The other morning I went for a long run. I had set out to retrace an old route, but I decided pretty quickly to try something new. Where I normally would have turned right, I went straight ahead, down a steep hill, across a bridge and up a steeper hill on the other side. When I made it to the top, I was breathless for two reasons, the second being the absolutely beautiful panorama before me: rice paddies, lush and green; palm trees all around them; ahead of me a majestic volcano. The sun had barely risen, so everything was bathed in a very gentle half-light.
I rarely have an opportunity to forget that I live in a very densely populated part of an already densely populated island, but tucked between the sprawling towns and villages are many of these vast swathes of tranquil green, and if you go there at the right time of day, there are hardly any people. On this run, my imagination turned the few humming motorcycles into buzzing insects. I stopped for a moment and soaked up the scenery. When I set out again, I felt that those moments of peace and quiet had given me an extra 10 minutes of patience for the day.
I didn’t know where I was, so…I just kept going. Eventually, I left all signs of habitation behind, running down another hill and across another bridge. Then I made a turn I won’t call right or wrong. I followed a track that ran parallel to the river I had just crossed. The track got narrower and narrower, but it didn’t disappear…for a good while. At one point though, the road did vanish into the river. Signs that people still passed this way continued though: crops that were obviously being tended, the odd piece of clothing. I decided to keep going.
Signs that I might not be alone or that there might be a way out ahead spurred me on. My run had turned into obstacle course, which I navigated carefully. Finally, I saw a man ahead inspecting his crops. Hopeful, I asked him what lay ahead. Would I find a way out if I continued? He pointed to a sheer cliff behind him and said I could climb that. Otherwise I’d have to turn back. I took the latter piece of advice.
When I finally reached the bridge and the fork in the road from before, I chose the path I had previously ignored and soon ended up on a well-traveled road. The sun was climbing higher, and there were more people out and about—people that had never seen me before. The calls of bule! and tourist! began to increase in frequency. I felt my stock of patience running out.
When I finally made it back to familiar territory, I thought I’d be safe from unwanted attention. These people knew me after all. Unfortunately, I was wrong. People pointed me out the way I might draw attention to a kangaroo that had escaped from its zoo. My patience was nearly depleted, and I was disappointed that people I thought I knew would objectify me that way, but I had one more trick up my sleeve. I turned on to my old street* where I was sure I’d only be greeted with familiar hellos. It worked.
I’ll try this new run again sometime, and maybe I’ll even try it as a walk, so I can slow down and explain that I’m not an escaped kangaroo.
*I’ve moved! More to come soon.