crystal's capers

one girl's international adventures

Friday, January 23, 2009

The BIG News

I'm gonna be an AUNTIE!!!

My baby (middle) sister, Rebecca - otherwise affectionately known as Yang Chan - is nearly 6 months preggers with our little


She's due at the end of April, which means the wee babe will still be wee when we first get to meet her at the end of May!


Officially, congratulations Rebecca and Michael!
We love you!


How it is.

I'm mostly over my post-honeymoon cold and things are getting back to normal.

Work is good: keeping me busy as usual, but I've had a slight change in timetable (now incorporating some college lessons) which makes things more interesting. I've also picked up a year 9 class, which so far I'm having a lot of fun teaching Richard III to. They've re-posted the job I applied for before Christmas because I was the only applicant. I think they think it would be too easy for me if they just handed me the job. I disagree. I will re-submit my application, however, and take it from there. Honestly, I'm not looking forward to the gruelling full-day interview process.

Uni is as annoying as usual. Still total chaos in the organisation department - on their side, I mean. Making progress, slowly, on assignments. Had a terrific termly observation on Monday by one of my University tutors - yay!

Riccardo's parents are coming to visit over my half-term break. Riccardo will still be working. They heard we were planning to renovate and volunteered to help - SO nice of them! It'll be great to have them here. BTW, we're only renovating our fantastically-decorated foyer, stairway and landing. It's the part of the house that's most in a time-warp, what with the 1950's velvet, textured wallpaper. Beautiful. Don't worry, we'll save a keepsake for you all to marvel at.

We've officially bought our flights to Canada for May. VERY excited about that. I feel somehow comforted by knowing for definite when my next trip home will be. Even if it is only 'home' in the national sense, since I won't get back to Kamloops this time. Anyhow, super excited about that trip: get to be a Maid of Honour in my best friend's wedding - should be a blast. It's also going to be an exciting trip for another reason that I will mention in a subsequent blog...

Hi everyone!

We are just on Guitar Hero III and it is Crystal's turn, so I sneak in to say "Hi!" to everyone! Life here is quite well though the news stories are horrific. I think the country most impacted by the whole credit crunch thingy is the UK - just look at the current value of the pound if you don't believe me! In these times it is very important that you know what is of REAL value. And I think for us of REAL value is that we keep in touch with all of you there as you are the most important thing in our lives! Houses can be sold, account can be filled again and other jobs can be found - but friends and family like you are cannot be found again anywhere! Thanks for being there for us and with us! End of my comment, hugs to all of you!


That was a nice sentiment, honey. You're defo right about our peeps. Ditto.

This week we also bought tickets to visit Riccardo's family. His WHOLE family. In ITALY!!! Woot! Yep, I'm off to Italy for about 5 days over Easter. We haven't made any definite plans because it all depends on the financial situation, but there is the possibility of visiting Milan, Florence, Pisa and VENICE while we're there!! *Ahem* Of course, this all comes second to getting to meet and visit with our relatives!

Damn credit crunch hey? Today the UK officially declared recession. No surprise there. Things are manic here. Riccardo's company is announcing more lay-offs; thankfully his job is still somewhat secure at this point. Fingers crossed tightly. Companies are going into administration (bankruptcy) left and right. There's a big crisis because the banks have virtually stopped lending money and giving mortgages, which is causing the economy to crash to a halt. On the plus side, petrol (gas) is cheaper (though I heard the oil companies are passing along about 10% of the savings they're making on the decrease in wholesale oil prices). Natural gas is still exorbitant: Riki and I pay about $180/month on gas, and we use it conservatively! Council tax still leaves me stunned at roughly $200/month. For what again? Food is also not cheap. It's unfortunate that we chose a fixed-rate mortgage last year, because now the interest rate is less than half of what it was. If we had the money to buy out our current mortgage we'd probably save money renegotiating now rather than next Nov. It seems that only frivolities are cheap: booze, travel and clothes are cheap. Well, good thing I like all those.

