There are moments that feel impossible and others that fly by unnoticed. Mostly I’m exhausted almost constantly, as though a perpetual scrim has enveloped me, making everything feel heavier, cloudier, more difficult to sort through. It’s not terrible, just different. This is grief, I’m told.
This morning is one of those heavier moments. Maybe it’s because it’s Tuesday, and Tuesday and Thursday mornings are when I post something on this blog. Often I would refer to a video or story my mother had sent me that made me smile and I’d post it here for all of you to enjoy. But there will not be any more videos or stories from my mother and as much as I accept that, I still feel a tightness in my throat, a constriction in my chest, an overwhelming sadness. I remind myself that she lived a long, often beautiful sometimes difficult, complicated life. A life with long tendrils that reached so many. This is grief, I’m told.
When my mother died I was in Africa. At Stanley’s camp in the bush in Botswana, to be exact.
We had spotty wi-fi, but it was enough to be able to communicate with my siblings. It was enough to make me feel connected in our grief.
But then we flew to another camp, deeper in the bush, which had no wi-fi at all. I wasn’t able to reach anyone, and so other than my husband, I was alone with my grief. It was a tough few days, and yet those days were also filled with the excitement that can only come from seeing a leopard bounding up a tree, crouching in front of a bush and then leaping so fast the naked eye can barely keep up, to kill a squirrel. Or the joy and amazement of coming upon a pride of lion: two males, several females and half a dozen cubs, before hurrying off to make one of a half dozen flights before eventually arriving back home in New York City.
Upon our arrival home (it took us almost 40 hours) I had to deal with an array of technological problems, one of which was my computer that had crashed on me the third day of our trip. I am just now beginning to post videos of our African Adventure, with a new video coming out every day for the foreseeable future. Making these videos, in many ways, has been a life saver. It’s somewhat methodical work that is also wonderful as I am seeing all the footage I took of our amazing trip. Traveling is always a joyful experience for me. I love to travel, just as both my parents did. My mother’s death has only made me more intent on traveling as much as I can, while I still can.
As my mother lay dying I called every evening and my sister held the phone to my mother’s ear so that I could tell her about seeing a blackback gorilla charging, and the baboons that were intent on sneaking a treat from the expansive breakfast buffet, and the hippo that came close to our boat in Zambia and how the guide told us his open mouth was the first warning sign and when asked what the second warning sign was, he said a hippo with open mouth running towards us, which was exactly what he was doing!
My days were filled with excitement, even elation as well as overwhelming sadness. It was a lesson in holding two seemingly opposing things in either hand and having both be true.
In the afternoon after our first day of gorilla trekking, I went on a little river trip in a fiber glass canoe with Kingfisher Journeys down the Mukungwa River with the most wonderful guide, Eloi. The photo below is of Simba, our driver and guide while in Rwanda, who was amazing, and Eloi who works for Kingfisher Journeys. If you’re trekking with the gorillas, this is such a fantastic thing to do in the afternoon. I highly recommend it and Eloi is terrific, lots of fun and very knowledgeable!
It was a magical way to spend a few hours just as the sun began to set. The abundance of bird life was staggering. I saw a grey heron, white egret, spoonbill, Ibis and Hadeda Ibis as well as dozens and dozens of other birds. I’ve never been much of a “birder” but this trip was an amazing experience; I loved every minute of it.
Off we go on our grand adventure to Africa tomorrow!
Here is a little recap of the last 24 hours…
Yesterday: Wake up to find we have been sent a notification from the airlines that our flight has been cancelled. Wait, what?!???
My heart skips a beat, a precursor to the flood of panic that immediately follows. Time for some deep breathing. Logic kicks in. We will get another flight out, it’s going to be fine. I quickly send off emails to the travel agency and leave voice messages for them as well, just in case they don’t get the email, even though it’s 6am and they’re on Central time and won’t be open for at least four hours, you can never be too careful or thorough.
