Adventure: The Divisolia Market (& the ER)
Heading out for an exciting day!
My host and I ride a van (like a Jeepeny, but enclosed and kind of air conditioned) to another part of town (Divisolia) to see the massive market. It’s amazing. Anything you need, they have it. Safety pins? Yep. Rubber bands? You got it. Steering wheel covers? In spades. T-shirts? All over the place. Large sheets of colorful cloth? More than you can shake a stick at. Hand-held sewing machine? You bet. The people are very friendly (yes, I know that’s a sales ploy as well) and genuinely happy. Just a normal day for everyone. Until…
As a guy reaches out and grabs hold of my host/guide, the thought going through my head is “…well that’s a funny kind of hug… do they know each other?” Nope. The rusty knife to the neck gives it away. New thought: “…this can’t be real…” My host’s reaction mirrors my thought. It takes a few seconds, but becomes obvious that this is very, very real. Totally stunned, though, we all just stand there… awe-struck in disbelief… and watch the scuffle, which lasts a bit longer than any of us expect. My host is doing a good job of hanging onto his wallet until the hoodlum sidekick comes out of the crowd to lend a hand. The hoodlum grabs at my host’s pockets while the knife-wielding man, who I now see looks absolutely insane, stabs at my host… 5 or 6 times. Very briefly, I hide my eyes, expecting that when I open them… my host will no longer be standing. But he is! While a rusty knife is a very dangerous thing to be stabbed with, a dull one does a lot less damage. He only broke the skin once, but it’s at the front of the neck and bleeding like crazy. Wallet in-hand, crazy-man and his hoodlum run off.
With mouths still agape and eyes bugged out, numerous bystanders rush to help my host. One woman offered a rag for his neck wound, several others check him for additional wounds, another young man with a trike (motorcycle with a side car, used to taxi people around) offers to drive us to the Emergency Room — having no need for lights or sirens to get through traffic… these guys are good — and even escorts us in and speaks to the doctors about what happened, sticking around until we’re in the hands of a doctor — a good 10-15 minutes.
So this is an Emergency Room.
Muddy spots on the floor where something had been mopped up and is now collecting dirt. 3 cribs. 6 beds. Everyone with an IV port in their hands. Family in chairs between the beds, tending to each other. This is interesting: nurses do not take care of the basic needs of the patient. A family member is expected to be there to do that so that nurses can focus on medical needs. Today, I am an honorary family member for my host.
Perhaps it’s because I’m more pasty than most of the people they see, or maybe I really had lost all semblance of color, but the doctor seems pretty sure I’m going to pass out. I’m not saying he’s wrong either. With the delivery of a chair comes a polite request: “please don’t pass out.” Ok.
Across from us is an entire family. The daughter introduces her dad (in a bed), her mom (in a chair next to him), her son (in the crib next to her). Being concerned that I don’t have any family with me, they do their best to include me in theirs. They’re going to be here for a while, so they are settled in and telling each other stories. She tries to let me in on the jokes whenever they get to laughing. It’s very sweet that they’re including me, but that’s followed by a little embarrassment at explaining what was funny, which is even funnier… it’s kind of a giggly ER.
You wouldn’t expect it from the driving, but people are very patient with each other. They’re all just getting by and give each other the time and space to do so. The lady with the mop comes back to re-mop the muddy spot. The daughter across from me returns with a wheelchair so her son can to go the toilet, and she simply pauses to let the mopping finish. No “excuse me, can I get by?” or “my son needs to pee, can you stop for a moment?” just patience, and not a begrudging one at that.
Three beautifully crafted stitches and some antibiotics later, we’re heading out the door — free of charge, which is good because we’re short one wallet. Taking no chances on the way home, we opt for a taxi — our most expensive but safest option. The trip back to the apartment is complete with a lot of stares, gaping mouths, and quiet conversations among passers by because it’s unusual to see someone with bandages in blood covered clothes. We are now quite the conversation piece. My new goal: get my host home so he can get some clean clothes on, and get him some ice cream to help with the swelling in his throat.
At 3pm, I’m calling this day “done.”