Friday, July 11, 2008

my Zambia adventures - Part I (continued)

We left Atlanta for Johannesburg, South Africa - our plane a South African Airways Airbus. An Airbus is a really big air plane... It's like a 747, but it doesn't have an upstairs. I haven't ever been on a 747, but other people who have been on the ZMM have - and that is what they told me.
There are three sections on an Airbus: First Class, whose seats have plenty of leg room when they are just seats and then they fold out into nice reclining sleepers for overnight comfort. The second and third sections are regular seating. They are not really bad, but there isn't much leg room - even for me and I have short legs. If the person in front of you decides that they want to lay their seat back, then you have a hard time. Also, your TV/movie screen is on the back of their head rest, so it makes watching TV/movies/ playing video games a little difficult. There are a left and right side with two seats each, then there is a middle section between the isles that is five seats across. That is where we sat. I had an isle seat. My favorite place to sit, when I fly, is by a window. On an overseas flight, the best seat is definitely on an isle. I would rather let someone out than to have to ask to be let out - especially as often as I visit the rest room.

The attendants were nice and surprisingly, the food was good. I first had hot tea on this flight, but not with milk in it! Tea and milk just didn't sound good (it sounded like milk and Pepsi - Laverne - from Laverne & Shirley drank that - YUK). I tried to watch movies, but I kept dozing off. I would wake up and try to back up the movie, but I had a hard time ever finding where I had fallen asleep. When I would find the right place... I would just fall asleep again. I give up. I don't understand how people have such a hard time sleeping on an airplane, especially one that flies for 17 hours. But two of the nurses that I flew with didn't sleep at all.

We were given this little packet with a travel toothbrush and toothpaste, soft socks and an "eye mask" (to make it easier to sleep). I think there were even some earplugs in it, but I am not sure. We had a little baby pillow, a red and yellow striped blanket to cover up with, and earphones (that went with the TV/movie screen) in the seat in front of us - all the creature comforts you could ask for. We weren't supposed to keep the pillow, blanket, or earphones - but I made it home with a blanket (another nurse confiscated it for me - I did not ask her to).

We were served meals according to the time of day where we were currently. We were served lunch on U.S. time. We had snacks between the meals, I guess so we wouldn't starve to death while we were transferred to African time. We had those nice little airplane towel packages, after meals and snacks, to clean our hands with. We all confiscated as many of those as we could - they were our "bathing towels" until we got to a real shower. The attendants turned out the lights when it was supposed to be night in Africa. It makes sense. It also helps with the jet lag - at least going over. In the morning before breakfast was served, the attendants handed out "hot, moist, real washcloths to clean our faces and hands with. Now THAT was a luxury! I almost felt clean at that point - almost.

We got up and walked around every now and again during the flight. Of course, we got up to go to the rest room, but we made sure that we moved around enough to get a little "exercise," so we wouldn't get cramps or get a DVT (deep vein thrombosis - blood clot) in our legs. On the way back, the walking around would provide a lot of visiting time, but we were the only ones we knew on the way over - and we were sitting all together.

I wanted to see the coast of Africa as we came to it, but I never got to see that. It was dark when we came to it. I was actually in the rest room when they announced we were beginning our descent. I will tell you that caused a variety of emotions in me. I was somewhat afraid because there are no seat belts on a toilet and there is only about 8 inches of space on any side of you. If you crash... who wants to be found in that position??? I was excited because we were finally in Africa - I had never been to Africa before - but now I was in Africa! We made it. We were safe. I was really in Africa. I was really going on the medical mission. I was happy. I was relieved. I was scared - again. I was crying - again...

