Southern Africa Journal
Kudos to all who stay connected over these very slow email connections from many places in Africa. I will be even more sensitive to the length of posts and instead of attachments to use URLs to links without images.
South Africa, Swaziland, Mozambique are following international disability law for new construction. I hope that means they will be allies with the IDC for the UN Convention and will ratify.
Ive been thinking that the fundamental user argument is that the mental health system is a violent system, using force to impose its will, bullying patients by withholding privileges and threatening isolation and charting, subduing its subjects with leather and chemical restraints.
The rest of these notes are more a journal than a travelogue, interior. I used this trip to consider my own unfinished business and goals.
Phase One - departure and Cape Town
After a transfer with no delays, I left the United States from San Francisco on a Wednesday evening, and after two long flights and a Heathrow layover, arrived in Cape Town Friday on a morning so foggy that, we were told when we touched ground, the plane landing was fully automatic. The US UK flight was overbooked; they were asking for volunteers to go the next day in exchange for a voucher and an upgrade.
Four men in ominous black uniforms entered the boarding corridor before the passengers and waited, two on each side, while we walked by. Ive seen that before but Im not clear why they are there and I was uncomfortable with their presence and scrutiny.
The bulb died on my seat reading light and the flight attendant just re-aimed one from another seat - I didnt even know the lights adjusted. I sat across from a speedy two finger typist; it was interesting to watch him and I was so glad I learned touch typing in high school.
My seat mate grew up in Cape Town and drew a map of must-see sites. He lives now in San Francisco, had lived in London, thought Cape Town the most beautiful place in the world. I didnt feel very well on the first leg, began to think this might be my last long-flight trip, but some sleep on the second leg helped lift my mood. South Africa passport control required me to show my return air ticket, which surprised me. I had to dig it out of its secure carrying place. Moosa Salie, WNUSP co-chair was waiting for me and drove me to my hotel and it was nice to have that friendly welcome.
The only airport ATM in the arrivals area rejected my card, but fortunately didnt swallow it up. On the plane there had been a caution to change money before customs and I looked for machines but only saw the foreign exchange banks where usually the rates arent as good and there is a fee. So apparently the system here is different from other airports. Moosa assured me we would find a cash machine in town, and we did, inside a bank near the hotel; no problems, smooth transaction. But I later saw on my statement, not as good a rate as the shops.
The highways handled the traffic flow well, the interchanges were smooth, and what Moosa considered morning traffic (it was around 9 AM) was less than what I see all day long in Santa Cruz.
I had a sense of spaciousness as we drove and as we got to town, saw wide streets and low buildings, and later, clean air and friendly people.
To choose hotels, I read a few guide books (Lonely Planet is my favorite series) and choose several lodgings that are central, quiet, mid-range, and have emai addresses. Then I send an inquiry and often select by how well the email booking and inquiry system works. The correspondence with this hotel was welcoming, chatty, immediate, when I arrived I was offered tea, and breakfast if I wanted, a room was soon ready, everything was attractive, spacious, calm. I felt my choice an affirmation of my travel arrangement skills. And there have been challenges organizing this trip!
Moosa insisted I try Rooibus tea, bush tea, herbal, delicate, delicious, some immediate lift but no caffeine. Its effect reminded of Red Zinger in the US, but I looked up on the net; the herbs are not related.
My room has a king bed, down quilt, raffia mat floor covering, fresh flowers, double hung windows, conservative furniture and decor, plus a tv and a dvd player and a heating/cooling system with a Panasonic remote to manage it.
So, tea, a walk to the ATM, unpacking, and a stroll to the square, filled with craft vendors and souvenir wares, bead work and batiks, wood carvings (stained with shoe polish), wire animals, some baskets, then a nap. After, a short walk to two bead and wire work artisans, lovely and interesting and the things I was drawn to too large for my suitcase, just as well. Id not thought much about the shorter winter days and was startled to see how dark it was and to see outside my window tiny white lights on a tree branch.
That evening, Shona Sturgeon, WFMH chair, and her husband Ken, picked me up and we had dinner overlooking the harbor at the wharf Ken had been instrumental in creating, a historic waterfront preservation project. There are walks and views and seals and history and shops and shops and shops and restaurants and lots of people. Its the most visited South African site, 2 million people a year, and Ken is very proud of the project. It was pleasant to see it in the evening, quiet, and then to see the contrast the next afternoon, when I went back to visit the craft market, another craft market, bigger, more select.
I like shopping at the beginning of a trip, to get that souvenir and acquisition bug out of my system, and I felt surfeited by the end of the day even though my purchases were a pony-tail band for my granddaughter and an adapter plug for this laptop.
But first, that morning, I took a cab to the 65 passenger round cable car and rode 5 minutes and 3500' up to the flat top of quartziteTable Mountain for the view of the whole surround and an opportunity to walk the trails. The city is defined by the mountain and several other formations which create its context. The weather there changes in a blink, one calls ahead to see if the cars are running and even then there is no guarantee, and visitors often miss the chance to experience the cable ascent in a car that rotates for a 360 view. Some ride up and hike down. It was a very clear day, not like yesterdays thick fog (the weather here is even more a topic of comment than in Boston, where I grew up), a slight haze, and wind so strong that in areas where I wasnt protected, I felt it would blow me over. So I only stayed a bit, cabbed back to the hotel just in time to catch up with a group going to visit the townships, areas where Colored and Blacks are now living.
It has been very dry and the guide noted the fire hazards are high, that an Englishman was now in jail for murder because his casually tossed cigarette (captured on film) resulted in a fire where people died.
The purpose of the townships tours are not for visitors to stare at poverty from the protection of a bus but for visitors to meet the people living there, learn about the micro-enterprises, hear about the past and the hopes. We stopped and talked with random people, all knowledgeable about the history, proud of the changes, aware of what still needs to happen, willing to invite our small group into their homes. In the Black township, there was mostly communal running water and toilets, stove and refrigerator in the home we visited, one small room for maybe four people filled by a double bed, stove and refrigerator, no storage space at all, the mother educated but unable to find work, dirt roads, cleanliness (no insects, no bad smells), people seemed well nourished, no visible disabilities anywhere (one person using a walker). The home in the Colored township was more suburban, space for mementos on shelves, a photograph of a family wedding held at an event garden. The guide, himself Colored, stressed the importance of communication and network, made sure the tourists took photos and made sure they promised to mail one and that the residents gave addresses to receive the pictures. I can imagine linkages forming, contacts being made. But the guide himself spent so much time presenting himself and his ideas and his jokes, and introducing, preparing, laying groundwork, that there was no space for me to talk with the residents. He made sure everything stayed jolly and superficial.
All to whom we spoke were willing to stop and take time to tell us about their own connection to the history, their dreams, their patience. That in itself was such a sharp contrast for me; I cant imagine receiving in my home a group of foreign tourists who just happened to knock, or stopping on the street for a 10 minute conversation with visitors.
The guide pointed out plastic huts where one tribe holds its initiation ceremonies. Each young male spends six to eight weeks alone, learning from the elders about herbs and lore, an initiation. This in a field at the edge of a major road.
I walked a few blocks to a supermarket and suddenly the wind came up, rushing brown leaves across the street, raising small dust storms, and just as suddenly, calming.
The jet lag caught up with me and I took what seemed much too much time to organize myself and plan the next few days, watched a movie on television and fell asleep.
I woke, rested, at 5, its Sunday morning and Ive brought my laptop to breakfast and am wanting to catch up on the notes Ive not been entering, the impressions swimming through my thoughts.
One is about color and then about the African way. Most conversations have quickly come round to color, how much better things are, the distinctions between Black, Colored, White, for instance that education is provided for all, but there still are not jobs. People here can recognize, by skin tone and body language, the various heritages, but I cant, am mostly perceiving a wide spectrum of varieties of people, blending. Strolling on the streets, in the markets, people seem at ease with each other. Im not sensing anger and guardedness but instead openness and welcome. But those Ive spoken to all quickly place themselves, self-define, in the context of their color and their place in the struggle, the oppression.
Ive also been part of several conversations about communication, that African content and Western content may seem the same but arent. Ive seen some of that in planning this trip, in making arrangements. The Western way of clarifying, verifying, rephrasing, feels as if it is missing the mark. There are subtle differences in world views about time and future and accuracy and reality that arent transparent but perhaps even transparency is an imposed/Western perspective. Several here have mentioned body language and my sense is the non-verbal is more how much content is conveyed and of course that content, not yet verbalized, doesnt become part of the emailed message, the printed agenda, the fax. So there are lots of logistical disconnects.
A small and unimportant example: The hotel manager, Sam, offered to show my some of the other rooms, as soon as the guests would go out. "Will you be in your room for half an hour?" "Yes." "When they turn in their keys, Ill come up." I assumed that meant shed knock on my door. She, however, tried to call first. I didnt expect that, so didnt say I had turned off the phone bells. So later when I started to go out again, she stopped me, said shed been trying to phone, we went and looked at the rooms. I only write the detail because it seems to me an example of the sometimes tangentiality of planning that happens here and that gets filed under "thats Africa".
And there are different word usages. Here what I call traffic lights are "robots."
I visited the Sunday morning flea and craft market, the Jewish museum, dedicated just a few years ago by Nelson Mandela with remarks noting the Jewish involvement with rights for all and the Jewish support for change here, the value that the well being of one becomes the well being of all. Then I breathed in the colonial atmosphere at the Mt Nelson Hotel where morning tea was available, and then walked back to my room. I was told many souvenir items stocked are made by African craftspeople, to help "black upliftment." Sundays are very very quiet here.
David Stolpers father collected me and then Moosa and we went to visit David at Velkenberg Hospital where he is held as a long term resident. Hes now in the most secure unit. Visitor seats were arranged in pairs along the exterior wall of a central area and opposite each pair was a single seat for the resident, the arrangement facilitating continuous observation by the guards. Out of some 150 in this unit, four had visitors, each the two permitted. There are two two hour visiting slots each week. David had phoned me several times this past year and made suggestions for my visit. I was glad to have the chance to meet him.
