Culture shock – 24th March 2014


I’m not naive to the fact that Africa as a continent is a lot different to Europe and the rest of the world. Things are dealt with a lot differently out here and sometimes it’s hard to get your head around their systems. Anyway, I’m sometimes shocked by how relaxed people are (have you read my blog post on the prison visit?!) but what happened the other day stunned me more than ever.

Callum and I had enjoyed a day in Cape Town; running errands in town, doing some shopping and stopping for lunch before getting a taxi through heavy traffic and and a downpour of rain back to the city centre to the bus garage. The bus garage is crazy. It’s always bustling as it’s the most popular mode of public transport here, we arrived just before 6pm which is when the last buses leave town. The rain meant everyone was huddled under the shelters; it was loud, crowded and we were all desperate to get home. Suddenly we heard a massive bang. Everyone turned towards the road where the buses come through and watched as a man fell straight to the floor. It all seemed to happen in slow motion; the man (black, mid 20s maybe) didn’t move as he fell and lay still on the floor, his arm still outstretched from when he was trying to signal the bus to stop.

The hundreds of people who saw all gasped/ screamed/ shouted and many ran towards the victim to see if they could help, others turned away and some started to pray. With so many bus drivers around we assumed someone would be trained in first aid and would check to see if the man was still breathing. Theres no official emergency service number here (999, 911 etc), different companies have different numbers for their services so you could call one and their nearest car is 20 miles away… I wish I’d done more at the time but I was in shock and thought my basic first aid knowledge would be irrelevant with so many officials around. But after about 10 minutes I noticed people were still standing around, the rain was still pouring meaning the man was getting wet, no one had put a coat or umbrella over him. Another 5 minutes passed and an ambulance was still no where to be seen, the man who had been hit by the bus started vomiting, it took shouts from witnesses before anyone turned his head to the side to prevent him from chocking.

When a emergency vehicle finally arrived it was the fire brigade?! They casually strolled over, looked at the victim, stood around, scratched their heads before putting him on a board and carrying him to under a shelter. The CCID arrived in 2 cars, they’re the equivalent of PCSO’s in England but have less training. Most people believe they’re just the governments way of giving people jobs and they’re utterly useless. They stood watching the firemen and did nothing to help the situation, an ambulance then finally arrived maybe 20 minutes after the man was hit by the bus. They seemed just as relaxed as everyone else and casually brought out the defibrillator.

Our bus home arrived so we didn’t find out if the man was ok but on the journey home everyone was talking about the incident and how badly it was dealt with. People were saying they wished they were a doctor so they could do something to help. I wish I’d done more to help but I also wish the services here did their jobs properly and treated a life or death situation with a bit of urgency. I hope I never have to see something like that again and I pray that the man was ok.


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