Tuesday, February 17, 2009 ;
Most of the foreigners who come to live here would meet with some culture or adjustment shock. That usually applies to any move to any country.
For different nationalities there are different adjustments, some don't know the language, some know it, for example. However, a few adjustments unite all the foreigners.
1. Spitting - a few cities might be much better than here. We saw that Beijing was really quite clean. But over here it is still rampant, even women who are very well-groomed spit. I just had one old lady's sputum end up on my stroller yesterday while I was waiting for ds2. Eeew!
2. Toilet condition - not used to the stench, wet floors, open cubicle, no tissue to be thrown down the toilet bowl and most of all for the Western expats, the squatting toilet.
3. Pollution - air and water quality is poor.
4. Traffic and driving conditions.
On the Thursday before Valentine's, factor number 4 hit home so close, it hurt.
People who drive here need to be very alert.
They have to look out for pedestrians who cross at any point along the road and who may stand in the middle of lanes while waiting to cross more lanes of the road.
They have to look out for cyclists and other various types of small vehicles who are all not licenced, and who do not follow traffic lights and regulations. They are also capable of riding opposite to traffic flow or cross lanes without warning too.
Then there are fellow motorists who can change lanes abruptly without notice, and who try and squeeze 2 cars in one lane, or continue driving past lights not in their favour, without so much as checking the oncoming traffic at the junction.
For people like me, who rely on public transport, we try to increase our security as best as we can. For example, in Spore, if I had to take a cab, I make sure all my kids and me are belted up, because we already don't have car seats in a cab, and the least we can do is to belt up.
Not here though. I still haven't found a seat belt in the backseats of cabs, and most seat belts in the front passenger seat are filthy or not working.
That fateful Thursday, ds1's classmate's mom Y had an accident. While sitting in a cab.
She was already on the way home from grocery shopping, and was already very near our estate. She was in an older cab, whose model is smaller than the newer ones. According to her, the cab driver crossed the junction when a big Toyota (maybe SUV) zoomed past the junction too, right into the cab she was in. She couldn't remember whether the traffic lights were in her favour or not, but she knew one of them crossed the junction when they shouldn't.
Because the Toyota crashed into the back portion of the cab, the cabbie was unhurt. Because the Toyota is a huge vehicle, and that driver was in an elevated seat, he wasn't hurt as well. Poor Y. The door of the cab was totally wrecked. If she had been sitting right beside that door, it would have been fatal. Thankfully, her groceries were there. She was seated in the middle.
Even so, she was hit, and she said the shock of it made her forget what happened. All she remembered was that she was stuck and couldn't move and several bystanders (men) had to carry her out. She also remembered that a crowd had gathered by then.
Coincidentally, my neighbor H was about to pick her son up from school then, and passed by the junction in her car after Y was sent to the hospital in an ambulance. She recalled thinking how badly the cab was damaged and wondered if the passenger was still alive or not!
Y said she was also in shock because she didn't understand what happened, and even after the police arrived and tried to explain to her what they were going to do, she was still very confused. (She's German Japanese). Fortunately, she said the police and many bystanders were very very helpful. The police called someone at his HQ who could speak very good English who explained to her that they called the ambulance already, and it will bring her to wherever she wants. She then told them she wants to go to SOS (the International Clinic), because her insurance covers her there.
(I didn't know all of these on that day of course.)
After that she called her husband who was at work and he would join her at SOS. Then she remembered her ayi and her 2 girls at home, and called them too. Her ayi was worried that she could not communicate with the locals and decided to bring the girls out to meet her before the ambulance came. Then she remembered her son. Her son was not back from school yet!
So she called me.
When I got the call, I was at home, preparing all the materials for baking the Valentine Day cookies. Friday was both ds' celebrations in school. I was going to let both ds bake the last batch of cookies.
If I was still holding my mixing bowl, I would have dropped it. She told me she got involved in a car accident and cannot pick M up. Can I please pick him up and bring him to my house and care for him till she gets home from the hospital. She wouldn't know how long it will take, so can I please just keep him there till she gets home. I agreed of course. I was very worried and wanted to know how she is, because she was only telling me it's an accident. She was crying also, and her voice was already not clear over the phone.
When my mind is in turmoil, I cannot think properly, and what I wanted to know is, how is she, but I asked her, "Can you walk?"
Man! Kicked myself after that.
Anyway, she said she can, so that made me very relieved. Since she said the ambulance is there and it was very noisy and she was crying so much, I told her to take care and not worry about M. Asked her to update me after she got checked at the hospital.
After the call, I just couldn't stop worrying and since I couldn't concentrate anymore, I started keeping all the cookie materials. Tidied up, called Dh and asked him to come home earlier from work and get some McDonalds on his way back. He was hesitant initially, I could tell he has a lot of work to do, but I mentioned Y had an accident and he agreed at once. Fortunately his work is flexible enough to do me and my friends such favours.
I was scared for Y also, because I know exactly how I'd feel if I got into an accident alone, and not knowing what extent my injuries are, and without my family and friends with me. And in a different and unfamiliar system from home.