After, I was shown the rest of the hospital grounds, other points of interest, the hospital where Barnard performed the first heart transplant, the campus of the University of Cape Town and the Memorial to self-made Cecil Rhodes, imposing Greek oracle designs, steps, lions, and extraordinary views. Tea in the Gardens restaurant completed the afternoon.
Hotel staff, especially the manager, have an anticipatory thoughtfulness, tea, weather, a cab, ... knowing what guests, at least this guest, might find helpful.
Im typing at breakfast, sipping tea, enjoying cut fruit and yogurt, chosen from a selection including bread, meats, cheese, and hot English breakfast if one wants.
I took a tour to Cape of Good Hope today, 10 of us from Belgium, Germany, the UK, and me, weather ranging from fog to sun to squall and temperature variance of at least 15 degrees. We drove down one coast and up the other, beautiful shoreline, popular jet set destination, one home recently sold for USD 21 million, setting a new high. The Atlantic Ocean is cold, most dont swim in it, though theres a polar club and an annual immersion event.
Homes here have no air conditioning and no central heating.
Alien plant life, 50% from Australia, covers 10% of the land mass. Exotics are the rest and there are efforts to control the aliens.
Different communication styles were apparent. I was told to be ready at 8:20. The guide arrived at 8:10, impatient that I wasnt ready. "We let your hotel know last night that wed be earlier." At the first stop, I heard her say wed by leaving at 10. At 9:58 when I got to the car, she was again impatient, 5 to 10 was what she said but not what I had heard. The German couple misunderstood the next arrangements and went off on their own. After that, when I asked how far, how long, she wouldnt tell me. "It depends on the group." It felt quite controlling, hostile. I know the Germans too werent able to adjust what they wanted or needed to do to her only interior schedule.
Arsonists set the hills on fire; they burnt for 8 days. When I asked about the motivation, she said, in an aside, "Muslims. Say no more."
Large metal reinforced nets protect the road from rocks tumbling down the steep side of Chapmans Peak, part of the Table Mountain chain. The road winds through tunnels built by the English with convict labor, following examples in Europe.
A road sign notes "Feeding baboons prohibited"; however we didnt see any.
Cape Point was worth the whole day, wonderful ocean, rocks, sun and then a squall came up and as left as abruptly as it had arrived, leaving a light drizzle for a few minutes.
Cape of Good Hope is every tour buss destination. The parking lot is full of idling diesels and visitors throng the very nice gift shop, lunch, and ride up to the lighthouse in the funicular. There are several walks and trails, and even a trail back to Cape Point.
Meal serving sizes are huge - an order of fish and chips was about 6 ounces of fish and the equivalent of two potatoes; starter soup, an appetizer, had half a pound of fish and a quart of broth. The group lunched together at a long table. I was at the end, next to the two UK couples. They said not one word to me during the whole meal!
We stopped to see a penguin colony. I enjoy watching penguins waddle around; it lifts my heart. One had chosen to nest in an out of the way spot and I watched for a while as it sat so still and I wondered what was in its mind as it sat all day and I imagined loneliness, fear for self, and fear for the egg, and hunger, as well as boredom. One of the UK women came by and I said to her "What must it be like ... ?" "Oh, lovely," she said, "sitting in the sun all day, nothing to worry about, peaceful." I guess it was just as well we didnt exchange any words at lunch.
The last stop was a botanical garden which includes a wonderful sculpture garden that for me captured a strong feeling of Africa (Im not able to find good words.) The plants are divided by function, medicinals, useful, ... and one section is a fragrance garden and across from it a Braille Trail, thick red guide rope on the left and explanations in Braille posted at intervals. I closed my eyes and walked along it for a bit.
Prepaid cell phone cards, 2 cents a second; oh, wait, thats cents per rand, maybe USD 18 cents a minute.
I had a phone visit with Jill Stacey, director of the South African Autism Association, about special needs, inclusion, government funding, awareness, ... DPSA is very much like USs ADAPT and they were the group who gave the world "Nothing About Me Without Me." Theres a too prevalent belief, even among educated, that disability is the result of sin. I said Id seen so far only one person in a wheelchair. Many pwd live at home, cared for by paid helpers. The pwd are more visible during the Xmas holidays, when workers all go home for a month. South African laws are good. Implementation isnt. Since only 7% of South Africans pay taxes (mostly poverty, not avoidance) there arent funds to support the public programs that are on the books.
Moosa introduced me to three of his colleagues and we talked about organizing, obstacles and opportunities. I also had a chance to meet his wife, Rashida, and his daughter.
Then repacking and regrouping for
Phase two - Johannesburg to Victoria Falls
I woke very early, took my already stuffed suitcase to the drab Cape Town domestic terminal 25 minutes from town, smelt lots of perfume, took the time to check my email over very slow connections, boarded a Comair flight, discovered when we landed at Johannesburgs new, clean, spacious domestic terminal that my seat mate too was going on the train tour, was glad to have the company when there was not the expected person holding a welcome sign there to collect us, spent three phone calls and an hour and got to the train almost three hours after the plane had landed. To more confusion. I was very glad I had water and a protein bar in my bag!
Im spending 16 nights on a train, on an organized tour, traveling through six countries, The process from train to next days breakfast has been confusing and I expect it will soon fall into place. There are 55 on the tour, using five 13 passenger vans which come along on the train. Mostly the train travels at night and we are taken out in groups for the day. We are assigned to a different van and driver each day and soon will have all met each other.
I have a single cabin with a fold-down sink that is not very useful, toilets at each end of the car and a shower at one end, Its a five minute walk through eight cars from my cabin to the dining car where we are served breakfast and dinner and there is tea and coffee always available. So far the food is very good. I tasted ostrich meat last night and was pleasantly surprised that I liked it. It is very cold now, early in the morning, I am typing with my coat on. Once the sun is up, the days are pleasant.
Now its the third night, and Im catching up. But I didnt get far. Its now the fourth afternoon.
Weve all been talking about the communication challenges, even with the native English speakers, "five minutes" is not literal, doesnt even mean soon, the first day guide spoke about money, banking, his wifes household needs, all day long. Theres a style of repetitiveness, holism, circling over and over and over around the same material, insisting on engaging the listener, forcing the listener to engage. It is definitely from an oral tradition, though now the African languages are written in the same characters as you are reading, and may have to do with the sentence structure of compared to English. At any rate, I am finding it next to impossible to get the data I need to organize myself. Im not alone; other travelers are as confused. I am learning to repeat, rephrase, go back and forth two or three times and Im finding that what I thought was the meaning the first round, well, it wasnt. So they are telling us when we need our passports and when to use which currency and it would seem to me so easy to just write a little chart but they repeat for all six countries and more border crossings all at once but not linearly, so first the passports for exiting, then where there might be banking, then the passports for entering, then the currency, then the time of day, ... The organization of the material doesnt seem by travel days, nor by geography, but by the speakers association.
The first night I unpacked and found spaces in the single cabin; it worked out fairly well and it felt good to be settled in. Making a home space when Im away is very important to me. But when I went to sleep I felt something very sharp in my bed which I hadnt felt when I was sitting. The mattress had a ridge of welting from head to foot about six inches from the edge. I squished into the remaining space and in the morning asked for it to be fixed. I assumed it had just slid and needed to be reseated.
We walked through Johannesburgs gardens, including their pride of place Japanese tea house, went to a museum part of which was a display about Gandhis work here in Joburg as an attorney for Indians segregated as Coloured in Durban, and his distillation of satyagraha from ideas already seeded here. I was struck that the signage was what Id expect in a childrens museum, for instance separating reality from reconstruction, and that seemed to me to be part of the communication differences Id been experiencing.
We had lunch in Soweto (South Western Township, township the word for Black residential area), home of Mandela who argued for education, not grants and handouts, Soweto, seat of the Defiance uprising, the Struggles; saw some renewal and tin-shack-no-running-water poverty, and ended with children dancing and drumming for us at SoMoHo (Soweto Mountain of Hope), a community project where the people who lived there, on their own, cleaned up the garbage which hadnt been collected for three months, developed some craft and music projects, painted the tower on the top of the hill with a bright and bold design, and now welcome tour groups to explain the recovery.
I thought about how the user/survivor movement hasnt hurt enough to come together in this way, how to embrace a spectrum - develop a vehicle/modality/instrument across the spectrum and range of psychiatric diagnoses to ... inclusive, wellness, integration, ... which most of us can embrace and feel part of.
The guide thinks theres a leader every century, and the world is now waiting.
It was a long day, a first day, the group getting to know each other, the guide circular and confusing. I got back anticipating a chance to wash up before dinner and found my mattress hadnt been fixed. I was at the edge of my calmness and control and first became firm, was offered a blanket to put over the ridge, or another mattress to put on top of the existing bolted in one (this is like a lower berth; another mattress would have raised me too high to get out of bed without bumping my head on the upper berth which was used as a storage shelf), was then told the mattress was meant to be like that, 22" wide. Wed all been told there were only 55 out of a capacity of 72 so I said that wasnt acceptable and they had all day to sort this out and I would like to change rooms. The young woman to whom Id been speaking kept insisting since Id only paid for a single and there were no other singles she could do nothing and the manager wouldnt be free for half an hour and why didnt I just go to dinner. At this point I lost it, said I couldnt trust her to get this fixed for me, I wouldnt move from her office and couldnt eat til I was settled and that my stomach was now so in knots, ... It took another 2 hours to sort this out, they bumped a staff person somewhere else and put me in her room. Before that happened, I kept being advised to go to dinner, and I kept saying no, ended up pounding my fists on my thighs tantrum style (the manager just stared in shock and I couldnt really believe how impulsive I was being and how in need of my own haven), then it took two more hours to move things and get resettled. And it took me a while to calm down. I feel partly successful, that I was assertive, didnt settle, got my room changed, even upgraded (because there were no singles left) to a double, now nine cars between me and meals, and partly I failed because I really was pretty hysterical, not loud though, and felt very out of control. I realize the woman that had been delegated to deal with me had no authority so I learned that lesson for the rest of the trip, and Im a bit scared that I went so quickly from pretty mellow to over-the-edge. I cant remember if I have ever behaved like that over such a sustained period. Yes, a single brief outburst. The good thing is I came back to mellow by sleep time and have been fine yesterday and today.
