South Africa a Short Life Changing Journey Off the Beaten Path

South Africa: stamps and temporary residence p...
South Africa: stamps and temporary residence permit (Photo credit: Sem Paradeiro)

I sit here amidst the jumble of a partially cleared suitcase, with the the contents scattered across the entire living room couch, an empty backpack;  trip laundry (waiting patiently to be washed) and assorted clutter from my four day fact finding mission to South Africa. As short frenetic life changing journey’s go, this one has been startling, eye-opening and mesmerising.  I did not go to the usual tourist destinations, my journey was off the beaten path. A path that is now followed by the world’s journalists who, like myself, are looking for information.

Since Friday, when I first started on this fascinating and first of many trips to the country that of South Africa, I have been conspicuously absent from the world. No posts, not even sporadic ones, on my little blog. No tweets on Twitter or Friday shout outs;  no Facebook updates. I was invisible for the entire period of my travel and return. I did post two tweets saying that all would be revealed upon my return, but that was at the end of my journey.

This is the first of a series of posts that I will be doing that are apart from my work for the Guardian Express and not of a film nature.  These will be my own personal observations and what happened (again, on a more personal level) on my journey.  I’ve already written one post and it will follow this one shortly.

I am tired and I’m still suffering the effects of an inoculation I required for my lightening visit to South Africa. I haven’t washed in two days and I’m putting it off until my second cup of coffee and second blog post of the day have been completed. One of the benefits of living alone is that I am the only one who could be offended by the odour of travel dirt and sweat and the remnants of the South African country that still cling to my clothes and body.

Hastily and only partially unpacked suitcase.
Hastily and only partially unpacked suitcase.

I stayed with our local correspondent’s friends and both sets of folks treated me instantly like a long lost relative. At all times in this off the beaten tourist path I had to take, my safety and comfort were the top concerns of my hosts. My short life changing journey was one filled with information on how to survive this dangerous part of the world. South Africa’s crime rate is staggeringly high and it affects everyone, regardless of colour. Outsiders are especially at risk.

I am deeply grateful that I had the support of these “local’s” who knew which sections to steer clear of and how to “travel” from one area to the other in relative safety.

Although I am now back home, I’ve already been told to set the groundwork for another trip to this fascinating country. I still have much to do from the first trip. As it was primarily a fact-finding mission, I have to collate all the pictures I took (over 1,500) copy recordings from an interview, transfer my notes from the visit (slowly and painstakingly from a small “reporter’s” notebook to printed page) and start work on editing the articles written by our talented staff that will be based on my informations. I will have my own articles to write as well.

I am now trying to get my things, and me, organised. Getting ready to have  a nice soaking bath. My entire body aches, I feel like I’ve gone a round with Mike Tyson. I am bruised, battered, sore, dirty, and at the same time, excited, deeply satisfied, and changed.

I have somehow stumbled into a job that I never saw myself doing. I had only started working for the Guardian Express in April this year. I was made Deputy Managing Editor/Senior Entertainment Editor and I was very, very happy. Now through the paper and fate, I’m working in a slightly more serious capacity than reporting what Miley Cyrus‘ latest tattoo is.

I am now doing things that a year ago would have induced gales of laughter from me, as I have  never dreamed of doing anything like this. My last few years of change are now cranking up yet another notch as my newly exciting life changes yet again. God must be chuckling to himself at my bewilderment.  Last year, I pretty much felt that my life was over; at least the interesting and challenging part of it. And like many other mortals, God (or whoever is in charge of our fate) has set out to prove just how wrong I was.

My short life changing journey to South Africa that strayed far from the tourist’s beaten path  has been yet another sudden change in my perspective and vision of life and where I seemingly fit into it. My own personal journey has thrown me into an international arena with professionals who deal with the type of news that I will be reporting on  a daily basis. I am now a “proper” journalist. It excites and terrifies me at the same time.  A lot like South Africa itself.

To be continued…

My work desk.
My work desk.

Matters of my Heart…

English: A thoracic surgeon performs a mitral ...
English: A thoracic surgeon performs a mitral valve replacement at the Fitzsimons Army Medical Center. Slovenščina: Kirurgi med operacijo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s odd. I’ve been sitting here wondering about the bypass surgery and how they went about it. Oh I know what goes on I just don’t know the specifics. *And before you say anything, yes this will be the last time I write about the adventures of my heart…maybe*

After the surgery and before I was allowed to go home, we had a briefing from a lovely lady who was a cardiac specialist. She motioned for  me and my daughter to sit down and then after setting herself down  looked at us and smiled.

