When people found out that I was going to Ireland, they would always ask one thing:
The answer was always,
And our town was, indeed, a bit remote. For two months, my fellow students and I stayed in a little town called Ballyvaughan. And when I say little, I mean tiny. I’ve stayed in countryside villages before. Back when I lived in Germany, my little town of Monzelfeld had about 1,000 people. Heck, 1,000 was the size of my high school graduating class. To me, Monzelfeld seemed small.
Ballyvaughan boasts a population of almost 300 people.
So we got to experience, truly, the small-town country life. One of the first things we noticed? The roads.
Out in the Burren, the roads are long, narrow, and curvy. Unfortunately, the only way to get from Ballyvaughan to the college we were studying at was via one of these roads.
A van would drive us to and from the school at 9AM and 5PM every day. If we wanted to get to and from the school on our own time, though, we had to walk.
The speed limit around the area was 100 km/hr, about 60 miles per hour or so. Cars drive fast. To keep themselves safe and visible to drivers, people wear these when they walk anywhere:
Walking to school made me pretty nervous at first. It would be better if we could walk along, say, the side of the road on the grass or something. But no, both sides of the road to school were lined with stone walls, nettles, and thorn bushes.
After a while, I got used to it. Irish drivers– swift as they are– know what they’re doing. They’ll drive around pedestrians. If a car’s coming from the opposite direction, they’ll stop and make room. Some kids didn’t even bother wearing their vests in the daytime. Not me, though– I’m a bit too paranoid for that.
In fact, by by the 6th or 7th week, I wasn’t nervous at all. I wore my vest, but walked along with confidence.
And of course it’s when you let your guard down, that it happens.
My friend and I decided to walk to the local aviary for a bird show. We were told that, when walking along the road, you should always walk against traffic. When going around a bend in the road, however, you should always be on the outside. Otherwise, cars won’t be able to see you.
So, at a bend, I crossed the road to be visible. I made it safely to the other side. My friend was about to follow suit when it happened.
It came from behind me, so I didn’t see it coming: something hitting me, at great speed, knocking me clean to the ground.
It seemed like an instant, and yet, a long time. One moment I was happily walking, the next moment I was on the ground.
The impact swept me into the air and sent me rolling on the road for a couple feet.
And my shocked brain could only muster one reaction.
My friend ran over to me, shocked. A passing car stopped, the driver sprinting out to make sure I wasn’t dead. I didn’t see the car that hit me.
Whoa, give me a second, lady. I need to think about this.
It seemed that, in the split-second of collision, my brain had the good sense to scream:
I insinctively reached for something– anything– to prevent me from cracking my head on the pavement. The only thing within reach? Those goddamn thorn bushes along the side of the road, of course.
A cycling group passing by noticed me on the ground. They stopped, too, to make sure that the little Asian girl bleeding on the street was okay.
My biology-trained brain flashed back to middle school science class.
After a minute or so, the cyclists helped me to my feet and walked me to the kind passerby’s car. She started to clean up my cuts when I see a man sheepishly walk up. Turns out that he was the guy who hit me– and the first thing out of his mouth was an excuse:
The cyclists were on him in an instant.
The man just kept repeating himself. I don’t usually drive here! I’m in a rental car! I just moved to Ireland, I’m actually from Italy! It was between hitting the girl, and hitting the other car…and I was driving a rental car… so it would have been more expensive to hit the car…
It wasn’t until I spoke up that he finally agreed to give out his information.
One of the Irish cyclists came over to me.
Oh, man. I wasn’t exactly anticipating this. I rooted through my backpack with my non-bleeding hand.
So, I got the man’s name, address, number, and license plate. As soon as I did, he rushed to his car and drove away. One of the cyclists turned to me.
My friend called our professor– but, of course, our fine professor gave her cell phone to her au pair instead of carrying it with her. We had to contact our art college instead. Luckily, one of the program coordinators there volunteered to drive me over an hour away to the nearest hospital. Irish locals are kind like that– seriously, I’ve never met such a generous community in my life.
By the time we finally got to the hospital, the shock had worn off and I was feeling better. Still, I entered the ER. At the time of the accident, my right elbow was really sore and inflamed. The swelling had gone down since, but still. It’s definitely better to be safe than sorry. Especially after getting hit by a car.
A nurse disinfected my cuts and brought me to the doctor. The doctor proceeded to do a physical check-up.
By some miracle, I was actually alright. I was sore, bruised and a bit cut up– but all my bones were intact. Nothing was broken. All’s well that ends well, right?
So, a few hours after the accident, my sister received this phone call.
Alright, alright. As torn up as I am about my now-deceased camera, I have to say: I am, indeed, one lucky bastard.