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What’s been happening with Sera?

What’s Been Happening with Sera?
2 February – 2 March 2004

“You think you are the greatest sufferer in the world.  Do you know that men are sometimes banished for life?”
        —Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Excerpts of letters from Stateside Sera:

2 February

Dear Zac,

I finally got to talk to Dr. Guth today about my shoulder. He said my capsule was torn on both sides and nearly in shreds. In addition to the tears, it was very stretched out. He’s never seen something so bad. It is likely the result of my many dislocations, not just the most recent one. He fixed it up as much as possible, but he said there was still no guarantee that there would not be future dislocations. Although the risk is less now, he explained that for me, the dislocations would be a chronic problem and I would always have to be careful because my ligaments are so loose. Exercises can help, but basically, I’m really really loose, and muscles can’t fix that.

When I asked about the time frame for my recovery, I got very discouraging news. First, he said I should still not move my shoulder for another 2 weeks.  He is really worried about the condition of my shoulder and wants to take the therapy really slowly. Furthermore, I am guaranteed to have developed a frozen shoulder again.

The total time for recovery, before he can write my letter of medical clearance, is projected to be 3-4 months. That’s right, 3 to 4 long months. Of course this could change–he was hesitant to give me an exact time frame.

Zac, I would describe for you my depression at this news, in great sweeping superlatives, but I am sure that you know it.

And still, isn’t it ironic that this great tragedy inadvertently came out of my great love? The Palaver Club that led to the downfall of Sera Arcaro.

16 February

Hey Zac,

So, my future as a public speaker is well on its way. I gave a speech about Namibia to my parent’s church on Sunday. I enjoyed giving the talk and the audience (~90 people) was really attentive and laughed a lot more than my grandma’s group did. Mom was so worried before the speech and kept telling me to “speak slowly and loudly because I remember at your Honduras speech [9 years ago!] you kept trailing off at the ends of your sentences.” (Repeat ad infinitum.) Little did she know while in Namibia I had been practicing speaking loudly and slowly for a whole year and was by now an expert. 

The weather continues to be cold and occasionally snowy. Although it hasn’t snowed much lately, there is still a good base on the ground.  I am sad though because there is nice ice-cream in the freezer but I am always too cold to eat it.

I have trouble thinking of things to talk about in these letters. I was hoping I would be able to look at my surroundings with fresh eyes and find funny things to write about, but it is hard here, when everything still seems normal to me, and I stay at home all day. I think things would be a lot different if I were teaching here. Teaching is full of funny experiences or awful catastrophes, but life alone is pretty much boring. By the time you get this letter, I am probably working at my mom’s office again, which isn’t much of an improvement. An interesting thing is how isolated one can be here. I almost miss taking taxis everywhere I go. There is nothing very interesting about driving myself around or riding with my parents.

I think about Namibia constantly. I guess I’m so obsessive because I’m missing it. I don’t think it will be so bad when we come home for real and we’ve completed our time there. But I don’t have much to occupy my mind, so I travel through my memories or try to guess what is happening there now. I also suppose that “distance makes the heart grow fonder” and so I imagine my experience as being better than it was, and I forget about all the frustrations. Even so, life is more interesting over there, just for its novelty and bizarreness. I guess I also glorify the experience for selfish reasons: I was important over there. I could do things no other teacher could. Here, I don’t even matter. 

26 February

Hi Zac,

How’s it going at Ekulo? It’s been 9 weeks since I’ve been absent from Namibia. From here on out, every day will mark the longest we’ve been separated from each other. I was in the U.K. for nine weeks and when I look back from here, it can seem so short, as I suppose this time will too, once it’s gone. But while I’m in it, each day drags on with so little progress towards any resolution that it feels like it’s just another sigh of this eternal waiting. I guess I can hope that this will be my only regret in life, my one big suffering. And yet, I’m not sure exactly what to regret; only that it happened, that life is like this, so out of control, so painful for the loving of it.  I keep thinking I’ll get used to what happened, that I’ll get used to being here, but I can’t. I feel so purposeless here. I am not alive to sort and file statements.

Sunday I went to church. I’m so tired of explaining my shoulder to people. There’s just something about old people and health problems–they’re very interested in it, more so than Africa. Funny, huh?

One good thing is that the NPR news came back, after disappearing mysteriously for a week. All the news these days is about gay marriages. Massachusetts supreme court legalized them, and a mayor in California started giving out marriage licenses to gay couples in defiance of state law (and the Governator), so the issue is really being thrust to the forefront. Bush is proposing a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. People are so stupid. How are gay marriages any threat to hetero marriages? People opposed to gay marriages keep saying that it is best for children to be raised by a man and a woman and that marriage exists for children. But what then about divorce? Unwed pregnancies? What about kids living with grandparents or relatives? What about hetero people who get married but don’t have kids? It’s quite ridiculous, but I’m at least glad it’s being seriously discussed. Change is slow and painful.

Well, I hope you have a good week. I continue to work on my shoulder, but like I said, progress is slow. There is no new news on any front. I guess I’m just waiting to see what happens at the next doctor’s appointment on the 8th.

1 March

Therapy is still going slowly. I keep thinking of this Haiku by Issa:

Climb Mount Fuji
O snail
But slowly, slowly

I guess it’s the Japanese version of the Little Engine that Could. So my shoulder is stretching out “but slowly, slowly.”

“Super Tuesday” 2 March

Hi Zac,

My job consists largely of putting small check marks next to each number in a long column, but only if it matches another number corresponding to that same person in another long column on another piece of paper. Why don’t they ever write it like that in job descriptions? It is infinitely boring, but I would rather be there at least doing something and earning money than just staying at home. It’s something productive, no matter how insignificant it is. And I figure each hour I work I make as much money as about 2 days in Namibia. It’s not much consolation, but it will usually get me out of bed in the morning.

After work, Mom and I went and voted. It was at my elementary school. I saw my principal there, and he remembered me, or pretended to (maybe I didn’t get in trouble enough). I told him I was a teacher now and my sister also. I think I will be happy as an educator if my students come to me and say they’ve become teachers. Unless they were really awful students, then I might worry. He said he’d been there for 19 years. You should tell the learners that. I bet principals rarely stay anywhere more than 6 years in Namibia.

Greet the sand for me.
Love, sera

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