|Flag of Bolivia|
I turned from the blackboard to face the nine adult students in my English class. I stood motionless and wordless for several minutes. I had been their instructor for this early morning session at Cambridge College Bolivia for nearly three months but at that moment I did not recognize my students. My eyes filled with tears and my mouth felt like it was stuffed with copper. I calculated my place in the scenario and although I knew where I was and how I got there, the gnawing sensation that enveloped me was that I did not recognize these people. I felt confused and out of control. I gripped my trembling hands on the podium in front of me. They were slippery with sweat. All eyes were staring at me.
“Mrs. Black, are you ok?” one student said.
I looked at her. Sound waves came to me like ripples lapping on the seashore. At the same time the distinct fragrances of salt and kelp flowed through my nostrils to the back of my throat. I could hear the woman but could not respond. I feared that if I spoke, blood would come pouring out between my lips. I could not control my fears. What is the matter with me? I pulled a tissue from my pocket, put it to my mouth and coughed. I glanced down to examine the contents and was relieved to see that the absorbent had not changed colours.
“I’m alright. Thank you,” I said. I still didn’t remember her name.
When the class ended, I stuffed my training materials into my satchel and walked down the narrow staircase to the teachers’ lounge. I chose not to mark my papers there and headed out the door to the bus stop.
|Our Bolivian accommodations|
When I arrived at the hacienda where my husband and I lived, I was mentally exhausted from the early morning ordeal and physically saturated from the blistering heat of the South American sun.
“How was your morning?” Frank said.
He handed me a tall glass of iced tea and sat beside me on the chesterfield.
“It was scary,” I said.
“I couldn’t remember my students’ names. I looked at each one of them and their names didn’t come to me. I was embarrassed and really uncomfortable.”
“Honey, don’t cry. You’re safe now.”
He put his arm around my shoulders and squeezed me into him. I moaned into his chest with relief.
“You’ve got another class this evening, Darling, so have a rest and I’ll get you up later for something to eat.”
|Steps to second floor|
I strolled up the stairs to our bedroom, removed my working garments and slipped naked between the cool sheets. I used my quiet time to search for reasons why I might be losing my mind. I relaxed into sleep and travelled into the future. I was surrounded by small white droplets. I reached out to touch them but they slipped through my fingers. They began to pluck at my skin and leave behind pea size white marks. Soon the appearance of them became offensive. They had formed a tattoo of a skull on my left arm. Although I could not feel pain I swiped at the tormentors. I heard my voice shout. I was sitting up and holding the bed cover to my face.
I refused to have my sleep controlled by bad dreams so I recited a prayer over and over to help me fade into the unconscious realm. Is there any Remover of difficulties save God? Say: Praised be God! He is God! All are His servants, and all abide by His bidding!
I was rewarded that afternoon with two uninterrupted hours of sleep. When I woke, Frank was sitting beside me.
“I think I know what’s happening,” I said.
“Your pills,” he said.
“Yes, my new medication. Those awful Lipitors! Dr. Fadden prescribed them to me just before we left for Bolivia. She said they’re meant to help lower my cholesterol. I’m going to stop taking them.”
“Okay. Let’s give that a try.”
I learnt to control my cholesterol levels by consuming only plant-based food for a while. My classes afterward were effective and comfortable. I purposefully would call each student by his or her name several times during our time together to ward off any fear of being forgetful.