east coast, and we’d be in a holding pattern for another 15 minutes or so while they checked out the runways. I fly from Indonesia, right smack in the middle of the Ring Of Fire, with all the attendant volcanoes, quakes, tsunamis, etc, and miss a tremor in New York? Excuse me? Next we hear that they’ve evacuated the tower at JFK and we’re being rerouted to Boston. Ok. Halfway to Logan they say JFK has been reopened, but by this point it’s too late to turn around, so we’ll just land, refuel quickly, and head on back south. After an hour and a half on the tarmac in Boston, we do just that. Apparently they’re not used to planes as large as ours there, so refueling tool two gas trucks. (Apparently ours was two levels tall and has showers in first class.) After landing in New York, it took a good 40 minutes to get deplaned, since they were bussing us into the terminal instead of using a jetway. All told I was sitting on the plane for around 17 ½ hours. All I can say is thank god it was Emirates and not United or something, so at least the seat was comfy.

Baggage claim took another 40 minutes (500 people on the flight = a whole lot of suitcases to unload). Customs didn’t notice my tea, thankfully. SuperShuttle took an hour to come rather than the 25 minutes they promised, but thankfully I was the second drop off, and caught the 10:20 train to New Haven, getting me in at ten past midnight. 34 ½ hours from takeoff in Singapore to arrival at Nicole’s, where I crashed my first night. Oy vey.

And today was a hurricane. And by hurricane I mean slightly windier than normal rainstorm. After all the hype I was expecting at least a little power outage, and I know in some places it did that and far more, but even East Rock, notorious for turning streets into rivers at every moderate downpour, looks like a nice place to take a stroll right now, no galoshes needed. All the downed leaves in the backyard will take some serious raking up, though. Thanks, Irene.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Thailand Redux

Well, it turns out my last night on Gili Air was more eventful than I’d anticipated. I’d gone to a nearby hotel to put op my last post, and found I really didn’t have an appetite for dinner, but I got a watermelon juice because it came with free wifi access. Two hours later I was puking that same watermelon juice back up in my bungalow and feeling pretty miserable about it. I’d been so exhausted the night before that I’d fallen into bed without taking my malaria pill (as I realized the next day), but my money’s on food poisoning. In any case, I took a Malarone and an antibiotic and a Dramamine, and by morning I was tired but feeling okay.

Which was good, because that day was also fuller than I’d expected. There’s two boats to Bali from the Gilis, one fast and one slow. The fast one takes and hour or two and costs a bit over $60, so I paid Rp175,000 (about $22) for a ticket on the 4-hour slow boat with a van to my hotel in Kuta. What the guy who sold me the ticket didn’t mention was that it also included a ride on the public boat back to the harbor in Bangsal, an 2-hour van ride across Lombok to the port, then the 4-hour ferry, and finally another 2-hour van ride across Bali to Kuta. And all this with my 20kg bag, backpack, and laptop bag. Whoops. It was evening by the time I got to Kuta (and no direct hotel drop-off either, just one stop in the touristy part of town), and the first place I found with rooms available was Fat Yogi. Rp300,000/night (around $35), but I was tired so I took it. Wow. Lap of friggin luxury, there. Hot water and air conditioning, good wifi by the pool in the courtyard, no mildew or spiders! The bed was a little hard, but I slept like a rock. In the morning I wandered around town a bit, unsuccessfully looking for fruit kripik to bring home (should have stocked up in the Surabaya airport!), then caught a cab to the airport and flew to Chiang Mai, Thailand, by way of Singapore.

The Singapore airport, by the way, was culture shock all over again, so clean and shiny and modern. Since I had a few hours to kill between flights I walked a loop through the three terminals. I stopped in all five gardens (orchids, ferns, sunflowers, cacti, and butterflies – yes, there’s a butterfly garden in the airport), used one of those foot massage machines they’ve got scattered around, mailed some postcards, and got dinner. I declined to use the movie theater, the Wii, or the LAN gaming rooms, but they’re there for your use (free) if you’re so inclined. That place is ridiculous.

And now here I am in Chiang Mai. I realized after I’d booked the tickets that this chunk of vacation is exactly what I did last year too – a stint on an obscure island for the scuba diving, then a few days in a city in Thailand. Bangkok was one of my less-favorite places to visit, but Chiang Mai is proving to be a sweet little place. Nobody hassles you (unlike Bangkok), and there’s a few hundred wats around town and plenty of walking to do. I chose Chiang Mai in a large part because of its reputation as home to some of Thailand’s best food, and that’s the one area in which it’s let me down. Certainly not bad, not by any means, but I was expecting to have my mind blown (like it was in Bangkok, that city’s main redeeming feature), and that’s yet to happen. Though last night’s dinner at the night market was one of the best so far, a Northern Thai dish made from pork, tomato, and chilies, eaten with sticky rice. I’m having trouble finding places without any English on the menus; maybe that’s my problem. Of course that means they have to have pictures, or else I’m totally at a loss. But so far no luck. The award for best food of the trip is so far firmly in the hands of Luang Prabang.

My first day I just walked around the old city, looking for the main temples. I had breakfast at a little café on a soi (side street, of which there are many) near my hotel, where the guy served me a ‘mixed fruit juice’ that turns out to have included orange, tomato, carrot, dragonfruit, watermelon, pineapple, and probably a few other things I’m forgetting. I definitely need to try to make that at home. The first major temple I stumbled across, Wat Chedi Luang, has what looked like Madame Toussaud’s-quality wax figures of two of their former head monks sitting cross-legged in glass cases before the altars in two of the temples on the grounds. I was told yesterday that those were the actual monks, dead and preserved. Eew.

Lunch was papaya salad from a street cart. Papaya salad is one of my favorite Thai dishes, but this version nearly burned my mouth out. Probably my own fault for nodding when she asked if I wanted it spicy. There were a few more temples, then a visit to the Museum of World Insects and Natural Wonders. This guy has spent his whole life collecting insects and rocks shaped like animals and other weird natural objects ad made them into a museum. Apparently he and the other lady who run it are experts in mosquitoes and mosquito-borne diseases, and they had an impressive array of mosquito species on display, but they also put up signs saying that mosquito bites inoculate you from other diseases and malaria prophylaxis doesn’t work. So I’m skeptical. But the bugs were cool.

Thailand abounds in cheap massage places, and since I was sore from lugging my bags around the day before I decided to spring for an hour-long back, neck, and shoulder massage at a place that employs former female inmates. Apparently Thai jails include massage school. It ran me about six bucks in total, and apparently the Thai definition of ‘back, neck, and shoulders’ also includes what we Westerners would call ‘legs, arms, and hands’. It was pretty marvelous overall, but my ex-con masseuse must have had awfully strong hands, because there’s a bit of back up between my shoulder blades that’s way sorer now than it was when I went in. I guess I was tense.

For day two I booked a day trip out of the city to Doi Inthanon national park, which includes the highest peak in Thailand, a whopping 2,565 meters above sea level. (Is that high? Mt. Everest is 8,848m; the highest point in New York, Mt. Marcy, is 1,629m. So kind of high.) We drove up. First stop was a pair of pagodas dedicated to the king and queen. The views are supposed to be spectacular, but it’s currently the rainy season, and was currently raining, so all there was to see was cloud. Then up to the top, for more cloud views and a nature walk through some gorgeous cloud forest. From there we went to a market. The Thai king pays local hill tribes to plant veggies instead of opium, and they sell them here. I can’t imagine the profit margin’s the same. I bought some tea. The historical irony would be better if I were British.

That’s about where it stopped raining. We went to a waterfall for lunch, and then to a Karen village to see some traditional weaving. We worked on Karen in field methods last semester and I helped put together a dictionary as part of the class, but all I remember how to say is ‘two bananas’, ‘three coconuts’, and ‘water buffalo’, and since there were neither bananas, coconuts, or water buffalo in evidence that wasn’t much help.