I've raged about our phone/internet provider, BT, incessantly in the past. I loathe BT. Happily, our contract with them has now expired and we wasted no time in changing providers. As it happens, we can get digital cable, broadband, landline and free international long distance calls for cheaper with another company than our phone and internet were with BT. So this weekend we're switching to Sky. And I will finally have TV. Let's see how long it takes me to get addicted to TV again - it's been a good 3 years, but I feel the inane, dramatic rubbish calling me still.

Well, back to my Guitar Hero.
Love yas. Hope you're well.


    • At 11:06 PM, Blogger Kim said…

      I LIKE that wallpaper. Honestly. I'm relieved to hear you're keeping a small sample to show your future guests!

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Friendly Neighbours

Riccardo was having trouble adjusting to a normal sleep pattern after we returned from our honeymoon. He spent almost every night the first week up until midnight. One night, as he finally climbed into bed at 12:30, he woke me up with a rather unusual story...

As he sat at the dining room table, conquering the world Civilisation-style, he heard a ruckus from outside. In the footpath that runs next to our yard a couple were having a very loud argument. Not one not to get involved when he probably shouldn't, Riccardo stuck his head out the dining room window and called for the unruly pair to 'please move on,' as there were people trying to sleep. At this, the vocal gentleman (I use the term loosely) proceeded to begin kicking at our wooden fence with vigour. Riccardo noticed his protests when fence posts began coming down and promptly put a coat on over his pyjamas to have a word with the man.

Of course, upon getting to the 'cut,' as it is called in these parts, Riccardo found the enraged couple back in love, and the two proceeded to verbally harass Riki about his ever-so-polite request for quiet. Obviously drunken and despite Riccardo's ability to keep calm, the British gentleman picked up a fence post and began chasing Riccardo around the green with it. Meaning to club Riccardo over the head with his own fence post? - surely not. Thinking the worst of his idea to step into the situation, Riccardo took flight for the house; but when the well-mannered fellow persisted in knocking our front gate to bits, he decided to have another go at reason.

Finally, after repeating at length that he wasn't interested in violence, or even in getting involved in whatever marital dispute might have been taking place, Riccardo managed to calm down our fine friend, and send him on his way. Only when he stepped into the house this final time, did it sink in what a truly and ridiculously dangerous situation this might have been. One can't put anything past these neighbours.

Days later, still slightly shaken by the incident, a single misplaced memory from the evening reappeared in Riccardo's mind. He failed to remember this detail at 12:30, when reanimating the events to his sleepy wife. Initially, when Riccardo first asked the lovely couple to take their dispute elsewhere, the reply he kindly received was, 'You can shut the hell up!' To which Riccardo replied...

'Your mom can shut the hell up!'

Right. That explains a few things. Thanks for that, Kip Dynamite.

(It should be noted that, as usual, some artistic freedom was taken in the retelling of this story, but the last bit is dead honest.)


    • At 7:45 PM, Blogger Tressa said…

      That is freakin hilarious!!!!!!
      Good ole neighbours eh? That story somehow reminds me of my first neighbour in Japan;)

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

So Predictable

While flying back from East Africa, Riccardo and I joked that the transition back to work would be tough, and that knowing us, at least one of us would end up sick. So it wasn't any big surprise that today, the Thursday after we've returned, I'm at home in bed.

Why am I whinging? Well I've got a delightful headache (complete with light sensitivity and nausea) and a fabulous new pair of golfballs in my throat which have caused a minor case of laryngitis. Yay me!

I absolutely have to drag my ass to a (twice rescheduled) podiatrist appointment this afternoon. I absolutely have to drag my ass to uni tomorrow. I absolutely have to get through an immense volume of work this weekend (in addition to our plans to go for a curry with friends tomorrow eve, and to host a proper Sunday lunch on, er, Sunday). I had also wanted to shop for new shoes for me, a new belt for Riki and, possibly, a new, second-hand bed frame on Saturday. I think those plans will be ix-nayed.

For now, must sleep.


    • At 1:32 PM, Anonymous Riki said…

      My dear Crystal, I keep preaching and preaching: TEA is the solution to all the world's problems ;o)

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Stone Town and Mbweni Ruins Hotel

After our seven nights at Ocean Paradise we transferred (on my birthday) to Mbweni Ruins, a small resort of 13 rooms just outside Stone Town, the capital of Zanzibar. We had the choice to stay directly in the city, but I guessed that hotels there would be hot, crampt and lacking in beachiness. I was right - it was great to stay by the water.

