Jambo everyone (that's Tanzanian for hello and welcome!)
I'm finally back from Africa and there's so much to tell I hardly know where to begin. First and foremost, though, I have to thank my wonderful friend, Kim, for holding down the fort so ably while I was gone. It was great fun to read all her blogs and your answers when I got home. It felt as if I'd never left at all. Honestly, I think Kim was much funnier and more interesting than I usually am...so thanks! Now I'll try to live up to her standard in the weeks and months to come.
I'd also like to thank all of you for sticking around while I was gone. And I missed hearing from all of you; I really did! I wondered what was happening in your lives, and what you were reading and what you thought about the television shows we all watch. As you can imagine, I was definitely out of the American cultural loop while I was gone. No television for a month, no magazines, no american newspapers, no phone calls to friends and family (or very few at 8 dollars per minute), and no books that I didn't bring with me in my SINGLE carryon piece of luggage. All of this during the last weeks of the election (don't worry--I tivo-ed everything and am watching all the debates and analyses now), and the stock market meltdown. For a news junkie like me, it was a strange and surreal experience. And don't even get me started on what was happening on my beloved Prison Break....
So yes, traveling to Africa was an experience unlike anything I've done in my life. To be honest, as perhaps I have mentioned in this blog before, I planned obsessively for almost a year for this trip. But for most of that time, it was all rather abstract. I knew I was flying for 22 hours to a continent that had stringent health requirements and plenty of seen and unseen dangers, but I didn't think much past my lengthy to do list. It wasn't until the last week before leaving that I started to actually get a bit nervous. I think I shared that with all of you...or was I trying to be strong and adventurous? I can't recall. Anyway, I was nervous, and in my unexpected bout of anxiety, I was sadly reminded that I am not a young college student anymore. I knew this of course, but I didn't really KNOW it, if you get my drift. But I woke up one morning and looked at all the meds I was taking and thought about the fact that I'd be hours and hours away from my son if anything bad happened, and I started to pace. My son thought I was an idiot, of course. "Mom, I'll be fine. Relax."
And then, after all that planning, we were suddenly off. Flying from Seattle to Amsterdam to Johannesburg. And here's what I can say about Africa: It rocked the house. I absolutely LOVED LOVED LOVED it. Every part, every place, every experience. Nothing was as I'd expected it to be. I'd worried about the heat, the bugs, the poverty, the animals, and being American. All of those worries were moments of my life wasted.
Now, obviously, with a four week trip, there's too much for a single blog. I'd end up writing a book instead of a blog. So I'll probably be writing about the trip for weeks, mixing it up with what's going on here. Does that work for all of you? I hope so. I'll try to keep as much of it as I can in some kind of chronological order so you get a good idea of the trip itself, and as always, I'll answer all of your questions. I'm still working on the one thousand photographs I took. Can you believe it? I took more photos in a month than in all the years previous to it. I didn't realize when I was snapping away how freaking difficult it would be when I got home to download and organize and go through all the shots. But I'll do it for my fireflies, never fear! And yes, to those of you who worried along with me, I did get some fabulous pictures, which I can't wait to show you.
Like the two pictures above. The second photo is a memento of one of my very favorite moments on the trip. I was lucky enough to meet with a remarkable Masai warrior, a man named, Parieto, and learn about his life and his people. He even invited Ben and me into his home and then sat out on the rim of the crater for sunset with us. At the end of the evening, he gave me a beautiful beaded bracelet that one of his wives had made. It was totally cool. When I get to that part of the trip, I'll have lots more photos and more information. But for now, I'm starting at the beginning...
The top photo is of the four of us--African adventurers. We are, from left to right: Ben and me, and my father, and his wife, Deb. Hard to believe that only a year ago we were sitting in a pub in Washington, talking about how great it would be to travel together and now here we are, standing in front of the world famous Victoria Falls in Zambia.
From Johannesburg, we went straight to Zambia, and into the town of Livingstone, named after the famous adventurer himself. We were plunged instantly into the whirlwind of small town African life--uniformed children walking literally miles to school and back each day, people gathered on street corners, talking, drivers zipping crazily to and fro on the "wrong" side of the street. In the distance we could see the smoke-like vapor from the thunderous falls. It all looked impossibly dry and golden to us Washington staters. Sadly, the worst part was the border between Zambia and Zimbabwae--Zim and Zam to the locals. With all of the things going on in Zam, people in that country are starving. We saw a steady stream of people--many of them women and children--walking endless miles for bags of rice and maize. It was truly heartbreaking, and made us wonder how we could help.
We spent only a night in Zambia and then it was off to...you guessed it, safari. Which word, by the way, means journey in swahili. Some claimed that it was coined by Livingston when he came to Africa. So, I'll take a few days to gather my safari photos together and check back in with you soon...
On a more ordinary front, I read Chelsea Cain's novel, Heartsick, on the plane. It was fairly graphic and quite violent, but I loved it, what can I say? I'm looking forward to the sequel, which I believe is called Sweetheart. Anyone else out there read these books?
Thanks again to everyone for sticking around, and to Kim, for being such a wonderful blog surrogate. :)
Kristin the adventurer