Feb 17


by in Guatemala, North America

Today I had a moment where I was the most bewildered and disoriented I have ever been in 27 years. My eyelids fluttered open and I was ushered into another World. Intially, I thought this new World was a dreamworld because it certainly couldn’t be real. I was a caucasian American highschool student who was sitting up after having been knocked down while playing soccer. Almost a dozen fellow players and concerned students nearby were scrambling all over the place. There was indecipherable shouting and then it hit me…

This dream was like no dream I had ever had before. It wasn’t terribly bizzare but it was TOO different to be mine. What could that mean? Someone places a hand on my shoulder. I look up. It is the concerned mother of one of the other kids asking me if I’m all right. Was I awake before or am I awake now? I desperately try to remember what I was doing last time I was awake. I can’t remember. Panic quickly sets in, replacing confusion. Was I transitioning between dreamworlds or had I in this instant exchanged bodies and lives with some American high school kid? It certainly looked like the Earth I knew but could I be in another dimension?

Now multiple people are talking to me, including a dad of another kid. A boy who was probably on my team holds out an overfilled purple Nalgene bottle in front of my face, water falling out from all sides. “Don’t fall asleep” a tall, attractive 16 year old girl screams at me.

Then it all comes back. I look at my legs. The right one is slightly scuffed on the shin. Then I look to the left one and I grimace. The panic and confusion depart, replaced now with the instincts of crisis management. My left shin had a dent in it, now maybe 2 centimeters deep and 4 across. Good. It had been over an inch deep the first time I had seen it, the time before when I lost conciousness. Trying to make fewer trips back for cement, I had overfilled the cement bucket. When going back to where I was laying bricks, I had tripped on something and run into a partially finished wall. The entire forward force of me and the concrete filled bucket was absorbed primarily by my left shin making contact with the top edge of the partial wall. Moving away from the wall, I saw the dents in both shins. The one on the left was so fucked, it didn’t look real. I put down the bucket and told the other bricklayers where it was. Liam, one of the seniors on my team exclaimed “Oh shit!” when he saw my shins. He called Lois, one of the adults overseeing the Connecticut highschool volunteers for Builders Without Borders (also a 14 yr IBM veteran, now director of a labor NGO in NYC). While she came over and also took a look at my shins, I began to feel faint. It was 11:00 AM and the Peten Sun was beating down pretty hard. Maybe the heat had something to do with it or maybe it was me being squeamish having seen my semi mangled legs. Whatever it was, while I was getting ready to sit down, I fainted and fell backwards on my butt followed by my head. I had just regained conciousness and now finally understood what the hell was going on.

Two guys help to some shade where Rachel, a junior who is student nurse and who had earlier shouted “Don’t fall asleep!”, tells me to elevate my legs while she cleans and dresses the area around the wound. She also touches my feet in a few spots to make sure I haven’t lost sensation anywhere. Not only have I not lost sensation but there is no pain whatsoever. I feel a slight dull pain in my head where I came down but nothing serious. I try moving my feet about, no problem. Good thing. It’s Sunday and there are no open hospitals anywhere in the state. We decide I should go home and rest. A Guatemalan gives me a ride home where I apply tons of ice to the area for the next 2 hours.

Good news is I’ve been walking on both legs for the past few hours and have had no problems. Oddly, there ended up being no pain from the whole thing although it is bruising now. Initially I had thought the shock had kept me from feeling the pain but it never returned. Everyone at the site felt I should take a day or two off but given how good I feel, especially after talking to my father in law, a rheumatologist who assured me the student nurse was being overzealous in suggesting a bone bruise had occured, I think I’ll go back tomorrow if it feels decent in the morning. Schools don’t build themselves! Thankfully, the small misstep stayed a small misstep.

Last night, I had a few beers with a Canadian couple from Quebec also volunteering with the same organization. They are here for another two weeks. I’m here for another 9 days. Given how dead this town gets after dark, I’m sure we’ll be very well acquainted by the end of our time here.

Also an update on the family I’m staying with. The reason I never see the dad is because he is a park ranger in a national park North East of here. Also, I discovered Ingrid is a niece of Carmelina’s and not her daughter.

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