There have been a few moments in my life during which I’ve considered that if I died at that exact instant (or shortly thereafter) no one would feel very bad for me.
I imagine myself reading the story about the American studying abroad who decides to hitchhike home from the bars at 3 a.m. and ends up dead in a ditch. “What an idiot,” I’d say. And then I’d realize: That idiot is me.
Generally, this kind of realization—wow! I’m doing something pretty foolish—does nothing to deter me from continuing. I keep hitchhiking/talking to strangers/eating weird food/running through strange villages without a cellphone … or a map, and things work out just fine. Which is what I was banking on when our guide offered me a shot from this glass jug somewhere in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam.
The liquid was rice wine and marinating in the jar were a variety of snakes and a raven, wings-spread, with a snake clasped in its beak. Drinking bird/snake-infused wine has never been on my bucket list, especially on islands miles from the nearest stomach pump, but when our guide started ladling out shots (and when I looked at my fellow travelers and realized we were all about to drink this), I took a deep breath and down the hatch! It, of course, tasted like shit. Or rather, rubbing alcohol with a hint of serpent. But yeah, I survived.
And when I got back to Hanoi, I bought small bottles of snake/scorpion wine for all my friends. So far no one’s had a sip. Wimps.