Thursday, January 24, 2008


As a pilot, I suppose you could say I’ve got a bit of a love-hate relationship with thunderstorms. Storms can be quite dangerous for airplanes and have knocked down more than a few perfectly healthy machines over the years, so I spend many of my summer days here winding around towering storm clouds and giving them a respectful berth. If we get a call for an air ambulance flight and there are storms building around the country, I know that we very well may have to deviate and that the trip will probably take a bit longer. Storms can be especially troublesome at night, when all we can see of them are countless flashes of lightning that sometimes seem to come from all directions at once and we have to rely on our less-than-perfect weather radar to avoid them. On the other hand, when I have off days or days without any flights, watching the storms here is one of my favorite things to do. When we get a big storm (which has happened several times in the last few weeks) I often grab a book and sit out on our back porch, looking up once and again to marvel at the dark skies, the pounding rain, and the flashes of lighting and thunder. Every once in a while, we’ll get a few days in a row of overcast skies and some fairly steady rain. For the most part, though, the storms are isolated. Driving home from the airport the other day, the skies were clear except for a huge storm cloud that was towering over an area just west of our house. The base of the cloud was an angry, deep black, with roiling curls of grey cloud being pushed out the front of the storm by the downdrafts and a huge veil of heavy rain descending from the center. As I got closer, it was apparent that the storm was headed for the house, so as soon as I got home I fetched my book and settled down to watch the show. And what a show it was. I am continually amazed at the power unleashed under these beasts. Power to pound the soil with relentless rains, to fell trees and kill livestock with a bolt of lightning, to rip the wings from an airplane. And next to all their destructive power stands their power to bring refreshing, life-giving water to this parched desert country. It is this power that trumps all others in the end, and I’m slowly getting used to people telling me how wonderful the weather is on a damp, rainy, grey day. Prayers for rain have been spoken again and again over the past months, and the rain has come. I believe I mentioned that the rainy season started early this year, and after a relatively dry stretch for a few months, the rain has returned with a vengeance in the last weeks. All too soon, however, the rain will be over and the dry season will be upon us, so I’m enjoying the coolness and the storms while I can.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Busses and early mornings

My word, it's been a whole week since I last posted...feels like just yesterday that I was writing something for the blog. Time continues to fly by and I have a hard time believing that I'm soon going to be reaching the halfway point in my time here. Somehow I've been keeping busy, although I haven't been doing much out of the ordinary.
Flying has been pretty regular for the past week or so. There seems to have been a rash of bad bus accidents...two days in a row we had calls from hospitals saying they had 4+ patients from a bus accident that needed transport (first one from Hukuntsi, the second from Maun). Luckily, the two pilots who were off on the day of the Hukuntsi accident happened to be around town, and they scrambled to bring the second airplane so we could take two stretcher patients in a short time. Dan and I had already been on a flight earlier, so left from Francistown where we dropped the first patient and met the other airplane in Hukuntsi. As we loaded the patients there, we had the biggest crowd of spectators that I've seen yet, and we had to keep pushing them back so the paramedics had room to move the patients and eventually so we could start up and taxi out. The next day, Matt and I went to Maun when they called with their bus accident...we managed to squeeze two stretchers into the King Air (normally we only take one stretcher at a time), and the rest of the 6 patients who needed transport were eventually taken by road.
And then the last two days we both had late night calls, with the result that we left at daybreak both days for flights. So between all of that, I'm feeling pretty beat and ready for some sleep. But I'm still loving the flying, and all is well on this side of the globe. Peace...

Friday, January 11, 2008

South Africa

Accidents and illnesses know no season, so a side-effect of doing air ambulance flights is working on holidays, weekends, etc when much of the world is free from obligations. While I was on call over both Christmas week and New Year's, I made up for it by taking the week before Christmas off. Not just for the heck of it, but because my dad happened to be coming through South Africa for a few days for his job and I went to visit him. So I packed up and headed south in the Land Rover for the week. The trip down was an epic 18-hour battle against an overheating engine (due to, as I mentioned before, a lost radiator cap), having to stop in the dark to add water next to signs saying "do not stop - hijacking hotspot" and such (crime in South Africa is rapidly becoming quite a problem in places). But I finally made it, dragging into the lodge where my dad was staying around 1:30 am. So I hung out for a few days with my dad, which was wonderful. Unfortunately, he had to leave two days earlier than he had planned to and I didn't get to spend nearly the time with him that I had hoped. The rooms at the lodge had already been payed for, however, and it was too late to get any refund on them, so I just decided to stay for three more nights there before heading back to Botswana to start work again. So I relaxed at the lodge, drove around and saw the sights in the area, went to Kruger Nat'l Park (the biggest park in South Africa), went to a reptile farm, and just generally took it easy. Oh, and bought a new radiator cap. It was wonderfully relaxing week and it was great to see my dad for a bit, so i considered that my Christmas holiday. I've posted a few pictures for some visual stimulation. Enjoy.

My first rhino sighting. There are quite a few in South African parks, as it turns out, because I ended up seeing a total of 8 or so during my time there. This guy's a pretty small one, which I only know because I saw some monsters in Kruger Park.
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A beautiful South African valley. There's a spectacular waterfull just to the bottom-right of the frame that I didn't manage to take any good pictures of. This landscape was absolutely stunning after 6 months of confinement to the flat-as-a-pancakeness of brown Botswana.
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A small gorge where the rushing water has worn some cool pothole-like things in the rocks.
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Friday, January 4, 2008

Gone fishin'

I've gone fishing a few times in my life, but those times were long, long ago (in a very innocent and idyllic youth). The truth is, however, that I look quite fondly upon the times I remember fishing, so I was excited to have the opportunity to do it again last week. Luke and Graham, two young men from Canada who recently arrived as returning long-term missionaries with Flying Mission, are avid fishermen and invited me on a trip to Mafikeng, just across the South African border. We decided to make a day of it, and although it was already lunch time by the time we got to the dam where we were fishing, we got quite a few hours of fishing in. We caught a few fish here and there, all of them largemouth bass. The fishing was a bit slow most of the time, but the best part of the day for me was just getting away from the house and the airport and spending time outdoors under the sun around a pretty lake. Most of the fish we caught were too small to keep and we had to throw them back. Actually, to be honest, I was having quite bad luck with the fishing, and hadn't had more than a few serious nibbles on my line all day. We were just getting ready to pack it in so we could make the drive back in daylight (roads here are dangerous at night, what with all the cows and goats and such wandering around), and decided to take a few more casts. Graham, who had stopped fishing already, was watching and told me it was now or never...we needed a fish big enough for dinner. Well, it just so happened that right about then there was an obliging decent-sized bass that decided to go for my bait, and after a short struggle when he got tied up in a fence a few feet offshore, we had dinner. So we packed him in, headed home, and fried the tasty little guy up. He went down real nice with some tartar sauce and chips on the side.