I know you want to get right into her story! But remember anything I add will be in (parantheses)
I’m guessing by now, most of you have read my mom’s post. Breanna has asked me a few times about doing this, and Bettye was the first one to “gently” encourage me…so Breanna and Bettye, this one’s for you! Surprise!!! J
For those of you that know me, you already know my post is not going to be full of rainbows and unicorns. LOL! So here we go…
I was so excited to see my mom in D.C.! We waited around for our flight eating 5 Guys and taking pictures with cardboard cut-outs of Obama that were all over the airport due to the upcoming election. The plane ride was much better than I imagined. As my mom mentioned, they fed us every three hours and made sure we were comfortable during the very long flight. I took sleeping pills to get me through!
Once we arrived, Breanna greeted us and we were clearly all excited to see one another! You heard all about the taxi fiasco, but Breanna worked it all out for us while negotiating the whole thing in Amharic. Wow!
You all know that I was very skeptical about this trip. Mostly due to reading all of these blogs and talking to Bre about her daily experiences. LOL! Also, I was sick for about 2 months straight from all of the shots leading up to my departure. I got every side effect that they warned us about – fever, chills, body aches, etc., etc. Not to mention, during that same time I also got pink eye, a staph infection, and was diagnosed with psoriasis! These last things were not associated with the trip, but I mentioned just to let you know, I was not in a good mood! J
So when we got to the hotel in Addis Ababa, I was pleasantly surprised. Everything looked pretty regular. There were a few exceptions: when you use the “facilities” you cannot flush any paper – you have to put it in a little trash can next to the toilet. Also, you can’t drink the water, so when you brush your teeth, you have to remember not to put your toothbrush under the water or rinse your mouth out with it. Trust me, it’s harder to remember than you may think. They did provide us with bottled water though.
Breanna had planned for us to visit her former host family’s house that day, but since we were late, we had to delay that visit. Instead, we left for Tanzania the next day. The flight there was about 3 hours and was fine, but once we got there….drama! We had to go through customs, which is where they started questioning Breanna about where her yellow fever card was. Ma and I had ours, but I think Bre’s was supposed to be just assumed since she’s been living in Africa for a year and had an Ethiopian visa. They weren’t hearing it though. They had her in some 2×2 room, that smelled AWFUL having a “talk” with her about what how she was going to prove she had the vaccination. She’s explaining to them that she already had it, etc., etc., but they don’t seem to care. (They told me I either had to get the shot right there with the lady or get back on the plane. I kept thinking “I can’t take this shot! I already have the shot, who knows what two will do. You don’t look like a nurse Im going to die”) Meanwhile, another lady is ushering me and my mom to the window to pay the $100!!!! fee to get into Tanzania. WTH? $100!!! I didn’t wanna come that bad! LOL! Mind you, every other country had a much lower fee than the U.S…..imagine that!
While all of this is going on, I look into the room and see Breanna crying so now I’m mad and go over there to see what’s going on. At this point, I’m cussin’, but I’m trying to remember that I’m in Africa and if I show out like I normally do, none of y’all would ever here from me again! My main concern is making sure that they don’t try to give her the vaccination there!! So there’s a man and a woman in there and they’re telling Breanna “help us, and we’ll help you”. Breanna gives them all these suggestions as to how to help her – “call my doctor, maybe I can get the proof faxed to you”. At that point they tell her they don’t have the internet….*blank stare*. Breanna comes up with all of these other suggestions, but they shoot them all down. They just keep saying “help us, and we’ll help you”, to which Breanna yells “well I’ve given you 3 ideas, you don’t seem to wanna help me at all!”. That is the point that it becomes pretty obvious what kind of “help” they are suggesting. Meanwhile, I’m telling my mom, they don’t even realize they have the wrong one in there – Breanna doesn’t have any money! Ha! After a few more minutes of conversation and Breanna throwing in “Peace Corps” a few more times, they decide it isn’t worth it. We all pay our $100 and are granted entry to Tanzania.
Our stay in Stonestown was pretty nice. It was a great cultural area and had plenty of local shops and vendors to see. The hotel was pretty nice too. We sat on the roof for happy hour, had drinks and just hung out like old times. When we got to the room, the beds had the pretty netting you see on HGTV around the beds and you could flush paper down the toilet. Whew! Well the pretty netting is to be sexy in the U.S. but in Africa, it’s to keep you alive! Malaria nets! Ha! Still couldn’t drink the water though. J We spent a couple of days walking around seeing the sights and buying jewelry, art, going on various tours, tasting things, taking picture of monkeys, etc., etc.
