Sunday, February 25, 2007

Saturday, February 17, 2007

11 PM

I am overwhelmed. I need to talk about our arrival at the village. Godfrey and Barbara picked us up at the airport. Godfrey is our resident Victoria Falls guy who takes care of the village when we're not there. Barbara owns the lodge where we are staying. There were hugs all around. They're so warm and friendly. These guys greeted all the passengers as they disembarked.

After a 20 minute ride in the truck, we arrived at the village. I can't even describe the reception we got. We exited the trucks, and were immediately surrounded by women. They were singing, dancing, hugging us. I've never felt anything like it. We walked past the school, and there we ALL the beautiful school children sitting patiently waiting for us - they were going to have food. We arrived at 2; they had been waiting since 8:30. It was heartbreaking. Every child sat with a bowl and a cup or plastic bottle. They looked so hungry. Several smiled at me and a few were being silly, which was so cool.

The girls' choir sang us some songs, which were terrific. Beautiful voices.

There was one little boy, about 3-years-old, who looked SO sick. He could barely focus. He looked hungry and tired. Three girls were trying to get my attention, because Hilary was wearing a cowboy hat. They thought that was so funny. We sat in front of them, facing them, went through introductions, then started with the speeches. After all that, at about 4:00, we started to serve them food: rice, soup, cabbage, biscuits, and "juice". The grade zeros, 3 and 4-year-olds, went first, then on up to grade 7. There were some kids that aren't in school, so they couldn't eat until all the children and adults had had their food. Another heartbreaker. I swear they never got any food.

After food distribution, it was time to go, but I grabbed a couple of photos and let the kids see them. They loved that. It was nice to see the smiles and hear the giggles. So cute.

Tomorrow we're supposed to visit Simon, the village chief, who is not doing too well. They think he might be in renal failure. Then we'll do some tasks in the village. This is the most rewarding experience I have ever had and I'm so glad to be here.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Are we actually leaving for J-burg this morning? Wake up call at 5 for a 6 AM shuttle to the airport. Not a bad flight, about 8 hours. Watched part of "The Departed" and fell asleep. Woke up to lunch, then watched "Little Miss Sunshine". Loved it! Very funny.

Heading to the hotel, again, on South African Airlines, due to all the delays. John and Mark were able to get us each our own rooms. This place, D'Oreale Grande at Emperor's Palace, is quite extravagant. What a huge place. Here's the view out of my room:

Here are Nana, Miranda, and Mark in the lobby waiting for the rest of us for dinner. Dinner turned out to be fantastic - Gorgonzola gnocci and three mushroom risotto. Yum. We invited two single travelers we met at the airport who were stuck at JFK too: Tuti, a teacher from Brookly who's doing her Master's at NYU in international studies, and Stefan, from South Africa, a student at Cape Town, who was in the US selling children's books. It's so refreshing to meet people with a sense of direction and a sense of adventure. Here's Stefan with John and Mary.

After dinner, we went to the casino for a couple of hours (no betting for me!) Now it's 1 AM and I'm off to bed. I can't WAIT to be in the village tomorrow...

Thursday, February 15, 2007

What day is it? We've just landed in Africa - Dakar, Senegal - to pick up some passengers and change crews. One hour layover. Uh oh. There's a problem with the plane...A chunk of ice went into the engine and broke a propeller blade. It looks like we're spending the night in Senegal.

12:15 PM: My feet just hit African soil! It's 80 degress : )

Whew, after a bit of a wait, we deplaned and went through customs.
Our 25 suitcases are staying on the plane. Yay!

The hotel is old, but just fine, right on the beach.

2:00 PM: Lunch buffet in the hotel - rice, potatoes, cumumber salad.

3:00 PM: Hilary, Mary, and I are relaxing by the pool drinking a Special. The others eventually joined us. Here some of us are...

8:00 PM: Dinner buffet at the hotel. Pretty much the same as lunch, but there was the addition of fresh fish. Quite tasty.
After a walk out to the ocean, it was an early evening, due to the 6 AM ride to the airport. Johannesburg tomorow! Yippee!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

We're on the road! Had an interesting morning. Called to schedule a taxi, but due to the snow piling up in massive quantities, they couldn't guarantee they could pick me up in time. Called Capitaland Taxi and they were here in ten minutes! Got to Tim's house (Cindy's husband) and headed to the airport - with 25 pieces of luggage!! We're now on a shuttle bus with all 7 of us: Nana and Miranda, med students at Albany Medical College; Mark and John, Albany Med OR employees; Hilary, a PR person from Sawchuck Brown; and Mary, an OT/Special Ed teacher. The snow is insane! Our driver, Wally, is zipping past 18-wheelers like a madman. The old lady in the front of the bus is looking like she's about to pee her pants, poor dear. Go Wally, Go! We need to catch our flight! There he goes again....he's stopping to "broom" the windshield. This is crazy out here.

Oh, Wally. Why oh why are we in Paramus? Does this look like the most straightforward approach to JFK? We think not. It is now 3:16 PM.
We're on the plane! 5:30 PM.
We're still on the plane...
Waiting for deicing....
We're still on the plane...
Problem with the conveyor belt...
We're still on the plane...
Fourth in line for deicing...
Take off!!! It's 10 PM.
Finally ate at 11:30 PM

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

One day until Zim!

Well, I have been neglectful in posting here, but since I have a free moment before the 2 feet of snow buries us, I'll jot down some thoughts.

We're supposed to be leaving tomorrow morning for JFK, but there's a major snow storm on the horizon. In fact, my friend, whom I'll call Bob, tells me that, "HEAVY SNOW WILL RETURN DURING THE AFTERNOON AS MESO-SCALE BLINDING SNOW BANDS COULD PRODUCE INCREDIBLE LOCALIZED SNOWFALL RATES UP TO 6 INCHES PER HOUR ALONG WITH THUNDER SNOW." Sounds deligtful, no? Now I have to google "meso-scale blinding snow bands!"

The students did a remarkable job finising their projects last week. All told, we have 225 friendship bracelets; some wonderful gifts for our adopted boy, Admire, including a fabulous photo album; and a fantastic book about holistic therapies - the students also created 4 sets of index cards on rings that the home care nurses can take with them to patients' homes to practice holistic medicine on them. These students are phenomenal. I assume they're reading this :- ) They also raised over $400 on their bake sale. So proud, I am.

So that's it for now. I'll try to log on from the other hemisphere, if I can, and give you all updates. For now, I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we make it out of here on time. I know who wants a snow day, but please!