Life Overseas

This Thing Called Age!

Well, it has been a real surprise for me.  Aging sneaked up on me when my back was turned.  I was in the drug store getting some vitamins one day and suddenly within a matter of weeks I was told that I had a 26 degree curvature of my spine.  I challenged my doctor:   there surely was a mistake!  I had been athletic all my life, baseball, swimming, hiking, dancing competitive tennis (my team went to national championships) – I climbed trees & jumped on tractors and off the roof of farmer’s barns as a child, dove off the roof at the swimming center, and in Africa I ran in the Hash House Harriers.   We climbed the lower (very, very lower)  slopes of both Kilamanjaro, which already was a “flat” hill… and The “Feet” of the Himalayas.

“How could I do all that with a spinal curvature?”  Surely the doc was wrong…but he shook his head and said “Isn’t it amazing what we can do when we are unaware we have handicaps! ”  My doctor, like most people in the medical field had a firm handle on Belief, and I have to say I never really realized I lived my life as a gimp.  I carried on through the childhood years of playing marbles with my brother, swinging upside down on the merry-go-round in the park, pitching for my brother’s baseball team and slugging  a base ball nearly out of the park (I always had a designated runner! but nobody knew I was a gimp.)

Years later I danced my ass off at a place in San Francisco called Dance Your Ass Off, and continued on with doing whatever I wanted to do.  Moved to Africa and occasionally ran in the international running group called the Hash House Harriers….

Home again, at the tender age of sixty-nine  I had a hip-replacement.  The REAL problem was about my left leg which was a lot shorter than my right!   I had pounded it into submission, almost into the ground as I kept on running, climbing trees, hiking, dancing, and  later on more running when I started competitive tennis at 55 (you have to be over 50 for Senior Tennis.)  Dr. Bruce said the X-ray showed my hip looking more like a crocheted doily that his grandma used to make.

Then he pointed out  the scrawl on the X-ray that said “But she’s got the bones of a 30-year old!”  So something worked out for me, as I lived a life doing whatever I wanted for nearly seventy years.

These days I am much more able to walk in nice long strides, without jerking from left to right, and with an easy gait (so sorry my mom never saw me walk easy!)  She never knew why I was such a “Big Galumpus” consequently was really tough on me for not “walking like a lady”.

Oh, yes, and my border Collie Lulu is much relieved too, she hated it when I fell, and took to walking so close to me that she leaned into my leg and could block any fall.

Aging people should look into getting Border Collies!

I keep having thoughts about going out to the courts again…..maybe just practicing serves, maybe a little bit of..no, I don’t want to risk it:  I’m still having too much fun staying vertical.

 

 

Categories: About Ageing, Family History, Learning to Run Again, Life Overseas, My Home Town, Old Time Religion, Parenting, Peer Pressure, Poverty, Supporting Our People, This Thing Called Age.., Uncategorized | Leave a comment

WARTHOG PARENTING

 

 

The common warthog is medium-sized species; their head-and-body lengths range from 0.9 to 1.5 m (3.0 to 4.9 ft.) and shoulder height is from 63.5 to 85 cm (25.0 to 33.5 in). Females, at 45 to 75 kg (99 to 165 lb.), are typically a bit smaller and lighter in weight than males, at 60 to 150 kg (130 to 330 lb.).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warthog

 

Years ago our family was on our first African Safari in the Masai Mara. Masai being the name of the local natives; Mara is the name of the wide river running through the area.  The Mara is beautiful, twisting and winding through Kenya, home to herds of hippopotami and the giant Southern crocodiles. The Mara is far more dangerous than the Nile Rivers in the North: it is a fact that most human killings by animals in Africa are by Hippopotami.

We stayed at Kichewa Tembo Camp, in a spacious tent complete with an outdoor toilet, outdoor shower. One morning while my husband and our two (very) young children were sound asleep, I thought I might leave our tent and step outside to watch and photograph the sunrise over the Mara, hoping to see some of the animals living normally, waking and coming out to graze.

On our arrival we were cautioned to walk only on wide bare dirt paths or where native grasses were kept mowed down to nubs. Tall grasses often contain deadly surprises, like lion, cheetah, hyena: all predators laying low, sleeping off an evening of hard work.

On this particular morning, light spread slowly across the sky, first a metallic grey-green turning blue, exposing the short grass, as the first flickers of orange peeked above the horizon. The sun rose tentatively, picking up a rainbow of pinks, taking over the early morning blues; and awakening the inhabitants of the savannah to bask in her full beauty.

