For most of the time that I’ve been here, the skies have been clear and blue, without any sign of clouds or moisture of any kind. We’ve been nearing the end of the dry season (although there is no guarantee that the “rainy” season will bring much rain at all), and the last few years have been virtually without rain, so it’s been extremely dry and dusty here. There are a few trees here and there whose roots go deep enough to keep their leaves a dust-covered green, but for the most part everything is brown. It’s also been getting quite hot. Last week, though, teaser clouds started appearing here and there, innocent little puffy cumulus clouds which never amounted to anything (in terms of rain). But while Matt and I were flying a patient from Maun to Francistown on Tuesday night, we noticed quite a few clouds in areas and even a few cells complete with lightning and all. Wednesday, the skies were overcast for most of the day (the first time that has happened since I’ve been here) and enough rain fell to puddle a bit on the ramp. On Thursday, though, rain came with a vengeance. We were doing a phase inspection on the King Air in the hangar, and had been watching an ominous band of clouds approach from the northwest for a while when we began to hear the rat-tat-tat of rain on the tin roof. For a while, it drizzled lightly, and then began pouring for real. The noise in the hangar was so thunderous that it was virtually impossible to hear each other, even from only a few feet away, and we all stopped work to watch the rain for a while. The wind was gusting like crazy, blowing water through the closed hangar doors and soaking the floor 10 feet into the hangar, and we lost power a few minutes into the storm. Walt braved the howling winds and rain to take some pictures of the foreboding clouds, and I wished that I’d brought my camera. It lasted for about an hour and dropped about 2 inches at the airport. It was all very exciting. The first rains of the year are always a big deal in this parched land that depends so heavily on agriculture, and it’s nice to see the ever-present dust tamed into wet sand and mud. Already now, two days later, the first signs of green shoots are appearing by the edge of the road, and life is sprouting up from places that a few days ago appeared completely barren. People here have said that it’s been a long time since they’ve had a good rain like this one, and they are hoping and praying that this year will bring many more such rains. The country desperately needs water (I think I’ve heard that the last seven years have been drought years with light rains), so it is wonderful to see that coming. Of course, now there probably won’t be any more rain all summer…but we’ll see. So that’s the big news here. The rain has also managed to cool things off quite a bit, and that’s been a welcome relief from temperatures in the 90’s, although I’ve heard that it’s supposed to get up to 105 degrees in Maun again this week.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Before last week, I thought that I knew all the rules about what not to put in a microwave – potatoes, aluminum foil…all the stuff that exploded and sparked I knew about. I even knew that putting grapes in a microwave made for a sweet show. I was a competent and responsible microwave operator, or so I thought. Then, last week, I discovered that somehow I had missed out on the conventional wisdom that microwaves and eggs in a shell don’t mix. Our stove wasn’t working and I was out of pretty much all my food stock except some spaghetti and a dozen eggs, so I had the brilliant idea of making hard-boiled eggs in the microwave. The thought that rapidly heating the contents in an enclosed shell might result in the said contents violently leaving the shell never crossed my mind. So I placed two eggs in mugs of water, set them in the microwave, and happily let the microwave do its thing. About two minutes later the water began to boil and, while I was standing about 3 feet away mixing tea, I hear a boom like a gunshot and look over to see the microwave door blasted open so hard that it slammed against the hinges and then shut again, opening just long enough to splatter the entire area within a 10 foot radius with the soggy contents of an egg. It really is amazing how much force an exploding egg can generate and how much area the stuff inside of one small egg can cover when spread out. I suspect the fact that the egg was in a mug helped direct the force of the explosion and helped blast the door open so violently. The microwave will never be the same and now, an entire week later, the smell of egg still pervades the kitchen and pantry. I have gleaned several valuable lessons from this episode, and for your own edification I will now leave you with them:
1. Never become so confident in your abilities as a microwave operator (or anything else, for that matter) that you forget to exercise common sense.
2. Things enclosed in a membrane (ie. eggs in shells, potatoes in skins, etc.) should never be heated in a microwave unless two conditions are met: you don’t care a whit about the microwave and how it smells, and you have somebody handy who likes to clean soggy egg matter off of anything and everything.
3. If you plan on exploding an egg for the pure joy of it (and it is well worth the experience provided the above conditions are met), don’t under any circumstances place the egg in water – soggy hard-boiled egg matter is way, way grosser than normal hard-boiled egg matter.
Saturday, September 15, 2007
This past week was the first week of air ambulance flights for me, and it was a relatively busy one. In all, I flew a little over 20 hours in 7 days on 5 different flights. It’s great to be flying again, and I really enjoy the medical aspect of it. I’m sure you’re dying to know what all goes into an air ambulance flight, so I’ll tell you. It all starts with the call from the hospital telling us they have a patient to be transferred. The pilots then hustle to the airport if they’re not there already, preflight the airplane, file the flight plan, and make sure everything is ready to go and then wait for the paramedics to arrive (our goal is to be taking off within 45 minutes after we first get the call). Then we bust out of Gabs as quickly as circumstances allow and head to the referring hospital (our most common flight is to Maun), where we meet the ambulance, help the paramedics load the patient(s) if needed, and make sure to collect the needed paperwork (often the hospital will send a less serious patient along with the more urgent one just because there’s room in the plane). Then we scoot ASAP and fly to the airport nearest the receiving hospital, where an ambulance comes to unload the patients and whisk them to the hospital. The patients coming from hospitals and clinics in the southern part of the country come back to Gaborone and those from the northern part of the country go to Francistown in the northeast. So if the patient went to Francistown, we then can relax and fly a leisurely leg back to Gaborone. When we get back home, we finish all the paperwork, get the airplane ready for the night, and wait for Air BP to finish refueling the aircraft (which can take quite a while depending on their workload). The medical conditions of the patients are quite varied (many are the result of road accidents), and this week’s patients included a one year-old with a wire embedded in its eye, a fellow with a spinal injury from wrestling while intoxicated, and a car accident victim, among others. All of the patients have received health care at the hospitals or clinics that they came from and are usually quite stable but unable to be transported by road for various reasons. So that’s a day in the life. The flights will continue on Saturday when I go on call again. In the meantime, I’ve been doing orientation activities with Tina Kort and the short-termers that have recently arrived from Germany and Switzerland. The two fellows from Germany, Christian and Stefan, are going to be living with me in Flying Mission’s short-termer house, and I’m excited to finally have some housemates. They’re fun guys to be around and we really get along quite well. And that's the news from Botswana.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Saturday, September 8, 2007
Also, for any who are interested, I've posted some pictures from my travels in Europe during May and June on google (which seems to function infinitely better than webshots). I will put a link to them on the blog.