Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Life of a Pilot

The last few days of flying have been some of the best flying days that I’ve had yet. On Friday we had an afternoon flight taking a patient Maun to Francistown and on Saturday we had a flight to Hukuntsi and then one from Kasane to Francistown. It just so happened that both flights back to Gabs from Francistown occurred around the same time in the evening, right around sunset. There was a low overcast layer of clouds and some higher clouds both evenings, so the sun sinking over them provided us with a spectacular show of bright yellows and oranges that slowly faded to mellow hues of deep orange and red as we droned on towards Gaborone. It was amazing to watch, and as I sat in my office in the sky observing all this, I reflected on the privilege that pilots have to be able to see things like that. And I felt very happy to be where I was. If the sunsets weren’t enough, the weather also provided a welcome challenge on the flying side. On both days, there was a low overcast layer of clouds over the southeastern part of the country between Francistown and Gaborone (an apparently rare occurrence here), so we had the chance to fly several instrument approaches, with one of them even down to minimums. It was good practice and good fun after a whole lot of sunny, visual flying. One thing that I miss a bit about flying here is flying in instrument weather conditions, so I enjoyed the weekend’s challenges.

Other than that, life has been quite normal. We have had a visitor from Switzerland (Heinz Noettinger) living with us for the past week or so, which has been fun. Heinz is visiting for a month to see Flying Mission and their work here, and we have had a good time getting to know him and having another face around the house. My move to Maun will probably be taking place within the next month or so, although nothing is yet definite, so that is something to look forward to and prepare for. I continue to be excited about the opportunity to live in that smaller village setting (although Maun has grown quite rapidly over the past few years and is a large tourist center now) and to fly in the delta. I will keep you informed as I learn more about developments in that area. For now, it’s bedtime. Peace-


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Khutse Trip

Since I traded a few off days at various points throughout the last month or so, I had accumulated a bit of off time. So this past weekend, I used up some of those days and took a 6 days off, 3 of which were spent on a short outing to the Khutse Game Reserve with the two short-termers and another Flying Mission fellow, Peter Shaw, and his son Andrew. Khutse is a small park that sort of hangs off the bottom of the Central Kalahari. As a result, it's very Kalahari-ish, which means hot and dry with a bunch of pans and low shrub with the occasional animal or tree. It's a pretty desolate and beautiful landscape, and since there aren't too many animals there due to the lack of water and greenness, the landscape is a big part of the attraction. As well as seeing some of what the Kalahari is like. It's amazing that people managed to live in a place like that without standing water for so many thousands of years. Anyway, it was a good trip with it's share of adventure (try setting up a 10 person tent in the dark in blasting winds and rain). I've put a few pictures up on the gmail site, so enjoy. Gotta run cause my internet time is running out (internet doesn't appear to be working at the hangar too often these days). Peace.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The sun sets behind an afternoon storm brewing over a water hole, in Khutse Game Reserve.
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Monday, October 15, 2007


I posted a few new pics, by the way, in the google album "month 3." More to come.

Visit to Bessie, Pt. 2

On Friday, I caught a bus to Mochudi to visit Bessie again (the one-hour bus ride cost all of 5 pula, or about 80 US cents). If you missed it the first time, Bessie is a friend who had lived near my family in the village of Maun for 3 years in the late 80’s. The last time I’d been there, I had driven and Bessie had met me at the post office to guide me to her home, so this time, on foot, I had a bit of a difficult time finding her house again. I wandered around the right area of the village for about 2 hours, asking people for “Magwe-Jenni” (lit. mother of Jenni) since nobody in the village knows her as Bessie, and using some of my extremely limited Setswana. It’s probably the first time a white person has wandered around that part of the village on foot, so I caught quite a few stares and strange looks. Anyway, I finally found my way to the right place, and was greeted enthusiastically by Bessie and her neighbor, Mapinki. We sat in her yard under a shade tree and chatted for a while. It was good to spend some time with her again, and this time I got to hear a lot more of her life story. The last time I visited her, both her and her husband were looking for work and were unable to find any. They have been wanting to build a house for quite a while because the one they are staying in now is falling apart and doesn’t have a proper roof – just a few sheets of tin held down by rows of stones – but they have been unable to without any source of income. This time, however, they told me with great excitement that her husband had found work building a school and clinic just a few minutes walk from their house. I also heard from a friend at Flying Mission about a possible job for Bessie doing batiks for a craft shop and was able to give Bessie some contact information for that job. Things are looking up for them, and I hope they can soon start work on their house. Even with the work starting for them now, they will have difficulty paying for their house. The builder quoted them about 4,000 Pula (about $650), but I would guess that the construction job earns them somewhere around 750 Pula ($120) per month and between feeding 4 people and keeping up with all of life’s other costs, it may take a while for them to build up enough money for the house. Bessie is desperate to get a new house, though, and says that on windy nights she can’t sleep for fear that the roof will blow off and drop all the stones holding it down on her and her family. I would like to help Bessie build her house, and if anybody wants to contribute some small amount towards the construction of their house, please contact me. I have enjoyed my visits with Bessie, and she tells me that here, sons must feed their mothers so next time I need to bring some food and make lunch for her. I’m not sure if it’s true that sons feed their mothers, but either way it sounds like a good plan to me. I’m looking forward to my next visit.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

More babies....

