Damn Good Biking

Damn Good Biking
Mammath Mountain

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

5-25-08 The Accident

You know me, where there is time, there is always a story.

The weekend of the May 10th I came to Maradi for a quick respite and also to partake in a counterpart "swar-ye" (hick french) where we would showcase our work and explain the Peace Corps mission to unsuspecting guests who only came for the free food and drink.

"why I went"

The next afternoon I fielded a call from me mum and caught up on a couple weeks worth of news, while towards the end of the conversation the hammock I was perched in about three feet above the ground, decided to play chutes and ladders with me as the unsuspecting fool.

When the rope holding my more intelligent end snapped, my arse was violently driven to the ground and an immediate pain seared through my body. My mom heard what I could only describe as a pathetic blended droning of whimpers, chuckles, and crying.

Don't laugh, it hurt, its a real injury, and I am can cry if I want to.


Check the Manly Man Manual, Vol.I pg 567 under the Chapter, "When its okay to cry and not look like a wimp"

totally allowed.

Twenty minutes after the incident and after wrapping the conversation with mum, I found myself still entangled in the lazy-man snare, and unable to get up.

Even tried calling for help, yet none heard my stranded pleas for assistance.


Wouldn't it be my luck?

Here I am in Niger, constantly on the move, always involved in strenuous activities, even finding myself on occasion being head butted, bit, kicked, charged at, or thrown from animals exceeding well over a thousand pounds.

Yet no serious injury

Did you know the cows here are quite Darwinianly gifted with very- very sharp man-a-kabob horns.

It does me no service in means of credibility to have to explain how I was injured, but I'd rather come out of this experience being able to laugh instead of dwelling on something tragic.

Five days after being on involuntary bed rest after the accident, I broke down and finally called the doctor and reported the incident, (intentionally down playing the extent of the injury to keep from being called to Niamey). The result of which was the doctor prescribing two different sorts of pain medication to help me hobble back to my village for a quick in and out trip to put things in order prior to Niamey.

In Niamey I had two previous engagements both of which I was really looking forward too.

The main engagement was a festival we were putting on called Pangaea, which is a music and artistic cross cultural exchange put on by local artists and PCV's, while many natives and aliens from the development realm come enjoy and partake in the activities. My role was to give a couple classes on the mandolin and traditional American music, then follow up the classes with a jam session.

The next day after the music my other tasks was to return to Hamdallaye and speak with our new agriculture and natural resource management volunteers about some of my work and experiences. I have been looking forward to cornering a captive audience and parlaying my experiences of becoming a sahelien farmer.

It was a real shame niether event took place, it will be a regret.


By Friday I was well buffered from the pain and stepped away from the more comfortable confines of the hostel to the open road where I knew the entire trip from Maradi to Dan Saga would be dreadful.

10 hours later and on the brink for complete collapse I shakily entered my house and then after about a three minute rest was stormed by Nazifi's Army, and other villagers inquiring to why I was walking so oddly.

Within the hour my exhaustion was exchanged by rage from what I came home to.

The first of which was noticing "Attaboy" was starved, despite having food in reserve for him and my ox "Charlie". Then my rabbits numbering about twenty were left for god knows how long without clean water.

What I saw in the water dish was a disgusting moldy cesspool of neglect from my closest friend and partner in my tree nursery.

Which, of which, was found completely treeless except for the trees purchased from Niamey and painstakingly brought to Dan Saga. My goal this year was to distribute these trees freely to local farmers who helped me out last year and showed interests towards adapting the improved management techniques to their fields.

I guess my absence meant more than just a loss of time not spent in my village.

The chickens ate a sahelien style smörgåsbord of about 1500 acacia tree sprouts.

I will never feel bad again when i see millions of chickens culled during bird flu outbreaks

Five months of accumulating supplies, planning, composting, pulling water, putting projects upon projects together to plan for this growing season, and all for nothing.

The night ended with me losing control, breaking many things, and coming the closest to making the final decision to quit.

That night I took some time to myself, took a lengthy bucket bath and wrote extensively how I felt, it even helped to pet my rabbits.