Mbweni Ruins was the most low-budget of our accommodations, but charming nonetheless. Situated on the opposite side of the island from our previous two resorts, the beach was more of a picturesque bay fringed by mangrove trees. The ocean deepens off much more quickly on this side, since it's not within a reef, which meant that the water itself was slightly murkier. Luckily, there was a lovely pool area, surrounded by a palm jungle. The resort also features the ruins that give it its name: these were once a girls' school that was originally built to give post-slave era girls skills with which they might help support their families.

From Mbweni we took a free shuttle into Stone Town - it was about 10 minutes drive to the town centre. On the first afternoon we immediately commenced our shopping. The Old city is comprised almost entirely of market stalls for tourists, and otherwise deserted. As it happens, natives of Stone Town have all be relocating to the New city. This is likely the result of the decay of the old, poorly maintained colonial buildings. During the spice trade, and later, during the slave trade, Stone Town became a bustling and wealthy port. Many grand buildings were built, and now many grand buildings remain empty and in disrepair. The government is trying to entice people back into the Old city by offerring rents of just $5 per months for downtown apartments; unfortunately no one is taking them up on it. Some of these buildings, though are being let to foreigners investors who convert them into hotels.

Since it was my birthday, on the first evening, Riccardo suprised me with a special dinner. Somehow, without my knowing, he had heard of a well-sought after rooftop restaurant overlooking the city. Apparently it's extremely difficult to get reservations at this small establishment, but with the help of our tour company, Tanzania Adventure, he procured a reservation. We dined at the top of the city on delicious traditional Zanzibari fare and I had an extremely happy 29th birthday!

We learned more about the city during our second day in Stone Town when Tanzania Adventure arranged a walking tour of the city for us. With our guide, Abraham, we started at the slave cells, which were located near the port, underneith the city. I didn't take any pictures of the cells, what with their tragic history, but I can tell you the conditions were awful. If slaves survived their time under the city, they then had to survive the horrible passage to the Americas or Europe. This time is commemorated by a memorial statue nearby the first church in Stone Town, which was built overtop of the slave market site.

We walked through town and additionally viewed the palace of the former Sultans of Zanzibar, the House of Wonders (the largest building in East Africa at the time it was built; the first building in East Africa to have electricity; and the first to have an elevator), and the birthplace of Freddie Mercury (the lead singer of Queen). The stinkiest place we visited was the Central Market, which is where locals shop for groceries. The butchers hung all their meat out in the open; the poulterer kept baskets of live chickens with the practise of buying your chicken and then having it butchered on site; the fish market with its daunting selection of sea creatures; all this was next to an amazing green (and red, yellow, orange, blue, purple, pink...) grocery section and huge array of spice merchants. What chaos!

A quick anecdote we learned on our tour: there are two main types of doors in Stone Town: Arab doors, known for their squared tops, and Indian doors, known for their rounded tops. These show some of the multi-cultural influences that occur in Zanzibar. Back in the days when Zanzibar was part of Oman, on mainland Africa, the presiding Sultan loved to spend most of his time on the island. Obviously the climate was a big factor. With him, he brought numerous elephants, which were a common form of transport on the mainland. These elephants were left to roam through the city, and since they were not tended, had to find their own food. This is why, on most Arab and Indian doors, you will notice metal spikes; these days, the spikes are purely ornamental and are no longer pointed, but back in the day, they would have been sharp in order to prevent the elephants from breaking down your front door and scavenging for food. A neat little way to make sure you didn't wake up with an elephant in your kitchen!

We summed up our stay on Zanzibar with more shopping, which included buying an extra bag with which to bring home all our treasures. The nice thing about shopping was that we didn't feel pressured. The people in Stone Town seemed laid-back and genuinely friendly. They always waved or said 'Jambo', but didn't seem to be looking for a handout for their effort. And if you weren't able to bargain for a suitable price, they let you go without a hassle. Bargaining with the locals was great fun, though we're sure we didn't always make ourselves a good deal! Big thanks to my mom who sent money for me to get myself a birthday present, which caused me to get something special and sizeable for myself: a gorgeous handmade jewellery box.


