Ever wonder what yo might do if you ran out of gas in a small village in a foreign country, whose language you don’t speak? Oh, and by the way, the sun is beating down on you and you really need to go to the bathroom.
We had rented a motorbike in Vang Vieng and the fuel gauge pointed to full so we eagerly hopped on and drove out of town. Several hours later the gas gauge still showed full so we began to wonder. But after sputtering and finally stalling it had become clear that not only did the gas gauge not work, but our tank was also bone dry.
We sat at the side of the dirt road in the shade of a tree to contemplate our options. But first, the pressing issue of having to go to the bathroom was rather in need of a quick resolution. Could we go behind some bushes or a tree? All of the land around seemed to have a house attached to them though, making any patch of green basically their front yard. Realizing that the only place was on the side of the road in full view of neighbors and numerous children walking by, we decided against it and moved on to the issue of gas. The way we saw it, we had two options: walk the bike back into town or try to communicate our problem to one of the local villagers. Given that “back into town” meant a several mile walk in the heat, we opted for the second choice.
Unaware of the local customs regarding entering someone’s property we were a bit shy to approach houses where we saw no people outside. But then we came across a house with two men and a little kid who was just learning to walk. One of the men was working on a motorcycle. This seemed like the perfect person to ask.
After saying hello in Laos, Ligeia began mimicking driving a motorbike and pointed to the direction of where we had left ours. The man picked up his baby and kindly followed us to the bike, where we opened the gas tank so he could see that it was empty. Understanding the problem he pointed up the road a little ways and said something in Laos and when we couldn’t understand Mindy walked the bike, following the man who was nice enough to lead the way.
The man directed us to a gas station like we had never seen before. It looked like a mix between a slurpee machine and a respirator in a structure that resembled a child’s lemonade stand. After thanking the man profusely the woman running the station asked in perfect English how many liters we wanted. It was then we realized we were not the first foreigners to have made this mistake. To fill up our tank she took a clear plastic hose attached to a big drum and handed it to us to place in the tank.
With this problem solved Ligeia could finally deal with the still pressing second issue – going to the bathroom. After first walking into the hen house by mistake, she eventually found the right wooden schack for the squat toilet. What a relief!
At times like this it’s so easy to let your mind wander to worst case scenarios. Only after the fact can one gauge how bad a situation turned out to be but at the time, the spectrum of possibility is too wide. Little did we know that the solution to both our problems was only ten meters away!
Mindy and Ligeia :):)