Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Suddenly Travelling to Botswana And Zimbabwe

View from my seat.

Before I start let me tell you that this is the second time I have written this post. I worked on it for a few days. Saving it each time. A few days ago I published it and looked at it on line and linked it and sent it off to all of you.  A few of you actually got to read it. Then it disappeared. POOF. Just like that.  I could try and explain the sheer frustration of it all but that would take too long. I will say I was CRUSHED. I worked doubly hard on this one to get it just right. I don't know if I have the spirit to do it all again but I will try. Bryan said it was a good thing as one should always scrap the first draft. First bloody @@#%^&^&**  draft?????? after days of work?????? The man is a tower of insensitivity. CRUSHED . I tell you CRUSHED.
Having gotten that off my chest and reverted to my cheerful demeanour (no snickering here peeps) I will start again and tell you the lovely story about how and why I came to be suddenly and unexpectedly and delightfully travelling to the southern climes of Africa - my beloved home land.
I am a very bad friend and daughter. Do you want to know why? As usual with me this involves a long and winding story. The list of whys is long and mundane. Lists tend to be, so I won't put you through that, but I can give you an example that highlights my failing and what I did to redeem myself a bit.
Earlier this year Bryan and I prevaricated about two things. The Reps Reunion in England and my dear friend Nicola's wedding to a lovely special man called Paul in Australia. We dithered, as we do, and in the end we did not get to either event, which I regret. Living life once bla, bla, bla. Seizing the moment bla, bla, bla. Don't have a life of regrets bla, bla, bitter bla.
My friend Sharon has a birthday in September. My Mother in early October. Birthdays happen but milestone birthdays you know 21st's, turning 30, 40, 50, 60, 70 etc those count. And I have missed a lot of these over the years.  A few weeks ago I noticed a post on Sharon's face book that alerted me to the fact that this birthday was a biggie. A half century biggie. And I thought that was happening next year! Obviously I thought this because of Sharon's  youthful appearance and demeanour ....... Not convincing is it?  I can't even get a birthday right....... My blood ran a bit cool because I know that if Sharon was turning the "Big Five Ohhhh My Giddy Aunt" then my mother was turning "Finally Free From Remembering Everything Seventy". And I had not remembered either milestone Birthday. So you see that is why I am a terrible friend and daughter.
I had to fix this double whammy faux pas.
I had only a few days till Sharon's birthday. I told my boss that I might need to desert my post for a couple of weeks within the next couple of days. HE WAS FANTASTIC about it. Bryan was in Egypt. I messaged him with my dilemma. What should I do? I want to see my Friend on her special birthday. I want to see my Mum on hers. How do I do this? Visit them both but miss the actual day for one of them? ARRRGHHH the timing of it all. Agony. Bryan sent me a one line message. "You have to do both." Got to love that man.
So with days to spare I contacted Sharon's husband Shaun and desperately asked if he could sort out accommodation and airport pick ups etc. for me if I came  to Gaborone for Sharon's Birthday. Clearly I could not do these things for myself with only two days and work and oh a million things to get into a panic about. And anyway Shaun is always calm and calming and I needed that. Another reason for calling Shaun and not Sharon was that  I did not want to let Sharon down if something had gone wrong with me trying to get flights so late bla, bla, bla, anyway Shaun said to me "That will be a lovely surprise for Sharon." and a light bulb moment happened. YES. A surprise visit for both of them was the way to go. How Cool. How unlike me. How clever of Shaun.

The travel office at work very kindly took pity on my panic and booked all my flights. Bryan came home in time to watch  in amusement while I did not pack. Imagine if you can. Suitcase open on bed. Clothing and toiletries and hairdryers strewn all about. ARRRGHHH. Having just recently moved  house and not being terribly unpacked yet meant that I could not find my toiletry bag. MY ESSENTIAL SECURITY BLANKET TRAVELLING TOILETRY BAG. I could not find the box with all my travelling essentials. International adaptor. Travel pack deodorant, toothpaste, ear buds, small nail clippers - well you never know. Silly small keys to lock my suitcase with. You know how easy it is to open a locked suitcase don't you? Well I do. But, I still must lock my suitcase with more than one lock. It was all too much for me. I ignored my  gaping open empty suitcase and sat in front of the TV pretending that I was not catching a plane in the morning. Bryan started to say "Don't you think you should be pack..." I gave him a look that would have wilted steel. Needless to say I did eventually find my security blanket and I did finish packing and I did catch a plane to Gaborone via Joburg.

For reasons that I do not need to go into but include the effects of the above  I was feeling more than my usual unhappiness about travelling away from my nest. I had a long wait in Joburg as my flight was delayed so by the time I flew into Sir Seretse Khama airport it was dark. I looked out the window expecting to see the familiar airport building welcoming me back. What I saw in no way resembled Gaborone's old fashioned cosy airport. W.T.F???????? I was in the wrong city. Clearly. I gave myself a talking to and reasoned that this could not happen. I can't tell you how relieved I was to see designated airport pick up man Steve outside the arrivals gate.

