The Market Crash 2008: How I was left without a leg to stand on

Dreamy dreamy Saigon. Wandering surefootedly through the many fabulous markets, grazing a bit here and there on banh mi and rambutans. Dictating notes to myself on my spanky new digital recorder in the giant supermarket (Coop) – oh wonder of wonders (can you believe the special stock cubes for pho are just salt, sugar, beef powder, garlic, onion and msg? What about the ginger, the star anise, the cardamom, cinnamon and cloves?). A glorious start to my eight days for research in Saigon. Until…

I rounded a corner slowly, gazing at the next row of brilliant greens and browns, and suddenly my ankle rolled over an unexpected dip in the pavement of approximately 4 inches (picture ankle hitting the lower ground before the foot, if you can) and I felt a ‘pop’ as I caught myself on a stall and kept from falling. I stopped, leaning on the table, and watched along with a small crowd as what appeared to be the top of a bottle cap came immediately swelling from just below my ankle (very ‘Alien’ moment), to quickly morph into more of an emu egg. Using labour breathing to cope with the pain, I tried to work out what to do as some locals brought me a chair, someone applied what I suspect was tiger balm and another applied ice.

A kindly cyclo driver helped me hobble into his vehicle and dashed me off to what he kept calling the ‘hospital’, which was in fact a pharmacy. He cycled me straight up to the counter, where they looked at the egg on my foot and my horrified expression and shoved a handful of pills and instructions at me (they were anti-edema, muscle-healing and other assorted oddities) for a grand $4 before the cyclo driver took me home to my friend Billy’s.

Fortunately, Billy’s housemate Brigid was home, and she took me immediately to a western medical centre, where I was given codeine, an x-ray, sent to a local hospital for a catscan (very cool pictures) and crutches. I returned the following morning to have a cast put on after the swelling had gone down some. The catscan shows a small fracture of the left lateral colloide, which is just above the far left metatarcel on my left foot. It’s actually a small piece of bone that’s broken off said colloide, as opposed to broken in half. I’m told the body will absorb the piece eventually. I think I should suck some marrow.

So my trip is now definitely more focused on conducting interviews with a raised foot than market wanderings and musings, which may be all for the best anyway. In fact, I went straight from the doctor’s to my first interview – can’t waste any time or money! Crutches, which I suspect are pretty awful at the best of times, are a true art on the uneven roads of Saigon. And my first pair were craptacular pine, which split last night when somebody knocked them over. I have now upgraded to very flash metal crutches. My arms are getting past the soreness that comes with supporting yourself for days, and my right thigh is rippling muscle. Don’t ask about the left leg.

For those interested, the market crash hurt like hell. We won’t speculate about whether there’s damage to tendons or ligaments until the cast comes off in about a month, for fear of a depression. A single quarter of negative growth should teach me to live within my means, and to keep my eyes on the ground rather than the horizon.

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Tammi Jonas

The infrequent and imperfect yet impassioned musings of a farmer, meatsmith, mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend and cultural commentator with a penchant for food and community.

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