Ocean Paradise Resort & The Spice Tour

Having spent Christmas Night at Matemwe and having been spoiled there with a special, private 6-course Christmas dinner, we planned to change hotels on New Years Eve for the more busy, happening, Ocean Paradise Resort. It was a bit hard to get used to going from a 7-room to a 200-room resort, but we looked forward to some action.

New Years Eve the resort planned a big part in the foyer. They had a special buffet dinner, with a lobster grill and live entertainment and dancing. The celebrated midnight with a balloon drop and champagne. But since Riccardo and I had already enjoyed our bottle of champagne, and since it was our honeymoon, we rang in the new year alone together, strolling along the pristine beach.

Accommodations-wise, this was definitely the best. We paid a little extra to have a beachside room, and they gave us their best room in the house. It was no more than 15 feet from the ocean and no more than 15 from the pool: a self-contained bungalow with a wrap-around verandah. We were so close to the beach we could order food and drink from the pool bar, delivered to our lounge chairs on the deck without paying room service charges!

We spent our days at Ocean Paradise swimming in the pools, having drinks at the swim-up bar, walking on the beach and eating far too much multi-cultural cuisine from the buffet. Riccardo even played volleyball almost every day. The resort also offered a nightly live band at dinner and various planned entertainment throughout the day (like lessons in Swahili and crafts for kids). On weekends their Jungle Disco was open, though we opted out of that.

A highlight of our time at Ocean Paradise was our Spice Tour - a tour that came highly recommended from one of Riccardo's colleagues. It was great fun! We were driven to a spice plantation where our two guides showed us the innumerable spices that Zanzibar is famous for growing: it didn't earn the name, Spice Island, for nothing! It was great to learn about all the spices and to see how they grow - and a good thing Riccardo kept a written record because I can't remember what the heck I took all those pictures of! Our guide was very knowledgable and spoke English very well; his helper spent the tour making us crafts from the palm leaves, like the hats featured in the slideshow. We also had a chance to buy tons of cheap spices to bring home with us.

The resort offered us a special honeymoon dinner during our stay. It was located on the beach, where we were privately served an amazing 3-course lobster dinner. They went all-out: serving a free bottle of champagne and about 3 lobsters each!


Christmas Day in Africa

Christmas day we left Tarangire and set out back to Arusha, where we were scheduled to fly to Zanzibar. Since we had some time to kill, we stopped off at the Arusha Snake Park, where we were guided around the amphibian and reptile zoo and a Maasai cultural museum.

Our flight from Arusha to Zanzibar was uneventful. Remarkably, Arusha airport is even smaller and more rustic than Kamloops International Airport! Upon arriving in Zanzibar, however, nearly all passengers realized that some or all of their baggage was missing. Apparently Precision Air had decided the fully-booked plane was too heavy and had removed half the baggage from the cargo holds! Grrrr...

So we spent about an hour (on Christmas day, did I mention that?) waiting in line in a crampped, stiffling airport to fill out paperwork, and then headed to our resort without my luggage (Riki's had arrived). Thankfully my luggage was delivered to the hotel, unharmed, mid-afternoon the next day. And because I'm not a particularly classy lady, and it was hot, and the hotel was pretty secluded anyway, I proceeded to spend Christmas day lounging and swimming in my underpants and a shirt. No harm done.

We found our first Zanzibarian resort, the Matemwe Retreat Hotel to be exactly what we hoped for. Small, with just seven rooms, quaint and personal. The beach was picturesque: the sand, fine white powder. The water was a clear, calm turquoise and just 27C! The problem of stingy urchins in the ocean was easily combatted by a beautiful quiet swimming pool with strategically placed lounge chairs. The staff were unobtusive and friendly. We spent most of our six days at Matemwe doing nothing more relaxing by the pool, taking walks on the beach, and enjoying the 4-6 course a-la-carte meals. Paradise.

