Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Day 3

Oh, how dreary. Nebraska and Iowa, dark, gloomy, rain, rain, rain. Woke up in Omaha, got my shower and dressed for breakfast.

Not as many people in the dining car this A.M. I joined the young man from Africa at his table. His parents were sitting across the aisle. He sat with me until my order came, as he had finished when I was seated. We had a chance to catch up from our conversation we started on the platform in Denver.

He does not live in South Africa with his parents, but lives in neighboring Botswana. His brother in Milwaukee works in the pharmaceutical industry, and may possibly transfer to New Zealand. In 1994, this very interesting and pleasant young man was in the U.S. traveling around with friends, therefore he has had a chance to see more of the great sights. He mentioned the Grand Canyon, stating he doesn't like heights and could not hike down there.

After he left the table, I ate my breakfast, and was then joined when having coffee by a woman from Palo Alto I had met the first day. She works in the aerospace industry in Mountainview - has done so for twenty-some years. We discussed California real estate prices. She and her husband purchased their three bedroom ranch type house in 1974 for $43,000 and it is now worth around one million dollars.

The attendant from the coach I was in before acquiring my room in the crew car is a young African American girl with pretty long braids. She is a sweetheart. Her room in the crew car is basically across from mine and we run into each other on a semi-regular basis. She is so cheerful and always seems happy to see me.

"You're really enjoying your sleeper, aren't you," she just now remarked.

"Yes, and I am doing the housekeeping in your bathroom so you won't have to worry about it."

All day yesterday, various of the dining car attendants made a big deal about the fact that I was in "their car."

"Yeah, she's in our car!" one would state to another.

It feels like I am getting special treatment when in reality I am probably not. The attendant for this car just stopped by my room and asked how I am doing. We discussed this dismal weather. There are storms and severe weather predicted, which will affect our schedule. I could miss my connection to D.C.

"Can I get you anything to drink - juice, bottled water?"

"No, I'm fine."

Super care around here. Late last night, at midnight, the dining car steward came through to her room and I mentioned the toilet wouldn't flush - asked her to tell some of the men if she saw anyone. In this particular car, the toilets don't work at high elevations and the conductor or whoever is downstairs in the crew lounge, has to flip some switches inside a panel down there to activate the vacuum system. The conductor explained to me yesterday that it is a design malfunction from the specific time period in which this car was produced.

She returned to my room and told me that I could try to flush - it should be OK.

Just crossed the Mississippi, at Burlington, Iowa. Nasty storms - we are trying to stay behind the really big winds, making us late for Chicago. Train personnel are in constant contact with the Fort Worth radar tracking system.

Johann, the young man from Bostwana, spent a long time before lunch talking to me about his job in Africa. He is a guide for photographic safaris in Botswana, Namibia & Zambia.

He and his parents are traveling in this car, a couple of rooms from mine. I had asked him what he does for a living and he said, "Here, I'll show you," taking a large portfolio out of his bag.

We sat in an empty room, to enable us to stretch out and use the light from the windows as we talked. Johann went into great detail about the various choices of safaris, and told me quite a bit about each region, especially the Okavango Delta area.

He explained many of the photos in the brochure, including the various peoples, their languages and cultures. When we weren't discussing the safaris and life in Africa, we became very involved in a lengthy discussion of languages and accents. He and his parents speak several languages - Dutch, Flemish, German, and African tribal languages - Zulu, etc.

My love of languages and interest in trying to decide exactly where a person is from, by accent, prompted probably the most involved discussion I have ever had on the subject. I had detected Dutch, along with a touch of German, in his father's accent last night, and I was correct.

Johann said that his family history goes back to the 1700's and is a mix of Dutch, Flemish, and Indonesian, although they are very much Caucasian in appearance, and they learned British English in their early years in school.

We talked about many accents in the States, but we discussed European and African languages more. I loved it when he demonstrated the African language with the click click sound. I have always found that fascinating. He is such an intelligent person, and so willing to entertain an "old lady" - acted as though he was very interested in telling me about his life.

In fact, he gave me the brochure, and his card. It is the only copy he has on the train, but insisted he has four copies in Milwaukee - one for each of his two brothers and two for his cousins. He also wanted to show them what he does. He has been working for Penduka Safaris for a while; it is a family owned operation which has been in existence since 1963.

One interesting incident Johann was relating to me was a campfire evening near a hippo pond. Two lions, about six miles from each other, were calling out, when one of the German women in the group fell to the ground in fear, as a lion decided to take a shortcut right through the campsite, about 15 feet from them. He said that was rather exciting. The lion didn't bother them because of the fire and lanterns, and the smell of fuel, but was just going from here to there.

What a conversation we had. I could have listened for hours, but we had to break for lunch, as Susan, the dining car steward, stopped by to tell us about lunch, and told me, specifically, that they were out of dessert so lunch would be short.

Tornado warning ahead - train is delayed because of weather - checking tracks - want to keep us safe.


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