Delighted with the display, I sat cross-legged on the prickly short grass in the semi-dark, and indulged my then habit: in the untouched beauty of nature, I lit a lousy menthol cigarette! I smoked and waited, eager to see how this show would progress, confident that I, although alone, was securely seated on the protective short grass, therefore I would be in no danger.

When the sun fully rose above the horizon and spread its light, the gods opened the gates of nature and thundering herds wandered in: wildebeest, zebra, water buffalo, giraffe followed by one delicate Thomson Gazelle: mostly early-morning hooved creatures.

Apparently lion, cheetah, leopard, cervil, and elephant and others were either sound asleep after a night’s marauding or waited for Group One to tear up the earth and kick up some protein or perhaps to drive other predators away. Nature has ways of sequencing to which I am not privy.

I was enthralled with this display, and sat cross-legged and slack jawed with a half-smoked cigarette in my right hand, camera in my lap when I heard something nearby. I heard footsteps. Then I heard an animal make a snorty noise like a sleeping husband and I saw movement to the right of me.

Was it instinct that told me to freeze, to not make any eye-contact with the Leader of this Pack? Or was it because he was plain scary looking? He led his family of four Little Warthogs; Mama brought up the rear. They all slowed down, eyes on me. I froze in the clarity of my situation.

I used my peripheral vision to keep track of them, making no eye contact at all, worried about challenging them with those babies. They stopped for what seemed like a lifetime as I remained a statue. The damn cigarette was burning its way to my finger nails but I dared not move. As I worried about the scent of my burnt nails Papa moved on, but the children wanted to get a closer look at me. And now Mama snorted at them.

I dropped my eyes when I heard Papa turn around, hoping he knew the snort came from Mama, not me. They all went quiet. I felt twelve eyes on me. I kept mine on the grass, avoiding challenge, hoping I would see any flicker of movement; wondering what I might need to do: sling my Nikon at the Dad?

The whole family snorted at me. They then trotted away and disappeared from sight.

I looked at my watch and found it was a heart stopping eight minute encounter.

The cigarette, burnt down to the filter was out and it scorched my fingernail painfully. The odor of burning hair was on me.

Perhaps they moved on because I now smelled worse than they smelled.   I don’t know whether that is good or bad. What I do know, is these Warthog Parents had expectations of their youngsters. They trained them to obey so they could learn how to be safe and stay alive. I guess I was a part of that lesson.

A lot of parents today could learn from that band of Warthogs.

 

NOTE: Wikipedia is a source I use frequently. They are in need of financial support, approaching a possibility of shut down in the near future. I encourage all who access their information to go to their site and support them J

Categories: Life Overseas, Parenting | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s About Death

Both my mother and brother died on Dec. 13th, three decades apart. He had not reconciled with our mother and I have had a hunch that it was his way of honoring her at last.  I dunno, I’m just built that way:  life (and death) have meanings.   This year it is Corrie, my Dutch friend who married an old boyfriend of mine.  I’d passed him on to Annie who was so mean to him – but then we were Just Seventeen then and stupid.  It freed him up to eventually take a holiday to Amsterdam, where certain vegetation could be purchased with no hassles.  I’m not saying he found Corrie there, doing that.. but they both were known for dam heavy smoking and whiskey neat.

It was a godsend that Patrick was in Holland when my world collapsed in Sudan.  The kids and spent the better part of three months in Den Haag, waiting to see what the political outcome would be in Khartoum.  Pat is one of my oldest and dearest friends, and he had a beautiful life with an incredibly intelligent, funny and loving woman.  They were married over 30 years.

Corrie passed on New Years Day after nearly a decade of fighting brain and lung cancers.  During those years she was in and out of hospital, and when she was strong she and Patrick took off to various parts of the world to continue their lifelong devotion to improving the world.  They worked on fresh water and farming in Africa, built schools in the Greek Islands andSouth America. Where there is need the Dutch always roll up their sleeves and literally “dig in”.  They came to me a year ago last summer, and we held a wonderful party for them in our back yard when it still looked beautiful.  Food and drink and old folks:  we reminisced about our teenage years when we were young, silly and excited about everything – even an event in San Francisco I’d blocked out:  a “Horse Potato” fight in Golden Gate Park.  Disgusting but fun.

Most of us have relatives and friends who seem to choose the Annual Party Time: starting with Halloween, through Thanksgiving, Christmas & New Year.  I am of the opinion that they choose their departure deliberately, they have some say in the event and it is not to bring sorrow to the celebrations, it’s their way of participating annually ~ perhaps even looking in on us???  Anyway, that’s my own take. I promise to make a post to my blog if I find out if I’m right after I make my own transition.  That should be Thanksgiving.   I will no doubt be hovering near your stove because I love to be warm!

