Thursday, April 29, 2010

9 new post and old format

I wrote most of these entries offline due to lack of internet access. I gave up on putting the right dates in but they are in order.

One of the biggest bugs and a crazy spider…

I’ve spent a lot of time in tropical places so I am somewhat used to bug crazy bugs, BUT being in a landlocked country I have now seen the biggest bug ever… it was scary.. Mrs. Miriam took care of it for me. She’s my hero.

After a wonderful night of sleep I woke up and saw the craziest spider I have ever seen. It was grey with green stripes. We made a deal… I wouldn’t come close to it and it would stay away from me.

I had my first official meeting with the KnowledgeBeat team. Mr. Lohana, Mrs. Marian, Charles and Charles. I got a high level overview of what this grassroots organization is doing here in the rural parts of Zambia. Each of the members has a specific role in the education process. I was able to introduce the Zambia team to TeachAIDS. They were very impressed and are excited to implement this tool in their educational program.

Mrs. Marian is a lovely woman and has 4 children. She treats me like one of her own even though we might be the same age. After our meetings she cooked the national food of Zambia, Nshima… it’s corn meal cooked with water to the consistency you choose. Locally you are supposed to eat it with your hands. Mrs. Marian found it funny that I was using both of my hands to control the Nshima. You are supposed to take it in your right hand and roll it into a ball and mix it with other veggies or protein. I explained that I’m really fast with chopsticks but am going to need some practice with the Nshima.

I got asked what my Itouch was… I tried to explain but it was weird. Have you ever tried to explain what they are?

Off to be early… we have a 6 hour drive in the morning to the rural area…. 3+ hours are off road and I probably should have thought about wearing a sports bra.

3:30am wake-up call… destination Zambia… “Bethany from Nairobi from please got to the courtesy counter” over the loud speaker…..

Heading to Lusaka, Zambia started out pretty normal. 3:30am wake up call for 6:20am flight. Check in for my connecting flight to Johannesburg, take little nap. Spent 3 hours in the airport waiting for my next flight to Lusaka, at the last minute I see all the people at my gate get up and start moving… good indicator that my gate has changed. I run over to the other gate, hurry up and wait to get onto the bus that takes you over the tarmac to the plane. The guy next to me has never met deodorant. I really wanted to introduce them. After waiting in the hot sun on the ladder to the plane, I’m in another line to sit in my seat 18D. I arrive at my seat to see the guy that has not met deodorant in my seat. I ask the nice male flight person what I should do. He asks the smelly guy to see his boarding card. The smelly guy gets really mad and is disgruntled, looks for his boarding card. By the time I am looking like a dummy because all the other passengers just want to sit in their assigned seats. Smelly guy’s seat is 15D…. Um helloooo… he gets really mad and starts yelling in Swiss. Apparently it’s his world and I’m just visiting…. Nice male flight person asks if I wouldn’t mind sitting in smelly guy’s seat. I agree and still look like the dumb one and slither to the seat. Nice guy next to me says hello. I say hello and my blood is still boiling from the smelly guy for now many reasons. I manage a hello and fall asleep.

Landing in Lusaka I had filled out all the VISA paperwork and was ready to wait in line. I’m waiting in the correct line and smelly guy walks right in front of my and stands there. Now I’m REALLY mad…. What is with this guy???? Another guy gets in line in front of me because apparently my dreams of becoming invisible came true. The second guy looks and me and I gave him a look that could have killed him on the spot… but let him go in front of me because that is how my day was going. I’m trying to find my ZEN place but I can’t find it… I think the vein in my forehead was probably pulsing. Finally I make it to the front of the line and wait for the nice lady to ask me a bunch of questions and pay $25 for my VISA and passport stamp. As I’m getting myself together I hear over the loud speaker “Bethany from Nairobi” please come to the courtesy desk. Nice VISA lady looks at me and says “Sweetie I think they are calling you”. I say thank you and grab my passport, run over to grab my bag and am about to run though customs because I have nothing to declare and guy with big gun stops me and asks for my baggage ticket. I fumble around and find it and run out to see a beautiful woman with a sign that says “BETHANY WILLBANKS”. I am greeted my Mrs. Marian and Mr. Loahana. They are so nice and friendly, after the day I have had it was very comforting to be greeted by them. I see a little of the city of Lusaka and hit the ATM. I’m cracking up because the choices I have are millions. I obtain 1 million Zambian Kwancha. Who feels like the bawler? With currency conversion it’s $212. Still feels funny to see million behind any ATM receipt. We run a few more errands and go to chilanga a suburb of Lusaka to the KnowledgeBeat office. Mr. Lohana says my room is like a San Francisco hotel room. Small cozy and comfortable.

