South Africa

Trip Start Sep 01, 2004
Trip End Apr 25, 2005

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Flag of South Africa  ,
Wednesday, November 17, 2004


Flying into Johannesburg from Nairobi is like time travel. I think it really means that we were in Africa for a long time. It reminds us of California. You won't see any pictures with this travelpod because you would think we had returned to Sacramento. Even the airport was as nice as any in California. We only planned to stay in JoBurg for a day, then fly to Zambia, and then return for two days before leaving for Hong Kong. South Africa is a country that needs three weeks to just see the main places. We stayed in a great guest house in JoBurg. Neels and Karen and their girls at the Kijame Guest House treated us like family and we hated to move on. We felt like we were at home, and it was a feeling that we had been missing in Africa. Great weather and great food. We want to return and see more of this diverse country.

The big cultural difference seems to be how the whites and blacks relate to each other. It almost feels like open hostility is just below the surface. I get the impression that most white South Africans don't spend much time in the downtown areas. All the whites and the business community have very serious fences and walls, and security feels like it's mandatory rather than an option. I almost feel as if in America segregation was much to slow to end, and in South Africa it was much too quick. The blacks here are not the happy individuals that we have been with for the last five weeks. I feel bad for everyone involved because I really don't think that even a generation or two will be enough time to get any real balance.

We got sick in Zanzibar but really didn't want to worry anyone, so we kind of just moved on without dwelling on it. It felt like a virus that moved to our lungs with a high temperature and very bad cough. We had our meds so it was controllable, but not fun. What made us nervous was that one of our friends from London had the same symptoms and upon his return, was tested, and found to have malaria. He was taking the same anti malarial med so we decide that it was time to get tested. You have to understand that Zanzibar is really a third world country and the only people that go to the hospital are the locals, because it's free. In Africa all the guys want to be your "Guide". This means they want to take care of you. Show you where the best place to eat, buy goo gaws, who has the best taxi, where the best hotel is and anything else that they can figure out what you need, so they can receive a tip. I always tend to stand out because I'm big, laugh a lot, am loud, and wear this orange baseball cap. After a few days everyone has some kind of name for me and wants to be my friend. When we returned to Stone Town one of our " Guides" recognized that "Moma" (JoAnn's name) was sick and needed a Doctor. We negotiated a taxi ride to the "good" clinic he recommended, and rode to the outskirts of Stone Town. We were a little apprehensive about the treatment we might get and I was feeling like I needed to be very vigilant about the sanitary conditions. Upon our arrival we were pleasantly surprised to find a pretty new building that had doors and windows, and tile floors. Our "Guide" led us to an outbuilding(reception) and we had to fill out a form with our names and our home address. I didn't understand the home address portion since it was in California, but it only took about 5 minutes to complete. Our "Guide" then led us into the main building and had us sit down on the benches in the waiting room. After about five minutes the only door opened and a local woman came out and our "guide" led us into the doctor's office ahead of about 3 or 4 other locals. I suspect they felt that if non locals were sick enough to come to the clinic they should see the Doctor right away. Our "guide" sat in the corner while we explained to the older black doctor our symptoms. He asked a few good questions and told us that we really needed some lab tests before he could tell us much. I felt like I was at home at this point. Our "guide" then took us back to the outbuilding through another door to the "Lab". A really nice guy dressed just like our "Guide" looked at the order that the doctor had scribbled, and began to prepare for our tests. JoAnn at that point became #1 and I was #2, that he wrote on the bottle and glass slides with a red magic marker. He used a sterile lancet to get some blood and we took turns at the outhouse filling our urine sample bottles. We sat outside for about twenty minutes for the nice lab guy to complete the tests. We took his scribbles back to the waiting room and watched a young girl vomit all over the tile floor. Now I knew why it was tile. Five minutes later a woman came in with an old gallon plastic oil container, cut off to form a bucket, and a homemade short broom to clean up the mess. She just dumped some water on the floor and swept it slowly out the door. Worked great. The doctor looked at our tests and told us we didn't have malaria, to our relief, and wrote down the names of a couple of drugs to refill our kit. We went to the pharmacy through another door in the outbuilding and the guys there had a great time cutting the capsules out of blister form packs to give us. There is no such thing as prescriptions in Zanzibar. Total cost was about twelve dollars for the drugs and seven dollars each for the doctor and lab tests. My cough is completely gone now and "Mama's" is almost gone. We felt like our day at the doctor was a bargain.

JoAnn is going to write next about Zambia and then we are off to Hong Kong via Joburg. We hope that everyone is doing well. Write when you can, we really enjoy hearing from everyone.

Don and JoAnn
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