I broke this entry into two parts because it was getting long… so you can read the first part about the Kinmen races or scroll straight to the second if you only want to hear my dramatic story of getting bit by a dog!
Part I: Off To The Races
We had quite the weekend. It started early Saturday morning with the Kinmen 5K. Ammi and I joined my co-teacher Jimmy and friend Pauline at 5:45AM to get registered and start the race. We were freezing cold, but had a great time. My favorite was passing the onlookers and the old men that would stand stone-faced, blaring air horns. This site was only embellished by the little old women smiling and waving gold pom-poms. Sometimes I just can’t get enough of this little place!
As Ammi and I were turning the last corner, we could see the finish line up ahead and I told her when we should start sprinting to finish strong (not that we were even going for time… there were 160K+ participants and it took us awhile to even navigate around them). But as soon as we were about to make our dash I hear “Excuse me! Excuse me!” I look and see a group coming off the sidewalk with a large camera. “We are making a video, will you help us? We just need you to smile for 5 seconds.” Of course we agree to this moment of stardom, so we stop dead in our tracks, throw up two thumbs and smile. Then we proceed to our finish-line glory. This, however, turned out to be anti-climactic…what we thought was the finish line was the starting line ONLY and instead people just kind of stopped at some vague point and started walking to get food and their award of a small bottle of Kaoliang (Kinmen’s finest liquor).
Fortunately, we had a ticket for “tasty food” (translated in English), so we joined the masses and went to redeem it right away. Now, if any of you have run races in the States, you know that after-race food is usually something monumental like pizza, bagels, chips… all that stuff you feel like you’ve “earned” at this point and the real reason you chose to run anyway. This time we received a bowl of noodles with nuts, broth and other ingredients pulled out of a field. So much for my junk food craving! But, it was indeed tasty and warmed us up in the cold. As soon as we were about to sit down on the grass, a group of men walk over with white smiles and blue jumpsuits. One man looked at us, points to the guy next to him and says “the mayor of Kinmen!” We of course stand erect again and say “ni-hao!” and make the courteous bow. The mayor wanted a picture with us so we obliged and put another thumbs up as he chanted “Kinmen is good!”
The next morning was the half and full marathon. SJ and I got up early to go cheer Victoria (for her first half!) and Pauline (who was actually running this one… she and Jimmy had walked the 5K). They did awesome and after we took obligatory photos with their medals, we proceeded to get their “tasty food”. As we were sitting watching them eat, Jimmy goes “Ah, look at this! Ammi and Elyse are in the paper!” Sure enough. There we are standing with the mayor, with our thumbs in the air. The headline read “Even Foreigners Love the Mayor!” Pauline exclaimed “But they only ran the 5K!” as she sat there sore from 13.1 miles. I’m not sure what was funnier – the fact that we had gotten this fame and only run a 5K or that the mayor had asked to take a picture with US and then touted how much we loved him
Part II: Neighbor Dogs and Taiwan Ambulances
Everyone heads home after the race and we decide to let the runners take showers and then go out for lunch. Jimmy and Pauline decline, but the rest of us start talking about where to eat. SJ is the only one with a scooter currently, because she owns hers and the rest of us turned in our rentals so we didn’t have to pay for them over winter break. With this in mind, she decides to drives us down to the restaurant one by one, beginning with Ammi. Victoria is showering and I decide to start walking – that way SJ wouldn’t have to drive all the way back to our apartment.
I bring my new camera along so I can play with it on my way. As I proceed down our street, I see one of the neighborhood dogs up ahead. I take a shot and then he runs away as a scooter comes around the corner. I keep walking. Next thing I know he’s trotting up to me. He’s a well-groomed dog with a collar (we have plenty of strays that are really rough looking), so I know he is owned by someone. I say hello as he approaches. He wasn’t growling and his hair wasn’t raised, so I think nothing of it and I put down my hand (not reaching, just for him to smell it). I quickly realize this wasn’t going to be a friendly interaction so I start to pull away but was too late and he lunged, sinking his teeth into the skin between my thumb and pointer finger. As I try escaping, he goes for my leg and only gets a small piece before I make it around the corner and he backs off.
