Peace is to be found in the acceptance of things we are unable to change.
— Author Unknown
November 24, 2009 – returned home on 11/23/09
To all of you…
The quote above is what I learned most from my trip to Africa. It is wonderful to be back with my family, but I left a piece of my heart in Africa. There are so many things I want to share with you. So many adventures and people I have met that impacted my life. I always knew I had a destiny with Africa. In fact, in some way, I had my doubts that I would return from that incredible place called Africa. I felt doubtful enough to write a poem to my family to read if I did not return. There were a few incidents that could have landed me in a hospital, and being in a hospital in Africa is the last place anyone would want to be.
I was in West Africa, Kenya, Tanzania and completed my journey in Dubai. I have hundreds of photos that most people only get to see on the Discovery channel. I met native tribe people who are fully aware of the 20th century and modern technology, but continue to practice the way of their ancestors. The Masai people own the land of Kenya and Tanzania. They believe they
were given all the cattle by God. Unfortunately the English did to them what the USA did to the American Indian, by trying to rule and control them. All the Masai people care about is living the life they have always lived. It sounds strange when they tell you their names because they are Christian names from being baptized by the missionaries of centuries past. However, they continue to practice their tribal culture of drinking cow’s blood mixed with milk and only eating meat. No fruits, no vegetables. I visited their village and invited into one of their huts made from cow dung mixed with cow urine. They use elephant dung to start fire.
I felt the peace of being among God’s creatures in a surreal place of safety and contentment. There is a magnificent crater called Ngorongoro. It is a volcano that imploded, and down at the bottom of the crater lives the rare black Rhino and Wildebeest, Giraffes, Zebras, hippos, Eland, Thompson Gazelles, and lions. The Flamingos cover a lake as wide as the eye can see. We saw Golden Jackals, Egyptian Geese, and dozens of species of birds. In that place exists a paradise for the animals. They live in harmony in the quiet surroundings of a Garden of Eden. They are safe from poachers, safe from starvation, for they have water, unlike most of Africa. Ngorongoro is what I will remember when I need to go to a quiet place. I would love to tell you more about the history of the implosion, but you can find that on the Internet.
I will be blogging my three week journey and e-mailing everyday a part of the journal I kept. I hope you want to share in my adventures and lessons I learned. May you all have a blessed Thanksgiving. Love Stelle.
Better to love God and die unknown than to love the world and be a hero; better to be content with poverty than to die a slave to wealth; better to have taken some risks and lost than to have done nothing and succeeded at it. — Erwin W. Lutzer
AFRICA – November 4th, 2009 – 1ST Day in Africa
Flying to Dubai from JFK took over eleven hours and that did not include the three hours we had to be at the airport prior to departure. Considering I didn’t sleep the night before from just plain anxiety I was tired before I even got to the airport. We met four of the folks that would be on our tour at the gate. There were a total of 16 people in our tour group.
I must tell you about Emirates Airlines. I used to love to fly, but since 9/11 it is a hassle to say the least. By the time you take off your shoes, your belt, your jacket, and put everything into bins you are already exhausted, and that doesn’t include the long line you had to stand on to wait to for the pleasure to get undressed and redressed. It seems I am always the one they want to do an extra check on my luggage. I love getting pulled aside and your luggage ravaged. Gee! I always thought I had an innocent face. Now getting to Emirates – WOW! The Boeing 777 is a state of the arts aircraft, absolutely outstanding. The seats in coach are comfortable and you don’t feel packed in like a sardine. Each seat has it’s own video screen with sports, movies, T.V. shows, and music to select from. The seats actually recline, not like the pretend reclining seats on our domestic flights. They give you blankets, pillows, and earphones – free – imagine that. The service was great; the flight attendants were personable and extremely courteous. They actually smile like they love their job. When the lights go down the ceiling of the aircraft lights up like stars. You can also track your flight from the cockpit on one of the many channels of your very own TV screen. Oh, and all wine and drinks are free for those who like to have a cocktail before dinner, during, or after dinner.
After landing in Dubai we boarded an A20 Airbus to Nairobi. It took another 5 ½ hours until we reached Nairobi. At this point I was so tired all I wanted was to be back home. From the air Nairobi looked very crowded, speckled with green trees. After deplaning the aircraft and looking for our luggage and guide there was mass confusion. We finally found our driver, Samuel, and he had a huge smile on his face and seemed so happy to see us… just like we were old friends.
Driving to our hotel was an adventure in itself. The fumes from the cars made me think of being a kid going through the Lincoln Tunnel in New York City before our country had catalytic converters. I thought I would suffocate before I got to the hotel. It was also rush hour and the traffic was crazy. The hotel was only eleven miles from the airport, but it took us over an hour to get there. Cows and goats were just hanging out on the sides of the road and people would just walk across the road in the middle or in between cars with no regard for life or limb, to cross the street. I have driven in Mexico, but I never feared hitting a cow or a goat. This was insane! MORE TO FOLLOW…
AFRICA – NOVEMBER 5TH – 6th ,2009
The trip from JFK to Nairobi via “Dubai” took us 23 hours. When we finally arrived at our hotel we were more than pleasantly surprised. The 168-room Norfolk Hotel has been a center of city life since its founding in 1904. It was a Tudor-style hotel with traditional safari atmosphere surrounded in private tropical gardens a short distance from the city center. It was renovated in 2004 in honor of its centennial. The hotel had six restaurants, health club with gym, sauna, and steam room, beauty salon, and heated outdoor pool. It was quite lovely. I was ready for “Safari!”
The plan was to have a welcome dinner but we didn’t get to the hotel until it was almost 7.00 p.m and the dinner celebration was scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Since we all needed time to get cleaned up it was postponed for the next evening. I was quite happy about that because I was not going to be very sociable after being up for 36 hours. So our group of 16 ate dinner respectively with whomever they chose. My girlfriend Betsy and I enjoyed our meal alone. We have been friends for thirty-seven years so we didn’t have to expend too much energy socializing.
Breakfast was at 6:30 a.m. and it was outstanding! There were silver-covered dishes with everything from bacon to oatmeal porridge. A chef was there to prepare any type of omelet’s you wanted, pancakes, waffles, a bread bar, a bakery bar, a cheese bar, a fruit bar, and a juice bar with eight different types of juice. I must find passion juice! The juices were my favorite because I would mix them. I especially like mixing the passion juice, papaya, and mango all together. We ate outside on the terrace, which is right across the street from Nairobi University. It was fun watching all the business walking by going about their business. I have always been a people watcher anyhow, so that was right up my alley.
We boarded our vans for a tour of the downtown area and taken to a few shops, one in particular that specialized in Tanzanita. I have a friend that collects stones so I asked the price one rather small stone and was told it was $900. Well my friend, is not getting a Tanzanita stone, sorry Gwen. Tanzanita is found only in one mine in Africa and the darker color of purple hue the more the stone costs. Ok moving on…
We were then taken to a local Giraffe Reserve. They only had nine Giraffes and mainly use it for educating the children of Nairobi on conservation. Giraffes are being killed for food and they are an endangered species, especially in Kenya.
Lunch was another outstanding buffet with all those silver-dishes with everything from soup to nuts. I did miss the juice bar though. After lunch we had a little down time and spent it around the pool relaxing and taking photos of the hotel.
Our welcome dinner was at 7.p.m. and we got to meet and eat with all of the 16 people in our group and our guide Tony. I will speak more about Tony later. He is a very interesting man. I will also tell you more about the group of people that I spent twenty or so days with. More to follow…
AFRICA – NOVEMBER 7th, 2009
We left at 7:30 a.m. to go to Sarova Mara Game Camp Reserve in Maasai Mara. We were going to spend three days there and were instructed strictly to bring only one small duffel bag. So we had to do a lot of rearranging with our luggage to bring exactly what we would need for three days. For me, my pills and snacks take up most of my suitcase so I had to really work hard at stuffing everything in my small dufflel bag. Our luggage would remain locked up at the Hotel Norfolk until we returned. As it was not all of the sixteen people in our group followed directions, but I did and had my small stuffed duffel bag stuffed to the max and my fanny pack securely attached to my waist. I was ready for safari!
The drive to Sarova Mara was another five and one half hour drive. It was located in Kenya’s richest game reserve. Driving to the camp was one I would never want to take again. The roads that were paved were worse that any road you can even imagine. Our guide “Muli” called it a “Road Massage.”
As soon as we left the downtown area of Kenya we came upon “Slum City.” We could see it from the airplane when we were flying in and it extended for many miles. We were told it was the largest slum city in all of Africa. This is the area where the poorest of poor live. They have no running water, no toilet facilities, and no electricity. The squalor went on for miles and these people actually have to pay $10.00 a month to live there. The poor people in this country are rich compared to these people. Kenya is one of the most corrupt governments in Arica, but I will speak more about that later.
As we continued our drive I could see the vast open areas of brown dying trees and brown mountains. I saw dead Zebras and cows laying along side the road. The drought was quite evident. This time of year is called the “short rain season” but so far it hasn’t come.
The little towns we passed through on the horrible bumpy, dusty road was very depressing and the pit stops in between to use for facilities were small mud hut buildings that were no bigger than my bedroom. They were also souvenir shops where the shopkeepers were very anxious to sell you something – anything. The bathrooms, were outhouses, and always in the back outdoor the shop. Some of them were scary looking and others were kept as clean as they could. I always had my tissues and hand sanitizer in my fanny pack wrapped around my waist with my passport and money.
