“How are we going to get across the street, Jen? There are no stop signs or traffic lights!”
“Have you ever played Frogger?”
Hanoi is a fascinating city. There’s a beautiful lake in the middle of town, with a pagoda on an island seemingly floating in the center. There are numerous specialized neighborhoods where you can buy cookware here, spices there, and so on – kind of like a giant swap meet. But what lingers in the memory about my visit to Hanoi is the amazing traffic pattern. Like most cities in Southeast Asia, Hanoi’s streets are shared by buses, trucks, cars, tuktuks, motorcycles, and bicycles. But in Hanoi, there’s a pecking order. If a bus turns, all the other vehicles intuitively give way. If a truck turns, all the vehicles below it in the hierarchy must surrender their desired flight path. This continues all the way down the line, with bicycles at the bottom of the food chain. This would all be fine and good if there were stop signs or traffic lights. As a pedestrian, you are even lower in the command chain than a bicycle. So how do you cross a street, when the flow of diverse vehicles never stops?!!
For the first day, Jen and I pretty much stay in the block near our hotel, as if we’re in a castle surrounded by a moat. At last, however, the situation has gotten ridiculous. We came here to see the city, which means crossing a darn street.
What the local pedestrians are doing seems insane. They just step into the street, without looking both ways, and amble to the other side, oblivious to the obvious danger. But as the saying goes, when in Hanoi, do as the Hanoians do. Summoning up all the equanimity my meditation practice affords me, I grab Jen’s hand and we step off the curb. Slowly we walk across the street, assiduously avoiding eye contact with the various genres of drivers. The operating principle is, They Will Miss You. Can you imagine doing such a thing back at home, in a “developed country”? People would curse you out! But in Hanoi, this is normal. No one honks, no one yells. They just quietly avoid you, like you’ve got a force field bubble around you.
Eventually we get to the other side, the entire city now open to us. It is one of those crazy wow moments when you can’t believe this has just happened, when you realize that people are NOT all alike, and that there’s magic in the world.
What if you could simply trust that the universe is there for you, not against you? How would that change the way you move through the world?