Monday, March 16, 2009

Two very different days

Last Weekend:
As most of you know, I love the beach. Growing up in Minnesota, I didn't even see the ocean (Daytona Beach in Florida) until I was almost 30. Now, I can't get enough of it. Last weekend, I went to the same private beach house that I almost always go to. My Lebanese friends have a cook to make the food and they provide all food and drinks; including the tequila shots we drink to celebrate still being alive in this third world situation. I usually bring home-made Rum Cake or American Chocolate Chip cookies. It's usually a group of about 10-15 people and the people change as Ex Pats come and go. Last weekend, there were two International Military guys there. One of them sort of jokingly asked me if I wanted to race him to the island. Race, as in swim. Now, this island is maybe 3/4 of a mile from the shore of the beach house. I always sort of wanted to challenge myself and see if I could swim across, but never really took it seriously. I figured I had the whole two years to give it a try. But here was this hunk of a military guy (probably 15 years my junior) asking me to race and I couldn't resist. I thought God was sending me this challenge directly through him, because I might not try it on my own. So, off we went. We didn't race; I think we both knew it was a long distance and we needed to conserve our energy if we were going to make it. I was ahead of him the whole time--which surprised me. He probably works out in the weight room 6 days a week--by the look of his iron arms. I kept looking back and calling out to him to make sure he was OK. I arrived on the island tired but proud. He joined me a few minutes later. We were both relieved to be able to touch the shoreline. We rested about 20 minutes then started to swim back. We were both more tired on the way back and the tide seemed to be working against us. I just kept telling myself if I swam one direction and made it, I could do it again in the reverse direction. He was still quite a ways behind me, but I never got too far ahead of him so I could make sure he was safe. I arrived on the other side even more tired, but elated that I had made it. I actually expected to feel exhausted, but that was not the case. That's when I realized I am probably in better shape than I think. I have been running consistently over two years now, and my endurance is starting to show. I well remember my first Sprint Triathlon in June 2007. I had only been running 5 months at that point and I really had no business even attempting a Sprint Tri. Of course, I was too ignorant to know that--the curse of a beginner. The swim was murder! I literally began praying to God to help me finish the 1/4 mile swim because I really would not have made it otherwise. I was totally exhausted in the water--to the point where it was probably dangerous. Yesterday, I swam out to the island and back for the second time and I was hardly even winded. Just goes to show that with a little perseverance, you really can get healthy and fit. Boy, if only I could do a Sprint Tri now!!

There is civil unrest in Freetown. On Friday, the local police, who are unhappy about some benefits and lack of payment, got angry and there were small riots downtown. We heard about burning cars and some shots fired. Rumors ran from unruly behavior to 13 dead. Luckily, no one was killed. The International Military unit was confided to their compound and the city was on high alert. Today (Monday) the political party currently in power trashed the offices of the opposing political party. The building was set on fire and we heard reports of over 1000 unemployed youth causing a riot that the local police could not control. Our Embassy got many frantic phone calls. The mood in town feels uneasy. I hope by tomorrow things will have calmed down. Here in Sierra Leone, the people for the most part are happy and easy going. But the problem created by a great number of unemployed youth--who have energy and spare time to burn--is that they can incite problems and things can get out of control quickly. For now, I am safe and I hope it stays that way.

Appreciate all the gifts you have in your life; good health, strong body, good friends, protection from harm; democracy.