Who are we? 😉
Welcome to our family introductions! We will be taking each family member one at a time, because they are each unique enough to warrant it. We will start things off with Queen Bee.
Queen Bee is the glue. The identity. The soul. The engine. The reason we all do what we do. We live in a typical matriarchal family, and she rules the roost. Or the campsite. She is the alpha-female one might expect an obstetrician to be. It’s hard to be all up in dozens of women’s most intimate lady bits on a daily basis, like thirty seconds after meeting them, without messing with one’s personality a bit. I’m typically reminding her, stop talking to strangers so openly. She’s totally the one who would crawl into a stranger’s van, not for the candy, but for the chat. And to make sure everything checks out ok ‘down there.’
How it started:
Danae was a bit of the driver to this whole hiking thing. She was in America taking her oral boards, the final step to board-certification as a gynecologist, and was clearly looking for a change, an escape, a distraction. She likes change a bit, so I tend to go with it, as long as she’s not changing husbands or bankrupting us. And since it involved buying outdoor gear, I couldn’t resist. She knows my financial weaknesses.
So from America she texts… ‘Let’s hike the Appalachian Trail.’ And then went on a post-exam spending spree, and brought most of the goodies back to Africa. We will get into the rest of that initial planning in a later blog, but she was surprisingly a pushing factor behind all this.
Mommy is the dreamer, scheming big schemes and believing we can accomplish foolish goals. Mama is the stabilizer and backbone of the family. And the picture taker.
The kids know a few things about their Mama:
- Mama is a reckless optimist. Whatever she thinks she spent, double it. Whatever amount of time she says it will take, triple it. ‘Sure, we can hike that!’
- Mama loves pictures. Literally said I couldn’t marry her because we didn’t have enough pictures together. (I immediately went out and bought her a camera.) I bought her a ONE TERABYTE phone the day before we left for the Continental Divide Trail and it was full, as was our one terabyte iCloud, before Yellowstone. We must have a minimum of 130,000 pictures in our iCloud. Probably more. But I don’t know, because my phone can’t update anymore. Because it’s full. Of her pictures. The kids have grown accustomed to stopping and posing several times an hour since childbirth.
- She’s young at heart. Sure, she hobbles around like an octogenarian crawling out of crypt for the first few minutes every morning, literally saying, ‘I’ll be ok. It just takes me a few minutes to get going!’ But she loves to do gymnastics and to hug babies and to feed people candy.
- She’s crazy generous. Mama loves giving stuff away. We don’t have money? No problem, let’s just start giving away our own stuff. Clothing, food, soap, doesn’t matter. She’s been giving away her time and skills in Africa for over a dozen years now.
- She gets angry if you tell her she fell asleep. Even if she was snoring like a lumberjack. For hours. Apparently sleep is for the weak and she cannot be accused of such slanderous treachery.
- She runs on Africa time. A Chadian friend once told me: ‘Americans have watches. Africans have time.’ Danae has taken this to heart and refuses to be on time. ‘Of course the plane will wait for us.’ We’ve missed many flights.
Mommy or Superhero?
In addition to all these things, my wife happens to be a superhero. She’s received an honorary doctorate (in addition to her actual medical doctorate), she’s been named resident teacher of the year for her engagement and encouragement of medical students, she’s been named the best laparoscopic resident for surgery where she trained, she’s been the alumna of the year from the university she graduated from, she’s saved thousands of lives in the hospital, and, get this, she has had her story narrated by the one and only Lisa Ling. I know, right?
Danae has built a reputation for repairing vesico-vaginal fistulae. It’s a horrible thing where birth complications (very common in Chad, Africa) lead to breakdown of tissue in a woman’s pelvis and it heals with a hole between the bladder and vagina, so urine is constantly leaking out of the vagina with no means of controlling it. These women are typically abandoned by their families and arrive to our hospital in poor condition. Danae fattens them up and surgically corrects their issue, restoring them to physical health and social standing. It’s really inspiring. I mean, Lisa Ling for crying out loud!
Queen Bee Hikes!
It turns out Queen Bee does have a mothering instinct besides conceiving and delivering. Surprisingly, we kinda conform to traditional gender roles on the trail, even if we might not off-trail. Queen Bee began the trail cooking most all of our meals, although she has a pretty labor-intensive job just taking care of the baby, especially once Dead Weight started crawling! So I began to do more of the cooking as time went on. Eventually, we hope to entrust this to the older kids, but it’s a bit of a roll-of-the-dice if we’re cooking at the same place we’re sleeping. (We don’t want to spill and attract animals to our campsite.)
Queen Bee hauls Dead Weight in the baby carrier all day, which isn’t simply carrying a heavy object (humans are surprisingly dense!), but carrying a heavy object which likes to move around unexpectedly. It also means being aware of where the sun is, where the wind is coming from, should the baby get out and sit on the toilet, does she need down to wriggle around a bit, singing songs, talking to a creature who has her unique set of babbling utterances… and don’t even get me (or Queen Bee!) started on the challenges of breastfeeding on trail.
Queen Bee at Night
Queen Bee’s other job is to not sleep. Or at least not sleep well. It’s surprisingly distracting to have a leech sucking on your boob all night while you’re trying to sleep. Or so I’ve been told. Pretty much every day, I’ve been told this. It doesn’t seem fun, although I’ve admittedly never tried it. Danae really hates camping with other people, because she feels she needs to keep the baby quiet at night and early morning. Another hiker nicknamed Dead Weight as ‘Alarm Clock,’ because she woke up early each morning looking for a tata to latch onto. I just say, ‘Sorry, dear. I’m still not lactating,” roll over, and go back to sleep. Life just isn’t fair.
Town days and zeroes are also definitely not for Queen Bee what they are for the rest of us. There’s no relaxing when you have five children to entertain. Children who are full of energy and ready to run and scream all over creation. They don’t feel any need for a down day. Add to this Queen Bee’s need to go shopping for a resupply for a family of seven for a week, do laundry, and all the other odds and ends, it’s not much of a rest day.
So if you see Queen Bee out on trail, ask to take a picture with her. Pictures are definitely the way to this woman’s heart.
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