The small towns where the locals shopped were just rows of mud huts and tin boxes. Of course, cows and goats were intermingled with everyone and walked wherever they wanted to amongst the crowd of shoppers. There are no paved roads so everything is dusty and garbage strewed all over the place. They have no sanitation department and don’t bother to discard of any dead animals because they are one with nature and so they leave them for the vultures. Most of the people shopping wore no shoes. Still the children would wave to you with big smiles on their faces. It was heart wrenching for me, but you could not help smile back at these children and say a silent pray for them. More To Follow…
AFRICA – NOVEMBER 7TH continued…
After driving for an hour, on what I thought were, the worse roads imaginable “Muli”, our driver, told us that we would soon be leaving the nice paved roads and driving on some very uncomfortable dirt roads the rest of the way to Sarova Mara Game Camp. We really didn’t think it could get any worse, but believe me it did. Thank God for Ibuprofen!
Our first stop was at “The Great Rift Valley” it is one of the wonders of the world, stretching from the Middle East, down through Africa, reaching as far as Mozambique, and is bordered by Uganda. The staggering view, as you approach from Nairobi, Kenya is quite unbelievable. The ground suddenly disappears from under you to show the huge expanse of the great rift, stretching for thousands of miles in either direction. We did not actually descend and explore the Lakes area of the Rift in Kenya but they say it is a “not to be missed” opportunity. Maybe someday!
The people of the Rift Valley are a mesh work of different tribal identities. The Maasai people serve as Kenya’s international cultural symbol. The Maasai community have the most recognizable cultural identity in and outside Kenya. The Kalenjin and the Maasai are only a couple of the communities that call Rift Valley home. Other communities live here as well. People in the province are mostly rural, although they are growing more urban. Cities and towns have sprung up over the years to contain the rural-urban migration. If the right policies are instituted, Rift Valley province can emerge as the economic and cultural mecca in Kenya. That would be a much needed change!
We saw blue monkeys sitting throughout the trees and I could have stayed there for hours just taking photos, but we were told by our guide, Tony, that we needed to shop. These shops extend their bathroom facilities so it is expected of you to buy something – once again, “anything” and a lot of it! One of the shop keepers, zoomed in on me and esscorted me into the shop and grabbed a basket. He told me his name was Peter. He was in Maasai attire. He followed me around the store and kept picking up stuff saying do you like this? I did like it, so I would say yes. I didn’t realize every time I said yes he put it in my basket. When I figured out the sales pitch I changed yes to no. It was too late though because once I got to the end of the shop he was tallying up the total of my goods. Peter was quite the salesman and gave me an offer I couldn’t refuse. I was happy with my purchases but it took all the Kenyan money that I exchanged for $50.00 plus $20.00 of my american dollars.
The funny part was when I was leaving the shop Peter asked me if I had a pen. He knew I did because he saw it. I wrote down the name of the Great Rift Valley in my journal while I was outside looking at the amazing view. So Peter asked me if I would give him my pen. It was a fat pen and I really like it, but to be neighborly and wanting to show how nice Americans were I gave it to him. As I was getting back in the van I saw him talking to Mark, he was one of the guys that traveled in my van. He told me later than Peter asked him for his lighter, but since Mark was a smoker he wouldn’t part with that, so Peter kept asking him for stuff. Mark finally gave him is eyes drops that he uses for dry eyes “Tears.” It was a new bottle and not opened. I wish I was there to see him explain to Peter what the drops were for. We all had a good laugh, and I learned quickly how to shop. More to follow…
AFRICA – THE FIRST SAFARI – NOVEMBER 7th, 2009
When we finally got to Camp Sarova Mara we were all shocked. It was like a Garden of Eden in the middle of the desert. We were greeted with smiles, hot towels to wash our face and hands, and passion juice, like manna from heaven. The campsite was lovely. Our hard wood floor tent was very impressive, indeed. We had eclectic lights, shower, comfortable beds and screened windows on all sides of the tent. The windows could be completely zipped up at night to ward off any light or uninvited quests. The first night I woke up with something running by our tent. There were a lot of monkeys and Dik Dik’s about, so I didn’t worry too much. From our tent porch we had a birds eye view of a hippo taking up the little bit of water the drought had to offer. Two Cape buffalo didn’t stand a chance of sharing the water with him. They tried but the Hippo made it clear to stay away.
After being shown to our tents we ate a wonderful lunch in the open lodge. We had another great feast of those silver covered dishes with all kinds of food to choose from. At 4 p.m. we were scheduled to go on our first Safari. I was more than excited. My friend Betsy and I unpacked our duffle bag and got ready to go. I was very concerned about the mosquitoes because I elected not to take any malaria pills. I am allergic to just about everything I take so I just trusted that God would take care of me. I did bring 100% Deet along for some protection though. Unfortunately, as I was spraying the Deet on my arms I somehow turned the can around and not knowing which way the nozzle was pointed I somehow sprayed it into my eyes. It burned like the dickens. Blindly I found the bathroom and put my head under the running water and kept the water running over my eyes until it stopped burning. I felt my blood pressure go up immediately and feared to open my eyes. Being a nurse I knew how fast poison can be absorbed into eye tissue. My heart was pounding from the deet and I told Betsy that I needed to lay down and would not be able to go on the safari. When I didn’t show up and Betsy told our guide what happened so he sent the camp medic to my tent. My blood pressure was still quite high when he finally came, but we decided it was best just to give me an antihistamine and rest. I couldn’t believe I missed the first safari and was feeling quite sorry for myself! I slept until dinnertime, but I praised God I could see. More to follow…
NOVEMBER 8th, 2009 – AFRICA – The Great Migration
My friend Betsy left at 5:30 a.m. for a hot air balloon ride over the Mara Game Reserve. I chose not to spend $450.00 since I’ve already had an adventure in a hot air balloon in Orlando. I decided I could see the same animals closer up from the ground.
The rest of us left on the game safari at 7:30 a.m. What a blessing compared to yesterday, (remember the one I missed). The game safari was spectacular. We got to see more animals than I could count. The wildebeest, Zebras, Thompson Gazelles, Elephants, Eland, Impalas, and Topi Antelope, stretched as far as the eye could see. “The Great Migration” was amazing to say the least. We also saw Cheetah’s, which few people, if any, get to see on a safari. The big cats hide in the trees or the brush and are very hard to find because they blend in so well with the surrounding colors of the plains. They can be right in front of you and you could miss them. Our guide pointed out one Cheetah but he blended in so well all we could see was bits and pieces of him. We waited for a long time for him to come out and show himself, but he just laid his head down and went to sleep.
The highlight of the day was when came across three lions sitting on a rock just staring at us. I was so thrilled it brought tears to my eyes and took my breath away. Then I knew I was really in Africa. The lions just mesmerized me. I felt blessed to be so up close and personal with those beautiful animals.
Tomorrow we will start out at 6:30 a.m. because we will be driving further into the game reserve. The Mara Reserve is 1,530 km Sq. We will be going to the Mara River to see more of the migration. The Mara Reserve is so vast it’s hard take it all in. We still have four more Safaris to go. Wow! I am feeling home sick, but my adrenaline is keeping me pumped up. I want this to last forever.
When we got back from Safari we were told that a Leopard attacked a grounds keeper. It seemed the Leopard wandered into our camp early in the morning and couldn’t find his way out. The grounds keeper was in his way so he just knocked him down. The grounds keeper was bruised, but not badly hurt. The Leopard felt cornered and just wanted the poor grounds keeper to get out of his way. There are no gates or fences around our game camp, after all this is their land. I can’t wait until tomorrow to see the Mara River…MORE TO FOLLOW.
NOVEMBER 9th, 2009 – MY SAFARI IN AFRICA CONTINUES
We had a quick breakfast, coffee and a Danish. Time is of the essence now, as our Guide Tony wants us to see everything there is to see. We were on the road, promptly at 6:30, to drive to the Mara River. Our camp sits in the center of the migration. There are over 1.4 million Wildebeest, 200,000 Zebra and Gazelle. The animals migrate in a clockwise fashion over 1,800 miles each year in search of rain-ripened grass.
Our safari was scheduled from 6:30 – 9:30, and it was another thrilling moment in time. We saw a hyena rolling around and playing with himself in the vast plains. Our driver had a machine that matched animal sounds and he set it for the hyena. The little guy went searching for the phantom hyena. It was so funny all we do was laugh. I wish I had that on a video.
We saw a young male lion on a hunt and watched as all the other animals gave him a wide birth. I was so frightened that I would witness a kill, but the lion was annoyed that we were watching him watch them. He kept turning around looking at us as if to say “Hey you are in my space.” He continued walking and so did the heard that kept avoiding him. None of them ever moved fast. It was kind of a slow dance. Our guide told us that he believed the male lion was alone because he had been cast out of the pride. A lone male lion can’t take down a wildebeest alone. I guess the rest of the animals knew that but they still took note of him.
Later we saw two larger, older lions not to far away. They were just sitting on the side of the dirt road making moaning sounds. It was magnificent to hear and see them up close and personal. Our driver said they were calling for female lions so they would hunt for them. We were close enough to touch these guys. It astounds me how close you can get to all the animals in this reserve. Of course they have no fear of man or their vans no matter how many are gathered in one place to take photos of these grand animals. They know they will not be harmed because they are the Lords of their land. The sad part is that is also their downfall because there are still poachers that hunt to kill. The area is so vast that poaching cannot be controlled completely, but they do the best they can. If a poacher is caught it is a death sentence, but our guide told us the government of Kenya is trying to get that law rescinded. In my opinion they should definitely keep that law. It is legal to hunt in Tanzania, but you need a license and it has to be in season. This is not good, because the Serengeti is much larger so how can they stop poaching. It makes me very sad and very mad. MORE TO FOLLOW…
November 9th, 2009 – My Safari Continues…
Leaving at 6:30 a.m. allowed us to see sites that you might not see later in the morning. The animals are frisky and playful. They’re all up and about, grazing, and showing a lot more affection toward each other. It was wonderful! I got some great pictures.
This is our daily schedule:
We go to bed between 10 p.m. – 11 p.m. Betsy and I wake up at 2:30 every morning and it impossible to fall back to sleep. The sounds of the birds, and whatever else is outside our tent, are in constant conversation. We are so off our regular time schedule and our bodies are so confused we just can’t sleep for very long. I don’t even require my usual afternoon nap that I usually take at home.
We drag ourselves out of bed at 5:30 a.m. to eat breakfast @ 6:30. As I have mentioned earlier, breakfast was my favorite meal. I usually hit every one of those silver covered dishes. We are off on safari at 7:30 a.m. and don’t get back to camp somewhere around 12 or 1 p.m just in time for another great buffet lunch. Then we have some free time before we leave again at 4 p.m. and aren’t back at camp until about 5 p.m. Dinner is at 7:30 p.m. so you can see we were on a tight schedule. This is what you call a “working” vacation. Between traveling, breathing in dust, and being knocked around in the van all day we are ready for bed at nine o’clock. We average 4-5 hours sleep. Some people do well with that. I never did, but I sure am now!
After coming back from the afternoon safari I was approached by one of the security guards and he asked me if I could help him get to America. We talked a long time about the corruption of the Kenyan government. He confessed how badly he wanted to go to the USA to make himself a new life. Actually, I thought he had a great life. He was in a camp that looked like paradise and had a job. That’s so much more than most Africans have. I told him that the grass wasn’t always greener on the other side. I told him that America also had problems to with corruption, but he said nowhere could be as corrupt or poor as Nairobi. After seeing “Slum city” I could believe it. The poorest of poor in our country are wealthy compared to these people.
The people that work at all the hotels, we stayed at, work for three months at a time before they get to go home for a two-week visit. They live in a compound and I would imagine the pay is not very high. Many of these people are married so they don’t get to see their families often.
The security guard told me he had a brother in Wichita, Kansas and gave me his telephone number. He asked me to tell his brother where he was and that he wanted him to phone him. He said he needed a letter from him inviting him to America and wanted him to help him get a visa. When I arrived back home I did call his brother in Kansas. He seemed happier to hear that I just came from Kenya than he was about getting in touch with his brother. I can only hope he called and will write the letter for him…MORE TO FOLLOW
November 9th – 6:30 a.m. Safari…ending the 9th
The 6:30 a.m. safari was so intriguing. I really regret not bringing a video, but later my friend Betsy told me my camera did have that function on it. Being a new camera I am lucky I even knew how to take a picture. You just can’t explain the migration unless you can take a panoramic view of it. To see so many animals gather together in one place is a majestic site.
On our afternoon safari we saw a Black Rhino and more lions. Watching the animals in their natural habitat is thrilling. We watched as two lions mated. One of the ladies, Alberta, who shared our van wouldn’t watch, she said, “animals need their privacy too.” It was a wonderful to see how gentle and loving they were with each other. Later we saw another male and female lion stroll right past our van. We could reach out and touch them they were so close. Of course, we are not allowed to do that, and value our hands too much to try. The female was in front of the male and she stopped to do her “business.” The male lion just stood by patiently waiting until she was through. Then he spent quite a bit of time enjoying her scent and displayed his pleasure with a mewing and moaning type sound.
We spotted a Leopard sitting under a tree. The time we spotted the Cheetahs they were having lunch on a wildebeest. The Leopard was just sitting out in the open. He was big and beautiful to say the least. Later in the evening we had entertainment from the local Maasai. We watched them dance and chant in celebration to the cows. I have much more to tell you later about the Maasai tribe later on… MORE TO FOLLOW- NOV.10th
NOVEMBER 10th, 2009 – LEAVING THE MARA
We left Mara Game Reserve after breakfast for the airstrip, a very tiny airstrip, to go back to Nairobi. It was sad to leave that magical, mystical land where animals and nature thrive so peacefully together
We flew back to Nairobi in a “puddle jumper” It was one of those little planes that have only ten seats. Some of the people on our tour were a little anxious about getting into those small planes, but I flew in “puddle jumpers” many times with my husband who was a pilot for Zia Airlines in New Mexico back in the 1970’s. It was a small commercial airline. Sometimes I would fly with him just because I was bored at home. I can tell you we saw some horrendous weather, so it was exciting for me. I love to fly and taking off and landing is a rush for me. I love to feel the power of the engine in full throttle. It was a great flight and I got a few good shots coming into Nairobi. We flew right over “Slum City” and that area still shocked me.
We arrived at Nairobi Airport about 11:30 a.m. and were taken to a lovely restaurant called “Canivore.” It was a Brazilian style restaurant and we ate on the open terrace among lush vegetation and beautiful flowers. The service was great. If you like crocodile, ostrich meatballs, and other game meats then that’s the place to go, but I wouldn’t touch them with a ten-foot pole. I’m not a meat lover to begin with and never eat meat outside of America. Their vegetable lasagna was very good, and their desserts were delish!
After lunch we took off in the van to take another five and one half hour drive to Serena Safari Lodge in Amboseli National Park in Kenya. It is located right under Mt. Kilimanjaro. The drive seemed very long and not even half of the drive was on paved roads. It was another “road massage” trip. When we arrived at the Park and went through the entrance we were shocked. We were bombarded with Maasai women shoving their wares into our van windows to buy something, anything! It amazed me because we were in the middle of nowhere and I wondered where they had walked from and how far. I couldn’t help them out because I spent all my Kenyan and American cash at the first pit stop. I left the rest of my money back at the Norfolk Hotel locked up with the majority of my luggage. I only had my charge card.
The two-year drought had taken its toll on everything. Trees were completely uprooted like they just fell over dead. There were many dead animals and caucuses spread throughout the park. There were very few Acacia trees, and everything else was brown. We passed a few water holes and small areas of swampland for animals to quench their thirst. It was a far cry from the Mara Game Reserve. Even the animals were sparse. They did not interact with each other and I could see their ribs. I just wanted to cry. I had another bout with feeling home sick.
When we finally reached the Serena Hotel it was like entering another Garden of Eden. The hotel was lovely and the decorations shouted “Africa.” We were greeted with hot towels to wash up, passion juice, and monkeys running all over the place. It was great! I closed my mind to the wastelands that surrounded us. MORE TO FOLLOW…
NOVEMBER 11th, 2009 – We visit a Maasai Village
The next morning after a very early breakfast we went to visit a Maasai village. We arrived at 6:30 a.m. There were a few Maasai men to welcome us outside the village. The leader of this particular tribe’s name was Andrew. The Maasai use their Christian names just for the sake of the tourist because we would not be able to pronounce their real names. They are also very long names. Andrew instructed us what we to expect when we entered inside the village. He told us he would take us into one of their huts and explain how they were built. He said we would have to stay together and not talk to the women. Then we would go visit their school, which was quite a long walk from the village.
After his talk the whole tribe came out to greet us. There were no children with them. They welcomed us with a ceremonial dance and jumping as high as they could. They wore sandals, which they made them selves. I can’t imagine how their backs, legs and spines endure the pressure of continually jumping straight up in the air as often as they must do it.
The village was built in a circle with the huts very close in proximity. There were about fifteen huts. In the middle of the village goats were penned up with thorn bush, but some were walking around among us. They build the huts with hard sticks and support the sticks with cow dung and urine. Then mixture is spread throughout the inside and outside to cover all the wooded sticks. The entrance to the hut is very tiny and we had to bend way over to get inside. It is shaped like a sideways U to keep out the cold, heat, wind and bugs. There are tiny openings for windows around the top of the hut, and an opening in the center so smoke can escape. The small windows block out the sun to keep it cool, it also avoids flies and mosquitoes from getting inside. It is so dark it takes some time for your eyes to adjust to so little light. The really tall Maasai must have very strong backs to be able to bend over each time they have to get into their hut. My back hurt the first time I did it. Only five people at a time could go in with Andrew. Once inside it was so dark you were completely blind for a few moments. We were taken to where they slept. There were two beds made of woven branches and cushioned with dry grasses and covered with a leather cowhide. It was very hard when you sat on it. They do not use pillows of any kind, and the only blankets they use are their clothing. The beds were on each side of the hut, one for the parents, and the other for the children. In the center of the hut was a small place for a fire, a pot for cooking, a few utensils, and a bowl for washing. The ceiling in the center was higher so you could actually stand up, but not if you are tall. There was no odor from the cow dung and urine.
Later they displayed how they make fire. The people on the reality show “Survivor” need to take a lesson from the speed they can do it. All they do is use dried elephant dung and rub two sticks together and “poof” you have fire. It’s that fast! Later they use cow dung to fuel the fire.
The women do all the labor. They build the huts, which takes about seven months. They milk the cows; they fetch the water no matter how far the walk is. Twenty miles would be a short walk. They are not allowed to own land or cattle. If they never give birth to a son they are scorned and forced to beg in their old age. Many tribes still circumcise their women even though it is illegal. The one thing I could not help notice was the women never smiled, but the men looked very happy and their smiles were huge. Gee! I wonder why? Our guide Tony told us that’s the way it is “The men did the thinking and women did the working” Women in this country have come a long way baby!
For the boys, fifteen is the coming of age ritual, when they become circumcised and become Moroni warriors. They used to have to hunt and spear a lion, but since it’s illegal they are not allowed. Who can say though for there is no one to stop them? They wear mostly red clothing so the animals fear them. MORE TO FOLLOW…
MY ADVENTURE – THE MAASAI TRIBE, Nov. 11th, 2009
The Maasai/Masai are an inigenous African ethnic group of semi-nomadic people located in Kenya and northern Tanzania. They are educated in Kiswahei and English. Most people called it Swahili, but the language is actually Kiswalhili. The Maasai population has been variously estimated at approacing 900,000. The Census with Estimates of the Maasai populations in both countries are complicated by the remote locations of many villages, and their semi-nomadic nature.
Although the Tanzania and Kenyan governments have instituted programs to encourage the Maasai to abandon their traditional semi-nomadic lifestyle, the people have continued their age-old customs. Some institutions claim that the lifestyle of the Maasai should be embraced as a response to climate change because of their ability to farm in deserts and scrublands. I didn’t see any Maasai farms. They told us they only eat meat and drink cows blood mixed with cows milk. I hope they drink some water too!
The Maasai is the most known Kenyan tribe outside Kenya especially for the tourists. They also have a presence around the Ngorongoro Crater of Tanzania for over 150 years. They are the main residents of that area. Their lives revolve around herding cattle. They believe in the rain god Ngai and that all the cattle was entrusted to the Maasi people when the earth and sky split and wealth is measured in number of cattle. They are a warrior tribe and since all the cattle was given to them they think it is OK to steal cattle from other tribes.
Our game drive was at 10:30 a.m. right after we ate a bit more breakfast. Amboseli is in a severe drought.. I was apprehensive to leave the beautiful surroundings to go out to the wastelands, but this was Africa! So I prepared myself for seeing more dead animals. We saw a hippo walking alone on the barren brown plain. I imagine he was in search for water. We saw some Jackels and a lot of Baboons, and vultures. There was a lion that stopped and sat right by our van. He looked exhausted and very thirsty. It was very sad and if they allowed me I would have given him my water in my hat. I was heartsick and sorry that I went on this safari, and swore I would not go back on the 4 p.m.game drive. Most of the animals we saw were in search of water. I was having another bout with feeling home sick!
It amazed me that outside the walls of the beautiful Amboseli Serena Safari Lodge there was so much death and suffering due to a three year drought. All afternoon rain clouds hovered over this God forsaken land, but no rain came. Life here for the Maasai and the animals is very tough to say the least. I prayed for rain the moment I saw the first dead carcus. MORE TO FOLLOW…
AFRICA TRIP WE LEFT AMBOSELI, NOVEMBER 12th, 2009
We left Amboseli at 7:30 a.m. for Tanzania. We drove for several hours until we reached Arusha for lunch. The restaurant was another lovely place with African atmosphere. We chose to eat out in the courtyard among the lush vegetation and flowers. The service was impressive and the food very good. It was not a buffet luncheon so we were all able to sit at one table and get to know the other twelve people that were not in our van.
Tony, our guide, told us what to expect when we reached the border-crossing checkpoint. He said it would take time, because the officers did not rush for anyone. He said we would have one more stop before reaching the border for a pit stop and, of course, to shop. We went through several small, very poor towns, and I was in awe waving at all the children with their big smiles. I wanted to take them all home.
When we reached the border we had to have our paper work filled out and our passports ready. The lines were not as long as I anticipated and all was going smoothly until I got up to the window and they would not accept my two fifty dollar bills. No one told us they had to be dated 2005 or newer. So I had to scramble and find someone in our group who had newer fifty-dollar bills. Of course, no one did because most of them did it by mail. Betsy and I chose to pay at the border. Finally after a panic attack, and seeing myself stuck in this horrible border town for the rest of my life, Tony came through and had two newer bills. I later found out they wouldn’t accept the older bills because of all the counterfeit money that plagues all of Africa, especially Kenya.
The border-town was really a mess. There were goats and cows walking about. There were people shoving their wares in your face. A very old Maasai woman grabbed my arm before I could jump into my van for safety. She wrapped a beaded bracelet around my wrist and said “For you a gift” I said I don’t want a gift but, I will be happy to pay you for it” and I handed her four dollars. She kept saying no “a gift, a gift.” So I said “thank you” in my naïveté. Then she asked me if I had a camera, which I was holding, and said I could take her picture if I wanted to. I thought that was kind of sweet so I did and then showed it to her. Then she said, “The gift is free, but you must pay for the picture.” The scam finally dawned on me, so I handed her five dollars, but she said “one more dollar” I gave her that, and she said, “one more dollar” I gave her another dollar. At this point all I wanted to do was get back to the van. She asked for another dollar and I said, “NO I will erase your photo” and high tailed it back to the van.
We arrived at spectacular Ngorongoro, which is the world’s largest intact volcanic caldera. We got to our hotel at 6:16 p.m. and dinner was served at 7:30 p.m. I went to the bar at 6:45 p.m. before dinner to watch the local Maasai band and dancers. Betsy decided to unpack and rest before dinner. We finished dinner at 9.p.m. and went to our room exhausted to wait for the 5:30 a.m. wake up call. MORE TO FOLLOW…
AFRICA AT NGORONGORO – November 13th, 2009
The Ngorongoro is called the eighth wonder of the world stretching across some 8,300 sq km. It has been declared an “International Biosphere Reserve.” Thousand of animals, reptiles, birds, and insects live in the crater. As we drove up the mountain to our hotel the dirt road was steep and became smaller and smaller. It was an exciting drive. We could view the crater most of the way up. This was the only road the Maasai did not use for their cattle. They had a road all their own to take the cattle down to the crater for water. The terrain was covered with beautiful purple flowered trees. The deep purple flowers were everywhere you looked. For the life of me I can’t remember the name of the trees that produced such beautiful flowers. It reminded me of our mountain home in the North Georgia Mountains, Blairsville, when the mountain laurel is in bloom, except these mountain flowers were huge.
Our hotel “Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge” was perched on the jagged rim of Ngorongoro Crater itself. It is camouflaged in river-stone and wreathed in morning mist. The lodge offers endless unparalleled views from its clustered boulder-built buildings that were linked by rope-lashed timber walkways that skirted the roofs of ancient Liana-hung trees. The Liana tree is a long stemmed woody vine. It is characteristic of moist, tropical deciduous forest and rainforests. The hotels interior design was ethnic Maasai with handcrafts, bright-beaded robes, and intricately designed carven artifacts made by the Maasai tribe. In the center of the lodge is a primeval log fire glowing on game-viewing hide as in a prehistoric cavern.
The hotel was just gorgeous. It sits so high up that I didn’t have to worry about mosquitoes. The beds didn’t even have nets around them. This was the first time I wasn’t concerned about not taking any malaria medication. The view from our bedroom balcony was overwhelming. We could see the entire crater, but the mist from the mountain made it hard to get really good pictures. We could hardly wait to get closer to the crater. The hotel offered the same wonderful meals with those silver-covered dishes. Yum, yum!
At 7:30 a.m. we were off in the vans for yet another exciting game drive down the Ngorongoro Crater. All I can say is, it was “Spectacular.” The Ngorongoro total conservation area is 3,200 square miles and within its area is the world’s largest volcanic caldera. It measures 20 Km across (12.4 mi.) and 600 meters (2000 ft.) from the rim of the floor. What we saw at the bottom of the crater was so awesome it is hard to put into words.
The flamingos were spread far and wide across the shallow lakebed. Their colors were light pink to a darker shade of pink. Apparently the deep-pink flamingos filter algae out of the water by vigorous suction and expulsion of water out of their beaks several times per second. They accomplish this with their bill upside down in the water.
We saw Golden Jackals, Egyptian Geese, and many different species of birds. There were too many to remember their names. The hippos lounged around in picturesque ponds. The wildlife in the crater lives year round and is healthy and active. The vegetation is green with many flowered trees.
Over the millennia a diverse ecology has developed within the protective walls of Ngorongoro, with grassland, lush forest, swamps and lakes, attracting an equally diverse population of African wildlife to this Eden. The lush grass and water are abundant throughout the year, attracting a large permanent population of herbivores, especially wildebeest and Zebra, as well as predators. The estimated population of 25,000 larger animals equates to around 250 animals per square mile.
Our afternoon safari was just as thrilling. What made it even more wonderful was it began to rain. I had to Praise God for sending the rain. I silently thanked Him and prayed it would reach Amboseli…MORE TO FOLLOW.
AFRICA AT OLDUVAI GORGE, November. 14th, 2009
We left for the Serengeti right after we finished breakfast, around 9:30 a.m. Yeah! We got to sleep in. We visited the Olduvai Gorge, located in the Great Rift Valley, on the way to our next destination. We also took part in a game drive as we drove to Serengeti. At this point in time there were animals roaming all over the Great Plains.
The Olduvai Gorge is known as the cradle of man. It is where the famous Leakey family discovered ancient hominid fossils and fossilized footprints. We also had a lesson on the proud, colorful and fascinating Maasai people. I continually learned something new about the Maasai people. They believe they are directly descended from the northern tribe of the “Twelve Tribes of Israel.” Although, they are not sure which tribe, they continue with research to find out exactly which one. It is their belief the sandals they wear, the staff they carry, the cattle they attend to, their nomadic life style, and their type of clothing is similar that which was worn by the northern tribe of Israel, distant relatives of the “Twelve Tribes of Israel.”
There was a small museum at Olduvai with displays showing the evolution of man’s ancestors, the development and refinement of his tools, and the animals that shared this environment during the different periods. Excavations are on going and continue to produce splendid specimens of extinct hominids, animals and plants.
Some Paleontologists believe that early man flourished at Tanzania’s Olduvai Gorge in the eastern Serengeti Plains, not far from Ngorongoro Crater. In 1960, Mary Leakey discovered the 1.75 million-year fossilized remain of Homo habilis (nicknamed “The Handyman” for his tool making skills). Then in 1978 at Laetoli, 3.6 million-year-old fossil footprints of an extinct human ancestor were discovered during and expedition led by Dr. Mary Leakey. The footprints are claimed to be human in appearance and scientific and public attention was immense.
