Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Monday, December 15, 2008

Embry has a heartbeat!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Africa Pics

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know it's been three months since my last post. And my promise to share my Africa photos is probably long forgotten by most of my formerly devoted readers.

But for those of you still faithfully checking this site for occasional updates (that's you, Grandpa Bill), I offer the following slide show* as a token, begging your forgiveness for my long cyber silence:



*A huge thank you goes out to our good friend Martha, who spent several hours with me last Saturday afternoon lending her superb photographic eye to view and rank all 2,500+ of my trip photos, narrowing it down to a respectable 141 she thinks best showcase Ru's and my travels. It's safe to say that, without Martha's help, it would probably be 2012 before I made a slide show of the Africa trip ... and it would probably still contain at least 1,200 photos. :) So, visit her site and buy lots of stuff, she's awesome!

Asante sana also goes to Ru, Lina, Mariam, Omilias, Da'Cici, David, Abdul, Moses, Tito, Faridah, Deo, Alex, Dula, Saba, Francesco, Daniele, the kids from St. Barnabas Nursery School (and everyone else I'm forgetting) for making our trip such a wonderful adventure. I feel blessed to have met so many new dadas and kakas, and I wish you all the best of luck wherever life leads you next. Hope to see you soon, this time with G and Embry (or whatever we're calling him/her then) in tow!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Baadae, Tanzania ...

That means see you later, more or less. Despite the fact that there are approximtely 400 ways to greet each other here, nobody ever really says goodbye ... just see you later. I can't think of a more perfect way to sum up this experience. When I started planning this trip, it was one of those, "if I don't do it now, I'll never do it," once in a lifetime kinds of experiences. Now that I'm preparing to fly home in a few hours, though, I know with complete certainty that I'll be back someday, and so I don't even feel that sad to leave.

Ru and I have had an amazing time here. Kilimanjaro was a hundred times harder than we thought it would be, and waaaaaay colder. We hiked 4-17 hours per day for 6 days, averaging about 8 hours per day. I haven't calculated the exact altitudes or mileages for each day, but we climbed up ~15,0000 feet ... and back down again, of course! We passed through several different microclimates and landscapes, from rainforest jungle to the most desolate moon-rock imagineable.

The summit day started at midnight, in the freezing, biting cold (-20C) with only our headlamps (and the moon, for a few hours) to light the way. Ru made it all the way to the tippy top, Uhuru Peak (5895 meters) around 7:30am, just after the most gorgeous sunrise imaginable. I made it to Stella Point (5760 meters), which is the second tallest peak, before turning back around 8am. Part of me wishes I'd been able to keep going, but with 4+ hours left to climb down, and then another 5+ hours to climb later in the day, our excellent guides, Deo and Alex, suggested I turn back at Stella, and I agreed. The view from the top was stunning, and Ru and I can both say unequivicoally that we would not have made it without their help. And as difficult as it was, we can also say it was totally worth it. The scenery, the tremendous sense of accomplishment, and the camaraderie with our team of 8 guides and porters made for an incredible experience all around. There's no mechanism to add pictures from here, but when I get home I definitely will.

After the hike, we met up with Lina in Moshi, and headed out on safari the next day. The 1st day was a dificult transition for us, as we had just spent 6 intense, intimate days with a bunch of Tanzanians speaking Kiswahili and Chaga and climbing a mountain, and suddenly we were stuck in a crowded dala dala with a bunch of other wuzungo (white people) driving around speaking English. We adjusted eventually and had a wonderful time, but there was definitely some culture shock there. Seeing giant animals, including Tembo (elephant), Twiga (giraffe), Simba (lion), wildebeast, buffalo, zebra, hippo, rhino, cheetah, warthog and a gazillion different kind of birds, helped a lot. I can't really explain how beautiful it was to see animals roaming around free, but as Ru pointed out, it was neat that WE were the ones in a cage for once. Between Lake Mayara, Ngorongoro Crater and Tarangire parks, I took about 1,000 pictures of animals. It was awesome!

After the safari, we headed back to Zanzibar by way of a small coastal town called Bagamoyo. It had a lot of colonial history, and is said to be a really beautiful place, but we were so tired of traveling at that point that we didn't get as much out of it as we could have. We made it back to Dar es Salaam just in time to catch the ferry back to ZNZ, which was a huge relief. Getting back to Lina's mom's house made everything seem manageable again. It's just such a relaxing, beautiful, peaceful place and everyone is very friendly and helpful.

