So … I’m back in Addis Ababa, on medical hold. I can no longer open my mouth. Eating bread hurts. Wearing headphones hurts. The medical staff has given me pain meds and I’m going to the dentist, first thing tomorrow morning. So, perhaps I’ll get some answers soon. Am I grinding my teeth, at night? Is my posture that bad? Is Peace Corps Ethiopia that stressful, more than Armenia? More than Kenya? All I know is when eating a waffle causes pain, something is wrong.
My last visit to the Peace Corps office was in January. At my medical screening, yesterday, I couldn’t wait to step on a scale. For weeks, I’d been discovering new part of my body, a knot here turned out to be a hip bone, a knot there turned out to be a rib. I stepped on the scale. It read 62.2 (137 pounds)! That number signaled a fifty pound drop, since arriving in Ethiopia, last June 2019, and a ninety pound drop, since retirement from Duke University and leaving for Peace Corps service in Armenia, in 2017.
So, what has changed? Eating habits for one. My job, as the African Studies and African American Studies Librarian, came with a number of receptions, dinners with faculty (and their guests) on and off campus. There were job talks, for new hires, that came with multiple dinners. I attended University conferences and programs that all included receptions. Then, there were all the birthday, baby shower, and retirement parties at work. Plus, the new restaurant openings in Durham.
Now, in just a few more pounds, I will reach my Peace Corps Kenya weight. Part of me believes that my body knows that I’m close to Kenya and is simply doing a reset. In 1986, I arrived in Kenya, at 126 pounds. By the end of PST (Pre Service Training) and my first quarter teaching, I was down to 100 pounds. Peace Corps medical told me if I went under 100 pounds, I would be medical separate and sent home. I had a to travel from my site, to Nairobi, each month, and weigh in, at the Peace Corps office.
At the time, no one could get their heads around an eighty three pound high school senior. After graduation, I enlisted in the Air Force. They wouldn’t allow me to leave for basic training, until I weighed ninety seven pounds. It took me seven months, to go from 83 to 95 pounds. They military gave me a two pound waiver and I arrived at Lackland Air Force base, in San Antonio, Texas, that following March.
So, how low will I go? I grew up skinny. I was 75 pounds, when I finished middle school. I was 83 pounds, by the end of high school. My military basic training weight was 95 pounds. My pre Peace Corps Kenya weight was 126 pounds. Which number is my body hoping to hit! Can I stay at 137? How can I stay at 137?
Weighing 137, back in 1990, was pretty heavy for me. It was the most I had ever weighed. There was no way to know what being a caregiver for my mother, suffering from Alzheimer’s, was about to do to my body. I believe that at some point I hit 237 pounds.
That one hundred pounds is now gone. That one hundred pounds is a person. That one hundred pounds was me, my weight, as a sergeant, in the Air Force, and as a Peace Corps volunteer, in Kenya.
And, in thirty seven more pounds, it might be me, (again), as a volunteer, in Ethiopia. –GGT