My new cabin is 7'2" wide and 6'4" long; the 28" wide berths are separated by a 21" aisle. Theres a 2' long table that drops down over the metal sink, which has only a hot water faucet, and the water is scalding. There are upper berths which can be folded into the wall or dropped down to use for a storage shelf, and above those a high metal rack for more storage, and four hooks and four small cubby holes. Theres a fan, four small upper windows that Ive kept open, and two larger windows that open, have screens and shades.
This is a middle-class tour, peoples annual vacation that theyve saved all year for, ... and the provider attitude seems to be we the tour people have done all this for you, be suitably receptive and cooperative and appreciative. Its definitely not guest first, well meet the guests requests. It shows itself in smallish ways, others have noticed it, Im imagining it feels a bit like how the Whites treated the Coloured and Blacks after apartheid ended, a mix of political correctness and condescension.
Its been a comfort to do a bit of "aint it awful" with a few of the other guests. It clears the way to relaxing and enjoying.
There are electric outlets in the cabins but the plugs are not the expected "standard two hole" but three widely separated holes. I am so glad I took the precaution of buying my own adapter in Cape Town and bought a 220 extension cord last year in Israel. This battery is charging and I have made tea in my room every morning.
Yesterday we went through border formalities, leaving South Africa, walking for a few minutes, entering Swaziland, then at the end of the day, leaving Swaziland and immediately boarding the train where during the night we entered Mozambique and were not required to present ourselves in person. The train staff have been collecting and handing back our passports, as needed.
Swaziland has a lumber industry, pine and gum, lots of land, one million people, is governed by a king, polygamous, the prior king had some 90 wives and 300 children, has a factory producing lovely blown glass from recycled glass that local school children collect and sell to the factory. Its the first place Ive seen specific ramps for wheelchairs, twice during the day signage for ramps, and I was told the country is following international law for new construction. I saw a woman using a wheelchair yesterday, a man using one today (he managed skillfully, going backwards at a curb). I skipped the 90 minute group lunch, snacked on one of the protein bars Id packed and some fruit and cheese from breakfast, strolled around the restaurant, part of some remote lodge, and was glad of the quiet time.
The ages of the group range from 8, 12, 15, 19, to at least 75, from Australia, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Norway, Washington, California, Florida, ... 10% over 70: 20% smokers. Most of the group are couples or traveling pairs. Theres a family from Los Angeles, husband,65, younger wife, 8 year old, and Ive sat with them several times.
Hes very gregarious, talks a lot, travels a lot, is a preacher, Jesus is the one True Savior, is a Libertarian, asks me "Youve heard of the John Birch Society?" "Of course," I reply. Hes an officer in the Society, thinks Bush is dangerous, ... Ive been circumspect. I need to Google the society; my memories are vague and that they are not much aligned with my beliefs. ( http://www.jbs.org ) His wife is Peruvian, friendly, warm, quiet. Their daughter is a good traveler. Theyve been many places all over the world. He doesnt like posh tours, likes mixing, meeting ordinary people, is quite generous in a way that could be but isnt insulting, upgrades to business, uses air lounges, has the best double cabin for "my girls" plus a single. She is respectful to him and deferential. I turned to say something to her while he was speaking. She gently but clearly turned my attention back to him, chastising with the smallest gesture my behavior. Im so curious about where all the money comes from, why all the touring/traveling.
Maputo, Mozambique, originally Portugese, some streets named after Vladimir Lenin, Ho Chi Minh, Allende, dry, drab, dusty, near beaches, a popular vacation spot for South Africans.
A score of people were patiently waiting to fill their 50 liter plastic jugs with water running from an underground spring in the park. They carried the filled containers home on their heads. Women were vending fruit, arranged in a platter balanced on their heads with a knife stuck vertically at the edge, for samples.
I walked for a few hours, two women helped me find a taxi and negotiated a too high price for me, my key chain flash light fell out of my pocket in the cab, the driver will be happy, I did not know how to say Railway Station in Portuguese and neither the women nor the driver understood my miming "choo choo" or my drawing of railway tracks. So first we stopped for 2 liters of gas, then we headed along the street the station was set back from, looking, finally I said to the driver "Swaziland" and he replied "South Africa, transport" and took me to the long-distance bus station. Again, "choo choo" and this time he got it, went around the corner and we came to the station and he told me the right word.
Most of the others have gone to the beach. Ive had a shower, and am enjoying the quietness. My alone time is renewal; it helps me keep my cool. Its not possible to avoid the peak shower times since we leave in the cars and return in the cars at about the same time, and theres no time, even if there were space, to rinse out more than underwear. I am already wrinkled; I expect to be filthy by the end of the trip!
Well, Ive caught up, so far written 20 pages, 6000 words, wonder who is going to read this. I need to clear my head, write down the impressions, or there would be no room for the next days. Thats reason enough. (And it will preserve the experiences for me.)
One couple wished to upgrade and couldnt, because the train complement isnt complete, there is one less car. I guess taking another train carriage means taking another driving van, another guide, more cleaning staff, costly unless full.
We are often warned in extremes about dangers, perhaps because travelers dont pay attention, perhaps because the crew has had experiences. For instance, smokers are advised not to leave the train for a cigarette at station stops in the middle of the night, because the carriage doors will lock behind them and they will get left in their jammies on the platform. We are all warned to not enter and leave the train except through the one set of doors, to not open the other exterior doors. We are warned to keep our limbs inside the park vehicles, else lose a limb to a lion. And so on.
Looking around my cabin Im pleased with my improvisations for storage and organizing, my cocoon.
Mozambiques prosperity is increasing, Maputo is becoming a beach vacation destination for South Africans, has one world class hotel, the Polano, very courtly, proper, colonial, and several other good ones (one had a ramp and a handicap stall in the womens bathroom including a sink and a lever to flush with), delicious seafood restaurants as well as pizza and KFC.
The daily open air market is full of salad ingredients, root vegetables, spices, ginger root, the cashews this region is renowned for.
I spent $1 for 20 minutes on the internet to send a note to my family.
Popular here is a little open plastic vehicle from Braggio in Italy, driver in front, two passengers in the rear bucket seats, used for taxis.
We stopped at a church for the architecture. Its Sunday and services were going on. Of course the congregation was all African, Black, the children in the back row turned to look at us; for whatever reason, this was the first time Ive had a sense of color, or my being an outsider.
The train moved some in the daytime and we were treated to tea and cakes and we enjoyed the flat countryside and waved and waved to the children whose families lived along the tracks.
The motion is hypnotic. I dont much want to type, dont much want to read, just look out the window, rolling along, reflecting. At the frequent stops I wait impatiently for the motion to resume.
We left at 6 without breakfast in 4x4's for Kruger National Park. It didnt feel cold boarding the vehicles but the wind as we drove chilled to the bone, chilled those in parkas as well as everyone else. It was after 7 by the time we got through the entrance formalities; by then the guide had rolled up the sides of the vehicle for better viewing, the sun was bright, and it was still very very cold sitting. Visitors are only allowed on foot in the rest areas, where there are toilets, groceries and camping equipment, and in a central one a restaurant, take-away shop, and souvenirs.
The rest areas themselves were very crowded - it is still three week school winter holidays -, hard to find a parking place, but only short or no lines at the cashiers and toilets. Each group went their own way and the few cars we passed on the road were delighted to share sighting information. There are numerous birds, the famed "big five", lots of other animals and interesting wildlife. Everything growing or living here is native and theres a quality of all-of-a-piece that I found compelling and soothing. And of course its mostly quiet. The animal colorations so blend into the landscape that for me it was only their moving that allowed me to separate them from their background. And I found out how bad my distance vision is! The animals ignore the cars - we sighted elephants, rhinos, zebra, giraffes, crocodile, a lion, ... I couldnt name them all.
Its important to many to see all the big five and Im reminded of other kinds of collecting and counting - how many countries one has visited, how many airlines one has flown on, ... The three cars with our group communicated with each other by walkie-talkie every few minutes, sharing choice locations, coordinating the breakfast (standing in the sun and eager for the sandwiches and fruit that had been sent with us) and lunch (on our own at a rest area) stops.
The memory that is sticking as I type is of a giraffe - the sway of the rump, the slink of the spine. Some women here sway in that way; some dancers have that fluid spine. I am convincing myself I am seeing the roots of human styles of movement. And Im seeing the elephant we watched lunching on tree branches and bark, using his tusk like a machete to slice off a strip of bark which his agile trunk was holding, then once cut, he wrapped the bark around his trunk to gain leverage and gave a sharp tug to remove it from the tree. Thalidomiders have a similar dexterity and use their incomplete limbs in similar ways. There was much picture taking, binocular using, sharpened sighting skills.
Im amazed at same of the other travelers. Theres a woman using a cane, also hard of hearing - turns out the cane is since she broke her femur in Oslo, had a steel rod inserted, hospitalized there six days, then flown home, ... Her husband day before yesterday lost his glasses which he was wearing while swimming in the Indian Ocean - now he cant read anything. And they are both cheerful and pleasant, going on the night safari tomorrow, eager for the next thing. They are my age, maybe older, and Im not at all that kind of good sport!
The guides identify us by our carriage/cabin numbers. Im ND-A.
Bananas roasted in their skin are delicious, and barbecued corn, here called mealie, is also popular.
Upliftment (urban renewal) is happening in South Africa and cities are especially proud of their botanical gardens. Three have already been included in the tour. Black economic empowerment (BEE) is mandatory: foreign investments must have Black partners.
Supermarket carts are trolleys; car horns are hooters; a sweater is a jersey, fanny means something too unmentionable for the woman guide to tell me.
We had a soup so good the chef, when I asked, was kind enough to tell me the ingredients - carrots, onions, orange juice, and ginger.
The same crew waits on table at dinner and breakfast and cleans the cabins during the day.
