23 October 2008

AIDS Ride Chapter 6: in which Rose sacrifices her pants to the cause

23 October 2008


in which Rose sacrifices her pants to the cause

Wednesday was the first fall – A fell on a ridge, loose gravel giving way beneath her bike that she shouldn’t get past because she didn’t have enough momentum. Nothing bad- although gravel does tear skin terribly. We were particularly concerned because she fractured her wrist about a month ago, so we were worried her weak wrist could give way again. She escaped that danger, subconsciously taking the fall on elbow and knee rather than wrist.
Thursday we were bunny-hopping again, my group taking the short hop first. On the way to our second sensibilisation, I took a fall. It wasn’t a particularly rough road, I wasn’t going particularly fast. In fact it was probably the sheer ordinariness of the path that allowed my defenses to drop out sufficiently to let me slip and fall. Somehow I took the fall on the right side of my bike, but the left side of my body. It’s amazing how absolutely blank my mind is about the actual fall. I can only make educated guesses based on my injuries.
I must have fallen over the handlebars of my bike because I ripped the crotch out of my pants and I hope a fabulous pattern of bruises on my left hip and right inner thigh that seem to indicate if I was a boy I might be missing some essential bits.
Based on the size of the cuts and scrapes, we decided to wait by the side of the road for the car to arrive with supplies from the medical kit. A stayed with me and C biked back to the 2nd group who had the chase car with them to call him to tend to me. After cleaning, ointmenting and bandaging, I put on a new pair of pants and biked on to the next sensibilisations.
The rain started falling as we left that presentation and my bruises were starting to feel stiff, but we only had to make it a few kilometers and we’d be able to settle in for the rest of the day. The rain had left the road completely full of mud. Even our fabulous mountain bikes couldn’t find a grip on the road – the best route up was directly through the water running down the hill – either side of the little stream was far too thick in mud to allow passage.
About ¾ of the way up the hill the boy in front of me suddenly lost his seat. Truly – the seat of his bike snapped off underneath him and he looked back surprised and pulled off holding the seat in his hands.
I couldn’t help giggling as I pulled past him, knowing that the car was just a bit behind and if I stopped now I’d never get up that hill. At the peak we found R’s village, tucked away and tiny, with a group of neighbours graciously offering to shelter our bikes from the rain for the night.
We ate ablo with tomato and soja sauce and I cleaned my wounds again (Not too easy to discreetly clean your inner thigh in the middle of the road).
Our afternoon sensibs were in a village 1 km up the road. The village is right at water level, so almost every path was pure mud. We decided that walking would be easier than biking – a decision we learned was taken a bit quickly as the flip-flop wearers discovered they were covering themselves with mud splatters with every step.
My group did the community sensibilisation just to the side of the “station” where people can pick up a moto driver to get to nearby villages. The activities were cut short and all required translation into Ewe. It soon became clear that many of the audience members had been drinking since early in the morning and were now much more interested in slinging insults at each other and getting free condoms from us than in listening to what we had to say.
When we reached the end and the handing out of condoms, we were mobbed. I yelled at several people to stop tugging at me and everyone ended up running away, leaving the distributing to our homologues, who could much more effectively calm the crowd with fluent French and Ewe. Even they gave up, though, and in an amazing act that I wish I’d captured on camera, threw the remaining condoms into the air and ran away from the pressing crowds.
It was scary and we almost left immediately to seek the safety of P’s house. But we decided to brave it out until the other group finished, taking refuge and refreshment at a chouk stand.
We carefully tiptoed our way home, through the mud in the rapidly growing darkness and settled in for our last night before our last day of biking and sensibilisation.

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