A Nice Ending
to a Horrible
|On our evening tri-shaw ride.
January 23, 2008
We just arrived last night. Only had enough time to find some dinner in the hawker station next-door to our hotel. This is the
way to dine around here. It’s sort of like an outdoor Asian food-court with live entertainment. And dinner costs roughly $1-2.
Can’t beat that! Why even think about eating at a nice restaurant – or any restaurant – when we have these?
We are staying at a wonderful mansion right in the hub of Georgetown. What a great first impression we already have!
Michelle timed our time in Penang to coincide with a Hindu holiday called Thaipusam. Apparently it is supposed to be quite a
spectacle in this city. The procession through Georgetown starts early today and ends tonight. After breakfast, we are going to
follow one of the walking tours and end up in Little India so we can catch all of the action. We got a sneak-peak while in
Singapore yesterday as there are a couple days that lead up to the actual holiday. It will be fun to see all of the hoopla on the
Time for breakfast!
Oh my gosh. Today was the never-ending day. And I mean this by no means in a good way.
Let me start by saying this was my worst day I have experienced while traveling. Without a doubt. The absolute worst.
Michelle and i were out early this morning wandering around the beautiful, colonial city of Penang in Malaysia. We were
strolling and then I heard Michelle let out a noise. I saw a motorbike. I thought the motorbike had hit Michelle by accident. No.
He had grabbed her bag. The problem? It was a messenger bag that was wrapped around her body. As he continued to ride
while holding the bag, Michelle went face-first onto the ground and was getting dragged along for a couple seconds. Thankfully,
the bag's strap broke. That meant he could just take off and Michelle wouldn't be dragged any more. I tried to yell and run.
Michelle tried to run (on her now broken flip-flop) and she just whimpered out a 'stop. stop.' Now I was showing emotion
(crying and yelling a bit) and Michelle was in a state of shock. She was totally bloody (her nose and chin). It wasn't pretty. She
couldn't feel her teeth and kept fearing all of her teeth fell out. I was a bit nervous because her gums were bleeding. But we felt
her teeth and they weren't loose.
I need to mention how wonderful all of the by-standers were when this happened. One man was jogging and stopped. He gave
her his towel to press against her bloody chin. Another person got the motorbike's license plate number. He was telling us we
had to get to a hospital as soon as possible. I asked Michelle to let me see her chin. The gash was HUGE – I then realized the
importance of getting her treatment immediately. The jogger then gave us a ride back to our hotel so that we could get
insurance numbers, her calling card (so that I could call her husband), etc. Michelle wanted to change into non-bloody clothes.
While she did this, I dropped off all of my valuables that I had in my purse (i.e. my passport that I had with me from checking
into my flight the night before and not putting it back into my backpack). Then our hotel gave us the name of the hospital they
were having us go to and the name of the main police station to go to so that we could file a police report. And it turned out that
our hotel paid for our taxi ride to the hospital. Even at a time like this, we were so appreciative of little gestures like these.
The main intention was to now get Michelle’s chin stitched up.
So it seemed like it was as bad as it was going to get. No.
Michelle was taken in quickly and they had me sign papers at the registration. I called (her husband) Clarke to just let him
know to call the credit card companies (all of her cards and ATM and money were in her purse). She kept telling me in the taxi
that this needed to be done. I told her not to worry – I would take care of it while she was getting looked at. I called Clarke to
list out the cards for him to cancel. I told him not to worry, that she was fine, etc. He was in shock when I told him we were at
the hospital. I told him not to worry and that she just needed to get some stitches in her chin. He sounded calm which was
good. I told him we would call him again after we were done at the hospital.
So when I came into the room Michelle was in, I recapped her on my convo with Clarke. She was aware and asking me relevant
questions. But she wasn't really responding to what I was saying. I was asking her now if she was still in shock. She would then
ask me another question. I kept asking her now if she could hear me. It was weirding me out that she wasn’t responding to
anything I was saying. After another chain of too-horrible-to-describe events, she fainted. I started yelling out to get the
nurses in there. They came. I moved to the other side of the curtain because I was scared to death to see her like this. So now
the hospital trip ended up being for much more than just stitching up a chin – now they were going to have to do a CAT-scan to
see if there was internal bleeding in her brain.
