The gates of hell

30Jul07

My two-day fencing clinic this weekend would have gone better if I hadn’t stank up the joint so much. I don’t mean that I’m bad at fencing. I mean I literally stank. I got talked into going at the last minute and didn’t get a chance to wash my gear before Friday night’s regular practice and the weekend clinic, and although I aired my gear out, it was still damp and gross and smelled like a gym locker when I put it on again. It was hot this weekend too, which made things worse.

Also, as I arrived, the strap promptly tore off my fencing bag, and the zipper came off with it. And nearly as soon as I got started, the sole of my right shoe, which has a popped air pocket and was almost disintegrated after thousands of lunges, tore right off at the heel. I had to use duct tape to put it back together, which not only made me look like the homeless man that I already smelled like, but also was dangerously slippery.

And the other annoying thing was that there was another group using the room on the other side of the kitchen just off the gym, which is in the basement of a church and is our regular practice space. Not only did they make a lot of noise having a revival meeting and singing Ladysmith Black Mambazo-type songs, but they also stole a a couple of cases of our water and Gatorade out of the fridge. I know this because after they cleared out of that room, I went in there and counted the empty bottles. I can see them making the mistake of thinking that the water might be for everyone, but why would they assume that the Gatorade ought to be for them instead of the people sweating their asses off in the gym? I even found one of our empty water bottles in the pulpit. I know testifying is thirsty work, but you’d think that at least the preacher could have kept from breaking the eighth commandment.

So, I got home after fencing for about 18 hours over three days, tired and sweaty and with aching feet and a great thirst, and I sent off an e-mail detailing my many complaints to Candace, who’s traveling in Tibet. It turned out that a bridge near the Nepal border had been washed out, and poor dear Candace was stuck in a fleabag hotel in a desolate jerkwater berg called Nyalam, which literally translates to “the gates of hell”. Not only did the hotel lack a shower, but the whole destitute village of tin-roofed stone huts had only a single disgusting toilet for communal use. She was suffering altitude sickness and had nothing to eat but yak meat, yak butter, and yak cheese. And the only way out was on a terrifying, dangerously slippery one-lane mud road drenched by constant waterfalls, with recurring mudslides on one side and a sheer drop of hundreds of feet off the mountain on the other.

The moral, as you’ve already guessed, is “Don’t complain.” After all, you could be stranded at the gates of hell.



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