Sunday, July 29, 2007

Greetings from Zanzibar!

Jambo All!

Another random assortment of lists and thoughts from the road...

Top 2 Town Names
1. Mto Wa Mbu, Tanzania 2. Bububu, Zanzibar

Road to Zanzibar

Q: When the live Swahili rap show is followed by Arabic music, then Indian music and the Maasai guy dancing next to you in the red blanket knows all the words to that annoying Kylie Minogue song, where in the world are you?

A: A full moon party on Kendwa Beach in Zanzibar, of course!

After a frustrating, 9 hour bus ride from Arusha followed by a transfer to a ferry riddled with first time traveler mistakes - just because the porters grab your bags and run off doesn't mean you have to pay them what they are demanding - Tracy and I made it to Zanzibar.

We spent a few days in Stone Town, wandering the twisty streets learning about Zanzibar's history in the slave trade and heading to eat at a waterfront foodstall which by day looks like it will give you hepatitis, but by night seems like the perfect place for some fresh seafood. Then it was Kendwa Beach.

Women wearing kangas as headscarves patrol the beach and greet you in a variety of languages until you respond then they ask you if you want a massage, henna tattoo or braids. Maasai men in red blankets and beaded armbands check text messages on their cell phones while sitting outside souvenier shops with no customers. Tourists lounge on chairs soaking up the sun, reading books and negotiating snorkelling trips. All the while turquoise waters hit white sand beaches and the ancient, wooden sailing boats called dhows float through the salty sea air along the horizon. It really is worth the ferry ride, shared taxi and horrendous roads to get here.

And How 'Bout That Dream?

Yes, the dream. After 2 hours, 1 phone card, 6 broken pay phones and 1 saviour at a hotel, I was able to call the National Director of Habitat for Humanity Tanzania and meet him at the office in Dar Es Salaam. As Tracy and I only had the day in Dar, it didn't give me much time to meet with him. I've got tentative plans to swing back through Dar in late August and spend a few days with the Habitat team checking out housing in the area and possibly doing some volunteer work with them.

Meanwhile, I've made contact with Habitat-Nairobi and am waiting to hear when I can come to their office and I'm trying to set up my trip so I can get to Habitat-Malawi in the beginning of September when they have a Global Village team coming in.

My camera skills are improving and every time I turn the camera on, I learn another thing I can do to make improvements. At this point, that's all I can ask.

Onward Travel

We're on a 6:30am bus to Nairobi tomorrow and then Tracy leaves on August 3rd. I'll try to catch the Habitat people in Kenya then I've got a date with some mountain gorillas in mid-August. After that... could be Tanzania, could be Malawi, could be Zambia. Stay tuned.

Tuta o nana,

Miss K

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Tse Tse Flies Prefer Brunettes


This is just one of the factoids I've learned on my safari, after having a tse tse fly picked out of my hair and shown to me. Yeah!

Tracy and I are back, we are clean (unlike most of the trip, especially at the smelly hippo pool on the left) and we are in a hotel with running hot water on demand - this is the life! Rather than bore you with a chronological recap of, at Ngorongoro we saw a lion, then we had mushroom soup for lunch, I offer below a random assortment of safari snippets.

Top 10 Bird Names (in random order)

1. Bare-faced go away bird
2. Red-billed fire finch
3. Hoopoe
4. Tropical Boubou
5. White-headed buffalo weaver
6. Lilac-breasted roller
7. Common drongo
8. African pied wagtail
9. Cinammon-chested bee eater
10. Kori bustard

Camping in the Serengeti (at right is our campsite)

I knew I crossed the line from beginning to intermediate camper not when I went 4 days without washing my hair, not when I peed in a water bottle in the tent while Tracy rolled politely to her side, but when I layed in my sleeping bag without crying as the pack of hyenas swarmed past our tent on their way to a kill.

None of this would have been possible without Tracy's guidance on acceptable standards of camp grooming, tips on using a bottle as a bathroom and reassurances that the hyenas were just saying hello to the lion we heard. When a lion roars in a zoo at feeding time, it's exciting. When a lion roars 600 feet from your bed at 4:30am, it's a little disconcerting. Welcome to camping in the Serengeti.

