(Note this is a continuing story.
The adventures of Mykel's Africa trip begin here.)
PASSAGE TO AFRICA
Chapter 2, Two weeks before (Continued)
So, I'm sicker than any dog I've known. In fact, the sick dogs complain that they're sick as a Mykel.
Coughing continually, unable to keep food down. The doctor says it's excess stomach acid, prescribes x-rays and an acid reducer. They thin my wallet, but do nothing for the sickness. I'm afraid I'm going to have to live/die with it. Excuse me while I cough up breakfast....
For the past week, I was so sick I couldn't even put on my boots ...padded through the time with sneakers. I barely have the effort to work on my revamped computer... uses Linux... found it in the garbage and put on the new system. That's the one I'll take with me. I should get some practice. But I can hardly open it... I'm so sick.
On top of that, I lost my cellphone, tore my apartment up looking for it... went through hell with T-mobile to order a new one. More expense and a hugely frustrating time dealing with t-mobile's automatic operator. In fact, the experience was so aggravating, it gave me the energy to put on my boots and take a walk... to work out the anger.
Putting on my boots... I find the cellphone... in the right boot. That's where we left it last time.
BEFORE THE TRIP: PART 2
Cellphone in a shoe. Most logical place in the world for it. How could I have NOT looked there instead of crawling under the videoshelf behind the printer against the wall? What an idiot, right?
SHIT! I'm going to have to call T-Mobile back and cancel the order. I don't know if I can face that horrible electronic woman again. My head will explode!
I procrastinate. Plug the phone into the charger. Recharge it. Wash the dishes. A few games of Spider Solitaire. Play on the internet. Do that thing that boys do when they have to do something else, but don't want to do it.
Practice my French verbs: Je suis. Tu es. Elle/il/on est. Nous somme. Vous êtez. Elles/ils sont. Ok, now let's try boire... manger... aller... avoir... Now.... okay. Time to bite the bullet.
I pick up the phone and again dial T-Mobile.
Please enter your cellphone number.
Cracking my teeth on the bullet I'm biting, I go through step by step. Just like I did it the last time.
Ok, representative.... CLICK... All representatives are currently busy helping other customers. Your call is important to us. You will speak to a representative in approximately.... thirty.... four.... minutes.
I will not break anything. I will not hang up and start again. I will sit here and play solitaire for thirty four minutes. I will study French. I will email my contacts in Senegal. All my contacts for the trip... from France to The Gambia... Remind 'em I'm coming... Set dates and times... It's my half hour. I don't want to let T-Mobile steal it from me.
I quickly send a form letter to my Facebook and Couch-surfing contacts in Europe, Morocco, Senegal and The Gambia. It's good just to keep in touch, you know. Just let 'em know when I'm coming.
Then the ads come on the phone: Do you know that T-mobile has the largest 4G network in the country. Why not join millions of others.... and more stuff. I continue to work on the French.
Je vais. Tu vas. Elle/il/on va. Nous allons. Vous allez. Elles/ils vont. J'allais. Tu allais. Elle/il/on...
Ok, I switch computers... to the one I found in the garbage. I wiped the hard drive and put in Linux. Since I'll be taking that with me to Africa, I probably should practice using it. I pull out the ethernet cord from my Toshiba and plug it into my found Gateway. Then I check into Facebook. It hasn't been long since I sent out my form letter, but already I have an answer... from Karima, my hostess in Senegal.
Here's the entire exchange:
No answer in awhile. I'm guessing you don't have Internet/Facebook access every day. I'm following the videos on YouTube & elsewhere. Right now, I arrive in Dakar on April 6 at 6:20 PM (Coming from Brussels) Please let me know what I should do from the Airport.
Karima Grant Abbott
And by the way i do have fb/and regular internet access -- guess what?! With ten people dead, you have NOT been my priority.
Might you show the slightest bit of concern for me or my family? For someone who is 'following' the circumstance (what are we, reality tv for you?!) sending such a self interested letter the eve of elections is probably the height of insensitivity ( and smells of a real American narcissism). I am not interested in hosting anyone in my home who does not have the minimum amount of generosity of spirit to inquire into my well being. Here in Senegal we call that teggin.
Plenty of hotels plenty of guidebooks. You'll do fine. You know what you want after all, the hell with the rest of us.
I'm sorry. I wasn't aware that the Senegal situation was so serious. The news here is vague and my French is not up to the level where I can understand the details of what his happening there. I really apologize. I hope everything is okay there, it never occurred to me you were in danger. I was inspired by the woman's march on your home page and thought that meant things were getting better.
Karima Grant Abbott
Mykel, I have been communicating to you directly about the circumstance asking you to consider postponing. Look back at the last correspondence we had and READ your response. Did you take the opportunity to see that I couldn't commit to anything? Did you for a minute put yourself in our position?
