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Old Oct 8th, 2007, 06:39 PM
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I TOOK A LONG TIME TO DO THIS, AND NOW IT'S JUST TOO LONG.... Please, be patient or just skip around.... I put it off so long because I knew I would tell too much.
I have to say my daughter, Dallas, and I were only on safari from Monday AM to Wednesday AM in the Mara and then on to Lake Nakuru for Wednesday night. Our afternoon safari in Nakuru was very rainy, but we did see the flamingos before the rain, and it was bright and sunny the next morning. We saw some rhinos and water buffaloes in the rain, and I stuck my head out the window and took blurry pictures of them in case I would never see another rhino. I know our driver, George, thought I was really crazy, but it worked for me. When you know you may never be able to return, you do what you have to do. I actually sort of like the blurry pictures just as part of the chronicle of our time, although I would most definitely have been major disappointed if the whole safari time had rain. The African people have such extremes of drought and rain, it was good for us to be reminded of their reality. George told us that some people come in the off season to save money, and it rains the whole week, and they all spend the whole time stuck or trying to push the vehicle out of the mud. The next morning, there the rhinos were, all dried off but plenty muddy--part of their charm.

I would like to be encouragement for all the people out there who dream of safari but are afraid they can't afford it. We didn't see as much or get as great pictures as many of you, but I think we covered a lot of ground considering. Those luxury lodges look fabulous, and, of course, there is a part of me that covets that (coveting has always been my worst personality defect), but I suspect there are others like us who need to know the budget route is definitely do-able and definitely enjoyable, perhaps even more authentic. Middle America, don't give up on Africa. I am so grateful to all of you on Fodor's who took the time to help us figure this trip out. Our entire trip cost us each about $4000: transportation from the USA, 5 days in Rome, Italy, 8 days in Ethiopia, 7 days in Kenya, and even items we purchased. We visited three World Vision children which was an amazing experience and also took things and visited three orphanages for kids with AIDS.

One of the surprising things to me about the jungle was that it felt so incredibly serene. Lions and hippos basked in the sun while zebras and impala looked unperturbed. In the business world, people say, “It's a jungle out there,” but it is an unfair and inappropriate analogy. The animals in the jungle are never cut throat, although some do die; there is no malice or ego or corner office or pursuit of wealth involved, although some animals are stronger and survive longer. It is only the cycle of life, and each animal plays the role assigned to him. Perhaps this testimony of the natural order of the jungle's universe is part of what nurtures us and draws us away from the artificialities of modern life.

I bought a Canon S2 not long before my trip, and I wish I had had more time to practice before the trip, but my grandchild had just recently dropped my other camera in powdery dirt. I must be really challenged because everyone said how easy it was, but I mostly just had to put it on “Auto” and hope for the best. Make sure you get in the habit of holding the shutter half way down before you click. That gives it time to make light adjustments. I had some very sad experiences when I forgot because I did not need to do that with my previous camera. I really liked having both the LCD and the eye viewer because I don't do well using the LCD in sunlight. I also like the tilting LCD because it helped me get angles this old body has forgotten how to reach. The LCD screen was hard for me to read, since I don't have the best eyes in the world, another reason for “Auto.” I wish I had had a fancier camera, but it wouldn't have done me much good without the skills to go with it. I was afraid to use the video feature because it ate up a memory card in a hurry, but we were able to download to a CD much more often than I expected in Africa, and I wish I had taken more videos, short or not. The few videos I have are the best at making me really remember when I was there, although usually the card ran out before I wanted. I hope some of you will enjoy the videos. I have several videos of the baby elephants at the orphanage because we were only a few hours from going home, but, even so, I ran out before the ellies got really relaxed and cavorted in the mud like the happiest creatures on earth. The Canon takes four AA batteries, and I am used to using two, but it didn't bother me because the batteries did seem to last a decent time. I also liked the Image Stabilizing feature of the Canon, although I take some prescription that makes my hands shake some, and the feature could not always keep up for me. “Mom, you know you have to keep your hands still.” Ah-h, youth.

