Drat. There's just no successful onomatopoeic word for the noise of a van running into the side of a mountain. (Any suggestions are welcome.) Suffice to say, in the game of "rock, paper, scissors, van" the van loses to rock, I don't care how tough you may think "van" is.
|and ROCK destroys VAN.|
You know that joke: "When I die, I want to go peacefully in my sleep like Grandpa, and not screaming in terror like everyone in his car." Yep. I lived that. Only "Grandpa" was a young native driver, and he didn't die.
Let me back up.
Shortly after my tenth birthday, my family moved from a small town in Iowa to the small island nation of Sri Lanka. Being cold-blooded Iowans, ill-prepared for life in the tropics, our home would be up in the mountains where it was cooler.
The other missionary who had arrived first with his family were already settled into Colombo, the capital. They were from Texas and could take the heat. Our partners in Sri Lanka, we'd been corresponding for about 6-8 months before leaving the U.S. (Yes, actual letters. It's how we did things in the dark ages pre-internet!) They had two daughters about the same age as my sister and I, and we'd become friends as pen-pals.
So the day after we landed, my parents and three of my siblings headed off up the mountain to our new home in one van (and a native driver) with a bunch of luggage.
~~~The vans were not American-style vans. I wonder if Americans are aware how big and fluffy our vehicles are? Only two rows of seating (driver bench-seat and one behind) and then open cargo space. (Fortunate, because of the amount of luggage.)
"Diana" and I were permitted an extra day with our new buddies, and headed up the following morning under the careful chaperonage of their father, my dad's partner.
And so the next day we were off. New "Dad", Diana, me, and the local driver. Plus all the remaining luggage.
We interrupt this post for a quick GEOGRAPHY LESSON:
Colombo, Sri Lanka's capitol, is in the lowland, at the coast. Nuwara Eliya, the hill-town we were moving to, was inland, about 6,000 feet up, via winding, pot-holey, narrow roads. It was about a 4-5 hour drive. Sri Lanka is about 10* North of the equator. The lowlands are Hot and Humid.
As we rose in elevation, the temperature mellowed out a bit until we were above clouds, winding around the tea estates in the foggy dusk (sun sets earlier close to the equator) and it was cool enough we pulled on our jackets, closed the windows, and turned on the heat.
...Filmy, misty air surrounding us.
Drowsy girls in the backseat.
...CRUNCH! "YAAAAaaa!" We all awoke screaming as the left-side (passenger side) of the van crumpled up against the side of the mountain.
You read that correctly: "All awoke". The driver had dozed off, as the warmth from the van's engine, housed underneath his seat, drifted up to surround him like a blanket.
I don't know if you've seen pictures of the hills of Sri Lanka...
|...and this doesn't really do it justice, pretty as it is.|
...had the driver drifted the other direction we would have sailed out over the side and had a steep tumble down through the beautiful, lush, green, tea bushes. ...not tall enough to break a fall. Thankfully, our guardian angels did not allow that to happen.
When we finally arrived at our new home, Diana and I had to climb over the front bench seat and we all exited by the driver's door, because the left was crunched beyond the capacity to open the doors on that side. My parents were beside themselves. Remember, this was *ahem* years ago, and there was no such monster as a cell phone, so they were not prepared to see the mess that was the van.
At the mature age of TEN, I thought I was a big kid. I was embarking on an adventurous life, and I thought I knew it all. I didn't understand my parents' stress, because I was fine! I have nephews about that age now, and they are SO YOUNG! On this end of the age spectrum, I can understand a parent's disturbance at their children's jeopardy a little better.
Of course, nowadays when I remember that trip I just think of the fact that, if I had died young in a crash down the side of a mountain, I would have missed out on the best part of my life - meeting and falling in love with Brett, the Transformed Non-Conformist! (Of course he's the one who invited me into Dude Write - who else?) It sounds sappy, and it is. I'm not usually that way, but Brett has brought out a whole different side of me that would have never come to light otherwise.
The end of the story? The driver lost his job, clearly, and I continued to avoid noticing if I was in an obvious "you could die" scenario, although I don't think I ever was quite that close again.