I awoke Friday morning to a brief 5-finger run down the street and a text from Simon: There’s a tank where the bus should be? I thought he was pulling my leg until Anna and I arrived at the pick-up point for the rugby bus and saw, parked in front of the Grand Mall, a tank, teeming with armed men to boot. I wanted to get a picture of the tank, but when I asked Simon, he said, “Are yeh mad?” He wouldn’t take a picture for me, and I didn’t feel like getting arrested or shouted at by men with guns, so no picture to post.
February 11th marks the one year anniversary of Mubarak stepping down, and of course, Egypt is planning some kind of strike. We’re pretty sure nothing is going to happen, but they’ve got tanks around and the Embassy sent out a warning (but not to me, even though I’ve enrolled at least twice).
En route to the rugby game, Simon and I got to talking about aging and what happens to your brain and the general idea that people are living longer and bodies outlive minds. It was a somewhat dreary conversation, although there is hope: I read two articles recently that claim a healthy combination of education and crossword puzzles can help keep the brain sharp and fend off dementia and alzheimers. (According to the NY Times, people who attend college have an average extra ten years on their brains. Just like buying a car.)
The conversation about age continued into rugby, as Will commented on his “deteriorating muscles.”
“I figure I’ve only got another two months on me,” he told me. Will and Sarah are moving to Singapore next year, and Will is hoping to play every sport he can sign up for. “I’ll just do it for a few months, because after that I won’t be able to anymore.”
Will and Simon are both in their thirties and are both very fit. I have a hard time imagining either one of them incapacitated, and it’s a really depressing thought. But Will has a point: we’re getting old, and suddenly, health matters. Shannon and I both hurt our knees – Shannon in basketball, me in rugby – and were pretty much debilitated for a week or so. My knee is killing me today (a sign of impending rain, perhaps?) and my ankles are constantly acting up. Shannon spoke to her friend Jeff, a physiologist of some sort, and asked him what could be wrong with her knee. His reply? “You’re just getting old.”
It’s so strange how health suddenly becomes important. I’ve read about this, and I’ve heard from friends that it’s true; when you’re young, you’re reckless and harbor this delusion of immortality. Nothing can hurt you, and if you fall off your bike, you get back up and keep going. You certainly don’t entertain the possibility of a hip fracture or concussion and jet off to the hospital. A few older friends have told me that 25 was when they started worrying about their health. I’m finding this is true.
I frequently hobble around on taped up feet or RICE my knee nightly. I own and apply anti-wrinkle cream every night. I can’t stay out until 4am anymore – although I can still roll in at three and wake up alert and ready to go by eight in the morning – and sometimes I can’t go out on school nights. Soon I’ll be saying I can’t eat solid foods anymore or go to the bathroom on my own as I wait for the SCAT bus to transport me to my local supermarket for a grocery shopping trip that will take no less than two hours.
One thing that is reassuring is the amount of older, active people I’ve met teaching abroad. There’s a pretty solid population of older teachers, people who have been moving around for years and are still active and in good health and in full control of their cerebral matter (and bowels). I met an older woman yesterday who just ran her first marathon last year and is signed up for another one in April. And the group of elderly people – legitimately wrinkled, bespectacled octogenarians –I saw on the plane ride home from Denver last year who told me how they’ve been skiing for years together are all little beacons – little gray beacons – of hope for a gal like me, who can’t envision a sedentary life without running, snowboarding, rugby, or hell, even walking from one place to another.
And then there’s my mother, who has always been super fit and who exercises religiously. This might be the most reassuring aspect, as her ability to stay in shape and her willpower to eat healthy and exercise might be genetic and hopefully I’ve inherited it.
Long story – that really has nothing to do with Egypt – short, I am so grateful for my health, and I really wish my knee would stop acting up unless it’s going to act as a barometer for something cool, like revolutions or duststorms.