Hot Water

Linda Lou Burton posting from Abeid Amani Karume International Airport, Stone Town, Zanzibar, Tanzania – If I haven’t said it yet, I’ll say it now. A cool, air conditioned van with cushy upholstered seats and a wide sliding door on the side beats a 4×4 for basic travel. No ladder step! No twisting and maneuvering my way to 3rd row back. Zanzibar’s roads were decently smooth too. And then there was Ali, the calmest driver I’ve ever ridden with (and that includes family, friends, and NY cabbies!). Plus he was reassuring. He arrived at the hotel on time; we arrived at the airport on time. He told us to wait as he went inside to make arrangements for my wheelchair. He pushed me quite a long distance into the terminal, introduced me to Mark, the gentleman who would get me all the way through the airport to my gate. And then, goodbye. The airport was sparkling clean with gleaming white tiles; employees were dressed in black. Mark looked immaculate in a black suit, white shirt, black tie. He pushed me (and led Rick) to the counter for checkin. The agent there, a woman also dressed in black (head covered, face not), stepped from behind the counter so she could speak with me eye-to-eye as I sat in my wheelchair. I explained that I’d need a wheelchair in Zurich and Reykjavik, but had not been able to include that in the reservation. She quietly processed everything and handed us our boarding passes, with a smile! Mark then pushed me through a series of check points and x-rays and scans and, yes, a standing-up pat-down by a gloved female. Then a chair right by the gate, with wheelchair waiting to get me all the way to the plane! Needless to say, that set the bar VERY HIGH for airport standards around the world.

Until. I asked for some water and a restroom. After my pat-down, I was considered a secured passenger. But alas, even though I was pushed in my wheelchair by airport staff to a restroom, pushed INTO the restroom by said staff, and locked in; even then; I had to go through another standing-up pat-down before returning to my chair. I managed to get a bottle of sprite for me and a fanta orange for Rick on this journey – we hadn’t eaten dinner. Yikes, I won’t move AGAIN, I thought, sipping my sprite in tiny swallows. I had a pain under my rib cage; it always hurts when I’m extremely tired or tense; and the more I thought about it, the worse it got. Eight hours of a tiny seat in coach ahead of me, aahh, I’ll take a Tylenol AND the pain pill my doctor had given me for the absolute worst emergencies. So I did. All my evening meds were in my Pill Minder; hmmm, I’ll take these now too, so I don’t forget. Gulp, gulp.

The crew arrived, spiffy in Edelweiss Airlines garb, so European in style! OH MY, I thought – are Friedrich and Frieda part of this crew? I clung to my sprite bottle, determined not to be deprived of something to drink EVER AGAIN. Next thing I know, I’m pushed to the door of the plane, assisted to my seat, and tucked into my 8-hour coach-prison. Rick squeezed into the seat beside; we buckled up. And then it happened. That sprite I’d been sipping on came back up. Just sprite, in two rapid upchucks (gross I know), spilling all down my shirt. I didn’t have time to reach for a Sickness Bag, just pow, there it was – I was soaking wet. Even Rick wasn’t aware of what had happened!

Sometimes an angel is one step ahead of us. When I zipped up fancy-schmancy in the hotel, things just didn’t fit, so my blue-knit night-shirt got crammed into my backpack. First time on the entire trip I’d put any clothing there. Awesome, I’m thinking, sitting there now soaking wet. I can go to the restroom with my backpack, get out my night-shirt, clean up, dry off, and nobody needs to know of my mishap. We were on the row right in front of the restrooms; just a swift step in. Blue-knit night-shirt looked like a tee shirt; I tucked up some of its length; good to go. Back to my seat. Buckled.

The flight attendants were busy getting everyone settled in. The pain under my rib cage continued, the stress building. At home, a Tylenol and my electric heating pad take care of that problem. No heating pads here. Then I remembered the lovely hot water bottles tucked into our bed in the tent camps, all cozily wrapped in flannel, so comforting! Ah, an idea; surely they’d have such a thing on airplanes too! I signaled to an attendant (no, she didn’t look anything like Freida). “Could you bring me a hot water bottle, please?” This fell into the realm of an answer on Jeopardy. “A hot water bottle? You want a bottle of hot water?” She looked genuinely puzzled. I explained about these strange bottles filled with hot water that one could place against ones body for warmth, or to ease pain.

“Pain?” she said, eyebrows raised. “You are in pain? Where is your pain?” Before I realized how my answer would affect the next moments, I replied “In my chest.” This set off a series of alarms and commotion befitting the arrival of a baby or something equally monumental. Suddenly a nurse appeared; the passenger across the aisle announced he was a doctor. Questions, questions, questions. “They are going to haul me off this plane,” I realized. “It’s my RIGHT side,” I said, as fast as I could think. “It’s a surgical scar! Sometimes it acts up!” What kind of surgery? How long ago? Ten minutes of questioning ensued before calm finally settled in. The aisle began to clear. Rick, and the passenger on the other side of me, each patted my shoulder. “Whew, that was close.”

And then, the nice non-Freida attendant was back. “I have a hot water bottle for you,” she said. “I hope this helps.” She had taken a two-liter sprite bottle, filled it with water, wrapped it in a towel, and microwaved it. The plane took off. I left Africa wearing a blue-knit night-shirt overlain by a bottle of hot water. Adventure 101, I passed.


 Fisherman’s Tours

Abeid Amani Karume International Airport

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