So you might think that what I’m struggling with right now is being all by myself on this adventure and missing my Christopher. That’s part of it of course, but there’s more to it than that.
What I’m struggling with right now is giving a damn.
Yesterday I had one of those days. One of those days where I spent more time questioning what in the world I am doing here than I did learning from this foreign land I now call home. I don’t have any photos to go along with these sentiments, nor do I have many concrete examples to share, but I do have one.
So yesterday afternoon I walked to the VSO Office to pick up a package from my parents (wahoo!). It was easily the highlight of my day after spending the morning and early afternoon feeling disenchanted and a bit lost in Mongolia. Unfortunately, my highlight was short-lived.
I took my usual route home, behind the Sail Building, along Peace Avenue, to the Wrestling Palace and back to home sweet home. Peace Avenue is the main road through town…it’s six lanes wide (three going each direction) and has no center median. There are stop lights and crosswalks of course, but the traffic is so wild that you often see people crossing wherever they find an opening. I assume that is what was happening in this instance.
So I heard tires screeching on the road behind me, and, as you do, I turned to see what was happening. Just as my line of sight was behind me, I saw a man hitting the hood of a still moving car. I watched him fly through the air like a rag doll and land in an unconscious heap in front of the car. He was an old man. He carried a rice bag full of empty bottles that he would return for a meager bit of income. He lay motionless on the ground. I gasped at the sight and let out a subconscious Oh God! The driver stopped and got out of his car, I assume to help? And everyone else? Well, the rest of the pedestrians just kept on walking. And the rest of the cars just kept on driving. They didn’t even seem to slow down. It broke my heart.
Not speaking Mongolian and not being a healthcare professional, there was little I could do to help. I walked on, lost in thought.
The rice bag of bottles made one thing clear to me: this man was poor. He collected bottles in an effort to support someone: himself, his family, a habit, who knows? More than likely, this served as his job – his only job. More than likely he cannot afford the healthcare that he will surely need. And more than likely I witnessed one of those events that happen in a person’s life that marks a turning point (as in before I was hit by a car…). And again, it broke my heart.
The discrepancy in UB between the rich and the poor is massive. The rich can afford healthcare and often leave the country to seek adequate, clean, modern services. The poor? Well if this man was taken to a hospital that in any way resembles the one in which I work, bless his heart, he will need luck on his side. That’s assuming that he was taken to a hospital. I’m not sure how it works…he’s a bottle collector and there is some stigma attached to that…what do stigmas do in terms of access to healthcare? Again, I don’t know. And again, broken heart.
As for what caused the accident, well, pardon the language, but Mongolians drive like assholes. I don’t mean that in the sense of people in Massachusetts drive like assholes. No, these folks make Massachusetts drivers look like saints. Absolute saints.
So yeah. I don’t know anything else about what happened after I walked on, but I do know that watching a poor old man get hit by a car for no reason at all (the other lanes were empty, the car was driving way too fast, the usual) makes it really hard to give a damn.
It’s the icing on the cake right now I suppose. We’re finishing up our next set of health volunteer trainings and have had very little support from our Mongolian counterparts on this set. It’s tourist season too, so that means a lot more whities roaming the streets, which in turn means more stupid comments or actions towards the rest of us (it’s a shame there is no way to distinguish between the we live here crowd and the we’re here for two weeks crowd). Yesterday a microbus drove past me on a side street and someone sitting by the window either shot their water gun at me or spit at me…either way I wound up with an ear full of water (I smelled it…it didn’t smell…for my sanity, I assume it was water).
Yesterday was a stellar day.
Right, so I know that I will regain my giving a damn because I always have in the past. It’s just that when you watch a poor old man get hit by some idiot driving their shitty white sedan with blacked out windows way too fast down a busy street, it makes it really hard to give a damn about much else.