Saturday the 15th of February 2014
Last night I stayed awake until 5AM. I didn’t feel tired but I felt cold, my hands were numb, I watched Adventure Time, I wasted time. I didn’t get anything done, which I found unbelievably frustrating. The thought of time wasted makes me uncomfortable. I couldn’t sleep, it’s been the strangest week so far, both my heart and my head are aching. I shan’t discuss everything in detail, nor shall I attempt to justify or rationalise anything I write. This post will be written with no intention to offend, or to be taken personally by anyone who reads it. This post needs to be typed, it is a form of annotation, of documentation.
On Monday (11th February 2014) I finished work at 7PM, I finished planning my lessons shortly afterwards as I only needed to change some minor details. I put my box of supplies on my desk, moved my chair, put my jacket on and signed out. I decided to go to 503, a stationary store near school. I should have walked but instead I got on my bike. I bought a tube of fake Pringles.
As I was leaving, a man in a black car ran a red light. Blinded, the world went quiet. My bike was hit and I was thrown into the road. I tried to get up, I couldn’t move, I tried again. I tried what seemed like a third time and I was up, numb with cold but standing, I wasn’t in pain. A man got out of the car. He was speaking to me, I’m not sure how long he had been speaking to me, then I heard him say “are you ok?” I said “I’m so sorry, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry…” over and over again. He asked me if I was ok a few more times but the only words I could find were those two “I’m sorry”. Even though I now realise that it was in no way my fault, at the time I could only think of the person whose car I just destroyed. The bicycle was mangled. My handlebars were smashed, my kickstand was broken, my bike chain and brakes were compromised but my body was intact. I was ok. I apologised profusely and handed him his dented license plate.
I stood in the middle of the road by the lights as he drove off, traffic rushing past on either side of me. I didn’t cry, I didn’t move. I just stood there with a broken bicycle. I cycled home, I had no other choice. I couldn’t walk, it was easier to bike as the pain had begun to set it, I needed to get home. I wobbled, screeched and squeaked in and out of traffic, in the dark, my body felt like ice. I got home and ate the tube of fake Pringles. I turned on my laptop. I spoke to my boyfriend. I showered and went to bed. I cycled to a bike shop the next morning (Tuesday 12th February 2014). My body was in a huge amount of pain. Everything hurt. Everything seemed quiet. No one spoke English at the bicycle shop (Giant). I bought a helmet. They fixed my bike with cable ties. I didn’t feel safe on the road as I cycled to school.
My manager took me to the hospital, my body is still black and blue but I was lucky. I was given a number and told to wait. We left the hospital and I bought a new bicycle at the same store who had fixed my bike with cable ties earlier that day. The new bike came with lights, a bell and a basket; the wheels are huge in comparison to the old bike. The old bicycle was to be fixed; I gave it to my manager. The store would replace all of the parts which needed replacing. I didn’t realise how quickly it would be fixed. Had I known, I doubt I would have bought this newer one (despite how much safer it is for riding on roads). I spent thousands on a new bike when I could have spent hundreds on replacing parts of my old one but they didn’t tell me that. They didn’t say it’d be done within a day or two. I told my manager she could have the new bike I bought too, for the school, when I leave.
Although it seems absurd for me to give the school two bikes, for free, they have helped me and I’ve decided that I don’t mind. I hope future staff members will be able to use them and that they will be looked after. Also, I feel as though it was important for me to get the new bike as this was the second car accident on the old one. The new bicycle is much bigger, a ‘proper bicycle’ rather than the foldable one I bought from the supermarket which I suppose is more suited for short commutes or teenagers cycling around parks rather than long journeys on dangerous Taiwanese roads.
We got back to the hospital where I was x-rayed and diagnosed with scoliosis. There was no conversation regarding this, no translated consultation or advice, nothing. I wasn’t broken so back to work I went. One of the other teachers kindly covered for me whilst I was in the hospital. Then on Thursday (13th February 2014) another teacher was injured in a car accident, a head on collision with a drunk driver. My chest hurts when I think of her being hurt so soon after I was, I feel as though even to discuss what happened to me is wrong as she was hurt so very badly, the woman driving crushed her leg and she required surgery. She’s in hospital. I struggle to communicate with co-workers in everyday situations so when it comes to something like this, I get incredibly nervous, I bought Chupa Chups lollipops as it was the only get well soon gesture I could think of after sending a text and Facebook comment.
On a more positive note, I have been reunited with my passport and I now have my Alien Resident Certificate or 外僑居留證 (waiqiao jūliú zhèng). I also stood on top of the school and enjoyed the view (see Instagram photo). I’ve also posted my x-ray images to Facebook in an album entitled ‘Internal Portrait’. To view the internal self is to reassess and alter perceptions of what exists externally. Understanding the fragility of life enables us to reject immaterial concerns. A human being is not a machine, nor are we manufactured or manipulated to suit the needs of an institution. If a building falls, it can be rebuilt. If a person falls, the solution is never as simple. Look after yourself and others, nothing else matters.