Sunday, July 23, 2017

July 22 – Disaster(s)

Sometimes a day goes so wrong it makes you think the universe is conspiring against you. Or maybe it’s just a dose of bad luck to balance out the months of heaping good luck. In any case, here’s what happened.

The morning started out fine. We all met for breakfast at the 7th floor rooftop restaurant and had loaded up our plates with all sorts of interesting options from the buffet. Besides the regular breakfast items such as waffles, toast, croissants, bacon, fresh fruit, cereal, sausages and pastries, many of the Asian buffets include more dinner like items. For example, today we had vegetable fried rice, wontons, fried tofu, boiled cabbage, chicken curry and pork stir fry. I was happily munching away on one or more of the above items, when something got stuck in my throat and I could not breathe. I frantically pushed back from the table, clutching at my throat and trying to cough it out, but whatever was lodged in there would not budge. Ana whacked my upper back, trying to dislodge it, but it wasn’t working and I think I was starting to black out. Everybody was stunned and paralyzed, not knowing exactly what to do, and from what I remember there was no staff around either. Tony ran behind me, put his arms around my chest and started heaving, going for that Heimlich maneuver that you see on television but never actually see anybody do. And guess what? It worked! Otherwise I might not be writing this. I don’t know if the guilty food item went up or down, but there was no comedic moment of a half-chewed sausage launching out of my mouth and landing in somebody’s coffee, although that would have made for a better story. I sucked in wind and brought myself back to life. I was embarrassed, as there were quite a number of people in the restaurant, all staring at me sitting there turning from blue back to white, but happy to be breathing and that my main man Tony was there to give me the big squeeze. I owe him one. But, sadly, the day did not get any better after that.

We gathered up our things and left the hotel, on the way to visit a nearby temple. All of us were walking along the roadside boulevard when we came to a section that had a whole bunch of broken up sidewalk chunks scattered around. As we were tip-toeing through it, Maddy completely lost her footing, tripped, and landed on a piece of rubble, yelling in pain. We went to help her up and she screamed, “NO!” and then rolled over on one side and we could see that her arm was twisted at a very odd angle. She had broken it. Shit. While the ladies were sitting with her, Tony and I ran across the street to the closest hotel – I forget which one it was – and told the front desk what had happened and asked them what to do. They were very helpful and said it was better to call an ambulance instead of taking a tuk-tuk to the hospital, so they called one while we waited and then told us to just say with her until it arrived. So we went out, crossed the street and told them that a ride was on the way. By now the sun was higher in the sky and extremely hot so we all stood there in a line trying to shadow Maddy as she was in pain and just wanted to stay where she was on the ground. It only took about 15 minutes for the ambulance to arrive, and we decided that since there wasn’t too much space, the Henriques would all go together to the hospital and we’d stay within range of wifi and keep in touch via text (assuming they could get wifi at the hospital). The paramedics helped Maddy up, and by this time she seemed to be doing better, and was able to walk by herself to the ambulance.

We watched the ambulance drive away into the frenzy of traffic and then looked at each other and just said, “Wow.” On the bright side, it was not a compound fracture, and the one paramedic thought it looked like a very simple break, so told everybody not to worry. But we were all very rattled by this point.

Ana, the kids and I spent the rest of the morning at the hotel just texting back and forth with Angela as they had Maddy x-ray’d and checked out by the doctors. Things were sounding okay, except that Maddy was definitely going to need a cast so wasn’t going to be as mobile as usual for the last few days of their trip. The other problem was that there looked to be some sort of issue with the travel insurance they had purchased (or thought they had purchased?) and none of the hospital expenses were going to be covered. They estimated the bill was going to be around ten thousand US dollars and, if you can believe this, it had to be paid in cash. Considering we’d only been able to withdraw US$250 per day from the ATMs I had no idea how we were going to get that much cash. But we told them we’d start checking into options.

