Today wasn’t like a normal day. However, the sun still spat on my face around 5 am. Today, I didn’t particularly want to get out of bed. And had I known how the next hour would have played out, I probably would have stayed in. I threw on my, “I don’t care what I’m wearing today” outfit and headed out the door. Grabbed my bike and headed off.
Insert: “Bike Story”
I live nearly 10 minutes, by car, to the school where my language classes are held. But, I don’t have a car. I also couldn’t drive said car given Peace Corps safety policies. So, by foot, I live nearly an hour and a half away from school. I took this fact with optimism the first day of my walk. “Hell yeah! I get to listen to a podcast and practice my language for over two hours while I walk every day!” But, 40 minutes into my first walk I realized that my optimism quickly faded. I had to wake up an hour earlier than I wanted to. The sun was hot at 8 am and unsurprisingly hotter at 1 pm. Not to mention the Sun’s rays painted my skin with an interesting farmers tan; which I didn’t appreciate.
I came home and my host father, with his trademark smirk on his face, pointed to an electric scooter and the helmet that accompanied it. I felt two emotions in those seconds: warmth and disappointment. Warmth because he had gone out of his way to provide me a much faster means of transportation. Disappointment because Peace Corps doesn’t allow us to drive or ride on scooters due to a high fatality rate. Well, that wasn’t stopping this man. The next day I came home to a bike, the kind with pedals. And, because Peace Corps lets me ride bikes, I now had a quicker way to get to school. My commute went from 1 hour and 20 minutes, down to 20 minutes. My additional sleep thanks to you host-dad.
So. Today. I’m riding the bike, down the hill in front of my house. This road on the hill is full of blind spots, cars swerve on and off the road pulling into their driveways. The hill shoots you down a narrow path, whose middle name would be danger, if roads had middle names. Kaminca “Danger” Road is characterized by its large pothole which, at this point, should just be considered a sinkhole, the sharpness of its turn, and the narrowness of its path. Every day I get the slightest anxiety when launching through it.
Today, I didn’t. Today, I should have.
I was going fast. It was one of those moments when you think you should slow down but nah. I peddled harder. I was even keeping pace with the car that was only feet in front of me. I even remember thinking to myself, “Damn! I hope they’re impressed with this right now because I didn’t think I could achieve this speed on a bike.” As I approached Kaminca “Danger” Road, I kept peddling, whereas normally this would be the point I decrease my speed. I made it through, but now I was in uncharted territory. I had never gone this fast this far down the road but, I’m on a bike so nothing bad could happen.
I pulled off the road in an effort to avoid a car and made a sharp turn at the wrong time. The front wheel of my bicycle, ungracefully met the stopping force of a pebble. I took a tumble, my leg took a scrape, and my arm took in a pebble. I got up and for a split second decided I would proceed to school. It was just a scuff, but then, I looked at my arm. There was a hole, and in that hole a rock who had found a new home. I decided school should wait and walked home. One of the waiters who saw me fall pulled me inside of his restaurant. He gave me a glass of water to drink, a handful of napkins and directed me into the bathroom to clean up. I did so and thanked him as I left.
The entirety of the walk I was thinking of the easiest way to clean this up. Should I get my tweezers and pull the rock out? Would I have to walk to the store and get hydrogen peroxide? Luckily, I didn’t need to worry. When I arrived home I was greeted by my Host-Uncle, who had just arrived home from his night shift. He took me to the hospital for what I was expecting to be a very quick trip. Ha.
The hospital journey started in my town. I was examined in the hall and move into a room. They cleaned my wound and we waited on the doctor. He would later arrive with a pair of tweezers, the same pair I would have used at home. The two nurses held my arm as he dug in my wound in an attempt to dislodge the rock. One nurse continued to hold my arm as the other grabbed another pair of tweezers and put them in my wound with the doctor.
A memory jolted into my head. It felt like one of my bad fishing experiences as a kid. I love fishing but I hate unhooking my catch. My friends and I would surround the catch, one holding it down with their foot while the others made their best attempt to yank out the hook before the fish suffocated. I still remember the feeling when one day we didn’t get the hook out quick enough. We struggle, and struggle, but it wasn’t nudging. And today, I saw a similar struggle in my nurses. They couldn’t get it out. I was sent to the ER in the neighboring city, about 30 minutes away.
We arrived, I sat in the chair and they cleaned the wound. The doctor had an entourage of interns or students likely going through clinical. It was a party. He dug into my arm for a little bit and said that there was no rock; I still don’t believe him. I was bandage up, and the doctor allowed us to go without a payment because I was a “student.” I thanked him and we headed home.
I insisted that my Host-Uncle would allow me to take him for coffee, so we stopped. He drank his cigarettes and his macchiato. We rested for a moment and headed home.
The entire day my phone found itself very useful. By 10 am, it had been drained down to 30 percent. Calls back and forth between my Peace Corps Doctor to the practicing doctor. Calls from my Peace Corps Doctor to my Host-Uncle. Calls from me to my language teacher in an effort to translate what was happening. Texts back and forth from my Host-family who were out of the country and very worried. Instagram messages from my Host-Cousin wishing me well. Phone calls and text from fellow trainees.
Today showed me that my support system in Kosova runs much deeper than I realized. There were multiple people who went far out of their way to help me. People who, through words, I cannot fully express my thanks to.
As if being American doesn’t make me stand out here already, now I look like a mummy. Hopefully, Peace Corps will still let me ride bikes.