Double Amputee Chosen for Olympic Hopscotch Team in Upcoming Summer Games
Fact for Today: Personal drug of choice is Alka Seltzer, which is overtaking Ibuprofen
Based on the time you have for reading, this has some length to it and you may want to print it for later reading in the bathroom or while waiting for jury duty or a major traffic jam.
2/21/14, was just a generally wonderful day! I finished work before dark, came home to an empty veranda and a meal that was just deliciously right – no salt and no rice for 12. Tomorrow Peter is arriving and he will be dragging his sweet ass along after the marathon trip through SF, Taipei and on to Phnom Penh with a bus to Kampong Cham. He does have an overnight in Phnom Penh which will allow him to put his feet up before heading off in the bus. It will be so good to have him here and his adventure will be equally amazing, if not quite so “office” oriented as mine is. Nonetheless, we are each on an adventure with time to share as we go along.
And the concert in the night market just half a block away is just getting fired up…high base beat, loud…but all ends in Kampong Cham around 11pm at the latest, so it is not as sanity-threatening as a night in Mexico that starts like this.
2-22-14 And it is a new day all over again. Kinks and twists continue to happen, but I am impressed that I am not quite feeling the same blind-sided smack that comes with each one. Lou continues to rest on my shoulder and whispers eternally, “Oh what could go wrong?” I wonder why either of us asks!
This morning, however, I have found my way to Destiny Cafe where they serve the only REAL coffee in Kampong Cham. My latte is topped with a beautiful design that lends me to deep and meditative gratitude. Ohhhhhh, heaven.
Peter has discovered en route into his adventure, that he forgot to account for the gaining of a day and realized this morning in Taipei that he has missed an entire day and will have to pay for the night at the hotel where he did not show up because he was in the air. He will stay in PP tonight to just get a bit of rest before taking the 3 hour bus trip here so he can try to regroup a bit physically and tomorrow will take the bus to KC. We will have the afternoon together and he can walk around this very wonderful little city and get some grounding. We have the evenings together during the coming week and will make the most of it. He will eventually get a plan for traveling to the bigger places for his photography, coming back to the house for the weekends when he can. He is having some of those “poor baby” days that put the parentheses around adventure. Destiny Cafe also sells cookies and little cakes so I will buy 2 of them to have for his welcome. Two eggs over easy with toast coming out next. Sounds so civil, no???
And now to the core of this week’s reflections and the headline news lead. I apologize for any sense of political incorrectness in my headline and I do not mean to hurt the feeling of amputees in general or in particular here, but it is what it is.
It is the highest probability that I truly was the only candidate they had anywhere on the international MSF radar when they were looking to fill this position. So much for the schmooze! They glanced at my CV and said “Perfect” and either they did not see the lack of synchronicity or they ignored it. I am here and trying to catch on to the “game” and to see what I can and cannot adapt to. The “hopping” thing is the biggest challenge. I played hopscotch for the better part of my young life. I had a cool lager and could air-turn in the last section without any need for a double landing. Perhaps they had heard about me. I did not list in on my CV! But did they know they were asking a virtual ‘double amputee’ in this very specific instance??? That factoid was not included in the screening interview either. But people have met this type of challenge before me and come through with flying colors. Perhaps I will even become a medalist. As you will understand later in the narrative, a medal is a shiny object.
For a bit of clarification for everyone (and myself) who wonders how I get to a point like this, there is process that I will try to share with you.
I am now, and have been for all of my life that I can remember, someone who is attracted to bright, shiny, brilliantly colored, sparkly things! My whole being responds to objects like this. I could well have been someone who might have sold my country for a handful of beads and thought I had gotten a really good deal. I am also a lot like the dog who chases the squirrels…barks wildly and then is immediately distracted by another and goes there too. Everything is pretty much Exotic, Wow-fully-Challenging and Crazy-Amazing! It all seems like the “good idea” at the moment. No thought or planning is included. No outcomes are considered and consequences be damned. Examples of this behavior/choice include:
Travel to Europe with my friends after high school.
Europe? Wow? I will go to Europe? (Bark, Bark) Where is Europe? And so we get on a ship and we sail to Europe.
Then there was Maryknoll. I want to work “internationally.” Maryknoll? (Jesuits have spent a year teaching me about Catholicism.) It sounds so great, so abstractly mesmerizing and it resonates with something inside me that seems magnificent. Women during the 60’s not being so generously included in getting into such roles, I kept running from tree to tree and found Maryknoll. Bark, bark! They think like the Jesuits, go abroad and work and I have just recently been reinstated in the Catholic Church. Oh the barking that went on!!!! And I got in, got on a train and departed.
Then there were several travel events and they all got my attention in the same way. Wow, that place! I heard of that place! I should go there! (Bark, bark) And then I went. BVI, Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, Mexico. In these cases I had Peter as my barking partner. Whether or not he will agree, he has shiny object/barking-dog- squirrel chasing syndrome too. He just looks more like he is actually “pondering it” while in reality he is out there barking right next to me. How do you think we picked Sumatra? We had a lot of miles on our card, figured out how far they would take us, spun the globe and it landed on Sumatra. Bark, bark, bark.
So perhaps you can see how I made a choice for Cambodia. Bark, bark, bark! MSF is the squirrel and I love working with TB so I bark a bit more, they call me and say, “I think you might be interested in going to Cambodia for our TB project for 3 months. Bark, bark! Can you leave in 5 days. Bark, bark, bark!
Lou nestles happily on my shoulder, repeating over and over with exuberant delight, “What could go wrong???”