I practiced my french – j’ai pratiqué mon français. Still feeling some trepidation and panic, but attempting to speak another language helps. Meanwhile Richard has been experiencing heart palpitations and has an appointment with the doctor to make sure he’s in tiptop shape for our trip. I remind him that it’s important that he wear his hiking boots, since they’re new, at least once before our trip, to ensure he doesn’t get blisters while we are away. He nods distractedly.
The travel agency gets back to me, we laugh about traveling and how anything that can go awry, often does, but it won’t be a problem, she’s got this and will call me back when she’s figured out our new airline and flight.
I decide this is a good time to get some stitching done to calm my frayed nerves.
Several hours pass and I get the news that we are rebooked on a different airline departing out of a different airport, but we will make our connecting flight and all is well. Knowing that we are all set to go as originally planned I go out to get my Covid test as required by the airline and Africa.
I throw on an old pair of sandals and walk briskly over to the CityMD nearest us only to be told that they’re swamped and test results will take 3-5 days. Yikes! They suggest a different place that is about a half a mile away. A true New Yorker, I walk over to this new place, which is actually a folding table set up on the sidewalk on 14th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues. It feels as though I have pebbles in my sandals, which I cannot find or get rid of. Never mind, there’s no line and so I fill out the various online forms to register and they assure me test results will be delivered within 24 hours. Perfect! “Go easy on me,” I plead to the young man, who I swear couldn’t be older than 22. He assures me that he’s known for his gentle touch and before I know it the deep nasal swab has been deftly done and is over. “That’s it?!” I exclaim. “Yup, you’re good to go,” he says.
I have a brief moment when I consider whether it would be worth purchasing another airline ticket for this young man so that we can bring him with us and have him perform the 9-10 Covid tests we will have to get throughout our trip. I voice this thought in a joking tone. He laughs and says something like, “I wish.”
He has no idea how serious I am…
The pebbles in my sandals are now really quite painful and I’m having a difficult time walking. I stop at a random pharmacy, purchase some bandaids only to realize that there are no pebbles; I’ve developed large quarter-sized blisters on the bottoms of both feet. How does that even happen?
I hobble home grateful that I can stay put and not go anywhere else.
Upon arrival back home I am confronted with more forms that need to be filled out no more than 48 hours before leaving. I can feel my anxiety rising. Oh and weren’t we supposed to start taking our malaria tablets? Oh no, that can wait until Friday.
New email comes in from the travel agency reminding me to print out our Rwanda visas. Wait, what?Rwanda visas???? I did that, didn’t I? I’m sure I did, but never received confirmation that our applications were approved. I search for and eventually find the email saying that our visa applications are “pending.” I forward all of this to the travel agency with the subject line: HELP!
I have a Zoom call with my “Ask Me Anything” Patrons, which is really more like a party, very boisterous and lots of fun. I show off my latest stitching project and we discuss stitching, techniques, different ways of doing things, piecing backgrounds, and other things, including my next two workshops coming up end of September. The Zoom party is lots of fun and distracts me momentarily from all that’s going on travel-wise.
The Zoom party ends and I see another email from the travel agency. I call them instead of emailing back. She’s taking care of the whole visa debacle and assures me it will all get sorted out. I check my credit card and see that the money has been removed for our travel visas. She tells me there’s one more form to be filled out, but she’s having her assistant do it because while I was on the Zoom call she spoke to my husband who, it turns out, is having heart palpitations due to stress and she doesn’t want him to get any more stressed out.
Richard tells me he loves his new hiking boots, wore them all day and guess what? Not a single blister. I admit that I wore sandals that I’ve never had issues with and now can barely walk.
We laugh. Because seriously, what else are you going to do? We haven’t even left yet and this trip is feeling epic!
Today: I wake to see that my Covid test has been emailed back to me and I’m negative, thankfully.
After I finish writing this post I am double checking that all our various documents are printed out multiple times. I swear we have added at least a pound to our baggage weight with all the documents. We are only allowed a small duffel bag and cannot bring more than 33 pounds including carry-on each. I will be weighing my various tech equipment & computer, finish packing and will try to remember to breath.
Breathing is important. Wish us luck!
And remember in five days we will be hiking with these guys.
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