Now I was on the floor crying. I even started praying to God. Truly, I was. After they wheeled her away, I called Annette's
mom to get a professional opinion and to be given some peace of mind. It worked. Judi broke it down to me in a way that
someone close to a person can. I didn’t want just medical advice – I wanted medical advice told to me in a way where I could at
least have some peace of mind.
When I went back to Michelle's room, she was now awake. She was crying because she was scared. She didn’t know what was
going on. She just knew she was in a hospital gown and in a room in a hospital. I was hugging her and telling her I was so happy
that she was awake and crying. I told her all of this was GOOD and that she was now aware instead of being in shock. I
recapped her on my conversation with Clarke since she didn't recall the first time I did so. A few minutes later, the nurse came
with good news - all was clear in her brain (well, except for her brain). The bad news was that her jaw was slightly fractured.
But not displaced. The nurse was still making it sound like she was going to need jaw surgery in the next couple days. (Luckily
it turns out that is not necessary.) This was when I told her about the chain of events earlier when she passed out and the CAT-
scan. I told her that this was GREAT news and that she is doing well, etc. All she kept saying was that she wanted to go home -
especially as they were saying that she needed to stay in this shared depressing room for at least 24 hours for observation. On
top of everything, today is a national holiday. Most of the doctors weren’t around. There is only one neurologist at this hospital
and he is Hindu so he was unreachable.
Now Michelle was concerned about the police report – this was a sign that things were getting back to normal (as she was also
verbalizing a list of things that now needed to get done). So she told me to go to the police station to take care of that. I asked
her if she was sure that she wanted me to leave. She said she was fine. She wanted this to get taken care of. So I did it – what I
thought would take an hour or so took close to three hours. I hated not being near her. We got stuck in the midst of Thaipusam
traffic – the taxi was sandwiched in between men with piercings throughout their faces, mouths, tongues, backs, chests, etc.
Any other time, it would have been an amazing sight. Today, I just wanted to get onto another street so we could get to the
police station as quickly as possible. There was also a part of me that saw tourists out-and-about snapping pictures and couldn’
t help but think ‘This isn’t fair that they all get to have a normal day and enjoy this. We are supposed to be enjoying this, too.’
And then there was the part of me that saw all of the tourists so at ease. Another thing I was envious of as we would not be
able to feel that sense of being at ease again while here. It was a bit of a run-around at the police station but eventually I
entered an account of the experience into their computer system which was then printed out for me. Then I was sent upstairs
to talk to an Inspector Steel. I relayed the chain of events and provided him the license number for the motorbike. Here was
the crazy part – he had another file on his desk from just a little bit earlier. He pointed to one part of it. I was looking at an
identical license plate number on another police report. He told me a Japanese tourist was the victim. All I can think is that the
jackass is due at some point. He’s got to be. The inspector then called a photographer that the police station has and wanted us
to go to the scene where it all happened and then make our way to the hospital where they could take pictures of Michelle. I
was now really nervous about Michelle. I was gone far longer than I had planned and I knew the time would be going by very
slowly for her…especially having no word on my whereabouts. What I would have done for a cell phone and text messaging.
We finally got back to the hospital. Luckily, she had been sleeping and only woke up about twenty minutes prior. This didn’t
change the fact that she was really concerned about where I was. She was so happy to see me. I told her the police inspector
and photographer wanted to take pictures. She was okay with this. They were kind, kind people.
