“Best boat ride ever” I said with faint sarcasm. Its true that the scenery was exquisite but it is also true that beauty depends on the eyes you see it with. Our little group of boat-goers were cold, sniffling and dreaming of a warm bed somewhere else. We had spent the day before riding about the mountains of Mai Chau getting a feel for the earthy life that still persists, the rain was light but our weakened health made even a little dampness reach our bones. It made the rainy day a little less inviting, even less than the day before.
I got on my motorbike and carefully maneuvered on the slick clay so it was facing back the way we had come. I saw that there was still smiles on most of the faces in our little 6 person biker gang. We weren’t totally blind, just to the point where our situation would be funnier from a warm room with a hot cup of tea.
We had been sitting on deck chairs on the front of an unnatural green boat. the mountains surrounding the lake were partly hidden by the mist rolling through the landscape. I had the thought that it was more beautiful this way, the sun would make all the colors brighter but the dim mystery was a kind of pretty that I missed from my home country.
At one point we were all sitting in the rain and the clouds were letting more water fall on us. I realized there was another option besides suffering in the rain, the boat had a dry cabin. A few minutes after I went inside everyone else followed. “life doesn’t have to suck” I said to the first person to follow. It was a joke from the night before when several of us were sitting around a campfire and the smoke would turn into one of our faces. Despite the discomfort that person would just wait for it to end. They would be spluttering and their eyes were watering but they wouldn’t move. The fix was easy, standing up and moving to an empty seat on the other side of the fire. I was wondering how many times in my life I had stayed in the smoke for an inadequate reason.
I used to be the king of staying in the smoke, I had to for years and it formed a habit of suffering to gain strength. It took outside insight for me to finally realize I didn’t have to always suffer, sometimes things could be fixed, and actually learning to fix life’s dysfunctions was a better skill than to suffer in silence.
Later I watched the shapes in the mist as our return journey winded its way through the high peaks. One of my friends got the driver to let him put on some music so the soundtrack to the winding drive was a German Techno mix that made everything seem a bit more like an epic of some kind. I could only see 15 to 25 meters before the mist shrouded the shapes completely. It made what I could see seem more finite, I couldn’t see the context so it felt like each piece of the world was alone. Each piece was easier to focus on, it reminded me of the technique in photography of having a very narrow focal plain so the only clear piece of the picture is the thing you want the observer to see. You can tell stories this way, sometimes the context hides the pieces its made of. I have been on a few night buses and it always feels like a shame that I don’t get to see the landscape as I pass by but maybe there is an opportunity there.I think I’ll go into my next night bus with a different perspective.