Not everyone in the scientific world believes in evolution. When I went to school we were taught “The Theory of Evolution.”(emphasis on the word Theory) Somewhere along the way that seems to have changed and it is now being taught as scientific fact. I believe there is a lot more scientific evidence, supporting creationism, contained in the Bible and the writings of the Hebrew Prophets (dating back to 1400BC), which were collected and kept in the Tabernacle and then the Temple of Israel.
Paleontology – witnesses the validity of the Genesis’ account. When we refer to paleontology we are alluding to the fossil record. If some were not so closed minded they would appreciate that the biblical account of creation and the science of paleontology are in harmony. For instance, there is a mixture of the simple and the complex (Gen. 1: 1, 2 “without form,” 3-25, and earth with all the complexities, consummating in man, vss. 21, 27).
In the account of creation, life suddenly appears, fully formed (Gen. 1: 20, 21, 24, 27, 28). Paleontology also teaches the sudden introduction of mature life. There is no intimation of gradation, either in Genesis or the fossil record. Life was created mature and ready to reproduce (ibid.).
In this same vein, the record in Genesis explains why there are no transitional forms (a tadpole developing into man, i.e., all the progressive developmental stages…). The fossil record also presents evidence consistent with Genesis – no transitional forms.
Just think how the Genesis’ flood would have and did impact the fossil record (Gen. 7; 8). You would have universal fossil evidence of life forms being suddenly fossilized, often in stratum of dense mud, rock, and/or ice. Paleontology reveals fossil facts that are consistent and corresponding to the effects of the Genesis’ flood. Indeed, there is undeniable paleontological evidence of severe geological, atmospheric, and hydrological changes to the earth – just as would have been produced by such a great catastrophe as the flood described in Genesis chapters seven and eight.
Is It Time to Revise the System of Scientific Naming?
Lee R. Berger
for National Geographic News
December 4, 2001
A team of researchers led by paleoanthropologist Meave Leakey sparked a controversy among evolutionary scientists and the press alike earlier this year when they announced the discovery of a new genus and species of ape-man. They named their find Kenyanthropus platyops, the “flat-faced man of Kenya.” Ordinarily, the find itself would be enough to spark a flame of controversy in the heart of any follower of human origins research. But this find also highlighted an ongoing debate within the scientific community over the adoption of a new system for naming, ranking, and classifying organisms. The debate is not confined to ivory tower scientists. The fossil discovery was widely reported. The New York Times referred to the new genus as a hominid, National Geographic reported on the find as a hominin. National Geographic subsequently received several hundred e-mails complaining about the poor editorial work of the staff that had clearly erred by replacing a “d” with an “n.” So what’s in a name? The classification debate is not just a debate for the purist; it cuts to the very core of our understanding of human’s place in nature and our evolutionary relationships. All hominins are hominids, but not all hominids are hominins…MORE TO FOLLOW
AFRICA WE ARRIVE AT SERENGETI – Nov. 14th, 2009
We arrived at the “Serengeti Serena Lodge”, another beautiful hotel located in the middle of the Serengeti. The animals and wildlife was a site to see. There were wildebeest, zebras, and gazelles as far as the eye could see. They covered the plains in large groups. The landscape changed into dense forest separated by open valleys. We saw lions, baboons, giraffes, leopards, hippos and Cape buffalo along the entire route to the hotel.
I must mention the Tsetse flies. As soon as we got out of the van we were attacked by huge flies, they were everywhere. They are big, they bite, and they hurt. We were assured these monster flies were no longer a threat to humans because “Sleeping Sickness” had been eradicated. I now know there are 21 different species of the Tsetse fly that live in Africa, and the World Health Organization reports there are 25,000 new cases of sleeping sickness throughout Africa every year and increasing. Oh Well!
I was still very concerned about the mosquitoes and malaria because I was unable to use the Deet spray for protection. I tried spraying it on my clothes avoiding any areas of my skin, but it still burned and made my blood pressure shoot up. I took more antihistamine to counteract the reaction.
The night before we left Ngorongoro a waiter spilled hot water on my hand. Today I slid down a roadside embankment while we were waiting for our driver, Joseph, to change our flat tire. My hand was red, but not blistered from the hot water, and the slide down the embankment only scuffed my hands and twisted my foot. My pride was hurt more because everyone thought I was a Klutz. Two hyenas watched us curiously as we all stood waiting to get back in the van. No one is allowed to get out of the van, except to fix a flat tire, so the hyenas were very interested in us since they never see people outside of a vehicle. They were kind of cute.
The hotel was set high on a tree-clad ridge with a panoramic view over the vast Serengeti. It was designed in African style architecture. Streams and ponds surrounded it. The circular dwellings and the winding paths were inspired by the architecture of a Maasai village. The pool had no rim appearing as if it were the same level as the ground. I took a photo of my friend Betsy, sitting at the back end of the pool that over looked the Serengeti and she and the Serengeti became one with a vanishing horizon. Every Serena hotel we stayed in had the very best of amenities. All the lodges we stayed at had beautiful dining rooms and bars, traditional music, culture and dance, guided walks, massage and beauty treatments, and gifts shops and boutiques. One of them even had a steam room. All the rooms had private baths, hair dryers, private balcony, and phones. It would be a pleasure just to work there!
This particular hotel had security guards with flashlights, who escorted you to your room after dark. We were told to call for an escort whenever we left our room after it got dark. There were no fences or gates and the animals can come and go as they please. After all this is there home, and the Serengeti has a lot of nocturnal animals that roam throughout the night…especially big cats!
Dinner was at 7:30 as usual and we got back to our room at 9:30 p.m. Betsy and I just never got used to the time change and if we slept for four hours we felt good. Betsy averaged two hours sleep a night. This particular night I think she was up awake all night long. I got up to go to the bathroom around 4 p.m. and when I went into the bathroom I saw her in a robe seated on the toilet seat cover reading a book. She scared the dickens out of me and I was afraid that everyone heard me scream. We laughed ourselves silly over that, and then neither one of us got anymore sleep. MORE TO FOLLOW…
AFRICA – LAST DAY AT SERENGETI – Nov. 15th, 2009
Prior to leaving for today’s game drive we went to the Serengeti visitor’s center and learned more about the “Great Migration.” The zebras always lead the migration and the wildebeest follow. We were told this was because the wildebeest do not have very good eyesight so they stay behind the zebra and use them as guides. The name Serengeti comes from the Maasai word “Siringet” referring to the “endless plain.” As you stand on the southern grass plains, you experience the vastness and are able to witness one of the greatest concentrations of animals left on earth, yet the Serengeti is much more – nearly 2/3 of the park is bush or woodland. It was declared a Game Reserve in 1929. The park is also the center of the Serengeti ecosystem. It is roughly defined by the annual wildebeest migration. The ecosystem encompasses an area of 25-3000 square kilometers. It is the combination of Serengeti National Park along with Ngorongoro Conservation Area, four Game Reserves, one Game Controlled Area and Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve. These parks protect the largest single movement of wildlife on earth.
At the visitors center we saw adorable Rock Hydrax, now they are really cute! They kind of look like rabbits without ears or bunny tails. There are beautiful rocks named Kopjes (pronounced at “copy” from the Dutch meaning “little head”). The intriguing, rounded shapes of these ancient granite rocks are the result of cracking and erosion and exposure to sun, wind, and rain. They appear to sit on edge jutting straight up from the ground. They provide shelter and capture water for a wealth of wildlife and plants. Without these rocks the large animals would be unable to survive the dry season on the plains. The Moru Kopjes are outstanding for their large size and profusion of resident wildlife including lions, leopards, rhinoceros and elephants.
The Serengeti stretches almost to the shores of Lake Victoria. We were only two hours or so from Lake Victoria but it was not on our tour agenda. We tried desperately to talk our driver in to losing the other vans and head for Lake Victoria, but he wouldn’t be bribed.
The Serengeti is so overwhelming. No matter how tired I was I wanted to see more. It truly is a photographer’s paradise. On the 4-6 p.m. game drive we saw lakes with loads of hippos all squeezed together and on top of each other. The babies were in the center of the mass. This is how they protect their young and each other from the crocodiles. We saw lions, leopards, and cheetahs everywhere. We also saw several more dik-dik. They are named for the sound they make when alarmed and they look like small antelope and have an elongated snout and a soft coat that is grey or brownish above and white below. The hair on the crown of their head forms an upright tuft that sometimes partially conceals the short, ringed horns of the male. Very cute!
The “Great Migration” moves through the northern woodland plains from June-December in order to feed on the lush grass that persist in this area. Their range during this time extends north into Maasai Mara. The short rains come in November and the wildebeest move south from the northern woodlands. They move to exploit the short grass plains, where the grasses are rich in minerals so they can rear their young. In February/March one of the wildlife’s most amazing spectacles occurs. Over a 3-4 week period, the female wildebeest give birth, flooding the plains with thousands of newborn calves each day. When the rains stop, the plains dry out rapidly forcing the herds to migrate west and north once again. Their departure in May/June marks another great spectacle.
The Tsetse flies are everywhere, but I did not see any mosquitoes during the day, and only a few at night. The hotels did supply some packets of bug repellent and I make sure I put it on before I go on safari. Tomorrow we leave for Lake Manyara. MORE TO FOLLOW…
AFRICA AT LAKE MANYARA – November 16th, 2009
We left the Serengeti Serena Safari Lodge right after breakfast, and were on the road at 7:30 a.m. We had only a short time to pack our stuff after breakfast before the hotel staff came to collect it. Our guide, Tony, runs a tight ship and we oblige him by being on time. I was rushing because I wanted to go into the gift shop before we boarded the van but I tripped over a cobblestone going up the steps and slid across the very rough cement. This time I was really embarrassed, and knew I would be late for the van call. A very nice man helped me up and asked if he should call my guide. I said I was fine and went into the bathroom to clean myself up. I could hear Tony giving his customary “Woo Woo” call for all to get on board because the van was leaving. I hurt more than my pride this time. I had a great big bruise on my hip, and my hands were scuffed. I was just thankful I did not break a hip, and praised God for watching out for a klutz like me. Yes, indeed, I think I am accident-prone!
