Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Too many questions...

When you live in a different culture all the lines get blurred. Things you took for granted are turned upside down. In oz I (more often then I liked) would judge and label people - "What a bitch" or "What's up his arse?" type thing. Usually my follow up thought would be they're obviously having a bad day...it's a fact (isn't it?) that you can't be nice ALL the time. Sometimes stuff just gets to you and you respond too harshly to someone who then thinks you're a bitch...which is why I always hated being judgmental, because you just don't know when someone (who is nice 99% of the time) is having that bad day.

Someone recently asked on a forum "Would you stop if you witnessed a car accident?". The responses varied from yes, no, depends...To me, the answer doesn't even require thought - yes! why wouldn't you stop? It's not about having medical expertise, it's about knowing someone needs help and trying to provide it. You can call for help, hold a hand, provide comfort until emergency crews arrive. Yesterday the choice was taken away from me.

I was sitting in the middle of the back seat with J, his aunt, uncle and cousin. We had had a lovely day at the Trang Vegetarian Festival and were on our way back home when the traffic came to a halt. As we rounded the corner we saw a horrific car accident involving a truck and a car that resembled a screwed up piece of paper. Someone was helping traffic flow, someone was standing on the opposite site of the road watching, but no one was helping the victims stuck inside their car. As we were stopped in the traffic I tried climbing over people to get out but just as J was opening the door, his uncle yelled at all of us to "Jai yen yen" - calm down, that we would stop ahead out of the way. After another minute of seeing these people stumbling about and still trapped in the car, I was nearly hysterical because he wouldn't let me out and just kept on driving saying there was nowhere to stop (completely untrue). The next 50 kms home were filled with stony silence and lame excuses.

The injured people in the accident were farang (tourists). The accident had occurred about 5 minutes before we saw it on a heavy traffic road. No one was helping them. I wanted to scream at him "Why didn't you stop?" How could you see that and not stop? If they were Thai, would people be helping them now? Why was no one helping them? Is it because they are tourists?

The second we pulled up at home, J and I jumped in our car and headed straight back. We found them at the second hospital we visited still in the emergency room a hour and a half since the accident. All 4 were on gurneys, confused, not knowing what was going on in the chaos of the emergency ward. We stayed 4 hours, calling consulates, translating, assuring them, holding their hands. 2 were given the all clear but still under observation, 2 were still in the emergency room - one semi conscious, one with horrific leg injuries.

So I'm left wondering why 2 such lovely people (J's aunt and uncle) wouldn't stop when it was so obvious they needed assistance and that I wanted to get out to help. I'm left wondering - is this a Thai thing? Is it a cultural thing? Is it a fear thing? I have no answers. I feel betrayed. I feel sickened. I'm trying to understand. I'm trying to forgive....

7 commentaramas:

JJ said...

Mel, I'm so sorry you've had such a horrible (double) experience. I haven't been in Thailand very long, but I've heard this type of story before several times. I don't know if it's part of the 'if it's your time to go, it's your time to go' philosophy or something else entirely. I don't have any answers but just when you think you've sussed those cultural differences they come back and bite you on the backside.

I'm so sorry, JJx

Sangy said...

I think it's a people thing. Also a time and place thing. It happens a lot in Malaysia as well. I've seen people standing around watching, recording it on their cell phones (sickening). I've also seen people trying to revive someone who's obviously dead. That's why I think it's a people, time and place thing. There are good peoples out there, there are also peoples out there who just couldn't be bothered. I'm sorry you had to go through such an experience.

TracyMcGal said...

Well, I am sorry to say that it happens in the US too. The people that live in more populated areas seem to be more immune to accidents. The television has made people numb to tragedy, I think.
The good news is that there are people like you and J that have compassionate hearts and do the right thing. I hope that I would have done the same thing. I know that the tourists must have felt that you were angels. Good job!

DanB said...

You & Jay are beautiful.

Carol and Chris said...

God that sounds awful!! I'm so sorry you had to go through that!! I agree with Sangy - I think it's a people, time and place thing....I also think fear has a lot to do with it.

What you and J did was absolutely wonderful - you might not be feeling so great about humanity but what you did has renewed my faith in it!!

C x

Mel said...

Thank you for your comments..I really do appreciate your presence and your kind words.

I also think it's a people and a fear thing. People are scared to get involved. Scared of what though is yet another question.

Thanks again, you're blessings to me :-)

Hirally said...

What an awful experience...not recently one of the othr moms that adopted from Thailand had an awful accident while in Hua Hin and in her case Thai folks did help...maybe is a circumstance thing or maybe it was that their driver was Thai...don't know but - wow, If I ever have a situation of this sort happen to me I definitely want someone like you to show up!!!

So sorry you had to go through this very sad and disturbing experience! - Hirally