The news just announced the second death of an American resulting from the recent earthquake/tsunami disaster in Japan. His name was Monty Dickson and he was a 26-year-old English teacher. The only other confirmed American death is Taylor Anderson, 24, also an English teacher.
It hits close to home, for obvious reasons. I didn’t know them or anything, but we are all a part of the foreign teacher club. We are all Americans all traveling and living and teaching in a country very, very different from our own. So when someone similar to you dies in a disaster, it makes you stop and think.
In an MSN article about Monty his family is quoted as saying,
“He loved it there in Japan. He loved the students and he loved all the culture. He always called me or wrote through emails the joy he had of living there, and I know it was a place he wanted to be. I know he lived the life that he wanted,” she said. “But, he had a lot of goals still left to fulfill and (his life) was cut too short.”
I think that quote could easily be about me or Ryan as well. Actually, I think that quote could be for the majority of people, not just foreign teachers but for all travelers as well. We wouldn’t change our lives just because of some remote possibility of danger.
If someone told me I would die if I came to China, would I have still come? Of course not. I would stay away and have no regrets. But if someone told me I might die if I came to China then I would forge on.
The simple truth of the matter is that you can die anywhere. I mean, just getting in a car is dangerous these days. The number one cause of death in humans is heart disease. That could happen anywhere, at anytime. (Actually, I would imagine that on the whole travelers would have a lower rate of heart disease due to the amount of physical activity the average traveler does.)
But statistics aside, does dying while traveling scare me? No. I mean, the tsunami was a total freak incident, and a major tragedy, but nothing one can worry about on a daily basis. I will tell you what does worry me. Getting seriously, suddenly hurt. If something happens and I can’t talk I wonder what will happen? Ambulances are pretty dismal here and sometimes people just panic if a foreigner is involved. I’m worried that someone could hit me with a car or scooter, panic, take off, and I would die bleeding on the side of the street. (Plus there have been some pretty sad tales of recent hit and runs, and hit, hit, hit and runs, and hit and stabs.)
I’ve also heard some less than reassuring stories about common, but serious injuries, like, slicing your hand open while cutting a box. We live near Hangzhou, which has some high quality foreign hospitals, but that is over an hour away. What if I cut open my hand and need immediate care? I would be at the mercy of the local doctors which doesn’t instill me with the most confidence. (I do live in the boonies after all.)
I’m not trying to be morbid or anything (and I’m really hoping this doesn’t turn out to be an ironic blog post) but I try to be as safe don’t dwell on the worst. If I valued safety over all I would never leave my house. And if the unthinkable happened well, let’s just hope it doesn’t.
I just know that I live my life the way I want to, not the safest way. I’m not some crazy thrill seeker jumping out of planes, just a normal person trying to live a life in new and different places. Whatever might happen I have no regrets. I hope the other teachers felt the same way and I am sorry for their deaths, but happy for their lives.