Thursday, December 30, 2010

December 30. 2010, Pittsburgh PA

Arrived home from Cape Town last night by midnight. Plane arrived at 11 pm. Left Cape Town at 1 am. All done in one day with actual lapsed time of 31 hours - airport boarding to final deplaning. Went from Cape Town to Amsterdam, Amsterdam to Minneapolis, Minneapolis to Pittsburgh. Why Minneapolis you might ask? I don't have an answer - I thought I had booked home flight thru Detroit. Found that I slept for most of those 31 hours, and slept again when I came home. My airplane behavior seemed to be, board, read a little, fall asleep, wake up when food comes by, read a bit more, fall asleep, repeat. Trip went fast. I can do that again.

Haven't figured out the best way to travel in terms of prosthetic leg. I know to get an aisle seat so my prosthetic is in the aisle. That way I can slip put of the socket and stand up and slip into it again. But all those hours in the gel liner - and that would be about 31 plus and additional 14 or so hours or so (from waking up in Cape Town on Tuesday morning to going to bed in Pittsburgh around 1 am Thursday - 45 hours in same gel liner with no break - is really hard on the skin. Skin breaks out in red blotches - almost like skin burns - probably resembles a baby's diaper rash. Actually, I should put myself on bed without liner on for a while as soon as I finish this to give the limb some healing air time. There are a couple of groups of lower limb amputees out there on the web and I should join one. I don't have to reinvent this stuff for myself; it's time to talk to other folks about how they do it.

Other limb related incident while on my sojourn in Cape Town has left me with a beautiful black eye. One of my nights in the lovely little house in Muizenberg - half asleep, I decided it was time to get out of bed to pee. I forgot I didn't have a lower limb. So, I landed on the floor, kerplunk, after hitting my forehead on the corner of the cabinet by the bed. I forget I was semi-legless once before while in rehab and tried to step out of my wheelchair - to pick up something I dropped - and also took a tumble, but that was when the amputation was fresh. This event surprised me. Fortunately, niece and nephew were in the house in the other bedroom and both came running. They replaced me in the bed after my potty break; niece fed me arnica and rubbed some homeopathic ointment on my head. I was given an ice pack, and I had no idea of the state of the bump or the bruise until the next morning. Other body parts hurt next day post fall, but it's the black eye that is rather stunning.

Other than that, the leg was not a serious limiter on the trip. Did some limited walking - but wasn't about to hike the hill to the lighthouse at Cape Point or trek to the top of Table Mountain. Would not have been able to do that with foot as it had been for the last few years either. And in Kruger Park, unless you sign up for extended hikes with guides with guns, all of the exploration is in your car. Staying in car was a struggle for some members of my family, and on more than one occasion, park guards came by to reiterate the need to stay in car. On one occasion, in a small road bypass, son-in-law decided he was going to step outside car (I don't remember reason), and a slew of Vervet monkeys slid down, jumped down, almost flew down - out of the tree he was standing by. Don't think they were planning to attack him, but they certainly were not happy with him. He quickly returned to car. Glad it was not baboons in the tree, or the home of hyenas. I did not get out of the car on our sojourns. And I did adopt the front side of the Mercedes we got from Hertz (because the smaller cars - as we requested were all gone). We had the one Mercedes and one VW Polo for our five days in the park. I knew where I belonged.

Those are the leg adventures on the trip. The rest of the trip stories are about the wonders we saw and the pain and poverty we saw. Perhaps I will put them out here or find another home for the stories. I am so glad that I went. I could have stayed longer and seen and done more, but I did have some experience of living in a middle class community in a white part of Cape Town. This is such a segregated city - economically and physically. And those are the other stories.

To my friends, it is almost the new year. I wish you Joy and more Joy in the coming year as well as peace and love and good health.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

December 19, 2010 - Cape Town ZA

I have chosen to have a quiet day. Niece and twin 15 year old boys arrived last nite. Large part of my family has gathered here in Cape Town. And they have all gone someplace - eight of them - piled into one VW Polo. It looked like a clown car this morning. I said, "no thank you" and I'm here chillin'. Tomorrow we all (nine of us) head for Kruger National Park for four days. This is a huge adventure for all. Unsuccessful in renting a large van - so we will drive two cars and that may be for the best. Communication with each other by phone. I love this menagerie of humans, but not for too long at one time.

