First, and once again, allow me to apologize for the scarcity of my blog updates. My excuse is that the passed few weeks has been a whirlwind of events that has culminated with me sitting here at 8:00pm in Penduka Compound, somewhere near Windhoek, Namibia writing this update.
Getting here wasn’t easy.
I believe the last substantial post I made to this blog detailed my trip to see my daughter in Tucson. That was an eventful trip and completely enjoyable. My son drove in from Oceanside, CA and we celebrated my birthday just having a great time in each other’s company. Of course, club hopping in downtown Tucson helped a bit too. 🙂
My kids are wonderful and gave me a send-off I’ll not soon forget. Nothing illegal (that I’ll talk about), but fun.
I flew back to Orlando for all of one night, then jetted to Philadelphia, rented a wreck (Really! It’s called Rent-a-Wreck and the cars are old, but cheap to rent) and drove to Baltimore to see family and friends.
My sister put me up for 5 days. (Thanks sis!) From there I visiting family and friends, like the evening I spent with my long time friend, Marlene.
Marlene picked The Rusty Scupper, situated in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, an area I used to live in when I was a teenager. I had drove pass the Inner Harbor on several of my visits home, but I never had a chance to really take a look at it, but I did notice that each time I visited there were distinct changes.
I got there early and while I waited for my friend to get through rush hour traffic I took the opportunity to check the harbor out. I immediately recognized the The Constellation, a corvette class schooner that’s been moored there since what seems like forever, and what used to be the Maryland National Bank Building hiding between two newer and somewhat taller structures, but that was it. Federal Hill wasn’t easily visible before, but now almost the whole park can be seen just pass the beach volley ball courts(!) and playgrounds right beside the harbor.
It took me a while to see that the modern brick building standing where the old McCormick spice factory was was actually an updated McCormick building, but now it’s called The Royal Sonesta. (They should have kept the McCormick name.) And it took me a while to locate the Domino Sugar sign that was always visible at night, but it was there just as big and red as always. The rest of the harbor is new and exciting. There was a Festival of Lights taking place, people everywhere, ON A CHILLY WEDNESDAY NIGHT! It is definitely a showplace.
Dinner was fantastic! Baked cod topped with crabmeat. MMMMmmm-Boy! And the company was amazing. Though I’ve known Marlene for over 20 years the woman does not age. We chatted like we haven’t seen each other for a few months instead of a few decades. Such a good time.
The next day was spent trying, ultimately without success, to hold on to my mobile number. I’ve had that number for years and didn’t want it recycled because I won’t be using it for two years. AT&T was NO help. They ran me in circles with one suggestion after another, none of which panned out. I talked to other mobile vendors and they gave me similar songs and dances. I finally settled on a company called Tossable Digits who offers a number ‘parking’ plan for $4 a month. Basically, they take your number and make it virtual, you then get their cheapest plan, which happens to cost $4 a month. As long as you pay your four bucks then your number stays in existence even if you never use it. So, I did that.
Special Note: Those of you who have my 3465 number please hold onto it. I’m getting an in-country number tomorrow and will advertise it here.
Speaking of numbers, I’m currently textable IF you have an iPhone (via iMessage) or have WhatsApp installed. My WhatsApp user name is VernGzr.
Thursday evening was spent with my sisters Zelda, Vicky, and Alethia. They treated me to a crab feast that brought to mind similar family feasts when I was a kid. Paper on the table, steamed corn on the cob, beer.
And steamed blue crabs! Few things taste better.
My family wasn’t done with me yet. My cousin, Stephanie, called aunts and cousins to gather for another send off.
I’m ashamed to admit that I hadn’t gone home since 2011. Doing so was always on my list of things I neended to do each year, but somehow it always slipped off. So, this was a mini family reunion, all focused on me. Sometimes you don’t realize how much you need your family until you are in their presence and you bask in the warmth of memories, acceptance and love. Just the hubbub of congenial conversations punctuated with laughter was enough to permanently etch a smile on my soul. It made me wonder how I could have stayed away for so long. Even my ever busy nephew, David, and his family made it. It was a fantastic evening.
My cousin, Stephanie, still wasn’t through with me and on Saturday she and my cousin, Michael, hung out, ate, chatted, and just enjoyed each other’s company.
Sunday I had to be back in Philadelphia, but before I left Baltimore I had to make one final stop, to see my nephew, Don. My eldest brother, Carl (who has passed on) was a huge positive influence in my life and Don is a spitting image of him. Don looks so much like Carl that it was a bit unsettling to talk to him. That I hadn’t seen Don in far too many years only added to the surrealism of my visit. His mannerisms are so similar to his father’s that I had to keep reminding myself who I was talking to.
I wish I could have spent more time with Don and uber-cute daughter, Noel, but I had to get to Philly in time for my first Peace Corps at 5 that evening.
Once in Philly the pace of my life seemed to speed up so fast it felt like Captain Picard had just directed the helm to take me to warp 6 and commanded, “Engage!”
I had a staging meeting all day Monday and Tuesday at 1:30am we boarded the bus that took me and my fellow volunteers to JFK airport in New York. We checked-in, then waited for our nearly 15 hour flight to Johannesburg , South Africa. I dreaded the flight because it was coach, but it wasn’t as bad as I’d anticipated.
We went through South African customs and then flew to Windhoek (pronounced ‘vin-hook’), Namibia. More customs, but on the far side of that were our Peace Corps greeters.
I’ll leave the story here for now and pick it up in my next post. I got meningitis and rabies shots and interviews in the morning.