While at Matemwe Retreat we did a short excursion outside the gates to Matemwe village. The people living in rural Zanzibar seem to live mostly in stone-built houses, or at least rectangular thatched houses, whereas most rural Tanzanian lived in circular dung houses. They also seem slightly more active at work than Tanzanians, though this could be a result in us having been on the mainland throughout the Christmas holidays. Anyway, we saw many people running small market stalls, crafting furniture or doing every-day activities like fetching water. We also saw several schools - none of which seemed to be in session while we were in the village.

The hotel arranged two tours for us while there: one snorkeling tour and one dolphin-swimming tour. The snorkeling was located just off a small island that is, in fact, owned by South Africa; for this reason, we were strictly prohibited from swimming to its prestine shores. The reef was about 3-metres from the surface, which made it a little difficult to see up-close, but there was a terrific array of fish. Probably this location would be amazing for scuba. The health and safety issues were at questions again here, as neither of us was provided with life jackets outright. As Riccardo has trouble floating (he has negative buoyancy, or a lack of air in his bones, apparently) I had to arrange for our guide to locate a life jacket for him in advance - they charged us $10 extra for this service. In the end I would have preferred a life jacket as well, as the reef was located in the open sea and the water was quite choppy: we we both plagued with water down our snorkels. Overall, the experience was a great one - I love snorkeling!

The dolphin-swimming was not so great though. Not because we didn't see dolphins, we did. But I kind of expected us to go out in a boat, jump into the water and wait patiently to see if some friendly dolphins came by to say 'hello'. In fact, it was a matter of taking the boat out to where at least a dozen other boats were swarming around a pack of dolphins. Swimmers were hurling themselves overboard at the sight of a fin and swimming like mad to keep up with the dolphins who promptly dove to the depths any time anyone got close. I gave up after one try, finding that the experience wasn't as dolphin-friendly as I had hoped. Riki managed to get within petting distance to a dolphin once or twice, only to be promptly kicked with the fins of other eager swimmers.

Happily, the dolphin trip did include a bit of snorkeling at another location, where though the reef in this case was much smaller, it was more shallow and the beautiful array of fish and anenome were breathtaking. We also enjoyed a lovely lunch at a beachside restaurant before making our way to the Jozani forest for monkey-watching. Jozani is the only place in the world in which the Colobus monkeys call home; the monkeys were so calm around us we got some great close-ups. Despite a few hitches, these were two very good day-trips!


    • At 2:02 PM, Anonymous Riki said…

      Yeah, no air in my bones but quite a lot in my head, hehe...

      At least the dolphins in "petting distance" were a mother with a baby dolphin!!!

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Tarangire National Park

Our last day of safari was spent at Tarangire River, famous for elephants. We had seen quite a few elephants already, but nothing prepared us for today.

The drive back from Ngorongoro had been fairly long, so one of our first stops in Tarangire was for lunch at the designated picnic site (you can only picnic at certain places. Actually, there are other rules when it comes to safari: you can only drive on the roads and you're not allowed out of the jeep under any circumstances (except at picnic grounds), for example). Our site was along a small cliff where we had a view of the plain; it was also inhabited by a family of monkeys. We were assured that, unlike with the birds the day previous, we would have no problems with the monkeys. It was obvious that the monkeys weren't shy: they meandered around at will, climbing the fence between us and allowing us great photo ops. One particular monkey gave quite the show, carrying her little baby on her stomach and posing for us. What we didn't know was, at the same time, her consort was positioning himself for attack. While we were innocently photographing mom and baby, the other monkey dove off the fence, ran across the short space to our picnic site and swiped Riccardo's juicebox from our picnic table! Shockhorror! After having chased away all the monkeys to prevent another theft, the three of us had a good chuckle at our luck - particular Riccardo's, since he lost bits of his lunch two days in a row! Upon leaving the picnic site we met up with another Tanzania Adventure couple and warned them to watch the monkeys; when we ran into them later at our camp, they informed us that they too had been attacked, having a sandwich snatched from their hand from behind!

We had the most amazing elephant experience at Tarangire: we ended up in the middle of a migration of over 200 elephants (we counted!) as they made their way from the plain to the river. It was absolutely unforgettable to have so many enormous and majestic creatures stroll up so close to us.

