***Before you read this, please know that the person in this story does not reflect the overall population of people living in Cambodia. Also, no puppies died.
On Sunday, I had brunch with a friend from out of town and did some trip planning for the next few months at a nearby coffee shop. Planning vacations puts me in the best mood, and I was excited to get home and put it all into my calendar. I hopped into a tuk tuk and back to the house. As I wrote about last week, I take tuk tuks around town when I am doing errands, and I went with a driver that I didn’t know that day. He was polite and had good english, and the only thing shady about him was the popped collar on his pink polo.
We rounded the corner and as we did I saw a puppy trotting along the side walk. The cute little thing walked into the street, and before I could say anything, I heard a yelp of the worst kind. Our tuk tuk driver had hit the little dude. The yelping continued for a second and I saw the puppy scurry out from under us to the sidewalk, where the owners were sitting. He was limping a little bit and clearly shaken up, but alive. The driver was laughing, I was not.
Now, I won’t write what I said, there is enough bad language on the internet, but it was harsh, and it was LOUD. I couldn’t believe that someone would laugh after running over a puppy, it feels evil. I know it’s common for some people here to laugh when they are uncomfortable, something I am not totally used to, but I get it. This was different, it was not a nervous giggle, it was a laugh, and clearly amusing to this guy.
You know that scene in High Fidelity, when John Cusak’s character plays out all the ways he would smash Tim Robbins’ face in? This felt a little bit like that.
1. Beat the bejesus out of the tuk tuk driver.
2. Throw the driver to the ground and then run him over with his tuk tuk screaming “HOW DO YOU LIKE IT??!?! HUH??!?”
3. Pick up the puppy and take it for my own. Rename it Crash Davis and never leave it’s side.
4. Cry and buy a plane ticket back to America
5. Do something realistic/constructive.
Now, I did cry a little. The angry, ugly cry, that makes me bright red and silent. The feelings snowballed and made me think about all the things that frustrate me here; the lack of regard for life, the corruption, the racism, the sexism, the homophobic bullshit everywhere, and the sexpats. This was not helpful. When I got home, I ate a bunch of cheese and thought about what I could do that could actually change things, and one thing came to mind. PAWS is an organization here that acts as a humane shelter and adoption center for animals. It’s the only one of its kind in the city, and they do a lot of good work. So instead of hunting down the tuk tuk driver and throwing him in the river (what I wanted to do), I made a donation. It’s not a cure all, but it might help another puppy.
As I am writing this, I am fully aware that I am sounding a little bit “look at me, I did a nice thing, I’m so great.” I am also fully aware of the poverty situation in Cambodia, and that there are bigger issues than puppies. It’s not intended to be about that. I am writing about this because I am learning to live in a place with a laundry list of intense political and social issues. It’s intensely frustrating some days, but doing things like this help me balance a little when I am feeling helpless. There are plenty of things to get angry at here, as there are in every country, and I am glad that I can’t get used to seeing terrible stuff. Some things deserve anger. For me, it’s better to do something good after seeing something bad. It’s probably a false sense of balance, but it works.
I hope that didn’t bum everyone out. To offset the sad vibes, here is a rhino that thinks its a sheep.
Also, I don’t know any of the people who work at PAWS, they didn’t ask me to write this, but I think what they are doing is pretty great. If you feel like donating to PAWS, you can here.