Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Miracles: Big and Small: The Bicycle Accident

Back in March, my roommate Kate went back to visit the States. Upon her return, Kacie and I went to pick her up at the airport. Since the airport is a good distance from our house and Kate was coming in at night, we opted to hire a driver to take us to and from the airport. Driving at night here is a completely different story than driving at night in the States. It’s extremely difficult. The roads are unlit and filled with people, bikes, motorcycles and cars all trying to manage their way around. It’s not fun. At all. We were glad to have someone else deal with all of that.

Our original driver called to say he could not make it so he was sending another driver. Our new driver, Matthew, arrived and we were off. We got into crazy traffic in town but at last managed our way through it. Traffic cleared up some once we were on the road to the airport. I noted Matthew was driving pretty fast and almost commented to him that we had plenty of time so he could slow down. Not that it would have changed anything.

I noticed a bicyclist come along the side of the car. What happened next plays and rewinds in my mind numerous times a day.
The bicyclist turned into our lane wanting to cross the road to get to the other side. It was like in slow motion.
As I saw him turn, thoughts went racing in my mind: “Oh no, what is he doing? We need to slow down. We’re going to hit him.”
Words wanted to come out of my mouth but it just all happened too quickly.


We hit the bike and the bicyclist disappeared.

BAM. The bicyclist slams onto the hood.

CRASH. He slides into the windshield.

SQUEAL. The car is still trying to stop. The bicyclist slides off the car.

THUD. We drive over something. I think it’s the bicyclist.

At last, we’re stopped. I’m covered in shards of glass from the windshield. The bicyclist is nowhere in site and I figure we had driven over him. I’m shaking. I have no idea what to do.

Chaos began.

As fast as the accident happened, our car was surrounded. People were all around us, yelling in different languages. I looked to our driver to tell us what to do. He had his head in his hands. Kacie, sitting in the back seat, started repeatedly telling me to call our business manager, Robert. Shaking and in shock, I couldn’t move. I couldn’t figure out why we needed to call him and I just wanted to hide.

In the meantime, the bicyclist stood up, blood dripping down his face. We had driven over his bicycle, not him. I was so relieved he was alive. At the speed we were going, I don’t know how he survived. The driver moved from the road to the side of the road. We were panicking as he did so, worrying that another accident would occur since there was zero visibility out of the smashed windshield. We safely got to the side of the road. The mob of people followed us and it seemed as though the yelling was getting even louder. A random man approached the driver side and told our driver that he could take us the rest of the way. I had no idea if we could trust this random man and I found it really shady. I tried to call Robert. I could barely hear over the yelling, was completely confused by the random man telling us to go with him, our driver telling us to go with him and unable to stop shaking and get out of shock. Robert answered his phone. All I could muster was a noise. I wanted to break down in sobs. I wanted to get out. I wanted to be safe. I couldn’t express anything in that moment. While attempting to communicate with Robert, Kacie was on the phone with our boss Catharine who told us to go with the random man and to get out of the situation as soon as possible. I hung up with Robert determining to call him back when I could form a sentence.

Exiting the car. Our driver and the random man kept urging us to hurry and telling us that we needed to get out of there as soon as possible. I had no idea what to expect from all these people. Here’s what I knew: they were angry. I gathered my things and quickly got out of the car to walk to the random man’s car in front of ours. Every step was painful as my shoes were also covered in glass. We entered his car. I tried to get in the back seat but his wife had moved back with their kids and had me sit in the passenger seat. I was not ready to be in that seat again, especially after what had just happened. I closed my eyes and prayed. A lot.

The rest of the drive to the airport was somewhat uneventful. At one point, the random man (I forget his name now) pulled over to get gas and asked me how much I was going to put in his tank for the rest of the way. We negotiated. After all we had been through that far, I was so frustrated that he wanted to overcharge me. I eventually gave in. On the way, I called our original driver in order to arrange for a ride back. We at last arrived safely. From what I know, Matthew the driver took the bicyclist to the hospital.

In the States, when you’re in an accident, both parties stop, get out, exchange insurance information, the police are called, etc. It’s a whole different world here. If there’s an accident and no one is injured, the two parties work it out amongst themselves, pay for things then and leave. No police involvement if it can be avoided. If someone is injured, it’s a whole different story. Mobs form quickly wanting justice to be served. They plan on giving that justice. If I was ever driving and injure someone, I’m not supposed to stop but instead leave. I then look for the nearest police post and report it there. I can then go back with the police. If I stop, a mob will form to take their justice out on me.

For our situation, the mob blamed us. The random man was telling us that people kept yelling that it was our fault and that we should pay for everything. Clearly, I in the passenger seat had nothing to do with what happened. Even if our driver had been driving slower, the bicyclist did not even look and crossed the road and it all still would have happened. It was clearly his fault. However, that wasn’t to be seen. We were white and, according to the mob, had money and thus, should be fully responsible. If we had not left when we did, things would have escalated and the chance of us being physically harmed is high. Our driver and the random man clearly knew this, hence their urgency for us to leave.

There are times when I’m trying to sleep at nights that those first few seconds repeat themselves in my head again. The panic of those moments is still fresh in my mind. Driving after that incident has been filled with more worry as I am always looking out for bikes and praying that I don’t hit one.

This past week, I had some friends from my hometown that were in Uganda. In order to hang out with them on Friday, I had to drive down that fateful road. All. By. Myself. I was seriously nervous. I knew I had to conquer my fear. The drive went smoothly (praise GOD!) and I feel more comfortable driving there. Not completely but…more.

Cultural lessons always come when I least expect it., especially when it’s such a contrast from my own culture. God’s protection amazes me. None of us in the car were injured. I had a few small cuts from glass but nothing big. It all could have been so much worse. God did the miraculous.

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