If it was my fault, that would be one thing. You know, as in “wow, Kelly, way too much aggressive bouncing along dirt roads so deeply crevassed and rocky because of the rain that they are basically impassable…at least you didn’t fall into that crevasse.” Or perhaps, more realistically, “really, Kelly, what did you expect from falling directly into that crevasse?” No, unfortunately, my bike was borrowed – without permission – from the house a couple weeks ago, while I was away for the weekend, and it was this event that evidently led to today’s crisis (no I do not have a bike lock, yes it was inside the house, now please give me a break about this, I’m still a little sensitive). A few other things were also borrowed in the same manner, and dealing with it has been an ugly saga. A very difficult and ugly saga. While the borrower is gone, it feels like he is suddenly back and I am feeling stressed out and deflated all over again, right along with my tire. I want to throw a wobbler, then a tantrum, and then throw another wobbler (thank you to all Brits for inventing such a wonderful expression as “throw a wobbler”).
However. I can cite plenty of times in the past (yes, recent past too) in which, when faced with a situation like this, with a relatively minor disappointment revealing one lying deeper, that I have noisily or bitterly complained. Cried. Yes, collapsed, even. But standing here, staring at my bike tire, in front of the third house from the end of the inside of the first block on Fourth Ridge, just by the split you take to get to the girls school (sorry, no residential addresses), I realize that this is just not worth it. Rehashing the ugly saga doesn’t interest me. Besides, I want a bike ride. Oh, no, don’t get me wrong, I definitely whine and wobble a little, but quickly push out along my questionable road and try to make it safely to some asphalt. And then I just pedal, downhill, uphill, uphill more (oh geeez-us, seriously), downhill, uphill again (why is nothing even?), all on the mostly flat front tire. I know, not great for the thing, but I’ll get it fixed tomorrow. And if I’m going to continue to be Pollyanna-esque, the back tire is doing fine. Solid. Practically indestructible (taking it too far now).
So have I overcome? Do I now reveal, by my day to day existence, how to depose frustration, how to topple the tower of wobbler throwing? Yeah, that’s a no. During my placement so far, there have been issues decidedly non-bike related that have left me a mess, a parody of the self-sacrificial volunteer. Like everyone, I have a tolerance threshold; yet I’ve watched myself feel grated by things I would never have anticipated. I’m talking about varying perspectives on the flexibility of timelines and deadlines; or maybe when it’s appropriate to answer or return a phone call, and when it really shouldn’t be. And then, of course, there’s what I absolutely should have anticipated. Like the internal pulling back and forth between my own beliefs and my acceptance of the beliefs of others, deciding when it is necessary to speak and when it’s time to shut up. Sometimes it feels like pedaling uphill, hard, bumping along a rocky road, trying to avoiding the crevasses, on a flat front tire. I’ll tell you all up front: enye easy (it's not easy).
Again. However. Can I learn something here? Here it is, as straightforward as I can make it: in committing to work in a different culture, with outlooks and values that can differ from my own, I committed to allowing myself to be changed. I committed to being stretched in every direction, undergoing attitude adjustments and plenty of introspection, and experiencing moments that would be eye-widening slaps, falls flat on my face, wincingly awful cringes (oh yes), and jolting shifts in perspective. How I deal with everyday differences, everyday frustrations, has had to change. My core values are not going to shift, but how I choose to deal with issues surrounding those values within this cultural context has to. Please don’t get me wrong: I’m not condescending to accommodate others. I’m just trying to grow here.
Sometimes, overcoming frustration or difficulty comes down to a simple decision – like whether to take the bike out or just go back inside, watch a movie and eat a KitKat*. Sometimes, but rarely. More often, I find it coming down to my commitment to this life I have chosen, a commitment I made before getting on the plane in February. Of course, I know what it means now. Quite honestly, that commitment has helped sustain me a few times. In my first blog posting, before leaving the U.S., I mentioned that I would know what to pack about a month after arriving in Ghana. Well, five months later, I’ll readdress that, and finally tell my February self what to pack.
1) No expectations, and that really means no expectations. Really. I mean, you thought you brought no expectations along, but you were fooling yourself.
2) Lots of reminders to shut up, because sometimes you really just need to.
3) An extra hard drive, because the worst message your computer can ever give you is “imminent hard drive failure.”
4) More instant sauce packets**.
5) Patience? Chakra cleansing techniques? A light heart and bouncy step? Because they weren’t joking about ‘nkakra nkakra (small small).’
6) This understanding: you have to be ready to give up everything you’ve packed so neatly away. And I’m not talking about the tank tops. Funny, because I didn’t think you were such a great packer in the first place, February self. But you’d be surprised, February self, all the things that you want to hang on to that just won’t fit here. And, likewise, all the things that will. And I'm not just talking about about tank tops (but thank god for them, for them and for cargo pants).
There it is. Perhaps because this posting has been about the absence of even surfaces, and more so, even temperaments (and now too much about tank tops), I have no smooth ending in mind. Just plans to get a tire pump.
* (yes, KitKats from Syria taste different)
**Thanks again, mom. You have no idea. Made spaghetti alfredo last night! fabulous.