The drive was packed with beautiful scenery that kept changing from flower filled mountains, to open plains, to very poor cities. We stopped for lunch and had sort of a picnic at an archeological site. The Serengeti Serena Hotel made us box lunches to go because we would not get to Lake Manyara until later in the afternoon. The town where our hotel was located was called “Mosquito Creek:” – Yikes! I hoped they gave out those packets of bug repellent, because I was all out. I didn’t feel too confident about staying in a place called “Mosquito Creek.” As it turned out Mosquito Creek was not as bad as the name conjured up. It was a busy town with paltry shops, fruits that were displayed on pieces of cloth upon the ground, children walking home from school, in their uniforms, cows being herded and goats milling about.
When we arrived at the hotel I wasn’t surprised it was another beautiful Lodge to lay our heads down. Each room had a private balcony with a panoramic view of the Great Rift Valley, below. The circular buildings were constructed in such a way that they complemented the indigenous architecture. Many of the Lodges had beautiful pools that were rimless so the water seemed to be level with the ground. At Lake Manyara the pool with its rimless boundaries overlooked the Great Rift Valley and gave the impression of a vanishing horizon. Next to the pool was a bar and a pool-viewing platform. It was a stunning view that melded the pool with the Great Rift Valley, and they were one.
The word Manyara comes from the Maa (language of the Maasai) it refers to the Euphorbia Tirucalli tree plant. The Maasai like it because it is resilient and long lasting. They use it to create pens for their cattle. The total size of Lake Manyara is 330 square kilometers. It is a relatively small park that can be traversed in a short period of time while viewing many different species of animals and birds.
The game drive was from 4-6 p.m as usual. We saw some very lazy hippos that just kept yawing which gave us a great photo op. The park is famous for its Acacia Tortilis tree-climbing lions. We saw a lot of baboons, monkeys, giraffe, impala, elephants, leopards, lions and a variety of different type of birds. There are three different types of scenery going through the park. First we went through an area of diverse vegetation with a thick forest of baobab trees. I first read about these trees that were referred to as the “upside down trees” in James Michener’s book “The Covenant.” I knew one day I would get to see them. The trunk is very thick at the top of the tree, and the branches actually resemble roots instead of branches. I read Michener’s book when I was in my twenties! I have waited a very long time to see these trees. I can’t believe we only have one more day of safari. I have had several bouts of being home sick, and now I’m already home sick for Africa. It is bitter sweet, indeed. MORE TO FOLLOW…
AFRICA LAST DAY – LAST SAFARI, Nov. 17TH, 2009
Today’s safari at, Lake Manyara, was our last safari in Africa. I left on this safari with mixed emotions. I was very exhausted at this point and feeling quite sad that my trip to Africa would soon be coming to a close. I found it hard to get myself moving. My friend, Betsy reminded me that if I didn’t go I would miss out on seeing more lions.” The magic word kicked in and I remembered how I hated missing my first day on safari due to the Deet mishap. I quickly forgot how tired I was and grabbed my safari hat and said, “Right this is Africa.”
This particular safari was even dearer to me, because I knew it would be my last. Amazingly, I managed to get some of my best close up shots of baboons, giraffes, elephants, and some really pretty birds. More than 400 species of birds have been recorded. Definitely a place for bird watchers! We saw some giraffes that were so dark in coloration that they appeared to be black from a distance. It surprised me that giraffes had different amounts of pigmentation. Lake Manyara is an ideal location for elephants because of the abundance of tree and plant life. The park has Tanzania’s highest population of elephant per square km. Elephants are capable of consuming up to 400kg of food a day. We also saw more wildebeest and zebra herds congregate on the grassy plains.
So much of the lake has dried up that we were unable to get close to the water. That was because the lake was surrounded by soft marshland. However, we could see light pink and darker pink flamingoes that were spread across the entire length of the lakebed. There were literally thousands of pink hued flamingos on their perpetual migration. We saw pelicans, and storks sharing the lakebed as well. Ernest Hemingway was once quoted as saying that Lake Manyara was “the loveliest place I had seen in Africa.”
On our drive back to the lodge everyone in the van was quiet. I think we were all experiencing the “last safari blues.” Lunch helped brighten my spirits and I wish I could eat all meals from those silvered covered dishes, everyday, but I would be as big as a house if I did. I am still working at losing the six pounds I put on since I arrived in Africa. After lunch the plan was to visit a banana plantation and meet the local African workers. It was a very hot day and I was still very tired so I stayed back at the lodge. The truth is the beautiful pool with its vanishing horizon was calling to me.
My friend Betsy told me all about the things she saw at the banana plantation so I didn’t feel like I missed too much by not going. She told me was how surprised she was when she found out that the owner of the plantation was a woman. She was also surprised that her dwelling was so primitive. They walked around the plantation and spoke with some of the workers. They also toured the town and Betsy got some good photo shots of the local people and kids walking home from school.
After dinner will went to the bar and enjoyed the local Maasai as the entertained us. Some of the dances and chants of the Maasai tribe were very sexual in nature. One of the dances demonstrated (in dance) a couple being graphically intimate. Another dance was disturbing because they worked themselves into a trance and spread fire from a torch all over their arms, legs, and chests. Then to top it all off, two Maasai dancers sat down to share a bowl of fire. They actually put the fire in their mouths, down their pants, and rubbed it on top of their heads. These were no parlor tricks friends. I smelled and saw the smoke where one of the Maasai burned the hair on his head. I thought only Haitians did those crazy things. Oh my what would the missionaries who gave them all their Christian names think of that?
Tomorrow we will leave this mystical place and head back to Nairobi via Arusha. It grieves me that I may never come back to this place called Africa. A place where the animals own the land, and run free, but because of man are still not safe. MORE TO FOLLOW…
AFRICA LEAVING LAKE MANYARA , Nov. 18th, 2009
Shortly after breakfast we boarded our van and headed for the border town of Namanga where we would cross back into Kenya. We were told that the process would be slow. The drive back gave me time to ponder all that we saw and did. The lodge fixed box lunches to take with us, and we stopped for lunch at a little shop selling the usual African wares that all the other stores had. The only difference with this shop was that there was no pressure to buy anything. We went through the back of the store into a small area outside where there were tables and this is where we ate our boxed lunches. The outhouse was in that area too. There was a gorgeous tree with orange flowers that we feasted our eyes on while we ate. My box lunch had a grilled cheese sandwich, an apple, a banana, and a cookie, and we all had water. The van kept a supply of water everywhere we went. It is very easy to become dehydrated out in the plains of Africa. The only meat I ate while I was in Africa was bacon in the morning. I put on six pounds from eating all the pastas, rice, breads, potatoes, cheese and desserts. I tried to eat a lot of fruits and vegetables for some balance though.
It was a long drive from Lake Manyara back to Nairobi. It started to rain the morning we left Lake Manyara and we were all thrilled for the Maasai people, and the animals. I could almost hear them chanting their praises to God. This was not a short rain either. It rained lions and hyenas, a euphemism for (cats and dogs). All the roads were flooded. Since the roads are not paved they flood quickly. The ruts in the road become small rivers. We saw vehicles packed with safari passengers all over the roads. Our guide, Samuel, was an amazing driver and seemed to know which muddy road to follow to get us around all the other vehicles. We did have another flat tire though, and Samuel had to get out and fix it. This time he wanted us to stay in the van. I guess he wasn’t taking any chances with letting anyone (me) out of the vehicle. With my luck, I would have probably been washed away. I found it all very exciting to be in the wilderness with muddy roads and flooding gullies all around us. Several times we came to an abrupt halt and Samson would get out of the van to eyeball which flooded gully looked like he would have the best chance of crossing without getting stuck. Once we did get stuck, and it took him quite awhile before he managed to spin the wheels to get us free. I prayed really hard because I didn’t want to be stuck for who knows how long in the mud. He told us the trick was to gauge the depth of water and then go full speed ahead. He was a master at it. Even though I was tired and the rain was washing mud all around us I was so happy for every drop. I gave the glory to God for bringing this very dry land water. I thought of that poor lion, so thirsty, so hot, and panting horribly, and prayed that he lived long enough to drink the water.
We got back to Nairobi around 4 p.m. and we made one last stop to shop for last chance souvenirs. We were shopping at the same store we were at the first day we arrived in Nairobi. I think everyone bought something. Now that I look back I wonder where did the time go? We got to the Norfolk Hotel around 4 p.m. Our farewell dinner was scheduled for 7:30 p.m. fifteen minutes from downtown Nairobi at t the Lord Erroll Gourmet restaurant. It was first class French cuisine. Our tour group of sixteen and our Guide, Tony, all got to dine together. The table set beautifully and there were fresh white roses in silver centerpieces. We ate out on the terrace, which was surrounded by lovely flowers. It was a little chilly so they provided tall heating lamps that surrounded our table. Our dinner was served in covered silver dishes, and you know how I love silver covered entrees. When everyone was served their silver covered entrée, waiters stood behind all seventeen of us and uncovered the meals we ordered at the same time. The wine was complementary. This was the only time wine was served without a charge and Tony said the wine would be served until it was no longer wanted. They did have a champagne breakfast at one of the lodges, but I can’t remember which one it was. We all toasted Tony and thanked him for being such a wonderful guide throughout our entire trip. As I wrote in my survey to “Odyssey Unlimited,” Tony was a teacher, a friend, a father, and a brother, as well as a guide to all of us. MOORE TO FOLLOW…
AFRICA LEAVING NAIROBI FOR DUBAI – Nov. 19th, 2009
We were scheduled to check out of The Norfolk Hotel at 10.a.m., but Tony persuaded the manager to allow us to check out at noon. That allowed us to have a leisurely breakfast out on the veranda and enjoy the sunshine at the best breakfast buffet I have ever had. It was hard knowing that all those silver covered dishes would soon be a thing of the past. We also had time to re-arrange our luggage for our next visit to Dubai.
