The Fool

Danielle Livneh - Ecuador


October 18, 2012

Almost exactly a year ago the Lexington high school yearbook committee assigned me the notorious task of choosing a senior quote. Like everyone else, I pretended not to care. Of course I actually spent hours googling “cool sounding quotes” in hopes of finding the perfect combination of words to leave behind for others to inevitably  judge.

After days of tedious computer time, I settled on a Stephen Colbert quote. I rationalized  it was short, mild and from a beloved character. How did it apply to my life at the time? I wasn’t really sure. “Don’t be afraid to be a fool.” God I was hip.

Who knew that a year later those very eight words would become my unofficial credo. Everyday as I struggle to completely seemingly elementary tasks, I remind myself of what Stephen said. I’ve learned that here in Guamote I can’t afford to live with pride. I can’t fear humiliation. I can’t be afraid to be a fool.  And of course like any good story, I learned this all the hard way.

My family here recently installed an electric shower. A mess of wires are tapped to the wall, and somehow the contraption brings hot(ish) water to the spout. Standing naked in the shower, I stared dumbfounded at the apparatus. As I saw it I had two options; I could call to my host sister for help, or I could twist the knob and hope for the best. The idea of having my younger sister explain to me the workings of a clearly rudimentary shower while shivering naked was less than appealing. So, I went with option two.

As if some cruel joke of karma, or fate, or the gods, immediately upon touching the knob an intense, painful shock ran through my body. Water rained down on me as I slowly realized I had been electrocuted, and that the hot water the wires promised was in fact, freezing cold. Too scared to touch Pandora’s box again, I scrambled to bathe quickly in the icy water. Struggling to catch my breath, I vowed to get over my fear of appearing “tonta”, and to ask for help next time.

In the week following this incident, I’d like to believe I’ve embraced my inner fool. I went with my seventy-something year old aunt to exercise at the local Rec center, and found myself in a weight lifting class of three elderly women. Instead of walking out, I embraced the ridiculousness and left with a decent work out and two new friends. I finally conquered the kitchen and improvised cookies for my family, despite lacking baking soda, measuring cups, and chocolate chips.  I interviewed for a job in Spanish with confidence, even though I had to make up several words, and answered questions I was 50% sure the directora had asked. I sang “My Heart Will Go On” for thirty family members dying to hear the gringita sing their favorite american tune. I’m taking risks I would had been terrified to take just weeks ago.

This is not to say I don’t have any inhibitions. My comfort zone still has miles to grow, and not a day goes by where I don’t feel some sort of anxiety. Very slowly am I accepting the fact I don’t know all the answers here. I can’t always be the self sufficient, independent woman I’ve identified as in the past. I need help a lot, and that’s okay. I now understand without a willingness to be foolish, my life will become stagnant. I therefore pledge to embrace healthy risk taking here in Guamote. And if I end up one big bumbling fool, so be it.

Danielle Livneh