Learning Something New Every Day

by martha on July 22, 2011

Things you may realize in your first few days in Africa:

They are amazing!

  • A commitment to dressing modestly out of respect for the truly lovely people you’re working with means that you’re going to end up with a really distinct farmer tan. There is no opportunity to rectify it naturally and self-tanner isn’t available in local stores, so you just need to accept it.

THAT should tide me over

  • No matter what you think is enough, pack MORE chocolate! Several very large “gourmet” chocolate bars not only won’t last you for a whole three-week trip, they’ll barely carry you through 20+ hours of flying time. It doesn’t matter how slowly you savor them and indulge carefully at home, you will eat them ALL within the first day. And THEN? Well, THEN, you’re out of chocolate for three weeks. The same goes for homemade GORP. And apples.

I feel like royalty

  • Some mosquito nets are kind of charming and if you liked canopy beds as a kid, you might find that sleeping under one makes you feel a little like royalty. (Maybe that’s just me.) However, when you insist on sleeping under it, or inquire about whether the next hotel also provides them, those around you (men) will (gently) imply you might be overcautious to be following your tropical medicine doc’s advice. See also: closed-toe shoes; bug repellent; taking your malaria meds; and avoiding drinks with ice.
  • When you’re going back and forth to the airport like it’s your job, it’s quite easy to mindlessly leave your Passport behind with an airport security agent overnight. When you dutifully return to retrieve it, you WILL be scolded. Your quick admission of guilt and copping to your wild irresponsibility will not shorten the tongue lashing. In addition, your profuse and heartfelt apology to the fellow repeat airport visitor who was kept waiting “20 minutes or an hour!” due to your mistake will not get her to smile or express any forgiveness. And, when that lady sees you again downstairs in the lost baggage office, THE NEXT DAY, she will still snub you.
  • “Lost baggage?”, you ask with alarm. (Note: I appreciate your concern.) Why, yes! Regardless of how well you pack your one permitted carry-on in anticipation of losing luggage, three days in a third-world country without your bag full of snacks, supplements, toiletries and the many other savvy-traveler-type things you packed are quite eye opening and, at moments, disappointing. Even if that bag doesn’t contain MORE CHOCOLATE. When you get new information on Day 2 indicating the bag hasn’t even left Baltimore, you may find yourself really WANTING more chocolate. And regretting that you ate all the carry-on GORP so fast.
  • It will only take 48 house for your resident room gecko to startle you at an inopportune moment, giving the totally inaccurate impression that you’re afraid of lizards. You will have already seen evidence that he lives with you and will have known you were sharing quarters with him, but your first “meeting” will include him at eye-level as you turn on the light and that aforementioned embarrassing shriek. After that you’ll feel compelled to (calmly!) point out ALL lizards, bugs and bats you see around the hotel to try to compensate. You’ll secretly doubt it’s working and will terrify yourself by wishing for a not-so-near-miss with a snake or rodent so you can regain your field cred. (Minor complaint: I’m convinced that reptile erased the picture I took of it.I can’t find it anywhere.)

a case per room
You will never take safe water for granted again. (Really, I will never take safe water for granted again.)

If you’re wondering, “What the heck is crazy Martha doing in Africa?” please visit raincatcher.org and click on the blog to learn why we’re here and what we hope to accomplish. If you’d like to help us save lives, please visit my fundraising page to donate. Clean-water systems delivered through RainCatcher save a life for just $1. How many lives would you like to save today?

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

The Other Stephen King July 22, 2011 at 10:30 am

Thank you for the wonderful blogs! Other peoples’ experiences in other lands are so fascinating to me.

martha August 1, 2011 at 1:59 am

Thank YOU for reading. This trip has been incredible. I’m not quite sure I can capture it all in words, but I’m trying.

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