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I leave my house for work and get called over by two village women awaiting their chance to do business with the chief. The first smiles...

Monday, May 23, 2016

Too Much Travel

From the end of October until mid-February, I managed to only leave my district twice; once for a Thanksgiving celebration with some friends at Malealea Lodge and for my incredible holiday trip to Durban and St. Lucia. I went four months only passing through Maseru on my way to and from Thanksgiving at Malealea. Although there are many things that can only be bought in Maseru, I loved being at home in my community and my district.

Since mid-March, however, I have made nearly weekly trips to Maseru-all of them overnight. To be honest, despite getting a lot of important work done while at the Peace Corps office, I am quite sick of the city and the travel. Each trip takes between four and seven hours each direction. Finally, the regularity of these travels is tapering.

So much of my life in the last few months has been like my
friend Dani in this photo...on the road.
So, given my clear affinity for the city and for entire days spent traveling between my village in Botha Bothe and Lesotho’s capital, why on earth am I going so often?

Sometime in December, I messed up my knee. I wrote it off as a torn or pulled hamstring and relaxed my then intense workout schedule. Over the ensuing two months, the knee alternated between mostly fine, a little uncomfortable, and possessed. Finally, I acknowledged it was getting worse and contacted the Peace Corps Medical Officer [PCMO].

Having a real medical issue—more than a quick trip to the local ER—has been one of my two biggest anxieties during service. I have no qualms about being far from medical care; with a decade of wilderness medical responder certificates, I am pretty relaxed about the possibility of injury or illness in a remote setting. Instead, I am terrified something could happen that would “make me unfit for service,” in other words, the idea of being sent home for medical care gives me hives.

So, anxiety aside, I have been working closely with our PCMO for the last three months. I was sent to Bloemfontein, South Africa to a specialist, which determined that my knee was surgical. PC Washington, PCMO, and I felt a more conservative plan might be better, so we have been trying physiotherapy, which is only available in Maseru.

Styling with a snazzy red
racing stripe to help my
IT band behave during
a week of Physio.
Weekly sojourns away from my site make things difficult. It is hard to explain to people who only see a doctor for emergencies and life threatening conditions that I am leaving the village every week to see a doctor when I do not appear sickly. When I tell them there is a problem with my knee and it is incredibly painful, they are sympathetic and empathize with me by sharing the joints that cause them pain. I have no doubt that some have far more serious conditions than mine, yet physiotherapy or surgery will never be a part of their lives.

Traveling to Maseru for two to three days each week also means that when I am in village, I am busier than usual, trying to fit everything into a smaller time frame. I find myself juggling different meetings and trainings around when I am available. As a result, I end up with no time for rest or for personal maintenance in a world where typical chores take more time than my schedule allows.

Clothes, bedding, and more on the line.
At one point, I had gone over two weeks without doing laundry. Since we had not had rain, I needed daylight to walk to the spring to complete the chore. With days getting shorter as winter approaches, that simply did not exist for me. (I also secretly had reservations about the walk with heavy wet laundry making my knee worse.) Thankfully my brother took notice of my dilemma and brought me water to do my laundry. I did my scrubbing by candlelight Sunday night and early Monday morning before hanging everything on the line.

I then spent the day in town with some women from my organization as we worked on our chicken project. I was feeling like I could conquer the world and get a million things done in a day until I was waiting at the taxi rank for a ride home and a huge storm rolled in. By the time I reached my village, I had given up. I knew that everything on the line would be drenched and that with my departure for Maseru at dawn the next morning, I had no idea how I would keep everything from growing mildew.
I felt completely overwhelmed until I rounded the corner of my hut to find my clothes gone. I have never been so grateful to find an empty clothesline. My brothers had no idea where my clothing and bedding were, but I knew that someone in the community had grabbed them before the rain came. The mystery of who had saved my week was solved an hour later when the clothes returned complements of a very slow elderly woman who lives nearby. For her to walk to our house, take down the clothes, and walk back home with them must have taken her nearly an hour!

After all of my back and forth travels, a dozen appointments, and lengthy PT homework assignments, I am pleased to be able to say that my knee appears to be on the mend. Two weeks ago, I reported my first pain free week, which allowed us to decrease my visit schedule. Since then, I angered it once but was able to correct the issues at home. After a check-in this week, I have a whole month before my next appointment.

Needless to say, I am thrilled. 

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