This past week has been pretty ridiculously full of flying. After quite a long stretch of no flying at all, it poured in over the last few days. In a period of 6 days, I flew about 30 hours, which is quite a bit. And 9.7 of those hours came in one marathon day. We had some interesting flights, but by far the most exciting was a flight that we had to Gweta, a small village just on the north side of the Makgadikgadi Pans. We received the call around 7:30 am on Monday, and were told there were two premature babies who needed to be taken to Francistown. When we arrived at Gweta, the paramedics discovered that one of the babies had stopped breathing and arrested, and was very blue from lack of oxygen. They quickly began attending to the baby, administering CPR and giving him oxygen. We waited on the ground about 20-30 minutes before the baby finally was stabilized and we could take off. While the little guy was still having a tough time of it (he apparently arrested at least once more on the way to Francistown), he made it to the hospital alive and breathing, and hopefully will survive to adulthood. It felt good to know that had we not arrived when we did, the baby would have assuredly died. While our flights may often help prevent more serious complications in patients and avoid things like amputations, this was one of the flights where our being there clearly helped save a life, which is pretty fulfilling. Then, about an hour after we returned from that flight, we got a call from Maun hospital, where two stretcher patients (sisters) involved in a car accident needed transport. When we got to Maun, the paramedic determined that we needed to take the patients separately so that he could better tend to the fairly serious head injury of the one patient (with two stretchers in the aircraft, the medic would have to kneel in the aisle to attend to the patient). So we took the first to Francistown and then returned for the second, a shattered femur. It was quite late by the time we got to Francistown with the second patient, and we had to spend the night in Francistown. Like I said, we had gotten the first call at 7:30 am, and didn’t get to bed until around 12:30 am, so it was quite a marathon of a day. That was the day with 9.7 hours of flying. Between that day, a good three days of flying at the end of last week, and a flight on Tuesday, we’ve kept pretty busy on the air ambulance flight side of things, which I’ve enjoyed.

Saturday, October 6, 2007


I though it was time you all saw a few pictures. Here are a few of my favorites from the past week or so. I also recently posted more on my Google account, so check those out if you want. Enjoy.

Lightning strikes from a small cell backlight by the sunset. We had just landed from a mercy flight, and there were storms scattered around the airport. The sun setting through the clouds was beautiful, especially combined with the rain showers and the lightning everywhere.
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Another one of the sun setting through the rain shower.
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The sun sets over the wing of A2-OCB, our C421 that is waiting for new engines.
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A weaverbird takes a break from weaving his nest while a female inspects it. In a tree at Tina Kort's house.
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Our ambulance (now based in Francistown) and Rescue One's ambulance. Rescue One is the company that provides our flight paramedics and transport in Gaborone.
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How my microwave looked after the egg incident.
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Monday, October 1, 2007

Babies and stuff

Yesterday I went on a flight with Mark Spicer, our Director of Ops, to Hukuntsi to pick up two patients and bring them back to Gaborone. Hukuntsi is one of the short, gravel strips that we go into, so is a bit more of a challenge and is a welcome change from the long paved strips at Maun, Francistown and Gaborone. Anyway, the patient that was the main reason for the flight was a maternity case. The mother’s water had broken two days ago and the baby had not yet been delivered, so the doctors expected complications and wanted to get the woman to Gaborone for a C-section. The other patient had a case of gangrene and probably could have been transported by road but took advantage of the space available in the airplane (unfortunately, gangrene brings with it quite a stench that was almost overbearing at times. We only had to deal with it for an hour and a half…the poor man has to live with the embarrassment of that smell all the time.) The flight was going along quite normally, and the few times that I glanced back into the passenger cabin, things seemed quite laid back and quiet…a typical flight. As we neared Gaborone and were getting ready to begin our descent (or maybe we had already begun…I forget now), I happened to glance back again and did a double take. Moagi (one of the paramedics) was bent over, standing up in the aisle and looking down at the bundle of cloth that he was holding in his hands, which was squirming around. I caught a glimpse of a small head peeking out of the top of the bundle and realized that the baby had just been born. I told Mark, and he snapped a few pictures with his camera phone while we descended the rest of the way to Gabs. We landed and the paramedics hurried to get the mother and the other patient into the waiting ambulance and rush the baby off to the hospital. The little boy (he looked tiny, although I’m not sure if he was smaller than normal or not) was having a little difficulty breathing, and Mark helped by holding an oxygen ventilator to his mouth while the paramedics unloaded the other two patients. As he was laying there in the blankets on the ramp by the airplane, the little guy started coughing a little and letting out a few cries in between gulping in air. I’ve never seen a newborn baby like that before, and it was amazing to watch the little miracle of a thing pull in some of his first breaths. And so goes the story of the first baby that was born on a plane that I was flying.