I’ve never been what you would call “outdoorsy.”
The last time I went on a hike I was 13 (and only because it was camp-mandated) and my friends took to calling me “Wilderness Barbie” while I tried not to get mud on my new hiking boots. It wouldn’t have mattered, though, because I never wore the hiking boots again.
But this year is about pushing myself, growing as a person, etc. etc., and at the time nothing felt more “new and improved Zo!” than voluntarily climbing into a mud pit and trying to catch fish with my bare hands.
… Let me back up.
I recently took a riverboat tour down the Mekong Delta. The tour started with a 4am bus trip that nobody was in the mood for. When we boarded the bus, we met our tour guide, a flamboyant man named “Kiki.” Despite the fact that it was still the middle of the night and all anyone wanted to do was PTFO, Kiki introduced himself and promptly took to the bus microphone to sing a rousing rendition of Katy Perry’s “Chained to the Rhythm.” Nobody clapped. After two more Lady Gaga songs that were met with equally as much enthusiasm, he finally let us sleep in silence and assured us that we’d make it to the river for the sunrise. Upon our arrival two hours later, Kiki came back onto the mic to wake us all up… and the sun was already very much risen. Things were not off to an ideal start.
We got on the boat at 7am (which felt like at least 3 pm because we’d been up for so many hours) and floated peacefully down the river. At one point, I saw a dead pig floating by which was pretty traumatizing, but besides that it was pretty great. We saw the floating villages, checked out the scenery, and learned how popped rice is made. I bought two silk negligees from the river market, which was weird, but I blame it on the fact that I was operating on very little sleep.
After we floated for a few hours, we stopped to have lunch at a local fishing village. What they didn’t tell us, is that we were going to be the ones doing the fishing.
“You’ll go fishing like a local and eat what you catch,” Kiki announced in his sing-songy voice. “We have special outfits for you to wear. I would advise that you take off your underwear before you put them on.”
Like any sane human being would, I thought he was kidding. We were going to catch our own fish in the mud? Without underwear on? Yeah, right. But, nope — this was completely serious. We pulled up to the village and were promptly handed used black jumpsuits, which were actually kind of cute, and
I was torn: On the one hand, I came on this adventure to grow and learn and do things I’ve never done before, etc. etc. On the other hand, though, I really did not want to go catfishing (and not the fun kind where Nev pops out with the camera at the end) in the mud without my underwear on.
Because I am a sucker for a good story, I took the jumpsuit, went into the disgusting bathroom to get changed, and mentally prepared myself for what was to come. (No, I did not take my underwear off you perv.)
“New York Zo never would have done this!” I told everyone who would listen while snapping selfies on the riverbank.
Everyone got in the water, and I started to panic. There was no fucking way I was getting into fish-infested mud. Did I mention I was barefoot? The whole thing was just so fking gross. I tried to back my way up the hill, but before I realized what was happening the ground gave out underneath me and I slipped ASS-FIRST INTO THE MUD.
Everyone stopped what they were doing and laughed at me (including my boyfriend, who got a REAL TALKING TO LATER), which absolutely sucked. There I was, laying in the mud with creepy catfish swarming around me, and 15 people peeing their underwear-less pants at my expense. To say it was a LOW would be the understatement of the century.
But what did I do next? I pulled my ass up and, dug my fingers into the mud and started fishing. And guess what? I CAUGHT A MTHRFKING CATFISH WITH MY BARE FKING HANDS.
Was it disgusting? Yes. 1 million times YES. It was slimy and gross and I fall asleep every night trying to forget what it felt like. But it didn’t matter, because I was beyond proud of myself for 1)Getting up when I fell off the proverbial horse (though FYI falling off a horse wouldn’t have been nearly as bad what happened to me) and 2)Facing my fears and doing something I never, ever thought I could do. I got in the mud, and I DID IT. I had the chorus of “WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS” playing on repeat in my brain for days after it happened.
If you’re wondering whether I actually ate the catfish I caught when it appeared deep-fried on my plate 45 minutes later, the answer is a very, very firm NO. In other news, I’m a vegan now (not a joke — more on that later), but it was worth it.