I was also scared for myself and my kids. Before this, I always thought somehow that even though people drive so dangerously here, no one I know had gotten into an accident before, so maybe the chances are still rare. Maybe people here are dangerous but still careful?
With this, I know anytime it could be me or my kids, and who knows we may not be so fortunate to live to tell the tale?
We take cabs so often, the probability is so high!
And then, my mind raced to the task I have at hand. Taking care of a boy who wouldn't know why his mom did not pick him up (and I don't intend to tell him either). And occupying him till his mom gets home, which till now is an unknown.
So I quickly arranged the activities and toys I think the boys might be interested in and organised them around the living room. Prepared some snacks.
Then ds2 woke from his nap and I got him ready to walk out to pick both his brother and M out.
My heart was really beating very fast when I was standing there waiting for the bus to arrive. Ds2 was playing with pebbles. I noticed I was holding both hands together very tightly.
The bus arrived, I told the bus ayi I was taking M (cos usually the ayis can only release the kids to the assigned caregiver, which in this case is Y). She trusted me and left M with me. I told M his mom had something on and he was to go to our house to play with ds1 till his mom got home.
He stood there for a while, not moving, and not heeding what I said. He craned his neck and looked at the direction his house is, and where his mom always walked out from. I continued telling him what he can do with ds1 at our house. He still stood there and said something in Japanese.
Just as I was running out of things to say, I suddenly remembered the McD's, and told him we will be having McDs for dinner, why don't we head home right now! To my relief, he responded! So we walked all the way home. Dh had arrived with the McDs already! Great!
So the boys had snacks and filled their tummies first.
I briefly told ds1 that Y had some very urgent things to do, and cannot take care of M, so will he please take good care of his friend and make him happy?
To my surprise, ds1 really did a good job. He brought his card games out and taught M how to play Super Munchkin. He explained all the superhero cards to M and proceeded to let M win all the games! That made M very happy indeed. haha. I am surprised at ds1's generosity too because he usually hates to lose.
ds2 was also ecstatic with M around too. He brought out the WeirdnWild Creatures cards, animals and so on, and showed them to M. However, with M around, somehow both the older boys did not want ds2 to bother them! They kept telling him to keep quiet, and kept dismissing what he offered them till ds2 came running to me, dejected and almost crying. haha.
So the rest of the evening went by with me entertaining ds2! The 2 older boys kind of entertained each other.
Thankfully Dh was at home too. He was able to occupy ds2 so I could keep introducing new games for the older boys to play together.
I was so happy that they got along so well. Cos in school, M and ds1 do fight a lot, and I was worried that'd happen at home.
Then it was time for homework. They have a reading book everyday and after reading with parents, they have to answer 2 Qs orally with the parents. Then the parents sign in a book that they have read and answered the Qs.
We read M's book first. I realised then, that the teachers have a lot of work each day! The books are catered especially for the kid's level. I didn't know that earlier cos I thought ds1 just picked his own books but apparently now they tell me they pick their books from different bins in school. M's 1st lang is not English, so his level is different. However, all 3 boys enjoyed that book too.
Then we did ds1's book. It was an interesting story so everyone was engaged too. And I realised ds1 is more motivated and eager to answer his Qs when his friend is around. He was definitely more enthusiastic. Dh took a pic of us.
After that, we had more snacks and milk. M drinks a lot of milk indeed. Fortunately I had a big carton. He does look much bigger than ds1 (not the height but the bone structure).
Then we did some painting and art on computer. I didn't let them watch TV or play computer games cos I didn't want them fighting, and I wanted them to enjoy interacting with each other.
M especially liked painting on the computer. So much so that, after both ds left to play with other stuff, he was still there.
However, later on, ds2 showed M how to get to the Nick Jr games site! So I saw M playing a computer game later on. It was a submarine adventure, not so bad.
I think he finally left at 9pm?
Dh escorted him home as it was raining.
Y was still not back yet but his ayi was home at around 7.30pm and called me, saying that M can go home anytime. I did ask M at 7pm but he didn't want to go home! haha.
Y told me the next day that she was sent to SOS, and then referred to a local hospital. But the advantage in this is one SOS staff will accompany her to make sure everything at the local hospital is done right and will help translate also. She said she had X-rays and other tests done.
She had a bump on the head, and chest injuries. But no broken bones, thankfully. However, because her chest kind of experienced trauma, the lungs could get infected easily, so she had to stay at home for 2-3 days. And the pain was bad, she cannot breathe properly due to the compression at the chest, and was prescribed a lot of painkillers. She was not allowed to carry heavy things or her kids also, for at least 10 days.
But at least, she could recuperate at home and she finally reached home at 10+pm I think.
Thankfully she is fine now!
When I met her again on Mon, she was headed to SOS for a follow-up check and she said she is so afraid of passing through junctions now that she will close her eyes as the cab passes the junction.
For me, I try not to take cabs as far as possible now. I.e. I try to avoid going out unneccessarily and if I go to the kids' school, I will follow their school bus. When I go grocery shopping, I will go only when H goes, because at least she drives in a careful manner.
We can't control how others drive but we can maximise our safety by doing whatever we can, right?
rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow