The traffic here is insane. Just when you think okay, some sort of pattern has emerged among the 3 million motorbikes, half a million cars, thousand’s of cyclos and bikes the guy in front of you will decide to turn around and drive against the traffic. Maybe he left his stove on or forgot to brush his teeth or maybe just decided to go back home…what ever the reason I am quite certain that this is not a good idea for him or for me. Neither is driving backwards on a busy street, stopping to take a phone call at an intersection or carrying a basket of live ducks on your lap while driving a motorbike with 3 other people, a large glass window and a color tv! But, it’s done daily and the majority survive to do it again the next day.

Now walking around and crossing the streets is far more exciting.  The closest reference I can think of is Frogger (For those of you too old or too young to know about this classic arcade game give it a try- http://www.maniacworld.com/frogger-arcade-game.html ).  Even the sidewalks are no break for the weary mom who carefully scoots her three kids across the roads… because, they are short cuts for the motorbikes and taxis.

Since we’ve been here I’ve sent up thousands of prayers to the ethers hoping some patron saint of traffic jams and broken legs will safely guide us across the streets… Things were going pretty good until New Years eve.

We decided to spend the holiday celebrating in Hoi An. An ancient city that celebrates the full moon each month by turning off the power, lighting the streets with lanterns and blocking the old city from traffic. How lucky, New Years eve is the full moon! This will be so great no stress about traffic! Yipee! what could be better…..

Dusk settled on the beautiful little town as we traverse the 4 short blocks to the “Old city”. Our guard was down. The town seemed quiet. We were so close. I could see the haze of soft light glowing on the lantern lit streets ahead. Philip and Arlo crossed over. I came across to look at a dress in the window. As I crossed I said to Silas and Zeb look before you step. Then I left……Ugggg.. just writing that makes my skin crawl. Why didn’t I wait for them? Why didn’t I hear the little voice saying stop turn around.

I heard a loud crack. I knew. I spun around. I screamed. I saw Zeb hit the ground. Oh my god I thought he must be dead. I ran into the street and picked him up. He looked through me no recollection of my face.  It’s strange but in that split second I remember thinking okay he’s alive we can get through what ever else happens now. As I’m lifting him he jumps up like a frightened animal. His eyes are crazy. I hold him tight and sit him on the curb. I’m thinking there will be a lot of blood but, there isn’t.

I feel his body. Some cuts and a very large lump on his head about 2 inches long and half-inch wide. The women across the street run over. They want me to bring him to their shop. They get a wash cloth with ice.  An elder woman pushes me aside grabs a bucket of salt chews it up and spits it into her hands. She begins to vigorously rub it into Zeb’s head… I hold Zeb’s face and let her do her work. This must cause Zeb a lot of pain to have her rubbing salt into his swollen wound but it seems to bring him back to us. His eyes are clear now, he is scared but talking. The other women go to work on his cuts and squeeze my shoulders offering support…They speak no English and we speak no Vietnamese yet we communicate clearly.  Pain, fear and love are universal.. makes me wonder why wars happen…… The only words  needed are ‘Cam On” and with that we take Zeb home.

We are all shaken. Back in the room a doctor comes in and checks him out. He gave him something for the pain and told us to watch for concussion. Arlo and Silas wanted badly to see the town on new years eve, so Philip reluctantly took them to meet my mom and  enjoy the festival.

Zeb and I rocked in the new year alone in our hotel room his soft sobs of fear rolling off of my tears of relief. It was the worst and the best New Year’s I’ve ever had. I guess the prayers are working Zeb was beyond lucky. The doctor said motorbike traffic is very dangerous and that many people die. Philip and I witnessed a motorbike accident in Mui Ne that ended in at least one death…..

It took several days before Zeb’s fears and his headache and bruised body began to heal and it took a long call to Joan to keep me from getting on the next plane to the states. But, we are back home in Saigon safe and sound and looking both ways.

Cam On = Thank you

For more posts on the dangers of family travel abroad check out : http://familyonbikes.org/blog/?p=1815

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