A Vacation Within A Vacation
September was an awful month. Awful. The common theme: loss. A volunteer trainee died. He was an older trainee, 3 weeks away from swearing in as a Peace Corps volunteer, something that had been his life long dream. At the time it sort of felt like it happened on my watch. As the Peace Corps Volunteer Leader (My job in this third year) you are responsible for all of the PCVs and Peace Corps Trainees in your province. I have been glued to my phone since I took the job, always telling my roommate that my greatest fear would be that one of my PCVs would be dying in the village and I would miss the call. Well, even if you get the call that someone is having a heart attack, there still isn’t a lot you can do.
That same day, my Great Grandmother passed away. She lived an awesome and strong life. I was glad that she could finally rest after such a long journey. I still hated that I didn’t get to be with my family during all of it. After all, my brother had to wear a suit and I missed it.
A week later my friend Andrew completed his Peace Corps service. Andrew, Alex and I, in the 6 months preceding September, had become this inseparable trio that did everything together. My favorite thing about Andrew was that we could just be together. We are two people who are capable of sitting for hours and listen to music, quietly picking song after song apart, trying to figure out why it meant so much to us. Or we could take Mesa out for long walks and giggle the whole time about nothing in particular.
If Alex or I had a silly idea, Andrew would pull it all together just to see us happy. If the three of us were together laughter was the only goal. One day I was having a bad day at work. Alex and Andrew left the office early, without me, to go to my house. I knew they were up to something but I had no idea what. When I got home they had built me an incredible and elaborate domino thing. It was sort of in the shape of an “M”. It started on top of a coffee table and went around a few different obstacles. They worked all afternoon on it, waiting for me to get home and knock over the first domino to see if it would actually work. It didn’t, but it was still so much fun and so thoughtful.
If Andrew and I were flying solo for the day, we would talk and talk and talk about anything a everything. He had my same drive for physical activity, push up contests, 400m races, mountain hikes. There was always a song or two, or a band or two, that each one of us had been waiting to rediscover until the other was around. I miss you Andrew.
The week after Andrew left, we ran over the Peace Corps House dog, Boso, with the Land Cruiser. It belonged to a past volunteer who was planning on coming back from America in a few months to take the dog back with her again. As someone who also has a pet dog that I am planning on taking to America, I knew that felt that loss for her. It was hard. Our driver who ran Boso over was so upset. For me it was the third death in 10 days.
The following Monday, after dragging myself out of bed, something that was habit by this point in the month, I decided that there was nothing shitty in the forecast for the week and maybe this would be the week where I wouldn’t cry. 8:05 in the morning I am told that our driver, O’Bren, would be leaving at the end of the month. O’Bren is not a co-worker to me. He is a good friend who I get to work with everyday. The idea of him not being there everyday with me devastated me. I was crying by 8:10 and begging for an emotional break.
The next week I pulled my calf muscle during a run. Running was the only thing keeping me on my center and The Universe just stripped me of that luxury. I had a tearful two-mile walk home early in the morning to contemplate where I would go from there.
Two weeks later I sprained my ankle in such a way that I will not be running until somewhere around Thanksgiving. Then, somewhere in the middle of all of this I started getting anxiety attacks about silly things. Minor things. I believe all of these things to be minor life things, but they all happened within such a short span of a few days that I couldn’t do it any more.
For a change in perspective, I decided to create that the ankle sprain was the Universe’s way of telling me to sit the fuck down and process. I know that I had just been going and going. Hoping that it would all just go way. I didn’t listen when it pulled my calf, I kept plowing through. Now there would be no more plowing through. My ankle is black and blue all the way up my shin and my toes are Kansas State Fans. As purple as Willie the Wildcat.
It has been a week now since anything crappy happened. No tears for a week. Thank goodness. I decided to hobble my way to a vacation. I decided to get the hell out of Eastern Province for a week. I am going to visit a friend in Western Province. Literally as far from Eastern as I can get and still be in Zambia. As I write I am at a friends house in Lusaka. A pit stop in the middle of the journey. Complete with a pool, laundry service (IN A WASHING MACHINE), air conditioning, and a spring mattress blanketed by a down comforter. Last night I slept. The whole night. Comfortably. I am in the shade under the canopy of a beautiful yard, music playing, ankle elevated with just as much ice around it as there is in my drink. I would have to say that things are finally looking up.
"At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us." ~ Albert Schweitzer