Safety Awareness

Look at the featured image that goes with this posting closely if you would.  The picture was taken in Thailand in a village near the town of Mae Sot in Tak Province.  It shows some kids at what appears to be a bicycle shop.  Notice the boy kneeling and the bandage on his left foot.  There is a story behind this picture that, although taken seven years ago, relates to the events of today — this morning, to be exact.  The boy in the picture in the yellow life jacket also has a tale of his own to tell.  However, we would need to conduct a seance to hear it.  Seven years ago, I was teaching at a large, private Catholic school near the border with Myanmar just outside the town of Mae Sot.  At the time, I had founded a small children’s shelter in the village where this bicycle shop is located.  At one time I was hosting up to twenty children from Myanmar.  We had about twelve bicycles in various conditions of disrepair — thus, our frequent trips to the bicycle repair shop.  The life jackets are mute witness to the fact that we were on our way to our local swimming hole on a hot Thai morning.  The boy with the bandage on his foot got that way by not being aware of safety rules.  Well, how does that relate to the events of today, you might be asking yourself by now.  If you look closely at the picture, you will notice an intersection just down the road on the back side of that cart in the photo.  It was at that very intersection that the boy with the bandaged foot had been riding one of our cycles.  ayah-300x225He was showing off, riding it with his hands in the air.  “Look all, no hands!”  Because his hands were not on the handle bar of the cycle, when he came to the intersection traveling towards this bicycle shop from our village house about another one hundred yards towards the rear of this photo, he wasn’t ready to brake.  A big ass truck was crossing the intersection just as he was — he ended up ditching the bike but not before one of the tires on the truck ran over his foot, crushing the bottom part of it, including all his toes.  I was at work that day and didn’t witness the accident.  Needless to say, if he had been aware of safety rules as I am now trying to teach my students, he might have prevented this accident from happening.  Here is a picture of him in the local hospital — Aa – aw is his name, by the way.  I had done something similar to myself at the same age on my brother’s bicycle and ended up in a hospital bed for a week.  A picture taken of me at the time would have looked similar to his.  But, in my case it was my left elbow up in traction for more than a week.  That is the first synchronicity I want to mention.

The second synchronicity — in this story anyway, as I could relate dozens more that went through my mind as I worked on what to include in this posting earlier today after hearing of the accident that happened here and now — involves another boy.  This time, he is Nepalese, not Burmese and younger, named Deepak.  He studies in Class 4 and thus was not privy to the lessons I started last week on Safety and First Aid with my class 6, 7 and 8 students.  I only hope that by focusing on this topic that we didn’t somehow jinx him.  I am not that superstitious but it does make one wonder when synchronicities intrude upon one’s life.  All day yesterday, as a matter of fact, at both schools where I teach, the focus was on safety rules.  We had copied stories from the classroom blackboard (white, actually) about accidents.  I had written them — six of them — as examples of accidents that could happen.  I had asked the students to think about which safety rules, if followed, could have prevented the accidents from happening.  I then added the assignment of describing the first aid that should have been given to each victim in each story.  Little did I imagine that the very next day, this morning, that a similar accident would happen.

The accident unfolded at 7:45 a.m. this morning and was witnessed by several students.  In a very strange coincidence, Deepak had visited my room yesterday evening with a couple of friends.  I teach computer class as well and they were asking me to play computer games after coaching class had finished.  I had to send them away because I was typing exams for next week.  I had no premonition, whatsoever, at the time that something would happen to Deepak.  I have had strange premonitions before — but in my dreams.  I had two similar dreams while in Thailand.  I dreamed of students there having motorcycle accidents.  Within the following week at two separate schools on opposite sides of Thailand and in two separate dreams years apart, two students died from carelessness while riding their motorcycles.  I remember that when Aa – aw had his bicycle accident and I visited him at the local casualty ward.  I had noticed there were a lot of victims of motorcycle accidents there.

Deepak, the victim of this morning’s accident, had not been riding a cycle or motorbike, neither one.  Just down a hill from our school is a stationary shop.  Next to it is a high wall separating the steps going up to the shop from the steps going up to another apartment just next to it.  Halfway down this wall was a concrete/cement ledge that adjoined it to the steps beside it.  However, the ledge was not securely attached to the wall with any rebar or strong support.  Another student who lives with me had told me this afternoon that he and other students had jumped on that ledge many times before because it had a tendency to bounce.  I know — that is carelessness of the highest order but such foolishness abounds in the youth of the world.  I only have to remember my own childhood accidents to remind myself of how seriously safety lessons need to be taught.  On this particular day, and at this particular time this morning, Deepak had jumped down onto the ledge from the overhanging and adjacent wall only to have it give way beneath him.  As the ledge tipped over, its edge must have cut Deepak deep into his leg muscle and cleaved it away from his leg.  Students who witnessed remarked that they could see his bone.

cyclists1-172x300
Me at a safe pace on the cycle with two stowaways (one on the handle bar and one on the back) … headed for the swimming hole, obviously …

Luckily for Deepak, there were many by-passers, his house was only a hundred meters away, and his parents rushed to the scene.  A volunteer motorcyclist, after wrapping Deepak’s leg in a piece of cloth to stop the bleeding, rushed off with him on his motorbike to the neighborhood casualty ward at the Model Hospital — just a half kilometer or so away.  This is not to detract from the pain and shock Deepak must have suffered at the time.  I thought about him all day — remembering how I had visited Aa – aw in the hospital in Thailand.  Aa – aw had to have the bottom quarter of his foot amputated and his recovery was slow and painful.  By the time of the picture that highlights this posting, he had returned to enjoying bicycle trips with the rest of us.  But, it wasn’t before he had skin stripped from both of his upper thighs to wrap around the stump where his toes used to be.  He had to take a lot of morphine for pain while in the hospital and I don’t like to think about it too much.  What are our responsibilities as caretakers of youth?  We can’t be everywhere all the time.  Of course, Deepak’s accident pales into insignificance compared to the earthquake that happened earlier this year.  I have devoted another whole blog to that and my students’ stories of their experiences.

This posting highlights, to me anyway, the synchronous nature of the events of this week.  Just the night before the accident, I had watched a video posted to Facebook by a cyclist I hosted during the earthquake.  He had arrived just in time to experience it with me as my guest at the time.  In his latest video from India, he had posted a short clip about a minor crash he had on his cycle — but it was noticed by me just the night before today’s accident.  I can only conclude that what we focus on in our day to day lives might become part of our experience if we aren’t cautious.  We don’t want to invite unwanted events into our daily experience unless we are prepared to deal with the consequences.  So, this is my first weirder posting and it certainly has impinged itself upon my consciousness.  I will try another topic with my students next term and hope for better luck.  Oh, a postscript:  Looking back at that picture that begins this posting:  the boy in the yellow life jacket apparently died in 2008 during the typhoon that struck Myanmar that year.  I was in China at the time and only heard his story after returning to Thailand.  He had left the shelter with his relative to visit a grandfather’s grave in Myanmar — another unlucky omen.  He never returned.  We also lost one child in the earthquake this year.  Our school hopes to set up a scholarship in his name soon.  It will be sponsored by the director of the school I worked at in China from 2009 to 2013.  I have a lot of strange tales left to tell but this one will do for a start.

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