Skip to content

Big Backpack & Me–more

May 16, 2011

This is taken from the beginning of my up-coming memoir with more added weekly. Stay tuned for added adventures.



How did a woman from Montana, who simply wanted to have some fun and teach English around the world, end up on the border of Thailand and Cambodia, with guns from both countries pointed at her?

That was my question as I kept walking across the long, lonely bridge between these two countries. I wondered if I would ever see my two precious daughters again, or if I’d I be shot and end up floating face down into the big, muddy Kah Bpow river. It was hot and humid, but I knew the sweat pouring off my body wasn’t from the heat. It was pure and simple from nerves. Each time I turned to see the guns in front and behind me, I heard myself give out a strange little nervous giggle. I knew the bridge wasn’t a mile long, and that it didn’t take me hours to cross, but the thoughts that ran through my head were so bizarre I felt as if I were in a Monte Python show.

As I got closer to the Cambodian blockade, the guns looked bigger and the men looked younger. There is nothing like walking toward six smiling young boys pointing big machine guns at you! They all had such cute grins on their faces it made me wonder what they had in mind to do next.

To hell with the guns pointed at me! I was a tough Montana woman, and I’d face them with a smile of my own! And so I kept walking.

How had I gotten to this strange moment in my life?

It was my daughter Brandi’s fault. She sent me a magazine, aptly named   Transition Abroad, published for people interested in traveling and teaching English as a second language. It described what ESL (English as a Second Language) was and listed hundreds of schools around the world. Sitting in my little house in Montana, with snow already on the ground and the fireplace blazing I looked at it and thought “Oh! My God, this is what I have been waiting for all my life!” The phone rang and my daughter asked, “So where are you going, and when do you leave?” I knew at that moment I was going to do this, and with my daughter’s blessings. Trembling with excitement, I made a list of things I had to do to put my plan in place.

Daily, I checked off completed items on my to-do list. The only things left were to attend a few celebration parties and catch a flight to Seattle. After spending a few days with my daughters, I was ready to leave for Mexico.

I had my passport, credit cards, plane ticket, and my backpack was loaded. This was the beginning of a new life of teaching, traveling, and adventure, and I wanted it to start now. I finally talked my daughter Brandi into getting on the road before I went crazy with waiting. At last, I could relax and enjoy these last few moments with her. We were laughing and talking about what an exciting future I had to look forward to when I heard—tires screeching, dirt and gravel flying, and metal ripping. What I saw was an eighteen

wheel truck coming directly towards us onto the Seattle I-5 freeway. The noise was deafening, but I’m sure my daughter could still hear me screaming, “Hit the brakes,holy shit, it’s going to hit us!” At that moment, I knew it was the end.


Amazingly, this monster truck slowly tipped on one side and skidded across the freeway without touching another car. When the dust cleared my daughter was telling me, “Mom, you’ll never get to the airport. It’ll take hours to get this truck out of here, it’s completely blocking I-5. Grab you pack and run down to the next on-ramp. Maybe someone will give you a ride.”

My pack was twice as big as I was, and I had a carry-on, plus a purse. How was I supposed to run down the freeway? “Come on!” she yelled at me. “We can do it! Just hurry before the police get here.” She grabbed my little pack and purse, while I shouldered into my big-ass pack, and away we went.


We barely squeezed by the crashed truck on the edge of the freeway, but we both made it down the on-ramp. Cars were whizzing by, but no one stopped to give me a ride. They could see the wreck behind us, so I was sure someone one would stop soon. Sirens and flashing lights were arriving, and a policewoman was yelling at us to “Get back to the car, it is illegal to be standing there, get back to the car now!” I told her I would, but that I was out of breath and needed a minute to rest. Brandi and I decided that I’d stay on the side of the freeway and try to hitch a ride while she ran back to her car. A quick kiss, and away she went. I gathered my packs and purse and crossed the freeway, hoping it would be easier for someone to stop on the other side. Oh, God, more police…As they sped by, they were waving and screaming for me to get off the freeway. Over-head a TV helicopter was filming the wreck. Later I learned I was on the news about a wreck on Seattle’s I-5 south bound lane when they mentioned someone trying to hitchhike. The reporter described me as some old hippie loaded down with backpacks running down the freeway.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. February 20, 2011 7:09 pm

    your good

  2. March 1, 2011 4:17 pm

    I love your blog post! It is short, entertaining and you get us hooked from the beginning. I am an educator/teacher and will be following your blog with fascination! Good luck (come visit my blog – I write about parenting and education – would love to hear some of your ideas – you are obviously an out-of-the-box kind of gal!)

    Look forward to more visits,
    Meryl Jaffe

  3. March 6, 2011 2:48 am

    Can’t wait to read more! There is definitely a wonderful story here.
    Brad and I have been editing and writing books together for the past 6 years. If you want to talk about it sometime, give me a call!

  4. deenasafari permalink
    March 6, 2011 5:01 am

    I have thought about doing the teaching English abroad thing before, but I never went for it. Kudos for your gusto and adventurous spirit! I love hearing about other travelers’ misadventures–makes me feel more normal.

  5. March 13, 2011 4:36 pm

    Well, I’m hooked! This sounds like the makings of a great story, congrats to you for finishing it! I’ll be sure to keep popping in, I don’t want to miss any samples you post : )

  6. March 14, 2011 4:37 pm

    WOW–this is some story, you captured my interest

  7. March 17, 2011 3:26 pm

    exciting stuff! Can’t wait to

  8. June 27, 2011 2:37 pm

    OMG!!! that hilarious. bravo you for continuing. bet you never thought you would get such a public send-off. canbt wait to hear what happened with the cute boys and big guns. cant imagine such a situation!!! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: