2010.04.21 Maybe we don't want to know

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

There are some things you just don’t tell your parents. They don’t have to know. I thought of that recently when I asked Maddie about the waves in Bali.

Overseas study. It still amazes me that so many college kids travel across the big water to pick up a few credits—a few very interesting credits.

I certainly don’t fault kids who can pull it off. Maddie puts in a lot of hours in a job she has while going to school, and she has the smarts to get something I never saw—scholarships.

Besides, when I went to school, I don’t recall anyone signing up for overseas study. It was a real rarity. I went camping at Pinery Provincial Park once, across the big water of the Detroit River and north to Lake Huron.

That wasn’t nearly as foreign as a spring break trip to Florida. I didn’t receive any academic credit for either trip, although I learned a little about county sheriff deputies of the south. I probably never told my parents.

After Maddie’s six-week class in Thailand and Malaysia concluded, she did some cheap traveling around Southeast Asia. While in Bali, she satisfied a long-held desire to go surfing. The opportunities in Michigan are rather slim, but she signed up for a surfing class and had a blast.

I asked her later if the waves were very large. She said they were and added, “We went to a beach one day and I thought I was never gonna come up a couple times.”

There it is; that’s the sort of story you don’t tell your parents.

Actually, I was glad to hear it. I’m very pleased she’s having these experiences—and even more pleased to know she’s surviving them.

The class involved a lot of snorkeling in the reefs (the toughest 12 credits she’s ever earned, I’m sure), but she told us something early on that left us a little unsettled.

The kids were warned by their instructor to avoid touching a tiny water snake they might encounter while snorkeling. It didn’t have a very powerful jaw and could only pierce the skin between the fingers. However, a bite generally led to death. There wasn’t much that could be done.

When she told that story, I immediately wondered if this was the Thai version of the Snipe Hunt. There was just something about it that didn’t sound quite right.

I asked Mr. Google about the matter and learned there are some nasty snakes in Thailand (such as the ngoo tap saming kla and ngoo chong ahng), but nothing came close to describing the illusive little water snake.

Still, it gave the parents something to think about for a few weeks.

I told my parents about my encounter with a mother black bear and how her jaws grabbed my thigh through the tent, but I related that story long after it happened. Actually, I think they rather enjoyed the tale.

That’s the only really frightening thing I can remember, other than helping to start a car somewhere in Washington state.

I was hitching across the country and got picked up by a nurse from Colorado somewhere in British Columbia. Heading south, we’d stopped somewhere along the coastal road and her car wouldn’t start after the rest stop.

There was a downward slope to the road, so I pushed her car back out of the parking spot, and then started pushing it down the road.

The car fired up and the nurse and her dog headed down the road with my backpack and other possessions in the back seat. Would I ever see them again?

Yes, she turned around and came back to get me. I don’t think I ever told my parents that story.

Maddie told us one day about a hike that a few of the kids took with a professor. Most of the class was water oriented, so for something different they headed inland up into the mountains.

It was supposed to be a five-hour excursion at the most, but something went wrong. It turned into a nine-hour adventure with paths hacked by machete,  students helping each other down steep hills, grabbing onto ant-covered, thorny vines, crawling through rocks and avoiding falls. They had an OK time.

We know about jumping out of the taxi in Jakarta, about the frightening hotel in Vietnam and the motorbike tour in Vietnam, but I can’t help but wonder what she’s holding back. Maybe the details will leak out over the years.

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