On our last evening, we hiked out to meet the others of our group back down in the valley. We stayed at a mud and concrete farmhouse, with a similar open aesthetic as Asreal's homestead, in that there weren’t any doors in the door frames or windows in the window boxes. As such the evening breeze danced freely through the house when we arrived. The mud and concrete kept it shaded and cool during the sweltering days. It was a solid practical design. Dirt floors allowed rain to splash in without giving it a thought. It was a merry evening. I learned a love song, popular with these mountain farmer folk at the time, “y este par de anillos, con nuestros nombres grabados…", (and this pair of rings, with our names engraved).
In the middle of the night, I woke needing to head to the outhouse. I memorized this bit: walk past the line of sleeping guests, down a step into the central room and across it to the cooking area, make a left, walk outside and up to the right and Bob’s your uncle. Except that when I was just about to step into the kitchen, odd sounds and movement made me stop. The kitchen was wall-less on two sides like a tunnel. The central room walkway entered in perpendicularly. I paused trying to shake awake the problem-solving part of my brain. After a few seconds, I came fully awake realizing that in front of me was a bat superhighway. I shined my flashlight into the darkness and saw what seemed to be many hundreds of bats tearing past. Months later, I would stand on a street corner in Ho Chi Minh City in southern Vietnam hoping to cross a street and remember this moment. There were no crosswalks or streetlights. Cars, trucks, bicycles, scooters, carts, maybe 2-dozen different types and sizes of vehicles all flowing past at the maximum rate traffic would allow. I stood in the dark room as I stood on that street corner, feeling an urgent need to break my paralysis with decision, then action. I chose to trust in the all powerful survival instinct of others (forsaking my own in Vietnam, holy shit!). Raise one foot. Place in front of the other. Repeat at a steady rate. Try not to scream. And with the expertise of thousands of missed and avoided collisions, traffic - both bat and human - flowed around me. Bats whizzed past my head, cars past my body, without slowing, and significantly without a cascade of injury and death. Ok then, I said to myself, I can do this. I took a breath and opened my eyes.