Welcome to jdenparis.com.  I'm jd, and I just graduated from college.  For one year before med school, I'll be working and living in Paris, and traveling the world with my job.  Below are my stories, photos, and videos.  Enjoy!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Hello, and welcome to Pretoria

For the past three weeks I've been running around America: commuting from the Island to the City at 7am, crashing on couches (thanks Ken, Ju, Dayna, Bud, Josh, and their respective roommates, Jon('s friend), and Scott Joey and Nii) to save commutes, driving back and forth between DC/MD and New York a few times, and doing med school interviews. I did not stop to rest once, and it was definitely a great three weeks. But alas, I must leave behind my verizon phone and buffalo chicken pizza and resume my duties as the Techincal Assistant to the Deputy Executive Director of the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease. For the next two weeks, that means my first tuberculosis (TB) mission!

Friday at 5pm, I took off from JFK headed for Johannesburg, South Africa. I was told that this route is the longest non-stop commercial flight on Earth. That claim wound up being wrong on two counts: it is neither non-stop, nor the longest (wikipedia has a top 10 list here). We flew for 6 hours across the Atlantic and stopped in Dakar, Senegal. Then another 8 hours to Johannesburg. I slept a good portion of the time and also squeezed in a viewing of Matchstick Men (I had no idea it ends that way!). As it was the Sabbath, and inspired by A Year of Living Biblically, I decided to order the lamb for dinner (apparently lamb is the biblical sabbath meal of choice). Oddly, my lamb arrived smelling, looking, and tasting a whole lot like chicken with rice. Hmph!

After a 24-hour(time adjusted) journey, I arrived safely in South Africa. While it may not have been the longest direct flight, I do believe those 17 hours surpassed my previous record of continuously sitting on an airplane (14 hours from Paris to Mexico City - direct.).

I was greeted at the airport by a really kind driver who identified himself as Lincoln. He took me on the 45 minute trip from Johannesburg to the Waterkloof Guest House in Pretoria. I'm not 100% positive, but I'm almost certain that en route, we passed a dead person lying in the road. There was lots of traffic, I saw two empty sneakers (thought what are those doing there?), and as we passed the police cars, there was young man lying face down on the road - shoeless.

Anyway, the guest house has been nothing short of pretty excellent! I woke up bright and early, then went and had my tasty complimentary breakfast (bacon, eggs, grilled tomato, toast). I also had a really fresh croissant, warm, flaky, buttery. Interestingly, it's been the best croissant I've had on this journey (mind you, I've lived in France for 6 months on and off)!

While sitting in the sun (or rather, the shade - so under rated!) reading my books (I finished Living Biblically, and began Barack Obama's Dreams from my Father) all day, I worked up quite an appetite. Now, the South Africans have a thing for hospitality, which I found out the... uhhh... easy way. I went and asked the receptionist (who I believe is the owner here) if the fruit out was free to take. Her answer did include a resounding "why, yes, of course!" but also (remarkably) a beautiful 'pastrami' sandwich being delivered to my room a few minutes later!

She escorted me into the kitchen and started pulling everything out of the fridge (it's more like a house kitchen than a hotel kitchen - they don't really operate a restaurant here). In her South African accent (think Danny Archer, 'Dinny Ahh Cha' from Blood Diamond), "Here, lets get you some bread, do you keep halal? kosher? [no, not reall-mutters] Ok, here, we have some pastrami, lets slice you up some tomato, you want cheese? no cheese? here, how about a little mayo, do you know mayo? it'll make the meat just.. mmm!" Shortly thereafter I had a 'pastrami' club (or two?) cut up into quarters and served with little gherkins, all complimentary! Nice. I put the pastrami in quotation marks, as this is, like the Glatt Kosher pastrami in le Marais (and the 'smoked meat' in Montreal), NOT like New York Pastrami (capital P). I guess you can't get the real thing anywhere else (except Boca, where I understand Ben's opened up shop a few years back).

It's not all play here, mind you! Today I met with a few members of our team who are currently trickling into town. Tomorrow we have meetings all day, and Tuesday I head out on my first of two missions! This week, I'm going to Mpumalanga, and next week to Limpopo! After that, it's off to Mumbai, India (yes, of Slumdog Millionaire) for the 14th Annual World Conference on Tobacco or Health!

It should be a pretty wild few weeks, and I upgraded to a 2 gig SD card to capture it all. Hope to be able to share more soon!

A bientot,

Saturday, February 14, 2009