INGULFED

(Notes for the Abu Dhabi Bar Mitzvah)

Archive for fear

Speed Bumps

Sri Lanka Part Seven

Sri Lanka Part Six
Sri Lanka Part 5
Sri Lanka Part 4
Sri Lanka Part 3
Sri Lanka Part 2
Sri Lanka Part 1

The day we left Tissa for Yala and Yala for Kandy, the former capital, was so long I remember only flashes and the dull impressions of strange and bad things. It started at three-thirty in the morning — I awoke before my alarm in a comfortable line of passed out cooks squished together on a smaller number of mattresses. Minutes later, pounding on the door, and others from the same bus hustled in to remind us we had to get going. They were so aware, as an entire group, of changes we had made to our “plan”, and were making damn sure we suffered no sightseeing consequence.

It was easier to get up than to explain the concept of the snooze. We were, of coursed, headed to Yala, which, as we remember, sucked.

As we got into the car to leave the compound, a stocky man in between two friends made motions for us to wait. “What?” I called from a cracked window. “Wait, wait,” he said.

It was four o’clock and we were running on fumes and the memory of grilled shrimp. “We have to go.”
Wait.”.

He put his hands on the hood. I felt in my heart the sound of the door handle lifting. Fuck! Nothing. Chest-pounding, at least I knew the doors were locked.

We were trapped in the compound, with only one narrow driveway leading back on to the main road. Our only the safety of the car — but in those black, predawn hours, a few windows didn’t seem the strongest protection against someone willing to act crazy.

I still didn’t know how crazy he wanted to be.
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Azerbaijan Three: The Trick — أذربيجان ثلاثة: الخدعة

Previously, in Azerbaijan:
Azerbaijan One: The City — أذربيجان واحد: المدينة
Azerbaijan Two: The Escape — أذربيجان اثنان: الهرب

Our destination was big: not here — but still we found it hard to find. It was either linguistically or culturally impossible to ask directions, so we turned like explorers of old to our (iPhone) compass and sought a course north and west out of Baku. We ended up going south in heavy traffic. So we paid five manat and followed a taxi, our Azeri Sacajawea, to lead us to the great wide west. And very suddenly, over a few hills and around a bend or two, the city was gone.

After such inauspicious beginnings, a traveler may succumb — opting for a nap instead of ten hours on the open road. But should you defy the dead end, you explode like a stallion from the starting gate of every detour. Extend your middle finger to lockers of gates. This is your lightening rod.

The M1 highway was quiet; old Russian cars straining to go highway speed, a few new models, rickety sedans filled to burst with apples. The road flattened and the scenery changed instantly. Thirty miles inland, the capital seemed a continent away, with its industry and trade and petroleum. Here, a man sold sweet, ruby red pomegranates by the roadside. A couple dollars for a kilogram.


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