Monday, August 23, 2010

I think it’s called “Turndown Service”

August 22, 2010 11:50 AM

So as I write this I'm currently sitting poolside…and it's Sunday morning…but don't worry, I've been taking brief notes to remind myself what I want to write. You know that segment of the movie "Marley & Me" where the main character is narrating about a million different occurrences in a three minute montage but a number of years go by? "Chased Marley down the beach, caught Marley, took Marley to the Mall, etc" It's kinda like that, but I'll fill it in before it gets posted and you'll never know. Except I just told you…

Friday, August 20, 2010

So Friday began a bit more sleepy than I would have liked, but I somehow managed to get up and get to the clinic anyway by 7:30ish even though I wasn't working Friday. I needed to edit my Personal Statement, send it in, and talk to my wife in the process. I was also hoping to find some information on activities to arrange in Kasane from the lady I spoke to at the Old House, but no such luck. Using about every last minute I could, I sent in the Personal Statement and CV, left the clinic, ran home and took my dry clothes off the line. By the time that was done it was just after 9, and with Tendai coming at half nine (read nine thirty), I had just enough time to pack the way I usually do: last minute. I threw a couple pairs of shorts, sleep pants, three t-shirts, a polo, etc, and toiletries, along with my laptop, Office, and camera into my backpack…somehow it all fit, but just barely. I seriously used just about every moment I had, and then Tendai was ready to roll.

We got to the airport just about ten, and Tendai assured me that he would be there when I landed on Sunday at 4:20. I walked up to the terminal and got really excited, not for the trip itself but I think more because of the fact that I hadn't been there in so long and knew that I'd be making the walk to the terminal to go to Johannesburg then Dakar then D.C. then HOME (Whoop!) in about a week. It was unreal that I was coming that close. I kinda wondered if would have forgotten how to live at home, like Tom Hanks in Cast Away (btw check it out the movie isn't called Castaway…it's called Cast (Space) Away…think about it). In any case, since he was gone for years, I think I should be okay.

As I checked in for my flight, I was greeted with the news that the flight had been delayed until 1:30. This was PERFECT (sarcasm), and though I was about as upset as the two Japanese men in front of me that almost threw a hissyfit, I was nice (I haven't perfected the being confrontational thing yet). It really didn't work well for me because my plan was: Sunset boat ride on the Chobe Friday evening, Victoria Falls day trip Saturday all day, return to Kasane, then game drive in Chobe Sunday and fly home. However, as the evening boat rides started at 3 PM, the 1:30 flight time did NOT work out. The thing I wanted to do the most was the evening boat ride, and so it meant something was going to be sacrificed.

As we waited, I had a sandwich and Coke Light at the airport "cafeteria," then went ahead and went through security and started catching up on my blog while waiting at the gate. As time went by, I saw our plane land and passengers get off. As 1:30 approached, however, one of the managers from Air Botswana began making rounds telling people that the plane had a "technical problem" and that he was calling around to find another plane. This made a lot of passengers, particularly 4 British men who were going on a pre-paid fishing trip, very upset. They had to be picked up by 4 at the latest, and we didn't even have a plane at the time. After apologies, explanations, etc, the man disappeared for about half an hour more, only to return to tell us that he wouldn't be able to get a plane there until 4:30 or 5. The problem with that, though, was the airport in Kasane was without lights on the runway, so no planes could land after dusk. And as it's winter here, that meant 4:30 was too late. Our flight was cancelled and moved to the morning at 7 AM. The manager said that arrangements were being made for us to stay at a local hotel.

Now at this point I was trying to decide if it was even worth it to make the trip still. I thought for a while about just asking for my money back since the trip was so short already anyway. I was frustrated at the fact that I had missed a trip to an outreach clinic in Nowheresville, Botswana that I could have made it to anyway. After thinking about it for a while, and realizing that we were getting reservations at the Grand Palm Resort and Casino, I decided to treat the situation like it was already vacation anyway and stay the course, though the course had been modified. Sure I had a house to stay in in Gabs, but I wasn't about to go back and sit at home all night with no TV, no internet, etc while on "Vacation.' So I graciously accepted the arrangements and we all made our way out to the parking lot to wait for the hotel shuttle to pick us up. As we waited I met a German medical student (strange, right?) who had been working at a hospital in the middle of nowhere for 5 weeks and was spending a week traveling to Chobe and the Okavango Delta before heading back. He asked if I was doing any research project while here, and when I later asked him if he had an area of medicine that he wanted to go into, he said that he wanted to study the blood-brain barrier. I was kinda thinking of answers like Pediatrics, Neurology, Surgery, etc. I got the impression that this guy was a lot smarter than I was. But even though he was pretty much ripped and a future doctor, he pulled out a pack of cigarettes and started smoking. I felt better thinking I was at least smarter in that respect. :-P

Finally about 3 PM the shuttle picked us up and took us to the hotel, and it was really nice. As we stood waiting to check in, one of the workers brought a tray of juice in fancy glasses and offered us each one. Yes it was just juice, but come on. The polished floors, fancy music, and plush lawns outside made me think that this might be the nicest place I'd ever stayed before. I checked in and was given room 332 and headed upstairs. Once there I went inside, but noticed that my room door was slightly ajar. That, coupled with the slightly out-of-place bed cover made me think that maybe I had been given the wrong room. However, nothing else was disturbed, so I figured they must have just finished cleaning the place in a rush since our reservations were last minute.