Finally we ended our day with a stay at the Tarangire River Camp, where we slept in a tent. This tent, however, was unlike anything I've seen. It was on stilts and had a wooden floor, and verandah that overlooked the park. It had a huge bed and a full plumbed-in bathroom, but I swear, it was a tent! We shared dinner with the couple we had run into at lunch (looking forward to keeping in contact with Eva and Gerhard from Vienna) in the rustic open-air log lodge, before nervously heading off to bed at the end of our amazing safari.

The next morning was Christmas morning: definitely the strangest Christmas I've ever experienced, but I wouldn't trade it for the world.


Ngorongoro Crater

'Ngorongoro' is Maasai. It's the result of the Maasai's tendency to take their herds of cattle into the crater to graze; apparently there is an abundance green grass and water which makes it worthwhile to scale the steep slopes. The name results from the sound that is omitted from the the bells attached to the cows:

ngoro ngoro ngoro ngoro

The crater itself is the result of a volcanic eruption that occurred ages ago. The volanic basically erupted in on itself, creating a large bowl. As the edges of the crater are extremely steep, making them nearly impossible to summit, and because the crater itself is full of vegetation and fresh water, it has become a natural animal sanctuary: apparently 2 billion animals call the crater bed home.

Aside from the amazing animal-watching throughout the day, we encountered one other interesting phenomenon... As I mentioned, we enjoyed picnic lunches each day (provided by the lodges where we stayed the previous night); this time we decided to eat in a picnic site next to the Hippo Pool. Sam warned us to keep an eye out for birds, as they were notoriously aggressive. Well, we had just begun to bite into our delicious chicken pieces when a divebomb flew out of the sky and snatched Riccardo's chicken from his greasy fingers! We were shocked and amused, to say the least. Sam decided that he might be better able to ward off the bird if he stood above us, and still laughing at Riccardo's bad luck, hovered over us for protection. Not a minute went by before Sam was ducking down in fright, as another bird had seized his chicken! Of course by this point we could not stop ourselves from cracking up at the whole situation. Despite some failed attempts by the nasty birds, I managed to keep hold of my own chicken which I shared with Riki. When we were done we decided to sacrifice the leftovers for a photo-op. - as you will see in the slideshow! We then proceeded to watch other picnicers hopelessly defend their lunches.

It was on the edge of the crater where we found our lodging after our tour of Ngorongoro: the Sopa Lodge was the closest thing to a western hotel we came across. Though the accommodations themselves weren't remarkable, the magnificent view into the crater, and the fact that we had buffalo grazing directly outside our window certainly made our stay a good one.


Maasai Boma

On our way to the famous Ngorongoro Crater we stopped off at a real Maasai Boma. I say 'real' with a grain of scepticism, because these Maasai now earn their living giving tours to tourists, rather than by raising cattle and other traditional methods.

The general expectations held by native Tanzanians were something of a disappointment to us, to be honest. It seems that generations of donations of money and physical labour have produced a mindset among natives that the white men are only good for a handout. Children are eager to wave at white people, not in the traditional manner, but rather with their palm held out, ready to take some expected offering.

I sound completely ignorant, I know. I could be entirely wrong, but the impression I got was not the one of dire poverty that is projected across the western world. No most mainland Tanzanians don't have electricity or running water or even balanced diets, for that matter, but as far as I could tell, they manage well within their environment. They live the same way they have lived for thousands of years, and who is to judge that it's wrong or insufficient for them?

I can absolutely see that things would get really tough in times of drought or natural disaster; the native Tanzanians live entirely off the land - thankfully, drought is not an every-day occurance. When it does happen, I would be the first in line to give help or donations. But regularly speaking, I honestly had a hard time giving hand-outs simply because it was expected of me, simply because I'm white.

I was eager to visit the Maasia boma, and to learn about their culture, so I agreed to pay the $25pp minimum donation. We were greeted with a traditional welcome dance, and lead into the boma with a special guide (they have 'guides' for everything in Tanzania, and of course it is expected that you tip your guide, regardless of the entrance fee paid). We got to take pictures with the Maasai men and women; Riccardo learned that Maasai men use a traditional two-feet jump to measure their virility; I learned a traditional dance move whereby the large, flat necklaces are made to bounce up and down on the chest by moving the collarbone.