The next day I apologized to my kids and chief for making "mahaucaci" (ma'haw'ka'chi) "crazy"

They laughed, agreed, understood and forgave.

The next day, my friend Mamman and I got to the bottom of the issues and developed a contingency plan of what to do with the nursery, and why the rabbits were out of water.

Apparently the kids won't work for him, if I am not around. Go figure.

On a positive note however that afternoon about a couple hours prior to sunset, hot season officially ended for my village. We were hit by our first magnificent rain, the next day I walked out of a ghost town, nobody to say good bye to, alone, and unsure of my future in Niger.

Everyone was planting.

This cannot be how this chapter of my life is finished.

It hurts to think that because of a faulty rope fastening a hammock was the death kiss to my service, if it is I leave Niger thankful of my time spent, but I will return a shattered and heartbroken man.

Dan Saga has given me everything I came to find and take from this experience. It took over two decades to accomplish, but the biggest life goal I had since being about knee high to a grass hopper has been achieved.

Now what?????

In exactly one month I will be 30 years young.

The next day I was in Niamey and learned of Patrick's death twenty minutes after crawling off the bus.

5-24-08 Preflight Jokes

Been a slow day, the Air France doctor came, what a joke.

The doctor's woke me up from a pain induced coma then standing over me the doctor stared awkwardly as if lost and not knowing what to do.

"You want me to get up?"


I get up and thrust forward with much more momentum than really able, this is going to hurt afterwards.

"Now what?"

A shoulder shrug of uncertainty what he is supposed.

Okay I'll walk towards the bathroom, seems to be what he's after to ascertain or not.

Will this passenger be able to make it to the bathroom?

Need a jar?

Poo Poo bag?

Do they train airline staff in wiping?

I was a medic in the Army, training consisted of a mock session, many laughs were had.

Get, up, go pee, back to bed.

It was enough of a test.

Damn, eight years of medical school well spent, sure feel bummed about my state school education. Ha!

Though the pain has not reduced much since the injury, the pain is starting to become more manageable, and I have begun to spend more time sitting in my wheel chair to build up my tolerance for travel pains.

Today my breakfast was the whopper pill.

darvaset, whaaaaooo!!!

Just met my copilot back to America, man we are going to be at altitude returning home.

No further news from the med' Washington office other than I will likely leave Tuesday, or perhaps Thursday.

Question: Wanna know where your paychecks go??

Eh eh eh !!!!

Eight Thousand Clams to fly me home.


Probably remember it in the long run any way, this is all kind of blurring together.

Last night it finally sunk in that I am going to have a very long recovery, and I do need to prepare for the possibility of not returning, though it is going to be a difficult decision I can't help but think of the next 45 days of recovery of any else but an opportunity while doing nothing to explore my future and review the past year and a half.

There are a few projects back home that were going to need my attention so I am already starting to put a positive spin the situation, and plan on taking advantage of this opportunity to dedicate my self to reviewing my work, applying to some horticulture programs, and secondly look for possible work in VA while living with Cathy, after the Peace Corps.

Then if these things starting falling into order, then what?

Do I return to Niger? Or stay in America and use the time as a opportunity to advance to my next destination.

Ok that about sums it all up, time to strap back in and sleep another night off, one closer to home….wow

5-23-08 A familiar role: the comeback kid

The most difficult portion of this experience it seems of tonight will be acceptance.

Like the crusty bread that sorely passed down the gullet following another pain killer, I am going coming to have to accept the severity of this mishap, and still not have a clue how to digest it.

Today I was asked my opinion by the doctor if I would like to choose at this time a medical separation, thus terminating my tenure with the Peace Corps. As I lay awake late at night my thoughts weigh heavily on my mind and the realization that I have to make some difficult decisions sets in.

For now I don't want to do anything hasty, Niger has taught patience above all other things. But seriously so much has occurred over such a short time that its going to take a while to take down this latest bite off Niger.

"Actually starting to think Niger is taking a bite out of me."

Now I feel like that sappy kid on the movies where everyone roots for me to "make it back on my feet" after a "football injury" or something like that.

