The Crutch Life

Before I dive in to this next post, I wanted to send out a blanket thank you to everyone who has reached out via FB, the blog and email. Please know that I am receiving the communication and appreciate it so much! I love getting to read through and have those connections back home. Please know that I haven’t responded because it is very challenging to get connection to internet but as soon as I have an opportunity too I will 🙂

For this round of updates, I thought I could bring you all come comedy as to what pre service training looks like on crutches.

Each morning, two of the volunteers that live in my village walk to my house to make sure I am all set getting ready and help me get my things to the transport. They also take the time to fill my water filter, chat with my host mom, and provide general happiness to the day. I am not sure it would be possible to survive without them.

Last week we had four days of rain in a row. While everyone is extremely thankful of the rains, for bringing both much needed water security to areas that struggle as well as cooler weather, the rain also brings with it a new set of crutch challenges. I liken clutching through mud and on mud roads to slalom skiing, with a bit less control. Each step is a roll of the dice in a game you don’t remember signing up to play, but nevertheless continue to roll and roll as you move towards the transport. Thankfully, when I did finally roll 7 & out, it was on the way home from school so that I had time to wipe off the inches of mud that had caked on to me and my cast. I am extremely thankful that my parents overnighted me my rain jacket when I was at staging in Philly before departing, because holding an umbrella is an option I don’t have, and the rains here can be pretty intense. A saying that has emerged among my cohort is that in SA, everything is a bit intense. More rain vs crutching excitement to follow…

Language class is currently being held in a open air garage-like structure at one of my village mates house. While I am doing decently well at learning the new language, there is no good way to sit with a cast that keeps your leg straight and goes from your ankle to the top of your leg. So I alternate sitting all the way at the front of the chair so that just a few inches of my bum stays on, or I sit with all the way back with the entire left half of my body off the chair, so that either way my leg can be straight. Either way, 4 weeks of not being able to sit comfortably ever is 4 more than I ever wanted. Now, back to the rain. A few things I have learned. One, burglars are more likely to come and thieve during the rain for a few reasons. First, there are less people outside. When it is not raining, everyone typically drags plastic chairs outside and sit under a tree or other form of shade, hoping for a breeze, which plays into reason number two; the roofs. The roofs are tin roofs, which heat up the houses like crazy in the day, and make it sound like a drummer form an 80’s rock band is giving you a never ending solo performance when the rain pounds on the tin roof. The noise makes it difficult for you to be able to hear anyone stealing. So, when we arrived to language to find a car parked sideways in our classroom, we giggled and just wrote it off as another on a long list of laughable “I don’t even know what to say here” moments. When they found the owner to come move the car, he explained he parked it that way so it would be harder for someone to take. And yes, I do have a picture that will be coming your way as soon as I get enough internet to upload.

One area that I wanted to give some positive remarks towards the crutch life comes in the war on spiders. I now have a weapon to utilize that keeps me a safe distance from the spider in question while I can attempt to kill it (or so I thought). This plan was great, as is all things, until it wasn’t. So there I was, one afternoon in my bedroom when confronted with a large spider on my wall. For a spider to make it on my hit list, let alone recognition list, it has to be at least palm size or larger, and this one fit the ticket. So, I stood back, raised my crutch and prepared for battle. Problem was, when I  only managed to knock him off the wall, as he was now barreling towards me, full speed on the floor. In my infinite wisdom, I did foresee the spider charging while I had no escape option since I was using my only source of mobility for the attack. Tisk. Tisk. In my clumsy getaway attempt, I ended up falling to the floor, next to the spider who thankfully pivoted away and ran under my door. Now while some of you might be quick to call that operation a failure, I will make it down as a training experiment and make some adjustments to my overall spider strategy. In the interim,  there are currently four visible spiders on my wall, as life and time in Africa goes on.

Back to the rain, once I have successfully navigated myself through the mud slopes to get to transport, my salvation is short lived before I arrive at school. Inside most of the buildings here, I am greeted by concrete flooring, slicked with water trudged in from the outside rain lands. I crutch along with small, hesitant movements waiting to hit a wet spot and meet the harsh concrete with a thud. Luckily, I have had few embarrassing wipe outs to date, and am hoping to keep the streak alive for the next few weeks left in my crutch life.

For a more serious note, I have been reflecting a lot on the PST experience, which can be extremely challenging. Many trainees struggle with letting go of independence, letting go of control over what and when you eat, your schedule, and essentially every aspect of your life. Being on crutches significantly limits me physically to going to visit other volunteers and utilizing the small bit of free time we do get for social activities. In a strange way, having to give up 100% of control and choices to be able to live on crutches with my host family in the rural community has helped me to let go of my independence that many of my peers struggle with. Who would have guessed that forced helplessness would prove to be a bit of a virtue.

More updates to come.Thank you again for all of the love and support! Teaser: a week from tomorrow I will get the announcement to see what site I will be living at for the next two years.

2 thoughts on “The Crutch Life

  1. Alyssa…..what an exciting life you do lead! I am enjoying your updates and impressed at how you are dealing with all the circumstances that have made your new reality much different than you could have ever imagined. It sounds like you are making lemonade out of lemons with your injury and also your fear of spiders! Wishing you all the best as you continue your journey……Sandy Gomez

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