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  • We visited a cave on the side of a cliff in Moc Chau, Vietnam. In the deepest cavern of the cave the electricity died. The flood lights flickered before blanketing the cavern in pitch black. There would be no openings for natural light until we travelled back to the beginning, two caverns over. The pathway we took was adjacent to a shallow spring in the cave; the path itself was wet with water dripping from stalactites on high. A slip could send us over the edge, down a ten foot drop into the pool below. We were stuck.

    Not ten seconds after my heart started thumping in my chest from the shock of the darkness did someone take out their cellphone and turn on a flashlight app. Even the cheapest cell phones available here in Vietnam had flashlights on them. Perhaps flashlights were standard fare in this country, where blackouts and power surges were a common occurrence. Man’s resourcefulness won out, and we made our way to the front of the cave.

    __________

    Coming back from Moc Chau we found ourselves stalled on the highway in a traffic jam. Motorbikes scooted to the front of the line as our bus lulled in the back. I stepped off the bus and walked to the front to see what happened: a landslide had tumbled down the bluff. Every few seconds stones and boulders the size of my head fell down the cliff side into the pile on the road. Nature had trapped us once again. We were stuck.

    Looking up at the cliff, I saw two silhouettes casting their shadow against the cast-over sky. Men in neon vests and hard hats threw dirt over the edge with their shovels. Were these men helping to clean up the cliffside to let everyone through safely? Or had this landslide been a planned infrastructural project, a man-made occurrence instead of the force of nature I presumed it to be? Forty minutes later we got the call that the bikes and trucks could start moving again. A bulldozer had forged a path through the left lane. I could still see rocks tumbling down the cliff, but the largest ones safely rested on the road below. I was thankful that I had a roof over my head as we passed by the cliff; some of the townspeople neglected to even wear a helmet on their motorbikes. But perhaps these people had been desensitized to the threats posed by nature, just as I had been desensitized to the threats created by man.
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