As for my decision, lets not worry about tomorrow's problems today.

My first mission is home, then healing, but swinging from the vines….always….always…always.

So the news of Today is that I will be flying home Sunday, or Tuesday.

Holy Shit tomorrow is Sunday!!!!

Aaaaagh I am in a vacuum of time…. ahhhhhhhhhh….Home.


Tomorrow the doctor from Air France is coming to evaluate me and make an analysis based on his judgment of my ability to travel or not. We assume it to be a joke of an evaluation, apparently he's kind of out there with nothing to do.

Without seeing me he wanted to fly me home on a stretcher…

Okay I'll agree, but only if I'm permitted to fly home in a white toga with ivy laurels, golden goblets of wine, tubs of grapes optional.

We just want a big fat business class seat, so hopefully my only discomfort will be waking up between flights or waking taking my pills to take me back down the rabbit hole.

All legal, no worries.

Tomorrow they are going to try me out on some whoppers of pain meds, frankly they scare the holy ghost out of me, its frightening to be under the control of such powerful substances, but when has the illusion of being under control of anything ever been real.

A part of the majesty of the journey is relying on the kind hands of strangers from time to time when we are torn and tattered.

This will be a flight I plan to hopefully not remember.

Speaking of the subject, sleepy time has come, always the greatest trip.

Alright be well everyone, I am.

Josh! Josh! Josh!!!!! Josh!!!!!! Josh!!! Raaa raaa haaa raaaa!!!

5-22-08 Brokeback Joshua

"Brokeback Josh"

Go ahead laugh it up.

Its what my friend Khoi has just hooked me in the ribs with.


insult, left jab

Score cards judge 1st round to the 5 foot 2 little Mongolian

"shifty bastard"

So by now most of the initial shock of discovering the extent of my injury, and my exhaustion from the incredible hobble from Maradi, Aguie, Dan Saga, Aguie, Maradi, and twelve hour bus ride to Niamey has settled in and beginning to level out.

Anger,Fear, Acceptance.

This storm of misfortune has left me badly bent in many ways, upon reflecting at this moment.

I understand how my horse felt after the big rain storm the night prior to leaving for Niamey. Due to the severity of the storm I left him alone by the well and when I came to retrieve him he was PISSED!!!

Attaboy tried to Bite, rear up,,,punch,,Rear up, Kick!



I jerk the rope he's tethered to and bring his head to my eye level


Bitch slap across the snout,

He hated that, but he straightens up.

I apologize, we both react terribly to the other, but everything levels out.

When he reared and attempted to attack he felt alone, afraid and abandoned, we all feel that way at times. The temporary upheaval of the normality triggers the worst in us.

I sigh and chuckle, I understand the temper, in many ways we are quite similar.

I forgive Attaboy, he comes in for a nuzzle, and affectionate nip. I love him, and despite flipping out and my making me wrestle with him with a broken back his outburst is justified and understood.

he loves me.

Also WOW!!!

The wave of support, love, kindness and concern for this poor wayfarer has been extraordinary and its only the first day after hitting the mats after a devastating couple blows .

Thank you, thank you, and thank you all!!!

Altogether about six different language groups have reached out over the last couple days and have pushed well wishes and prayers all over the place towards here.

I will never forget how wonderful it is at this time in my life to feel so loved by so many.

Now down to the nuts and bolts.

You know me, grass don't grow too well underneath these feet and though many projects and plans have been spoiled, the wheels are already in motion as what to do next and apparently.

Apparently, so are some of the plans others have for me.

Stevenson, "Run With It"

Front row ticket kind of treatment sounds like the best kind of medicine.

Not going to lie, being bed and wheelchair bound for a spell is going to suck, and as Dr. Lauraunt accurately spoke today in his very french way

"eyeeecee yuuuu r zie type thaat heaalz weeen outttters aur aurouund"

Just the kind of creature to be so fortunate to have such wonderful friends and family.

5-22-08 Hear....The Latest News....or read I guess.

the latest news.

