Things Fall Apart
4 November 2003
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.
–W. B. Yeats: ‘The Second Coming’
On Saturday night my AIDS awareness club had their HIV/AIDS performance. I was very impressed with how well the kids did. Of course, there was some confusion (people chickened out at the last minutes) but over all it was very successful. The most impressive part was how much initiative the learners took on their own. They set everything up and organized it all. All I did was check their poems, give a few suggestions on the drama, and keep the stereo equipment at my house, but they really did every thing else themselves—including keeping their peers quiet during the drama.
I figured out the trick to not being quite so discouraged here. Divide and conquer. So now, when I get upset or annoyed, I don’t think “I hate everyone.” I just think “I hate grade 9.” It really helps. And I do love my 11th graders more and more as time goes on. I think it just took them a while to figure out my sense of humor while it took me some time to figure out how to teach them (the more entertaining the better). When I missed school on Monday because of my shoulder, 11C (my register class) sent me a get-well note saying how boring their day was without me. John from 11B even came to personally check up on me, as he was one of the witnesses to actual dislocation and hadn’t seen me since, so he must have imagined I was still writhing in agony.
On Saturday, Sakeus and Matheus, two of my 11th graders, brought back our chicken and clipped its wings so it couldn’t escape anymore. I felt really bad about the negative symbolism of “clipping someone’s wings”—it just sounds so limiting and anti-inspirational. But it is a wayward chicken after all. It ran off with the rooster and wasn’t even coming back at night anymore. Plus it wasn’t taking proper care of its eggs.
My shoulder proved to be quite troublesome. Even four days after the incident, it kept feeling like it would just fall out. Normally I can move it around fine after a dislocation, but this time it continued to feel weak, like all the strings attached to my arm were stretched out and I had to physically hold it in. So I spent three days laying on the couch reading books while Zac was a very dutiful husband and cooked all the meals and did everything for me. On Monday, when my arm appeared to not be getting any better, I called the Peace Corps medical officer and she seemed concerned, so she told me to go to the doctor in Ondangwa. So on Tuesday we went.
Now, I mean no disrespect to this doctor, as I like her very much because she is good at listening and seems genuinely concerned—but she just wasn’t getting it at all. I supposed I do have sort of a weird problem. Among other things, she assured me that my shoulder wasn’t dislocated anymore, then asked me to move it in various ways that would have surely dislocated it again. Next, she asked me if I had ever dislocated it in Namibia before. When I said no, she seemed to imply that it was only significantly worse this time because I was away from home (rather than the fact that my arm hadn’t been properly connected for over an hour). Then I told her I had dislocated it in D.C. when I fell down the stairs at the hotel during our pre-departure training for The Peace Corps. She was really interested in this and asked me if I fell down stairs very often, how many stairs there were, etc.
After talking to me for a while, she called in another doctor to have a look at me. He also assured me that it wasn’t dislocated anymore “I know—the problem is I can’t really move it and it feels like it will fall out again any minute…” Then the two doctors started discussing what pain killers they were going to give me. “But it doesn’t really hurt, I don’t need any drugs. I need to be able to feel it.” They were not discouraged. They assured me that they had many different levels of pain killers. “Yeah, but I really don’t need anything. The pain is not the problem.” Finally, they started discussing a sling. The doctor observed the way I was holding my arm and suggested tying a bandage to my wrist and then around my neck. Luckily the other doctor decided that wouldn’t be a very good idea. Then they realized they didn’t have a sling. Well, they had had one, but they had given it to a patient. Which is, of course, a completely unforeseeable event in a doctors’ office. So she started calling around to the various pharmacies, but none of them had one. She called the Oshakati hospital and luckily they had one, and would send someone over with it at lunchtime. So, I was happy. A sling would at least enable me to stand up and move around without fear of my arm falling off. She instructed me to come back in an hour for the sling.
So Zac and I walked, slowly, down to the Ondangwa Rest Camp and had some lunch, then went back to the clinic. When she called me into her room, I didn’t see a sling. Then she picked up a small plastic package that looked like a folded-up ace bandage. “Is that it?!” I asked, shocked. “Yes, of course,” she said, “what were you expecting?” She opened it up and unfolded a large white handkerchief and two safety pins fell out. She started to pin/tie it on me, and I had a flashback to a day when my brother came jubilantly home from a boy scout meeting about first aid and informed me that the sash they wear as part of their uniforms could also be used as a sling—then he demonstrated it on me. What was I expecting? I don’t know, maybe a comfortable sling with neck padding, cushioning, several straps for adjusting it…something respectable that I could wear while teaching. With this thing on, I feel like a kid who is playing at having a broken arm. Oh well, it does actually help, although it’s not comfortable and I can’t wear it for very long because I lose circulation in my neck.