An old one: Everything else, summed up


Here's a post I wrote when I returned but never posted. It gets you mostly through the safari:

I realized that by getting lost in my travels I didn't saw a word about the day camp graduation. It was a full day of pomp and circumstance, which meant that we had plays and simosas and songs and a PA system. The kids had a blast, and a few sets of parents showed up. The afternoon was filled with every single student wanting their picture taken with us. I have a great collection that i plan to send over to the school in an album. It was sad to leave them. I felt like if nothing else, the kids loved having us there, asking us questions, playing the games we taught them (stretching was still, oddly, their favorite), and trying to learn what they could from us. I know that the kids in my class will be well taken care of. their teacher, Miss Paul, kept as much of our flip charts and note cards and displays as she could to use while teaching in the upcoming year. I didn't like bumping down that long road, hitting my head on the ceiling, only one last time. But, I wasn't too sad, since I knew I was going to the coast.

In the interest of time, I'm not gonna go in to the rest of the trip in a lot of detail. And by time, I mean now that I'm back and have a wedding to finish planning, a job to go to, research to do and books to read for class, I'm losing that precious commodity quickly. I miss the days when most of your time was spent hanging around, deciding what to do next, or reading a good book. Rest assured, the rest of the trip to Pangani was beautiful, relaxing, and I almost got bored from all the doing nothing. I finished another book, and got a little too much sun. The bus ride back was a little worse in that we didn't stop at all in the 8 hours, but I prepared by not drinking or eating much. Amazingly, after being sure that I was going to make it through six weeks in Tanzania without seeing Kilimanjaro, even after hiking on Kilimanjaro, it peeked through the clouds just as we passed through Moshi. I shook Kyle awake and snapped a billion pictures.

Sam's first few days were spent overcoming the overwhelming feeling of being in a third world country. He never showed it, but every once in while I'd just check and see how he was feeling. It took him a little while to relax, as it did for all of us in the beginning. We hung out in Arusha, seeing the sites, eating good food, hanging out with Kyle and Dan, mostly. We stayed at a hotel, and at my mama's. We spent one day at the UN's International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. The first courtroom we saw had returned from their morning break and the defendant was feeling very tired and didn't want to continue for the afternoon. The magistrate granted his request and they adjourned for the day. In the second courtroom, we saw the beginning of questioning of a defendant, before they closed the courtroom to protect the gentlemen. It was amazing to watch. Here was a man accused of unknown atrocities in Rwanda in 1994. The lawyer had requested the whole session be closed, but the magistrate asked if she could do at least a few sessions for those of us who were watching. The guests sit behind a glass wall. There are monitors and cameras displaying the proceedings, and you can see through the glass as well. You wear headphones and can listen to the tribunal in English or French. The lawyer proceeded with her questioning, mostly clarifications of place and time, arguing with the defendant a little, and ending with the question "Is it not true that you, Sir, are a Hutu?!" He admitted he was indeed a Hutu, and then the courtroom was closed to the public. The tribunal brings a lot of income to Arusha. Everyone who is a part of it lives and spends money in Arusha, The Tribunal has been going on continuously since 1994 with "the sole purpose of prosecuting persons responsible for genocide and other serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the territory of Rwanda and Rwandan citizens responsible for genocide and other such violations committed in the territory of neighboring States".

The next day we took off for safari. Sam and I, Kyle, Matt and Meghan who were at my school as well, and Drew. The six of us, a cook, and a driver took off in a Land Rover to Ngorongoro Crater and the Seregengeti. The first day we arrived at Ngorongoro, about 3 or 4 hours away, and dropped off the cook (Maliki) and all of our camping gear at the camp up on the rim of hte crater. The driver (Joshua) took us to meet an armed guide to do a walking tour still above the rim. We hiked for maybe two hours, through trees and rolling hills spotted with Maasai bomas and herds of cows. We wazungu were still a strange sight for the Maasai children, so when some of them spotted us, there was a group of ten or so screaming children running at else yelling "mzungu!" and bowing their heads for us to put our hands on them. They were absolutely filthy. Ashy bodies and crusty noses with tattered and muddy clothes. They seemed absolutely happy. I know that some street orphans from the cities sometimes come out and live with the Maasai on the plains, and they readily take them in, so they may be happy just o have family to live with, and food to eat. Regardless, they were having a good time talking to us: "Good morning! How are yoooouuuu!"

