I never saw the bastards coming. There were two – one driving the motorbike and the other sitting behind him. The second guy was the thief. The first was the getaway driver.
Their target was a small pouch sticking about 2 inches out of my left cargo pocket. I’m sure they thought it had money since, somehow, I doubt they realized that no tourist would have his money hanging out of his pocket. Inside the pouch that I got from Etihad Airways on my way home after my diagnosis were my diabetic supplies: my blood sugar monitor, test strips, and about 1/3 remaining in an insulin pen.
They grabbed the pouch as Cassie and I were walking to dinner along the river in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. They made a left and sped off. I immediately started sprinting after them, running full speed at about 50 meters. I kept them in sight, but I wasn’t exactly successful in closing the gap. It’s not that I’m slow. Quite the contrary. I was the fastest Jew in my high school, which almost means something since my high school was 40% Jewish. I even earned the nickname Jewish Lightning back then. But Usain Boltstein I am not.
I flagged down a car and yelled at the driver to “follow that bike!” When the driver sped off without me, the fruitlessness of the situation dawned on me pretty quickly. Cassie had the presence of mind to flag down a passing motorbike right after I got pickpocketed, and she even hopped on and went around the block a few times, but even that was too late to catch the jackasses.
I had made it through all of Europe’s pickpocket danger zones: Paris, Rome, etc. And I got tagged in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Phnom friggin’ Penh. I was hoping the punks would open the pouch, realize there was no money inside, and throw it to the street, but they weren’t kind enough to do that. Instead, Cassie and I shifted quickly from the burning desire for vengeance to the pressing need to find a way to keep track of my blood sugar.
We grabbed a tuk-tuk and went to a couple of pharmacies before we found one that had a blood sugar monitor and test strips. Not the OneTouch device that I had, but a cheap generic brand that seems to work well enough. It cost us $42 and $12 for another 50 test strips.
Diabetes supplies can be difficult to find in countries that don’t have Western medicine, but they are there. Of all the pharmacies we went to, the best was Pharmacie de la Gare. They had different types of monitors, just not that one I needed. (Oddly enough, they did carry test strips for the device I use that they don’t have, so I picked up an extra 100 for $60 – about 1/2 the price of what I would pay without insurance in the US.)
After a few Google searches, I found a few organizations in Cambodia and Vietnam that are trying to educate the country about diabetes and the risk it poses. I emailed one of them and found out that, although they don’t have OneTouch, they do have other blood sugar monitors. They were very helpful with information, even if they didn’t have exactly what I needed.
Cassie and I came up with a simple plan. Get enough test strips for my replacement device to get me to Hong Kong (about 2 weeks away), and there I could buy a new OneTouch blood sugar monitor since I’m carrying hundreds of OneTouch test strips. Watson’s Pharmacies responded very quickly to my customer service email and told me all the OneTouch supplies they carry, which was fantastic. That will be our first stop when we get to HK.
Over the last few months, I’ve had to look at a lot of different things in a positive light, and this is no exception. I consider it a win-win situation that they got away. Those two punks didn’t have their arms broken, and I didn’t have to go to a Cambodian jail. Given their generally fervent belief in karma in this part of the world, I fully expect they will develop Type 1 Diabetes.
In that case, I hope they held onto the monitor, since it’s a damn good one.