In a difficult moment, I’m present…

Some descriptions are inevitably dense. Even with a superlative list of adjectives or with the help of a camera, some moments just can’t be accurately captured.

Of course, both good and bad experiences happen. Everywhere. Everyday. And obviously, not just in Peace Corps. Depending where we are in life, the bad can take over, or the bad can just as easily be suppressed. The good can go unappreciated, or the good can trap us. Personally, it’s best I confront what it is, good or bad, and let it go. Take whatever needs to be taken and then release it. Always moving forward.

This recount is not meant to increase worry or doubt in anyone’s safety. It is only meant to heighten awareness and provide those you need it, support. It’s not meant to place my host country in a bad light. I hesitated for some time before posting this blog, but as one volunteer simply stated, “reality—this is the reality we’re faced with…” Some realities can be unkind. Perhaps because of such, this might seem dramatically written, a tad darker than my usual blogs, or a bit poetic, but I didn’t want to change it because this was recorded immediately after it happened. This hasn’t tainted my Peace Corps experiences, it’s just made me realize how tough I am. Finally, these moments can never be captured perfectly, but this is as perfectly as I was able to describe my feelings at the time.

My mind was still. The bus was on the move. Children were gnawing away at candy until their teeth turned black in the seats across from me. A man in front of my seat was sucking on his teeth and smacking his lips upon entering fried sponge-like tofu into his mouth.

My reactive nerves inside my body were blinking, but my external state appeared unresponsive. There was no contemplation, I did not shut my eyelids or release my peripheral focus. My heart seemed calm and pulse felt normal, but I could feel the throbbing heartbeat in my wrists. My blood could have been boiling it was coursing so rapidly. It made my entire body hot. I deepened my breathe that entered my nostrils. I don’t remember my legs, however, my feet were ready to move and the clenches in my fists were strong enough to turn my knuckles white.

Slam. My left shoulder hit the corner of the window.

Steady. My right elbow jabbed forcefully.

Tense. I felt a shift in speed.

Stop. Everything came to a complete halt.

My fists were still tight and aching with pain. Pulse still pumping. Breathe even deeper like a steady tide from an ocean wave. A wave that crushes down onto the sand and gracefully dances to the shore until pulled back again.

Crack. The bus kept on moving. The tension in my body released loudly. My tear ducks flooded, I heard nothing but the streams from my eyes.

Anger. Heat in my body continued to spread. The liquid from my face was a message from my entire body. I wanted to jump out of my skin to shatter the feeling.

I was so in control, but I couldn’t hold back my anger. upset. fear. Unable to understand where I went wrong. I could no longer find the wave in my breathing. There were just the crushes and then ungraceful sips of air. I shook my head and tried to erase the memory, the smell, the visual, the emptiness.

Fragile. I resented the appearance of weakness. Easy to be taken advantage of, easy to be made a target. I was my own trap. Unfair that my overcautious self should have been more cautious. In my head I kept thinking, there is no solution, only cases that are worse. This is why my shoulders are a tad closer to my ears than normal. When we witness a bit of the dark side and hone into the reality of some people’s intentions, we unfold a layer from our eyes, we see the missing souls, the unkind presence, and the selfishness.

I could have kept the steam of water coming. I could have continued to seethe. But I couldn’t do anything more with this feeling. It was over; I was still alone, surrounded by people that now sat like gorgoyles and stared. For a few moments when I needed help I appeared invisible, as if my body formed into quick sand and seeped into the back of the seat. I suddenly reappeared with a blotchy wet face.


When I stepped off the bus and watched it continue down the road, I thought about the assault.

I listed in my memory a clear description of the assailant who attempted to rob or hurt me. He approached me twice. Both times people watched. But at the time that was none of my concern. The first time I was caught off guard. He grabbed my necklaces and I stomped on his foot and he ran to the front of the bus as if to disembark. He didn’t and as soon as I was ready to make a move to change seats he traveled back for a second round. He stood there and trapped me in my seat, and shouted at me while pulling on his shirt and flailing his arms about. This goon attempted to daunt me. It had worked, I was furious, but reminded myself to stay calm. I knew if I would have tried to escape or reacted he would have made a move. When the bus came to a stop that’s when he pushed me against the window and grabbed my hand that was already balled up in a fist and could have easily struck his chin. Resisting the initial urge to react was hard. I turned my head to face him and read the fear in his eyes when mine met his. That’s when I jabbed him in the side with my elbow and then the bus attendant finally ran him off the bus. I did not completely lose focus or allow myself to be upset until he was gone.

Once the bus became a blur down the road, I stood and observed before crossing the busy street. I took some clear shots of my surroundings: a group gathered in a coffee warung, workers making cement, a man pulling up grass. The world was still in motion and I had to keep moving. I was together, in one piece, returned to calm. I filled up on lungs. I paused. Exhaled. Finally, I stepped out onto the pavement and crossed the street, alone, surrounded by people, in the broad daylight, on a clear Wednesday afternoon.

2 thoughts on “In a difficult moment, I’m present…

  1. Maryellen –

    I know that you were always a strong person – this is clear evidence of that. Good for you for staying so calm and for your quick thinking. I’m sure you even surprised yourself at how rational you handled that situation. This is a reminder that the world can be a scary place but there is good in it too.

    So glad you’re OK and thanks for sharing. I love you and miss you!

  2. I bet he ran when he saw your field hockey face! Seriously though, so glad you’re okay. It sounds like you handled that situation admirably; probably not how I would have handled it.

    By the way, I love the green on your blog! It’s about that time of year.

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