On Having a Daughter in Africa (25 Hours Away by Jet)


This news came on a day when we had not heard anything from Becky for a while, since she was traveling with friends to South Africa, so she wasn’t anywhere near a computer—and her phone had no service.  I didn’t think I could stand it, but I had to wait another two or three days before I could actually hear from Becky in person that  1) she was alive 2) she had a fabulous time in South Africa and 3) yes, she was indeed standing less than a foot away from the rogue Great White when it rammed the protective cage, pushing through the bars with its teeth.  According to their guide, that sort of thing “has never happened before.”  He was totally shocked that it happened this time.  Becky said it was “awesome,” since she could see its teeth—and could have put her whole arm down its mouth if she’d wanted to!

Needless to say, I’m having difficulty having my girl so far away this year.  The bleak reality – that hits me in the middle of the night or at times when she is sick or hurts her leg or loses her phone—is that 1) I can’t get to her quickly 2) I can’t get her home quickly 3) I can’t think about what might or might not be happening to her, since I can’t do a damn thing about it.

Becky in Downtown Gabarone

This reality has been hitting home recently, since her computer, our link to her through Skype, email or Facebook, died a few weeks ago—and, to top things off, she hasn’t been able to get it repaired.  Apparently, there is no MacBook Pro repair shop in Botswana!  After reading horror stories on line about people having their computers ruined permanently when they sent them off for repairs in South Africa, we still decided that we had no other option—and got her to send it to a repair shop in Capetown.  Three weeks later, however, she still doesn’t have it back.  I can’t even think about it without getting sick in my stomach.

A few days after her computer died, she lost her phone.

So, for the past few weeks,  we have had no way to reach her in an emergency—no link to her sweet self.  I suppose that, if we had to, we could call the University of Botswana’s International Students Office—and they would track her down.  I think of that sort of thing when I’m thinking logically, but, I must admit, that doesn’t happen very often.   What happens instead is raw panic—usually in the middle of the night—that 1) she is sick with the flu 2) she has lost her passport  3) she’s in an African jail for bumping another car in traffic (this actually almost happened!).

My sister said that the best thing I can do this year is to try to put Becky on a shelf in my head, a nice, safe, little shelf where I can always imagine her safe and sound and healthy and happy.  So, that’s what I’m  trying to do.  I recommend it to anyone sending a student abroad:  it usually works during the daytime, at least.  I also recommend giving your son or daughter the request I gave to Becky, “Next time you decide to do something like go underwater to look for Great White Sharks, please don’t tell me about it until after you are back safe and sound in your dorm room (read, “on your safe little shelf”).

4 thoughts on “On Having a Daughter in Africa (25 Hours Away by Jet)

  1. Jane, I have to echo Rebecca. I remember living abroad for 1.5 years with no phone, and no skype, no email and going to the post office monthly (or so) to call home. When I finally got home, I thought how my parents had aged, and they weren’t even 60. More good news…

  2. Wow! That’s really worrying! And I worry about Jonathan driving home from here after a visit! The thing is Becky is probably having the time of her life and has no idea about anything untoward happening to her! Keep the faith Mom. She’ll survive and so will you.

  3. Oh, Jane! Please help me stay sane for the next two months while Claire is in India. Safe little shelf…safe little shelf….

  4. You’re handling it as well as possible, but imagine how it was before phones and computers. I now have more sympathy for my own parents when I would leave for a few days, but I think your friend had some good advice. We have to do a little trusting.

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