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Archive for the ‘Tanzania’ Category

10/12/09: Mikumi, Tanzania to Chitimba Beach, Malawi

5:00am – wake up to take an extremely hot shower that is heated by a huge piece of wood on fire
5:20am – stumble back to tent and wake up Kevin
5:25am – wake Kevin up again
5:30am – de-pitch the tent, attempting to stay clean and cursing silently at why it does not ever seem to fit into its bag correctly
6:00am – eat breakfast of cereal and milk (again) and make sandwiches with ham and grated cheese for lunch
6:45am – clean up and get everything packed into our lockers on the truck
7:00am – fall asleep as the truck rolls away from camp
9:00am – wake up and debate whether or not to eat one of my lunch sandwiches – decide to eat one and immediately regret decision
9:15am – truck makes a toilet stop; go out with the rest of the girls to use a very public “bathroom”
11:00am – reach border and sit in sweltering truck while Marietjie gets us all of our exit stamps; try to leave Kevin behind as the bus starts while he is still in the bathroom, but fail to actually leave him in Tanzania
11:15am – reach border and get in line to get stamped into new country; get offered a job of counting money for the customs people with the wages of one drink a day
12:00pm – eat second sandwich while on the bus; immediately regret decision
2:30pm – reach new campsite; breathe a sigh of relief
2:35pm – pitch tent with minimal cursing in the head involved
3:00pm – find four tiny puppies playing in the bushes and try to steal one
3:02pm – am forced by Kevin to leave the puppies alone and go for a swim instead
3:10pm – swim around in Lake Malawi
6:00pm – drink a coke against my better judgment (happens a lot more often these days)
7:00pm – eat Marietjie’s excellent beef curry and dumplings
9:00pm – get in tent and go to bed – yes, we are old people and we go to bed at 9 o’clock

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Picture of the Day: Kevin catches me trying to coax one of these puppies onto our bus

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10/11/09: Baobab Valley Campsite, Mikumi, Tanzania

I learned today that Kevin does not eat Twix bars. Twix! The crunchy, sticky, chocolaty goodness! The fact that after you finish the first bar, oh look, there’s a second one, just for you! He’s been missing out on this all of his life! I was appalled. And you would think that after being together for five years and after watching Kevin eat watermelon for the FIRST time two days ago, I wouldn’t be shocked by the Twix news. And yet I still was.

It’s funny how much more you can learn about a person you think you know really well when you spend every day, all day with him. Some of these things are endearingly cute (he carries his little pack around with him everywhere like it’s his little baby), some are gross/annoying (he won’t shower even if there’s a shower available and he hasn’t showered in three days because, and ladies and gentlemen, I quote directly, “it’s not time yet”), and some are just totally bizarre (Kevin loves keeping track of random things so much that right now, as I type this, he is trying to figure out how much water we’ve drunk since we started this trip).

All in all though, I’m surprised (and happy) to say that we have both been better-behaved than I expected. I thought that we would have to be in really dire circumstances – like wandering around lost and alone in the Serengeti for an entire day – before Kevin would try any new foods, but he’s been surprisingly open-minded and willing to eat new things (over 30 at last count). I also thought that I would tend to be anxious and easily annoyed by the little things that go wrong, but I really have been completely and totally stress-free for the first time since starting college. It must be the 10+ hours of sleep I get a day.

But that’s not to say that we don’t get a little annoyed with each other, because we definitely do. It’s always little things though, usually caused by one of us not actually listening to the other person but pretending to anyway. At home you can get away with that kind of behavior, but it’s a bit harder out here. “Can you please put up the tent while I organize our lockers?” “Yeah, sure, ok.” Ten minutes later in the rain with no tent – “You said you would put up the tent!” “I did not say that! When was this??” Anyway, luckily it hasn’t caused any really serious trouble yet. Nothing that a thousand shilling Twix bar sitting in the truck cooler can’t fix.

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Puzzles for Postcards

Where Am I? (Name the city)

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Picture of the Day: I lost my right sandal, but luckily we found a replacement growing on a tree at the Iringa campsite

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10/11/09: Iringa, Tanzania

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In the middle of the crowded fruit and vegetable market, I felt something bump up against the side of my left leg. Only because I’ve been on high alert in crowded places such as this one did I think anything of it. I quickly glanced down, only to see a hand in my lower cargo pocket, and my camera in that hand. (Integral detail: it wasn’t my hand.) I swung around to see a man in a yellow jacket, and as we made eye contact he quickly dropped the camera back into my pocket. Not quick enough!