We got to the airport at 1:15 p.m. but our plane wasn’t scheduled to leave until 4:40 p.m. It was sad saying good-bye to our driver Muli and guide, Tony. They were the first faces to greet us when we arrived at Nairobi and the last of our Africa friends to bid us farewell before we dragged ourselves into the terminal. The time passed quickly and soon we boarded the plane to Dubai. The flight gave me time to catch up on my journal and my friend, Betsy, was able go over her photos for the hundredth time. I reflected on my great African adventure that I dreamed about for so very long. I was still home sick but leaving Africa tugged at my heart.
It was a 5 ½ hour flight to Dubai. Taking into account the time difference between Kenya and Dubai, we arrived in Dubai about midnight. We flew on Emirates Airlines again, and it remains my favorite airline. The food was very good. We had menus to tell us what entrees we could select from. The wine was free, snacks and fruits were offered, and the service was great. I don’t know if there is another airline that can compare to Emirates, but I just can’t imagine there is. I have flown all over this country, and outside of it, and the only other airline I was impressed with was Alaska Airlines. I am certainly not a world traveler, but one of the ladies, Alberta, who has been to 84 countries, said she was impressed with Emirates as well. It was so quiet. I never even heard the wheels retracting after take-off, nor did I hear them extending prior to landing. I never felt cooped up, confined or claustrophobic. What worried me most about traveling was the 11 ½ hours it took to fly there and return. Emirites Airlines made it a pleasure.
Descending into Dubai we could see the “ The Palm Jumeirah” the world’s largest man-made island. From the air we saw a huge palm tree that was completely lit up with greens lights. It consistes of a trunk, a crown with 16 fronds, and a surrounding crescent island that forms an 11 kilometre long breakwater. The island is 5 kilometres by 5 kilometres and its total area is larger than 800 football fields. The crown is connected to the mainland by a 300-metre bridge and the crescent is connected to the top of the palm by a subsea tunnel. The Palm Jumeirah is one of the world’s premier resorts, and is the self-declared ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’.
The Dubai airport is an internatinal airport serving the largest city of the United Arab Emirates. It is a major airport in the Middle East, and is the main airport of Dubai. The Emirates hub is the largest airline hub in the Middle East and Africa. Emirates handles 60% of all passenger traffic, and accounts for 38% of all aircraft movements at the airport. In addition to being an important passenger traffic hub, the airport is one of the busiest cargo airports in the world. Everything at the airport was new, shiny, bright and immaculate. I couldn’t find a scuff mark anywhere. It was very impressive, state of the art for sure.
We found our driver and boarded the van for our hotel. We stayed at the “Sheraton Dubai Creek Hotel & Towers.” The hotel overlooked the Dubai Creek and was just a short walk from the city’s main commercial and shopping districts, and close to the Gold and Spice district. It was rated as a five star hotel and, indeed, it was. All the hotels and lodges we stayed at were just gorgeous, but in Africa I felt guilty about staying at such beautiful places when there was so much poverty surrounding me. Not here, in Dubai, however!
As we drove to our hotel we could see the beautiful hotels all lit up. It reminded me of LasVegas, but had a lot more sophistiication. I was anxious to see what our five star hotel looked like, but even more anxious to go to bed. MOORE TO FOLLOW…
FIRST DAY IN DUBAI – NOV. 20TH, 2009
The “Sheraton Dubai Creek Hotel & Towers” was lovely. It had several restaurants. The breakfast buffet was in the main restaurant and we chose to eat outside overlooking Dubai Creek. Although it was good, it didn’t have the selection or the ambience that our African lodges had. I missed having the separate bars for juices, breads, cheese, and pastries. Oh well! I needed to lose the six pounds that I gained anyhow.
After breakfast we met our tour guide, Tony. He was nothing like our African guide, Tony. He was not the most social man I had ever met. In fact, his personality left a lot to be desired. My heart longed to see Tony, Muli, Samson, and Joseph. I will never forget those guys. We had so much fun with them.
The first place our friendly guide took us to was “The Diera Gold Souk.” We crossed Dubai Creek in a dhow to get to the most happening Gold Souk (market) in Dubai. A dhow is a small boat that people sit on each side facing the water. There were many dhows on the water that day with people going back and forth to the souk. The Souks are open-air markets common in the Arabic world. It is unlikely to find any such place in Europe or the Americas. The Diera Gold Souk offers a wide variety of jewelry items, emeralds, rubies, rings, bracelets, anklets and much more. Many of the modern malls in Dubai also have lots of gold jewelry. By some estimates, approximately 10 tons of gold is present at any given time in the souk. It is one of the largest retail markets for gold in the world. There were more than 700 shops, crammed with all types of jewelry, from Western to traditional Indian. It is also cheaper to buy gold at the souks than anywhere else. The taxes are less or none at all.
Located in Deir adjacent to “The Dubai Gold Souk” is the “The Spice Souk.” The Spice Souk, have several narrow lanes which are lined with open and closed-roof stores. Stores in the Spice Souk sell a variety of fragrances and spices from frankincense to many herbs used in Arabic and South Asian food. In addition, several textitles, incense, rugs and artefacts are also sold in the Spice Souk A majority of the trading occurs through haggling. The quantity of trade as well as the number of stores trading spices in the Spice Souk have been significantly reduced in recent years due to the growth of larger stores and supermarkets. Our guid told us that the Iranians owned and ran the Spice Souk in Dubai. We did not spend much time there because no one in our group was interested in buying any gold.
Next we went to see the Burg Dubai, the worlds tallest building. It is 160 stories high at 2,685 feet, (800 meters). “Burg” is the Arabic word meaning tower. On January 4th the world’s tallest building had its unveiling so we did not get to see the inside, but the outside and the surrounding grounds were very, very impressive.
We also visited “The Grand Mosque”, which is considered one of the largest in Dubai. It has the capacity to accommodate 1200 worshipers. Of course, we were not allowed to enter, but we were allowed to take photos of the building. The Grand Mosque is also known as Al-Jumeriah Mosque and is the most attractive mosque in Dubai. It is also the most photographed mosque. There seemed to be a Mosque on every corner!
Our guide said that Dubai had Christian churches, and Buddhist temples, but no Synagogues. I really didn’t stop to think about that. I was to busy looking for the Christian churches and Buddhist temples, but I didn’t see any of them anywhere in Dubai. My friend, Betsy asked our guide why they had no Synagogues. He seemed annoyed at the question and said “Jews are allowed into Dubai.” Then my friend made him more upset by asking, “Is it because Jews don’t want to come here or just because they are not allowed?” Seeming more annoyed he said that it was a very difficult subject to talk about, and he would not discuss it. I can’t imagine why an Israeli Jew would want to go there in the first place. But I couldn’t help wonder if American Jews were also not allowed to enter Dubai, and if they did how they would know if they were Jewish. Our guide was so annoyed with my friend’s question that I didn’t dare ask anymore. I probably wouldn’t have gone to Dubai if I knew they did not allow Jews to enter their country. It is ironic, indeed, that Dubai is such a modern city but maintains such an ancient prejudice. It is sad, indeed. MOORE TO FOLLOW…
FIRST DAY IN DUBAI CONTINUES Nov. 20th, 2009
The next stop on our agenda was to see “ATLANTIS, THE PALM.” It is located on Palm Jumeirah, covering over 113 acres, It has 1539 rooms and suites. The Atlantis Palm features two towers linked by an arch. There is a 42-acre water theme amusement park known as Aquaventure and the Lost Chambers, an undersea city, which are free to guests. There are so many beautiful hotels both on The Palm and surrounding the entire city that it would take all day to take photos of them all, although I did try!
We then went to Al-Fahidi Fort, home to the Dubai Museum. It was built in 1787 and is the oldest existing building in Dubai. It maintains a collection of historic artifacts including pieces associated with the Emirate’s traditional pearl-fishing industry. In addition to artifacts from recent discoveries as old as 3000 B.C. The fort was used to guard the landward approaches to the town from the raids of neighbouring tribes. It has also served, at various times throughout history as the ruler’s palace, a garrison, and a prison. The fort was renovated in 1970, and opened as the Dubai Museum on May 12th 1971 by Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, then ruler of Dubai. Additional galleries were added in 1995. If you like Museums I would recommend it.
We then went to see The Burj al Arab. It is a unique hotel that is a symbol for Dubai. The Burj al Arab was designed to look like a giant Sail of a dhow, and was built on sand that rests on an artificial island 280 m (920 ft.) off shore. This is unusual as most tall buildings are founded on rock. The columns that support The Burj al Arab go 45 meters under the sea. The columns rely on friction to hold the building up. There is a screen that encloses the third side of The Burj al Arab atrium that is made of 1mm thick glass fiber fabric with a Teflon coating to keep the dirt from sticking to it. The screen is the largest of its type and covers an area of one and a half football fields. It is hung from the top of the building by over a kilometer of 52mm cable. It is one of the most expensive hotels in the world. The cost of staying in a suite begins at US$2,000 per night; the Royal Suite is the most expensive, starting at US $28,000 per night. Dubai is becoming a world resort location so the building design had to say, holiday, fun, and sophistication. This mixed with Dubai’s nautical heritage decided the shape of the building.
