Easter is nearly upon us and so the Littles are on their school holidays and we are escaping Angola for a week and heading to Cape Town. The excitement in the Foley household is palpable. In all honesty we could be going anywhere and still be high on the thought of getting out. I am giddy with fantasies of being able to stroll safely down the street, go to restaurants where I shan’t be fleeced for a deeply disappointing meal that takes hours to appear, buy fresh milk, not have to pick weevils out of pasta and run somewhere where my sweat can evaporate and not fill my running shoes to the point where I squelch the last 5 km.
As I type this my husband is busy making a family sized packed lunch for the plane. We’re flying with Air Namibia and there’s no telling what the food will be like. I m horrible when I m hungry so he feels that the extra kilo of Marmite sandwiches that we’ll have to hump around is well worth it. I’m taking a risk by not overseeing the sandwich making proceedings as he is not a Marmite eater and, in ignorance, tends to spread it like jam – my gums will still be throbbing into next week. We’re stopping over in Windhoek, capital of Namibia, but I m not sure if 1.5 hours in an airport allows us to say that we’ve really visited the place. I’m hoping that it’s a decent plane as my fear of flying continues to put a dampener on any trip by air. Number 2 child (6 years) has an obsession with catastrophes this week and has been busy drawing pictures of planes being hit by either lightning or tornadoes and falling apart and passengers falling out. Just looking at them makes me want to practice my breathing exercises and get into the brace position.
My only reservation about leaving is the fact that it’s the rainy season and we have had an almost unprecedented amount of rainfall. This in itself is not a bad thing, although there has been severe flooding to the south, the problem for us is that our home is like a sieve and every time the heavens open we have to strategically place towels around the house. After the rain we get an influx of creepy crawlies and slugs which can fit through the gaps at the bottom of our exterior doors. The snails would join the party too but their shells prevent them from squeezing through the gap so they just watch through the window. Luckily we have many house lizards which help to remove some of the unwanted guests, I just wish they would stop using my shoes as hideouts.
There is an ominous bulge on the ceiling in the living room and every time it rains it gets a little fatter. It’s like a giant abscess and everyday I have to resist the urge to lance it with a sharpened pencil.
I am in no doubt that once we hit South Africa we will be in such a state of bliss that we wouldn’t care if our Angolan house got so water-logged that it washed down the road and into the sea.
We recently learnt the hard way that it isn’t wise to visit the beach within 48 hours of heavy rain. Our boat taxi pulled up to the shore and as we disembarked into the surf we were forced to navigate our way through a wide variety of rubbish including dirty nappies (diapers) and a very smelly dead dog. Having gone to all the effort of making a picnic and hauling all of our beach equipment there, we were not going to let any amount of human detritus or putrid animals put us off from a fun day at the beach. We consumed our ham sandwiches and built a couple of sandcastles before leaping back into the boat and racing home to thoroughly disinfect ourselves.
The beaches of Cape Town will be a far cry from our local patch of sand and on that note I better go and finish packing…..
I m back. I know…. I ve been terribly lax with this blog. I have a long list of plausible excuses, most of which have given me lots of new material to tell you about.
Speaking of which, I d like to take you back to December and to my first reason for my blogging hiatus…… It was 4 days before Christmas and I was just getting off my bike (which for safety reasons is mounted on a trainer in my storage room – thus avoiding the need to ride on the very dangerous roads here). I slipped in a pool of my own sweat and landed, ribs first, onto the crossbar of my bike. Unable to breathe properly and in excruciating pain (I have given birth to 3 kids drug-free so I m normally pretty good with pain) I managed to call my husband and wheeze at him enough to make him realise that I wasn’t making a prank call and that perhaps he should come home immediately. Meanwhile, I sent number one child to get help on the compound. In a moment of need, there is no better place to be than on a compound full of stay-at-home expat wives. Immediately a couple of neighbours rushed in and an ambulance was called. Close to losing consciousness, I was helped onto the floor, my legs were raised and the company nurse appeared who kindly injected me with something that took the edge off the pain and then something else to stop the subsequent nausea caused by the stuff that took the edge off the pain. An hour and a half later the ambulance appeared and suddenly the house was full of Angolans who quickly popped me onto a stretcher (a hard one, not one of those nice soft ones) and whisked me outside. Ambulances aren’t in abundance here and the ones that are look pretty rough and ready. I wasn’t prepared for the sleek modern vehicle that I was loaded into. Apart from the mosquitos buzzing around inside (great, if I don’t die from internal bleeding then I ll have Malaria by the time we reach the hospital) and the fact that the paramedics (if that was what they were) sat about chatting and laughing in Portuguese, I could have been in any developed country.
As I have explained before, the traffic is terrible in Luanda and the roads are always congested. Even with the sirens and lights flashing, few cars moved out of our way. The driver had to resort to some pretty fancy manoeuvring to get through. I felt every bump in the road and despite the ‘paramedics’ shouting at him to be a little more gentle on the brake he continued to forge a path through the melee.
I think it took around an hour to get to the hospital that was 8 miles away. In my numbed state it was all a bit of a painful blur. I was unloaded and rushed into a small ‘trauma’ room. Crammed into the small space were two unconscious gentlemen who were clearly in a worse state than me. They were hooked up to various machines that made pinging noises and ventilators to keep the oxygen in their bodies. I really wished that there were curtains to give all of us some privacy, instead I distracted myself by staring at the ceiling and counting the dead flies inside the light fitting. A very officious lady doctor appeared and hooked me up to a couple of bags of clear liquids. She explained what they were but when simply trying to ask for a few hundred grammes of ‘your best’ ham is a challenge, I had no hope of navigating medical jargon in Portuguese. After a while another person in a white coat wandered in and told me in very slow Portuguese that the radiographers who would X-ray me were all at lunch but someone would come and get me when they were full and rested. Two hours later I was man-handled off the stretcher and taken for x-rays before being moved to another equally cramped ward. Over the next few hours I lay on my bed surveying the activity around me. There was a big sign on the wall next to me which said that the key to the Ebola quarantine room was in the desk draw. Ebola had not reached Angola at the time but it didn’t stop me from doing another survey of my room mates and wishing that I had some sanitising hand gel.
Some hours later I was discharged with intact ribs but torn muscles in between them. I was instructed to stay in bed for the next couple of days and avoid sneezing, coughing or laughing. I have to say that the health care wasn’t as bad as I had feared and, other than the traffic and language barrier, probably wasn’t too different to the care I might have received using the public health system back in Britain.
Its been 3 months since then and I am happy to report that I am pain free, have full mobility and a non-slip mat under my bike. I have also been given ‘The dumbest accident of 2014’ award by my tri-team coach so it wasn’t all bad.