A few minutes later one of the porters came by and showed me where everything in the room was: the safe, the TV (YES!!), the hot water pot for tea, the hair dryer (why I needed to know where that was I don't know), the shower, and the slot where you put your room key in while inside the room to provide power to your lights. Pretty nifty way of making sure you don't leave your lights on…either that or a way of making sure you'll lock yourself out and have to go down to the front desk to get a new key while wasting electricity because your lights are on.

Anyway, after he left I spoke to Ali on the phone, and we decided that it'd be best to just pay for the internet at the hotel for the night so we could skype rather than just use the phone. I ran downstairs to buy a voucher for the internet when the entire world other than the US pulled a fast one on me. I jumped in the elevator, hit 1, then got out at on the first floor. I looked around and noticed a balcony to my left and the reception desk one floor down. Ya got me, world…I thus remembered that the "first floor" everywhere else is not the actual first floor, but the floor above the ground floor. So I guess the ground floor shouldn't count…it's not like it has an actual floor or anything.

After getting the voucher, I went outside, got the internet going with the help of the IT guy at the hotel, and took a few pictures before sitting down at the poolside restaurant to talk to Ali and the family back home. Dad was out of the hospital (way to go Pop!) and I got to see him for the first time since I left for Botswana. After a while we all hung up and I promised to call back after dinner. I made my way back into the hotel past the pool, playground, tennis courts, pond, and indoor restaurant and asked where to go for dinner. After being given directions, I headed there and remembered what it was like to be an American again…

…because it was a buffet dinner. Seriously, I've never been to Vegas, but I imagine this was essentially a slightly miniaturized version of what you'd see at a Vegas buffet. Desserts, salad bar, Chinese food made-to-order, random things like French fries and mashed potatoes, etc. The dining area was even complete with a lounge singer (who no offense to him but I promise you he looked like David Blaine if you added 20 years and about 40 pounds to him) who sang as he played electric guitar on top of generic recorded tracks to songs like "The Girl from Ipanema" (spell check anyone?). It was great and kinda disgusting all at the same time. I ate far too much, but was happy to:-P. After stuffing myself, I dedided that I had also had my fill of David Blain's future self (who by no means was making magic happen) and headed back upstairs ready to relax, shower, and use the internet while watching TV for the first time in a while.

When I got back to my room, at first it appeared apparent to me that something was very wrong. I walked in and the curtains were shut, the main lights were off and the bedside lamp was on. The TV was on and tuned to CNN (clearly not something I would have left on). There was a bottle of water and a glass on the desk next to the bed, and the bed covers were pulled back on one side. Surely, I thought, especially after what had happened previously with my room door being ajar, someone else was also staying in this room. But all of my stuff was there. Then I noticed my coffee cup and trash was gone and the hot water pot back where I had initially found it. Eventually I noticed, on the pillow one the side opposite where the covers had been pulled back, a shiny gold wrapper. It was at this point in time that I became familiar with the concept of "Turn-down Service" (or so I believe it's called) and felt both assured that I was the only inhabitant of my room and silly for not realizing this sooner. I've never stayed somewhere where they come into your room while your gone, clean it, and pull back your sheets for you. Actually I think it's a bit creepy…I can put myself in bed just fine…you can just leave the mint next to the shampoos and such…I'll find it without trouble. Plus, if I had known they were coming, I may have tidied up the place a bit.

Unfortunately, the internet's plans for my evening differed from my own. Once I got to the room, it no longer worked. After calling the IT guy again, he checked it out, tried multiple times to fix it, and then determined by taking it down to the lobby and back to the hallway outside the room that for some reason the access point literally ten feet from my door was not working. Therefore, he said, I'd have to use the internet in the lobby. That's a good 15 bucks spet there folks. That's what you pay the good money for. It took me going downstairs, complaining to my dad and wife about the stupid internet via skype, and Ali asking me about three times if I was okay for me to realize that I needed to get over it and not let it bother me so much. Finally, I let it go and just decided that if I could go all the way out to Riverwalk to use the internet on most nights, I surely could walk downstairs at my free five star hotel.

After signing off, I ran upstairs, showered in a clean tub (have I told you how I'm afraid to actually set bare foot down in the shower in the house in Gaborone?) without my green "Irish" flip-flops on for the first time in the month of August. Afterwards, I plugged everything in to charge overnight (yes they had an American plug!), and set both of my alarms so that I'd make it up in time for the 6 AM shuttle. With that, a day of adventure (of sorts) was over and I was hoping the next would be more promising. Not knowing what would come next, I drifted off to sleep while watching TV for the first time ever in Botswana.

What an exciting ending, huh? Just wait…tomorrow gets better!


1 comment:

  1. Out of the hospital, and home in el paso now for three days. dreading tomorrow, but maybe I won't be gone as long next time.