I immediately sprung into action, throwing the man to the ground with a move Jackie Chan would be proud of. Then, and this is a blur because it happened so quickly, with a foot firmly implanted in his neck and a growl on my face, I quickly patted down my pockets to make sure everything else was there while at the same time shouting “Thief!” at the top of my lungs. (I had been told that us Mzungus, also known as white people, should not get into big altercations with the locals, as they will tend to side with one another. However, if you call them out as thieves, the locals will turn against them, as they do not want thieves in their markets.) Several locals came running to the scene and saw the pickpocket on the ground. I slowly backed away and saw them converge on the helpless man like hyenas to a carcass on the Serengeti. I heard a scream, and then…

I woke up.

It was just a fantastic dream. But just a dream wouldn’t make for a good blog post, would it? The entire first paragraph actually was true. Here’s the rest of what actually had happened during our Iringa market experience:

… I immediately sprung into action and gave him a small shove into the side of a fruit stand, hopefully knocking over a few bananas for effect. With my arm still feebly against his chest, I raised my voice just slightly and asked, “What do you think you’re doing?” With my free arm, I gingerly set down the bags of potatoes and eggplant I was carrying and searched all my pockets for any missing items. All the while I murmured, “Wait right there mister, what else have you taken?”

In the meantime, Zhou and a few others had taken notice of what was going on. Zhou, thinking that I was overreacting to a harmless man who had accidentally bumped into me (since apparently this is how I usually react to those situations) yelled, “Kevin, settle down!” or something to that effect. I don’t know, I was too busy under-reacting. Another member of our group, Cara, actually witnessed the scene and began to faintly whisper “Thief!” perhaps thinking she was in a library. My mind was racing, debating on whether or not it was too late to punch him. (Like all guys, at one point in my life I would like to punch someone who is up to no good – this did not end up being that momentous occasion. As a side note: I have been on the other end of that only once in my life. I was eating yogurt in the chess lounge at my high school when the chess team captain threw a glancing blow off my face because yogurt was not allowed in the chess lounge. I was a rebel in high school.)

I eventually determined that the man hadn’t taken anything from me (except my thirty seconds and the happiness I was experiencing up to that point) and let him push his way through the crowd and walk out of the market. While he was walking off into the distance I began to get incredibly angry, first at him for trying to pull something like that off, and second at me for not having the nerve to punch him or better yet let someone else punch him. I suppose the latter would have been better, as the part I mentioned in the dream about letting the locals take care of the thieves was actually true. This brings me to the moral of this post:

For those of you traveling to Africa anytime soon, if you catch a potential pickpocket in the act, yell “thief!” as loudly as you can and hopefully the local people will help you out.

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Picture of the Day: Sorry for the shaky picture quality, but I’ve asked around and have found that this isn’t actually a used expression. No one can figure out what “Good Wine Needs No Bush” means.

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10/9/09 – 10/10/09: Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Last night will probably go down as one of the worst thus far in Africa.

After returning from dinner at 8:30, Zhou and I and most everyone else were ready for an early night to prepare us for a pre-5am wakeup this morning. By 9:00 we were ready for bed.

Mistake #1: It was quite hot on the beach, so we decided to go without our sleeping bags for the night. The one time we’d done this in the past we had our silk liners, so it was no problem. This time we did not.

Mistake #2: There was no chance of it raining, so we left the rain cover off the tent. We had made this mistake once before (remember when Zhou came to the rescue?), so we did leave the rain cover in its bag next to the tent.

Problem #1: Just after 9:00, the neighboring campsite decided it was party time (it was Friday night after all). They cranked up the music and either danced or waited outside our tents to see if anyone would crack under the loud noises. I’m not sure which would have been more fun.

Problem #2: At about 10:00, our campsite decided it was tribal drum time. As loud as the other campsite’s dance music was, this was much louder since it was right around the corner.

Problem #3: At about midnight, the skies decided to open up and release a warning rain – just enough to force everyone who had just fallen asleep to jump out of their tents to put on their rain covers.

Problem #4: Zanzibar had left me with a plethora of mosquito bites all over my upper body and Zhou with mysterious red dots all over one arm and leg.

Problem #5: Did I mention wakeup was before 5am?

If you piece all this information together, you get: unhappy, sweaty, itchy Kevin and Zhou trying to sleep stuck to their mattress pads with loud Madonna in one ear and louder drums banging in the other. Then the rains came and we were forced into a stuffy, covered tent with no ventilation just long enough to get in a quick catnap before waking up in the dark and tearing everything down to board the truck for a full day ride to Baobab camp somewhere in Tanzania.