And yesterday I took a cooking class. First stop was the market, to teach up about Thai ingredients. I bought half a kilo of mangosteens (yay!); a bag of fried silkworm larvae, which taste kind of like bar peanuts; and something large and winged and so far unidentified, which I have yet to taste. From there we drove out to the farm where the cooking class was held, and got a tour of the gardens before heading into the kitchens. It’s quite an operation they’ve got out there, with three or four classes going on at the same time. I opened the day by slicing into my finger instead of a stalk of lemongrass, but it went smoothly from there. A pair of British girls living in Kuwait, ages maybe 7 and 10, were both brave enough to try a silkworm. Most other people weren’t. Nobody took me up on my offer of a leg from the winged thing. The British girls asked me how I was going to eat it and my answer was ‘bite off its head, then keep on going’, but I think they have a point. I’ll let you know how it goes.

And finally, last night I walked out to the night market. Mostly a lot of the same mass-produced stuff you see for sale in Bangkok, but I found a few interesting things to buy as gifts. Tonight’s the Saturday Market, which is supposed to be better and more local. Handicrafts here look a lot like what I saw in Laos, which I guess isn’t surprising, since the border’s just a few hours drive away. And in half an hour I’m getting picked up for a ride down the Ping River. Here’s hoping the rain lets up.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Pulau Surga #2

First question: why does Senggigi have five Mexican restaurants? I didn’t try the tacos. Maybe I should have. What would an Indonesian taco even have been like, anyway?

My last few days in Manokwari were fairly routine – elicitation sessions with Ibu Marice, transcribing, MasterChef Australia. I got my NSF grant application submitted, with a little hiccup at the end when I found out it was supposed to be 10 pages instead of 15 and had to cut, but luckily my margins were too big, so that helped. Once the fly-home-early-for-a-week-in-Ithaca idea was quashed, I emailed a dive shop in Pulau Sipadan, a little island off the east coast of Sabah (one of the two Malaysian states on the island) that’s supposed to have some of the best diving in the world. There were no diving permits left until my last possible day there, but I decided to go for it. And then wrestled unsuccessfully with the internet in the hat, sweaty back room of PapuaNet where the wifi is, gave up, and by the next day decided that Sipadan was too much of a hassle to get to, and I wanted to go to Chiang Mai instead. Lebih santai begitu. And no evening flights followed by hour-long shuttle bus rides, then finding a place to stay, then ferry to the island, then four days later dashing from my last Sipidan dive onto the last ferry back, with an early shuttle bus back to Tawau for an early flight to KL and then Singapore, and missing any of the above meaning missing my flight home. Chances are everything would be fine - there were several hours between each flight to allow for delays – but it would be a hassle no doubt, with my big heavy suitcase, and a full day of travel before my 24-hour flight home, and really who needs that? So Chiang Mai it is, a 15-minute (albeit 11pm) taxi ride from the airport to my pre-bookable hostel, and a full day’s relaxing in Singapore before the long schlep to JFK. But the internet remained uncooperative, and I left Manokwari with no tickets booked.

Twice in my last few days I went into town at night. The road out is different at night, wilder-feeling. There’s no streetlights, so all you see is the tree branches and palm fronds stretching overhead, and instead of a pretty green lane it feels like driving through a forest. Things come out at night and cross the road, then get hit by trucks so you find them flat the next morning. I’ve seen huge centipedes, frogs, a crab, and at the very end a big old lizard smushed near my house. You don’t see any of that walking around during the day.

On my last morning I got up at 3:30 for a 4am ride to the airport. The Manokwari airport is, shall we say, not quite up to TSA standards. They didn’t ask me for any ID to check in, and while everyone’s bags were scanned at the entrance there was nobody manning the metal detector, and my shoes, laptop, and liquids stayed on my feet and in my bag the whole time. I could have had a machete in my belt and likely no one would have noticed. Probably someone did.

My plane left from Manokwari just after dawn, heading from there to Ambon, Makassar, and Surabaya. I’ve taken some beautiful plane rides in my time, but these were real stunners. Coming up out of Manokwari you first see the bay, then turn west and fly over the jungles of the Arfak mountains before hitting the ocean. Ambon and Makassar were much the same idea – deep blue coastal waters dotted with little islands and spits of sand, turning turquoise in the shallows by the shore or in the spots where what would be an island hadn’t quite broken the surface yet, or what had been an island was now washed away and submerged. Makes a girl long for a boat and a snorkel. And on land more mountains, coming down in Sulawesi and Java to plains covered in rice paddies that make the land look like stained glass from above, all shining blues and greens and browns and reds. I wish I’d had my camera handy.

