Sunday, August 17, 2014

Kind of like Frogger...

Remember this?

                                                                         via (

Just glimpsing this screen shot ala 1981 I could hear the "blip, bleep, blip, blip-blip-blip" in my mind. I spent a slender sliver of my youth BEING the frog. With the Atari joystick,  I would assist his treacherous journey across first the black top, avoiding various vehicles including (but not limited to) cars, buses, taxis, dune buggies, vans, and taxis. Then (hopefully) making it to the aquatic top screen tier to face turtles, logs, and alligators. "In November 1982 Frogger earned the ominous distinction of being 'the arcade game with the most ways to die'" (Softline p.19 retrieved 17 Aug.14). Frogger had its challenges to be sure, there were certain variables on the top aquatic tier. The bottom asphalt tier was generally straightforward as the vehicles traveled in horizontal paths with only minor accelerations and rare swerving.  I found a bit more in the way of variables (and potential ways to die) when I headed out cycling for my first go in Hanoi. Just to give you an idea...

Hanoi traffic via Lonely Planet

My husband had seen these videos and ridden through traffic in taxis, so his final words to me as I departed that morning were, "Please come home alive." My retort, in sixteen year old girl tone, "I'll be fiiiiine." After my 25k around West Lake and beyond, rolling some very exciting roads, and a quick stop for watermelon juice, I returned home. "How was it?" my husband queried. My reply?

"It. Was. AWESOME! Like being IN the game of Frogger, but with no extra frog lives. Additionally the experience laughed in the face of most of the conventional bike safety protocol I have learned prior."

My husband shook his head and walked away mumbling something about "no thanks" or "I don't get it" or perhaps he was just questioning my sanity in general. I was hooked and began the process of researching which bike I would buy since I was riding a borrowed cycle.

I learned some important things from the people with whom I was cycling on that first ride. First, despite the fact many viewers interpret the traffic as chaos there is a certain hierarchy. Buses and cars own the top of the pyramid. Wherever they choose to go is okay, be warned. Motor bikes occupy the next level down on the pyramid, leaving bicycles on the bottom with walkers weaving where they may. We were told when walking across a street walk a steady pace at a slight diagonal and just keep going everyone else will avoid you. Lesson: even when I do not see a pattern or system, one exists. Just because the approach is not one I readily recognize does not make it any less valid.

Second, be prepared for the beeping, bells and horn blasts. They do not indicate anger or rage, but rather a reminder. "Hello! I am here and I am approaching your space." Growing up in the States I am accustomed to cringing if there is a horn beep because one can basically infer the user of the horn is not all too happy at the recipient of the beep or blast. Admittedly I was one prone to using my horn to let other motorists know my displeasure.  This is not the case in Hanoi. Driving through traffic one constantly hears beeps and blasts. The resonant sound of horn is far more prevalent than turn indicators as a form of communicating to others using that road way.  Lesson: sometimes my understanding of communication is not what is actually intended or vice-versa. Here is where understanding others and empathy enters when giving and receiving communication.

Which brings me to the third and most important rule, ONLY pay attention to what is IN FRONT of you! This seemed odd to me because I have been ingrained with defensive driving and scanning. Plus there is a WHOLE lot going on around one while on Hanoi roads, so it was challenging to set my eyes on what was ahead--only. That third piece proved critically important (especially at intersections) and I found myself internally going Kung Fu '72 and repeating, "Focus grasshopper!" If I would have been caught up in what was centimeters beside me or behind me I would surely have crashed into the plethora of beings, bikes and cars IN FRONT of me. I grapple with this principle "off road" as well. It seems like multi-tasking should make me more efficient and smooth rolling, but it often makes me figuratively crash. I want to pay attention to everything and scan instead of focusing on what is IN FRONT of me. Back in the States I had a sign on my classroom door with classic Winnie the Pooh holding a gift. I had cut it from a birthday card I had received and I mounted it to a typed paper with the quote, "Today is a gift, that is why it is called the PRESENT." The biking and experience served as a reminder to pay attention to what situation and more importantly WHO is right in front of me.  Lesson: I will keep asking myself the three questions Tolstoy posed so long ago, (and Jon J Muth helped younger readers access so beautifully) "What is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? What is the right thing to do?" How I answer these questions matters SO much.


  1. I love reading about these cultural differences and the fact that they are just that -- differences -- not rights or wrongs. Enjoying learning more about the culture of where you all are at through your posts.

    1. Mr. Black, I have always felt I was pretty open minded in the realm of honoring different approaches to life, but living here is refining that in amazing ways. Thanks for reading up on our adventures.

  2. How wonderful to get a glimpse of another culture, and to be able to appreciate its' unique differences. Thank you for sharing! Also, please stay alive - I enjoy your posts and insights! ;)

    1. Greg, Thanks for your continued encouragement. I am still striving towards that 10 (and beyond mark). You made me laugh aloud reading your final sentences. I will do my best to stay alive. Realizing my weekly cycling does not afford me extra frog lives like my 80s video games did!