Packing a Duffel, Prescriptions and Root Canals
In less than three days, I will be returning to my African home and my adopted family and friends. Packing my ONE BAG doesn't take that long any more -- I've been volunteering there for awhile. My wardrobe there is limited to long skirts, tops that cover my shoulders, and hiking shoes. Of course when I'm photographing in the bush, I change to boots and slacks, but it's important to show respect for the culture I live in.
The biggest challenge this year was to get my insurance company to agree to pay for my prescription extensions so that I could have six months of my medications to carry with me. Last year, unfortunately, we didn't make these arrangements for enough time, so some close friends in the US went through the hassle of trying to get the meds to me. It cost almost $300 to have them shipped to Africa (five small bottles), and then Customs impounded them for several weeks in our capital until I proved to them that I was NOT selling drugs! Thank goodness for incredible pharmacists and my doctor who is convinced that the work I do is important; everyone went to "bat" for me, and our battle had a positive outcome!
In spite of careful planning, it seems that there are always last minute "challenges." Much to my horror, I suddenly had a throbbing toothache three weeks ago -- it lasted two days, but then I seemed to be "cured." For my safety, I visited my dentist, who immediately sent me to an endodontist (two weeks later), who after reviewing the problem announced I needed a root canal. I've had many ortho surgeries, and dental work, so I'm fairly "brave" -- my major concern this time was that the procedure was scheduled four days prior to my flying to Africa! My life started feeling like that ball that drops on New Years' Eve in New York City. I was nervous, concerned, a touch scared, and a bunch of other adjectives! To add to my stress level, I suddenly discovered that my VISA credit card would expire while I was in Africa. My bank suggested several ways to deal with this, but the reality is, that the "alternatives" that would be acceptable in America simply would not work in Africa. I love my part-time home there, but am very aware of their restrictions toward money. US dollars are only accepted if they were printed after 2006 and have not been broken (bent or used). No other credit cards are accepted in that area, and this is the ONLY way I can pay a bill (sometimes, at SOME places), or get cash. Much to my relief, I have wonderful bankers who arranged to have a new card "over-nighted" to me!
So, I'm now on the final countdown, and am taking time to realize how many American friends and family are deeply involved in my work in Africa. In order to help earn the money I needed to pay for my expenses, I finally started my THIRD small business a few months ago. PATTICAKES&CO. has been making 24 kinds of cookies, dinner rolls, pans of caramel pecan or cinnamon rolls and many entrees - packaged for the freezer and ready for the holidays. I love to cook and bake, so it was a win/win situation for me as well as my hungry and willing customers.
I've had donations from many people not only of money but also time -- people willing to help solve my challenges. Friends who have helped drop my car off to its winter hideaway, dentists who squeezed in an appointment, doctors and pharmacists who championed my "cause" making arrangements for everything from a Shingles shot to additional prescriptions. Customers who purchased much of my photography including enlargements and greeting cards. My grandkids that drew pictures for me to take, my daughter who's helping make kerchiefs for the Girl Guides there, and the Girl Scouts in Kentucky are writing letters to my Girl Guides, even friends that suggested recipes for me to try in Tanzania. I realize that a few years ago, this started out as "Mom's project" -- but it really isn't any longer.
A BIG THANK YOU (asante sana in Swahili) for all of the friends and family who have become involved - prayers, donations, hugs - in spite of my osteoarthritis and all of the orthopedic surgeries, I am still able to make a positive difference in someones' life.
I REFUSE TO LET A DIAGNOSIS BECOME MY LIFE SENTENCE.
Please have a safe and healthy winter!
Mama P (my Swahili name)