I logged a point two yesterday, my first twelve minutes getting paid (actually that's on the down-low until the license conversion goes through) to fly helicopters. We flew just a short distance to the home of a couple of ex-pats who plan to start a search and rescue business that will cover the whole of the Delta. She is a Trauma Doctor and our company will supply the pilot to fly her in and out of the sites in their JetRanger, currently getting retro-fitted with all the EMT-type bell and whistles.
Until I get the converted license, I go through security (at Maun International Airport. It's kind of torn up right now but they are working hard to get the expansion project completed in time for the 2010 World Cup, held in South Africa) with a hand-written ticket as if I were taking the tour. After going through security, I'm free to roam the tarmac unescorted. When I get to the helicopter, I change into the company shirt (that I carry through security) and start to pre-flight. Ya gots to love it.
Getting the medical and license conversion balls rolling serve another purpose as well: They get one used to Africa Time. The pace is pretty slow here and all the forms need to be filled out in triplicate. Then you get to the Doc's office or where ever and they make you fill out the same form again even though you just handed them the completed one.
In between standing in lines that invariably turn out to be the wrong one, I spend a fair bit of time with Sam. He hails from Kasane, in the Northeastern part of the country. He's better educated than most of his countrymen and even has a driver's license, a rarity here. Sam's duties include fueling and washing the helicopters, fetching lunch, and just about anything that needs doing. He always wears a smile and a ridiculous pair of over-sized red sunglasses straight out of 1978.
So, we're chatting yesterday and Sam asks where I learned to fly helicopters. So I say Hawaii and he says, "Hawaii, where is that? I thought it was a pizza."