Then, as I fly or begin to move forward with the realization of the fact that I actually do have some shiny beads in my grip or a squirrel squirming in my gentle grip (after all I do not want to kill the squirrel – what would I have to chase if I killed it. And if I killed it maybe there would never be another one.) I let my little human heart tell his little squirrel heart that I will do no harm to it, but we can play together for a while. I am sure he “hears” this as his eyes become softer and he breathes more easily. Oh this will be such fun!)
So Squirrel is in place (or shiny objects are in my sweaty little palm) and we look at what comes next. The barking has stopped. What next? Hmmm, never thought about that!
At this point, I check into another space in my being. It has no love of shiny objects or squirrels and there is no Wow-factor in this place. It is just afraid of everything!!!! For this being there is only the “Oh, fuck!!!! factor. Catastrophic consequences loom at every turn. I will get lost and never find my way home. I will lose everything I own and no one (including me) will recognize me and I will live as a woman without a country forever. In Europe I had a recurring nightmare that I lost my immunization records somewhere and as we returned to the US and entered NY harbor, they saw that I had lost this record and they pushed me off the boat and I had to tread water and try to plea my case. I was always tired when I woke up.
On my way to Cambodia things in this department remain the same. Lou has no place in this part of my being. A trembling little shriveled mouse-like creature (Weenie) whines constantly at the top of its little lungs and encourages me to see the next moment of peril. I cannot tell anyone what my own phone number is and it changed while I was not looking so that is even worse. My legs could just give way under me (if I had them, which on this trip I am pretty sure that I do not) and I would be lying in a heap in a place where I cannot even find a translator app to give me a clue how to say “call 911” The stove in the house uses a propane canister. I could blow everything up. I might burn myself in the process because, not having ever smoked in my life, I never learned the art of using a child-proof lighter…or any other lighter for that matter. This last fear would become moot immediately however because the ensuing explosion I would cause, would kill all the pain of the burnt fingertips and everyone else in my house and neighborhood. They assign me a bike for transport back and forth to work. Traffic is a mystery. It is based on some theory of slow, bob-and-weave and while I am assured that everyone will just weave around my unknowing ass, I could be crushed or killed or I could hit someone myself. If I work in the data base I could inadvertently delete everything in the computer and destroy all the cumulative knowledge about TB in Cambodia in a single stroke. I have diarrhea – oh, god I must have dengue fever.
So the reality of the captured squirrel is becoming grounded and defined – the voices of Lou and Weenie are in hot competition. No one is sure who will triumph but they both fight fiercely. Noise, poverty, the absence of Dairy queen, discovery that there is no “nursing” in my job – just an amazing amount of activity monitoring, staff management and data entry. All manner of reality. We will see who emerges next, but in seeing these first two perspectives, you must note very clearly that altruism and courage are not the keynote elements of how I choose things that I do in my life. Just so you know!
So I do recognize and acknowledge the phrase, “Failure is not an option.” Well, I am here to assure everyone that it is in fact an option. Occasionally in each of our lives, this occurs and we learn from it. It becomes a tool. But it always appears on the list of possibilities and options.
I do not think we fear or shy away from it being included in the “list” because inherently we do recognize that we get up and keep going if it does happen. If the world, in reality, shifts imperceptibly as the result of our catastrophe, for the most part we accept our role in it and go on. I have realized that is actually, for me anyway, the public witness to such a reality. I have always imagined myself doing things perfectly or at least being able to reconstruct reality so that the “failure” is actually manifested as the perfect solution to my alteration of the information. It is the “I-meant-to-do-that” syndrome. A sort of “magic trick” – smoke and mirrors. I have 3 very short months here. This body of data cannot be altered or reconstructed by me or anyone else. The time frame is too short. I will learn part of it, maybe come close to most of it. I will work every day to make that happen, but in the presence of all I do, there is no guarantee that the outcome will parallel the expectations and the need. Does this make it a failure? Hmmmm?
For a while – most of the time since I have been catapulted into this role I am in – the possibility promised me nothing but public humiliation. After all, I am posting all of this stuff on the blog! On a daily basis, I pile papers up and move them from one stack into another. There are names for these stacks, but I still have to learn those. I enter data into the computer – a little loved or practiced skill EVER in my world. The language barrier – even when we seem to be speaking the same one – is hampered with multiple, mind-boggling, confusing accents. Through the day, what is somewhat clear in the freshness of the morning becomes a gibberish that, in the late afternoon, presents me with one or two comprehensible words and the need to either have it repeated for the 5th time or try to surmise what might link the assorted understood words together into the idea we are working on. That can be dangerous. Paige and Lia this is as it was when we were trying to figure out, before we went to bed at night, what we had talked about on any given day during the trip to France.
In conclusion, after this long rant, I have had a wonderful “reality-perception shift.” It does not exclude the possibility of failure and it does not include any sense of the impending doom or public humiliation. I am persistent. I keep coming back. I get a little something new each day. Eventually I will recognize whether or not it has been a worthwhile piece of the puzzle. The actual shift has been in both my heart and my head. In the end, I will have done all that I can do. It is not nursing in the sense I would love to be doing it – it is not nursing at all. It is however a true effort to have some impact on the disease of TB which prevails in many countries and threatens to spread continuously if means are not found for detecting and treating it. I am part of this effort. MSF has taken on the challenge and is doing its best with all the resources it continues to use in the process. I am one of the resources and part of the process and I am grateful to be here for it. Whether or not I am the best choice, I am the choice. Our conclusions which I will help provide after the screening process finishes at the end of March, will contribute to a greater body of information. I am not likely to be one of the medalists, but I am on the team. That is what it is about. And that is what I signed up for. It is not shiny or leaping along tree branches. The voices are softened. Lou and Weenie are resting. I seem to be driving the bus again. I love you all