At least I’m actually still having a great time.

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Picture of the Day: This little guy is stealing all the pineapple!

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10/9/09: Zanzibar, Tanzania

I was just getting comfortable on our hour-long bus ride back to Stone Town this morning when all of a sudden we stopped and the driver hopped out to look underneath. The bus was stuck on a small hill, and it looked like several of us fatter riders were going to need to get out for it to continue. Then it hit me…

The paintings!

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I don’t know what made me think of them – maybe it was the beautiful ocean scenery, maybe it was the shop nearby selling African art, or perhaps it was my wife sitting next to me shouting, “Kevin, we left the paintings in the room!” Whatever it was, sure enough they had managed to slip my thorough hotel checkout check (a long-standing Curry family tradition where the dominant male in the family searches every nook and cranny of a hotel room as the rest of the family is leaving). Sometimes I get so caught up in the drawers and under the bed that I forget to check the obvious places like next to the door.

We had fortunately gotten stuck just a couple hundred yards from our resort, so in my all-purpose Chaco flip flops I took off running back to the room while the rest of us on the right side of the bus piled out. Sprinting at a Usain Bolt pace (the pace he uses to walk old ladies across the street), I managed to grab the paintings, keep my flip flops on and return to the bus just as the last of everyone was getting back on the bus.

Unfortunately, one of our other travelers was not so lucky, as she realized once we stopped in Stone Town that she left her passport in the safe in her bungalow. Fortunately, she was able to catch a cab back and still get back to the town in time to catch our ferry (as we had planned two hours to eat and shop in Stone Town).

Kids, the lesson here is to not get carried away in the African souvenir markets, because if we had never bought the paintings we would have had nothing to forget. Oh, and don’t forget your passports anywhere ever.

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Pictures of the Day: I just think this boat’s name is cool.

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Remember Ben and Kate and Trevor and Jan? We all randomly bumped into each other at dinner tonight. (Also, in case you tried to visit Ben and Kate’s website, it got hacked into but should be up and running again in the next few weeks.)

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10/8/09: Zanzibar, Tanzania

Before leaving on our African tour, Zhou and I had heard that we would have internet coverage every few days through the continent. Having been spoiled the last ten years on high speed connections, we immediately assumed that with all the fast internet we’d come across, we could Skype and Google Chat without any problems.

Today, nearly one month into our stay, we tried talking through the internet for the first time. We sat on the beach with “excellent” wireless connection to our PC and struggled for 15 minutes to try to reach my parents. When we finally did get through, they could hear us fairly well, but we couldn’t hear a word they said. We talked at them for a half hour before our time limit was up, although I think the connection cut out five minutes before we finished talking.

On one hand, it’s amazing to me that we can sit on a beach on a remote island off the coast of Africa and be heard by two people in their home halfway around the world. On the other, we have learned not to take our high speed connection at home for granted.

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Here are some of the other things we have learned during our time here in Africa:

Cell coverage here is amazing. I can’t believe that Zhou can’t get cell coverage at her parents’ home outside of Philadelphia, but our tour guide can get coverage in the Impenetrable Forest nowhere near a big city in Uganda and our safari drivers can get coverage throughout the Serengeti.

Africa actually gets cold at night. Fortunately, we have our Lafuma Warm ‘n Light sleeping bags! They have been very good to us both on frigid nights in Uganda and Kenya and on hot nights in Tanzania.

Kenyan peanuts are better than Ugandan peanuts. They just are. They’re cheaper too.

Never wear white in Tanzania. It took a little less than a full day for the white shirt I was wearing to became tanner than David Hasselhoff. I suppose that’s ok when you change shirts at the end of the day, but unfortunately I had to wear this for the next two and a half days as well.

It’s hard being tall here. I have bumped my head on so many things here that I’m beginning to feel like Tim Taylor walking into his basement over and over and over again. A quick list, with approximate number of times in parentheses: the truck (12), trees (countless), hut roofs (5), bus roofs (1, but it was a jagged metal beam), safari jeep fold-out roofs (10), truck lockers (1, at full speed getting out of the rain), truck antennae (1, as it got snapped by a tree on a safari), doorways (3), showers (2, but as a percentage this is like 50%), etc. I really wish I would have kept a stat on this – I’m getting a headache just thinking about it.