In our wonderful online world, I found a distant relative living in the North of England and began a correspondence with her regarding a mysterious island in the freezing depths of the North Sea just off Scotland.  We did some research then she finally cracked her own “mystery” of the ancient isle of Ates.  During the course of searching I decided I really MUST visit the coastal islands of the UK, soon.  It’s the Isle of Man that has my attention as I once met a fellow who said he was Manx, so I asked if he was from the Isle of Man and he said yes, the residents call themselves Manx, and in answer to my unspoken query he added “Like the Cat. The breed is native there.”

I can only wonder how and why a tail-less breed of cat mutated only on this one small island.  It’s my understanding that cats were first civilized in Egypt.  Now how does this work?  In this paragraph one can see how my mind works and I probably should feel shame but I don’t.

I hope all have enjoyed your tour through my brain above.  Off we go to my letter from Hilda, and how the family celebrated the death of her husband Frank during the Holidays.  (While you read, I think I’ll post and move on to find out what the Barnardos Homes are. Perhaps foster care or orphanage…)

 

Happy New Year Melanie,

 I had a LOVELY Xmas, despite everything.  My grandson James sat in Franks usual place at the dinner table, and said all the things ‘Grumpy’ usually said on such occasions. It was fun.  His funeral service was beautiful.  He asked for “the cheapest funeral we could get “, and absolutely no religion”. He lost what faith he had when the cancer got him. We granted him his wish.  We had a ‘Humanist’ service. Some of his favorite songs, and a female officiate called Val.  She stood and told his life story. (he was brought up in foster care, starting with Barnardos  Homes.  About 12 of his old work mates turned up. I was delighted. I had only ever met one of them, and it was him who got the rest there.  He remained a loyal friend to Frank, and visited regular when he was ill. We are so very grateful to him.  

We played Ketty Lester’s ‘Love Letters’ to go into the chapel, ( we started out as pen-pals while he was in the army) Kenny Rogers / Dolly Partons  ‘Islands in the Stream’ , for the quiet thoughtful, quiet period half way through, and the very irreligious ‘Another one bites the the Dust’ by Queen, when we were leaving the chapel. (He was cremated) That was his specific request. He would have been laughing.  

 I have had a bit of a struggle with the arthritis  lately. the weather hear is weird at the moment. We have VERY strong winds at moment. I hate them. Makes me tense and head-achy.  Anyway, will finish now. Watching ‘Ben Hur’ for the umpteenth time, as tele  has been pathetic over the holidays. Very few adult programmes, all repeats, and nearly all childrens programmes, even in the evenings. They get there licence fee for nothing these days.  Bye for now melanie. get well soon.

Your friend Hilda.

Categories: Family History, Friends I've never Met, Life Overseas, Supporting Our People | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

FIRST LESSON IN THE SAHARA

Paved roads are usually too dangerous.

Better to drive on hard-pack-sand.

I drive the Sahara with Babies on Board:

Daughter’s first day in first grade

Little brother goes along for the ride.

No horizons here: just shades of gritty yellow

endless yellows: sand melts into sky

Until this unseen sun that cannot cast shadows

Disappears and Night falls with the

Deep blue velvet of a Christmas Card Sky.

On this no-road “track” at 6:00 AM, it’s hot already.

School starts at 6:30 no worries. I charge on.

What’s wrong with the steering! Oh no!

From the boot I pull my jack and

A lug nut “thingie” which I call a star.

Oh no! I can’t jack the rear tire up!

I’ve lost too much weight! What?

Can’t eat here: too hot.

Now I can’t save my babies!

“MADAM! MIGHT WE BE OF SOME ASSISTANCE?”

Four bearded men on donkey-back ride silently from behind.

They come to me in gellabias and turbans,

Speaking British English.

They bow when they dismount.

I turn my star over to them.

I see they know what to do.

Two men take turns turning;

Two men make shade

With a donkey blanket.

They stand tall and hold it

Above the rear doors to shade my children.

Arms straight in the air for as long as it takes!

They are the protectors of my little ones.

One wants to give them water

And the shouting begins!

Khawaji have to be careful with water!

They hurry and finish the job

So I offend them with a monetary gift.

“No Madam, in the desert it is our duty

To care for each other,” he smiles.

I’m embarrassed, I’m a fool, I apologize.

“No Madam, malesh!” he smiles again:

The easy generosity of the Desert Arab.

I bow my head. I bless them as they ride off,

Little donkey butts in the distance

With an uncertain horizon.

Melanie Wood 10/7/2014

Categories: Life Overseas | Tags: | Leave a comment

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