Have you ever had a place that is very special to you, where you feel you could spend hours and hours and perhaps forever? I know it is silly, but a tiny little lake just outside Lubutu is becoming my weekly psychotherapy session.
The worst thing about having my elbow torn up is that I haven’t been able to go to Lac Vert. When you think of volunteering to do overseas medical work, the natural questions are about the nature of the work. What exactly will I be doing? What is the population like? What is the security situation? Another very important question is how you will be spending free time. Can you go running or take long walks?
When I arrived in Brussels for my briefings, I was delighted hearing that we could go running and take long hikes. They also mentioned that there was access to a small lake near to Lubutu. Each weekend, the group takes a car to Lac Vert for swimming, communing with nature, and just to get away from it all. When I ripped up my elbow, my inability to go swimming was my worst restriction. I couldn’t eat well (had to hold the fork with my left hand), had to shower with one hand (sounds easy but just try it), and would get severe twinges of pain. But the worst of it all was that until everything was healed I couldn’t join the group to go to the lake.
Today, after thirty-four days of healing, I returned.
The trip out from Lubutu is twenty minutes of highway. The vehicle turns onto a jungle track and the real ride begins. Forty minutes of being thrown around the vehicle, traversing the worst driveable path I have ever seen. All the windows must be closed as the jungle is so thick that any open window shears off plants and their accompanying insects. The truck is an oven by the time we reach the lake, but it is all worth it.
The Green Lake is small and surrounded by dense jungle, just like everything else around here. The banks are lined with ferns. The only animals we see are birds. Two ducks live on the lake. They are small russet shaped birds, six inches in length, and unafraid. During the three hours we spend in the water, they swim with us, coming a meter away. Occasionally a hornbill flies over. When these huge birds fly their beating wings sound like slowly turning helicopter blades. There is the sound of frogs and insects, but nothing else. No traffic, no people.
When we arrive, the first thing I do is get some exercise in, swimming back and forth across the lake. Having fulfilled my exercise quota, I dog paddle, side stroke, and elementary backstroke around the perimeter, trying to see if this week one of the ducks will let me touch it. After I get out, someone has always brought along a carefully hoarded snack, something delicious from Belgium or France to share.
Dried off, it’s back to Couvent, the hospital, Lubutu, and real life. It’s OK, though. I got to visit this little bit of heaven and will daydream about it until next Sunday.