Our guide took us into a house made of sticks and cow dung where we learned about the living arrangements of the Maasai: each boma is the home of one man and his many wives and children. The man sleeps in a different house every night, and has his own bedroom in each. The woman shares a bed with her children. Otherwise, the house includes only a cooking fire and a little stall in which to keep baby goats or cows. Each wife builds her own hut; young children take turns going to school and tending the cattle; we're not really sure what the role of the husband is... historically it was protecting his boma and going to battle - not so necessary any more.

We asked how the Maasai manage to have so many wives for just one husband - obviously this would lead to many displaced men in the western world, as once they reach maturity, young men are forced out of their boma. As it happens, Maasai people have far more girl babies than boys; it is suspected that this somehow results from their protein-only diet (comprised of cow meat, and milk mixed with cow blood).

After leaving the hut it was requested that we purchase some jewellery made by the hut's owner, in thanks for allowing us to visit (though I thought we had given our 'thanks' in our admission 'donations'). Next our guide took us out to the kindergarten, where the small children were learning basic sums and the alphabet. It looked a little hoaxy, but was very cool to get some pictures with all the little guys. When our 45-minute tour ended we departed and headed up the wall of the crater for our first views of Ngorongoro.


    • At 1:50 PM, Anonymous Riki said…

      I have to say that I agree with most of what you said in this blog. I really felt that way, too: "This guy is white, he comes from a rich country, ergo he is rich and he should actually share his money with us!"
      But I assume it is not that easy. First of all, we cannot speak for ALL OF AFRICA, but only the very, very small part of Tanzania and Zanzibar we have seen and there - most likely - only the touristy spots, so definetely not the poorest parts of the country. AND the locals live in communities that are more willing to share. basically if you live in your small village and you slaughter your cow or hunt down a gazelle you are expected to share with the others and you are more than happy to do that for obvious reasons. I think a kind of this mentality is "thrown" at us as we are rich, come there with ipods and mobiles and cameras in big jeeps and a huge bag of new and expensive clothes. We lodge in hotels (behind fences) and eat only the best stuff. From their point of view I can partly understand the attitude to raise the hand with the palm up...

      Still - and I guess that is just my way of looking at things - I was astonished about how many people were sitting along the road under a tree at the best working hours of the day. Yeah, sure, unemployment and such, but it really did not look like they were trying hard to find a job. And the thing that I really disliked the most: There seems to be only very little entrepeneurship, creativity and the will to change the situation. Most companies are founded by foreigners, for example.

      To cut a long story short: I tried to give the view from both sides. They are extremely different and no wonder they collide from time to time. I was not willing to give money to somebidy just because of a nice look or a raised palm because I think this only encourages begging. I was generous with people who rally did something for me like carrying my bag or cleaning my room or explaining me local traditions etc. But in the end eveyone has to figure that out for themselves.

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Lake Manyara

Our first day of safari was action-packed! I expected African safari to be somewhat like driving through Jasper National Park - you should spot some wildlife, from a-far at the very least. Actually, the park was chock-a-block with wildlife right infront of our noses. We couldn't even zoom in with the camera in some instances, because they were so close!

Safari includes hours of driving around the African plain (or jungle) in whichever direction you choose - for us, anyway, as we had a private safari driver: Samuel. Sam was amazing and knew exactly where to go; he could identify any animal and give loads of information about it's eating habits, mating rituals and other interesting stuff; and he totally let us play the routes by ear. A packed-lunch is also provided, so each day includes a picnic as well. The jeeps that are used have hatches in the roofs, which open to provide canopied viewing - all you have to do is stand on the seats and you're almost IN nature!

Click on the pictures in the slideshow to learn more about what we saw.

On the first night of our safari we left Lake Manyara Park and drove to the E Unoto Luxury Maasai Lodge. We had no idea what to expect, as we didn't choose this accommodation, it came with our safari package. No need for apprehension though, as it was AMAZING.

