When you go slow:
1. You see squashed, trodden, flattened, dried, run over, abandoned, dead animals by the side of roads
The first time we came across a dead animal (what was it? A bird?) I swerved around, avoiding the poor animal. What the f***! Did y’all see that? And then there were rats, monitor lizards, cats, dogs, maybe a crocodile – sometimes you just can’t tell anymore. You smell them and feel this sick grumble in my gut and try to avoid it every time you see one. But after a while you don’t anymore. You get used to the sight and smell; it doesn’t feel as gross anymore. Sometimes it just looks like some dried leaves with little branches, brown and dried up; you save the trouble of avoiding such harmless things and then realise that that might have been a bird. Then you start playing a game because you are bored – what is the next animal?
2. You find yourself with time to interact with people
Early this morning while cycling along the main road, with cars whizzing past, I spotted a Chinese uncle cycling in the opposite direction on the other side of the road. I looked at him, and he looked at me. I raised my arm, waved, and shouted, “Uncle zao (good morning uncle)!” He smiled and waved back. We shared a moment in that five seconds along a busy road, both travelling, both getting somewhere. Sometimes you see uncles and aunties by the side of the road. Hi Encik/Macik! And they nod and smile back. Let’s say you’re heading to Merbok, and you’re not sure that you’re going the right way. Uncle! (Pointing) Merbok? (Nodding) ah ah Merbok! You don’t get these moments going fast.
3. You get to watch nature
The same paddi fields gently caressed by the gradually rising sun.
The birds rising from their sleep, setting off and then changing formations as they dive and swoop.
The cock in mid-cockadoodle.
The butterfly that follows you for a whole minute.
4. You see cars and other vehicles pass by
You become aware that you’re going slow, and then feel pressured to go slightly faster. Sometimes they are so fast that you hardly notice them; they whiz by, too close for comfort, and you feel in danger. You are exposed and vulnerable to physical and also verbal abuse. If you are a Caucasian girl in tights and short sleeves you might get stared at and whistled to, maybe even followed; then you are left in the wake of their speedy vehicles. You are nothing to them, a mere second in their lives, and they will never see you again.
5. You forget that you are passing by as well