Since getting back here on Monday evening, we've gone to visit a nursery school run by Mariam's church, attended a traditional "singo," (read: bachelorette party in which the older women basically teach the bride how to have sex), gone to a Muslim wedding, spent the day at some of the southern beaches, gone on a Spice Tour in which we learned that ginger is a natural viagara for men, toured around Stone Town bargaining for better deals on Zawadi (gifts), learned tons more Kiswahili and helped Cecilia with the cooking. Today Ru and Omi and I made tacos for dinnner to thank the 10 or so family members who have been at the house during our stay.

I had planned to blog more on this trip, but sitting around on the Internet has been the last thing I wanted to do. Not only have I not checked my work email (yay!) I haven't even checked my yahoo mail since the last time I blogged on the 7th. I have, however, taken nearly 2,500 photos, so I'll be sure to post them and write a bit about some of them when I get back. I'm sure going through the photos will remind me of some of the interesting reflections I've had about Tanzania, as well as jogging my memory about some of the fun stories I'd like to share. For now, though, I need to go pack and then get ready to go out dancing for our last night on the town.

Love to all and see you soon!

Baadae, Tanzania!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Mambo!

Poa!

That's just one of the many "street" greetings that Ru and I have learned since arriving in Tanzania last Sunday afternoon. The trip is going very well so far. Dubai (DXB) was totally surreal--we had a female cab driver who had painted the roof of her minivan pink, wore a pink hat over her headscarf and spent the entire ride extolling the virtues of being divorced, and then we went to a mall with an indoor ski slope and saw women with full burkas shopping at dolce gabbana, if that give you an idea of the bizarre juxtapositions.

We only saw the airport in Nairobi (NBO), and it did not make us want to go back. Our flight was over an hour late arriving, meaning we missed our connection to Dar es Salaam (DAR), as well as the ferry to Zanzibar (ZNZ). After much walking back and forth to different desks, waiting in line and talking to different Kenya Airways agents who contradicted whatever the previous staff person had just told us, our persistence paid off, though, and we were able to transfer our ticket to fly directly into Zanzibar (ZNZ). That shaved a good 8 hours off the trip, which was awesome, considering how long it had been since we had slept horizontally at that point!

The only downside to flying straight to ZNZ was that Lina was already in DAR waiting for us. Thus came the first of many experiences in which one of Lina's many family members saved our butts. :) She arranged for her brother Omi to pick us up. Lina's mom's home is ~15 minutes from the airport, and after saying a quick hello to her mom, Mariam, and meeting their housekeeper, Cecilia (Cici), we settled in for a six-or-so-hour nap. I vaguely remember Lina coming in to set up the mosquito net for us when she got back to ZNZ, but otherwise we were dead to the world. We got up around 10:30 to have some of Cici's amazingly good food and Mariam's yummy banana bread, before heading back to bed for another 10 or so hours.

It took a good two days to feel semi-normal again, but ZNZ is a great place to chill and relax. It's the island way. Pole pole, slowly. Omi and Lina did a great job showing us around Stone Town, which is the historic section of Zanzibar, full of gorgeous old, Arabic-influenced buildings. Yesterday, we took the ferry to DAR, where we were met by her cousin, Tito, and later joined by her cousin Moses. They helped us find a hotel and took us out for dinner. Dar is a big, dirty, noisy city, and I hope to spend as little time there as possible.

Then today, we hopped a bus to Moshi. On our own for the first time since we arrived, Ru and I have spent a good deal of time today reflecting on how kind and generous and helpful everyone has been. We miss Lina and Omi!

Anyhow, the cafe is closing now, so I have to sign off. We leave for our hike up the Machame route of Kilimanjaro tomorrow morning!!!! Then Lina will meet us for a safari, then back to ZNZ.

Love to all. Happy birthday to Jalen, Bon, Susan, Graham and Susan, and happy wedding to Melissa and Kate!

Friday, August 1, 2008

246,000 # of gasoline

So, we're a little delayed in taking off because they got a late start fueling the aircraft, and apparently it takes kind of a long time to add that much gasoline to an airplane this size ...

Oh, and it turns out the flight is 13 hours and 24 minutes, btw. Oh how I wish at least one of us had an aisle seat ...

Since I still have access to the Interweb, I'd like to add a quick birthday shout-out to my step-brother Corey, who turned 30 years old today.

Oh, and one more interesting tidbit, and then I'll finally say goodbye to my iPhone for the next 24 days (sniff sniff!): I finally found a Kiswahili phrase guide (at ATL of all places) this evening and learned how to say "bila nyama," which means "vegetarian." After "hello," "thank you," and "where is the bathroom?" that's pretty much the most important thing to me in any language!

Okay, signing off from the USA ... for real this time. :)