I had a good five hours in the Surabaya airport before my final flight to Mataram, on Lombok. My first bit of post-Papua culture shock came when I walked past a Starbucks next to the gate. First order of business, once I’d checked in for my last leg, was the AirAsia counter over in the international terminal. I finally got those flights to Chiang Mai and back to Singapore, paid in cash, which is always fun in a country where the currency ends in three zeros. Sure, I’ll go get 5 million rupiah out of the ATM, why not? Even with all those zeros, that’s still a fat stack of bills to count out. From there lunch, since I hadn’t eaten breakfast, and let me tell you that crappy chicken curry tasted amazing. And lo and behold, a Dunkin’ Donuts next to the curry place. I got a chocolate one with coconut. Amazing. I wandered around a bit, bought a book for the beach – I’m working my way through the Game of Thrones series, which is way more engrossing than it has any right to be – and saw my first toilet paper dispenser in six weeks in the airport bathroom. Things you never thought you’d miss… (Once again, when in SE Asia, always carry a pack of tissues.)

All of this was to get me to Gili Air, one of three islands known as the Gilis off the northwest coast of Lombok, which is the next island east from Bali. This was to be my tropical island retreat for four days before my visa ran out and I’d have to leave the country. Boats to the Gilis stop running at 4pm, so my first night was in Senggigi, a little resort town just up the coast from the airport. That’s where I ran into the Mexican restaurants, and those five were just the ones I noticed. There’s not much to Senggigi, just a pile of hotels and inns along a main road, some restaurants and gift shops, and a reasonable beach. Not sure I’d vacation there, but it’s a reasonable place to spend a night. Lombok is known for its farmed freshwater pearls, so I bought a few of those. You’re welcome.

And in the morning I took a van another 45 minutes up the coast to Bangsal, then dragged my gigantic suitcase down the beach to the little outrigger that took us across to Gili Air. Of the three islands, Gili Trawangan is the most popular, good for getting trashed on various substances and lying out on the beach. Gili Meno is the smallest, with a couple of guesthouses and not a lot going on. I chose Gili Air, which is somewhere in between the two, though if this is less developed I’d hate to see what Gili T is like. It’s a different world altogether from Manokwari. Firstly, it’s crawling with bule. Not many Americans around, mostly Europeans it seems, but I haven’t seen this many white people in one place in a very long time. And with the tourists come the Italian restaurants and wood-burning pizza ovens, the snorkel and dive shops, the spas and yoga studios, and the quaint little guesthouses. I’d been looking forward to coming here and speaking English again, since Manokwari was all Indonesian all the time (except with baby Gio, who couldn’t answer me back), but now that I’m here I find myself resisting the English and answering back in Indonesian whenever I can. Surprises the heck out of the locals, but they seem to appreciate it, and I’m better at bargaining in Indonesian anyway. And after 6 weeks of working indoors in long skirts and t-shirts, all the bits of me that haven’t seen sun in a while are starting to turn pink. Oh the pleasures of beach vacations.

But despite the high-season crowds, this place definitely has the feel of a tropical paradise to it, which of course is the whole reason the crowds are here in the first place. Clean white beaches, palm trees, flowers, a sea so beautifully turquoise blue they should charge you a million dollars just to look at it. No road or cars, just a sandy track around and through the island, with bicycles and horse carts to get around. It reminds me of the Perhentians from last summer, if the Perhentians were a little bigger and far more developed. Perhentian Kecil is still my favorite island paradise, but this isn’t a bad second place.

