Monday, May 28, 2007

A head start

Janet and I were heading out to dinner one night last week, and she had kindly bought a plant as a gift for our hosts. Can you carry it, she asked. Sure, I said, and she pointed to a pot on a ledge outside our apartment. Because it was dark, I couldn’t see that the pot was made of cement. It must have weighed about 50 pounds. I hoisted it over my right shoulder; my knees buckled, but being the man that I am I insisted on carrying it anyway – whining about it all the way of course.

I walked from our front door to the main street and announced that we would take a cab the rest of the way. It’s too heavy, I said. It’s just down the street, Janet said, and she offered to carry it for me. I was too much of a man for that, though. I waved off the cab and hoisted the cement planter back over my shoulder. Halfway down the street, my bony little shoulder was hurting.

Janet suggested balancing it on top of my head, much like Ghanaians carry baskets of food and pails of water. A friend who was coming with us to dinner rolled up a piece of cloth, and set it on top of my head as a holder. We set the planter on my head and off we went down the street.

The rolled cloth didn’t provide much support; the crown of my head started to hurt no more than 50 feet down the road. I lifted the planter off my head and hoisted it once again over my shoulder. I wobbled off down the road, whimpering the whole way to our friends’ place.

At home, I feel like the classic 98-pound weakling. I’m not strong or fast. An ex-girlfriend used to delight in telling me that I wouldn’t last five minutes in a forest full of predators. Here in Ghana, my physical inadequacies are even more pronounced. Every day, men, women and children carry pails of water and other supplies that are at least as heavy as the cement planter – for miles, in some cases!

Physical work is part of everyday life for many Ghanaians and Canadians; I’m one of the Canadians that has to exercise, though, because physical work isn’t part of my daily routine. I mention this because I started to jog again last week. I hadn’t been running up to this point because it’s so hot here, even early in the morning. But I’ve committed myself to running a marathon with my sister in the fall so I had to start training now.

I started with a five-kilometre run one morning a little after 6. I had run about a kilometer when a young guy overtook me on his way to work or school. This is very dispiriting for most runners; in this case, it was made worse by the fact that he was wearing flip flops, tight jeans and had a pack on his back. I picked up my pace but still couldn’t catch him.

It’s about the journey, I reminded myself, not the destination; and it’s certainly not about how fast you get there.

Maybe next I’ll trying running with a cement pot on my head.

- Mark


Anonymous said...

HI Mark and Janet,

Your story and accompanying photo Mark hits too close to home! A few weeks ago Becky, Michael John and moi moved a decades worth of my shallow magazines out of the garage. I was exhuasted after 5 minutes of lifting...Finally we got them into the recycling bins. The only thing that kept me going was Michael John politely reminding me that his free time was valuable and my fear of Becky's :) wrath!

Love, Jen
(the sister that could never run a marathon)

Anonymous said...

Hi Mark and Janet,
You probably are a Doyle,
Daddy has already been to town and back. Now he is moving the lawn which needs mowing a couple a times a week now. I can remember you working at the garden centres. You were pretty strong then. I guess you have to keep up whatever you are doing.So keep running. I am sure those pots are heavy to everyone.
Love, Mummy and Daddy