Ready or not, here life comes and you better be more ready than not out here in the village because otherwise its going to hurt. This is what I’ve found to be true emotionally and physically and I can literally feel my body and brain scrambling to compensate for my inadequacy to be ready fully for certain challenges. Please don’t make the mistake of thinking I am being too hard on myself, or that I actually have gotten myself into something that is too hard too handle. Before I left I had the idea of “difficult and challenging” I just hadn’t quite felt it yet. Now I feel it daily and as I just wrote and explained in a letter to a good friend I feel like the cliché of the butterfly going through metamorphosis. But let me put a new thought into the cliché, at least new for me, and something I can apply very realistically to my life right now. I pose this question to readers without further explanation and go without ado into my blog post. Do you think the caterpillar inside her chrysalis feels pain when her new butterfly wings come ripping through flesh? Whether she does or not, I have concluded that yes—in the metaphor pertaining to my life—it must hurt because it has too.
After Thanksgiving I said my goodbyes and left Kolda. Ruth and I had decided it would be smart to leave my bike at her house when we left even though it is about 18 km away from my own dear hut. Complications began immediately when I realized my tire had gone flat before even leaving her compound. This wouldn’t have been a problem normally except that I have never mended a tire in my life, I still had 18 km to ride and the sun was disappearing rapidly. The great thing about this story is that now I feel self reliant and a more capable human because as it turns out I can indeed mend a bike tire. Its not nearly as difficult as I had imagined it to be. In fact, this bike tirp showed me many things that I can and cannot do. For example, I still cannot find my way out of a wet paper bag. Or a bush path that I have only taken twice. Turns out miraculously that I am still hopelessly directionally challenged. I pedaled faster and faster towards where I thought was my village as time passed and I watched the sun slip behind the horizon, not a hut in sight.
Now for the cans. What I can do is pedal a bike barefoot along an African bush path in the dark without getting killed. My skill must be obvious to you though now. Shortly after the sun went down, my flip flop broke mid pedal. Cursing, I put it on the back of the bike and pedaled on at a rate I thought might be able to outpace any wild animal lurking in the darkness. “So this is where Senegal wins,” I said to myself as I pedaled and listened to the creatures of the night begin to come out. I finally made a turn that I thought would at least take me back to the main highway and some kind of civilization. Turns out this was one of my smarter decisions in the night and I came upon a village and almost crying with relief asked them where the hell my village was. They told me it was right down “this path” as I guzzled half a gallon of unfiltered, yet deliciously cold well water. I was skeptical of this path they spoke of, but having no choice, I took off. Along the way I managed to hit rock and skin the top half of my barefoot toe off. That did much to heighten my cheery spirits, as did the old blind man carrying an axe over his shoulder. Thankfully the axe man was actually right when he told me Sithian was 2 km down the road. I finally limped into my compound exhausted and scared, trying not to show it with great staging of Puulaar good humor about the whole experience as to why I didn’t have a shoe and my toe was gushing blood. I have never been so happy to be home.