Today in a (few) moment(s) of weakness I felt myself crumble. I knew there would be hard days. 4AM came too early in the abandoned school where we pitched our tents and I fumbled aimlessly for my glasses and headlamp in the dark. With no one awake, I made my way to the bathroom, if you can call it that, before sunrise. My feet shuffle though the brush and red dirt. A wild dog growls near me hidden, way too close for comfort, but lazily slouches away. Even he isn’t ready for morning.
I get to the bathroom and just let out an audible sigh. The smell. It’s something I’ll never get used to. A small concrete box with a hole in the ground, no door for privacy, lined with various bugs I couldn’t name if I tried. Instead of feeling grateful for my life at home where this isn’t an issue, I walk back angrily in an approaching dawn and stumble over my own feet and kick the dirt in frustration. I feel awful and for no reason at all. A sudden overwhelming urge to cry hits me like a ton of bricks. Maybe I’m just hormonal? Maybe lack of sleep is just catching up to me.
I sit, still in the dark, with my coffee at a desk scratched with unintelligible words and choke down tears and heavy sighs with each sip. What is wrong with me right now? The intense feeling is too much to ignore. It’s Sonja’s birthday today and we light candles to sing. I muster every ounce of happy for this, after all who can be upset about cake for breakfast?
It’s time for our morning ride and I just cant keep it together. The first 20 miles are pushing me passed my limits. My tears are whipping my skin painfully as they come out and I can’t stop them. My head pounds itself down with a migraine and my knees ache from the wind and hills. I am utterly defeated. As each teammate passes me, my frustration grows into anger and I let me emotions take over. I want to be angry at them. No one stops, or helps push me along in my time of need and I’m all too aware that this is a theme in my life.
I start letting my thoughts go to an unhealthy place of self pity and doubt. For years, since the passing of my father, I have inadvertently kept people at bay as to never be close. In reality, that’s all I’ve ever wanted. But for the last few years it’s felt easier to pretend that I’m okay without. I’m steady finding myself feeling like an outsider and sometimes lonely or without a sense of community but, it’s where I’ve placed myself. It’s a bitter feeling to look at your own reality and know that you’ve caused it.
I couldn’t take it anymore, I succumbed to my shitty mood and even worse headache and threw my bike in the truck. I watched my teammates go by and we came to a point in the road where it became not just a dirt road but more of an obstacle course. I watched each go by with sweat dripping and gritting their teeth and felt like the biggest asshole. I couldn’t sit in the car and watch as they go by, so out I got. Wiped away my bad mood, remembered why I am here and rode down the most treacherous, unstable, sandy one lane road road. All of my feelings fled immediately. My mind was focused on the road and the people. Always the people.
The voices of the little children running full throttle to the road screaming “azungu” (thats “white person”, for those of you just joining in) just to get a glimpse and a wave. Their smiles genuinely fill my soul. I wave back and smile at each and every one of them. Even the swarm of hundreds at the school. A wave of high fives lasting a full 1/4 of a mile sky rockets me into overdrive to finish the remaining 15 miles. I needed that push so badly. Then come the endless downhills, dotted with
Then come the endless downhills, dotted with village members dressed in traditional garb for celebrations that fill the air with excitement and music. This is by far the best ride of the trip and my life. I bare through the headache and end in a village built around agriculture to celebrate with Sonja.
Birthdays involve “special green” – Carlsberg, the local beer, dancing with or police officer Moses, loudly singing Justin Bieber in a locals only bar while they drink shake-shake and sharing laughs.
Moments of weakness are fleeting and few and far between. They’re also to be expected when you’re 8000 miles from home with as many variables as this trip presents. The people here manage to get up daily with the challenges they face and do things with a smile, the very least I can do is do the same. Africa practically slapped me in the face and told me to deal with it and I’m glad I listened.