Monday, 9 April 2012

Encounter with Lenore. Rummage anyone?

Monday, April 9th.

Tomorrow, I'll have been home for a week. Healing mind, body and soul is taking longer than I expected. I planned to be back to normal today...either there's a great big NORMAL right around the bend, or I've been over-optimistic about my powers of regeneration. I had forgotten about Lenore's stuff. At the very time when we are trying to cut back on my flotsam and jetsam, we've inherited a entire other person's hoardings!

The heavy lifting was largely done by Beth and Shayna - clearing the clutter and lifting the dirt. They pioneered the sorting system that worked for us:
1. Stuff that had value: a) a known destination. Like the Keyser family Bible. b) monetary value, worth selling. Like her freezer or washer-dryer, futon, her bed, her electric chair. (offer first to family & friends). c) sentimental - check with person or persons.
2.      2.  Good rummage
3.      3.  Crap
4       4.  Stuff to Re-cycle

There is an odd scent that clings to her belongings – very unpleasant, like extremey rotten meat. Bill thought that it might have come from the freezer but that is now spick and span. The smell lingers on. Since it is particularly strong on blankets and towels, the washing machine is running steadily and the lines are filled outdoors.

We've found several lists with particular designations for her belongings. The only surprise is the dresser to Marilyn Gillis. She'd frequently told me that her blue and silver hand-thrown pottery set would become mine - lately she sounded resentful and I took special care not to look interested in them  (– yet I didn't want her to think that I disliked her offering). The carved chest from Mexico that no one was allowed to sit upon or to puts one's legs upon was Beth's. The U of T chair, Lenore was convinced, was just the thing for Bill - whether he wanted it or not!

We found a letter indicating that she intended to make us the beneficiaries in her will. We don't think that she ever got around to making the change but it was nice to know that she recognized the extra miles that we (especially Bill and Beth) did for her.

There are boxes of neatly labeled sewing supplies, enough zippers for a two dozen seamstresses, bags of quilting material – wool or cotton, triplicates of cleaning supplies – sheets, towels, pillows, kitchen tools, an extra table or three, washing/drying machine combo, microwave, file cabinets, old t-v set, CD/tape/radio stereo (small), and on and on. How about floor length cotton skirts – one size fits anyone? Scarves, gloves and toques?

Anyone need something? I'll look for it! (We'll be in both Saskatoon and Regina this week so we can offer delivery services!)

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

April 2 The Long Road Home

Leaving the cocoon of the hotel Tamana, I had forgotten 
- the thousands of motor cycles and scooters carrying assortments of burdens but often men in women in traditional dress
- the unmarked sand-paved streets - transporting surfaces smoothed daily by street sweepers
- the garbage strewn side-streets, burrows amongst deserted old cars, carts and tumbling down straw huts and buildings
- the line-ups of street and seething activity on and beside the road
- the half-destroyed buildings fronting the highway - as if their fronts were sacrificed for the higher good of transportation
All the reminder that Mali is one of the poorest countries in the world.

But also I had forgotten,
- traffic lights run by solar panels that are studiously obeyed
- concrete barricades both sides across the 1.6 km bridge across the Niger river bed that demarcate the motorcycle and bicycle lanes
- clean-up efforts of the rubble in the fields and the preservation of trees
- people bathing in the river and irrigated gardens along the riverside

At the one security check point close to the airport, the driver (the manager of the hotel) tells me to "put your camera away and don't take it out until you are away from Mali."  But he is also friends with one of the soldiers, makes a show of opening the trunk - my suitcase is in the back seat - and we are waved onwards.

At the airport, the first task is to enter the scrimmage of people who want something from me - money, change money for me, sell CDs, sell me something, carry my luggage.  By the time I'm next the building, I need a place to wait, settle my nerves, finish my water bottle and get my bearings.  Two long lines of heavily burdened luggage carts end at the entrance.  People pass the line-ups and are screened by security officers before entering.  The line moves very slowing.  I really wish that I could take a picture - the clothing is colourfully everything, children gussied up with braids of every variety and practically pasted to their parents clearly no place to play,  the shear numbers of people sitting, standing seemingly patiently, the constant rumble of voices.  A very few are taking their last drags before going cigarette free for their flights - in fact, very few Africans seem to smoke (in contradistinction to the Europeans and certainly not many are fat).

Does it ever feel good to have my boarding passes in hand!  By the time the plane is loaded, I will have had my luggage x-rayed three times and hand-searched twice - lost my "tweezerman" and the battery out of my little flashlight to their garbage.  They weren't picking on me, this happens to everyone.  

At 7:30 pm, 25 minutes late, the plane, an Airbus 330, was loaded.  We hear the luggage compartment open and close, open and close - the pilot goes down the aisle twice and just when he should (workshops in Risk Management aren't just for emergency room physicians and public health officials), he announces over the sound system that the baggage loading equipment is broken and that we are waiting for a tractor to tow it away!

Whew!  At almost 8:00 pm our engines are revving and we are moving, the pilot studiously following the yellow line on the tarmac as we turn onto the runway.  Suddenly from my window, I can see that all hell is breaking out on the ground.  There are ground crew with flashing lights, someone with the red flashlights swinging them into X's, a spotlight shone on the cockpit - even to my eyes, they want our pilot to stop the plane.  He does but when the bells and whistles seem to settle, revs up again.  If the ground wasn't frantic before, this is over the top!  There are people and machines moving everywhere.  A couple of trucks with flashing lights on their cabs park on the runway in front of us making clear that our plane is not going anywhere.

The coup?  A military intervention?  But no.

From my seat at the window, the left wing of our aircraft is poised to slice into the tail wing of a parked Air France plane!  The pilot announces the issue and the ground crew confers, people standing under the wings, an apparent supervisor arrives.  For the next thirty minutes, a tractor alternatively pushes and pulls our plane back and forth levering  us to the right until clearance is achieved.  What a potential disaster! Am I ever thankful to the sharp eyed ground crew!  (Also, how amazing that this doesn't happen more often on busier airports!)

In Brussels, my task becomes “Phoning Bill”. My Visa won't work in the telephones and the phones won't allow me to charge the call to my home number. OK. I'll find the business lounge and Skype him with the MacBook Air. But my “Air” won't sign on to the “Telehotspot” because it "says" it doesn't recognize the ip address!  My iPad isn't so fussy. Finally, almost two hours after arriving and after downloading the Skype app to the iPad, we're in touch!

At this point, I'm SOO looking forward to lying down on the plane – my back is holding up surprisingly, uncomfortable in either sitting or lying for any length of time but not reverting to the original injury. The Brussels – Toronto leg of the flight is delayed by an anxiety-producing two hours which means that I probably won't make the Toronto-Regina flight. The trans-Atlantic stops in Montreal where going through customs is a snap – (keep that in mind for future trips) but which also means that when we arrive in Toronto, we're on the domestic side close to connecting flights so there is still a chance. By now the crew know that I want to get home so they arrange for me to off load first.  But this adventure is not over!  The airport bridge won't attach to our plane - the pilot announces that it is broken and we are waiting for the GTA!!!

By the time every thing is moving again, the Toronto-Regina check-in was closed – but the desk staff is willing to check to see if the plane was still attached to the boarding gate!  Whew!

Made it to Regina (and Bill's arms) twenty minutes (and ten days) late!