We got back to the camp, eventually, and the cook had popcorn and cookies waiting for us with tea, coffee and hot chocolate. There was an elephant just hanging out near the campsite, so we went and had a look, took some pictures. We settled in and waited for dinner, reading, playing cards, and other boring stuff. As the sun went down, it got cold. And I mean mzungu cold. St. Louis cold. It was probably in the low 40s or high 30s when we went to bed. I wore two pairs of pants, a shirt, a hoodie, a jacket, and a scarf to bed, and I still froze. That night, there was a zebra in the campsite. The next night, a water buffalo and hyenas, and the last night, and elephant. The elephant was maybe 20 feet max from our tents. We couldn't' go to sleep cause we were afraid that he'd step on us! We just watched him eat from the branches of this tree int eh middle of the campsite. He started walking closer to us at one point and we all moved backwards in a line, bumping into all of the people behind us, kind of scrambling over one another, but then he stopped and grabbed more leaves from another branch, breaking the whole branch off with his trunk and opening his huge mouth. We all turned on our headlamps and gazed into his maw. Dang. Big teeth and a giant tongue that you wouldn't want anywhere near you. Eventually he moved towards another tree away form the campsite and we felt safe enough to sleep. The second night, I woke up int he middle of the night to the sound of what seemed like a dozen or more hyenas whoop-whooping at each other. I freaked out a little, but knew they were hyenas and were probably not gonna bother us. At another point, I felt something pushing against the tent, at my feet, at my head...I shook Sam awake and said something's trying to get into the tent! and he said, yeah, the wind. Then I heard a growling sound and said wind my ass, what was that! and he said someone zipping their tent. so i tried to go back to sleep...I convinced myself that the tent was made of pretty durable canvas, and it looked like it could withstand some claws...But when we woke up there was animal poop all over, and Kyle had woke up and almost peed on a water buffalo in the bushes, so I'm not so sure it was just the wind that night.

Anyway, the day we woke up on the rim of the crater we drove to the Serengeti. It's about another 2 or 3 hours or so through Ngorongoro conservation area to the Serengeti National Park. Serengeti means "endless plain" in the Maasai language and man, is it ever. There are some photos of us where all you can see in the distance is the horizon. No bumps, no trees, no grass really, just an occasional gazelle, and then eventually a LOT of gazelle, until you start to see a green hill in the distance, which is the check in point for the park. We stopped there and had lunch, checking out some great pink and blue lizards and a beautiful blue and brown-chested bird that I later found out was the pigeon of Africa. It was annoying, and it wanted my lunch. Food on safari is cooked at the campsites by the cooks, and they also have box lunches if you are eating on the road. Box lunches are usually made of the following: a Blue Band (a cross between margarine and Crisco...delicious) and carrot sandwich on white bread, a vegetable samosa, a boiled egg, a chicken leg/wing, cookies or a muffin, and a chocolate wafer bar. Drinks are mango or orange juice boxes. Generally, a very good lunch, however evil for those of us with Celiac's disease. I did my best to explain my gluten allergy to the manager of the safari company to no avail. I could trade for lunch, my sandwich fr your egg, my cookies for your chicken leg, but not so much with all the other meals. So, I enjoyed having spaghetti and bread for the first time in over a year. Oh man, toast with butter is one of the best things in the world. The first morning I had severe stomach cramping. The next few days I had the kind of issues that aren't really too bad when you're on safari and don't have good access to toilets. By the time I go tot Zanzibar I was a mess. But, that didn't stop me from enjoying some delicious (oh my god, nectar of the heavens) pizza blanca in Zanizibar. I figured I mgiht as well, if I'm already suffering. But I digress...

We drove through the Serengeti every which way. I don't' know if we were north or south or east or what, but we saw everything. We saw a male lion, guarding his territory, and then, just next to him, another sleepy lion stood up and stretched and we all went ooooo.....and then, even better, yet another lion lifted his head to see what his brothers were doing. Man was it awesome. We took a bunch of pictures and moved on. Now picture the same, but with giraffes, leopards, cheetahs, (leopards and cheetahs apparently only sleep and only exist in trees), elephants, hopi, impala, gazelle, warthogs and wildebeests. We stirred a lioness from her sleep and she walked off her branch and passed us closely. Later we came across another lioness who had been in a recent fight. She had a gaping wound on her shoulder and a large flap of skin hanging off of her leg, red and bloody and swinging with her step. She walked right next to our truck. It was incredible. Going on safari is a lot of driving around, looking at stuff, scanning the trees and the horizon for something furry, telling the driver to stop, telling him to go again, letting him explain what the animals are doing and why, chasing other safari trucks who look like they've found something, getting hot, getting cold, having to pee in the middle of the's awesome. At one point, actually not a mile from where we saw the first male lions, we got a flat tire. It was great. I made up a song called "stuck in the Serengeti with a flat tire." Our driver went off to find help (there's one thing you don't see a lack of on safari and that's Land Rovers and Land Cruisers) but not before telling us not to venture far from the truck since we're in simba (lion) territory. A Land Cruiser tried to come to our rescue but the bolts on a Rover are too big for a Cruisers tools. We eventually got help and watched the guys change the tire. I held some bolts. Sam was in there trying to help, as always. No matter where we were, Sam was helping. The driver, Joshua, told him he works like a soldier. Sam doesn't know how to not work, even on vacation. Setting up tents, packing the car, whatever he can do. The driver and cook both began calling Kyle American soldier because he wears so much camo. And he has a buzzed head. He go that a lot in Arusha too. So we fixed the flat, Matt peed on that part of the Serengeti (he peed all over Africa) although we advised that it may not be a good idea to mark the simba territory. We moved on to the hippo pool, which smelled something awful. I mean, hippos stink. They're also huge. They kill more Tanzanians than any other animal. Apparantly a hippo is fast, even on the ground, and aggressive. It will attack people when they're walking form village to village and get in the hippos way.