Today was full of activities:
- A wet market, similar to an indoor farmers market-type setup where we could watch the locals grocery shop...and see the butchers chop up poultry right in front of us. Sick.
- A homestay house, where we got the chance to walk through a small Malaysian house and take in the big front sitting area, tiny kitchen, and harbour-like river running through the backyard. The family even prepared a few traditional dishes for us to enjoy before boarding the bus.
- A butterfly farm. It was a little frightening to have these spotted butterflies batting their wings in my face, but the habitat was nice and I got some great photos.
- A fruit farm, which required an uphill trek through groves of trees in the HOT weather. Not the most pleasant, but we were able to pick and taste waterapples (very sour) and chili cherries (funky concept, but they're pretty tasty) before reaching to top, where a fruit buffet had been set up. We filled our plates with fresh starfruit, jackfruit, coconut, papaya, mango, durian (which smells awful, kind of putting off the taste), pineapple and watermelon, but the best part was when we were each handed a drink voucher for a free glass of freshly made fruit juice. I had a delicious mango-pineapple concoction, but my friend ordered the recommended pineapple-nutmeg combo and that was most impressive.
After we got home, everyone decided to soak up the last rays of sunshine by the pool before we had to leave the next day (since it was likely going to be raining in Sydney. Boo.) My friend Carol ran up from the beach and asked if anyone wanted to join her and a few others on a banana boat (essentially a fruit-shaped inflatable raft that's pulled across the water behind a speedboat), and since I hadn't taken advantage of any of the cheap water sports yet (parasailing = RM50, banana boating = RM13, etc.), I said yes.
Seven of us climbed aboard the banana boat - I right behind this guy Toby, who was in front) - and waited for the speedboat to come pick us up. One of the boating staff held our boat in place in the water and splashed us to keep us entertained, but I couldn't tear my eyes away from the water: across the surface was everything from potato chip bags to dead fish and condoms. Even the beach was strewn with trash. Hmm, why hadn't I noticed these details before I'd hopped on the banana boat?
When we were finally hooked up to the speedboat and started making our way down the beach, I decided to take this as an opportunity to see more of the Penang coast. At first the ride was flat and pleasant, but after a minute and a half of this, the boat drivers decided to mix it up a bit. They started swaying the boat left and right, making the banana boat bump lightly over the small waves as my fellow riders laughed with glee. Deciding to step it up a bit, the drivers went for a particularly wide turn, making a much bigger wave. Rather than just coasting over this one though, the wave caught the bottom of the banana boat, and despite our efforts to lean collectively to the right and balance it out, the boat overturned to the right, causing us to spill into the murky water.
Somehow, I ended up flying backwards at a weird angle and hitting Ko, a guy sitting two spaces behind me, with the back of my head. Somersaulting through the water, I could feel a painful sensation in my head and numbness overtaking through my nerves as I surfaced, spluttering. I put one hand to my head to ward off the oncoming headache, feeling dazed and tingly. What was going on?
The boat guys called to me to board the banana boat with the others, but as I removed my hand from my scalp, I noticed a stream of blood making its way down my arm. Feeling alarmed, I touched my head again, and this time saw that blood was actually streaming through my hair and onto my left shoulder. I looked up at the speedboat drivers and demanded they immediately take me back to the beach.
We reached the Holiday Inn Resort in no time, which was fortunate because by now, I was fully panicked: my head was throbbing, my face felt numb, blood was continuing to stream through my hair onto my bathing suit, and these things combined were causing me to begin hyperventilating. Carol walked me to the hotel restaurant, and my friends - bless their hearts - immediately began covering my shaking self with towels and their t-shirts, bringing glasses of cordial and water from the bar while I waited for a nearby doctor to arrive.
I was driven to a nearby clinic down the street with my friend Ravi and one of the trip advisers, Stella, where I received EIGHT stitches on my two-inch long laceration before being taken to the Adventist hospital (which is actually an American hospital) for x-rays. At the hospital, the nurses further cleaned my cut and had to shave about 1/2 an inch around it in order to apply a bandage. Good thing I have thick hair - you could hardly notice it with my hair down. I made friends with the nurse, a fiftysomething man called Ooi, who talked to me about his grandkids in Manchester, England and the importance of living a happy life while I waited for my x-rays.
Fortunately, there was no damage other than a nice sized bump on my head, so I picked up my antibiotics and headed back to the hotel to order room service and get some much needed sleep before flying out the next day.
Now I just have two papers - one research, one reflection - and I'll have earned my six credits. Can't say it wasn't memorable...