The boy who jumped into a wave

11-01-2014 15:56

Long ago, in a time when “kilo-poppers“ in Holland were still just ordinarily called “discounts“ and school kids didn´t make money developing new apps for mobile devices yet (I think only real trendsetters even had a mobile phone then… :P), I was “the girl from the meat department“ in a local supermarket in our village. You know: making minced meat from the things that we couldn´t sell anymore, making saucages from pork intestines and marinating as many barbeque steaks in the summer as flattening christmas gourmet mini-hamburgers in december. For €2,10 an hour, to pay for my scooter. 

That may not sound very enthusiastic, but the truth is that I had a good time in the four (!) years that I was working there. Part of the reason for that was that my boss was butcher Frank, who seemed to never worry about anything and who always had some kind of unbelievable story to tell. From thumbs being chopped off while preparing cutlets, to people getting their fingers stuck in the mince machine or swinging a pork cadaver on their back without noticing that there was still a knife sticking out… or anything else that he heard on the radio or saw on television. Animation guaranteed.

But all good things end at some point and after my final exams it was time for a new challenge: I was going to volunteer in Portugal for half a year, to be out of the system that I experienced as oppressive and limiting my freedom. “Portugal?” Frank said with a frown when I told him. “Hmm, someone from our village was on a holiday there this year and he jumped into a wave and … he broke his neck. Just like that. Now he´s almost totally paralized. 21 years old, and he studied and everything.” Brrr… I was nineteen. And I was going to Portugal. Probably to the beach too now and then. Hmmm, no more unbelievable stories for me at the moment.  

But I had a great time in Portugal without any big accidents, and I started studying when I came back. Medicine; to my own big surprise and that of the people around me, that was the only thing that I considered interesting and useful enough to dedicate my time to if I had to study something anyway. Because of the lottery selection in Holland I ended up in Belgium. Indeed: “studying medicine” squared. But I found it all really interesting and fascinating… the revenge of nerd Nelly :P.

In the meantime I changed my scooter for a real motorcycle, and I needed money to pay for that too, so on Saturdays and Sundays I worked as a basic health care employee in a rehabilitation department. Once again I found myself somewhere on the down side of the food chain :P, with a salary that gave me the right to both healthcare allowance and housing allowance from the government. But I had a very good time working there: helping the clients washing themselves, putting their clothes on, getting in and out of bed, making bread, going to the bathroom and to fysiotherapy, and practicing motor skills at the department itself. I´d also listen to the stories behind their photos, play games and bring my guitar on Sundays for improvised coffee-concerts.

And during all those years that I was working there, the boy who had jumped into a wave in Portugal experienced the whole rehabilitation-process from the other side, about a hundred kilometers away from me. Setting goals, achieving or adjusting them, big and small victories and disappointments and everything else that´s part of it. Tears for the losses and giggles for the hilarious situations that tend to occur in a group of rehabilitants. And doing everything possible to get there.

After three years in the Belgian regime, one year in Spain and two more years in Belgium, the walls (borders) seemed to enclose me again. I wanted to get out for a while, to participate again in a world of people who´ve got no idea of the different sub-processes of the citric cycle, who think that “endoplasmatic reticulum” has got something to do with grammar and who can´t spontaniously draw the chemical structure of any of the 48 ion-transporters in the celmembrane on command. That those people excist too, and that they are often much better company than the 300 exceedingly diligent medical students (including myself), was something I had to remind myself of from time to time.

I wanted to do something with everything I had learned until then, and at the same time I wanted to try to make others more aware of the world outside their own house, their own street and town, their country… and everything that everyone “has to have” and everything that isn´t good or perfect enough. A volunteering-music-and-writing-world-awareness project. And practically everyone said: “Hmmm, are you sure? Isn´t that dangerous? Expensive? Difficult? Uncertain? Loosing time (?)?” Yes, that´s all true (except for the “loosing time” thing!?) and I knew that very well. But my rehablitation patients all said: “Is that what you want? Is that what you´re dreaming of? Then do it!” And here we are :). --> Nelly´s song: "Somebody at all"

The boy who jumped into the wave worked on his rehabilitation for four years and he never learnt to walk again. A collegue shared a youtube video of him recently: as a lecturer / comedian he now uses his story to inspire people to make a difference and to show them that everybody can. Because it´s all about the little big things that we do for eachoter.

And here I am now, almost nine years after I heard of him for the first time, in South America trying to carry out the volunteer-write-music-world-awareness. To make the world a little bit better and to inspire others to do the same in their own way. Because I believe that everybody can. Because it´s all about the little big things that we do for eachother.

And I hear him say: “Follow your dreams. It doesn´t matter if you don´t get there in the end, as long as you know that you´ve done everything in your power to make it work.” I´m going to do everything in my power to make it work, Jaap Bressers. Thanks, and who knows, maybe our paths will cross again directly or indirectly at some point again. Who knows… :) --> Jaap Bressers video

“We are exactly the same, but it didn´t happen to me

Life still drags me along every day

Just this, and then that, and then also this. Because everything´s so interesting.

Look, my friend. Look, my friend, he knows a wheelchair manufacturer. “

-          Acda en de Munnik, “Een Spaanse moslim groet zijn god” (A Spanish muslim greets his god) --> Acda en de Munnik - Song (NL)