Today we have a Guest Blogger, Isaac Marsh a friend and a world traveler who traveled to England, Scotland, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, Ireland, France, India, Thailand, Japan in past year. Today he is sharing some stories from his adventures.
I’ve been put up to this task by the lovely Oby, and I can’t promise you half the intrigue she gives you on a weekly basis. Seeing as filling her shoes every now and then is going to be a monumental task, I’ll just have to see what I can do.
To start with, I’ve decided that I’m a sensationally boring person with a ridiculously exciting life. Growing up, I was always the cautious fellow. I wouldn’t take risks or try anything I deemed too harrowing. That is, until I turned 18. At that point, the inner crazy seemed to leap off the page. I went out and, against my parent’s best wishes, bought a motorcycle. This solidified in my own mind that I was now a certified B.A. With my new (rather unfounded) swagger in hand, it was my time to take on the world. I managed to have a few motorcycle accidents, almost get eaten by an alligator, and almost drown in a bog all while continuing at one of the things I do best – teaching elementary school students how to read. I’m a bit of a paradox.
I just turned 23, and I’m trying to figure out how I’ve survived this long. The previously mentioned incidents were the biggest dangers I ran into until I turned 22. In the past year, I’ve had enough adrenaline-filled moments, near-death experiences, and head-scratching moments to last most anyone a lifetime. So now, I get to share what I learned in my 10-month long trip around the world. From learning new languages to seeing new ways to appreciate each moment; from being cornered by criminals in India to running from packs of feral dogs to surviving a night filled with cobras and wild monkeys; and from sitting in silence in the shadows of towering mountains to finding hidden hot springs in the jungle, I’ve been lucky enough to see more than I could have ever anticipated.
‘The First Great Adventure’ Country List: England, Scotland, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, Ireland, France, India, Thailand, Japan.
I’ve been writing a book about what I learned in my travels, and I think right now I’ll share a story from my time in India. Welcome to:
Your skin either cooked or released a deluge. There was no “bronzing” or “glistening” in the sweltering city of Jaipur, there was simply cooking and deluging. Into that heat I took my first steps of the morning. I was met with the smell of freshly- bloomed lilacs, fresh-cooked bread, and clean air. Oh wait, no I wasn’t. This is India after all, so shame on you for believing something so ludicrous. Instead, I was met with that all-too-familiar rush of old trash, cooked trash, and of course, fresh trash. But that didn’t stop me for a second, it was time to explore. So, shoes laced up, water bottle in hand, I jumped into the tuk tuk I had hired for the day and declared I wanted to go to the bazaar. I was met with a questioning of what I needed from the bazaar. “Cotton pants of course,” I replied, as if my driver was crazy to think that I could ever need anything else. He looked me up and down, sizing me up, and told me that he had someplace better for us to get my pants. What a nice guy! He just wanted to help me out. So off we went to a tailor he knew nearby. Entering the shop, I immediately knew I was getting duped. This was not the kind of shop I wanted to be in and the prices seemed far too high. I gave my driver an aggravated look which he promptly pretended not to see. After thanking the shop owner, I politely declined his efforts to try and get me to buy something, really anything.
Back in the tuk tuk. No, I didn’t see anything I liked. Yes, I do want to go to the bazaar. Oh, there’s one more shop on the way? Well, I suppose it can’t hurt. Leave shop number one. Arrive at shop number two. Same thing as before? Yea, turns out it is. Rinse and repeat actions from before. Get back into tuk tuk. Still nothing you wanted!? This one has an incredulous tone to it. This time I smile at him and say Bapu Bazaar. I’m met with him telling me there is one more place on the way. He’s met with a wink as I repeat Bapu Bazaar. There will be no more trickery. I’ve realized by now he gets commission and is taking me to the more expensive places. He defies me and pulls up outside of a shop. Check it out, you’ll love it he says. I refuse to acquiesce; there will be no more humoring on my part. Bapu Bazaar. He stares at me for a few seconds. Tells me I should go in. I give him a glimpse of my look of frustration. He promptly starts the car and pulls away.
