Sunday, July 19, 2009

Out of Africa

My African odyssey is over. So many memories, images firmly in my mind and a wonderful time bonding with 22 month old Maxine and quality time with my son and daughter-in-law. When I last wrote we had just returned to Addis from Lamu, on the Indian Ocean in Kenya and culture shock at the return to what is truly a third world environment was setting in.

Annie is now close to 14 weeks pregnant. Two plus weeks ago she came down with something initially diagnosed in Addis as Cerebral Malaria. Panic. Her emergency insurance covered air evacuation to the nearest hospital equipped to deal with a seriously ill pregnant woman. She was taken by air ambulance to Johannesburg, South Africa (a seven hour flight) and Benjamin, Maxine and I followed on a commercial flight the next day. My stated role was to take care of Maxine whilst Ben spent time at the hospital. The physicians at the School of Tropical Medicine in Johannesburg discredited the initial diagnosis
and an alternate diagnosis of “some un-named viral African crud” and, bacterial pneumonia is the final word. Good things come of bad events and she received excellent care in South Africa and both Annie and the baby are fine now.

Once Annie was out of hospital but committed to additional time in SA for check-ups, I rebooked my return flight out of Johannesburg rather than return to Addis. Hindsight is wonderful. My initial roundtrip ticket was purchased through BA but discounted and unchangeable. Big mistake, it cost me 90% of the original round trip booking cost to change the flight. I made another mistake during a seven-hour layover in Terminal 5 Heathrow – in search of a place to sit and relax after an 11-hour overnight flight, I wandered into Ramsey’s of chef Gordon Ramsey fame. A coffee, toasted tomato and cheese sandwich and bottle of water cost $33.08. There are plenty of other places to eat at Heathrow that don’t break the bank.

Flight to Phoenix was packed – I swear they had people standing in the aisles – mainly groups of teenagers heading home after a European tour experience. I was one of the last to board and the steward took my daypack and put it in an overhead bin some rows back. On the shuttle between Phoenix and Tucson, I looked for my phone and realized my baby Mac laptop was missing. Fruitless hours on the phone with BA customer service (hah!) and on a super unfriendly web page to report the loss and I ended up with a stock memo saying that I would hear from them in “several weeks”. My own insurance through USAA (big cheer for the best insurance company in the USA) was much more accommodating although they too are hoping for a report from BA.

Got home on a Monday night. Picked up loyal dog from Annie’s parents on Tuesday morning. Priorities kicked in – haircut and eyebrow wax! Thursday I did a family dinner (Chicken with Mango Salad) for my youngest son’s birthday and Friday I hightailed it up to the cabin and out of the heat. I have my two grandsons with me and two additional “cousin” dogs. As I write, the boys are out on the lake (more of a pond really) in a skiff with two other kids and are cruising the islands. Last year, a couple who ran the only restaurant for miles around failed to get E-2 visas renewed and I learned yesterday on my dump run that their place has been leased to the former chef from the Hyatt in Albuquerque and is now Bistro Escudilla. In the spirit of supporting local area business, we are heading there for lunch.

So much to write about Africa and I will collect my notes and over the next few weeks share some of my experiences. A close friend told me that the trip would “change your life” – Rocco, you were correct on that one.


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