Feb 20th, 2008

Shake You, Break You and Make You

by Maria
Posted in Ethiopia

As you all know, Spiros broke his collar bone. Thank you all so very much for your comments, emails and good wishes. It was very comforting to receive them. We just want to reassure everyone that Spiros’ injury is recovering nicely and we will be rejoining the group in Tanzania. This is a setback, but we have every intention of crossing the finish line in Cape Town. I debated whether I should blog my thoughts of the accident. Maybe it would be best to leave it alone and not dwell on it, but then I remembered that I promised to share the laughter and the tears. To not talk about an event that had such an impact, did not seem honest somehow. So here goes….

As you can imagine, it was pretty much a nightmare, my biggest nightmare. One minute, I am literally thinking I could not possibly be any happier, the next the love of my life and best friend is on the side of the road, writhing and screaming in pain. It was obvious that he had hurt himself pretty badly. Locals and other riders swirled around us, doing everything they possibly could to help. To them, I am eternally grateful. I cleaned his wounds, I held his hand, and I told him that I loved him, but I couldn’t take away the pain or give him back his dream of cycling every inch. I felt powerless. We were on the side of the road for about an hour and half before Dr Luc, Amandine (our lovely nurse) and the truck was able to reach us. Luc quickly diagnosed that Spiros’ collar bone was broken, but we needed x-rays to know how badly. Depending on the location and severity of the break, he may have to be flown to South Africa or Europe for surgery. We also suspected that he had broken a rib. The best option now was to go to Addis Ababa for x-rays. It was too late in the day at that point, so we would have to set off the next morning on the 8 hour drive to the capital. That night at the campsite, many of or fellow riders and staff did what they could to help. I hadn’t expected to have made such close relationships with people, at least not so early into the tour. Then again, this experience is so intense that you learn more about a person in a few weeks then you normally would in years. There is nowhere to hide really; it exposes your weaknesses and your strengths.

I couldn’t sleep that night. I lay awake watching him. He registered us for this trip. He made this dream possible for me, now I was powerless to “fix” this. Spiros is the strong one, the calm one. I wondered how I would be strong enough to handle this. (Thank you Diana for telling me that I was). Sitting calmly and quietly for the 8 hour truck ride with a million thoughts racing through my mind was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. Thankfully, the injury was not as bad as expected. There was only a single fracture and only slightly displaced. Surgery would not be needed. He just needs to be off the bike for 4-6 weeks. Considering what could have happened, we were very lucky.

Don’t get me wrong, we are hugely disappointed. We had wanted to cycle every inch for ourselves, for the charities and for the kids at Terry Fox Elementary who have been following us since the beginning, however the same thought kept coming back to me. “We all have dreams. The little girl on the side of the road asking me for a pen has dreams, much more important ones. Look at where I am and what I am getting to experience. How can I complain?” Every morning the TDA dumps out our recyclables and leaves them for the locals. That morning was the first time I saw them go through the pile, eagerly grabbing whatever they could. Literally…our garbage, their treasure. Its one thing to know it in the back of your mind, it’s another to see it in front of you. We’ve come to Africa, and have experienced people with literally nothing treat us with such kindness, greet us with genuine smiles. Has it been everybody?… of course not…but its most. Definition of dignity I think. For us to come here, and see what we have seen, and not be changed by it…would be a huge loss. EFI is great goal, it is something to be extremely proud of. In all honesty though, I couldn’t have been prouder, felt more love for this man who, hours after having his dreams dashed, was able to feel compassion for someone else.

I’ve come to realize that the TDA is so much more then a cycling expedition. Due to the length, the difficulty and simply by virtue of the places you are traveling through, it WILL challenge you…most likely in the way that you most need to be challenged. For some, it’s the physical aspect, for some it’s about learning patience, for others still it’s about learning to trust your own instincts. We thought our challenge would be the distance….turns out there was more important things. I came on this journey because I wanted to open up my world, to see and truly experience life. To quote one rider from the Silk Route expedition: “I am glad to be living life instead of simply walking through it.” I think the secret to getting out of your comfort zone, to breaking through the protective bubble you may have built for yourself is twofold: 1) Be honest with yourself and acknowledge what you are missing 2) Instead of trying to convince yourself that problems won’t arise, just know that you will deal with it.

One last note. Coming to Africa I expected to feel, at least for a little while, a bit out of place. To experience some degree of culture shock. I haven’t. Please don’t misunderstand, I love Vancouver and my home, but oddly enough I feel more at home now, then I did when I was at home. I’m not sure what that says about me, except that I feel that we are where we are supposed to be right now. Sorry for the rambling…I had a lot to get out. Again, thank you for the beautiful and heartfelt wishes. They meant a lot. Please rest assured that we are happy, doing well and will be back on the bikes shortly. Love to all.

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