Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Crash course.


There’s been a lot of life in these past few Malay-flavored days, enough for me to succumb to sleep in the nighttime instead of seeing what words want to come out.

Let’s see … things have gone a little like this. I ate a King Prawn the size of my forearm in the night market just across the street, following it up with square after delicious square of sweet sticky rice and gawking at wide-eyed raw fish and giant squid. I’ve snacked on mangos and mangosteen like I’ve nothing else of substance to eat for the next three weeks’ time (four ‘steen, two mangos, a couple of TimTams and a warm protein drink served as breakfast this morn). Tried some plenty tasty (and cheap!) Islamic vittles that I remember the subtle tastes of much more than I do the names that accompanied them. Got a four hour massage that left me absolutely numb and in a state of bliss for many, many more hours after. Traded microphones back and forth with locals in a karaoke bar … they taking on ballad after syrupy Malaysian ballad while I sang songs with a touch more oomph from the likes of Elvis, Queen, Manilow and Michael (as in George). Even hiked around a jungle-turned-park, going in circles until I was able to finally scale a pretty sizable portion of what’s purported to be the highest mountain in Southeast Asia (didn’t finish on account of the hour and a deeply developed bout of vacation laziness). Had I had my druthers, I would have made it to the top of that one, too, climbing every single one of the steps carved into the side of Mt. Kinabalu. Perhaps that’s one of those I’ll have to accomplish in another life … and perhaps not. The road attached to this life is a windy one, after all.

This is another one of those countries I could easily fold myself into for a while without much consequence. I felt that way in Kuala Lumpur at the beginning of the year and I feel it after 10 days in Kota Kinabalu. Give me the days that always begin and end at the same time and the humidity thick enough to lean against and I’ll hold onto my goofy grin for a long spell. These sights and sounds and tastes are enough to keep me consistently surprised and ultimately satisfied. Asia just happens to be on my short list of places that end up feeling like home. Who doesn’t enjoy feeling like that?

One scene I haven’t been able to shake took place early yesterday morning, as Mel and I were crammed into a mini van and on our 2-hour trek to Mt. Kinabalu. It cost all of 15 Ringgit for the journey (that’s five bucks in American) and 10 of us were pretty excited to tackle the new adventure—that feeling was palpable. It was a fairly bumpy road to get there (the web site warned us to take our motion sickness medicine in advance, lest someone have to clean up our “vomits”), but none of us appeared to mind. It even rocked the two guys next to me right to sleep (one looking like he was just shy of 150). And, about 90 minutes in, we hit some traffic. We were nearly at our destination, too. We were practically touching the clouds and it felt like it we could have walked the remainder of the way. Other drivers got out to smoke their cigarettes while we inched closer, a little at a time.

Then I saw the accident. And apparently, it had only taken place minutes beforehand. You know how you sometimes find yourself backed up for a spell and end up ultimately disappointed once you discover the reason never quite satisfies the time you spent waiting? I’m pretty positive I’ll not feel that way again. It appears two cars had hit one another going opposite directions. One of them was fairly banged up and mostly off the street; though I couldn’t make out where its driver was, it didn’t bode well for him or her. As for the second truck we drove slowly by, there was no getting by him. And, this time, I could see its driver. I almost didn’t want to look, either, but it was a situation I couldn’t turn myself away from. From a distance, I could see that his door was open and his arm and leg were hanging out lifelessly, blood pooling onto the street. I saw his face as we drove past and it, too, was shiny with fluid, though it looked to be either tears or saliva instead of blood. His mouth was open and his eyes fixed forward, expressionless. If he could move, he wasn’t trying very hard to do so. Mel said she could see short breaths, the kind someone has once they go into shock, though I never really could. In retrospect, I almost wish I could have.

It’s a little surreal to see something like we saw in another country, probably because they do such a good job in the United States of arriving on the scene and prettying it up before the rubber neckers are rewarded. It’s almost cinematic. Picture if you will the above scene, along with 30 to 40 stopped cars and even more people than that milling around the freeway, looking concerned but doing little to nothing about the situation. We were 25 minutes down the road before we saw a lone emergency vehicle go past us, a siren sounding its arrival. If time was of the essence on this one, it certainly was not on their side. If I do end up moving to Malaysia at any point, I’m going to have to promise myself (and maybe even my mom) that I’ll never get in an accident.

I’m not 100% sure what the outcome was, but I will remember his face for a long time to come, just as I will the pit in my stomach that opened up as I did. And, as cliché as it is to do so, I’ll likely think about the incredible brevity that is this life, just as I am doing now.

1 comment:

thefish said...

Life is fragile. Life is fantastic and fragile.

I love Thanksgiving. It gives time to break from the busy and mundane daily routine to spend time with family, build new memories, and reflect on all I have to be grateful for. I, for one, am not grateful enough to my God for the abundance in my life. I am not grateful enough for the important people in my life. I am not grateful enought to live in this promised land where if I were involved in a bloody accident there would be a crew of EMT's, firemen, police to fight for my life.

I sure hope it won't take a tragedy like the one you witnessed amoung such beauty and memories to make me grateful enough for what I have been given.