Our next stop was Jumeirah Beach, which is Dubai’s main stretch of sand. It runs for miles along the Arabian Gulf, flanked by hotels and their private beach clubs. The Jumeirah Beach Park is one of the public areas that doesn’t require a guest pass, though they do charge a nominal entry fee to enjoy the picnic spots, children’s play space, and swimming area. Those who like to kite surf head to Wollongong Beach, known locally as Kite Beach. More beaches can be found on Dubai’s man-made island, the Palm Jumeirah, the fronds of which have effectively doubled the length of the coastline. I am a Florida girl, and have lived by beaches all my life, so I wasn’t too impressed with the beach. My friend Betsy just wanted to see the Red Sea and put her toe in it. Unfortunately, we ran out of time and she was unable to do that. MOORE TO FOLLOW…
OUR STAY IN DUBAI CONTINUES – November 21st, 2009
When we returned to the Sheraton Dubai Creek Hotel it was six o’clock and we were hungry. We were only scheduled for breakfast, so we were on our own for lunch and dinner. It was odd not having a set schedule of where we had to be every minute of the day. Without Tony, our African guide, telling me where to be for dinner and at what time we were to eat I sort of felt like an orphan. Most of our tour group went to local restaurants for dinner but Betsy and I decided to just eat at the hotel. We didn’t pick one of the fancy restaurants that the hotel had to offer because we didn’t want to get dressed up, so we ordered pizza and ate out on the open terrace where we had our breakfast. I can’t say much about the pizza. It certainly didn’t taste like “New York” pizza, or any other pizza that I ever tasted. Maybe I am being judgmental because I am particular about my pizza but I was so in the mood for pizza dripping with olive oil, layered with pepperoni, loaded with mozzarella cheese, and smothered in garlic. After dinner we went to our room and watched TV for the first time in almost three weeks. I must admit I didn’t miss all the bad news.
The next morning we were on our own time again and could go anywhere that we chose. We decided to go with the tour group to the “Emirates Mall.” We headed for the mall on the local Monorail. Being raised in New York City, I was amazed at the cleanliness of the entire system. The terminals and cars were immaculate There was a young woman in uniform that was an “Information Specialist.” She was there just to answer questions. We started up a conversation with her and she told us she was from Kenya and was working in Dubai for a few years just for experience. She told us she was very home sick and would be going back to Kenya in six months. There was also a man wearing a suit, which I assumed was a security agent. Since he was not in a uniform, I surmised he was security because he kept walking back and forth through the cars.
Now for the “Dubai Emirates Mall”! The mall was designed by an American architecural firm, F&A Architects. It contains approximately 2,400,000 square feet. Although it features the usual amenities for a mall its biggest claim to fame is the Middle East’s first indoor Ski Slope, “Ski Dubai.” The entire mall is covered in a beautiful glass dome. If you stand in the center of the mall on the second level you can see the entire mall in every direction. We went there mainly to see “Ski Dubai” so I will tell you about that.
Ski Dubai is the largest indoor ski resort in the world. It has 5 runs that vary in difficulty, height and gradient, the longest run being 400 meters with a fall of over 60 meters. There are also slopes for beginners. There are slopes for snowboarders to practice their stunts in the Freestyle Zone. Kids and parents can have fun in the interactive Snow Park. Ski equipment and clothing are available for guests, as is snowboard equipment. They even have Snow School instructors that will instruct you on how to ski or snowboard. They also have warming rooms. It seems like they thought of everything.
We walked around the mall for a while “people watching.” We asked some local male Muslims if we could take their photo, and they didn’t mind at all. We took some photos of two men that were actually on a holiday from Saudi Arabia. They told us they come to Dubai every six weeks for rest and relaxation. Their jobs must be awfully tiring if they have to go on “holiday” every six weeks. Poor guys! We were instructed that taking a photo of a Muslim woman was absolutely forbidden, and we would go to jail if we did so. We were also told that we were not allowed to talk to them. I don’t know how we got a picture of a lady in a black Burka with her face covered. She must have walked in front of our camera when we were taking photos of the mall! MOORE TO FOLLOW…
DUBAI CONTINUES 21st, 2009
As I rode the Monorail back to the Sheraton Dubai Creek Hotel, I tried to take in as much of the city as I possibly could. As I said before, everything in Dubai is neat, tidy, and very clean. I couldn’t help notice that many skyscrapers were at a stand still on construction. There was building after building that remained without any construction going on anywhere. It was kind of eerie seeing so many huge buildings with out any workers, moving trucks, or people. It was like they had been abandoned. In reality, I guess they have been, due to the economy. The other thing I noticed was how many sets of two identical buildings there were. I couldn’t help reflect on the World Trade Center and how they mirrored each other. I am sure it didn’t mean anything, just an architect’s design, but I couldn’t help but take it personal. Especially now since Muslims have plans to build a Mosque near Ground Zero. I heard them say on the news they bought the land very near Ground Zero to build their Mosque so Americans can get to know them as moderate Muslims that they are not terrorists. My question is how can we get to know them when we are not allowed into their Mosques. No matter how this plays out I think if moderate Muslims would speak out against the extremists, than we could really get to know them. Their silence on Jihad is very loud, indeed, and speaks volumes. My political views are independent, and these are my personal observations.
The City of Dubai is 98.7% crime free. Now that is another “Wonder of the World.” Our guide told us that the .3% is caused by illegal business misunderstandings. The city is populated by 45% Indians. There are many nationalities working there. We met people from Australia, Germany, Kenya, England, Ireland, and Asia. Many of them said they came to work there for the experience of living in Dubai. Of course, we didn’t meet anyone from Israel. The city is so quiet, so new, so pretty, and so clean, that it is almost sterile. It reminded me of the movie, The “Stepford Wives”, where everything and everyone was perfect. Dubai wants to have the biggest and best of everything and they have a good head start on it. They will soon have the biggest roller coaster in the world. It is certainly a city to marvel at, but for me it was boring. It lacked heart and soul.
In the evening we went to an “Arabian Adventure Desert Safari and Dinner.” we rode a camel, raced over the dunes, had barbeque Arabian style and watched belly dancing. This is what I came to Dubai for. I lived in Las Cruces, New Mexico, very close to “White Sands National Park.” In fact, that is where I met my friend, Betsy. So I was very excited about this part of the trip. The dunes were beautiful and we saw the most beautiful sun set. It was a big orange ball sitting on top of a large dune. We watched as it slowly slipped beyond the horizon. I got great photos of it. Riding the Dunes in a 4WD Toyota Land Cruiser was a thrill. It was like riding a roller coaster going up and down and sideways over the golden dunes. And all the while thinking this car just may turn over. It was great fun!
We then headed to the campsite where a convoy of camels awaited our arrival for a short camel ride. Naturally, I fell off and over the camel’s head when he kneeled down to allow us to get off him. It was my good fortune that there was someone to catch me before I hit my head. After pulling every muscle in my back from falling over the camel’s head we went into the Bedouin tents for a BBQ buffet. Betsy and I got a picture holding a falcon. She got a Henna (temporary tattoo) while I tried to make myself comfortable on the Majlis (low cushions). I can’t understand how they can sit on those cushions and eat their meals. I was aching all over by the time we left. From what I was told the BBQ was very good. I only ate the rice, fruit and a lot of dessert. The belly dancers were very talented at what they were doing, and they invited people to come and join them. All in all it was a great day in the desert, but I was exhausted from sitting on the ground. That little pillow did nothing to help my backache.
Tomorrow after breakfast we will be leaving Dubai and heading back to JFK.
ONE MORE PAGE TO GO…
DUBAI – HOMEWARD BOUND – Nov. 22nd – 23rd, 2009
After breakfast we packed up and rearranged our luggage once again. We were off to Dubai airport bound for JFK. I couldn’t believe that almost three weeks had gone by since I left home. We said a quick good-bye to our driver and went to line up to go through customs. The airport was teeming with people. We got through customs rather quickly, but we had three hours to wait for our plane to take us home to the USA. Betsy and I took turns walking around the airport. I hate crowded places, so I just stretched my legs a couple of times. Our plane departed the terminal on time and we were off the ground before we knew it, resting comfortably in our seats. We flew back to New York on an Emirates Boeing 777 again and enjoyed the same good service. We now knew fourteen people from our tour group so the flight home was more interesting because we could get up and visit with them. The flight was an hour longer due to the jet stream, so it was a 12-½ hour flight back to JFK. I chose not to lay over in New York, as I had done on the way to Dubai, because I was anxious to get home. I wish now I had stayed in a hotel and left for Florida the next morning because my trip turned into a nightmare. I did get to visit with my nephew Tom, who works for U.S. Customs at Kennedy, so that was nice.
I was supposed to have a two-hour lay over in Atlanta before catching my flight to Jacksonville. I sat at JFK for five hours waiting for my airplane to come to the gate because it was delayed. The terminal I was in was under-going remodeling and the noise of the drills made me crazy. There was no place to get away from it. By the time I got to Atlanta I was very tired. You can imagine how I felt when I reached Atlanta, and found out my connection to Jacksonville was also delayed five hours. At that point I was beyond exhaustion. The airport was freezing and all I had was a light sweater. I was to tired to read, to tired to walk around the airport, and to tired to sleep. At one point I just cried from frustration and my body shook from being so cold. A ticket agent came over and wrapped a blanket around me. I don’t think I have ever been that tired in my life. When I finally got home to Jacksonville it was 4 a..m. November 23rd. I don’t even remember getting into bed. My husband was disappointed because he was so happy to see me, but I was so tired I wasn’t happy about anything.
I slept for ten hours. The next day I was back to myself and very happy to see my husband, my cats, and my home. I looked around at my beautiful home and my heart ached as I thought of “Slum City” and all those dirty little children with their big smiles. And so this ends my journal. God willing I will one day return to Africa as a missionary. That is something I have dreamed of since I was a small child. SO ENDS MY AFRICAN JOURNEY.