The train is parked at the Hazyview station, beside a sawmill active from 6 to 6 and near a rooster eager to start the day at 4 AM.
I misinterpreted a smiley beside my name on the guides trip sheet (it meant I was staying on the train that evening but I read it as sarcastic - youre stuck with her today), decided I was unwanted, suddenly a wash of loneliness and exclusion swept over me, even tears, and then at breakfast two couples talked past me to each other, joking about marriages, men and women, in ways I heard as hostile and sexist, not at all funny.
I note three times where Ive been aware of a wish/need of another and have remembered and later offered a small bit of help, altruism, looking for bonding, ... ? (If I am helpful, people will like me, accept me, include me ?) I felt OK by the time we boarded the van, and am fine now, the evening, typing these notes. I did decide to skip dining, eat in my room, catch myself up.
Time dissolves here. The others went to explore some caves, I was told they would be back in 75 minutes. I had a cup of tea, looked out at the hills, read a few pages, ... and they were back. Its quiet here, and I wonder if somehow noise or electricity or ... something just so pervasive produces the levels of stress and the urgency. Something more subtle than what we mean when we say pollution, but along those lines.
Only now am I appreciating history, wanting to know the context of events, Im reading Mandelas story, and wanting to know what came before, what followed and in the context too of the UN Convention, how did we get to this place of rights, who were the leaders, the causes, how did South Africa birth "Nothing About Me Without Me." For instance communism took hold here, but instead of materialism, there is a cultural binding system, linking individual, family, clan tribe.
Can we make an analog in the c/s/x movement, binding by diagnosis, by experience of force, of handcuffs, of ect, of being conserved, of long term incarceration, of out-patient force, of being treated as children, of losing parental rights, ... Could we organize ourselves in small groups around those happenings? Might we be more congenial? And work out goals and actions from the clusters and then make coalitions?
Golf is popular in South Africa; also in Swaziland there were many courses.
I stopped at an internet café, this time a fast line, 30 minutes for 20 Rand, about $3, and among several hundred spam and about 50 non-list messages, congratulatory emails from people learning from NMHA about the Beers award, one man I hadnt been in touch with since the early days of the MADNESS list. That felt very nice.
At the Africa Silk store I saw a scarf I had purchased in the Jerusalem old city, with a tag - made in China! (Same price in Israel and Africa.)
Mandela believed that fascism was being imported to South Africa behind a screen of fear of communism. What is happening in the US, I wonder, behind the screen of fear of terrorism?
When pine was used for mine shaft supports, when the load becomes too heavy, the piling snaps, crushing those working inside the mine. Now eucalyptus is used for supports. Pressure compresses the pilings and the oils exude. The next shift of miners notice the scent and that therefore the mine is becoming dangerous, everyone leaves, the shaft is dynamited to completely close it, and a new start is made.
25,000 Zimbabwe dollars = USD 1. We are cautioned to have lots of small bills, to give exact change for purchases, that coins will be refused, to not accept Zim money, worthless.
The coral tree blooms in winter, no leaves, gray twigs and dry branches, brilliant red blossoms, from a distance bold and fiery, up close the petals are arranged in a row, like a zebras mane, like plumage. Its easy to image evolutionary patterns, and how early humans, skin color blending into the environment as the animals do, learned about tools from watching elephants use their tusks, birds drop things from heights to break them, ... Its much harder for me to imagine how from that balance and harmony white supremacy developed.
Several of the geological sites weve stopped at have signs indicating wheel chair access, though the paths would be tough going wheeling ones self or being pushed.
Todays guide launched a political discussion, describing himself to the right of Genghis Khan, believing South Africas constitution guarantees rights to criminals and murders and not to law abiding citizens imprisoned behind iron gates and barred windows for their homes, pro death penalty as a way to empty the prisons, that the ten commandments should be the law of the land, ... He was countered, or provoked, by four gay Australian men who have been traveling together for a while. Its been a long time since Ive been in such conservative company, not just the guide, but some of the others on the trip, one career military, retired, ... , several engineers of various kinds, ... And the preacher is Church of Christ, non-denominational, teaches a literal interpretation of the Bible. Ive only told one person any more about myself than that I live in California and have a granddaughter and two children!
The guide told us he had once gotten a ticket at a stop sign for doing what we call a rolling stop. In this country a period at the end of a sentence is called a full stop. When the guide protested the ticket, saying he did stop, the ticketer said, no, you didnt make a full stop, you made a comma. Im tickled by the play on words.
I had a salad and yogurt in my room and read a mystery while the train traveled.
Its day eight, we stopped at several micro-enterprises, had high tea, and are moving across the border to Zimbabwe where we are told the border formalities can take hours. The train staff will handle it for us and its unlikely we will even meet the officials. However the forms asked about computers (and books, and currency, and other) and I had to note my laptop, which I hope doesnt create a problem. Others have fancy cameras, there are several cell phones, a few electric toothbrushes, ...
One of the Australian men was victim of a scam. He went to get cash at an ATM, it wouldnt accept his card, a local person offered to help him, took money out himself to demonstrate the machine was working and had cash, then inserted the travelers card for him, instructed him how to enter his pin (while the helper watched), then said the card and money would be right out, and walked away. Walked away with the travelers card which he had palmed during the demonstration. The man discovered the next day there had been enough withdrawals within the next 15 minutes to empty his account and overdraw it, altogether the equivalent of USD 2500. It would seem to me the software should have red-flagged continuous ATM withdrawals, emptying an account, overdrafting. He phoned Australia within an hour to report, but the money was by then gone. We are telling him he should be liable at most for the first withdrawal!
Down an unpaved road to a small village, 63 live there, where women are selling pottery they make. No running water, no electricity, not even wheels for the pottery, hand turning, hand decorating with fingers dipped in graphite and ochre. They demonstrate, and make the characteristic tongue throat sounds for us. The children were home, maybe the oldest eight, healthy looking, clean, handsome, happy, well-behaved, mostly boys, posing for the cameras, having great fun. A daughter was home from teaching in Joburg - she was wearing the same crinkle rayon blouse as I, mine black, hers purple.
The children rubbed dried corn cobs against rough stone to remove the kernels, which were then pounded by the women into flour and cooked in a large kettle over an open fire into porridge. The pottery makers sit on the ground, straight back, legs straight out (the polygamous men dont like the women to cross their legs!)
Then we had two hours for lunch and wandering in Makhado, an ugly, dry, hot, noisy, dusty town near the Zimbabwe border. I caught up on my email at a café with a fast connection.
It took about two hours to leave South Africa and about four to enter Zimbabwe. The train staff handled all the passport details while we dined on fish filets, summer squash, and potato salad. The evening travel was stop and start and I kept waking, but awoke refreshed to a beautiful sky, striated with clouds, a deep coral sun rising around 6:15, at the station at Rutenga, Zimbabwe.
Im feeling less unique in how I organize for travel - others also keep food and eat in their room sometimes, skip activities to be alone, know how to optimize frequent flyer miles, compare the credit card reward programs and the foreign exchange fees.
The staff like their tea. Each morning they cluster around the dining room hot water pot, back and forth for refills, three heaping teaspoons of sugar in each cup.
We are in Zimbabwe, formerly Rhodesia, now named after huge, ancient stone constructions, walls and a large cone, built without mortar, compared to the Egyptian pyramids, though burial was in caves, not here. The polygamous king lived at the very top and sent for a woman of his choice from the bottom where they dwelt, along with the first wife, the queen, also an important political figure.
Despite several reminders, when the train staff got our visas, they neglected to get me a multiple entry one. At the end I want to come back to see the waterfall again. I am worried I will spend hours in line, not be allowed back in. They said it was because the visa official only had the single entry book, but I think they forgot to ask when they were setting things up. It doesnt feel good to feel that I am continually being told untruths!
Communication continues to be difficult regardless of ethnicity - its hard to find out the days structure, what to wear, when the next toilet stop will be. I find the way is to keep asking the same thing several times in a row in different ways, but then I get different answers and get to choose one!
Zimbabwe is a country rich in natural resources with an impoverished citizenry since Mugabe remarried. Hes 84, the wife in her 30's, shes blamed for his current actions which have destroyed the opportunity for individuals to make a living, eliminated jobs, yet built schools for all (though education isnt free) and roads. Police presence is everywhere, they scrutinize documents, arrest for 1 kilometer over the speed limit, Many people cross into South Africa illegally, are then deported back, try again. It can get as hot as 135 degrees here in the summer, there are 9000 dams, much water lost to evaporation, very little crime because of the strict laws, beseeching at the craft markets to buy, to help. The San people were indigenous, then around 200 BC the Bantu came, then the Shona. Mugabe is Shona.
The German guide let us know he is only responsible for himself, the sins of prior generations are the past and he is not carrying that guilt. He has, he says, "enough problems of my own."
There is talk of remaining the famous waterfall. The local name for Victoria Falls is Mosi oa tonya, the smoke which thunders.
Rhodes was a homosexual, lived here with his partner, Jamison, an accountant. They are buried together and it was together that the wealth was amassed, though Jamisons name is not remembered.
The last two elections have been rigged, people told unless they voted for Mugabe there would be no food, observers from neighboring countries had commercial interests best served by Mugabe. Kofi Annan was here, spent 30 minutes with Mugabe, walked away in disgust. All this recent, at first Mugabe did very good things for his newly independent country of 20 million people.
An aside from the guide about his own country, South Africa: the President is an alcoholic. The Vice-President raped a woman who was HIV positive, didnt use a condom. The Health Minister doesnt believe that AIDS is transmitted sexually. The guide is disgusted.
(Im spell checking, but not rereading for flow and duplication.)
The Zimbabwe exchange rate varies from person to person. Theres huge confusion between rates for Rand, rates for dollars, rates in local currency. We stopped at an outdoor crafts market. People bought carved wooden spoons for 20 cents, small woven mats for a quarter. I was embarrassed to pay so little, felt we were taking advantage of the people, wouldnt pay less than a dollar. At a museum, I bought a postcard - they would only take local money, 50,000 for a postcard, maybe 50 cents. At the same time, a cup of tea where we lunched was 360,000 and I had to pay $3 US. The preacher changed money. His equivalent of $20 is a stack of 20,000 bills about 4" high.
