2008.07.13: July 13, 2008: Headlines: COS - Cambodia: Blogs - Cambodia: Dogs: Personal Web Site: Peace Corps Volunteer Kampuchea1 writes: Night Rider

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Cambodia: Peace Corps Cambodia: Peace Corps Cambodia: Newest Stories: 2008.07.13: July 13, 2008: Headlines: COS - Cambodia: Blogs - Cambodia: Dogs: Personal Web Site: Peace Corps Volunteer Kampuchea1 writes: Night Rider

By Admin1 (admin) (151.196.46.182) on Saturday, February 14, 2009 - 5:18 pm: Edit Post

Peace Corps Volunteer Kampuchea1 writes: Night Rider

Peace Corps Volunteer Kampuchea1 writes: Night Rider

"At night, the dogs take over the roads and act out their own dramas. When I interrupt them, they arenít afraid of me or my bike. Even pedaling quickly, they will take on the chase and run after me, trying to go for my legs. The adrenaline really pumps then in the dark, when I race as fast as I can. I canít see the dogs that are following me, but I can feel them there, I can hear the rapid clip of their claws against the asphalt behind me, I can hear their hard panting. The first time the dogs chased me I was terrified. I outran them, but just barely. The second time it happened, I was prepared, had a good idea where most of the dogs would be, and laughed out loud when they couldnít keep up. The third time I came home at night from Neak Loeung, the dogs didnít chase me, then I realized I was disappointed."

Peace Corps Volunteer Kampuchea1 writes: Night Rider

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Night Rider

Caption: Dog and Mobile Gas Station by Infidelic Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic

Sometimes I have occasion to be away from my temple at night. Either Iím visiting the project Iím working with in the big market town Neak Loeung, seeing a friend working with an NGO whoís coming through on business, maybe having dinner with the friendly missionaries who live near town. Before, whenever I was away after dark, the family I normally eat dinners with and the head monk at the temple acted very concerned about my safety. They tried to dissuade me from going, saying itís not safe, asking me what would happen if I fell off my bike at night and I was all alone (I would be a 24 year old man with a skinned knee), trying to guilt me by saying Iím always coming and going (coming and going to them is leaving the village more than twice a year). Itís taken me a long time to establish some independence and get over the fear of plainly telling people what Iím going to do, whether they approve or not, but persistence has paid off. Being culturally sensitive is one thing (and the training I had beat me over the head with it), but you can lose yourself trying to fit into your hostís notion of what a foreigner should be and how they should act. Now instead of telling me that I canít go anywhere at night because I donít know whatís out there (which is true, I donít), they just tell me to arrange a motorbike to follow me on my way back. I say I will and we leave it at that. But Iím talking about a 6km stretch of road through a well populated area, and Iím too proud to have a motorbike put along behind me in first gear for a 15 minute bike rideÖ though honestly I can see why they might be concerned. Itís not gangsters or potholes that are going to get me, itís the dogs.

This isnít the first time Iíve written about dogs, but itís because thereís so many of them and theyíre always there. Always gnawing at their mange, scavenging, fighting, mating, howling to one another across the rice fields at nightóspreading sound like fires along watchtowersó until every dog is barking for miles. Last summer a street dog bit me on the leg and I had to have a series of rabies shots as a precaution. A few months ago, I turned around to kick a dog in the face that was chasing me while I was running in the morning. Iíve run that path at least 2 dozen times. If the dogs arenít used to my scent by now, Iím not taking responsibility for them picking a fight. Anyway, I didnít kick it hard, more just kind of flicked it. It might have gotten air, but only a few inches. Last month, I saw a group of motorbike taxi drivers armed with chunks of cinder block chasing down a rabid dog in the street. When one of them cracked open the dogís front leg with a piece, I watched the man toss back his head and laugh with malevolent schoolboy glee. I always root for the underdog, so I didnít want to stick around to see the conclusion.

Itís almost pitch black when I ride my bike through Peam Ro District on Cambodiaís Route 1 at night. I can see the moonís dim reflection off the Mekong River only a few meters away. I can see the eerie red signaling of the new cell phone towers spaced every few kilometers along the road. Otherwise itís just the flashlight attached the front of my bikeó no street lights, no cars, no glow from the houses. When the dark settles in, the dogs lose their timidity. They no longer have to contend with motorbikes and freight trucks. At night, the dogs take over the roads and act out their own dramas. When I interrupt them, they arenít afraid of me or my bike. Even pedaling quickly, they will take on the chase and run after me, trying to go for my legs. The adrenaline really pumps then in the dark, when I race as fast as I can. I canít see the dogs that are following me, but I can feel them there, I can hear the rapid clip of their claws against the asphalt behind me, I can hear their hard panting. The first time the dogs chased me I was terrified. I outran them, but just barely. The second time it happened, I was prepared, had a good idea where most of the dogs would be, and laughed out loud when they couldnít keep up. The third time I came home at night from Neak Loeung, the dogs didnít chase me, then I realized I was disappointed.

Earlier this year I bolted straight up in bed in the middle of the night. When I turned on my flashlight, I realized my cheap metal wardrobe had collapsed and crashed to the ground. There were a few straight, unrusted aluminum bars that I salvaged. I kept them, but I didnít know what to do with them. Now I do.

Now when I go to Neak Loeung at night, I bring a half meter long stick of metal. On my way back, I keep a quick pace, but when I see the two round glints of their eyes in reflected flash light, I purse my lips together and suck in a bit of air (kiss kiss). That works pretty well to get them going. Then I just speed on as fast as I can. I understand that itís stupid and reckless to taunt a dog into chasing you, especially in Cambodia and especially at night, but itís pretty fun.

Sharing the road with cows, seeing the food I eat before itís dead, and killing tarantulas with old copies of Newsweek has become a normal part of my routine, and I've stopped anthropomorphizing animals so much. I'm seeing them less as human, and I'm seeing myself as more animal. I love animals (including humans), but a part of my life in Cambodia is defending myself and my space from them. And occasionally, like when Iím out night riding, I will have a little fun with them. Iím not looking to beat a dog, because the thrill is in the chase, but I will hit one if I have to. In Cambodia, a pet dog is usually named ďdog.Ē Thatís because when it gets hit by a car, you donít bury it in the backyard, you have a barbeque and invite the neighbors.




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Headlines: July, 2008; Peace Corps Cambodia; Directory of Cambodia RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Cambodia RPCVs; Blogs - Cambodia; Dogs





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Story Source: Personal Web Site

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Cambodia; Blogs - Cambodia; Dogs

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