Have you ever been in a situation where you felt certain that you knew better than the local person but that you can absolutely not voice your opinion without being disrespectful? I definitely had one of those moments when I was standing knee-deep in water in a flooded village in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam.
When I traveled through Vietnam, I stayed with a local family in a village situated in the middle of the Mekong river delta. As a way of welcoming us, they took us on a little tour to explore the maze that was their village. As it was getting darker, water started to rise around us—that’s when we learned that apparently the villages get flooded in the late afternoon.
That also explained the flip-flops they had ready for us at their house.
While we were walking further and further away from our guest family’s house, the water rose higher and became muddier and murkier by the minute. It was getting increasingly hard to walk with the flapping flip-flops, so we quickly decided that barefoot was the way to go. To distract myself from the unidentifiable ground we were walking on, I tried to focus on my beautiful surroundings: the vibrant green of the plants, the palm trees, the hushed silence of a tired village at the end of its working day, the rushing sound of the Mekong river just a couple meters away—-Aaaaaand stop right there.
That was the exact moment when realization hit me (admittedly rather late): I was walking in river water. As in, water that is part of the river. As in, the river a guide warned us about not getting to close to as there are snakes in it. Snakes.
So, basically I was standing in water that also houses snakes.
Looking down at the brown, murky water with no chance of ever seeing what was below the surface, I figured I should mention this teeny, tiny concern to our host family.
Because respect is a very important thing in Asian culture (or in any culture, really), I phrased my question very politely. So instead of screaming “AM I ABOUT TO BE EATEN BY FREAKING WATERSNAKES”, I calmly inquired whether it was possible that animals, such as—let’s think—watersnakes for example, could be in the water.
The brilliant answer I received was “No, those are only in the river”.
That’s not reassuring at all.
I looked from the guy over to the river just three meters away, back to the guy, back to the river. Was he serious? The only thing separating us from the river were a couple of trees and some shrubbery.
I kept looking at him, he looked at me. Shrugged. SHRUGGED. And kept walking.
There I was, standing in river water, expecting to feel snakes slithering around my legs any moment now. Possibly dragging me down into the thigh-high water to suffocate me. Or bite me. Not sure how watersnakes kill their prey. AND I DIDN’T CARE ONE BIT AT THAT MOMENT. All I knew was, I was about to die and our guide didn’t care.
To speak up or not? That was the crucial question. I decided for a timid “Are you sure?” followed by some nervous laughter.
Nope, he most certainly did not care.
So we kept walking. In the water. With the snakes. Only once it was near pitch-black did he decide that we should return to the house. Guys, I was never so glad to step onto a front porch in my life. That was for sure the most memorable stroll through a village I have ever taken.
I actually did not see any watersnakes but I still believe they were there (even if it’s only to justify my little freak-out). Have you ever encountered snakes? In the water? Or any other animals?
Or had a similar moment with a local where you decided that not speaking up was probably the best way to go?
Message me or let me know in the comments!
PS: I’m still not sure if the guy seriously doesn’t understand that the water is coming from the river.