January 4, Day 522
The alarm goes off at 6 am to remind me to get out of bed and catch the bus to my village. I cannot do it. Nope.
I physically cannot get out of this comfortable bed and go back to village life. I need one more day. My body is exhausted from being sick and I need to rest somewhere where I don’t have to worry if I will have water and electricity today.
So, I don’t get out of bed.
Instead, I pick up the phone on the nightstand next to the bed and call the front desk.
“Dumela, Mma. This is Abigail Stevenson. I am supposed to check out this morning, but I am wondering if I can extend my stay for a night?” I ask.
“Good morning. Ehh, Mma, you may extend your stay,” the woman replies.
Go back to bed.
Wake up around 9 am, still exhausted and delirious, but I’m up.
Walk to the bathroom, sit down, do my thing.
As I sit and space out, I notice a speckle of blood on the wall.
What the heck?!
My eyes trace the pattern of the speckles and it leads to a big stain of blood all over the bathroom wall.
WHAT THE HECK?!
This definitely isn’t my blood, and as an HIV volunteer I’m totally horrified. I suppose I was so tired last night that I didn’t even notice blood on the walls of my bathroom!
Ummmm, this isn’t going to work. I pack my things up and decide to walk downstairs and ask to change hotel rooms.
I take the elevator down to the first floor lobby and approach the counter.
“Dumela, Mma, o tsogile jang?” I ask the woman at the front desk (Hello, how are you this morning?)
“Dumela, Mma. I am well this morning. How can I help you?” The woman replies, in english.
“I am Abigail Stevenson. I stayed here last night and called earlier to extend my stay for another night. I was just in the bathroom of my room and noticed a large blood stain on the wall,” I say.
“Blood?!” She says, shocked.
“Blood!” I reply.
“Blood? Oh my. We will need to have housekeeping attend to your room immediately. I don’t know how they missed that, I’m so sorry,” She says.
“Well, that’s wonderful that housekeeping will be attending to it, but I would prefer to change rooms just to ensure safety against blood born pathogens,” I explain.
“Have you had breakfast yet?” she asks.
“Oh! Is it still open? I thought I had missed breakfast this morning,” I say.
Yes this hotel, Masa, has free breakfast in the morning. I assumed I missed it and was okay with that. Many volunteers rave about the amazing breakfast at Masa, but to be honest, I think it’s overblown. Usually it’s filled with lots of meat and fruit and the only thing I can eat with substance is potatoes when they have them SOMETIMES. The meat doesn’t look that appetizing and they often serve things like Chinese stirfry for breakfast, which seems a bit odd for me. But hey, who am I to turn down a free breakfast?
“Why don’t you go and eat breakfast. They are about to clean up. While you are eating I will look for another room for you,” the woman says.
Walk over to the breakfast and find that it is mostly already cleaned up. No potatoes today, I guess. The workers are all taking their turns eating breakfast and are sitting at the tables when I arrive. They get up to help me, but I tell them I’m okay and happy to serve myself.
I grab a croissant and some fruit and a cup of coffee. It’s delicious!
Finish and walk back to the front desk.
They tell me they are still working on finding a room for me. So, I decide to treat myself to a little spa day and get my haircut, a massage and pedicure. This will make up for all of the excursions I didn’t get to do in Cape Town. Plus, I’ve been cutting my own hair in Botswana long enough. It’s time for a professional to get involved.
I walk over to the one hair salon that I know of that can cut my kind of hair and ask if anyone is available. I am assigned to a young, hip twenty-something hairdresser who is super nice.
This girl is great. She gives me the best head massage ever while washing my hair and we gab away for hours while she cuts and styles it. She tells me it’s her 21st birthday today, so I decide to tip her extra for her birthday and good service.
My hair rocks. Woo hoo! I will definitely come back to see her again when I need a haircut next time, I decide.
Walk down the hallway of the mall and find the Thai massage place. The woman working there escorts me to my massage room and tells me to undress and put a towel over me.
Do I take my underwear off?
That is always the million dollar question when you get a massage. You don’t want to take it off and then learn that you shouldn’t have and then you seem like a sexual predator or something. But then you also don’t want to leave your big bloomers on and seem like you care about whether someone sees your body and are uncomfortable with the massage.
I opt to take them off and cover myself with the towel and decide it’s her loss if she sees something she didn’t want to.
Massage is amazing and relaxing. The underwear call was the right one. No nether regions exposed.
“I’m so sorry, I live deep in the desert and wear sandals every day so my toes are pretty messed up,” I say to the woman doing my toes. She shrugs in response, which I interpret as meaning “It’s okay, don’t worry”.
Just then, my friend Cathie texts me and tells me she is in Gabs tonight and asks if I’d like to have dinner.
Yes!! I’d love to, I tell her.
Walk back to my hotel and check in again at the front desk to ask about my new bloodless room.
There’s another woman working at the front desk. She appears to be younger and less experienced. I explain my situation to her.
“Blood?!” she says, shocked.
“Blood,” I reply.
“Blood?!” she says again, shocked.
I show her the pictures of the wall.
“Blood!” she says, accepting the situation.
She types away on the computer and says she has found me another room. I see her step away from the computer and speak to the woman who helped me this morning in Setswana. From my poor interpretation skills, it seems that she’s asking the woman I spoke with previously if she should really give me the new room because it’s so small. I see the woman tell her yes, she should give me that room.
Maybe I’m not understanding the conversation correctly?
She takes me on the elevator and walks me to my new room.
As soon as the door opens, I can see this is a closet and yes, I understood the conversation perfectly. This new room literally a tiny closet with no windows. It is dark and has just enough room for a bed. I suspect it’s a closet that has been converted to a room. I can’t even walk next to the bed.
Clearly this is unacceptable. The woman who escorted me to my room knows this is unacceptable judging from the look on her face.
“Okay, will this do?” she asks.
“Yes, this is fine, I guess. It’s much smaller than my other room,” I say.
She walks away. Just as she reaches the elevator bank, my heart drops. This isn’t right! I am a struggling volunteer who doesn’t have an income. I am paying for this room out of my own pocket, on a credit card, and it’s not even a room. I deserve to have a normal room without blood on the walls.
I decide to speak up.
“Wait! I’m sorry, but I feel uncomfortable with this room. This won’t do. It’s so dark, tiny and depressing. My other room had a king sized bed, big windows and a sofa! Do you intentionally give Peace Corps volunteers the not-nice rooms because we get a discount?” I ask her.
“No ma’am, we don’t give Peace Corps volunteers different rooms. This is the only room we have available today,” she says.
I ask to speak to the manager.
We go back down to the first floor, and the manager is the same woman I spoke to this morning. The one who I overheard telling the girl to give me that terrible room.
“I’m sorry, Ma’am but we don’t have another room. The only room we can give you is the small one,” the manager explains.
“Really, no other room?” I ask.
“No other room,” she says.
I know she’s lying. There are seven floors in this hotel and it is quiet. There is no way in the world that there are 700 people staying in this hotel right now.
“Look, I’m not asking for an upgrade here. I’m asking for a room equivalent to the one I had before. The room I had before was a standard room with a couch and a king sized bed. At least give me a window!”
“Again, we don’t have any other rooms,” the manager replies.
“Okay, well then you can go ahead and cancel my reservation for tonight. I’m pretty sure if I walk to the Hilton Garden Inn next door they will charge me the same price and I won’t have blood in my room and I won’t be shoved in a dark closet. I’m sure they treat their customers better,” I say.
Her face drops. She realizes I mean business.
“Well, let me look again and see if we can arrange something,” she says.
Suddenly she is able to scrounge up a room comparable to the same one I had before.
The young girl walks me to the new room, which is beautiful and bodily fluid-free. Fantastic!
She leaves and I unpack my suitcases once again. Throw on something decent to get ready to meet Cathie.
We decide on having Lebonese food tonight. I love, love, love Lebonese food. I sit and wait for Cathie while dreaming of the hummus and pita I will eat tonight.
Cathie arrives. She’s in town helping someone dogsit at their house. Hence, she’s not in her village 5 hours North of Gabs this weekend.
She’s a blast, as usual.
We walk back to my hotel and she grabs a cab to go back to her house. Before getting into the cab, she invites me to come over and swim in the fancy pool and play with the fancy dog that stays at the fancy house she is staying at tomorrow. Cool!
Head back to my room. Take a nice, long, hot shower.
Man am I exhausted.