“It’s time to say goodbye, but I think goodbyes are sad and I’d much rather say hello. Hello to a new adventure.” – Ernie Harwell
Part of the process of going on PULSE is to say goodbye to family, friends, and work colleagues in preparation for our time away. Everybody was supportive; after all, I had been talking about this for years. There were get togethers with local friends and family, a trip to see out-of-state family, a summer trip with my kids and other relatives. Many friends and family had been through this with me before, when I backpacked around Europe, and again when I went to live in Germany for an internship for my master’s degree. This time was different though. It had been a very long time since I had been overseas. We were all older, the world was in a much different place, and I had kids. Although they are mostly grown, their mom was about to take off half way around the world to a country many people had never heard of. My parents were also more uncertain of me going away for this length of time. Last of all was the question of how somebody who hated to fly as much as I did was going to make it from Durham, North Carolina to Maseru, Lesotho on 3 flights, including a 15-hour stint over the ocean.
However, as long as I had waited to take part in this experience, I was not going to let any of that stop me. Trying to fit clothes for 3 seasons into 2 suitcases was a challenge, and from my fellow PULSE10 members who had deployed before me, I knew to allow time to pack and repack and repack again. Two heavy suitcases later, I was ready to go.
Luckily all the flights were good ones and I arrived safe and sound in Maseru, Lesotho. The only challenge was the tight connection in Johannesburg, made tighter by a late-arriving flight, a long line at immigration, a search of my bags because I was carrying a medical kit with scissors, and a sprint to the very end of the terminal for the last leg of my flight.
Hello to Lesotho
One of the major things that GSK Security tells you is to make sure you know who is picking you up at the airport. The training shows you the worst-case scenarios, so of course I was obsessed with knowing the name of the person who was going to pick me up and all the other details. The Jhpiego office just let me know that one of their drivers would pick me up and they would stand by the exit door of the airport with a Jhpiego sign. Luckily, the Maseru airport is pretty small, I was waved through immigration despite my answer of “I don’t think so” to the question if I had anything to declare, and the driver was just where the office said he would be, with no nefarious characters waiting to whisk me to parts unknown.
Driving to the hotel, I was struck by how dry everything was. It reminded me of the American southwest. I was fascinated with the new landscape, the shops along the side of the road, and the people coming out to the middle of the road selling fruit. As I have come to find out since, there are small vendors selling fruit all over, which makes it very easy to take the healthy option for a snack.
By the time we got to hotel, I had been traveling for 24 hours. The flat wasn’t ready since I got there early, but the tired look on my face was enough to convince them to assign me to a chalet rather than make me wait the 2 hours. Despite my best intentions, I slept for the rest of the afternoon, but was tired enough to go back to sleep that night. The next day I was off to the office to meet my new colleagues at Jhpiego.