You had the absolute privilege of the tourist of being concerned only with yourself and your object. I wish you had been listening for the many times I declared uncertainty as hard as I listened to your desire to come at all costs.
I doubt very seriously that such selfish, objectified listening will yield any important discoveries about Senegal or Africa as much as they will confirm previous entrenched notions of just how we hear the developing world.
So that's that. My place to stay, gone in a fallen swoop. Met with such hostility... what can I do? I brought my passport to the Gambian consulate. They charge $100 for a visa. I paid it already. I at least need to go to Senegal to get to The Gambia.
[Note: The Gambian consulate was the nicest, most humane bureaucracy I've ever dealt with. The consular general must be older than me. A fine gentlemen, gray hair, big smile. When I hand him my papers, he chucks me under the chin. Gives my beard a tug. “You'll love The Gambia,” he tells me.
I'm the only white guy in the tiny office. The others are all Gambian citizens, needing the comfort of a consulate to take care of their problems. One can only imagine... this is the U.S. for fuck's sake.
Each person waiting to see the counselor, shakes my hand, introduces him or herself, and tells me I'm going to love The Gambia. Too good to be true? We'll see.]
Ok, that's another hundred bucks to change my plane schedule... maybe more... to cut down on Senegal. Stay another week in Morocco, take it from Senegal. If Senegal is too bad or two expensive, I can always go to the Gambia... yeah, we'll see.
Welcome to T-Mobile, how can I help you?
It's not the same guy I spoke to before. I explain that I put in an order for a new cellphone. In the meantime, I found my old one. Now I want to cancel the order.
“No problem,” he says, “the UPS package requires a signature. Just refuse it and it will be returned to us. We'll credit your account.”
At 10 AM the next day, Monday, my buzzer rings. I answer the intercom.
WHO IS IT?
I DON'T WANT THE PACKAGE.
I just need to get in, I have other packages.
I buzz him in. Then, take care of some more stuff on the modified computer... start writing this blog, as a matter of fact. But I can't concentrate. I'm too shaken by the email from Senegal. Karima, the woman I was counting on, not only is the cousin of my French teacher, but she was a best friend's daughter's babysitter... for years. I asked the American family to prepare letters... photos... personal things for me to take to Senegal. I thought Karima would like these tokens from a past life. I sure would like it if someone brought me memory triggers from my life in Germany in 1972!
It's as depressing as hell to lose that contact and that connection... before I even get out of this country.
I'm going out for a walk. Time to go out. I put on my boots. Put my cellphone in my shirt pocket. Go down the elevator to the lobby where, in the corner, is the cellphone the UPS guy dropped off... without my signature. Now what am I going to do?
I pick up the package and bring it outside. I look for one of those brown UPS trucks. Maybe I can find the driver and give the phone back to him. There's a truck, just down Bleecker Street, on the other side of Broadway. And... there's another truck... the other way down Bleecker Street. And... there's another truck, around the corner on Mercer Street. FUCK!
Okay, Broadway is a big dividing line. I'm sure the territory starts there, so I can ignore the one on the other side. The truck on Mercer is closer than the one further down Bleecker... and when UPS was good, the same driver delivered to me and Mercer.
I walk over to the truck. It's locked up tighter than a Taliban virgin. I sit on a fire hydrant and wait... and wait. My bladder is in no waiting mood, but I have no choice. I press my knees together... harder... I ask the custodian of the nearest building, “you see the UPS guy?”
“He's around here somewhere,” he says. “Just wait and he'll be back.”
I wait some more.... and some more. I think I'm gonna die... I look for a corner to take care of my need. Now, there's a guy dressed in brown. A cheery whiteguy with gray hair... whistling... swinging his head back and forth in time to his own music. Happy as a Republican at a book burning.
I walk up to him even before he gets to the truck.
“Did you deliver to Bleecker Street around the corner?” I yell.
“That's me.” he answers, smiling.
“I don't want this package,” I say thrusting it at him. “You delivered it. It requires a signature, but you delivered it. I don't want it. Take it back.”
He takes the package from my hands, looks at it, shrugs, and then says, “No problem.”
WADDAY MEAN NO PROBLEM. I HAD TO CHASE AFTER YOU. THEN I HAD TO WAIT FOR YOU AND IT'S NO PROBLEM?
He smiles, puts the package in his truck. He does not give me a receipt before he climbs into the truck and takes off. (The only Yelp location for UPS in general (NOT a UPS store) is this one in Secaucus. I wrote a review. Another great UPS link is here.)
I race back to my apartment, the elevator is waiting. The first GOOD LUCK I've had since this adventure began. Bang! Upstairs! Bang! To the bathroom to relieve myself. Bang! My just found cellphone falls into the toilet. There is a hissing noise.