I have been trying to distill my two year Peace Corps experience into an elevator speech. You know, those snappy messages used by politicians and advertisers. Short enough to express in a quick elevator ride.
I know that when I get home in a few months people will ask “What was it like?” That could start me on a four month monologue of my views and experiences. But since they actually have a life and probably won’t care to hear about every mosquito in Samoa, I need to figure out an elevator version.
The other day I had sort of an epiphany. You know how your skin peels after a bad sunburn? And the skin that’s revealed is incredibly sensitive so that every touch, every breeze is painful? I thought it was kind of like that. Then I realized that only acknowledges the sensitivity and pain, not the joy that I’ve also experienced.
Then, blam, I got it. I remembered when I got the cast off my leg in the 1980’s. Remember Joe Thiesmann’s career ending injury? A spiral fracture of the tibia? I slipped on the ice in Pontiac Michigan and got the same break. But instead of rolling around on the ground like a ...man, I tried to limp into my apartment building. As I tried to touch the broken leg to the ground I fell again and broke the other bone in my leg. Okay, perhaps I was tougher but not as bright.
I spent six and a half months in a cast from ankle to crotch. When the cast was finally removed, the skin on that leg wasn’t infected or inflamed but it had shed all calluses. My foot and leg were covered with what looked and felt like baby skin.
I remember putting my foot down on grass for the first time in over six months. It tickled. Stepping on sand was almost painful. My right foot just felt sand. But my newly born left foot felt every grain.
That’s what my two years has felt like. As if the calluses on my brain and soul were removed when I got off the plane at the Faleolo Airport. All the sensations, both good and bad have been intensified. It has felt like living.