Most of my time so far has been diving. I decided to go for my advanced open water certification, which means five dives in two and a half days. I walked into the Manta dive shop at one something in the afternoon my first day to ask about signing up, and was told yes there’s an advanced course starting, we’re leaving at 2:30 so go get your swimsuit. I’ve done two dives so far, 18-meter drift dive in the strong currents by a sea wall and one 30-meter (100-foot) dive this morning. So far there’ve been three moray eels three sea turtles, all sorts of gorgeous colorful fish, but no sharks. I took my underwater camera down this morning and came out with 120 shots of blue-gray fuzz. From those pictures you’d think there were only about three fish in the ocean, since that’s as many as you can make out from the blue. I swear I stuck the camera right in one eel’s face, but there’s no trace of him that I can see in the photos. (Vampire eel?) Oh well. Tonight is a night dive, which should be a lot of fun. I’m told the phosphorescence is amazing. (ETA: several more moray eels, a trumpetfish, an octopus, some mantis shrimp, a 6-foot long black-and-white striped sea snake about two feet below me, a cuttlefish, a school of gigantic bumphead parrotfish, and more other fish than I could hope to name. Still no sharks. Later pictures are a bit better, and will be up eventually.)

So that’s where I am now. I expect my next two days will be mainly diving, napping, and relaxing on the beach, with maybe some snorkeling on the last day. I’ll post again if anything interesting happens, otherwise you’ll hear from me next week in Chiang Mai.

ETA: Last night here, finally made it to the internet café during open hours. Better late than never. No snorkeling, but lots of diving, walking, eating coconuts, and reading on the hammock in front of my bungalow. Life could be worse.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Odds & Ends

Perks of living in a developing country: I walked into a pharmacy the other day and asked for a cream, since I’m having a bit of an allergic reaction to – well, lord only knows what to out here, but I’m blaming the Malarone. And the guy goes into the back and comes back with a tube containing a mixture of corticosteroids and antibiotics, and a big fat warning saying ‘By Prescription Only’, and proceeds to sell it to me for three bucks. Closest thing he’s seen to a prescription is a red splotch on my arm, but apparently that’s good enough. Good for society maybe not, but awesome for me. And damned if the stuff doesn’t work, too.

Things I’ve learned living here #1: Goats like to climb. I’ve seen a good lot of goats since coming to Papua, and a surprising number of them have been standing on benches and railings and such. And not just leaning up on them – all four feet on the bench, looking down on the world around them. Eye-level goats are a little disconcerting.

Things we take for granted (a gripe): The internet here is slow. Sometimes it’s just a little slow, so facebook takes a minute to load. Sometimes it’s like molasses, and I have to press the reload button five times before gmail finally stops timing out on me. The internet, however, is not designed for slow connections. For example: Yale sends me an email saying I have a TA appointment! Yay! All I have to do is click through thee five different screens to get to the login page and then hit okay once or twice more to see what class I’ll be working with next semester. And please do so ASAP to accept the appointment. Do you know how long it takes me to do all that? 30 seconds in the States, probably, but much langer than that out here. The library account login page just plain refuses to load, which has been a pain since I’ve had some books come due, and you can’t renew them by ESP. (Thanks again Nicole for returning the one and mom for logging in for me to renew the other!) And the New York Times has so many applets and pictures and videos and whatever that it takes me five minutes to check the news, assuming it load right at all, which it doesn’t always. A text-only version for internet-deprived expats like me would be much appreciated. (And wouldn’t earn them any ad revenue at all, so fat chance.) I should probably just switch over to the Singapore Straits Times, which I’m sure is more relevant to me here anyway, but old habits die hard. Example of a useful website out here: Wikipedia. Low tech, fast, awesome. Blogger would be fine except that google still thinks I’m in China. It took me several tries to figure out which link was to log in. Hopefully I won’t need to do anything more complicated.

Things I’ve learned #2: Small plastic grocery bags make good sponges to wash the dishes with. Very effective at getting a lather out of the dish soap. Not that I’m switching from real sponges any time soon. But you know, just in case.

Why do giant beetles keep dying in front of my building? Wasp stings to the head? Chemicals? And why do they always die lying on their backs? Either way, bad news for the beetles, good news for the Peabody Museum entymology collection. Just don’t tell Customs.

