|It's more difficult to be sick|
|http://www.sina.com.cn 2003/08/13 10:02 北京青年报|
There's a state of mindlessness which makes marching more tolerable, when the conscious part of the brain disengages from the process of movement and a man begins to feel more like he is merely driving on a sunny afternoon.
But today, although sunny, is not that day.
Andy concentrates on each and every step. His feet, ankles and knees throb. Shoulders shudder under the 25-kilo weight of the rucksack. The nylon straps burn red lines across his collarbone.
Occasionally he closes his eyes...just for a second...to drift into a daydream...as he trudges down the straight and easy road to the county town of Malong in Yunnan. But an angry stomach intervenes. Bile regurgitates back up to the throat -- Andy finds he is literally "swallowing bitterness".
Andy's decision to quit the march had been made five days earlier. Bedridden in a Kunming hospital for the better part of a month with a variety of undiagnosed gastric illnesses, he could find no one who knew why there had been no improvement. Doctors advised him to return to Beijing for rest and recuperation, for more tests and attempts at diagnosis. Andy refused.
In the full-length bathroom mirror of the three-star Baiyun Hotel on Wednesday June 11, Andy faced the most difficult decision of his march, one of the most difficult of his life. He noted his new svelte figure -- about 6 kilos lighter. He noted he had been to the toilet five times that morning. He noted how he was struggling to stand up straight.
There was no more time left. He must quit. But maybe, just maybe, if he waited just one more day...
Next door, Ed faced different demons. The weather window was closing on crossing the Great Snowy Mountains. He worked on a new timetable, new safety protocols and fitting a satellite phone and tent into his bulging rucksack. He noted Andy had used up the entire roll of emergency toilet paper, plus an important SARS editorial from the People'sDaily.
Ed prepared to walk unaccompanied across the Snowy Mountains and the grasslands of western Sichuan, terrain where the Red Army suffered its most chilling losses. He reckoned he had better get going fast, by Sunday at the latest, or risk losing any chance of completing what was left of the New Long March.
The next morning, something very unexpected happened when Andy went to the toilet -- an improvement. Not since Clapham Common in 1987 had a trip to the WC created such a stir. Still pulling up his trousers, Andy burst out of the bathroom to break the news of his exciting bowel movement to his comrade. Ed seemed nonplussed till Andy explained: "This means I'm staying the course." Maybe it was all just a flash in the pan, so to speak. "Or maybe," said Andy, "we march again on Sunday."
That was three days ago when all seemed well and dandy with the world. Today Andy wobbles down the main street of Malong, searching to remember how to walk. A few paces behind, Ed walks ready to catch him. Andy stumbles, but does not fall.
The first foreign visitor to Malong for many a year does not stride out of a tax-free Pajero. Instead, a half-man half-jellyfish slithers into the town saloon like he just crossed the Badlands. And back.
After registering, Ed carries both backpacks upstairs to their room. There he finds his partner snoring with his boots on.
Andy awoke the next morning in a pool of his own dribble, but ready to walk another day. Since then, he has completed a further 16 days of the march, 340 kilometers. The recovery remains patchy at best, but the determination of both New Long Marchers is undimmed for now. For more information on their progress to the Luding Bridge press conference, see www.longmarch2003.com.
两个英国人，马普安(Andrew McEwen)与李爱德(Ed Jocelyn)于去年10月16日开始重走当年长征的路线。本文是他们发给本报的第九封电邮。
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