We were greeted with cool towels to wipe our faces and glasses of freshly squeezed fruit juice - a practise we came to love by the end of our trip! Next, we were introduced to our private Maasia butler, who was to take care of all of our needs during our stay. We made our way to our private hillside bungalow and were astounded by it's splendor and picturesque view! The bungalow was beautiful and luxuriously appointed with double sinks, a king-sized bed and a large verandah overlooking the jungle and a small lake. It was a completely private retreat from which we could listen in on the squawking of native birds and the chatter of curious monkeys.

Our 3-course dinner was served in the open-air dining room, by the pool, by our butler, who shared tidbits about the Maasia culture with us while we ate. Afterward we enjoyed an acrobatics performance and a traditional Maasai dance performed by some nearby villagers. Needless to say, we were less than exstatic to leave the next day - this was probably my favourite of the Tanzania-mainland accommodations.


Arusha - a Drive-through

We didn't stay long in Arusha. But on the way to our first safari destination, I did manage to get a few pictures of city- and country-life.

The city of Arusha has about 300,000 people, but that estimate could be way off, since there is no real way to take a census. As I said, most streets are dirt, and decidedly unkempt. The main street through town is a contradiction with it's even paving and cement buildings. There were numerous restaurants and internet cafes, even a supermarket or two, some banks and other shops. At the same time, donkeys or men pushed and pulled wooden carts, while perpendicular streets showed the ramshakle nature of the city.

As the city fell away, the vast, rolling landscape of Africa emerged. The countryside is dotted with Maasai boma (villages, which I will say more about later) and busy little streetside towns. For miles around each town, locals walked slowly up and down the road for market day, or to collect water. For all the pedestrians strolling (or sitting) along what seemed to be the highway, one might think they were in town-centre. The fact is, walking (or in some cases, bicycling) is transport: that's all there is, folks. There were very few vehicles on the roads.

Mostly, we saw groups of young, Maasai boys herding sheep and/or cows from their boma to the local water and food sources. These herds meandered across the highway, and around the countryside at will in their day-long endeavours for sustainance.

*** Don't forget to click on the pictures for more info ***


First Impressions of Tanzania

We're safely home after our 22 hours of travel from Zanzibar. Miraculously, I managed to sleep on the plane and wasn't in too rough shape yesterday. We did, however, have to restock the kitchen and drive back to the bus station to retrieve my forgotten mobile phone and iPod (lucky me, they found them!) But after numerous phone calls, a quick dinner and an unsuccessful attempt to watch Pirates of the Caribbean, Riccardo and I only made it until about 8:00 before heading to bed.

I'm not so eager to start back at work tomorrow. This term is going to be a busy one, and I just hope I can stay afloat. Before that though, I intend to blog the photots and events of our honeymoon... of which there are many. So here goes...

We were picked up at Kilimanjaro airport by a driver from our travel company, the amazing Tanzania Adventure. He took us directly to our first hotel, in central Arusha. Arusha is a large city in central Tanzania; it's most famous because it borders Kilimanjaro and is therefore the start- and end-point for those doing the climb. It is also a good place from which to commence safari.

Our drive from the airport was roughly an hour, during which time I attempted to catch various images of African life with my camera - slightly unsuccessful, from a bumping vehicle! The first sights that surprised me were the plentitude of animals roaming freely about; the way the African people lead such an outdoor-life; and, that African women really do tend to carry everything on their heads!

Though it claimed to be in the centre of Arusha, the Oasis Lodge seemed anything but. We had to drive through a maze of dirt roads (all of which were in serious disrepair) to get to it. Along all these roads was Arushian life: tiny market stalls, rock- or leaf-built homes, weird jungle and people and animals everywhere! Perhaps this is why the Lodge is called 'Oasis' - it really was one! The grouping of independent bungalows, with restaurant, bar and pool were like a world of their own, and were segregated from the outside by a huge 12-foot permeter wall and iron gates. Happily, the singing and commotion in celebration of a national holiday (the day we arrived) still be enjoyed from within the walls.

As we arrived at the Oasis Lodge mid-afternoon, we had time to settle in, have a snack and lounge by the pool before dinner. We were pleased to host Rob, Riccardo's parents' friend from their first journey to Tanzania two years ago, for dinner at the hotel. What a wonderful opportunity to get to know him, finally!

We made an early evening of it, however, as our safari was set to start the following morning at 8am.


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