Next we were on our way to Zanzibar. Again…..drama! During one of our tours in Stonestown, we met a driver that we really liked so we pretty much asked him to take us anywhere we needed to go. He agreed to take us to Zanzibar which was about an hour away. About halfway through the ride, he turned to us and told us that we were going to be stopped by the local police and the “tourist” police on the way there and that if they knew we were Americans, they were going to charge us. Instead we were from Kampala, a town in Uganda. They wouldn’t know, because in Zanzibar, they speak Swahili but in Uganda…I don’t know what they speak and the police wouldn’t either. LOL! So just as he said, we got pulled over a few times. Most of the times, he was able to handle it for us, but one time, the police officer came over to my mom’s side (with his machine gun) to ask her himself. At this point, I put on my sunglasses and Breanna decided to fake ‘asleep’. When he asked Ma where we were from, she said “uhhhhh, Kampala????” All I could think is Oh Lord, she’s gonna get us killed!! He seemed to be on to us, but he made a joke and let us go. As I mentioned, we got stopped a few times. Ugh!
Once we got to Zanzibar, I could finally breathe a sigh of relief! Ma had booked a GREAT resort hotel! As she mentioned, white sand beaches, drinks with umbrellas…the works! I was finally able to relax. This was more like the kind of vacation I am accustomed to! Still had the malaria nets though. LOL
Side story: On the way back to Addis from Zanzibar, my psoriasis was flaring up. As I mentioned, this was new diagnosis and it was causing my scalp to flake excessively. So I’m in the restroom trying to brush some of the flakes out and put vitamin E on my forehead, scalp and neck.
Bre: What’s going on Sis?
Me: I just found out I have psoriasis and my whole body is dry and my scalp is flaking like crazy!
Bre: Oh no! I’m sorry to hear that. Is it hereditary?
Me: Yes, they say it is.
Bre: Ohhh. Man, I really hope it’s not, cuz I don’t want to get psoriasis of the liver!
Me: *blank stare* Uhhhhh…that’s cirrhosis!
(hahah I was very concerned for my sister as I thought she must have missed me so much that it drove her to hit the bottle)
So we went back to Addis. We used my last day to go to Breanna’s former host families house. Before going, she educated us on various do’s and don’ts. Don’t refuse food or drink, don’t eat or shake with your left hand, hold your right bicep when you shake the hand of someone older than you, don’t wear low collared shirts, etc., etc. She also mentioned to us that although it would be nice, the “facilities” would be outside……I held it the WHOLE day! Too bad Ma drank too much coffee, and you know the rest! LOL! We were able to remember most of what Breanna told us, but the hardest part was probably for my mom because she is left handed. At one point, she sat on her left hand to make sure she didn’t use it. The host family was VERY nice and excited to see us. Only one spoke English but he and Breanna interpreted for us. They fed us and showed us around their town. I took a lot of pictures. Mostly because I was confused to see people in cars, people on horses, people walking donkeys and as my mom mentioned, they all had cell phones! They took us to their local market where Bre’s former host mom has a store. It was very crowded and they were selling everything from beans to cattle.
After a full day there, we returned to Addis as I was leaving the next day. My mom was staying another week with Breanna in her village, but as you all know…I’m not built for that!
I flew home alone, but with great memories to keep forever! I have a few more stories, and maybe one day, I’ll get to share them with you. Key words/phrases to help jog my memory “Oh, shout out to you too Lord!”, “Did you two guys adopt that baby? Oh, you’re not gay? Oops!”, “Hell no, I don’t want pizza with minced meat as the topping!”, “No, I don’t want to marry you, plus I’m much older than you think, so I’m not going to be doing all that stuff you want”, “Oh, you want me to step outside before I spray this industrial strength mosquito spray?”, “What the hell is all that tapping? Y’all don’t have iPhones???”
All in all, I had a great time with my mom and sister and would not trade it for the world. I’m so proud of the young lady Breanna has become. I tell her this as often as I can, but it REALLY takes a special person to do what she does! She and all of the people that she has met and helped will all be better as a result of her commitment and sacrifice. And by virtue of us knowing her, we all be better people as well.
I love you Bre! (just made my heart smile!)