Damn Good Biking

Damn Good Biking
Mammath Mountain

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Eureka!!!! A nigerien discovery of self awareness

Gashaiku (Greetings you all)

Sorry it has been a loooooooong time since my last update, hopefully if you know my moms and sister they have kept you abreast on the latest in my world. So the rumors are indeed true, I have survived the first two months at post! “nearly unscathed”
As advertised my initial two months at post have passed and on Saturday I will be returning to Niamey, more specifically Hamdallaye, for an additional three weeks of technical and language training. Despite my attempts at praying and searching for some mystical wizardry to make the excruciating blistering times of the day pass faster I have never said to myself “I do not want to be here anymore.” In fact I welcomed the hot season about as much as I would a bastard family member, (he’s coming over whether you like it or not so love him, and enjoy life at his expense). So hot season is another challenge and experience to live through, and though I don’t quite understand yet what has changed about me, something under the surface seems different and I’m eagerly looking forward to analyzing that with my friends soon.
On Sunday I will be meeting with my friends from training and that’s when the real lessons of these first two months will reveal themselves after we share a few drinks and start comparing our experiences and coming to gripes with a “What the Hell just happened to us” sort of experience.
Concerning appearances, after only a short period spanning two months at post there are some obvious physical changes such as my extraordinary loss in weight, nice muscular toning due to a regimented morning routine of yoga. Not to mention a devastatingly handsome new look modeling a shaved head and really-really retro fashion tribute paying homage to the French fur traders of yesteryear. Its absolute crazy having a unkempt four month old beard here during hot season but I love my multiple inched burliness and twisted mustache, its also functional purpose it keeps the sun off my face, sure don’t want premature wrinkling! and in a country where many are malnourished or dehydrated it saves most of what I eat or drink for later. That’s conservation! I would be liar if I said I did not say to myself damn josh your getting better looking with every year and it is tedious refraining myself from kissing the mirror damn near every morning. So why resist?
Okay moving on to the other changes. As mentioned I feel there have been more important realizations and changes within myself many of which at this moment eludes me. However being one never short for a thought or words I will comment on one particular life altering realization and most obvious of internal changes that have occurred here. And that would probably be my sense of self. It starts like this…..
One particular evening while taking my nightly bucket bath and cleansing my body from the woes of a miserably hot day and rinsing away the grainy combination of sweat and sand. I sat silent in ponderous thought while enjoying another god given wonderful evening spent alone underneath the vibrant African starry night. Nude, at peace, comfortable with my surroundings while taking in the atmosphere of listing to life in Dan Saga women pounded millet, children played, the wind rustled above the trees, and the animals near my fence finished their evening meals. I wondered in and out of the conscious world and came to a realization. And I spoke the worlds unknowledgeable of their meaning when I said….

“I am here the time is now!”

Now I know this is kind of a broad statement and definitely is not a realization even remotely profound as Archimedes’s bathing experience when he discovered how to measure volume and then ran through the town naked crazily shrieking Eureka! Eureka!
No my realization came subtly and I reacted giddily but with reservation, mainly because here Muslim culture doesn’t appreciate the fine art form of streaking or more descriptively white naked men streaking their prayer service. They are tranquil farmers, peaceful folk, but it is a pitchfork and string him up kind of offence here.

I am here, the time is now. Life for me is what it is, why worry!
Let me explain.
Burdened with life at times and often lost at the crossroads of time and thought we are left standing with our head up our !@# and aimlessly staggering about. Often bewildered and incapable of acting rationally or thinking critically, one is suspended between a vacuum of worthless time thinking about what we have done, and what we are going to do next. The real tragedy of this tale of woe is that as a mass we often are left believing in our lives that we have the ability to change our past (technically we can) but more importantly really control the course of our future. So the consequence being -we lose the obvious “Here and Now” and the path we tread is hapless and aloof from others. So why bother? Why waste our time and lose the positive momentum that comes from appreciating where we are and what we are doing. Minutes, days, months, years, and entire lives have been wasted at such wasteful pondering.
In my case with nothing to do but spend my time doing what I please in the village I heard a perpetuating buzzing in my mind saying “What have you done in life? What are you going to do after Niger?” At first it was a pestering buzz then it evolved into a head splitting clatter tearing my mind in different directions but never in the place where I was. Do I live in the past, do I seek a future I have no control over…... NO!!! NO!!! ENOUGH!!!!!

