Saturday, July 10, 2010

Top 10 Ways to Die in Cambodia, Redux

The longer Sara and I have spent in this wickedly wonderful country, we have discovered another host of ways one could perish. In honor of our nearly-complete summer adventure, I present to you Brekke’s Top 10 Ways to Die in Cambodia, Redux!

10. Falling off a Temple – Angkor Wat and the surrounding temple complex houses some of the world’s most stunning religious structures. Temples in all manner of degradation are sprinkled through tropical jungles. Ta Koa, a particularly steep Temple with miraculous views for those brave few willing to clamber to the top, has already claimed three lives this year. Because tourists are foolish enough to climb temples in flip flops, Falling off a temple ranks at number 10.

9. Being Struck by Lightening – The monsoon season has swung into high gear, and with the oppressing rain comes lightening storms. Although monsoon season has only been in effect about a month, 28 people have already died from being struck by lightning. The elements don’t play around in Southeast Asia! Because monsoon season is just beginning and the possibility for more lightning-related deaths is high, death by lightning strike is our number 9.

8. Being thrown from a moto – as your intrepid explorers moved from the country to the city, our form of local transport upgraded from our little rinky-dink bicycles (which we loved dearly) to speeding motos. It is customary for lady passengers to ride side-saddle as the whiz through clogged city streets. Unfortunately, this means perching precariously behind the driver, one butt cheek hanging off the back, legs dangling unprotected from oncoming traffic. Because of the destabilized position the risk of being rodeo-thrown into the street is high. Since only ladies ride side saddle, being thrown from a moto ranks number 8.

7. Spider bites – Cambodia has some of the largest spiders I have ever seen. Spiders the size of pancakes – no joke! – creepy-crawled through our field office.  The shrieks of intrepid explorers brought out spider-hunters who used gas, spray, shoes and a long pole to wrangle the beast. Because we’re now living in the city and marginally removed from nature, spider bites come in at number 7.

6. Snake bite – no, not the particularly tasty adult beverage, snake bites are common in rural Cambodia. Snakes and other assorted creepy-crawly creatures roam the countryside, lying in wait for unsuspecting explorers. Cambodia is home to an assortment of venomous reptilians, and Siem Reap (where Angkor Wat is located) hosts a restaurant that doubles as a snake farm for harvesting anti-venoum. Because snakes tend to stay in rural, forested areas, and we are now in the city, snake bites comes in just shy of the top 5 at number 6.

5. Dehydration, heat stroke, sun poisoning, etc – the sun is no joke here in Southeast Asia. Like the Central Americans, Cambodians take a siesta mid-day to escape the brutal sun. Being stuck out in that blistering heat has a plethora of adverse effects including: sun burn, sun poisoning, severe dehydration, heat exhaustion and ultimately heat stroke. With scarce and sub-par medical care, any of these treatable conditions can easily become life threatening. Because the elements are no joke (seriously, no joke), death from the ill effects of heat makes the top 5.

4. Murder-suicide form too much Khmer music – It may seem a little extreme, but a being trapped with constantly blasting Khmer music videos for a six hour bus ride is enough to drive any sane person to the edge. Pop music in Cambodia is quite different than Western pop music; Cambodians enjoy a slightly “edgy” (one might say off-key, leaning on intentionally sharp) quality to their vocal performance. In addition to bad 1980s keyboards, hours without respite is enough to gouge one’s eyes out, circumcise one’s eardrums, and blindly and deafly rampage through the crowded bus tearing out hears in the process. Think I’m exaggerating? Try listening to Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” on repeat for six hours and then you’ll get an idea (that actually would be better than Khmer music). Because we still have two 6-hour bus rides to look forward too, murder-suicide comes in at number 4.

3. Homesickness – the languid, wasting sickness that has claimed many a life of would-be intrepid explorers, homesickness strikes from out of the blue. The slow-killing disease rears its ugly head as explorers run out of minutes on their phone cards, episodes of Ugly Betty to watch, and consume the last few scraps of foods from home like raisin bran and cliff bars. Add any form of foreign illness to the mix and homesickness can be lethal. Because modern medications like Skype exist to alleviate symptoms, homesickness is our third worst/best way to die in Cambodia.

2. Worms or other assorted parasites – Contaminated drinking water, undercooked food, dishes handled by unwashed fingers can all lead to the contraction of worms or any number of unsavory parasitic creatures. These uninvited guests can range from relatively harmless belly worms, to little freeloaders who systematically attack your internal organs. Because it’s difficult to gage whether or not you’re infected and how severe the infection is, worms and parasites come in at number 2.

1. Being run over by a motorized vehicle – the transition from living in a predominantly rural town to a densely populated (yet mellow) metropolis is that traffic has increased about 3000%. While pedestrians are common, it doesn’t safeguard the walking citizen. Heedless SUVS, fearless motos and reckless tuk-tuks run stop lights, drive across sidewalks and engage in all manner of risky behavior – paying no mind to the helpless, slow-moving pedestrians caught in their path. As your intrepid explorers have given up their bicycles for the hustle and bustle of city life, walking is the main way of getting around. Because this is a new and improved for of auto-related death, it tops our second top 10 list as the number one best and worst way to die in Cambodia. 

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