Monday, January 24, 2011

The Smell of Pepper

Zooming down the gravel road on my newly rented moped, my senses were elated by the smell of Kempot, Cambodian pepper and the breeze across my nose. With my friend, Tim, a little way in front of me, I accelerated the bike and searched in the distance for his ocean-blue helmet; I had chosen a bad time to fasten my pace. I was just approaching a hill that curved down to lead onto a bridge with a small creek and a big drop-off below. I was scared and knew instantaneously that I could not control the bike as well as I thought. I slowly began to break, but with a manual bike, once you break, you lock the front tires. I had two choices: attempt to steer the bike down the hill and cross the bridge or force fall to my left. I chose the latter of the two.
The crash was loud, but not deadly (obviously). I looked first at myself. All I could see was blood seeping through my yoga pants and blood and gravel intermixed on my left arm. Screaming for Tim to come, I then noticed the bike: broken. The clutch was messed-up and the breaker bent in. My heart sank, but then was re-lifted when Tim came running up the hill--actually hobbling as a couple weeks before he had hurt his foot while on a moped. Struck stupid, Tim was unable to help soothe me. I knew that I needed to take the reins of the situation: get to a hospital and then fix this bike before the owner charged me an exorbitant rate to fix it.
I found a few people on the side of the road. Through hand gestures, I was able to get a crowbar and bash the clutch and breaker back into place. A family took me into their home and gave me their child’s t-shirt to wipe off my arm. Considering this was probably the only t-shirt this child owned, I was driven to a quiet cry-session. When questioned of my tears, I blamed the wimpy sobs on my arm. I toured their pepper farm with a smile and tons of questions (even though my arm was killing me), and purchased some of the most aromatic black pepper I’ve ever smelled.
After I was done with the tour, the grandma of the bunch tried to put anti-freeze or something of the sort on my arm to help with the infection; I politely declined. The son and owner understood and hopped on my motor bike to take me to the nearest road-side doctor, while his sister and mother road behinds us. Tim took the caboose role.
Once at the doctor (an ancient man), I realized he did not speak English. Thinking quickly, I began to speak broken French as Cambodia was once a French colony. He smiled and responded in French. We were able to communicate what happened to my arm, what he would have to do to repair it (just some antibiotics and rubbing alcohol), and of course what exactly was wrong with my friend Tim’s foot. Nothing, but a sprain and lack of rest as Tim was attempting to party his ass-off and see all the major historical sights before he had to leave his beloved South East Asia.
Not wanting to waste a day in Cambodia, Tim and I hopped back on our bikes and road around the countryside. We watched a beautiful sunset and ate peppered crabs fresh from the Gulf of Thailand.
Arriving back to our hostel, everyone was worried about me, especially Maggie who had ditched Tim and me that day to wander around Kempot with a local man. As usual, the local man fell in love with Maggie and confessed his love to her, only to be denied by a clueless Maggie who thinks all men just want to be her friends. A yeah, a right. As she was simultaneously trying to sooth me and run away from her new suitor, I sat there in an amazing bliss. I had survived my accident, spoken French, eaten delicious crab, watched a beautiful sunset with my ginger best-friend(not an Orangutan named Suddam, but Tim), and was the center of attention to the bustling hostel. The day couldn’t have been better.

My two fellow companions: Tim-the-Ginger-Zasly and Maggie-the-dubious-lover-Quinn