So, I probably didn't report that I brought a sewing machine with me to Africa. I figured I couldn't go a month without a bit of stitchin'. And when I opened unpacked it to stitch, the darn thing wouldn't turn. Nephew David (mechanical engineer) and I tried to take it apart to see if we could fix whatever was broken, but there is some magic to getting these things open all the way. Finally took it to Africa Sewing Machines; they fixed it quite promptly. So, today, I am continuing to make some blocks for the quilt that will match my prosthetic leg. I think I figured that I need about eighty 5.5 inch squares. And these are simply not the quickest squares to put together. I just did three in the last couple of hours. That takes me to twenty some. Might still be working on these when I go on my next Wisconsin quilt gathering the end of February.

Walking is okay. But I am not going to walk up any mountains with anyone. Prefer walking where there are coffee shops every half mile or so (or book stores with chairs for perusing good stuff), places to stop, get off the foot, let body regroup.

The baboons - we went to Cape Point - end of the Cape of Good Hope - and on the way came into close contact with a conference of baboons. Big ones, little ones, moms, dads, babies. They had taken over the road and a large parking lot on the side of the road. They were happily breaking antenna off cars, using cars as trampolines, and simply gathering in this place. A small truck with a covered back and pulling a small trailer, apparently had food in car. This was a great attraction for this conference. They broke into the car and dragged out all the edibles and then spread out over the area. We sat for almost an hour in our car watching. Will put up some pictures and maybe a video or two on facebook when I get home.

Gonna see if I can get six of these blocks done before family (mine, not the baboon family) reconvenes. Will leave sewing machine with granddaughter, Maeve, for the balance of her stay in Cape Town.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

December 14, 2010, update from Cape Town

This is an 'annies ankle' blog, not a travel log - but I don't imagine I will ever get this far from home again. Not only is this a different continent, it's a different hemisphere. What I love most about being here right now is he day light. Sun rises some time around 5 am and sets sometime around 7:30 pm. This is truly a luxury in December. The warmth is nice too, but the day light matters even more.

About my ankle - I am sure that I am walking more than a mile in one fell swoop. My nephew, David, and I are in the area of Cape Town called Muizenberg. Daughter Julie lives in area called Observatory. David and I are at the beach. Julie - with car - is much closer to downtown. So David and I are doing some walking. Today we took the metro train three stops to area called Kalk Bay, hit all the little shops along the main street and some of the side streets in this beach town (David says it was like Leucadia on the California coast just north of San Diego - I say it is like I remember Malibu in the late 50's or Leucadia in the 80's). We had lunch at Kalky's right on False Bay where the fishing boats come in.

Yesterday we visited one of the townships located within the city of Cape Town, Masiphumelele. This is the smallest township - occupies about one square mile, population more than 24,000. We visited the library, a creche (day care center - 65 small children in one very small room) and then we experienced a healing ceremony led by a Sangoma and a Sangoma in training. Then Charlotte, our Khosa guide, took us to her shack for tea and conversation. I could write pages about the creche, the healing ceremony, and the visit with Charlotte. Walking the streets of the township was an interesting challenge, and even more challenging was walking the rocky dirt paths between mazes of shacks to get to the shack of the Sangomas and then out of the maze again.

A couple of days ago walking back from the beach in Muizenberg, I tripped on a manhole cover. Thought for sure I was gonna land on my face, as that is the direction I was going. Managed to move both legs forward quickly, almost in a run, until I went from halfway horizontal to vertical again. Daughter and nephew applauded. (Nephew was about to grab me, but I moved forward to fast for him to do that). Was a bit shaky after this, but clearly, I succeeded in doing something I didn't know I could do. I keep thinking that I have plateaued in the use of this prosthesis, then I have to look at how far I am walking in one episode right now as well as that recovery from an almost fall and realize I am continuing to gain mobility and endurance. And I have to remember, I actually jumped off the train one day this week because the step was a bit too high. That was pretty weird - didn't really know I was gonna do it, but I did.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

December 10, Saturday morning in Cape Town

I have invited some neighbors and other folks I have met over for tea (iced) and something else this afternoon. Grandaughter Maeve is with me this morning and we are trying to bake. Her assignment was banana muffins, mine gingerbread. We got through the banana muffins with only minor extra darkness on top and a bit of icing seems to have solved that. Then I put the ginger bread in the oven. Oven temperature only goes to 260 degrees - and then something that says something about higher. So, I set oven to highest possible temperature. When ginger bread was totally burnt on the top, I realized I had a problem. And then came the "ah-hah". The thermostat on this oven must be talking to me in centigrade instead of Farenheit. 350 degrees Farenheit is something like 170 centigrade. So, we peeled the burnt top off the ginger bread and now have the remainder baking at 170 C. It is taking too long though, so I am not sure how to master this oven.

There is a good bakery about 1/2 mile from here, and if we need to, we will walk over and buy goodies for our little meet-and-great.

Other news, yesterday was the day to visit the penguins. Hope to meet a neighbor today who was a prisoner on Robbin Island and talk to him about how to do the best visit. Have a trip planned to one of the townships with a guide for this coming week. And have our four day safari to Kruger National Park all booked for right before Christmas. I love the long days - the sunshine - the 70F weather.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Decmber 7, 2010, From Cape Town ZA

Learning to translate Rands to dollars and dollars to Rands. R7 is just a little more that $1. Means you have to think in much bigger numbers for groceries and stuff than I am use to. A grocery bill of R1400 is $202.75 today.

Some interesting and new experiences/learnings:
1 - Their are "security guards" in all public parking lots and major streets. They watch your car while you are gone, direct you out of your parking space, may direct you to a parking space and expect to be tipped. It seems that R5 is the going tip.

2 - The stove in my house - it is the same size as a large toaster oven. It has two electric burners on top of a high powered toaster oven. Not exactly what I am use to cooking on/in, but I did good roasted vegetables one night and tonight I did a chicken curry on the stove top. I like lots of things about this place, but I could do with "more" stove.

3 - BBQing is a big thing here. The BBQ is called a "Bri" (rhymes with try and fry) and the process is also called "to bri". Did that the nite of the roasted vegetables. (Not sure of the spelling of bri).

4 - Grandaughter Maeve has been learning some SA expressions in school. Turns out that 'now' implies 'eventually', 'now-now' seems to mean 'pretty soon' and 'non-now-now' means 'right away'.

5 - Wind has been fierce in Muizenberg the last two days - probably in all of Cape Town, but really fierce here - blows the curtains in house so much (as I left a window partially open when I went out) that it sets off house alarm.

6 - About alarm - everything is locked and alarmed. Doors and windows all have bars - pretty ones - but bars. House is alarmed. There is a safe in the house and I am told it is best to lock things like computers in safe before leaving. Poverty with associated theft is rampant.

I think trip to Kruger National Park is planned. It will be a four night adventure with all of family that is here. Hope we see some of those large animals.

And next thing to do is plan a guided visit to a township. And of course, simply take off to see the penguins and baboons and ostriches.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

December 5, 2010, From Cape Town ZA

I'm not sure I believe it. I have one real leg and one prosthetic leg, I had a skin thing removed from my arm in Pittsburgh on Monday, I am going to be 75 years old tomorrow and here I am in a beautiful little house three blocks from the beach in the part of Cape Town called Muizenberg. The beach is at False Bay, the bay where the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean meet.

About the traveling part of the trip. First snow in Pittsburgh as I was getting ready to go the the airport. A friend took me to the Pittsburgh airport with two full bags - one at 49.5 pounds and the other with a sewing machine in it, in case I get bored. Bags were full because daughter Julie asked if I would bring clothing I was no longer interested in for the woman (Vat??) who cleans her house. So I did a partial closet clearing before I left home and brought clothes and shoes for Vat. Certainly won't miss the stuff and could easily do the same thing all over again.

Anyway, to the airport, checked in, I'm one of the folks that gets that new pat down - can't seem to avoid it - and no one wants to see inside of the prosthesis which seems to me to be the place to hide combustibles. I was plenty early and it was time for lunch. So sat down in TGI Fridays in the Pittsburgh airport and while picking up the menu realized that my arm (minor surgery on Monday) was bleeding beyond the bandage. Ate lunch, then stopped at info desk and asked if they had a nurses station around where I could stop in and get a little help in changing a dressing. Answer was no, but they would call the airport based paramedics. So, the paramedics came, we walked to my gate then they changed the dressing. This was no big deal.

