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A man of many words. Profane, profound, loyal to a fault and a right rat bastard. I love the finer things in life: expensive cigars, cheap women and all the salted, cured meats I can eat. A friend to dogs, lover of humanity and despiser of people. If I were King the world would be a better place, because, well...I would be King! Oh, and I like ice cream.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Playing Catch Up

Time to play catch-up. I’ve been here in Botswana a little over two months now. Early on I journaled my thoughts, feeling and observations. But til now I haven’t had the chance to post them. So here is how it went:

What a whirlwind! It’s hard to recall everything that happened from the time I left Columbiana to finding myself in Africa.

I pulled out of Columbiana (for the last time?) at 4:15AM the 16th of April. A last look across Arrowhead Lake at the home I once had brought tears to my eyes. It was there Jan died in my arms, Mick grew up and I moved out on this journey. I left a lot there. But Columbiana will always hold a special place in my heart.

On to Cleveland. After driving around the airport in the dark I finally located an Enterprise office to drop off my rental. It was 5:30 and the place was closed. There was a key drop which I found with no problem. A few days earlier I had checked it out online and learned though the office itself didn’t open til 9 a shuttle bus to the airport departure gates passed by every 7 to ten minutes. After 15 minutes and no bus I called the Enterprise 800 number. Wading through the various voicemails and helpful, but helpless operators took another thirty minutes.

My flight was at 7:30. So I had time, but was getting antsy. Dark as it was I could see the airport in the distance. My problem was no closer to being solved. Finally I said “screw it” and headed off, dragging two unruly rolling duffels, a back pack and laptop briefcase along an unlit highway with no real shoulder. “This is great,” I muttered. “I’ll be killed before I even leave Ohio.”

It turned out to be less than a mile to the gate and I was safely at the ticket booth in time.

Reaching Philly for three days of Peace Corps pre-departure training I took a shuttle into the historic district and my hotel. Along the way we passed by a homeless guy pushing an old battered grocery cart, piled high with bulging black plastic trash bags. All his worldly possessions. Then it hit me. That guy owns more “stuff” than me!

The Holiday Inn was busy and I couldn’t check in til the afternoon. So I kicked around a couple hours until eventually I began recognizing some faces from my Boits 7 facebook group. For a while there it was Old home Week. I kind of felt bad for those who hadn’t joined that online group. It made intros much warmer. Almost immediately I hooked up with my Scrabulous nemesis, Antonia, from Boston. The day before leaving I somehow managed to best her in our last game. (She probably threw it to make me feel good.)

As a group we spent the next couple days in pre-Departure Training, beginning the transformation process that resulted in our being sworn in as actual Peace Corps volunteers on June 18th.

The morning of the third day we tossed our bags aboard a couple buses for the ride to JFK, actually passing by some of our companion’s homes as we drove through Brokklyn (which by the way DOES look like “Welcome Back Kotter/”The Jeffersons”/”All in the Family”/”The Sopranos” territory).

Waiting for the evening flight I called Mick only (of course) to get his voicemail. It hit me as I was leaving a message that I might not speak to him again for over two years. That thought again had me choking back tears as I croaked out my good-bye. Fortunately he called back, asking if I had been coughing or something. [Mick update: My first text message to him from my new cell number in Botswana brought this response: “Who are you and if youre my father a buffer zone means NO CONTACT”. Nice. Also, Mick has been nominated for Peace Corps service starting next March in either Central or South America for eco-tourism. Good luck getting a CARE package from me!]

After last calls to my parents and “The Republican Girlfriend” I contacted AT&T to shut down my service.

Last plug pulled we boarded the South African Airlines Airbus (Much preferred over Boeing equipment) and took off into the night. We made a quick stop in Dakar, Senegal for passengers, but never left the plane. So, no new country!

The second hop brought us to Johannesburg, South Africa. Jp-burg. The city is considered too dangerous for us, so we were limited to the confines of a very nice hotel for the night.

After a magnificent buffet and glass of South African merlot I hit the sack. My first night in Africa. So far it could have been Pittsburgh.

Next morning we jammed onto another bus for the six hour run to Botswana with a stop along the way for lunch. Important because it qualified me for another country.

Shortly after crossing the border (I much prefer land crossings to flying in. It gives a much better sense of “going there”) we pulled into the Oasis hotel in Gaborone. I was pleasantly surprised to see the hotel faced Tlokweng Road, made famous in the First Ladies Detective Agency novel series as the home of Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors.

Again, however, we were confined to the hotel property for the three days training there. My roommate, Derek, and I did manage a three mile run by making 12 laps of a set of bungalows within the hotel property. My first African run.

While there we began our Setswana lessons, the language of the Batswana.

After three more days we dropped all our valuables and one of our bags to be held in safe-keeping for the next two months and rolled out to the city of Molepolole where we lived until late June.

Moleps (as it is sometimes called) is a fairly large, sprawling city with a distinctly country feel. The main paved (or tarred) road has a kind of shopping district along it, but most roads are dirt.

That pretty much brings it up to the earlier posts about my home and bathing situation. As I write this I am finishing my first week in Charles Hill. I’ll post a lot about Chuck Hill in the coming two years. But I wanted to finish off the initial impressions first.

Hard to believe it’s been nearly three months since my auction. The house appeared to have been sold on that last day. But alas, the deal fell through. So the place is back on the market. Other than that I am happy as a pig in manure here. Sometimes I feel like I wouldn’t care if I never came back. Of course I will.


Jan said...

hey mike! i don't think i've checked in here since early may and enjoyed reading your update. your hair! oh my! well, it'll grow back:) MAYBE.

i can't comprehend the changes in daily living but i respect your willingness and apparent enjoyment of the new life.

sorry the house didn't sell yet; that young couple had a change of heart? (but it's probably the last thing on your mind right now).

my blogging sucks lately and all i can seem to do is post garden and bird photos. don't feel like writing...although look how much i can write here! i think it's because i don't think anyone is reading my blog and it seems pointless.

ok...i'll check back later. be well! jan

Jason Combs said...

Glad to see a long, wordy entry.



PS - Did Peace Corps make you use the word 'manure'?