Today has been a disaster of epic proportions.
This morning I had to see my consultant for the removal of my stitches. Not a big deal. But because of my history I approach all medical procedures with the same fear and anxiety. I awoke with the symptoms of a cold and the start of a migraine.
My taxi back to Kratie was booked for 2pm. I felt relief that everything was sorted and keen to stop the ‘limbo’ thing and get on with the next few weeks.
My appointment was very smooth, removing the stitches was easy because my head hurt so much it provided the distraction – the focus of discomfort. The cut to my arm is deep but in time it will heal, as my arm has healed well so far, aside from the nagging residual weakness.
The migraine medicine I usually take I ran out of ages ago, but my consultant was good enough to call around pharmacies and find a stockist. So the tuk tuk driver (one of two I use and trust) took me the chemist and I was relieved that I’d got the migraine just in time so that the medicine could work. The consultant asked if I wanted any medicine for my cold, but I wasn’t interested, as most medications tend to cause drowsiness and I didn’t want that effect when I was travelling.
I had time to return to my hotel and the insurance company rang to discuss my current medical needs.
Just after I followed the instructions of the email and tried to contact the person responsible for booking my taxi as I needed the translation for the tuk tuk and the taxi. As the taxi was located further away in the city and not picking me up.
I had anxiety about the taxi. The previous taxi from Kratie had cost me USD50, it was supposed to be private. But instead after I refilled his taxi and gave the fare, he had ‘car trouble’ and another taxi collected me. This taxi also picked up a lot of people and dropped them off. So I was driven around for seemingly hours until he finally got lost and then contacted my waiting friend/person from the organisation for directions in Khmer. He wasn’t happy.
A few days ago there was an article in the Cambodia Daily about an attempted rape of a UK tourist by a taxi driver on her way to Kratie.
I tried not to let my anxiety rule and adopt the ‘go with the flow’ routine. No drama, no fuss.
I couldn’t get hold of the Cambodian woman from my organisation that booked the taxi. There was confusion about where the taxi would be. But she provided his number and I had the tuk tuk driver liaise with him. It all seemed fine, although by this stage we were running late.
We arrived at what must have been the taxi meeting point. I was accosted by a man before the tuk tuk had even stopped that asked my destination – stupidly I told him and he told me to go with him.
But I had my doubts, and kept trying to call the woman that booked it.
Eventually I got hold of her and after speaking with the tuk tuk driver and other man she told me that my taxi had left and I could go with the other guy.
I still felt unsure but allowed the tuk tuk driver to take my bags and then stood in surprise when an argument erupted seemingly about me. There were three old vans (usually the taxi is a sedan) all full with boxes of random crap. Six different men seemed to surround me and push me to go with each of them. One of them threw my backpack in his van. My tuk tuk driver stood helplessly holding my rucksack and I called the woman again for help. My iPhone was passed around as different people spoke passionately and the gist seemed to be, whose fare I belonged to.
The men stared at me and I felt uncomfortable. The whole thing seemed off. Maybe I was letting my own anxiety get in the way, but the woman on the phone told me to go with one of them. Which one??!! None of them looked like a taxi, no one spoke English and everyone was crowding me. The angriest one with my backpack told me to get in the front with him. I looked at my tuk tuk driver for signs of his reaction. He just held my bag looking bewildered. I had no desire to jump into a random van, to a destination that I didn’t know the route with limited cell coverage.
I said no and he started reversing with my backpack still in the van. I banged on the windows to get it out. He just kept going, I kept banging and my tuk tuk driver held onto the passenger door (even though he was moving!) until he stopped and then he quickly retrieved my backpack. The men still crowded around me and I told my tuk tuk driver to just take me back to the hotel. The tears came instantly.
Then that horrible sensation of there not being enough air. I grappled to fight the panic attack. It’s been a long time since I had one. I frantically kept trying to dial out but my phone seemed slow and I was hitting the wrong buttons. Beggars appeared at the tuk tuk, this part of town was clearly the worst. A man ate food hungrily off the path like a dog. Suddenly it was all too much. Too loud. Too out of control.
I reached my husband and struggled for air as I tried to explain things, the panic having full hold. I could barely hear him, but his voice alone was calming enough and I kept repeating I was going to the hotel. Enough so that my own head would listen.
I wanted to throw up but fought it because I didn’t want to stop.
At the hotel reception I was still panicking but they kindly got me a room and told me to sort it out later.
I got into my room and got my husband on FaceTime. I’m not supposed to be relying on him, I’m not supposed to be his problem but I needed him. He knows me, he gets it. I needed support. To give him credit he listened and reassured me I was safe.
After finally calming I just popped across the road to get some Valium. I’m exhausted but so jumpy. So ashamed, feel so stupid and pathetic.
My arm is sore.
I feel like a useless moron.
I don’t know what I’m going to do now. But I’m suddenly feeling very vulnerable and even more out of my depth.
I have previously felt so safe here. The buzz of the city is of inspiration to me.
But now it’s noisy. It’s too fast, too hard. Too complicated.