Friday, March 7, 2008

WC:The Adventure Continues


First, many thanks (asante sana) to Holly for your lovely blog. I remember that picture--I even remember that event. It felt so great to having you hanging on me. And it felt so good to come home! Camping was not for me.

Which is a perfect segue to my adventures in Africa. I said in my last post that this was one of the coolest things I've ever done in my life. No, it's the coolest. Flat out. At least the Tanzania, see-the-animals part of it.

Zanzibar, and the parts of Tanzania when we were in towns, is more problematic. The people here have so little, so very very little. Kids beg for candy, but they also beg for pens and paper for school. (I plan to collect money to buy pens and notebooks and send them to Lasikar--it turns out there's a "r" in his name--one of our divers, who will give them to the children in his village.)

When we took a tour of a spice plantation yesterday, we were shadowed by three teenaged boys who kept making things for us out of plants and grasses--very cool things to be sure, such as necklaces and really amazing frogs. It was a level up from begging but very guilt-inducing and uncomfortable. We gave them money, but it would be better if they had opportunities! How very very very very lucky we are in the U.S., particularly in New York, where opportunity is truly everywhere.

But, back to the roughing it part of the trip. Or, I should say, "roughing it." Our camp on the Serengeti was amazing. Andrea and I had a two-bed tent with a sink, a shower, and a nice chemical toilet. The toilet was built into a big dark-wood box, and you had to step up to it, so it really felt like a throne. For showers, one of the men working there would put 20 or 40 liters (I forget which) of hot water in a container and pull it up higher than the shower to allow gravity to do its thing. The shower head had chains hanging from it that you pulled to let the water out. First you get yourself wet, then you turn off the water and soap up, then you rinse off. It was plenty of water and felt miraculous after hours in an open car bumping along dusty roads and getting covered in a not-so-thin layer of dirt.

And our meals! The chef at this camp was pretty darn good, and for dinner we had wonderful soups (leek and potato, carrot and ginger), fresh rolls, and main dishes with a meat and vegetables. If anything, we had too much to eat. And we were served as though we were in a luxury hotel.

At one point, while we were waiting in line for a buffet, and Dave, one of the leaders, put his hand on my shoulder, with a very serious look, and said, "Wendy, I hate to break it to you, but this is not camping." He got a huge laugh.

In the Serengeti, I peed in the woods for the first time (and the second and third, etc.), and it was fine. It helps a great deal that the first place I went was in the shade, with a sweet breeze wafting by, next to beautiful plants and herbs that smelled just lovely. A few days later, a bunch of us were going along a long length of trees and plants. I hadn't situated myself correctly to allow the others privacy (hey, I'm new at this), so I had to keep my head turned not to see. But as I finished and went to pull up my pants, I did look in that direction, and I saw a wonderful spaced row of moons, little and big, going along for about 30 feet. It was pretty funny.

I've missed a couple of game drives. My body has held up pretty well, allowing me to go without enough sleep and run around all day for about 13 days in a row. At 14, however, it said, enough!, and I listened. I did miss seeing a leopard in a tree, but as I had practically been hanging out with lions and cheetahs, that didn't upset me as it might have.

And today I didn't go on a trip that would have included seeing Zanzibar Colobus Monkeys. That's a little sadder to me--I would have loved to see them--but since I was practically falling asleep on my feet yesterday, I had to listen to my body.

On one of our plane rides yesterday, from the mainland to Zanzibar, we rode on a 14 seater plane. The pilot was a tall, blonde, quite attractive woman, who also loaded our heavy bags onto the plane. (Our drivers tried to help her, but she made a joke about "helpful men" and waved them off so that she could fit everything into the hold her way.) She was, I think, South African. I got to sit next to her in the co-pilot seat, which was great fun. The view you get from up there is amazing--the sky is all around you, and you have a sense of flying that I've never had before. And to be up there next to a good-looking blonde in a uniform--life is good!

But, and this is an annoying but, I kept falling asleep! I was just so tired. I wanted to see every second of it, but I kept conking out. To give you an example, we flew over an active volcano spewing huge clouds of black smoke. The sides were like slate from all the hardened lava, and it was starkly beautiful. I couldn't wait until we were directly over it--I so wanted to look right into it. And I fell asleep! A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and there I was, getting Zs. Damn.

The only other person who has been taking breaks is the 68-year-old woman in the group. The 69-year-old, however, hasn't missed a thing. (She speed walks 7 miles a day and has a 57-year-old husband and has more energy than I had when I was 6.)

So much more to say. I've filled 50 pages in my journals. Small pages, granted, but still a fair number of words. My favorite memory as of this writing is a male lion's huge and magnificent face coming into focus in my binocs like he was a foot away (in reality, he was only about 40 feet away, I would guess). Animals look so much better out of cages.

I'll be home Tues. I imagine I'll gain consciousness by Thurs. (By the way, Krystal, I got what you asked for.) Bye all.

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