Here's the thing... I'm in okay shape. I'm not ready to run a marathon or anything, but I'm pretty capable of carrying semi-heavy loads around. Adept in construction I'm not, but toting things around is totally feasible for me. However, I am (and was) not quite in the necessary shape to carry a freshly cut tree plank from the woods to a construction site. How do I know this, you ask?
Well, see, one day during my week in the village, our group was told to venture into the neighboring woods. We followed Robert down a narrow path and came upon a newly cut humungous tree. The tree had been cut into long planks of wood and that wood needed to get to the construction site, and we were the ones that had to do it. Looking at the longest freaking planks of wood I'd ever seen I thought of those weird health surveys you sometimes have to fill out at the gym or at a doctor's office. Like -
'how quickly do you get out of breath when exercising?'
'how fast can you run a mile?'
'how many wet tree planks can you carry from the woods?'
I had a partner with me, ready to carry the damn plank from this chopped tree to the building site, just as everyone else did. Though it did seem that nobody else's mouth was hanging as far open as mine was. There they'd go, two-by-two, a plank on their head, trudging down the overgrown path, across the dirt road and up to the computer center. Everyone was doing it. I hadn't quite experienced peer pressure like this before. Frankly, I think I would've been more comfortable if the group had taken me out to the woods, surrounded me and offered me cocaine. That, I think I'd be fully able to comprehend how to handle. This, I had no reference point for.
I looked over at my fully willing (and strong) partner. He was ready. And I said to myself - isn't this why I came all the way to Africa - to experience things I had no reference point for? Sure, I anticipated that those things would be more along the lines of new environments, new food, new sites (new bugs), but you simply can't anticipate everything. I mean, when I walk along the lanes of my local park, I'm not exactly observing the vegetation as something that I'm going to pick up and carry to my home. So there I am, in the woods, terrified that I'm going to drop this plank, thereby injuring my poor partner in labor. Of course, everyone is saying that maybe the 5'1" girl should avoid the heavy plank and do something else, but I've been presented with a challenge and I hate backing down from challenges.
They put it on my head.
The plank begins to sink into my brain.
My partner says he's ready to begin the walk back to the site.
The plank sinks further into my brain.
I adjust said plank a little.
I fear brain damage.
[Note: this is the moment in the hollywood story when the protagonist rises up and defeats the challenge. This is their moment of triumph! Success! This is not one of those stories]
I call it quits.
Afraid for, not only mine, but my partner's brain, I say I can't do it. Joe takes over and I try to film him.
Ah, failure. I feel that I'm getting to know you quite well.
The fact is, when you are facing down a failure as big as your marriage breaking down, it makes every other failure that occurs in the same timeframe seem as if it's quite massive. So, while not being able to carry the freaking wood from the forest to the center might seem like a small thing, I was quite pissed and embarrassed. I am getting a divorce AND I can't carry planks of wood. What use am I?
And you can see how the thought process degrades from there...
Joe, of course, was thrilled because it all made for better television programming. CONFLICT! YIPPEE!
Oh, and by the way, do you know who carried the remaining planks of wood? The women of the village. One by one, they carried their very own plank of fresh, wet wood (which were probably around 200lbs. each).
Kindness in the New Year
9 months ago