That day prior to that said bucket bath something within myself snapped and I spoke out loud to myself. “I am here, the time is now!”

Why not appreciate where we are and what we are doing? Even a place we don’t like being is a place to learn something about ones-self and the world. Why waste the opportunity to think of something potentially more important or profound or appreciate something minute but no doubt remains a miracle of nature. Life everyday taken for granted. For instance I would kill to watch a dragonfly on a river right now, but I’m content listening to some great Arabic music (thanks shana) and feeling the gentle breeze break the heat while collecting my thoughts for you all.

I know without me back in the US for some the world is not as great as it could beJ and many said don’t go! The world is too dangerous, what if you don’t like it? Everyone has AIDS there!!! White people please!!!! The globe has continued to revolve just fine, there is nothing I can do to stop the plaguing issue of continental drift, or the changing winds so why bother? The human world churns, the environment sustains (disputable) and I am placed in a situation where the only thing I have is myself and the rest of the world at my feet. I am happy
“I am here the time is now!”

Despite 28 years of attempting to chuck my alarm clock out the window only to have it fall on my head, I ritualistically arise about 0600 in my village and become a creature of habit (morning regiment of tea, yoga, and reading), then the rest of the day I become a international man of mystery (Who is this white guy, and what is he saying to us in broken Hausa?) and a peacefully wayfaring missionary of hope (as in I hope I make it though this hot season).

In my two months I have thought extensively about my life and the role I have in this beautiful world. Not to mention contributing some really profound thoughts on life and some really impressive meditative and poetic mandolin arrangements to people who do not understand what I am saying. Despite the negative outlook that I will might not ever sell a million albums or books my efforts undoubtedly will swoon the hearts of many along my way in life. Wasting more time loving wastefully I have taken to reading a lot of books, fallen off evil horses, rode camels, been nearly attacked by a rather rude bull because of my attempt to mount him. All the same. I love them. Its been a real learning experience relearning how to live while attempting to brave the typical elements and situations of Niger such as; sandstorms, children, bush taxis, heat, dangerous animals, and managing my daily livelihood in one of the harshest climates in the world. I am here the Time is now. Taking care of my own, daily I pull and carry my own water, and have eaten a healthy combination and mounds of mangoes, goat, feces, and tuwo sometimes all together.
Despite losing countless gallons of fluids and pounds of mass due to profuse sweating, amoebic and parasitic intestinal invasions, and a terrible bout with a simultaneous yeast and bacterial infection my body remains in a sense of harmony, and my spirits vividly live on an emotional rollercoaster. Regardless I remain able to go to bed nightly with satisfaction knowing that I’m walking the path less taken and doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing at that time and place.
Do I have to say it again….okay I will
I am here the time is now!

In closing I am happy here. It is difficult and I consider this a job perfect for those knowledgeable of bipolar disorder or suffering from the illness themselves because one has to be aware here that all emotions are amplified. Any given day can be spent surfing the varying waves of emotions, some time spent celebrating extremely blissful highs and lows that destabilize ones reasons for existence here.
But all the same at the end of the day I have never regretted coming here and I miss my crazy life back home but sure do not want to return there.

“I am here the time is now!”

On a lighter note I do talk to myself now randomly at times as you can gather and one day when I needed to treat myself I went to a guard where I keep the goodies and looked in an said “I feel like a sucker” No truer sentiment has ever been spoken from these lips. Couldn’t help but laugh at myself.

Thousands of miles away but hopefully still close in all your hearts,

Yours truly,


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