The big deal was that the plane was a bit late in leaving Pittsburgh. Snow delayed the incoming flight from somewhere in the midwest. So, finally headed out of Pittsburgh - landed in Detroit at 4:55 pm, at the end of Terminal C, the small plane section of Detroit airport - quite a jog to the "big plane" section - terminal A. I had asked for a wheelchair and the young man with the job did a speedy trip from the end of Terminal C to the Terminal A gate. Plane to Amsterdam was to leave at 5:55 pm. This flight was boarding when I got there, but because of the wheel chair they took me to the front of the line. My boarding pass was rejected. Then the gate agents told me I was not going to Amsterdam until the next day, that I was a day early. I suggested they look again. After looking a couple of more times, they realized that I had been automatically rescheduled for the next day because the Pittsburgh plane was late and the computer, I guess, didn't approve of the connection. Delta had given my nice aisle seat towards the front of the plane away. They did get me on the plane, and after some fussing, they did get me an aisle seat - with an aisle accessible to right non-leg. It worked. The flight out of Detroit was a little - but not a lot - late. Next is Amsterdam where I have been assigned a seat in the middle someplace for an 11.5 hour trip. I said that wouldn't work. After some fussing - and being told multiple times that there were no aisle seats available, (my trip to Cape Townwas cancelled when Detroit Amsterdam leg was cancelled and when reinstated, seat was changed) an aisle seat was somehow found. I was on my way to Cape Town - as scheduled originally.

I had a book I was reading, knitting, my folks music loaded up on my new IPod touch, and sleeping to do, so I made it through the long flight. Did do a lot of it with the prosthesis sitting next to my leg instead of on it. Seemed to work.

Arrival in Cape Town - wisked through customs by someone pushing me in a wheelchair and on to baggage claim. Guess where my bags were? In Detroit of course. So after an hour plus waiting and filling out forms, I got out of the controlled area to find daughter waiting. (It's now 1 am in Cape Town on Dec 3. Left Pittsburgh at 3:30 pm on Dec 1. Subtract 7 hours from Cape Town time to get to Pittsburgh time (8 hours to get to Madison time). Jules took me to her house and we just went to bed.

Slept the first night and the second night in Julie's house, and moved into my beautiful little space yesterday. The children slept here with my last night, but I am on my own tonight as they have school tomorrow and son-in-law Kevin has orthopedist appointment tomorrow morning prior to surgery scheduled for Wednesday on his very broken collar bone. Kevin was riding Maeve's bike in an emergency run for keys (don't ask!!), fell off and broke collar bone in several places. Then my nephew David (the tango dancer) is arriving from Santa Fe tomorrow afternoon. Julie is driving this little VW polo - driver's side on wrong side of car. I can't drive polo because I need gas pedal on the left, Kevin can't drive polo because he can't drive anything right now. Julie is sole driver and tomorrow will be hard.

Regardless, I am soaking up Cape Town ambience. It feels a bit like the southern Calif coast - between Oceanside and San Diego - felt in the 1960s. I loved Leucadia back then. I think the house I am in is about 900 square feet - two bedrooms, living room, dining room and kitchen. You are instructed to carefully lock yourself in, and also to lock up and alarm the house when you leave. (This is different the southern CA in the 60s). All houses have wrought iron gates on the front doors and on all windows. Surrounding poverty breeds theft. I will visit a township before I leave, but the message is it is best to be accompanied by someone who lives in the township area or, at least, has friends in the township. Will work that out.

Hope to visit Kruger National Park - see those grand animals. Also have to work that out. It requires an airplane ride and a couple of nights stay over. More on that later.

Now, as I am alone at last, I am going to go to the Kiva web site and do a micro loan and then to the Heiffers International web site and buy goats for Xmas from my grandchildren to the places of most need. Just finished Nicholas Kristoff's book, "Half the Sky" and gotta do something. Was gonna do the goats anyway, but the book has spurred me on. Recommend it to all of my friends if you haven't already read it.

Probably more than you ever wanted to know in this story. Regardless, I will try to do some entry every few days to keep you posted and to help me remember.