I’m in pain, but I think that if I can just hold out for a few minutes, I can probably shake it off. But I shouldn’t keep walking. I had been up since 6:15 and barely had any breakfast, or water for that matter, because our water machine was broken. Not eating makes me struggle with low blood sugar, so I know that’s not helping my situation.
I wait, trying to catch my breath, and feeling relieved when I saw SJ coming up the hill. She pulled up and we were our usual sarcastic selves as she quipped “Wow, you didn’t make it far!” and I retorted that I’d been bit by a dog. This of course sparked her questions – maybe we should get you to a doctor, what do you need, how about I drive you home? But I knew I couldn’t get on the scooter at this point.
With this, I lower myself off the brick wall onto the ground and lean up against it… I ask for juice or something sweet because, despite all my self-talk, I knew I was fading. The last thing I remember was seeing Pauline on the back of Jimmy’s scooter yelling “teacher Elyse!”
I’m not really sure how to describe fainting to those who haven’t experienced it. It’s like falling into a deep sleep – so deep that you don’t remember your present circumstances. I had concentrated so hard to stay alert after the dog bite and then I forgot all about it. When I woke up, I heard Jimmy’s voice speaking to me and I began to remember I was in Kinmen. Then I saw the scene before me: Jimmy was holding me up, Pauline was furiously unwrapping cookies and trying to feed them to me and SJ was explaining what had happened. A car pulled up and I heard a mixture of Chinese and English and Jimmy raised my hand to show someone the injury. The pain shot through my arm and I was out cold again. I wake up this time to an ambulance and at least four medical personnel pulling out a stretcher:
“Yī, Èr, Sān!(1, 2, 3)!” BAM. The stretcher hits the ground.
“Oh no… there’s no way I’m gonna fit on a Taiwanese stretcher!”
While all of this was taking place, another EMT had been cleaning and dressing my hand and putting an oxygen mask around my head. Then, they start the process of lifting me onto the stretcher.
“I’m the biggest white girl they’ve ever seen! Can they even lift me?? Act light. Act light!”
Next thing I knew, I was on the stretcher in the back of the ambulance with Pauline by my side as they slammed the door and we whirred away.
I was able to stay conscious at this point because of the oxygen mask (oh, and Pauline now feeding me chocolate…). Next thing I know, we’ve arrived at the hospital and I am surrounded by more Chinese-speaking medical personnel.
“They could do absolutely anything they want with me and I’m totally helpless at this point. I can’t feel my right hand and my feet are strapped to this tiny stretcher!”
They wheel me into a room and start unzipping my coat. A bunch of crumbs fall out and I start to realize that I looked like a hobo: I was wearing a stocking cap (now helplessly coming off my head), wrapped in Jimmy’s scarf, and they found me unconscious, propped up against a brick wall on the street.
I was far past the useful point of being self-conscious though, so instead I shifted my focus to familiar faces I see in the background! Bethany, Drew, Cami and Matt walk into the room. Pauline left and Bethany took the lead. A nurse cleans the wounds again and I get a tetanus shot along with pain killers and antibiotics.
I’m feeling fully awake at this point and able to eat food. Soon, SJ and Ammi walk in and all of us do what we do best: laugh at the craziness of it all. Matt and Cami drive me home and I opt to take it easy the rest of the day. Fortunately, one of our favorite restaurants was close to the hospital so SJ and Ammi picked up food for us and we finally got to eat lunch.
There’s certainly never a dull moment in our household. I’m still amazed at the timing and sequence of events, though.
- SJ rarely drives that route home. This time, she did.
- Pauline and Jimmy just happened to be driving by and see us – SJ hadn’t called them. Then, they just happened to have food and water with them. They could call an ambulance and explain everything in Chinese.
- Bethany, Drew, Cami and Matt weren’t far and were able to be to the hospital as soon as I was.
- The dog was collared which means he’d had his shots already and I didn’t need to worry about rabies.
- I found out Jimmy and Pauline had bought me a lunchbox; a lifesaver that night when I needed food to eat before I took my medicine.
- My roommates were there through the whole thing and we all sat in our living room afterwards telling our sides of the story and laughing at the drama.
I’m surrounded by wonderful people who would do anything for anyone when they need it. And God knows… I need it.