"We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open." - Jawaharlal Nehru

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Ode to the Universe

Let me start by saying that I miss you all very much – can you believe it’s almost been a year?  A YEAR IN AFRICA.  You better believe I will be saying that (with immense pride) for at least… two full months when I get back, haha.  Almost half of my service is completed, and I still have half of a tour left here in The Gambia. 
GREETINGS from the smiling coast!
I thought I couldn't do a handstand these days, so I tried one.

A lot has been happening lately, but I wanted to write a little blog about something that just happened that will probably be affecting the next few weeks of service.  I will write another one soon about HOW AMAZING THE PLANNING HAS BEEN GOING FOR THE HEALTH SCHOOL IN MY VILLAGE, but try and bear with me for just short story about a recent event.  It’s funny and inspirational, I promise.
I’ve been in town these past few days, soaking up the energy from my friends, nutrient dense food, the sun and just being lazy…it’s been AWESOME!  There is one, small obstacle – involving crutches, ace bandages & lots of ibuprofen.  Let me tell you how funny it is, how it happened and all. 

I had just finished playing some ultimate Frisbee and celebrating a very late, Thanksgiving lunch with all of my coworkers.  Afterwards, we decide to go to the beach and take a beautiful, scenic route that peered over 30 ft. of cliffs and facing home…west.  I climbed down the cliffs with my friends to get a closer feel of the oceans beauty and catch the sunset.  The ocean CALLED me to come join it in celebrating another day of happiness and peace.  So, I anxiously pulled off as many clothing layers as I could to still be appropriate and flew off towards the waves like a 5-year old.  Running, Running, Running…. One foot in the ocean, two strides more… big smile on my face. 

ALL OF A SUDDEN my legs crumbled beneath me and I was being (p)owned by the ocean.  I was flopping around like a fish out of water, except I was very much in the water for a solid 5-seconds and fully submerged.  As I caught myself, I sat up gasping for air and feeling a HORRIBLE throb in my left cankle. 
You guessed it.

I completely ate shit, stepped in a hole hidden beneath the water.  Friends were calling from the shore “SHAWN, are you okay?!”  I was embarrassed, so of course I was like “YEAH I’M FINE”!  After 5 more minutes of rolling around in the waves, trying to figure out what the hell just happened, I slowly make my way to shore… up the steps… down a path… and walk about a quarter mile. All of this was done in denial that anything was wrong with my foot. “It was just another sprain that I could walk off” (me).  I get back to the house, drink a bottle of wine, ankle throbbing (still in denial that anything is wrong), and I pass out, happy and buzzed.  I woke up the next morning to the most annoying, excruciating pain I’ve felt in a while.  So I called up the medical unit (after squirting a few tears out of my eyes), they picked me up, I spent a day there giving my ankle some TLC, get some X-rays.  NOT BROKEN, awesome.  Then they say “well, technically, tearing ligaments takes longer than broken bones to heal”.  Here are a few things that crossed my mind at that moment in time.  Sorry for the language, in advance. 

[[ Fuck.  I am in a sandy ass country, where most roads have rocks, potholes, and are oh yeah… not paved.  Transport here sucks.  My whole village is a sand trap.  Crutches?  5 WEEKS, WHAT?!  What about fetching water?  What about going to the garden?  What about squatting over my pit latrine?  SHIT!  Does that mean I can’t go on that hiking trip to Senegal?  MAN, I was supposed to hold a meeting in village in 2-days... gotta cancel that one, I guess.  WHAT ABOUT WHEN GEOFF COMES in 2-months?  Can we still go to Guinea for hiking?  But really… how am I going to squat over my pit latrine?  ]]

So, I guess I am writing this blog because I realized ONCE AGAIN how vulnerable our bodies are.  I have been cursing under my breath for the past few days, hobbling around on crutches in The Gambia, where barely anything is paved, there are no traffic lights or pedestrian right-of-way.  A gimp ankle (NOT a huge injury in The States, really) is COMPLETELY debilitating to village life.  For a month and a half, I will not be able to farm with my family, greet the village, go farming, fetch water, properly squat over my pit latrine (you are probably beginning to see how I rate things of importance in my service here as a Peace Corps volunteer, haha), do any sort of household chores, exercise, go explore the bush.  Let’s just say, it (originally) put a damper on my spirit and my effectiveness as a mobile volunteer.

HOWEVER, another lesson I’ve learned from this is just to slowwwwww down.  I mean I have really been on over-drive these days:  projects, social life and holidays, planning for a trip here or a trip there, preparing for visitors, harvesting crops with the family, etc.  I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again; The Gambians have a saying here… “slowly, slowly”.  I’ve been pushing myself lately, and the universe was the first to take action against my headstrong mind/body working in over-drive.  It said “NO MORE!  Take a break, sister.”  And so I did/am/will. 

At first I was mad…then sad.  But, then I had some amazing support from friends and co-workers here who made me see all the positive things that came out of this happening.  It was a good reminder to SLOW THE HELL DOWN, enjoy this experience, don’t stress out, take some time to reflect and relax. 

So, thank you universe.  You always know what is best for me.  Why did I ever doubt your brilliant plan?

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