Im feeling very high maintenance, needy, beginning to have trouble meeting my personal needs, when to carry water, a snack, a hat. I am fascinated with why it is so hard to get clear answers! Im skipping dinner, bringing a bowl of salad back to my room, which is giving me some time to catch myself up and quiet myself down.
We rode in open vehicles to the Rhodes burial monument, a steep climb to a beautiful view, rocks seemingly balanced on a point and easy to tip over, resting there for all time. On the way we passed Sylvia Road, thatched cottages on large grounds with gardens, signs of the English.
The sprawling city, built on a rectangular grid, had a few cars, a few pedestrians, closed up at Saturday noon for the weekend.
At meals, when I sit near the kitchen, it seems so odd to me to hear the orders in universal short-order code, "double, over easy", with a slight African lilt.
Ive just notice that the tap on the faucet of the sink in my room is red, for hot. The water is sometimes cold, and at expected washing times, scalding. But the sink is metal and if the bowl is filled the water cools quickly. In the shower, the mix needs to be mostly cold.
This morning part of the lock latch mechanism was closed when someone brushed by and I was locked in my room. There are no bells for help or service. Fortunately, I figured out how to open the window to the corridor, and waited for someone to walk by, then pounded to get her attention. She immediately knew what had happened; she too had experienced it. "Scary, isnt it," she said. Later I was told the trick is to rotate and lock open a piece of the mechanism so that cant happen.
We visited a village which has chosen home tour as its micro-enterprise. Mud and thatch units arranged around a center circle where the children sang, a basket out for donations, each unit swept and dusted, cot frames with cloths for mattresses across the metal springs, a well half-a mile away, no obvious signs of illness, no unpleasant odors, units decorated with attractive mobiles of seeds and leaves and twigs. They probably collected $30 from our stop, supplies for a while.
Im noting the body languages. Most stand tall, shoulders back, perhaps from carrying on their heads, many are lean and agile, some very fleshy and soft and plump/fat.
We stopped at the Simbala school, which this tour company has adopted, brought soccer balls and teaching aids. 600 children, 16 teachers, 4 rectangular cement buildings, plastering peeling off the walls, windows, a blackboard at each end, two classes in a room, wooden table and bench in one unit with metal legs, up to grade 7, well for water just over the hill, no electricity, rows of adjoined outhouses and a separate teachers toilets area which the tour company helped build, another classroom building under construction. The headmistress wants pens. She saves then until she has enough for each child, then distributes them. We were told in advance of the visit and in South Africa, people bought teaching aids and copy books and soccer balls. It costs $200 per semester to attend; there is a stipend per child from the state. The children walk a few miles each day, if they go on to high school, the walk if five miles each way. They eat only one meal, at the end of the day. There are numerous learning disabilities, some vision and hearing problems, some mobility. The headmistress wants to offer both early childhood and special education but hasnt skills, materials. We probably left several hundred dollars of cash and supplies, but it seems to me that some sister school arrangement with an affluent country could provide some sustainability. Im thinking to write to Bic or someone and ship them 2000 pens! The school, the children, touched heartstrings, but at the same time, I felt manipulated, a pity party, like the Save the Children ads on television. I havent good ideas about effective ways to address needs this huge. Everyone hear believes that education is the answer, and I endorse that, so that they can help themselves.
We went game-viewing in open vehicles early this morning. Two couples from Australia talked continually through gorgeous skies and peaceful land, elephants, giraffe, impala, zebra, birds, a troop of baboons, water holes, yard high ant hills. Theres an animal that can, if theres drought, postpone birth until theres enough water.
We lunched at Hwange Lodge, $165/day, three meals and two game drives included. The tree top cottages, for better viewing, have modern bathrooms and mosquito netted beds. But the stillness is disturbed by a pool pump and a bar refrigerator. In all the grounds, I found not one quiet shady spot!
Im beginning to be bothered by the disorder among my things, and the unlaundered clothes, am glad tomorrow I will have a free afternoon to catch up and regroup and that I woke early today to type these entries. Im also looking ahead to the end of being with the group, the relief plus the concerns of again being on my own.
Im thinking a lot about the travel I used to do, three months at a time, no groups, lonely, yes, but more adventurous. This has been interesting but so packaged. Im thinking about never packing another suitcase and in the next moment, coming again next year to the east African coast, Tanzania and Uganda, on my own, a week in a few different places.
The memory I will take home is of the colors of Africa or at least southern Africa, the harmony and blending, humans, other animals, plants, ... Its quite extraordinary!
Its the next to the last day of the train trip, I woke very early, and am catching up on notes from the last few days. Ive been feeling ungrounded and confused, needing to make lists and write reminder notes. The train is parked at Victoria Falls Station, several minutes walk from the Victoria Falls Hotel, colonial English, view of the spume but not the falls, the railroad bridge, a few minutes to a small town. I decided to not go to the included off-train dinner, choosing instead to straighten up and read, was told there would be a cancellation fee. What, a cancellation fee for not going to an included activity? Ill see when I settle the tour extras bill tonight, will comment but not argue, and protest when I get home to the credit card company. (There was no fee added to the bill.) I took advantage of getting back a bit early to walk up to the Victoria Falls Hotel and also visit the nearby Kingdom Hotel. I felt bold and rebellious and satisfied, going out on my own for a few minutes, doing something unscheduled.
Theres a road sign "dead slow" which is a warning for a speed bump.
The Zimbabwe rail train from here to the last stop is $130 for first, $70 for third, more for peak hours, and in the evening there are people waiting, boarding, sounds of camaraderie and anticipation.
Outside on the station lawn a hose is watering the lawn, its nozzle has been inserted into a liter plastic bottle lying on the ground. Theres one long row of holes punched in the bottle from which the water is coming - clever sprinkler system!
I got locked in my room again, and became afraid that it would happen while the others were out to dinner and there were only a few staff, not nearby. So I bent the latch mechanism backwards so its now a bit hard to lock the door with the key, but it wont latch when someone brushes by. Clever me!
We went out of Zimbabwe to Zambia and back, and then out to Botswana and back, immigration out, scrape soles of shoes across hoof and mouth disease disinfectant, walk through no mans land, immigration in, ... and I guess I will do this all again on the last day.
Theres been a polio outbreak in Namibia, and a warning sign is posted. Thats a disease that was all but eradicated; it saddened me to see this outbreak when it is easy and inexpensive to innoculate children.
At the famous railroad bridge we walked from Zimbabwe to Zambia falls thundering on one side, gorge on the other (bungi jumping there is one of the options). The vista is so mammoth that I couldnt really absorb it, wanted to spend several hours looking. Vendors were hawking carvings and copper bracelets. One young man recited to me the names of all the American presidents, I kept saying no, he kept naming presidents. I was so impressed with his entrepreneurial skill I bought 3 bracelets for $10 and later found they should be $1 each. I didnt mind; I felt good supporting his abilities.
The cell phone poles are decorated to look like palm trees.
A quarter of the falls are on the Zambian side and we donned plastic ponchos, walked across a foot bridge, walked on short trails to vista points, and listened to the thunder. Again, I wanted to just spend hours listening.
The next day we set out for Chobe Park, Botswana, a smoker sat across the aisle from me, his clothes reeking of strong tobacco. My head started to pound, I opened the window, took some Rescue Remedy, and managed well enough. He lights up immediately, stands near the entrances and exits so it is hard to avoid him.
On cold mornings, elephants like standing on the warm tar. We allowed time in case the road was blocked by animals. Baboons dart about, even near town. After the border we transferred to 4X4's and had a wonderful day. Though it got very very hot in the sun the peace of the park soothed me and we saw lots of wildlife, including a leopard. A lunch stop at a lodge and then a boat along the river that borders between Botswana and Zambia - the highlight so far. We floated towards shore, watching herds of elephants, tiny babies hard to even see in the shadows of their motherss legs, under their bellies; crocodiles feasting on an elephant, buffalo, birds galore, all as close as I would want to be.
Kruger is already a blur; what I remember is the extraordinary sense of the balance. I think Chobe would have made that same first impression, is a bit less visited, might be the place to come back to. I did no homework on Botswana. All I know is that the local items in the gift shop at the lodge where we lunched were expensive, and the staff there not as enthusiastic and friendly as in other places. Another to-do item when I get home, to find out a bit more.
I kept thinking about the natural cycle and where humans fit. We are the worst predator, killing for more than need, killing each other for greed and power. And I started to think about what is, beyond each other, the natural enemy of humans. I think it would be what we call natural disasters - volcanos, earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, blizzards, maybe what we are calling global warming, .... But the cycle of those, how we fit, how those events would purge and balance the ecosystem is still hard for me to see, to figure out. I want a model of a meta-system that includes humans and weather in the "food chain".
Another of the fingers of my right hand is gnarling at the knuckle and when I use my pointer finger to show where something is, I am off by about 30 degrees to the left; somehow it seems funny, this sign of old age, this inability to point.
Ive been reading a mystery starring psychic detectives, most had a head trauma that created the skill, and I am wondering if anyone of us developed psychic skills after etc.
Ive been on a necklace buying frenzy. For many years I deliberately owned only basics, three silver chains of varying lengths and the pearls my parents gave me as a high school graduation present. Last January, at the UN meetings in New York, those pearls unclasped under my winter coat and scarves and I lost them. After some backtracking, searching, and grieving, I found myself buying beads everywhere I went, bright, inexpensive, costume items, a kind of accessory Id never before used. So I will return with lots of jewelry and it will be interesting to see how it looks at home.
We visited the Zimbabwe side of the falls, the rain forest, Victoria Falls Park, $20 entrance fee, very wet in places but my own microfiber raincoat and yellow rain hat worked well and dried before we boarded the bus again. The views were glorious, and we had lots of time and I had some of the vista spots to myself for long enough to be satiated. A wheelchair user from Japan was having a wonderful time propelling herself along the pebbled pathways, pushed when necessary by her group guide. She didnt have much English but when I asked her, held up two fingers in a victory sign and said she was having no problems on her trip.