We arrived at Bapu Bazaar and I jumped out. We arranged where to meet again and I started walking. And I saw the India that I was waiting to see. It was a place of great intrigue and mystery and challenge and uncertainty and adventure. Walking through the narrow streets and back-ways holding scores upon scores of shops, I found myself drowning in a world I had never known; I loved the feeling. After coming up empty on the cotton pants, I decided to just wander and see what I could. I found smiling faces, brilliant colors, and a rush of the unknown. I had finally arrived in a world completely and utterly different than the one I had always known. An hour passed, then two, then three. Before I knew it, I looked at my watch and saw that I was supposed to be heading back to my driver. I crossed the street, the very definition of it a thrilling and challenging journey. There are no crosswalks and no little green men to give you a wink and an a-ok for crossing. Instead, you cross at your own peril. There will rarely be a moment where there are no cars, so instead you must play a heart-pounding game of frogger. Frogger had three lives, you only have one. Safely crossed, I found my tuk tuk driver sitting inside the tuk tuk waiting for me.
Here we stand, he and I, outside of his tuk tuk. There’s the constant reality of horns honking and people shouting all around. He starts to ask me where I want to go next. I see him glancing at me to make sure I didn’t have a pair of pants freshly purchased. There’s the glow of dollar signs in his eyes; my purchasing failure at the bazar has just become his ticket to my wallet. And then, mid-sentence, he looks just over my shoulder with a look of mild confusion. I turn my head around quickly and then turn it back. Ok, what did I just see? Well, there’s a cow coming right at me… Huh… I should probably turn around. So I turn around as the cow is right behind me. I tried to sidestep quickly to get out of its way, but it had entirely different plans. Lowering its massive head, it barreled into my leg and knocked me into the street. Looking back on this moment, I find myself giving a silent thanks for three things: 1) There was an incredibly rare lapse in cars at that moment; 2) This cow had no horns; 3) The tuk tuk driver really wanted my money. But in the moment, there was a different progression. My leg instantly felt a searing pain, my eyes shot open wide in confusion, and the noise around me stopped. I stood there, in the road, looking down in shock at my throbbing leg. I took my fingers and gingerly pressed them in a few different places. Wincing in pain, I thanked my lucky stars that my leg hadn’t shattered at the force. But then, a weird feeling started to creep in. The cow had walked away like nothing had happened, but something else was off. And then it hit me, there was a silence in the street. I found myself having to do the very thing I didn’t want to do – look up. And when I looked up everyone was staring at me. But they weren’t just staring, they looked angry. My thoughts were reeling, “Well, I’m glad they’re angry. That cow could have broken my leg.” And then I realized that the cow was gone, but they still looked angry. I looked over to my tuk tuk driver, a questioning stamped across my face. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but for some reason when I looked over, I was surprised nevertheless. He was glowering at me. “You need to get in.” I felt the world closing in around me. “What?” He jumped in and started the tuk tuk up and said over his shoulder, “Get in.” I looked around, everyone still looking at me with distaste, and he drove off. A few minutes later he pulled off to the side and just sat there. He didn’t look back, didn’t try to talk to me, but just sat there.
“That cow almost broke my leg.” He turned around and there was no sympathy in his eyes. “You should have gotten out of the way.” I stared at him, confused and uncertain. “I tried to move.” He looked at me, apathy reigning supreme. “You’re lucky it wasn’t hurt.” Then it dawned on me, the people were angry that I put the cow in any danger. They didn’t care that it almost broke my leg, but instead that I had gotten in the way of something they viewed as sacred. They were more afraid of my bone breaking something on the cow then it smashing my poor leg. Needless to say, when my tuk tuk driver pulled off at another one of his shops, I didn’t complain. I didn’t complain even though it was a high end jewelry shop and I had no idea how it related to anything.