In the early afternoon we decided that in addition to checking into the money issue, it was probably a good opportunity to take our passports down to the Vietnamese embassy to get our visas processed, as we planned to go to Vietnam once we parted ways with the Henriques. We went outside and began walking to the busy tourist area where all the tuk-tuks hang out. We have a day bag we use for carrying stuff around, but whenever we carry our passports we always put them into the travel belts that we wear hidden around the waist beneath our clothes; except that we had recently had all our passports renewed, and the new Canadian passports have many more pages and a much harder front and back cover, so they are uncomfortable as hell to wear on your body, and they barely fit into it. So we decided to just put them in the day bag and be extra careful. As we were walking along I was carrying the bag on my shoulder and a motorcycle came up from behind us at high speed and ripped the bag from my grasp. And as I was pulled off balance, I smashed into Magnus and knocked him to the ground, where he hit his face right on the pavement, breaking his glasses and getting a big cut across his nose. It was total chaos. Ana, Stella and I stood there, dumbfounded as we watch the two guys on the motorcycle driving away with our bag and poor Magnus with blood dripping down his face. Some of the Cambodians standing nearby had seen everything happen and one of them took off on his motorcycle to try and catch them. We helped Magnus up and he seemed okay except for the cut, but he was more upset about his glasses, as he didn’t have another pair and he really likes wearing them.

One of the Cambodians must have called the police because a single man on a police bike arrived and started talking to the people who had witnessed it and, I assume, was getting a description of the thieves. Ana and I started trying to remember what was in there and our hearts sunk when we realized the bag contained not only our passports, but also her wallet, two of our three phones, and a folder with a bunch of other important travel documents. Considering we are seasoned travelers and have been robbed twice in the past, I just do not know how we could have been so stupid.

Actually, none of the above happened. I recently read a book on Stoicism and one of the things Stoics practice is a mental exercise whereby you imagine bad things happening to you, or losing people or things that are important to you, or any other sort of misfortune you can conjure up in your mind. The idea is that by imagining such misfortunes, you are much better prepared to deal with them when they invariably do happen. Also, your sense of loss is less, because in your mind you have already imagined and muted your reaction to this misfortune many times, so you are better prepared to handle it. After I read that book I realized I probably am a Stoic, because this mental exercise is something I’ve been doing for years.

So I will apologize to Angela’s mom, and my mom, because I know they have both been following these journals and probably suffered major panic attacks while they were reading this! Rest assured, your babies are all safe and sound.

Today we visited a nearby temple, and then we tuk-tuk’d to the genocide museum and got a very sad tour of a school the Kymer Rouge used as a prison and torture facility, killing many thousands of innocent Cambodians here, and taking photos of each prisoner, which now haunt the walls of the cursed buildings. We then took a hot walk to the Russian Market, but along the way Tony and I did our good deed for the day. We helped a guy on a 50cc motorcycle trying to pull a ten-thousand-pound load of construction materials on a huge trailer with two other guys riding on top. He had the throttle pinned, but all that was happening was his front wheel was bouncing up and down off the ground and the load would not budge. Tony and I got behind the trailer and gave it a mighty push, which gave him just enough momentum to get the whole contraption moving, ever so slowly.

The market was big, hot, and full of all sorts of junk. Ana got a purse, I got an Angkor beer tshirt, Magnus got a switchblade and a tuk-tuk tshirt and Stella got exactly what she needed to complete her backpacker look – M.C. Hammer pants. I even played her the “You Can’t Touch Dis” video that evening so she could learn the dance move she needs to rock the pants. Angela too was looking for M.C. Hammer pant but she couldn't find any that she liked, so her search goes on.

After all of that there was some top level hot tubbing, beer drinking, a walk around an extremely filthy local market, another unavoidable stroll through the red-light area to see the hoochies and perverts, and finally a huge dinner at an Indian restaurant.

An excellent day for this Stoic bastard.

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