In high school I was on a rowing team. Four years of sitting on a sliding seat, pushing off plates to move one gigantic oar. Each rower was either a port or starboard, meaning that their oar was either on the right or left side of the boat. It also meant that each of my teammate’s bodies was disproportional. One evening, at another rower’s house, my friend’s mother examined each of our calves while explaining that one of her daughter’s calves was enormous, the other average; she wanted to know if we had the same defect. Luckily I was, as our teammates called me, “bi-sweptual”. I alternated rowing starboard and port, depending on the needs of the boat’s lineup, keeping my body evenly proportioned.
So how does this in any way correlate to my current life, six years later, in Mongolia? Well, being uneven as finally caught up to me. The right half of my upper body is substantially more muscular than my left, and the asymmetry just keeps getting worse. I’ve started chopping my own wood and coal. This mean spending half an hour to an hour a day using a hand held axe to split apart logs and break up humongous pieces of coal. It’s not that I have to, my khashaa brother willingly does this for me every time I ask. In fact, sometimes he sees me trying and just takes over. He’s got a point- to fill one tub of wood it takes me about fifteen minutes. Him? Five, tops. He’s got a few years of experience on me, plus he’s a teenage boy.
So why do I continue to do it myself? Cause as much as I whine and complain, it’s actually tons of fun. It’s great exercise and an excuse to be outdoors. But mainly, it feels empowering. I have the ability to, and am surviving a harsh winter by using my own two hands. Now that’s bragging rights. And sorry to tell you guys, but I’m going to be bragging for a long, long time.