Motorbike Reality Check

I witnessed a horrific motorbike crash yesterday. The driver was going to pass a taxi on the right (we drive on the left here, and passing in this way is totally normal); the taxi swerved right to avoid a car pulling out of parking to his left; the motorbike driver hit the taxi and went flying off his bike and to the right of the road.

Motorbike accidents aren’t unusual here. The fact that I haven’t seen a bad one until yesterday is.

What I remember most vividly about this wreck is the sound of the motorbike hitting and then being crushed by the taxi.

What makes me most sad about this wreck is that, reportedly, the motorbike driver broke his neck.

Life in Indonesia is no walk in the park. Families of five using motorbikes for transportation is merely one testament to that statement. Now one family is short one son, one brother, maybe one father.  And one motorbike.

This morning I woke up early and took a long walk on the beach. I walk 15 minutes each way to get to the beach, through dirty, narrow, rubbish-strewn, stray dog filled streets. At 6:30 a.m. the walk is very different than during the day. The early morning lives of hard-working Indonesians are on public display; there is no ojek asking “you need transport?” or t-shirt hawker chasing you down. It’s so much more “real” and raw without the tourists.

As I walked I thought about the motorbike driver and his family. Where is he now? Is he alive? Can his family afford the hospital to keep him alive? To help him heal? Can he heal? If he does, then what?

My petty insecurities and worries – how can they possibly compare to the pain his family is suffering right now?

If there’s anything I’ve learned during my time in Indonesia is that as an American I can’t POSSIBLY truly understand the challenges most Indonesians face every day. Comparing my life to theirs is mind-boggling and humbling – there’s just no way to really even do it. I know that I won’t go hungry today or tomorrow or probably ever; I won’t ever have to sleep outside or on a beach or even without a bed unless I WANT to. Few people here can say make any of these statements with ANY amount of certainty.

I look at my life, my possessions, my future, and even now – when I’ve basically quit my American life to follow a dream – I am secure. I’m safe. I’m cared for and supported by a network of incredible family and friends. I have enough money to live comfortably, even luxuriously by Indonesian standards.

Sometimes I just feel like a coddled, spoiled brat. Especially when I open my eyes to the  harsh realities others face every day – and with a smile, no less.

As much as I want to put the motorbike driver and accident out of my head, I cannot. I should not. I NEEDED to witness that accident to awaken from my tourist stupor, and to urge me put my gifts, skills, and privilege to work.

About Heather

I am a career educator transitioning into a life that will allow me to combine my passion for education with travel and writing. Come with me on the adventure of a lifetime!
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3 Responses to Motorbike Reality Check

  1. sarah moody says:

    What a moving accident to observe-so upsetting. By the way you are not a spoiled brat! xoxo

  2. I used to travel crossing Lombok island west to east end return on a weekly basis. And most of the time I saw brain (literally speaking) splattered on the road. Motorcycle accident. So very common that people see it as a usual daily life. And it is very difficult to get people to just use a proper crash helmet and do safety riding. Even here in Lagoi.

    Observing it once is a mind opener. See it everyday and you’ll get used. Hopefully not, though.

    • Heather says:

      Wow Ranan. That just made me throw up a little JJ. Not to make light of the subject. Horrible visual. Yes, I just bought a very sturdy helmet. It will be my travel companion from now on.

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