“Are you ready for your new life!”

She then went on to say that after the first few weeks, my diet did not have to change one iota. When I questioned this she smiled and said, “You are in recovery mode right now. You can eat whatever you want  and as much as you want. After that the ‘new rules’ will come into being, but we’ll talk about that a little closer to the time. Welcome to your life changing event.”

That  whole somewhat surreal conversation got me thinking then. All sorts of random thoughts swirling around in the  nooks and crannies of my doped up mind. The lady did ask us if we had any questions. I didn’t bother. I was high as a kite with all the ‘feel-good’ stuff they had me on and I knew  that I’d never remember any answers to anything I might ask.

It was only later that, in between pain medication doses, that I started wondering about the whole process and what it ultimately might mean. I know, for instance, that at one point in the procedure they stopped my heart and used a machine to breathe and pump blood for me while they worked on my heart.

Does that mean that, technically at least. I was dead? If I was ‘dead’ would I now be able to ‘see’ dead people? Or go on the road telling fortunes  like some sort of fairground gypsy?

Leaving the fanciful questions behind for a minute, how about when they ‘pulled’ my ribs apart? Did they use some sort of fancy gleaming chrome bolt cutter thing that would look more comfortable in a Slasher movie or something else. Staying with the ribs for a moment longer, how did they ‘wire’ them back up? Did they use some sort of super-glue, or did they use some sort of titanium wire?

When I look at my body I see a mass of stitches and swelling and different shades of bruises. I look like the survivor of a plane wreck or like a chap who went two seconds with Mike Tyson when he was on form.

Mike Tyson: Main Event
Mike Tyson: Main Event (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The whole time I was in hospital the staff kept telling me how great I looked and how wonderful my colour was. If that was true, why do I now look like a 95 year old anemic albino who is tottering slowly towards the gate to the afterlife. Were they exaggerating wildly so that I would check out early and let another customer in?

I can see them now waving at the car I was being driven away in, their other hand over their mouth and giggling uncontrollably. “Can you believe he fell for that!”

Apart from the more immediate events (surgery, re-hab, et al) I also wonder about the long term affects. For example, I had a friend who had his gall bladder removed. No real dramas here, but, ten years later after complaining of an internal pain that the doctors could not pinpoint at all. They opened my friend up for some explorative surgery. They found a set of forceps and a few sponges in his cavity. Not surprisingly,  the pains stopped soon after.

I once met a chap who swore that his grandfather had something similar happen to him. Back in the days when surgery was more of a ‘by-the-seat-of-your-pants practise than today, his grandpa had his appendix removed.

Now grandpa was a big fellow. Tall and big-boned he had worked for years as a circus strong man. His appendix was really causing him some pain, so surgeons quickly got him under knife and had the troublesome organ removed.  Everything was fine at first. Then Gramps began to get hot flashes, hear voices and feel little tremors in the area of his operation.

Doctors admitted that they were puzzled about what was causing these mysterious symptoms. Explorative surgery was quickly set up for the next day. The old circus strong man came in and got ‘prepped’ for surgery.

Surgeons had not even finished their first incision when a pair off hands shot out of the freshly made hole and started pulling the edges apart. The anesthesiologist and two nurses screamed and passed out. The surgeon watched in disbelief when a small medical technician came clambering out of grandpa.

It turns out the the technician had fallen in while over stretching him self to retrieve a clamp. Before he could raise anyone’s attention the surgeon had sewn the circus strongman back up. The hot flashes were from the small tech’s lighter. The sounds of voices had been him screaming for help and then talking to himself. The tremors were from the same technician who kept attempting to climb his way out.

Physically the man’s grandfather recovered well from the surgery. Mentally he did not make out so well. As he got older, the old man had developed the odd habit of screaming and cursing at his stomach if he got a touch of indigestion or heart burn.

So I’ll wait to see what, if anything, was left in my body after my operation. I haven’t got quite the girth of grandpa so I think that small medical staff don’t stand much chance of being trapped in me.  Although I do at times feel like I have a tray or something in my chest after the operation.  So I might have a medical tool tray in there.

Or nothing at all. Medicine has moved on after all.

From a B grade Slasher Film
From a B grade Slasher Film (Photo credit: n8k99)