Yes, I said I was crying again. I cried when I left Doug, because I was going to miss him. We had just passed our 25th wedding anniversary three days before. I had never been away from him for more than a week, but I was going to be away from him for 18 days this time - and across an ocean. I cried when I got on the plane at DFW. I was not scared about the flying. I realized how scared I was that I wouldn't know how to do the job I was supposed to do. (I will talk about that in another post.) When I say that I cried, I don't mean BOO HOO HOO!! WAAA!! SOB SOB!! I mean that choked up feeling, when your lip is quivering and you have the tears in your eyes. The tears aren't flowing, but you can't get your eyes dry. Your nose still gets a little runny and you have to sniff a lot. You get that goofy laugh/cry sound that comes out, and you can't really talk or you really would "cry."

When we landed in Johannesburg, we had our carry-on luggage with us in tow. Our other luggage was transferred per the South African Airways for us since we wouldn't have to clear customs until we arrived in Lusaka, Zambia. We had to get our boarding passes for Zambian Airlines and then we went through another baggage x-ray, empty your pockets, show your passport and boarding pass area. Then we had to find our way down to the Zambian Airways gate. We had a little while to look around some of the duty free shops in the terminal, but I didn't buy anything. I didn't have a lot of money and I didn't know what I would need for later, so I just window shopped. When it was time to board our flight, we had to ride a small bus out to the airplane. We got settled into our 727 and, after take off, were served a nice sandwich "snack." We were in the air a little over an hour and then we were on the ground in Lusaka - the capital of Zambia. When we got off the plane, there were three nurses - in our "matching t-shirts" waving at us from the terminal balcony. Oh, there I was again... crying. But I was happy - happy and scared. Thankful to God - and scared.

We got in line, got our passports and shot records out, and went through customs without a hitch. When we got to the other side, the nurses were waiting for us. Elizabeth Halale (the lead nurse at Namwianga Rural Health Clinic and ZMM), Michelle Drew and Carol Higdon (who I will definitely write about later). Our luggage did not arrive, but it would be there later... or tomorrow... or well, it should be there - we will check on it. We left the terminal, met Donald (he was waiting with the "people mover" van) and headed out to the Lodge for our night's rest.

On the way, we stopped to by some onions - not two or three, but the biggest bag of onions that I have ever seen. We just stopped on the side of the road so Donald and Elizabeth could bargain for them. While they were negotiating onion prices, I was hanging out of the window taking pictures of some women with babies on their backs - tied in place with chitanges. Wow, it was just like National Geographic!

They all wanted their pictures taken and of course, I was happy to oblige. They were so happy and full of smiles. My camera is digital, so I would take a picture and then show it to them. They were fascinated. The only problem with that was that they wanted to keep the picture and I didn't have a picture to give them. I think it would be really fun to take gobs and gobs of Polaroid film over there, take pictures and just give the pictures to them as they develop. I honestly don't think there is enough film to do that. They just love cameras and having their picture taken. They are amazed when they look at the image. I guess they either don't know what they look like or don't see themselves often because their friends/family point them out in the picture and they just don't believe that it is their own face.

Once we had the onions, we were off to the lodge. It was just beautiful! A large, round, brick building with huge thatched elephant grass roof, a pool, and several other, smaller round buildings (also with the thatched roofs) that we would sleep in. We put our bags away and then went to eat dinner. The room we ate in had a loft and had painted scenery on the large rounded walls. The meal was quite good and we were soon ready to turn in - after a shower!

Shelly Logan and I shared a room, and Linda Knoll and Liz Eaton shared a room. Thank goodness each room had it's own bathroom or I don't know what we would have done. We were so desperate to be clean! This lodge had excellent geezers (that is what Zambians call their hot water heaters) because Shelly and I both got showers and washed our hair and didn't run out of hot water. It's a good thing the water was hot though, because the room wasn't. There was just a tiny electric heater for our room. We knew it was winter - so we had brought sweats to sleep in. The room was clean and the bed was soft. I made a short phone call to Doug to tell him I had arrived and was safe. I found out that Michael had gotten off without any problems and that he had ridden with the Abilene group in one of the church vans. We turned out the lights and that was it until our alarm went off the next morning.

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