I’ve been working on this final blog entry for two and a half months. I started writing this entry from Swanage, England, as I made my way back from Lesotho to the US. I worked a little bit on it while staying with my family in Denton, Texas, and opened it up again while at a Mediterranean style restaurant in San Antonio. Now I’m in Santa Rosa, California, determined to finish what I started. My experience in Lesotho already seems so far removed from my current life. Possibly this is due to the travels I’ve had since returning - having made a road trip across the Southwestern US and working along the Honduras/El Salvador border. But maybe I’ve had trouble finishing this blog for more subtle, difficult to describe reasons. Part of me feels like this last blog entry should be a well thought out, all encompassing synopsis of my experience of living in the Kingdom of the Sky for the last year – wrapping up the advancements made, the joys shared, the loss and pain held inside, mostly out of reach. But I understand there are so many nuances of my experience there I’ll only begin to understand over the next several years of my life, if ever, I suppose. So, instead of waiting for it all to come into focus for myself, I plan only to recount my story, briefly and in simple sentences – and let the rest come as it may. Thanks for sticking with the blog for this long. Knowing that you cared enough to read made writing it so much more fun.
I’ve now finished my year long stint in Lesotho. It’s seems so long ago that I began my time in Africa. Thirteen months have passed. I’ve learned much in this year, and I thank those of you who supported me during the hard times and that laughed with me during the fun times. What follows is a brief summary of the events of the last few months.
Anu’s and Kara’s departures
I missed Anu’s leaving, since I was still in the States on vacation. It was weird coming back to Lesotho without him being there. We learned a lot about ourselves and each other, and I am eternally thankful to him for his patience with me as a friend and roommate, as well as thankful for the time shared and love received from his family while traveling through India. When I got back from the States, not only was Anu gone, but Kara had moved out of the house! She was either tired of the bedbugs, or tired of me, but she did mention something about not wanting to leave Seema alone in her house, or something to that effect. In reality, Kara was in the country for a few more weeks. We had a fun time winding down, and it was great getting to meet her parents – who are as crazy and fun as she is. Lesotho will certainly miss the efforts put forth by Kara and Anu.
My last trip to the mountains went well. I kept to the same day to day routine that Tony and I had made for ourselves over the last several months. Some mornings were spent rounding with the local doctor on the children’s ward, but most of the time was dedicated to heading out to the rural health clinics to help the overworked nurses see the HIV positive patients while teaching them some new things along the way. It was nice to look back and see how much has been done over the year. More children and adults have been tested, put on treatment, and kept healthy. This has added up to us seeing many patients when we come, but we welcome the work since it means more people will be living longer, more productive lives. The nurses are in many ways more comfortable with caring for people with HIV, and Tony and I can see that as they become more independent, our presence in some ways will become less necessary. Even though I was ready
for a rest after long hours in the highlands, it was sad saying goodbye to a good group of people. The nurses and doctors welcomed me warmly a year ago, and I have grown to care for them and the future of Mokhotlong greatly. One of the biggest losses I felt leaving Mokhotlong was departing from the working relationship with Tony Garcia-Prats. More than anyone else, he was my mentor during my time in Africa. I wish him and Heather many continued blessings in their work in Africa.
Wrapping up at the COE
I spent the last month in Lesotho in Maseru, working at the COE, packing up, tying up loose ends (well, most of them), and reflecting on my year here. I was lucky enough to get to train a bit with Megan as she prepared herself for the Soweto marathon that she’ll be running in November. While I was still wearing my ski gear at night, the days were warming up considerably, making the weekend long runs wonderful – clear skies, temperature in the 70s, with a cool breeze helping us through the last stretches.
As is tradition with the departing PAC docs, I said a short speech on my last day at the COE. It was nice to have a chance to thank all those that helped and shared during this year, as well as get to share my feelings on an amazing, difficult, and inspiring year in Lesotho. The next day we had a final party at the house at Happy Villa 4C – bean burritos, caipirinhas, cerveza Sol, good music and good friends. It was in a way the end of an era, now with Anu, Kara, and myself all gone from the house that took care of us for the year. Isaac, our guard and friend was there to say good-bye and also welcome in Tony and Heather, who will be living in 4C now.
I made the drive from Maseru to Johannesburg perhaps for the last time, seeing the rolling hills, wide open fields and sparse trees with a different pair of eyes. The overnight flight from Joburg to London was uneventful. I took a bus south west towards Southampton to spend a few days with Susie and Pete (of Kick For Life), and Susie’s family in the English countryside. We had a great time, from watching the Morrismen dance in the sea, tasting hand pulled British cask ales, climbing trees, exploring a castle, trying “chips” and “mushy peas”, and staying at the delightful B&B that Susie’s family runs. I spent the last day and night in London, going for a great run along the Thames – seeing London Bridge, the Parliament Building and Big Ben, and at night watching England route Croatia, Scotland beat Iceland, and N.Ireland tie with Czech Republic - all at the same sports pub on the same night.
After 2 weeks relaxing with the family in Denton, seeing Dave play good Cuban music and eating great home cooked food, I’ve started my next small adventure. I’m sitting in a café in San Antonio, and have been hanging out with my old friends from college and med school. They’re all grown up. Chuy has joined a private family medicine practice and is talking about getting engaged, Xav is working toward finishing his radiology residency and just got engaged, and Tony is a successful ER doc and living the good life with his lovely family. Tomorrow I head West, planning stops in Las Cruces, Phoenix, LA, San Jose, Santa Rosa, Honduras and El Salvador, and a few other places before I return to Denton for Thanksgiving, Lord willing. It’s been a good year. And if these few weeks back are any indication, I think another good one is just starting.