Maria Teresa Ng
The rain and the wind was whipping my face so hard, it felt like I was being pricked by a thousand needles. I was sitting behind my father atop his motorcycle as we ride on the freeway during that one stormy night and I am remembering that moment as I sit behind a man I just met, riding a tuk tuk for the first time.
“This is the life,” I thought, “I finally feel like I’m actually living.”
It was also windy but the night sky was clear, and I could see signs that I don’t understand and it excites me further. This is my first solo trip abroad, and whatever doubts and fears I had just flew out of the window.
“HI!” a man shouts and waves from another tuk tuk beside me. “Wuhoo! Yeah!”, his companion joins him. Okay, maybe I’m keeping a little dose of doubt and fear. I gave them a stiff smile and looked ahead.
The tuk tuk is a two-wheeled carriage pulled by a motorcycle and it is the most common mode of transportation in Cambodia. The driver of this particular tuk tuk picked me up from the airport to bring me to the guesthouse where I was booked. It was already close to 11pm and the streets are quiet except for a few noisy tourists.
Xena, the driver, was courteous enough even as he told me that I had to pay extra because of the late hour. Pick up service is only free until 10pm, he said. He handed me the keys to my room when we reached the guesthouse and left me to my business. The room was surprisingly nice, the bed too big for one and the temperature comfortably cool. I jumped and silently screamed in joy and thanked God that I arrived safely.
I got robbed in my hometown several times and there are crimes happening every day, but my mother always told me that I never learned how to be afraid. That isn’t true. I got scared when my father almost killed her in anger, scared when the landlord evicted us from our apartment, scared when I jumped off a fifty foot cliff… the list goes on. But here I was, alone in a foreign country for the first time, trying to be brave.
I looked out of the window and saw that it began to rain. Just like that night with my father on the freeway. I was also scared that night, afraid that we’d slip and get ran down by the big cars. But I focused on the rain and how calming it was even if it was hurting me. It was the best sensation to date. And I guess being brave is just like that – you face the storm head on and enjoy it.
I pulled the curtains close and looked forward to being brave for a few days more.