Thursday, November 3, 2011

The crash 11022011

Before I get to a post about my wonderful weekend, I want to post about what happened to me yesterday afternoon. Yesterday, I left Siem Reap City on my bike around 3pm and things progressed as usual. I even stopped by Travis’ site to pick up his passport. There were no rain clouds in sight. It was just me, the asphalt, and the sky. The road was almost completely empty and I was really picking up the pace when I noticed that somehow my brake wire was out of place and my back brake was not working. No big deal. I stop, move the wire back in place, and keep going thinking that a major accident was just avoided. Wrong. About ten minutes later and only 5km away from site I look up and BAM I crash straight on into some inanimate object. I crash so hard that the object and I keep going a few feet before we both stop and then I fall really hard on my right side.

Apparently, I had not been watching the road well enough and I crashed into a parked ox cart. This thing is pretty big. It’s made to hook up to two cows or oxen and it already had a pile of hay on it size of me. At first I just lay their sort of dazed and then my right leg started hurting a lot. I picked myself up and just cursed my own stupidity. For a few seconds I thought I could just get back up on my bike and keep going. I’m a pretty small person with a very small and light bike. I didn’t even think I dented the cart which is made from heavy wood. Apparently, I broke it in two separate locations. One from the force of direct impact and the other from inadvertently pushing the cart a few feet when it’s ‘brake’ was still in place. I also slowly realized that my right thigh was pretty swollen and I would never make it the 5k back to site. At that time I was just really alone and sort of just stood their crying and in pain. The farmer came back and obviously he was angry, but he was actually the one that called someone to come pick me up. I learned later that my host dad had passed me on the highway, but at that point I was sitting on the ground and he thought I was just trying to fix my bike or take a break. He didn’t want to stop because he was a man and I was a female and somehow that’s inappropriate. It was sort of crazy how even though it was hard for me to walk only women could help me and no males ever even came close to touching me the entire time.

The entire time this was happening I was thinking two things. The first was that my leg really really hurts but it’s not broken. The second was I want to settle things now with the cart. It’s broken and it’s going to be hard for him to get it home. He needs it to work everyday.  It was totally my fault. The first things I said to the farmer was  “Í’m Sorry. How much will it cost to fix it?” I might have been the one crying hysterically and in pain, but in the long run he might be the one that suffers. Instead of talking about it he calls someone he knows to come get me (though I later heard he might have been afraid of a fine since he had the "larger vehicle" illegally parked on the road). The moto man shows up and he says “Oh! Helen!” I’m still not sure who it was but he takes my bags and I get on the moto and we go straight to the health center. I get off the moto limping, but someone got there before me. It was an old grandma and she was bleeding from somewhere. She had just been in a moto accident and was clearly very hurt. Watching her try to walk up to the Health Center just really made me realize how lucky I am. Even in a moment where I feel so broken and vulnerable, I can still see that I am the privileged and lucky one. Even when I’m in Cambodia, hurt and confused there are still people all around me that are worse off.  People, literally, standing in front of me. And at that moment I felt bad. I felt so bad that I was taking attention away from this woman that clearly needed more help than me.

I see a lot of people come here, to Cambodia, and they get a lot of attention. It’s wonderful when your class looks up to you and adores you even though you may be a subpar english teacher. It’s wonderful when you can give away new bookbags and toys and everyone loves you. But do they ever feel bad that all this glitz and glamor is taking away from what really matters? They’re covering everything up with temporary smiles when the real problems are standing right in front of them.

Anyway, the breakfast lady escorted me  home with some pills (antibiotics for my bruises) and passed me off to my host mother who washed my legs for me. They were covered in motor oil from my bike. My aunt showed me a giant scar on her belly to tell me that she got over something much worse than what I have now. My grandmother sat with me to give me a pep talk about how I have to keep struggling to finish my two years here.  Then I got the opportunity to call my 24/7 on call personal nurse named Joanne. Who was wonderful as always.  After that I called my awesome boyfriend who is always there for me. In the middle of that call, I got visited by my Khmer tutor’s wife, her 4 year old son, and another girl. They brought me desert. At night my host mom iced my leg until I fell asleep. This morning the 8th grader I live with bought me breakfast and set it up in my room for me. I used my medical knowledge to clean and bandage up some scratches with antibiotic cream. My host mom heated leaves over a candle and pressed them to my bruise to keep it from swelling. She even made this delicious lemongrass chicken soup that I love.

I am just so lucky. Lucky it wasn’t worse. Lucky people care for me. Lucky I went to school. Lucky I have resources. Lucky that the worst of times are still not that bad. The same accident could have happened to someone else and maybe they would have gotten an infection. Or no one had a moto to go pick them up. Or they had to go to work the next day and their leg may never heal. My life is cushioned so that when I fall, I land on a soft mattress. When others fall, it’s a different story.

When I started this blog I said that it’s about my life. Over the course of this past year I’ve come to realize more and more how much of our lives is taken up with realizing and observing things. Then we process these observations.  We start thinking about them and, in this case, you start thinking about things that are wrong or could be improved. Maybe we start complaining. Me writing this blog talking about all the problems in the world is a method of complaint. A complaint is a method of making a problem known. It’s the first step in reaching a solution, but I think that, more and more these days, no one is moving onto step two. Everyone is suddenly waking up and realizing all the problems in the world, but will we ever reach any solutions? Complaining is easy, but, sometimes, fixing things is so damn hard.

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