Sunday, June 2, 2013

To Pee or Not to Pee. Wait....are missionaries allowed to say "pee?"

 I need to start this blog by warning you that I might overshare.  I’m sorry. It can’t be helped. The fact of the matter is that my sister has historically served as my social filter and she’s thousands of miles away and couldn’t be reached by phone in time for me to post this.  And I feel that in order for you to sense the urgency of this situation, you have to know some things about me. 

So here we go.  Last week my friend Peter asked me to do him a favor.  His church was holding a crusade in a small village and they needed help transporting their speakers, keyboard, sound system, etc to the village. (You know, everything that is a must at a crusade here….)  Since Peter has been SUPER helpful in the whole process with Marie, I was happy to be able to help.  Also, I’ve never really been to a crusade here so I was interested to see what it was going to be like. 

The crusade was to start on a Thursday and go through Sunday so on Thursday morning we loaded up my car and headed out. Of course part of my “load” was a giant banner on the front of my car announcing the crusade.  First time to travel with a banner so….I can mark that one off my bucket list now.  We headed out and after 30 minutes reached the river that we had to cross with the super sketchy ferry.  When we got there, we saw that the ferry was on the other side of the river. And it was in pieces.  We asked how long it was going to take to make the repairs and got some vague answers. We decided to wait a little and see.  After about an hour we saw the ferry cross over to our side and got all excited.  After waiting for 2 ½ hours we hunted down the man in charge and tried to get a final answer.  Was it going to be repaired today?  “No way.”  Huh. That would have been nice to know a couple hours ago.  Oh Salone.

So we headed back the way we came in order to go around to some other ferry.  Fortunately, it was on one of the worst roads I’d ever been on so….that made it easier.  After a couple hours of going around we met the other ferry. Unfortunately it’s the end of dry season, so the river was very low.  They couldn’t just pull the ferry across using a rope like they usually do, but instead had have five guys jump in the water and literally push the ferry around a sand bar to meet up with the rope on the other side where it was deeper.  When it came to negotiating a price, the men wanted Le50,000 (about $12).  It seemed reasonable to me, but the pastor who was with us was outraged!  When Peter started negotiating and they agreed on Le25,000 (about $6) she said that he was acting like a white man.  She had only wanted to pay Le20,000 and thought that he gave up too easily.  I was on the “white man’s” side though and agreed that sitting and arguing for 10 min. over $1.25 didn’t seem like the best use of our time. Especially since Peter was the one paying for it. J
The "ferry" under repairs.  Unfortunately it pretty much looked the same when the repairs were finished.....
Our initial plan was for Peter and I to go and drop the crusaders off at the site and then return the same day.  It didn’t take long after crossing the ferry to realize that that wasn’t going to happen.  The road was just awful and I don’t like traveling at night. As much as I love my car, it’s having some starting problems and sometimes doesn’t like to restart if I happen to accidentally kill it.  Those factors combined with the fact that we went hours without seeing another person and we had no cell phone coverage made me think that an attempt to return that night probably wasn’t the wisest decision.  When contemplating a decision I often think “What will people say at my funeral if I die doing this thing? Will they say, ‘We’re sad that Emily’s gone, but she sure was an idiot to do that thing……”’  I decided that traveling in the remote bush at night and being eaten by some jungle animal or inadvertently stumbling into some secret society business might earn me the title “Dead because she’s an idiot.”  So I began to mentally prepare myself for sleeping in the village.

I’ve done this a few times.  And it takes a little mental preparation.  Sure, I don’t always have running water and sometimes my solar is low so we sit in the dark.  But I’m comfortable where I live.  Spending the night in a strange place with people I don’t know who have different customs from me pushes me outside my comfort zone.  (And I was praising God that I’d left Marie with my two roommates!!)