After two hours of laying in bed trying to figure out who, exactly, was out there and what was going on, Emmanuel (our guide) asked if we wanted to go see. Still in our pjs, we grabbed headlamps and cameras and got into the Land Cruiser. 600 feet behind our camp, a camp, mind you, where it was only the two of us plus our guide and cook, we saw dozens of eyes reflecting in the headlights. A pack of over 30 hyenas were fighting over the remains of a wildebeest some lions had killed only a few hours before. By the time we arrived, all that was left was a head and a spinal cord, which were quickly separated in the fray.

We watched the hyenas as the sun rose and were too absorbed by the spectacle to hear Sule (our cook) whistling for us. Back at the camp, two lions that had been irritated away from the kill by the laughing of the hyenas were stalking him! He threw rocks at them to scare them off and showed us their pawprints in the dirt when we returned. Knowing he was okay, we headed down the road to the turnoff for our campsite. There, in the grass, were 5 lions lounging about as if nothing ever happened, completely disinterested in the 8 jeeps full of people taking their photos.
Melodramatic? Yes - and I have video footage of snarling hyenas to prove it's true. I was quite happy to leave the Serengeti behind and head for Lake Manyara.

Disclaimer: For those of you who know Tracy, she may have a slightly less dramatic version of this encounter, however, if pressed, she would admit that the events took place "more or less" as described above.

Communication Issues

(In the Serengeti) Heading towards the kopjes, I saw an ostrich egg at the side of the road and said so. Although I maintain there was a note of disbelief from someone, Tracy says that my comment, "seriously dude" was unprovoked. Whatever. Once she saw it, she commented, "That's a big one, eh?". We can't escape where we come from, yet we're doing our best to bridge the California/Canada divide.
Lastly, no matter how many times you hear it this way, there is no plant in the Ngorongoro Crater called whore's wipe. In fact, the plant is known as horse whip or devil's tail. Now you know.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Habitat Madagascar


There is no good way for me to sum up the last two weeks... especially on a slow connection typing on a French keyboard, but I will try.

My husband Crystal and I, or so many people thought, finished up our tour of South Africa with q visit to kruger national park. Saw lions and rhino and impalas, oh my. Then it was off to Mada to meet the team and the families.

The team was a good mix of people and the families we worked with were amazing. they let us lay brick, paint their walls - with grass brushes - and point their houses even though many of us had limited skill. I was pointing - cutting an even line between the bricks with a machete - let`s just say my lines are not so even.

The most fun for me at the worksite were the kids. tons of them hanging around all the time. I learned a song in Malagasy to the tune of Mary Had a Little Lamb and we sang it all the time. One of the best things I learned how to say was "hey boys". I use it now that we,re back in the big town too.

At the house dedication at the end, speeches were made, photos were taken and tears were shed. An 82 year old woman read a letter she had written for us thanking us for coming to her village - she was so sincere and it was the most wonderful thing AND I got it on video! The team has been great about me taping, as have the villagers. Some of it has worked, some has been messed up, so it is my hope that once I am able to see it all and put it together, it will show people how much fun and how wonderful these trips can be.

No matter how different people's lives, cultures and circumstances are... everyone loves to laugh. On my birthday, Crystal made me a crown out of a basket, tp, water bottle lables, string, candy and a balloon. Una arranged with one of the homeowners for me to get a ride home in a zebu cart decorated with balloons! Sadly, the zebu - they are like cattle - were freaked out by the balloons and the screaming, singing kids, who had never seen a zebu cart in balloons before. I went around a field in a circle a few times waving like a queen. It was unforgettable.

I will try to add some photos to this entry if I can find a faster connection. The smiles on the faces of the kids and the homeowners and the team do a much better job of describing this experience than I can. All that and lemurs too?

I would encourage you all to give Habitat Madagascar a try.

So, check this one again for more photos and I'll catch up with you post safari!!

Miss K