How to drive yourself to illness

Long story short – I got really stressed out, managed to go drinking (not to excess but enough), didn’t sleep enough, started taking caffeine again which masked what my body was telling me. Can’t say I don’t know better, because I certainly do … but it all seemed like a good idea at the time!

What’s going on at work is that in addition to the Purple Heart cost analysis, hamper design, and business plan, management refocused me from my work on the school onto writing three additional business plans: one for FoodTents which is already in operation but is looking to expand in a couple of areas, one for a web portal called Grow South Africa, and one for a voluntourism concept currently called Love to Africa. The best part is due to circumstances outside of our direct control, this needs to happen fast. Luckily I have a team of interns as well as a new intern who is starting on Monday, who can help with the research tasks here.

It was also the last week of work for two very dear, and very capable colleagues, so there was a lot of emotion involved as well. More for others than for me as I’ve only been there maybe 6 or 7 weeks – but long enough that it’s hard to lose them; there is going to be a big hole Monday morning.

Tuesday was a pretty emotionally draining day as well. My co-worker who is an ex-gangster took me around and showed me various drug houses and slums in Woodstock. It’s so interesting now to see what is going on just outside the car doors in the roads I drive down. Interesting conversation as always, talking about the difference between the drug dealers and the gangs, and how it is that three drug houses can co-exist on the same block, how recruiting happens, why it is that there are so many women involved in the drug trade, etc.

I asked him as well as a couple of the people who live there what percent of the young people are on drugs. The general answer was almost all – maybe 95%. When faced with something like that, it’s hard to know where to begin and not to become daunted by the impossibility of the problem. What I am thinking, though, is that there are almost certainly lessons to be learned from the anti-smoking campaign in the U.S. because starting from about when I was growing up, smoking somehow became uncool, and it started from a similar place as drugs here (i.e. everyone else is doing it, and it’s considered to be cool).

So. Yeah. After that I went back to work then left quite early with a co-worker (the office shut down for the day at 3pm so we could go watch Bafana Bafana). We went to Neighborhood and joined a bunch of her friends and acquaintances to watch the game. I was, I admit, hoping against hope that the team would win with a big enough goal differential to make it to the second round. Well, that didn’t happen but at halftime when it was 2-0 there was hope in the air … eh, it was good fun regardless and beating France was great. A lot of people said it was enough that the team did well for itself, and just had the one off game. While I agree, I was still disappointed.

At this point I wanted to go home but was persuaded to go to an art opening. There were 2-for-1 cocktails and the mojitos were very good. Then, someone had suggested the Mexican Shebeen which none of us had been to yet. Long story short, we ended up there for a few more drinks. I did not ride the mechanical bull, thank you very much. So we watched Nigeria lose, and then headed home.

Wednesday I was a little tired and after a mind-blowing meeting at Sandbar in Camps Bay, I didn’t manage to get all that much work done before again, leaving work relatively early (this time at 4:30) to go join my fellow Americans at the Purple Turtle. Wow, I had not seen so many Americans all together in one place since I got to Cape Town. Nor had I seen so many drunk people in one place. Drunk Americans are somehow particularly obnoxious, I now realize. Anyway the USA-Algeria game was also pretty emotionally draining, with the win coming in extra time to propel the team out of the group stage. It was a pretty happy walk back to Perspectives, and my phone was ringing off the hook with my various South African friends who had turned to supporting the U.S. sending their regards.

So I had every intention of doing work in the evening. Instead I went to go pick up an additional Netherlands-Cameroon ticket I’d bought for my friend and instead wound up drinking wine with a couple friends and telling them what was going on at work, catching up, etc. Following that, I wound up watching the evening game with my next door neighbour, who is from Zimbabwe originally. That was great, because we always passed each other in the hallway but never really talked. On the negative side, I don’t think I got to bed until nearly 1am.

Thursday I witnessed an absolutely drop-dead gorgeous sunrise while doing deadlifts (my first time actually – the first time we had them I was sick and the second time I was injured so I couldn’t go very high in weight). I finally had a productive work day and in the evening went to the Netherlands-Cameroon game. At this point it was a meaningless game as Cameroon was not advancing and the Netherlands were, but hey – at center field, 7 rows from the pitch and right next to the tunnel where the players go in, you can’t complain about much of anything. That was one heck of an experience, to be that close to a World Cup match regardless of the stakes. Of course this being my third game, the fan walk annoyed me with all the people walking slowly but on the positive side the World Cup is the one time you can just walk down the road drinking a beer in public without being hassled. Love it. On the way back, my friend and I stopped by the Mexican Shebeen. In our defense, it was on the way. Other than that I have no excuse … again much the same as a typical night out in Boston but just three days in a row, coupled with some severe stress … not the best idea.

So it was all downhill from there – I was just exhausted Friday at work and got myself so pumped up on caffeine that I didn’t even realize when I was getting ill. After pinching something in my arm that evening at the gym it finally hit me as I was making dinner and actually relaxed for the first time all week that I realized had a sore throat and really felt pretty awful.

As a result I didn’t do much on Saturday at all other than sleep, go to the Old Biscuit Mill to stock up on provisions, sleep, watch soccer, and sleep. Oh yeah, the USA lost to Ghana. I was sad, for a little while, but I’m over it. It was hard anyway to root against an African team – now I really, really, really hope they (Ghana) beat Uruguay! Feeling very bad for all my English friends all over the world just now … coming from a country where people actually really like soccer, that had to be crushing.

Sunday was better – I went for a two-hour hike with a friend, then to her parents’ house in Fish Hoek just to chill for a couple of hours. That, followed by a beautiful drive back to Cape Town, was just what I needed to unwind and get myself in a good mental state for the week to come.


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