Tuesday, 27 January 2009

interlude - nails



is it on yet?

is this thing on?

right then. i was sure the lariam would drive me mad, but it hasn't. yet.

i have just one thing to say for now. i will know i have found the right place when i stop biting my damn nails!

T minus 5 days

I think I've had my first lariam dream. Having had only one proper nightmare ever, I was curious about this possible side effect, and almost looking forward to it. Well, last night, I was being chased up a flight of stairs by two axe murderers. Not that uncommon in itself, but unusually stressful. Fortunately, my sleeping brain decided enough was enough and they ended up murdering each other, leaving me to finish my dream fishing for trout in our garden pond.

I am reviewing my To Do list. The longer I look at it, the more convinced I am that something either critical, vital, or essential isn't on it.

Monday, 26 January 2009

T minus 7 days

This time next week, we will be on a plane going to Nairobi. I’m a teensy bit of a nervous wreck. I have cried at Holiday Showdown, The Dog Whisperer (which isn’t as good as It’s Me Or The Dog) and tonight I almost entirely dissolved into a pool of salt water and phlegm during Deep Impact. Hopefully, it’s the lariam. I don’t remember feeling like this when I was doing it ten years ago. But I wasn’t as good at worrying about things then as I am now. Mum, Dad, the cat, money, I don’t think it even occurred to me to worry about anything back then. These days, I’m quite accomplished at it. In fact, it’s a shame it’s not CV worthy.

T minus 25 days

Today, we decided on the name for our blog. I rejected all of Alex’s ideas and he rejected all of mine, except one: losingluggage.com. Our agreement was sublime, not only that, the name was available. The satisfaction of coming up with something that no one else has is primal. Fifteen minutes later and it was ours and we had a nice big tick on our to do list. The first person to hear the name for our blog was my mum’s hairdresser.
“Losing luggage dot com?” she said, arching an eyebrow. “Isn’t that tempting fate?”
“Well, it’s more philosophical,” I explained, silently kicking myself and reaching for something wooden.

I’m beginning to feel sad and worried about my parents and the cat while I’m away. “He [the cat] might be dead by the time you come back,” Mum reminded me tonight as I helped Dad take down the Christmas tree, as if that weren’t depressing enough. Cow.

T minus 40 days

It turns out that we’ll have to fork out as good as 500 quid on pumping ourselves full of tropical diseases in the name of modern medicine. Heps A and B, yellow fever, typhoid, cholera, meningitis and rabies for starters. The guy makes it difficult to tell if he is ripping us off, deliberately anyway, by disguising his calculations with a cloak of incompetence. His pricing seems both random and expensive. And he says disconcerting things like “Was that the rabies jab I just gave you, or meningitis?” When we go back for our last course of rabies with a garnish of Japanese encephalitis, I might bite him.

T minus 49 days

The plan is that this will be transformed from a boring old Word document into a blog. If you’re going to do anything in life, it seems churlish and secretive these days not to broadcast it to the whole world. It all seems terminally modern to me, and I’m quite pleased that, as far as Word is concerned, blog isn’t even a real word. That’s one thing Bill Gates and I can agree on.

T minus 51 days

Perhaps unusually, I’m beginning my travelogue from my desk at home. Having told everyone our plans for the next year (top three comments so far: “That’s going to test the friendship”; “Don’t get pregnant”; “What if I die?” Thanks for that, Mum), and after all the calls made and emails sent to travel agents, and having attended nearly all of Alex’s leaving dos, as far as I’m concerned, we’ve already started. We’ve even come up with a departure date: 1st February.

Frankly, the travel agents haven’t responded with quite the enthusiasm we had hoped for. Trailfinders, the agent I used for my last adventure abroad, seemed a good prospect over the phone and said they looked forward to our visit in store to discuss our trip. But they forgot to agree this with the advisor who served us. Our assigned agent listened with professional patience to our wants list and, when we finished, said “Sure” blandly and we sat in silence as she tapped away at her keyboard, finally announcing an approximate cost of £2.5 grand. Surprised that we weren’t prepared to hand over the cash with gay abandon right there and then, she seemed really quite put out when we asked for suggestions to get the most bang for our buck, apparently exasperated that we didn’t have everything all planned out already and wanted something more from her than a finger workout and a total cost.

So, we sent off 5 emails to different tour operators and travel agents with a proposed route. We were the opposite of inundated with replies. We were entirely undated. With one exception: Paul from Travel Nation, the only one who seemed to have a found job that appealed to any kind of personal interest. At last, we heard the words we had been longing to hear: “If I were you” followed by the clincher: “That’ll save you a grand”. All we’d had to do was remove India and Japan from our itinerary. After all, Africa, South East Asia, Australia, New Zealand and South America is probably enough to be getting on with. He is clearly a genius among travel agents. Now all we have to do is cough up the cash.

In the meantime, I’ve raided Dad’s international contacts list and emailed 99 of his friends and colleagues across the planet. I’m still receiving replies, ranging from offers to connect us with various NGOs, to home invites and road trips, one confused “Professional contact only!” (oops) and only 31 delivery failures. And on leaving Alex’s house this morning, we bumped into the guy from two doors down the road whose family turn out to be based in Nairobi, owning properties all along the east coast of Africa, who has given us his mobile number and promised to send his brother out there an email for us.

So, it feels like we’re well on our way, and we haven’t even bought the tickets.