Iguazu Falls has been on my list of sights to see, but after Victoria Falls I no longer feel as drawn. The massiveness of the experience somehow disconnects me.
In the afternoon I spent a few hours in the town, a mix of upscale souvenir shops and open air craft markets selling stone and wood carvings and beads and batiks, catering to at least three upscale hotels. I feel shopped out and overloaded, and went back to the train, repacked into a small bag for Lusaka (Zambia Air has a 33 pound weight limit) and the rest to store for my return at the hotel which will be my last stop. Ive even finished a mystery, feel rested, might even like to watch television or be sociable, but Ive trapped myself by showering and packing all my clothes except those for the next day, deliberately kept clean because of the Lusaka plans.
Others took advantage of this free last afternoon to go bungi jumping, ride elephants, view the falls from helicopters, walk with young lions, ... I keep thinking of how it would work to come back on my own, to other countries in Africa, for six weeks maybe, and also of not doing hard travel anymore, this my last challenging trip.
I woke early on the last morning, to finish packing and found the power out, no water either. I was glad of my flashlight which helped me get washed, used the bottled water to wash my face and brush my teeth, and by the time I was dressed the power was on and I could boil water for tea.
I had a leisurely breakfast and said goodbye to those who passed by in the dining room, sat visiting for a while with a woman from Norway with whom Id become close, the transfer to the airport was timely, the driver left and his partner stayed with me, a representative from my final hotel met me as arranged and took my large suitcase, check-in was easy, my carry-on wasnt weighed, ...
Phase three - Zambia and home
I checked my personal email at the Livingstone airport, had a cup of tea, chatted with a couple from Texas going to see her brother who is an archeologist spending six weeks near Lusaka, and boarded my originally 10:55 flight at noon for Livingstone, arrived at 1, hotel didnt meet me, took a cab, got to the hotel about 2, oh, said the receptionist, hes just now gone to meet you, ...
There are 3600 kwatcha to the dollar, no coins, and after getting 500,000 from the ATM and paying the taxi from the airport 100,000 Ive somehow lost 100,000 ($30) and cant figure out how. If the bills stuck together and I overpaid the driver, that was his lucky day! I bought french fries for 6000 and two bananas for 1500, but my room in an old, drab hotel is $102 a night. The public spaces are well kept and nice and the room is, well, sad - clean enough, faucets leaking a bit, shiny heavy gold curtains dont quite close, off white mosquito netting, tv doesnt work but ac and refrigerator and tea kettle do, no actually interior handle on the door (it opens by the holding on and turning the thing that turns the key bolt and pulling, awkward for me, and after a few times realized I was less apt to pinch myself if I used my left hand), security guard at the top of the stairs watching who comes and goes, ...
I checked in, made sure the room was OK, just left my bags and went back down to pay the bill in advance, as requested, and there were Sylvester Katontoka, a big welcoming grin, and his colleague, Winga, 29, who would like to join his brother in New York and then get his masters in economics of business administration. They left me to get settled, Winga came back and we visited, Sylvester came back and we strategized, and then he hurried of to school where he is working on his social work degree. I went for a little walk, just as work was ending, streets crowded, lots of activity, I was reminded of New York.
Crossing the streets feels perilous and when there arent signal lights I get behind a local person and follow closely. Today it was a young woman who works with disadvantaged youth in Germany, I told her about Runaway House but she is far from Berlin. She is a basketball player, though not even as tall as I, and here visiting relatives. I told her my granddaughter played basketball and she invited me to a game, but unfortunately I wont still be here.
Its odd to have so much space after the confined train cabin and I find myself moving from bathroom to dresser to night table rather aimlessly, not sure where to put things after my so efficient organizing and placements the last two weeks.
Its July 22, Im in my room in Lusaka, waiting for Sylvester and the media. Yesterday, when Winga asked me my story, and Sylvester told me about the press, I had trouble shifting from the vacation self to the leader self, really was depressed about telling my story, reidentifying with me-as-madness, worried some about what to say (the US press seems to me to trap and distort), made some notes, then brilliantly realized I could type out remarks here, on the laptop, and read them, which is my best way, so I did that this morning, after a delicious included breakfast (but not one thing to take for lunch!), rehearsed a less than three minute presentation, and am now catching up on these notes. I said:
Together, Sylvester and I have a dream - to develop People Who Zambia, each other on the internet, www.peoplewho.org/zambia . Sylvester is articulate about the needs here in Zambia. What I know that is true everywhere is that the hardest part of psychiatric disability is the loneliness and isolation, and that peer support can keep us well, after treatment and sometimes instead of treatment.
Today, using information and communication technology, we would like to create for Zambia a user web site that even a cell phone can use easily, for locating local user groups and finding what local services are available and linking to global information about causes, interventions, and coping strategies.
Using email, meeting others whod had experiences like mine, sharing hurts and beliefs - those connections changed my life, from living as an outcast to the leader visiting my colleague here.
I learned that what Id experienced was part of a social context, that people with psychiatric disabilities are part of the disability movement, that mental health is a part of health, that well being is seamless and integrated, and that recovery means living well, with or without mental illness.
The press arrived serially, confusion over where to find us and when, so twice we talked to the journalists, Sylvester, Mwape, vp of their organization, and I. Zambia is interested in privatization (their word is liberalization) and foreign investment. 80% of those in institutions here are youth. Sylvester organized a week of events and coverage last October, coordinating with the WFMH sponsored World Mental Health Day on October 10. Zambia has just repealed its 1927 mental health act (institutions) and passed a community services policy. Sylvester is eloquent and impassioned and has the issues at hand. He was skillful and thorough in his responses to questions, and we both had hard work trying to move one woman away from the violence perception.
Sylvester spoke of the loss of dignity; I spoke of shame - Im thinking its the experience of being disrespected we all have in common and wondering how "the movement" might make better use of that. The reporters asked for a copy of my remarks but I have no print drivers loaded on this computer, which is only 2.2 pounds because it has no external drive. Mwape suggested a using a flash drive, I saved the file to mine, we then went looking for internet service, none at the hotel, one ISP down, finally found a place and before the service slowed to a crawl, I was able to attach the file to an email and send it, and also send a quick note to my daughter. I couldnt log off, or close the browser, but alt-ctl-del allowed me to exit the browser and I hope logged me off from my gmail account!
I took Sylvester and Mwape to lunch at a local restaurant they suggested, Engineers at Farmers House, tried nshima, a bread like corn porridge that one rolls into a bowl shape with a few fingers and thumb, and then pinches off pieces of food.
Apparently, after the porridge is cooked, it is ladled into metal bowls, about 3 - 4 cups, cooled some, and then inverted over a hot plate for serving. It comes with another metal bowl of water. One moistens the fingers, pinches off some porridge, rolls it into a bowl, dips. I tried my fingers, then asked for a fork. My lunch of fresh fish, sweet potato greens and stewed tomatoes was delicious, and took 45 minutes to arrive. I had good company and our conversation was interesting and I didnt mind at all. (On the tour, these long waits were frustrating since mostly the conversations were about one-upping each other, more countries, more tours, more miles, more bargains for less money, ... ) For we three, lunch was 107,500 and I am so embarrassed that I got confused by the zeroes and the currency and tipped 2500 (paying 110,000) when I meant to add an extra 10,750, leave at least 112,000). I need pencil and paper or a calculator; my head no longer can work the large sums.
We walked on dirt sidewalks past government offices to the national museum. Most of the collection was out on loan and I took a taxi back to the hotel to type these notes. I am so full from our late lunch that I am skipping dinner, just will have a banana and go back to my thriller.
External leaders of the African National Congress (ANC) lived in and worked from Lusaka while Mandela was imprisoned. Zambia gained equality and independence early and was a supportive base from which to continue the Struggle in South Africa.
Theres a safety I feel with other users/survivors, a complete acceptance even when there are ideological and stylistic differences, a safety I feel nowhere else.
Except for Cape Town, the cities Ive seen are dry, dusty, flat, and very ugly. The villages are stark, yet there appears to be food, shelter, belonging.
Despite constant exposure to insecticides and areas that have been disinfected, I have not had negative reactions. Im reminded though of the occasion when I closed up my mobile home and released a Raid area insecticide. When I returned in a few hours, though I didnt smell anything, I immediately felt irritable and angry and realized for the first time that chemical sensitivities were causing part of what was diagnosed as illness. Later I noticed that same irritability and anger when I was exposed to perfume, and the cheaper the perfume or mens cologne, the worse the reaction. Im glad that hasnt been happening here.
I am wondering about renaming WNUSP to NUSP. and then NUSP - World; NUSP - Europe; NUSP - PanAfrica, to provide both consistency and identify and to have initials which can be pronounced.
Most of the Americans I have talked with are traveling on award tickets. And here I thought I was the only one using up my miles!
I walked four blocks to the city market, arriving just as it opened. Rows of booths under a covered roof, selling all kinds of notions, clothes, housewares, computers and outside a few more women, squatting by the oranges, bananas and apples they had brought to sell. Under a "vegetables" sign I saw only cloves of garlic paired in plastic wrap, and elsewhere a cabbage. And potatoes and tomatoes. Scores of blue vans, 15 or 20 passenger size, were crammed with people, lined up on the street to enter the market area, horns blaring even louder than the sound of the music on the amplifier system, numbing sensory assault, again, once emptied, lining up to leave, trying to enter the traffic flow. Im assuming this is public long distance transportation, the market the end of the line. I thought of how Macys is more than I can manage at home, nothing compared to this! I bought two bananas, was disappointed in the 2 meter lengths of fabric, for sarongs or tablecloths here, designs and colors not to my taste.
While I was waiting in my room for Sylvester I began to hear very very loud music. Its Sunday; I discovered that a church was using one of the hotel rooms and the congregation was chanting. I went to listen, was invited in, moved my hands in feet a tiny tiny bit to the compelling and joyous sounds, felt privileged to be there, and wonder how the appreciation and faith and hope could hold despite what people have been through. I had seen the Oprah appreciation-for-black-women weekend and was reminded of its Sunday where there was the same joyousness and involvement, though that time with famous voices.
