Butt Naked In The Dark With No Place To Go

The distant sky was as dark as a Michigan summer blueberry. Thunder rumbled as if I was being scolded for daring to cycle on a segment of the earth’s terrain that was above and beyond my physical capacity. Lightening shimmered as the yellowish black contrast was something out of a Diego Rivera masterpiece. Indeed the Xinjaing sky was a work of art in and of itself. However, this beautiful work of art painted by Mother Nature struck great terror into the man riding his bicycle in the foreground.

I was at a metaphorical crossroads. Option one- sleep on sharp stones while running the risk of having my thirty dollar tent blown away by the wind. Option two- pitch my tent under a bridge culvert that would shield me from rain and wind while running the risk of water soaking me at night. I chose option two. This is what I get for not investing a little bit more money into a higher quality tent. The painful feeling of regret filled my chest and made it seem like my heart had turned into a ten kilogram bowling ball.

Masterpiece Skyline
Masterpiece Skyline

“Please let me survive this evening,” I thought to myself as I lay awake in my tent that night. The wind continued to howl and picked up strength. It was much more fierce than my tent would have been able to handle. The flapping plastic walls were louder than a set of Bose headphones blasting heavy metal music in my ears. My heart was now pounding as if I had repeatedly absorbed chest blows from Mike Tyson.


A Rude Awakening

I finally entered dreamland when the wind came to a halt. I heard the sound of water from a nearby stream as the warm sun shined down on my face. What a lovely dream! I suddenly awoke but the sound of running water was still in the distance and the sunlight was now gone. The water continued to rumble until it reached the decibel level of an opera house with Pavarotti hitting a high note. Three, two, one- bam! The water came crashing into my tent. My dream turned into a rude reality. Passport! Money! I grabbed my two most important travel items and stood erect in disbelief outside my tent as the knee high freezing water continued to flow into my sleeping quarters.

Naked In The Dark

The clothes I was wearing were instantly soaked with freezing cold water so I stripped myself naked to prevent getting an illness and hung them up on the bridge above the culvert area. The only light I had been using at night up until that point came from the moon and stars. Unfortunately, they were nowhere to be found as all I could do was fish around in my tent like a blind man using his sense of touch to drag out all of his other clothes and travel items one by one. I was a helpless victim of Mother Nature’s wrath. It was 4:00AM and the sun would come up in a few hours. Eventually, I dug everything out of my tent one at a time and hung it all up to dry. My shoes were nowhere to be found and must have been washed away somewhere downstream. Along my expeditions into various parts of the economically less privileged parts of the world, I would often encounter barefoot cyclists. Now I would become one of them. If they could do it then so could I. Luckily I was able to retrieve my bicycle as it was parked on a point of higher elevation nearby. One by one I salvaged all of my items and hung them to dry above me. I couldn’t believe this was real. I kept pinching myself but did not wake up to an alternate reality.

The cold started to hit me all at once. I was now running in place butt naked on the roadway above where I pitched my tent for the night to keep myself warm. The nearest town was at least eighty kilometers away and no cars were on the road. All I could do was keep myself warm to pass the time until sunrise. “The sun will come up in a few hours and it will warm up soon. Keep running!” I repeated to myself.


Empty Hands

That is when it all hit me! Wow! If the water had been a little bit deeper I would have been washed into another lifetime. I was lucky to be alive. I was cold and naked in the dark Chinese countryside, but alive! How beautiful it is to be alive! How beautiful this cold, dark night is! What a symbolic moment! I was wearing the same outfit as when I came into this world thirty something years ago. I was reborn with a new outlook on everything. My clothes were wet, the few pieces of fruit and bread I was carrying were now gone. The only things I had were my passport and a little bit of cash which were rendered useless. There is a Korean proverb that says you enter and leave this world with an empty hand. I felt like I was reborn as everything I carried with me was of no use. They say the only way to master the art of death is to first master the art of life. The feeling that I had at that moment was as if I had truly mastered the art of life. I felt an inner bliss just from being able to breath and jog up and down the street in the dark. I was absolutely free and life seemed so simple. Fear, stress, anger, jealously and all other negative emotions just seemed so petty and meaningless. Why was I making things so complicated before? This was indeed a blessing in disguise. I was reborn as a Chinese tiger on that early morning. The tiger was ready to get on his bike again and continue!

Clothes finally dry and ready to keep going!
Clothes finally dry and ready to keep going!

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