What I was expecting to see when I landed in Gaborne

What I saw - at night with imposing bright lights.
Steve  dropped me off at "last minute hostess with the mostest" "Lindy B's house and I settled in. The next morning Lindy and I spent many hours nattering and catching up and making plans to ensure that I did not bump into The Birthday Person on my travels during the day  so that in the evening when we were to gather for dinner and I would pop up as the surprise guest. HUMPH. Gaborone is not a big town. HUMPH. Well you can imagine the lack of success we had. Firstly whilst being driven into town by Lindy as we were nattering up a storm in her car we notice someone hooting at us. We turn and look and in the lane beside us is Sharon waving like mad trying to get her attention. I sigh - turn my head in the opposite direction - and thought "Oh well there goes that surprise." Lindy waved back and the two of them gesticulated a bit in the traffic while I studiously stared out of the passenger window. Then Sharon drove off. Lindy turned to me and said "I don't think she saw you." Yeah right. I was deposited at Airport Junction (one of the several new shopping malls that has sprung up since my last visit to that sunny city) to have a day of meet and greet old friends. All the while expecting a call from someone to say that the cat was out of the bag. No call came. Lindy arrived in the late afternoon to pick me up  to go back to her home and prepare for our not surprise, surprise dinner. As we walked about the mall, once again talking up a veritable storm, I paused  for breath, looked up and not more than three meters in front of us bearing down on us with purpose came Sharon. I did an about turn, leaving Lindy in mid fascinating sentence, and slipped into the nearest shop to hide and spy. Lindy greeting Sharon in a flurry of nervous laughter and chatted on about how lovely Sharon's bag was and how was she (?) and, and, etc, etc. with Sharon all the while looking over Lindy's shoulder. I thought Sharon was being a very good sport. She is a quick thinker so I knew she had caught on. "Ha." I thought "Let the baggage sweat it out a bit. I can play this game". When Lindy and I had finished our spot of Must Be Done Shopping and were leaving the mall who  should I notice walking behind us? Yup you guessed it. Sharon. Turning up like a bad smell again and again all day long. Let me tell you that 25 odd years of friendship was in serious jeopardy that afternoon. I mean how much skulking about can one do?
That evening as we arrived at the dinner venue once again there was Sharon parking right where we were. The woman has a scarily unerring ability to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Lindy said "Quick let's go and get her now." "Like a kidnapping," I thought vaguely as we scuttled under the cover of semi darkness to Sharon's now parked car. Lindy posted her self in front of Sharon, greeted her gaily with a hug and stepped aside. So there I was stood right in front of Sharon. She looked at me like I was a complete stranger. I stepped up almost nose to nose and said (slightly exasperated by now) "Sharon!". Well Sharon set up a squawking and a shrieking  that would have had anyone within a half a kilometre radius convinced a mugging was taking place. There was much hand flapping of totally shocked shaky paws. There was a lot of ooo's, aaarrrghh's, ohhhhh's and other unintelligible gibberish while her brain processed who was in front of her. I WAS A COMPLETE SURPRISE to my dear friend. Her wonderful reaction was so worth the trip. It was just utterly fabulous.

Pontificating Birthday Girl #1
There will be more about my holiday and Sharon's birthday in my next blog post but now for my Mother's surprise. 
My mother looks at her computer as a mortal enemy that needs to be approached with a support team. I knew that the likelihood of her discovering about my trip to Botswana from any social media stream (which would place me one international border away from her) was slim to nothing. So on that score I felt safe from the cat being let out of the proverbial bag.
I had to arrange my arrival. I did not want my mother to be off gadding when I arrived and I wanted a bed to be ready and made up in my room - yes my room, really, after all these years. To achieve this I contacted my cousin Serena and asked if she would phone my mum and spin a bit of a yarn to act as a cover story for my arrival. I asked Serena to pretend that she had a friend that was coming through Harare who would need a bed for the night of my arrival. Serena did a sterling job. My mother was expecting an Australian house guest complete with a name, age (60?) and  a warm personality.
A mutual friend of ours (Sharon and me), Ange, picked me up from the airport and drove me to my Mum's home. We had a lovely drive into town catching up and getting glimpses of my home town. Each mile warming my heart. We arrived and Ange took control. I hid behind a wall near the front door. Ange went inside the house calling "Cooee, helllooooo?" My mum found Ange in her lounge and asked if she was the Australian visitor. Ange explained that she was not but that she had come from the airport to deliver a parcel to her and that it was too heavy for her to carry, so could Mum come outside to the car and help? I just want to say here  "too heavy? thanks Ange". All the while chivvying my mum outside. Once my mum was near the car I stepped out from behind the corner. Her reaction? NONE at all. My mum looked at me as if she was trying to place me. She said "You're not, you're not......"I said "MUM!!!!!" and it suddenly dawned on her who I was. Honestly it was bad enough that my dear friend did not recognise me (and I have not aged that much in less than a year) but my own mother? It was beyond the pale.
In the time it took my mum to get us indoors and make  us a cup of tea she had the jungle drums going and very soon there was welcoming committee. Beautiful flowers arrived from her friend Fiona and over several rounds of tea and various pastries for various guests my life was arranged for the next few days while my mum recovered from her lovely shocking surprise. Just thinking about it all has me feeling all warm and fuzzy and tearful. I wish I had recorded my mum recounting the delightful story of the "Australian Visitor". She tells the tale of my arrival and her preparing for her visitor with flair and panache.

Strelitzias for "The Australia visitor"


Pontificating Birthday Girl #2
I will post another blog about the Birthdays and my holiday soon. Just as soon, that is, as I have unpacked a few more boxes and pictures and hung them in my new home. So much to do. So little time. AAARRRGGHHH.
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