Table Mountain, Down Hill Mountain Biking, and a pedicure = good day…

I have one coveted day of relaxation before I head back to the airport. I decided to go on a Table Mountain Downhill Mountain bike ride with Jeff and Downhill Adventures. This was super fun, however there was some uphill climbing involved. Amazing views of Cape Town and Robben Island.

After being in Africa for a month my toes were in some need of some love. I had a fantastic pedicure at the spa! good day

3 am flight… 18+ hours…4 airports… Kigali, Nairobi, Johannesburg, Cape Town…. Immigration 3 different countries…. And nobody knows what deodorant is…

Taken for a fool by a “porter” at Johannesburg Airport – $200 SAR (South African Rand) = about $30…stupid currency conversion to take me on a 5 minute walk to my terminal…. I am so annoyed I make him buy me a diet coke. It’s like Mexico circa 1987 all over again where I spent $30 for two braided “friendship” bracelets… What is it with me at $30????

I finally get my bag and get to the cab area and the guy tells me the fare is 250SAR. I tell him I was here 10 days ago and it was 200 SAR to get to the Westin. He tells me petrol has gone up. I am not amused. We argue a little bit and I finally have to get in because I just want to get to the hotel and have no other options. He gives me his card and tells me to call for my ride back to the airport and he will charge me 200SAR. Guess who couldn’t find his card when I was going to leave… Actually I was the dumb one… I asked the hotel how much a cab to the airport is and they told me it’s 250SAR…. Oops. I guess someone needs to give the cab driver something to tell his friends about… the little cranky Korean…

Poor kid never saw it coming… When I got to the Westin, the kid at the desk was nice but said they only have rooms available on certain floors. To have a room like the one I had 10 days ago, I would have to pay an extra 400SAR a night. This is after learning on the last visit that if you book your room via you don’t receive Starwood points. I canceled my reservation with and re-booked with Starwood. I could have had two new Louis Vuitton handbags for what I have spent at this place in 6 weeks… I am unhappy and want to cancel my next reservation. He “talks to the manager” and magically I have a double upgrade with access to the executive club, wine and canapés are from 5-7. So as you all know I am self-funding this year. I am trying to make my points work for me, with miles from one of my accounts, I have about a month of hotels covered for in Asia! Yea!

I decided that I would really need a massage after only 45 minutes of sleep and the long day of traveling, so I call the Westin Spa from Johannesburg and made an appointment for a massage. After my fantastic massage I head up for a glass of wine. I meet a father and son from Florida who build boats. I meet another person named Jeff. He is from Conn, went to school in Boston, was in finance in NY, and now is volunteering for a year with “MÉDECINS SANS FRONTIÈRES (MSF) (Dr’s Without Borders) in Kampala, Uganda. New buddy Jeff says he is going on a downhill mountain bike adventure in the morning down Table Mountain tomorrow and do I want to go? I ask is there uphill or just downhill? He said only downhill… I’m in!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Lunch at Momma’s (that’s what we call her) home restaurant…. A gift that brings me to tears…

One of the women from the meeting of 22 women invited us to her house later in the week. She runs a restaurant for high school children. Her son encouraged her to start this because some of the pupils live too far to go home for lunch. Within half an hour of our arriving, the house is full on uniformed teenagers bubbling with energy. A few friends stop by the house and we dine together. One of the women runs a Safari company and another is a minister. Just lovely women…. Momma presents me with a gift at the end of lunch for coming to the association the other day and coming to her home…. It’s a hand carved dark wood statue of a mother nursing an infant. It’s just beautiful.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The actual Hotel Rwanda…. Hotel Des Mille Collines

I mentioned earlier that one of Marie and Julie's sisters stayed at the hotel during 100 days of the genocide. It’s a beautiful 4 star hotel that is under renovation. If you didn’t know what happened here, it could be any hotel in any city…. This one just happens to have a sad but hopeful history. It still overwhelms me to think this was going on when I was in my teenage angst..