One of the benefits of the horrible road was that I got to practice using my low gear.  Did you know that when you put it into low gear it doesn’t mean that you have to keep it in first gear?  I didn’t know that. I know that now. The small overheating problem that resulted from my previous ignorance gave us a few minutes of much needed rest.  Everyone in the car headed off to their respective areas of bush to “ease themselves” (the polite way of saying they needed to pee).  And this is where my oversharing begins.
I have a problem.  I have dubbed my problem “shy bladder syndrome.”  I don’t know if it’s an actual condition, but if there was a medicine for it, I’d take it!!  My problem is just like it sounds.  When there are other people around me, I often just….can’t go!!  It’s really odd!! And it doesn’t happen all the time.  It sneaks up on me!  One of the biggest problems it’s caused me has been with the mandatory drug testing I have to do when I get a new nursing job.  Just knowing that there’s someone on the other side of the door waiting for me to pee makes my bladder clam up and I can’t go!  One time I spent almost 3 hours at the drug testing place, with 4 or 5 false attempts and I don’t even know how many liters of fluid before I could go.  I had to get to the point where I was literally seconds away from….embarrassing myself…before my bladder could overcome the shyness and I could give them the sample they need!  Annoying!  And a little bit awkward!

Well let me tell you. Africa is not a great place for people with shy bladders!!  As I headed off to my tree, I tried to talk to myself…and my bladder.  It’s ok bladder!  Don’t punk out on me now!! It’s a long way to the village!!  My pep talk seemed to help because I went…..but then all of the sudden I just stopped!  And that was it.  I tried to relax, envision myself in a plush bathroom in the States…..nothing.  My bladder was rebelling!  And I still had to go.  It was a long, bumpy road to the village!
We arrived to the villa I realized just how remote we were. We were only 7 miles from Guinea.  They used Guinean currency.  They only used Guinean Sim cards in their phones.  We were in the sticks!! 

The first thing I did was ask where I could go use the rest room. I saw what looked like one of the typical bathrooms here but wasn’t sure…and you don’t want to just go peeing somewhere you shouldn’t. I asked the pastor and she told me to come with her.  As we approached the little bathroom hut, we both went in and she plunked down and started going.  I tried. Not happening.  I told her really awkwardly about my shy bladder problem and she looked at me like I had horns on my head but went outside to wait for me.  I tried again.  No luck.  When she asked me if I’d gone when we went outside….I lied. I’m a missionary and I lied right to her face and said, “Yup! No problem!”  Blast! I still have to go!

The host pastor works for the military so we were staying at the immigration outpost. I was sharing a bed with the pastor.  Everyone went to take their stuff to our lodging place (of course Peter and I had nothing because we weren’t planning on staying) and freshened up before the crusade began that night.  When we reached the site for the crusade it was in full swing with the singing and dancing.  As we started looking for a place to perch, I realized that Peter was leading me up to the stage.  Negative. Negatory. Absolutely not.  For the first six months I was here I would get sick to my stomach every time I went to church because I felt so out of place.  And that was when I was down in the congregation with everyone else!  The thought of going up on stage during the service and having everyone watch how much I don’t know the songs, how I can’t dance to save my life, etc.  sounded like my worst nightmare.  Peter looked a little confused at my reluctance to go onstage but we stayed on the ground. Until they called his name.  Good! Go up on the stage! Secretly I was glad because now I knew where the bathroom was and I wanted to sneak off and try to finally empty this stupid shy bladder of mine!  But then they called my name too.  D.A.N.G.I.T.  I knew it would be more awkward to refuse to go up….so up we went. 

After 20 min. or so of singing I couldn’t take it anymore. I just kept thinking about that bathroom….all alone, in the dark.  Perfect for my shy bladder!  So I told Peter I’d be right back and headed off the stage.  After I got a little ways away from the stage I turned my flashlight off.  It’s hard to go anywhere alone when you’re the white girl and the last thing I needed right now was some kids to attach themselves to me and spoil my plan for privacy!  So I stumbled along in the dark….and totally biffed it. I mean I fell hard! And I must have fallen on a rock or something because it hurt!  Darnit!  Fortunately, because I didn’t have my flashlight on nobody saw me.  I scrambled up and renewed my mission of the bathroom.  I made it there in one piece.  But my bladder hates me.  I don’t know if it was the fall or all the pressure there was to make use of this one precious opportunity….but the suspense was too much and my bladder didn’t cooperate.  After waiting just long enough to keep Peter from sending out a search party for me, I reluctantly headed back…with my full bladder.  And my new bloody knee.