I was deeply touched, eyes tearing, connecting with spontaneity in my own life that had been quashed, a music students recital when I was ten, my teacher and my mother commenting together on my movements to the rhythm, leaving me humiliated (I cant imagine what they said that made me feel so mocked), and teaching me the importance of control. Theres a lot of sadness in that memory, probably even more to it than I now know.
Sylvester and Mwape arrived, we talked a bit about the user movement here in Zambia, in Africa, internationally, strategies of working with governments or developing independently, how here the user voice had been sufficiently respected that the archaic mental health law was repealed, ... MHUNZ is under the umbrella of AIDS relief, so some funding trickles down and visibility is enhanced, theres office space, ...
Then we took a taxi to the home of the first president and what I heard about Zambian independence meshed with Mandelas story that I am reading. The visual arts centre was closed with no notice of why, we shared a box of pears purchased from a street vendor, stopped at a Sunday crafts market set up at a shopping mall near the upscale hotels where for the first time in Lusaka I saw lots of Caucasian tourists, and then I excused myself to rest.
This afternoon felt like my $10/day travel days in the 80's, where I would visit a site or sight in the morning, then read, sleep go out for food, go to bed. The difference is this is more like $150/day, US prices, but Im proud of that travel self and like reconnecting with that time in my life. Travel was the way I dealt with the fatigue I experience so much.
The hotel dining room doesnt open til 7, I went out to buy french fries for supper, reconstituted a soup bowl powder Id brought with me, and am now going back to my novel.
Regular unleaded gasoline costs 5918 kwatcha per litre; taxi drivers ask for 10000 kwatchas worth at a time, not even half a gallon, for about $3.35, fare by fare because they dont have enough money for more. Inflation is related to the upcoming elections; Im told the prices will drop after that, so my dollar is not going very far.
When I used to travel in Asia, my budget was $10 a day, plus international airfare. At those prices, less than I would be spending if I stayed home, I was pleased to have a leisurely schedule, take local busses, nap and read and have a slow pace. At about $175 a day, Ive felt some internal pressure to optimize my activities in the cities Ive visited and have been thinking a lot about what kind of arrangements I might want to make if I were to return to see Tanzania and Uganda and ... I want again to review the other rail safari opportunities and figure out if I based in three or four cities how that might work out. Im realizing how much I enjoy the studying and planning for a trip, and how little I am looking forward to getting home and following up with all the notes Ive made and again shouldering the commitments I still have.
This mornings paper has an article about an outbreak of sleeping sickness in the DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo) and how it is often not diagnosed, and how one of the symptoms is delusions.
Language variations+ scribble your address means write down or jot down your address; fatal accident means serious accident
Sylvester collected me early this morning and we went to visit the school on the Chainama state hospital grounds, special needs children some in integrated classes, most learning disabilities the result of illnesses, malaria, ... I saw no signs of Down syndrome, one child perhaps with autism, nothing else visible. The children were polite, responsive, well-behaved. The upper grades, not special needs, sat three or four to a bench on which I would seat two. I enjoyed going around with the head, introducing myself, the older children spoke with me a little. On the same campus are the psychiatric wards, I met the one Zambian psychiatrist who teaches, is a principal investigator (hes asked Sylvester to review the questions, seems reasonably open to user input and ideas), and supervises the hospital, talked with two women, saw O.T., bought a woven mat from them for MHCAN, and generally didnt like the memories being evoked.
Sylvester was inpatient, living there with his wife and two children, for five years, started MHUNZ from there, went to WFMH in Melbourne and WAPR in Milan from there, ... Rachel has been there a while, seems fine, is still there because there is no place for her to go, employment discrimination because of her record despite her credentials and skills.
We stopped at the grocery store so I could get a small gift for her - Sylvester suggested practical things, toiletries, clothes washing powder, sugar to add to the daily porridge meal, and I added a journal book and pens.
Whatever ever else Zambia needs, Id put discharge planning at the top of the list, jobs with accommodations, half-way housing, ...
There are at least three upscale hotels, all in the embassy area, a 10 minute taxi ride from anything but their own services. I stopped to check-out the luxurious Intercontinental. I had made a reservation there originally, as back-up, for $130. When a week before I went to cancel, the rate on the held reservation had bumped up to $185. Ive never seen a hotel change a reserved rate in that way. I was glad I was cancelling!
Ive never been sure what a characteristic US gift is to bring when I travel so when I was at the UN I looked in their gift store where items from each country are available. For the US, I was startled that the wares were Native American so I bought feather and bead dream catchers to bring with me. I was pleased with the choice until I saw them also on sale at the Intercontinental gift shop!
We tried to talk with some press people, had a leisurely late lunch at the hotel, and Im now packing for tomorrows flight to Livingstone for the last two nights.
In my hotel there is a locked display case of souvenirs and I have been eyeing a soapstone frog and turtle, 50 cents each, for my granddaughter. However, the owner of the display is "very far away" and I did not ask the receptionist to call him to come to town!
The turned off refrigerator seems to be making gurgling noises so Ive actually unplugged it and then a few seconds after, the gurgles stopped. I was pleased to see it in my room but found nothing to buy that I would put in it.
There was a fire in the grocery store a block away and it is closed, and otherwise Ive seen fast food and street vendors with apples, oranges and bananas.
Ive tanned a very pretty color, and wonder why tans from different areas are different hues. I remember when I lived in Boston, people returning from wintering in Florida looked different from those returning from a Carribean vacation.
Greetings are extended, US nods and smiles are too brusque. At a minimum two rounds, Good morning, and then How are you?
I woke very depressed, I think a hangover from the hospital visits. The mood lifted enough as I got ready.
This hotels breakfast buffet includes hot milk; either Europeans stay her or Zambians have acquired a taste for café au lait.
According to this mornings paper, buppies (black urban professionals), like everywhere, are using credit to buy homes and cars.
Theres also an article about research published by the Public Library of Science proving that circumcision curbs HIV, actually that there are lower rates of HIV in countries where men are circumcised.
Tuesday, July 25
Transfer to the Lusaka airport timely, but internet down, so I listened to the noise of the floor washing machines, watched BBC and the other travelers. A family of five, strawberry blonde, dressed alike, Mom sitting on the floor reading to three pre-teens. They all looked immaculate and like experienced travelers. Flight left 20 minutes late - I can imagine how backed up the schedule gets by the end of the day (on the other hand the planes wait for their own connecting passengers), airport pick up was waiting, lodge 15 minutes from the airport, on the way I arranged a falls flight for early this (next) morning. There are at least a dozen thatched units scattered around the grounds, and a central bar, dining room, sitting area and pool. My room has two single beds, a rack for clothes, a porch and outdoor chair, a modern sink and toilet and for bathing, an enclosure of rocks with a "waterfall" shower, hot and cold water. I collected my stored bags, repacked into two to check that would be under the weight allowances, the crafts and souvenirs here are heavy - copper bracelets, fabrics, wood and stone carvings - and even though Ive been trying to be careful ,Ive acquired a lot of stuff. Then I had a late lunch/early supper, some vegetables and rice not on the menu ($7; and $2 for a small bottle of water) and went back to my room. The staff had released the mosquito netting from its storage, all the fabric twisted up and knotted, hanging from a metal circle attached to a strong wall bracket. The netting was one piece tucked in all around the bed and in order to get in I undid the careful cocoon, tucking inside my book, glasses, the clock. A mosquito coil had been lit and an electric insect-away gadget turned on and before Id eaten Id followed the suggestion of another guest and sprayed around the eaves and lights and shower/sink/water areas.
I have seen no mosquitos at all yet but am feeling afraid and nervous about them and after a lovely shower in the "waterfall", I wiggled into my cocoon wondering about what would happen when I got up in the middle of the night and in the morning. The bed is a mattress on slats and though when I was reading I could feel the slats and bumps, when I actually went to sleep I was quite comfortable. Staff usually comes around with a hot water bottle and the bed has two heavy blankets and a comforter, but I didnt feel at all cold and it didnt seem cold to me during the night.
Wednesday July 26
I woke early and it took me a long time to get ready; Im now waiting for the pick up for the falls flight I arranged. The sound that I thought was rain was the shower in the room next door, and then the drain gurgling like a frog. The least sound carries but Ive not been disturbed and hope my neighbors havent been. There was one buzzing mosquito and I immediately sprayed lavishly; it turns out thats been the only one Ive noticed.
I have been given three moss green towels and two red face cloths. I used a cloth to wash my face and rinsed it in the sink - the water turned rosy as the dye ran. The cloths are a bright red; maybe the color is refreshed every day? I wonder what the laundry water looks like!
The pick up was early, I had to read a sign a liability release waver and then wait in turn for one of the three microlight planes to return. Warm flight suits were provided, headphones, a very heavy helmet, and a swoop over the falls and gorges, and a CD to take home. Door to door was about 2 hours for the fifteen minute ride. The experience of seeing the falls from above was very different from a ground view, it made me better understand why people want to climb mountains, but not so dissimilar from postcards and movies Ive seen. What I found extraordinary was the view of the gorges, the depth, of the parallel gorges as the falls have gradually changed course and moved, and the next gorge beginning.
After breakfast I took a taxi to town, went to a recommended crafts store and admired the wall hangings and baskets and table runners and carvings, walked a few blocks on a dusty sidewalk to the Shop Rite, bought water at 1/10 the cost at the lodge, took a taxi back, for half the price of the first one, and arranged with him to take me the next day to the airport, again half the price of the arranged lodge pick up. I dont like feeling taken advantage of by the arrangements the lodge makes!
In the late afternoon I took a sunset cruise which turned out to be longer than I anticipated and including drinks and dinner. The passengers were in groups, drinking and smoking and noisy.
For the first while I kept wondering how I would stay calm and have the serene experience of the landscape and stay interested. The staff kept pointing - there, an impala; look, crocodile; hippos, ... There were at least four hippos and they would bob in and out of the water, a head here, bubble there.
