Tiger Balm and Thai Angels

First, the good news. Gone are the days of anonymity; the coffee shop across from the office knows my order! I’ve had a little trouble rectifying my caffeine addiction with the Thai affinity for sugar and sweetened condensed milk. But, as it turns out, I won’t be developing diabetes this summer. Mingmitr Coffee Shop knows what’s up. Iced Americano no sugar, my friends.

Now, the not-so-good news. Last week, I overestimated my driving skills to deleterious results. I didn’t ride a bicycle or rent a motorcycle or drive a car. No, in a brief blip of insanity, I bought a motorbike. Motorbikes are rampant in Southeast Asia and follow their own set of rules…. kidding! There are no road rules in Thailand. Someone shared valuable driving advice with me before the purchase, warning that traffic flows like water, defying linear order, and that people will abandon any notion of self-preservation on the road. Still, I was falsely confident. If I could navigate California interstates and Minnesota winter roads, Thailand would be a breeze.

How wrong I was. Thais drive on the left side of the road, complicating my natural driving orientation. Coupled with the fact that I didn’t know how to turn or stop a motorbike, I had a problematic situation at hand. But I was dying to get my new ride out on the open road, so I tried to teach myself to drive. It went well at first. I successfully turned off the main road into a labyrinth neighborhood where I could practice without the threat of speeding songthaews and tuk tuks. That, and wearing a helmet, were about the only logical decisions I made that day.

Screen Shot 2013-06-26 at 1.08.27 PM

I made it from point A to point B (1.9 km, weeee!) when a dog darted in front of me. I jerked the bike and slammed the hand brakes, sending my back tire skidding across gravel. My right leg was pinned under the bike, rendering me quite unladylike in a skirt. I laid there for a few seconds, made angry eye contact with the mangy dog, then wrenched my leg free.

Here’s the chariot of doom:

BikecollageOut of nowhere, three Thai ladies approached and helped me limp over to their porch. Though I protested, they cleaned my leg with Neosporin and iced my swollen knee, smiling and laughing to keep my spirits up. They drove me back to the office in their car with one woman following on my bike. At this point, I shouldn’t be surprised by the graciousness and warmth of the Thai people. But in (quite literally) being good Samaritans on my behalf, I was again humbled. They had no obligation to help the dumb foreigner who’d gotten herself into a jam, yet they immediately jumped in to make me feel safe and cared for. I wasn’t able to properly convey my thanks with the language barrier, but I think the best way to honor that kind of selflessness is to pay it forward.

The upshot of my injury is that I’ve had more time to delve into human rights research. I’ll update you on that front in a few days when I flesh out the direction of my research paper. For now, I want to share a product I discovered on the road to recovery: Tiger Balm. This stuff is miraculous. Developed in Burma and adapted from ancient Chinese medicine, Tiger Balm is part menthol, part camphor, and part secret ingredients. I’ve been using the patches on my sore leg (sprain? Ligament tear? Who knows!) and they’ve made a world of a difference.


Rawr. Over and out.

5 thoughts on “Tiger Balm and Thai Angels

  1. Thanks for your wonderful way of telling things, making a predicament that was not at all fun when it happened, I’m sure, into a tale of humor and humility. I am very thankful for your Thai ladies. What an example they are to us all.

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