The dog situation is interesting here. In Java there were a lot of stray cats around but very few dogs. Here it’s just the opposite. The number of dogs in any particular area seems to vary in inverse proportion to the number of Muslims, which actually makes sense, given. But the dogs here aren’t exactly strays, even if they’re not pets either. We’ve got four who live around the house, two males and two females. Nobody spays or neuters, so there were puppies living in the kitchen out back when I first arrived. The dogs don’t come in the house, except when the back door is open and nobody’s looking and they want to nose around in the trash. And they don’t get fed. But they do hang around in the kitchen and eat whatever falls on the ground (again, the shed out back where the cooking’s done, not the room in the house with the water cooler and sink). And somebody took the puppies, so they must be wanted. But they shy away when I hold out my hand, so they definitely don’t get petted. Mostly shooed away, from what I’ve seen. Definitely not trained. Any Papuans who saw how we treat our dogs in the US would probably think we’re crazy. Maybe we are.

And my Indonesian has gone in the last few weeks from somewhat Javanese-inflected Standard Indonesian to a regional mashup of Javanese terms from last summer, Papuan Malay from talking to people here, and a smattering of Manadonese from learning to cook with my landlady. Can’t wait to bring that to LanguageTable in the fall. And yes, I’m coming home with new recipes, and yes, I’ll be cooking them, and yes, you can try them.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Papua Burgers

Following last week’s smashing success with the spaghetti, this Sunday I made burgers. Virgine, who requested them, was out swimming, but there’s leftovers for when she comes back tonight. Hadi Mart was didn’t have ground beef, but it did have ground chicken and chunks of beef, so I got both and in true me style used a blend. I probably could have gotten ground beef at the market, but somehow I haven’t made it there yet and I didn’t want to make a second trip. The knives at home still sucked, but Ibu was home and she knows where the whetstone is kept, so that (mostly) solved that problem. I cut off most of the fat, since frankly it was turning funny colors in places, and between the two of us we got the beef minced pretty fine. That went in a bowl with the chicken, a little olive oil, salt & pepper, minced onion & garlic, and after tasting some saus Inggris (literally ‘English sauce’, but it smelled Chinese to me; I’ll have to google it), and a little soy sauce. (I know hamburger purists are probably cringing right now; you don’t like it you can come out to Papua yourself and make ‘em however you like.) The patties went in a pan in the oven, or rather a metal box that gets set on top of the burner and used for roasting that’s the closest there is to an oven here. Then to finish, set on a little grill rack over a flame to get that smokiness, with Kraft American slices to melt on top - I’m going authentic here, not classy. I put them out with slices of tomato & cucumber, a roll sold at Hadi Mart as ‘hamburger buns’ with sesame seeds on top, and a bottle of ketchup. The burgers turned out tiny, and the buns were a little sweet, and way too big for the burgers, but call it sliders on potato rolls and you’ve got the idea. This time I was craving them less, but the flavor was spot-on, especially since I usually mix Worcestershire sauce and salsa and all sorts of odd things onto my burgers anyway. Tasted like the Fourth of July – better late than never.

Photos here and here.

Adventure of the Day

I was on my way into town this morning to go to the ATM so I could pay my rent - no bank transfers here; it’s all in cold hard cash – when there was a minor incident on the motorbike. I was on an ojek (motorcycle taxi), sitting sidesaddle, since that’s the far less awkward way to go in a skirt, heading down the hill, when suddenly there was a stopped van in ahead of us. I was looking off to the side so I don’t know if it stopped suddenly or just suddenly came into view, but anyway there it was. And the motorbike in front of us, instead of just passing, stopped alongside the van. So to avoid crashing headlong into the other motorbike, which I was pretty convinced we were about to do, my driver swerved to the right, which put my legs in between the two bikes, and there wasn’t much in between to put them in. My front foot swiped against their foot rest while my back foot got knocked back against our rear wheel and knocked around a bit in the spokes, and I lost my balance completely on the seat, so even after we pulled past we wobbled a bit, and I wouldn’t have been surprised if I’d slid right off. Anyway, no real damage done – a scuff on one sandal, a little spot of rug burn (footrest burn?) on the other foot, my adrenaline rush for the day but no blood or tears. Still, I’m hoping the next ride falls more on the boring side.