The Sen Sok Commune comprised of 16 villages is nearly 2 hours away and most of the villages with our Safe Haven kids are only accessible via our big motocross moto bikes. Unless it’s raining, in which case, we need a boat. With 16 kids to visit, Roza, Dr. Karen Froud, Pierre and I decided to get an early start. Karen had originally wanted to bring one of her speech and language graduate students from Columbia University who is here with her but we only own two of the larger motos capable of getting to where we’re going and frankly, I barely fit on the back of one. Normally, I am stuck sitting on the metal luggage rack but Roza, mindful of the long ride ahead, thoughtfully welding a seat extension on the back. What it makes up for in comfort, it serious lacks in stability. I’m perched up pretty high behind him and unless I want to use my knees against the exhaust pipe, I have no way to really grip the bike. But half of fun of field work is the nearly getting killed while getting there part.
40 minutes outside the city, I’m enjoying the gorgeous greens of the rice fields as they flash by and idly wondering why my calf is feeling so hot. I’m pretty close to said exhaust pipe so I am figuring it is a discomfort I’m going to have to get used to when I notice Roza is having trouble switching gears and I smell something burning. He pulls over and we both hop off the bike while Pierre and Karen pull up behind us. Flames are shooting out of the wheel well. Our brake has somehow snapped off track and is lodged against the wheel. The friction has caused the bike to catch on fire. I spin around and Roza grabs a bottle of water sticking out of the side of my pack and douses the flames. As it steams and hisses, Roza is dismayed to discover our impromptu fire extinguisher is a bottle of Evian.
“I cannot believe I used the expensive water. This cost $2! I should have used the cheap water.”