I have fractured the L1 vertebrae in my lower back and will be flown to Kansas City sometime 'round the end of the month. Then I will be immediately in contact with doctors and will begin a rigorous program of physical therapy and get healthy and hopefully return to Niger after a 45 day medical leave from the Peace Corps.

So between then and now my only plans are to rest, relax, digest my experiences, and plan my next move during medical leave. "To Come back or Not"

You know but despite all this I am thankful.


I know it all has sounded terrible but I would never trade out these times for any other and instead of thinking of this as tragic I choose to think of this occasion as an enrichment of my experience, "you have to take the good with bad" …. right?

As far as I have wandered from home and all the shit that has been served since stepping away from there over a year ago, I'm stepping up for another serving and going to keep hacking out living some of the greatest times in my life.

When I signed up for this journey, I was drawn to it because it’s the life I wanted for myself, it’s the life of the open road I am drawn to. I have always sought out for the thrill of the unexpected, and meeting new people whom we share our journey's with.

New experiences are the fuel for the soul.

Living like this can be at times dangerous, its not always sweet stories of us dreamily making our way around the world. You need to take every precaution and always be attentive to our surroundings. I take necessary measures but you can't prevent or control the fact that things happen sometimes not in your favor.

Prior to coming here friends and family attempted to dissuade my decision to come because of the "what if's"

Though this could be considered somewhere in the gray area of "what if's" so they were right, "it" could have happend. But so what, I'll take some broken bones and the experiances even flat on my back here anyday over not have coming here.

If one is going to step out in the world and ever try to make something out of their life you can't be afraid of "what ifs".

As mum said today, its called life.

Currently I am working out the logistics of dispersing my herd of animals and finding a place for myself in this moment and hopefully for the ones afterwards

Oddly I feel prepared for this situation. I have had to stop and alter my life due to my body being unable to keep up with the spirit; it certainly will not be the last

Maybe there is something into this spirit not body existence.

But seriously I need to start kicking my feet and preparing for some difficult decisions, since leaving the comforts of the nest and wandering off on my own I learned quickly that to live in this capacity one needs to know how to make some pretty bad ass lemonade from wimpy lemons.

Many moons ago prior to wayfaring I quit the Army and ran off to Europe to see how far I could go in this world on my own with nothing else other than the desire to see the world (peacefully) and with an interest to see how the others lived.

Living in Europe taught me how to swing through life like Tarzan so to speak, one hand is always grasping the past, while the other reaches for the future.

Tomorrow I am talking with the boss's and going to pitch some ideas and listen to their advice.

I don't want to get into the details yet because they are very uncertain, and I want to convey this as accurately as possible.

I am in good hands, good spirits and looking forward to….well I guess swell times back home.

till then,,,jeez I am drugged.

5-21-08 I have fallen and I can't get up.

Top'o' the afternoon to ye

If you have read this blog with any regularity over the course of the last year and a half you certainly would have noticed that this experience has been a substantially freaky roller coaster of a ride.

There have been friends attacked with machete's, multiple land mine explosions, a friend pulled out of the Peace Corps of all things to return to the "$%^&@!$" War, now my current state of being, then add on top of my injury, my tree nursery all dead from chickens, and a very good friend and rasta-mentor Patrick passing away after in a tragic motorcycle accident.

Go figure.

Yet here I am, for better or worse, at least life is interesting.

No way to putt putt about it so I'll just drop the bomb.

Ten days ago I had an accident and the result of this incident has led me today's initial diagnoses of having at least one if not more broken vertebrae in my back, and god knows what else.

Before you become overwhelmed with sympathetic grief, you should know its not that bad.

Well it is, but the Doctor said of this type of serious injury it is the least worst of its sort.

This sucks and I couldn't imagine it being any worse, but it could be.

Of course I am currently writing this experience from the confines of a wheelchair in the Niamey clinic, which has become a familiar home away from home, away from home, away from home.

I have spent the better part of the day with our doctor recounting in detail my last 10 days, after the incident, which has left him absolutely dumbfounded as to how I managed not only to injure my back, but then return to my village and resume work prior to leaving for Niamey and seeking medical treatment.