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Exercise is not a right, it’s a privilege. Luckily, I probably wouldn’t get fat if all I did was eat ice cream and watch TV for two years. However, I have never felt as out of shape as I do now. An example of life here:

I’m sleeping peacefully on the bumpy bus when an abnormally large bump nearly sends me flying out of the seat. In the split second I open my eyes to catch myself, I notice my sandwich in front of me. Now that I’m awake I might as well eat lunch, so I scarf down the sandwich just in time to fall back asleep again. If I’m lucky I’ll then wake up for dinner.

Needless to say, I’m looking forward to hiking in Nepal.

Tents can be more comfortable than beds. Most of the best nights I have had thus far have come while sleeping in the tent. We don’t use pillows, but the thin mattress pad has actually become quite comfortable. We slept on beds in Nkuringo and the Masai Mara, and both times I was quite excited to get back to the tent. (This is not the rule though, as the beds here in Zanzibar aren’t too shabby at all. If only our mosquito nets kept the bugs out of, and not in, the bed.)

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Puzzles for Postcards

Incorrect SNL Headline Anagram when a Native Zanzibarian Died
Fey Cried Murder

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Ohio Picture: Sunset over the Indian Ocean in Zanzibar seems like a logical place for a good ol’ O H I O.

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Picture of the Day: It was tough, but I finally overcame my watermelophobia (fear of watermelons). Not surprisingly, it didn’t really have much taste to it.

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10/7/09: Zanzibar, Tanzania

It’s been almost a month since we left the States, and we’ve yet to buy much of anything. Zhou’s been granted a few shillings here and there to pick up earrings and a sarong, but I’ve managed to even escape buying a new shirt despite the pleas of Zhou and everyone else on the truck. So by my count before today we’ve spent exactly $6.34 on unnecessary souvenirs on our trip (or, more precisely, Zhou’s spent that much).

Today though, we let our eyes get the best of us (is that even a saying?).

Actually, it all started yesterday as we were walking around Stone Town looking for an internet café with flash so we could upload some blog posts. We allowed one of the merciless salesmen to coerce us into walking into his store, where thousands of paintings hung on the tens of square feet of wall space.

Shoot, let me back the story up one more time. Zhou always says that I’m too nice to merchants who I have no intention of buying anything from. I’ll talk to them for hours if they want, up until the point where they want to sell me something, at which point I’ll either lie (“Sure, we’ll drop by your store right after we use the internet”) or make up an excuse (“Sorry, we’re travelling for a while and don’t have room in our packs for your unbelievably gorgeous merchandise”). Either way though, I usually use the wrong lie (the merchant will wait outside the internet café the entire hour we’re in there, then hunt us down when we try to sneak out the back door) or excuse (they’re selling a bracelet which goes on Zhou’s wrist, not in our packs) and then I simply run away.

Now that we’ve got that background out of the way, I was simply appeasing this particular merchant, knowing that neither Zhou nor I wanted to buy a painting. (a) They’re too expensive and (b) we’re planning on decorating our mansion when we return with all our own photography from the trip.

Then we walked inside, and I immediately realized we would probably end up buying one painting.

One day, three merchants, and five paintings later, we left Stone Town with a much lighter wallet, a much more sheepish Kevin, and a much happier Zhou.

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Up until this point I have always wondered how come everyone on our trip has seemed to buy trinkets at every store they visit, but now I realize that even I can succumb to these impulses. I was very impressed by the quality of the paintings, and even realizing that they probably look better in the store than they will at home, it just seems cool to have real African art. Through using the negotiating skills she honed at the equator and using me as the impatient husband (“C’mon dear, this isn’t working. Let’s go check out a few other shops.”), Zhou haggled us a price that even me, the Scrooge of American round-the-world travel, couldn’t pass up.

Shortly after this purchase, several of our friends from our tour also bought paintings from this store. Two didn’t see the exact one they wanted, so the merchant / painter sat down outside and painted to their specifications. It was really cool to watch him work, and in less than a half hour he had completed both works of art.

Siuha’s requested painting of the Big Five

Siuha’s requested painting of the Big Five

He was so good, he could work in Color Accent mode!

He was so good, he could work in Color Accent mode!

All the happy buyers with their art and artist

All the happy buyers with their art and artist

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Scrabble Picture: The lack of two z’s in the bag didn’t stop us from taking this awesome shot.

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Update: Finally, we played a game of 99-tile Scrabble! Zhou won 412 – 338, and we each bingoed twice. Those of you holding your breath for this can now exhale.

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Picture of the Day: I carried the Olympic torch all the way to Zanzibar!

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