Friday, November 1, 2013

Learning to Drive Again: African Style

I am a doctor.  (Please imagine me saying that in my most snobby, British voice.)

However, despite what one might think about a doctor, this doesn’t mean I am consigned to high levels of sophistication when it comes to entertainment.  Quite the opposite; I tend to be entertained by some of the most simplistic and foolish pleasures imaginable.

As many of you reading this know, I went to college at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Maryland.  During my studies the newly-elected Baltimore city mayor launched a campaign to improve the roads.  He created a program called 410-POTHOLE.  He guaranteed that if someone called 410-POTHOLE and reported a pothole that it would be fixed within 48 hours.  We didn’t necessarily go “cruising for potholes,” but if we were out on the town and noticed a pothole my friends and I would take great joy in shouting, “410-POTHOLE!” and then reporting it to the mayor’s office.  Here’s the thing for the young guns reading this: there was no such thing as cell phones when I was in college.  This meant we had to write down the pothole location and then remember to call when we got back to our dorm rooms. 

My father and I have a shared affinity for greeting cards.  He and I can spend hours in a greeting card store opening one card after another and laughing.  “Look at this one!” “No, no! Look at THIS one!” It is particularly bad when there is a special occasion looming.  May of 2009 in the Phelan household was particularly challenging as both my siblings had birthdays, Mother’s Day and my brother’s graduation from the Naval Academy all fell within the same week.  I remember that week my mother sent my dad and I to Target to get something.  Several hours later we returned to my mother asking, “Where have you been? What took you so long? What have you been doing?”  My father and I sheepishly looked at one another knowing she would never understand.  Being the ever-loving daughter I willingly offered up my dad as a human sacrifice: “It’s his fault! He made me do it! He forced me to look at Mother’s Day cards and laugh!  Hey, the good news is, we couldn’t agree on just one card, so we got you four.  Happy Mother’s Day Mom, love you.”

I never actually owned a camera until I took my first visit to Africa, so I spent the better part of my trip learning how to play with all the buttons.  During my visit I was taken to a rutile mine in the middle of the jungle.  I was staying in a house in the mining camp by myself, while my travelling companions were on the other side of the compound.  After dark I couldn’t find my way to their accommodations and I figured I hadn’t worked out that day, so I started jogging around the outside of my building.  A worker drove up in a truck and asked what I was doing.  He pointed a spotlight on the ground to reveal several snakes and suggested my activity might disturb them, “We are in a mine in the middle of the jungle, the nearest hospital is about 7 hours away, please don’t get bit by a snake.”  So I returned to my house and stared at the walls.  Up to this point I had never slept in a bed with a mosquito net, so I thought it best to document this event.  I spent the next hour setting my automatic flash and then jumping in and out of bed modeling different facial expressions and poses in a variety of outfits. 

Recently I have discovered a new form of entertainment here in Botswana.  I have enrolled in driving lessons!  I know how to drive on the right side of the road.  And I know how to drive a stick shift (very poorly) courtesy of a kind friend who took me out and patiently endured whiplash all across Lubbock for two days before I departed for Botswana.  But I do not know how to drive a manual car on the left hand side of the road.  This is my opportunity to perfect both skills.  And on top of that my driving instructor barely speaks English, so it is a Setswana lesson as well.   Thus far I’ve only taken one lesson and I have two more weeks to go; that is if I pass my exam at the end of the two weeks.  I will keep you posted.

Driving school- notice the cones and the knocked over pole behind the car.  No, I didn't knock over the pole:

1 comment:

  1. Lol! You had me at "my father and I a shared affinity for greeting cards"!!!! I don't remember the 4 cards for mom though :p