After awkwardly swaying and clapping my way through the crusade, it was over. Everyone was loading up the sound equipment so I took a look at my knee. I was dabbing it with a Kleenex when Peter and the pastor saw what I’d done.  I was reprimanded for not telling them earlier.  Those of you who know me well know that me falling down is not an unusual occurrence and therefore no reason for a lot of hoopla.  There was a time in the not so distant past where if I went a week without falling I would congratulate myself.  But they were all concerned.  And insisted they wanted to “Spray it.”  What do you mean “spray it?” Spray it with what?  Perfume. That’s what. They wanted to spray my open wound with perfume. Apparently this is the standard practice when there are no other first aid supplies around. I tried to use my six years of higher education in the medical field and nine years of nursing experience to convince them I could wait until we got back and clean it with soap and water….but to no avail.   They kept insisting I should spray it.  But I too was adamant.  I’ll just wait. 

When we arrived back at our lodging place I was at the car cleaning my wound when the pastor came up and asked to see it. I was happy to show her my nice clean, non-sprayed wound  but when I did she SNEAK SPRAYED me!!  She seriously pulled out the perfume and started squirting it on my knee.  I screamed!  (Not that I’m dramatic or anything…)  What the heck just happened?!?!  That hurt!!!!  She tried to keep doing it but I started running away.  “See?” she said. “Isn’t that better?”  Better! Well, it hurts more and smells better so….ok, that’s better.  Sneaky spraying pastor!!

After our long day I was glad to head to bed.  But I still had to go!  While everyone else was getting changed I snuck out to the back.  I found a nice private area but this time was surrounded by cows.  They were watching me. I told them to stop, but they wouldn’t cooperate.  And neither would my bladder. It let me go a little bit, but then it rebelled, I still had to go. Frustrating!!!! 

As I was getting ready for bed I had a dilemma.  I wear contacts.  The last time I’d slept with my contacts in I hadn’t been able to drive home because my eyes were so sensitive to the light. I knew that I HAD to be able to drive home the next day, so I had to figure out something to do with my contacts.  The problem was that I didn’t have any contact solution.  And I can’t use water on my contacts.  But I can use my spit.  So ensued the conversation with my roommates about what exactly contacts were and why exactly I was spitting into a cup and putting said contacts into a cup.  I grossed myself out….I can only imagine what they thought of me. 

I made another attempt to go outside and relieve myself, but the pastor caught me. “Are you going to the bathroom? I’ll go with you.”  Great.  When we got to the side of the house she copped a squat, pointed next to her and said, “Pee here!”  I mentioned my shy bladder again and moved a little farther away from her.  No use.  When we got back into the room she told me that if I needed to go to the bathroom during the night I needed to wake her up.  Awesome.  I understood her reasoning.  We’re in a strange place with lots of soldiers around etc. But I knew I was going to have to disobey.  At this point it was nearly midnight.  I lay down and tried to sleep….I was exhausted from the travelling.  But there was no way.  I had to go too badly! It was painful to lie down because of the pressure it put on my stupid shy bladder!  But I had to wait the pastor out. I knew if I made my move too quickly, before she was really asleep, then I would lose my window and I’d have a urinating buddy. So I waited. And I waited.  After about an hour and a half I felt her breathing was deep enough that she had to be asleep.  So I quietly and very sneakily got up and started praying. Please Lord!! I have to go!! Please!!!  I’m not going to sleep tonight!! Is it possible for bladders to explode!?!?!? (Name that movie). 

And Jesus loves me.  At 1:30 in the morning, after 12 hours of really needing to “ease myself” with the cows as my witnesses, my bladder finally cooperated.  I thought I might cry in relief.  I snuck back into the room and was asleep in 3-5 seconds.  The next day Peter and I headed home and I got to use my very own bathroom.....with success on the first try.