Michelle now just wanted to be discharged. The doctor sounded confident that it would be okay - though not his first
suggestion. She told me to tell him that she wanted the EEG done today so that she could go. Unfortunately, the neurosurgeon
was not returning the text message. Dr. Wong really wanted her to stay for observation – but she really wanted to go. She
made the decision to go. She asked me what she should do – I told her that there was no way I was going to tell her what to do
but I would support whatever she decided. I told her I was going to call Judi to let her know the test results. When I got back,
she told me she was signing herself out. I will admit – with the exception of all of the bruises, scrapes and bandages, she looked
really good. Plus it was good to see she was back to her old self – she was already making mental lists of everything she now
needed to get done once she got back home.
Tomorrow morning we are going back to the hospital for her to see the neurologist and get an EEG. In the meantime, we were
heading back to the hotel.
When we were in the taxi, the first thing Michelle asked was if we could still go to afternoon tea at the E&O Hotel (a plan we
originally had). Okay. The girl was back. I figured this request would be fine since it really only required sitting down and
having a little something to eat and drink – something we both needed. And she had no choice but to donate her cookie and
piece of chocolate to me. Her jaw is ready for no such thing.
After tea, we spent some time relaxing at our hotel and getting some stuff done online – this really just meant emailing Clarke
a list of companies and telephone numbers to contact in the next few days.
The next part of our day was good and bad. Good because Michelle was feeling like her old self. Bad because most people would
not have approved.
She wanted to catch the remaining part of the Thaipusam festival. She figured it wouldn’t be so bad if we took a taxi out there
and sort of watched from a slight distance. We did this. It ended up being great – not nearly the crowds we thought might be
there. Plus talk about some entertaining people to look at solely for all of the sharp items pierced throughout their bodies. As
for me, I loved watching their love of Ganesha – my favorite elephant-headed boy was raised above many devotees’ heads and
around their bodies. We stayed for a while and then decided it was time to go. It was beyond difficult to find a taxi driver I
trusted (for some reason the words ‘Oh, I have private car’ weren’t giving me any reassurance). We kept walking in search of
one. And then a car pulled up to us. A woman was in the passenger seat and there were four children in the back. She asked us
if we wanted a ride. I turned down the offer and told her we were heading to Georgetown (on the other side of the city). She
told us they were heading there as well. This was a family heading to dinner and they were willing to give two white girls who
were having a horrible time finding a taxi a ride. My instinct about them was beyond good. I barely even looked at Michelle
before saying that we would accept the ride. We got in the back next to the children. They dropped us off at the hotel and we
profusely thanked them. They did not expect one thing in return. They did this out of pure kindness. These are the type of
people that Penang is proving to us to mostly consist of – not the jackass from this morning.
After we got dropped off, we hired a trishaw to take us on an hour-long ride of the Georgetown area. We rode through Little
India, Chinatown and then to an area called Chew Jetty where we got off and walked around – it was wonderful. And the last
sight we would see on our ride would be no other than…the freakin’ place where the mugging occurred this morning (near the
City Hall and Town Hall). The last place either of us wanted to see. In fact, all I remember doing was looking at the license
plate number of every motorbike to see if any of them were 9591.
Kind of sad to end our ride in a place with such a sour memory for us. But that was okay. It was a great time and it was still
quite relaxing for Michelle. We went to dinner at the hawker stall next-door to our hotel. Michelle and I could finally share a
couple chuckles about some of the small things that happened during the day. One of the things was when I came out of the
hospital room to talk to Dr. Wong – who I had never met because I was at the hospital while he was treating my sister - about
Michelle wanting her EEG done. He looked startled. It turned out he thought Michelle had totally gotten up and was better. He
didn’t realize she had a twin sister. Of course we don’t really look alike – but I guess close enough. I also told Michelle how
interesting it was that while checking in at both the hospital and the police station, they asked her religion. They said
“Christian?” Of course I said ‘yes’…but it’s always weird giving an answer like that when you know it’s not really correct. Well,
I guess it’s close enough since we celebrate Christmas and Easter.
Michelle and I also weren’t talking tonight about how horrible people here can be. In fact, we were doing the opposite. We were
talking about how incredible everyone we have come across has been. Seriously. Who knew today could end on a slightly
|A man who made vows for Thaipusam
|Michelle's room at Island Hospital.