I got this plastic apparatus in the mail a few months ago. It’s a wide hook with a ballpeen point on the end. When my host brother asked me what it was I said it was for massaging your own back, and then gave him a little demonstration. He fell into fits of laughter and said it was a good joke, but really, what is it for? I just shrugged and set it down.
I’ve been doing all kinds of terrible things to my back, some overtly inflicted but most have crept in more subtly. I’m not a tall person by American standards and used to walk with my shoulders back and my head held high to try and pass off my 5-11 for 6-1. I just wanted to fit in, that’s all. But here I’m taller than most and in my attempt to fit in I slouch much more often. I notice it in my shadow sometimes on the dusty path, shoulders rolled and neck tilted forward. There’s a practical side to slouching too – a greatly decreased chance of smacking my forehead for the seventh time on that doorframe. Doorways are generally made shorter here and not just because people are shorter. Shorter houses mean less building material and less cubic meters to heat. When I visited a fellow volunteer, he didn’t warn me not to hit my head on the roof, but warned me that I would hit my head on it. And I did. Twice.
And then there’re the backpacks. Yes, I carry multiple backpacks. I wish I could write “How to pack lightly” as the title for one of these posts, but it’s simply something I haven’t learned yet. I still lug that extra power adapter across the country thinking that one of these trips I’m going to need it, like I’m going to find an outlet in a tree somewhere when our taxi gets a flat tire.
Turnstiles: for keeping out cows and American tourists
And let’s not count out stress as a contributing factor. I have to mutter things like, “Unclench the fists. Ok, good…breathe…ok, good…let the shoulders down…there, now we’re getting somewhere…” to myself often. If I had access to a girlfriend who had a knack for massages then maybe my back wouldn’t hurt so bad. But now I’m just bringing up a point of further stress, and “breathe…good, good…”
So I’ll settle for my plastic hook, sitting on the edge of my bed, door closed to keep the laughter out, posturing for my position.