The autumn colours in Canada are amazing, more so in some parts than others. I was invited to a meeting on ‘Outbreak Interventions’ organised by Quebec International in Quebec City, held early in October. The trees in the city were on display. Words would fail should I try to describe the reds, yellows and oranges, so I am not even going to attempt it. We were given a tour of the city and were told that they had spent money of preserving their elms when Dutch Elm disease swept through North America. These were indeed very magnificent trees, so the money was well spent.
I was in Nairobi for three nights at the end of April. Every evening, Cumulus clouds built up to a wonderful thunderstorm. These remind me so much of my childhood in Swaziland. On the second evening, members of the Board of AIDSpan were invited to Executive Director, Kate MacIntyre’s home outside Nairobi. Here we enjoyed an excellent dinner with the sound of the rain on the tin roof of the dining room: another evocative experience. It is all too easy to forget how disruptive and unpleasant the storms are for people living in shacks which many do in Kenya.
There are sparrows living in the terminal building at National Airport in Washington. Clearly they have found an ecological niche and are making the most of it. I don’t know if they spend all their time in there or if they manage to get in and out. This is the sort of question that I would ‘Google’, but I was unable to connect with the internet. I was too tired to do battle with the technology, especially since I had just 40 minutes before boarding my flight to Toronto. Instead I sat in the boarding area and contemplated. There was an elderly gentleman sitting in there playing snatches of music on a French horn. This was designed to keep the waiting passengers amused I think. Unfortunately he was not very good and did not play any piece for long enough. One of the gate staff walked over, plonked himself in an empty wheelchair next to me, and gently rolled himself back and forth in time to the music while texting furiously. These are the vignettes of the departure gate.
I got back to Canada on 18 February after a short visit to the UK. It was, in my view, just long enough to thaw out. Of course most of the west of the UK was experiencing some of the worst floods on record. It looked quite desperate for many homeowners and farmers. Fields in the Somerset levels are still under water.
There was more snow in Waterloo and it continued to be bitterly cold. The time there on this visit was a little curtailed. I am getting a sense of the place, and what I need and want to do. Buying a car and finding somewhere to live is the next order of business.
The past month has been hectic but rather fun. I left Durban, as promised, on 19 December 2013. That was sad. The last days involved clearing out my office, deciding what needed to be shipped to Canada, stored in the flat, put in the suitcase, or given away. I know that to some extent, I keep my life in boxes. The University of KwaZulu-Natal box is now closed, and, hopefully, the important residual parts are in transit. There is a lot to reflect on, of course. How could there not be after 30 years?
I am extremely lucky to have had the opportunities I did, to connect with people, to build an organisation and support my team’s contribution to knowledge and science which, hopefully, makes a positive difference. I am proud of my own substantial publishing record.