Last night abroad

I leave Botswana tomorrow, and even though the date of July 18th has been in my head all year, it still doesn’t quite feel here.

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Some people in the departments of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Botswana were interested in what I’d seen this year, so I gave them an informal presentation. Here I am with some of the attendees.

My trip home will take 28 hours, including a couple hours in Doha (hello again!) on the way to NYC. Thanks to the new electronics restriction on flights coming into the US from the Middle East, I was going to have to pack my laptop away in my checked bag for the whole trip (and worry about it not breaking – a nice welcome home from the new president). But just now as I went to check in with Qatar Airways, I saw that the ban was lifted, so that’s good news! Now I’ll be able to take my Kindle on the plane with me and finally finish the book I started ages ago (The Goldfinch).

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Wire animals at Princess Marina Hospital, the main public hospital in Gaborone.

I’ve been packing for the last time today, and I’m definitely ready to stop living out of my suitcase. I’ve somehow accumulated a extra bag’s worth of stuff over the year – I packed so tightly when I left that I didn’t leave room for the few clothes, small trinkets, and many papers that I would acquire throughout the year. My packing right now is a bit sloppier than most of the times I’ve packed this year, but this time I just have to get my stuff home instead of setting up someplace new.

Most of what I brought with me is coming back, except for pants I managed to rip yesterday (oops) and the travel quick-dry granny panties I unceremoniously tossed a few days ago. A few other things got tossed and replaced throughout the year, but for the most part I’m very happy with what I packed.

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I went to a cafe in Gaborone that had this framed Swedish bill (it’s 100 Swedish kronor, about $12). It completely took me by surprise, and all of a sudden I was thrown into a bunch of memories from last fall. I feel like this will be how I know that the Watson has been real, that I’ve really been to these places and left little bits of myself in them – when these random reminders appear out of nowhere and pull at my emotions and my memories.

Today is President’s Day in Botswana, and as presidents are apparently very revered here, everything is closed. Botswana will stay quiet until Wednesday (after I’m gone), and the one meeting I had scheduled for late last week was canceled because the doctor started his holiday a bit early. It’s been nice to slowly wrap things up and not worry about any more meetings, but now I’m getting antsy to go home (I wish, at least, my Zumba class were open today, or the cafe where I have a free coffee that I’ll never redeem). The journey home will be long enough that I want to get it started!

I’m very excited to finally come home and return to NYC after the longest continuous time I’ve spent away from the city. I’m sure the end-of-Watson feelings will kick in a bit later, maybe on the plane – I’ve said a lot of goodbyes these past few days without actually feeling them. (I think that after a certain number of goodbyes, you just go through the motions because it would be too emotionally exhausting to really feel them all. That will all sink in eventually, too). For now, I’m excited to have one last crazy long journey and go home to my friends, family, and of course, the dog.

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Of course, this isn’t my dog – this is Butters, one of the dogs at the Airbnb where I’ve been staying in Gaborone. He’s a goofy troublemaker.

P.S. This is my last post written from abroad on the Watson, but not my last post on this blog – I’ll keep writing for a little while longer to cover coming home, the Watson conference, and the final Watson report.

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