Friday, August 10, 2012

African Trip - 1976

by June T. Bassemir

In 1976, it was my pleasure to visit my daughter, Diane who was serving in the Peace Corps, in a country called Central African Republic.  In order to preserve some of my treasured memories. I wrote about them when I returned.  It was quite an adventure for me in many ways, as I had just begun to emerge from my cocoon as a wife and mother, to a woman willing to explore and see the world with different eyes, and to trust that all would be well wherever I would go.  My dear husband loved me enough to let me go, knowing I would come back and report on our daughter’s experiences.  Here is the story of my trip.  (Some names familiar at the time may be dated now.)

     Central African Republic is a small country right in the heart of Africa, 6 degrees above the equator and north of Zaire.  The trip was a two phase one with the first seven hours to Paris and then another seven hours to CAR.  Before I left NY, my oldest brother Roger, was one of those that came to the airport to see me off.  Being well traveled he felt it his duty to give his little sister some advice and the benefit of his experience.   “Now June,” he said, “When you get to Paris, you should enlist the help of the airport people in getting a room so that you can take a rest before the next flight to Africa”.  And this I did, walking with my luggage in tow to a pension near the airport.  I did not speak French but the owners had a heads up from the nice lady at the airport who told them I was on the way.  I was always good at the game of Charades which stood me in good stead as I explained in that “language” that I wanted to be awakened at two o’clock.  “Tick - tock. tick - tock” ….”burr…burr” (imitating a telephone ring)…and then I held up two fingers.  “Oui, Oui, Madame”, the gracious French lady said and led me up three flights of stairs to my room.  With each floor the carpet in the hallway showed significant signs of wear.  Nevertheless, we finally reached the room and she flew open the door to reveal a red covered double bed, its footboard barely missing the open door.  It looked comfortable enough and when the lady left I began to undress.  Next to the bed was a porcelain toilet….or so I thought.  (Remember I had not done much traveling nor was I a woman of the world.)  The bathroom was down the hall.  I tried to take a nap but I lay there wondering if the French lady and her husband, who also witnessed my request, really understood my directions about waking me up at two o’clock.  I am not normally the nervous type but the plane trip to Africa only left France twice a week and if I missed my  flight that day, I would have had to wait 2 days before the next flight.  That would have been a disaster of monumental proportions.   This worry, of course would not go away so within forty five minutes, I dressed and headed downstairs to the lobby.  Perplexed, the owners tried to understand why I had come down and so I had to play Charades again….”burr burr….No No”.  Undoubtedly, my action reinforced their opinion of “those crazy Americans.”  Nevertheless I whiled away the time by walking around the streets.  Not far away from the pension I found a small pastry shop where I spent lots of money on the most delicious pastries I have ever tasted…. then and now.

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1 comment:

  1. A remarkable trip and remarkable story! The trip of a lifetime, I'd suppose. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.