There was a young man from New York City, here to spend five weeks as a wildlife conservation volunteer and we talked a bit, and then I said hello to a group with a wheel chair user, and I spoke with them for a while. It was very hard for me to understand him especially with the motor and conversation competing, but he and his friends had been on a tour, camping, everyone was helpful he said, there was no way however to be independent, we talked about how that might have a different meaning here and in Switzerland where they are from.
The sun became an orange pink and set very quickly, and only after did the sky very gradually begin to color, very soft hues, deepening just a bit, and then the water too began to color, until it was pink and yellow and white as well as blue.
The lodge room has a very high ceiling and a fan and I dont understand why, when it is in the mid 70's outside, the fan makes the room so cold I put my jacket on.
Im packed and ready for the airport, hoping the breakfast that is supposed to be included is and that I wont have an argument over the 12,500 receipt for it I signed yesterday. And then hoping I will not have problems checking my bags all the way through to San Francisco, and figuring out what to do if that isnt allowed. (Another visa to South Africa if I have to collect them at Johannesburg, but I have a five hour layover, so I expect it will work out.) And also assuming I will have no problems with two checked bags, but I didnt print out those rules - I think this is the first time Ive so overflowed my luggage that I used the second suitcase!
So, therell be one more section of these notes, the 40 hour trip home.
The driver arrived 30 minutes early, I was just about ready, the lodge had roped my second bag for me, I did internet at the airport, was upset when no one was available to sell me the $20 exit stamp (they came promptly at 2 hours before the flight), then couldnt find my passport at the other side of security, kept repeating aloud I cant find my passport, I dont have my passport, was ignored by all around me, found it in the wrong pocket. Then I dropped all the tickets and passport twice before it was my turn to check in.
I was told my bags could only be checked to Heathrow.
I said, no, I dont have time to collect then at Heathrow, Johannesburg if you must, but I want them to go to San Francisco.
So, Johannesburg is where Ill send them?
No, San Francisco, please.
I need flight particulars.
You have them there, on the e ticket.
Reluctantly he asked a colleague, and some time latter, was able to print tags all the way to San Francisco. I felt an accomplished traveler, sure of the possibilities. And I stayed calm.
Boarding, 15 minutes prior to the flight, I was asked to gate check my roll-aboard.
It fits overhead.
Youll get it back planeside. (Oh, the stories Ive heard.).
No, thanks, it fits.
At the top of the stairs the attendants said we wont help you, can you lift that, 7 kg is all thats allowed, ...
I said I thought I could manage. (The bag contained my computer, travelers cheques and cash - I had packed it that way believing it would be in my care.) This time too I stayed calm. And I just asked the man behind me to lift up the bag.
We boarded, waited, the crew counted and recounted the passengers, went looking for two that were missing, finally off-loaded their luggage and we left, arriving 20 minutes late. I have generous connection times so this was fine, interesting. How did the bags get aboard and where did the passengers go? It would be hard to get lost at this small airport.
We had a distant view of the falls. The reality of seeing them close up was in many ways second to seeing images. I had this experience viewing the pandas at the DC zoo, that photos and movies seem more real. The lines are blurring for me.
Waiting in the lounge in Johannesburg a man was talking on his cell phone, loudly pitching his ideas for science parks, biotech research, cancer, pharmaceuticals for cancer, "I`d never abandon a cancer patient." I listened for 25 minutes, thought I was hearing a very large ego, then he finished his call, stood up, a tall medium-boned man wearing a T shirt and shorts, and went into the smoking room to light up. After all that talk about science and cancer! I was aghast.
Another man had three carry-ons, claimed a computer, opened up his garment bag, changed his clothes and repacked the bag, sat at the computer talking on his cell phone, reading the monitor, and scrolling his blackberry, simultaneously, and at one point tried unsuccessfully to make a land line call on the nearby phone. I was sitting near him on the plane. He told the next person the computer was a piece of junk, from the stone age. I had used it successfully before he came, the keyboard touch was very stiff and the loading sometimes slow, but Id been able to clear my in box and give my daughter an in-transit heads up.
He claimed his space there in a similar way, sleeping til the landing seat belt sign lit, then changed, washed up, ... Using every second.
Im quite time conscious, but mostly manage one thing at a time, except for household task.
The Johannesburg boarding area is nothing but a corridor, has very few seats, is drear. Flights aren't even given a gate number until 45 minutes before takeoff. People are supposed to wait in the central spaces where the food, toilets, shops and seats are. After boarding, the plane was sprayed with perfumed insecticide. The perfume smell lingered and was much more unpleasant than insecticide. The Livingstone flight was also sprayed; same cloying smell.
I had two one hour naps, and then fell asleep and was woken by the cabin lights, turned on for breakfast. I'm impressed with my organizing - a toothbrush and morning pills are easy to reach.
At Heathrow I was misdirected, had to go twice through security, no staging area so struggling to remove the computer while the roller wheels wanted to whisk away my things, an officious guard kept sending people around me which made it even harder, then when I held back the laptop so I could watch it, he insisted it go first, "Im in charge here!" and then got wrong directions to the terminal busses. This is all why people avoid Heathrow!
I had lots of time and stayed pretty calm, had a cup of tea at Starbucks, talked to an 87 year old woman who lives at the northern edge of California about traveling, Israel, Bush, how travel has changed, using miles for upgrades and business class flat beds, ... She was lovely looking, wore her years gracefully, a good model for me to remember.
Now Im about four hours from San Francisco, have slept a little and snacked a little and am beginning to think about collecting my mail at the post office and going to the grocery store. These unedited notes are 60 pages, 18 000 words, and Im going to start to read through and do some editing.
I had hoped that after this trip I would have some answers and next directions for myself, but there are really only more questions. Do I even want to take another trip like this? Do I want to take on projects? I'm pleased to see I didn't gain any weight, and I am limber from all the climbing up on my train bed to reach the upper storage areas and in and out of 4x4's and vans.
I am more convinced that education is the key, both to user advocacy, but in general to social problems and poverty, so maybe I should move in that direction.
And I also think the fundamental user argument is that the mental health system is a violent system, using force to impose its will, bullying patients by withholding privileges and threatening isolation and charting, subduing its subjects with leather and chemical restraints.
There was a motto at the Jewish museum in Cape Town, that the core missions/values of Judaism are (my phrasing) education, spirit, and kindness and that the well being of one becomes the well being of all.
When I got home, I discovered that both checked bags and been unlocked and left unlocked, no note that TSA had been there, but nothing missing.
I very quickly returned to a racing mind, jotting reminders on post-its as I was reading, unpacking, emailing, trying to sleep. I didn't do this at all when I was away - my mind was less cluttered, more focused, not all this scattered multi-tasking. No I am using up whole pads of post-its, returning to the computer with five or six notes each time I take a break to rest or read.
While I was away I started to think about the environmental movement, they hold human rights and good health as values, and that the consumer movement could begin to make that alliance. But the leaders who demand attention are so insistent in going it alone. Instead of the negative positioning that allows our dismissal as subversive, conspiracy oriented, marginal, right-less, I would like re-imagining, demonstrating our value, contributions, responsible citizenship. Instead of never-healing bruises after our treatment experiences determining a rageful advocacy, I want us to be self-defined, and in a positive, not reactive, way.
The ten key value concepts of the green parties, according to A New America, Global Awakening Press, 2005, p 208 are:
equality and honoring the feminine
resepct for diversity
personal and global responsiblity
A movement on the transformational values of connection, service and spirituality can bridge diverse communities. p 209
There was news about the middle east, and innocent victims, civilians, recriminations. My thought was there is no innocence, there are no civilians. Later, a friend phrased my ethical dilemma well: To what extent am I personally implicated in the acts and omissions committed or not committed by my country simply by virtue of being a citizen of the country regardless of my individual circumstances or ideology? What does my citizenry in a country entail, or my membership in the human race? What are my obligations?
I'm trying to think of ways users could be self-supporting, micro-enterprises. I wonder if in other places users could offer township tours like the one I took in Cape Town, focusing on social justice and on disability.
I was drawn to Mandelas story, am reading his biography, wondering about leadership, and how people come to greatness. A recent study on creativity suggests two tracks: early flashes of brilliance and late bloomers whose work develops, coalesces, distills. And also wanting to know a bit more history, where things fit in a timeline. I didnt know abut Ghandis influence on Mandela, nor that the bus boycotts were first in South Africa.
In the first days I began to perceive Africa in the way I had read of, but perceived this viscerally, the sense that indeed here was the beginning, Kruger, for example, preserving a holism and integrity and authenticity where even human coloration was part of the landscape and rightness, pangaia. I felt very aware of this essential quality which communicated itself undigested, without being without being made bland by language and socialization.
It is hard for me to understand how this harmony was shattered, how white human interests came to prevail, the arrogance of white supremacy, the arrogance of human-centric policies.
There was much talk about the food-cycle, predators, disruptions, but I think theres a meta-cycle with humans in it too, and I think the natural enemy of humans is weather, that weather needs to be in the predatory cycle. (hurricanes, tsunamis, blizzards, droughts, floods, ... ) Weather so far also adds a randomness, a complexity.
I took the last of the prophylactic malaria tablets last night and am mostly doing my getting up routines on automatic (I'm not remembering to weigh myself, usually the first thing I do).
I shared gifts, souvenirs, and impressions first with my granddaughter, then her parents, have spoken to two cousins, and reviewed the online photos from the Beers award. I guess I'm back, a bit reluctantly.
I'm realizing how much time I spend every day reacting to input - mail, phone, email, TV, following up on or correcting or responding and that when I'm away for a long strecth, as on this trip, I'm not doing that at all. So I think that is probably why my mind stayed more focused, there were fewer notes to myself for follow-ups, the daily to-do list was short.
In today's New York Times there is an article about Africa seeming unfinished. That partly captures what I have been thinking -- when I see images of or visit other natural wonders and preserved lands, humans own the land, roads, infrastructure, hotels nearby, ... In Africa, it seemed to me nature still owned the lands, despite some lodging and infrastructure, human visitors must stay on the few roads, in the vehicles, not disturb.