In preparation for our trip to Ghana, Erin and I received a slew of shots: yellow fever, typhoid, meningitis, and TDap. Neither of us are afraid of needles, so that part was a breeze. The actual scheduling of the shots is another story. Because Erin is in college in Shawnee, Okla., I decided to pick her up there and drive the short distance to Oklahoma City to the Visiting Nurses Association. That was fine, except on the first attempt the nurses and I got our wires crossed and I went to the wrong clinic. That blew an entire Saturday, so we tried it again the next weekend. I was still a little steamed at the nurses, thinking that they should have been much clearer about what location I was supposed to be at the previous Saturday, but I was determined to be nice – especially since they had needles.
When you are thinking about slipping a nasty note under someone’s door, here is why you should stop, count to ten, and take a different approach. The week that our wires were crossed I left a note that expressed confusion, but I was reserved and kind. And I’m thankful, because as it turns out I knew the nurse who was giving us our shots from years earlier when we attended church together. I taught her daughter in Sunday school. When she and I realized our connection, I felt as if I had been snatched from the jaws of complete humiliation and I breathed a sincere prayer of thanks.
Merlin (yep, that’s her name) was an expert at travel shots because she’s been all over the world. “I was in Uganda last month,” she rattled off, not in a bragging sort of way, but to let us know about a water bottle she had purchased that almost saved her life. And then, she proceeded to tell me that she takes her mother on many of her trips to Africa and remote parts of Asia. Merlin’s mother is 80.
So at this point, I’m starting to feel a wee bit wimpy because I had been on the edge of worry about some silly things: my feet swelling on the plane, contracting a parasite, jet lag, heat rash, ant bites. I’m embarrassed to admit these things but it’s relevant because I realized that, well, I’m not 80.
“Mom is so cute when she travels,” Merlin continued as she rubbed alcohol on Erin’s upper arm. “She has her little backpack that she carries all her things in.”
She has a backpack? That she carries ALL her things in?
We’re taking a carry-on suitcase each, a large backpack each (not little backpacks), and one very huge piece of luggage we’ll check. Of course, the checked luggage has the gifts for the orphanage, which is important to note. But we are not trekking to Africa with one small backpack. Gosh, we’re such rookies.
“So, she’s 80?” I asked, thinking that I should make sure I hadn’t misunderstood, but there isn’t really any reasonable number that sounds like 80.
“Yes,” Merlin said as she dispensed the typhoid vaccine into Erin’s arm. She was acting like her mother’s age was an unimportant fact. But it is not. Because if Merlin’s 80-year-old mother can travel to Africa and East Asia (she was there to do relief work after the Tsunami in Indonesia) with one small backpack, then what on this blessed earth am I worried about?
I didn’t ask Merlin what her mother’s name was, a definite oversight. What I would really like to do is carry a photo of her mother around with me in Ghana and pull it from my daypack for inspiration. I didn’t ask Merlin for a photo of her mother though because that would have been just plain creepy. So I’m creating a mental image of an 80-year-old woman trekking around Africa with a backpack and a whole lot of spunk. For some reason, that makes me breathe easier and reminds me that I am far more capable than I imagine myself to be. That’s important for me to remember because this trip has many unknowns. We’re not traveling with a group and our agenda keeps changing. In fact, at this point I don’t think we’ll know exactly what we’ll be doing until we get there. I told Erin last night that I can’t give her guarantees or promise her that each day won’t present tremendous challenges. We’re taking this one on faith, I said. But every day of life is like that, so perhaps we’re more prepared than we think.
So thanks Merlin. Your mother and mine will be my inspiration as I board a plane with my daughter (on Mother’s Day) bound for West Africa.
Nanti ye for now!
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