Over the Top

November 9, 2008 1 Comment »

Biker in An Phu

It has been a month and a half since I’ve gotten a pedicure. This is normally not how I operate; but when traveling you don’t really get to treat yourself to the pleasantries of foot care. I had a free weekend so I decided to venture out and find a place to do some massive repair on my feat. The leach scabs had finally disappeared so I was ready to have my feet worked on again.

I have been staying with my gracious friend, Jill in District 2; a ‘suburb’ of HCMC. Jill and her family were in Thailand for the weekend, and she told me I could use her mountain bike whenever I wanted. The previous day I had found a little spa in the area so I decided that this would be the perfect opportunity to venture out on transportation other than my own two feet or being driven by someone else. I surveyed the bike and decided that there was enough air in the tires to support me, I found a lock and key, and I even searched around for a bike helmet successfully. Granted, I believe it was one of her daughter’s bike helmets – but after a bit of internal debate on looking like a fool vs. acting like a fool and going without; I decided to dawn the purple slightly small bike helmet.

In the burbs, the weekends are pretty quiet, and that also equates to the traffic. Sure, people are still out, but it’s not the gridlock as it is on the weekday. I was excited for my little Sunday afternoon bike ride. As I took off towards the spa, located about 2 miles away, I was energized by my new wheels and freedom that they brought me. Granted, hunkering down in a nice house for a weekend alone is nice, but I had been in there working, writing, and surfing the net for the whole day; I needed to get out!

Navigating myself to the main road and biking happily along, I smiled to myself. This was the first time in Vietnam that I was traveling on my own. I had a familiar rush of adrenaline come over me that occurs when you move and you start to figure things out and feel comfortable in a new location.

I noticed a stopped taxi van on the side of the road so I started to swing out around it, but right when I did that, the taxi decided to also move and do a U turn in front of me without looking effectively cutting me off with his 90 degree turn. I slammed on my breaks and next thing I knew – I was hitting the pavement; I had flew right over the top of my handlebars. I didn’t hit the taxi, in fact, it just turned and kept going – but now I was laid out in the middle of the street completely dazed. It all happened so fast I was stunned. With a rush of adrenaline laced in fear I got up and tried to dust myself off moving the bike and myself to the side of the road. I knew that I probably had blood oozing from somewhere – so I started to try to check the damage – my hand, leg, and face seemed to be throbbing the most, so I checked those areas first for any major bleeding. I deciphered that I hadn’t broken any bones or teeth and that it was mainly some really nasty road rash. I looked around to see if anyone had even see what happened and for once there was no one really around. People were whizzing by me on their motorbikes, but no one stopped. I was sweating profusely as it was the middle of the day and the sun was beating down – the incident had put my sweat glands in overdrive, so I started to move my bike into the shade; as I started walking, I realized that I was completely light-headed and may either throw up or faint. I got to the shade in a shaky manner and propped the bike up against a wall and just sat on the curb trying not to hyperventilate.

I sat there and tried to get my head about me again. This rush of panic came over me regarding how bad this could have been and how lucky I was. The fact that the taxi driver didn’t look was completely normal in the ‘anything goes’ wild east of transportation. This shouldn’t have surprised me. I think they don’t look so that they don’t have to feel responsible for what happens. Therefore is also shouldn’t have surprised me that the taxi didn’t stop as I was sprawled out in the middle of the road as road kill. The little Pho (soup) vendor across the street also didn’t move to help…no one helped, and that was an impactful realization. For some strange reason – even though I was hurting, no tears came – I think I was in shock. I think of all of the times that my eyes have been welling up with tears at the wrong moments this last week due to mental anguish, and now, when it was appropriate – there were no tears.

I knew that my chin was bleeding as the majority of the impact was on my right hand and my chin. I tried to wipe it off with spittle (where’s a wet wipe when you need one?), but it stung. I tried to get the blood wiped off the best I could and sat there for about 5 more minutes trying to calm down.

Day 1 chin injury

Day 1 chin injury!

I was trying to decide what to do next. Do I give up and go home, or do I keep going. Nothing was broken, I knew that I looked pretty horrendous…but so did my feet. Actually, for some reason I didn’t want to give up on my excursion because of this accident…if I did, I wondered if I would ever go out again. Adopting ‘the show must go on’ attitude and got back on the bike gingerly. I knew it was crazy…but maybe I wasn’t quite thinking straight after the blow to the head.

I arrived at the spa where the guard had to help me lock my bike as I couldn’t quite function yet. The spa was oozing zen with white furniture and fresh flowers adoring the big oversized tables. As I walked dripping in sweat and blood and they just looked at me. I told them I was there for a pedicure, and they stopped staring and started moving saying “yes, yes, mam”. Money always speaks…even through a bloody chin. I asked if there was a bathroom I could use first and they gladly ushered me there.

Day 2 chin injury - a messy scab!

Day two chin injury - a messy scab!

I got a good look at myself in the mirror and it probably wasn’t as bad as I was imagining – but it wasn’t pretty. My chin had road rash on it about the size of a quarter and had already started turning black and blue and swelling up. I tried to wash my face, hand and leg off with some soap which stung more than you can imagine. It reminded me of when I was 15 and I would get strawberries from sliding in softball; the stinging feeling as if someone poured alcohol into an open wound. I tried to wipe off some of my sweat and proceed back out to the lobby looking a bit more presentable.

I decided that after that experience a pedicure AND a foot massage were in order.

After recounting the story to a friend who has lived here for a while, he informed me that every foreigner has a crash here at least once; so hopefully this was mine, and I got it out of my system. It could have been so much worse! Even though my toes look better, my face looks worse. I guess this proves that life is about trade-offs; and maybe I should stick to having people drive me instead of me driving.

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