My daughter had wanted to go to Ethiopia to see her sponsored children for over ten years. She had begun to sponsor the two boys when she was a freshman in college and had continued through many hardships of her own. One night when she was a senior in college she called me and said, “Mom, sit down because I have something to tell you that you won't like.... Don't get me anything for Christmas. I am selling everything I have and dropping out of school and going to find my two boys in Ethiopia.” I caught my maternal breath sharply. Now, just because I was proud of her good intentions does not mean I was enthusiastic- uh, at all. This was my daughter on a full scholarship and with a practically perfect GPA. So, I went into a fervent 'get your degree first and then think about it' speech. She wasn't buying anything I said. I asked how on earth will you find these boys and where will you stay and what about the fact you have a complicated medical history and how will you support yourself and, most of all, who would protect you. Soon she began to sleep on the floor to get used to not having a bed. I think she wanted me to know how serious she was. Not right away, but with the help of undergraduate budgets, eventually she reluctantly postponed her trip. I felt a little guilty but mostly finally exhaled that same maternal sigh of relief.

So ten years later, she had graduated with over a 3.9, gone to Cameroon once for a 6 week volunteer program, married, given birth to a premature baby who only lived 47 days, had a miscarriage and her husband had left her. She had supported these two boys in Ethiopia for thirteen years and later had also begun to sponsor a girl in Kenya, and these were children she had loved and needed more than ever to see. She was a teacher, so she was determined to go the next summer, 2006. She teaches two Ethiopian children at her private school, so she asked their mother just for advice on which airline to use, etc.

The father gets back to her and tells her he owns a hotel in Addis and she can stay there for free and that he would also provide a car and driver for her. That is when I began to think it was my chance to travel also, and it was now or never. It was about then that I said to my daughter, “Uh, Dallas, do you think I could come?” I never would have picked Ethiopia as my one international visit, but I knew I would appreciate any place in its own way. I did talk my daughter, Dallas, into having a 5 day layover in Rome, Italy, but she really agreed to that begrudgingly because she was so focused on those boys. I don't think she was thrilled to have her mom tag along, but I still had an illusion I could protect her, and she knew none of her friends could afford to allocate the money to go with her to a third world country. Besides, I had been through some hard times of my own, and we both needed a change of scenery that was also healing and meaningful.

It turned out the husband of the mother she asked was the richest man in ET, a sheik that was a household name over there. Our driver in Addis told us all about him. As we investigate, it turns out his hotel is the Luxury Sheraton right across from the palace in Addis. We looked it up on the Internet and marveled at the lavish hotel, a fancier hotel than we had ever stayed in –ever—any place. That offer was one of the things that put us over the edge of our decision; how could we not go now? As it turned out, we lost communication with the family when they left for ET for the summer sooner than we expected. We hoped for the best, contacted the Sheraton who knew nothing about us, actually made our reservations but had to cancel them before we went. I actually was uncomfortable with our staying at a luxury hotel in the midst of such abject poverty, but as someone who has never traveled, I was comforted by the idea of having a secure place to go so many miles from home.

My daughter saw this parent after we returned to the States, and she casually said, “Oh , you should have stayed there. It was fine.” There was no way we could risk being presented with a bill for $250 per night. The mother continued, “Well, you can just stay there next time you go.” I wish. Sometimes I do not think the rich understand the middle class any more than the middle class understands the very poor.

When I would mention to my friends or multiple siblings that I was actually thinking about going to Africa, I was usually met with dead silence, followed by a sort of half-hearted “Good for you,” or more likely, reminders of my age ( I mean, I STILL think I have to be middle aged because old age is too darn close to-uh-well, you know what I mean). I have one older sister whom my mother always called Cassandra, the prophet of doom in some mythology. Cassandra and my sister were always the first to report or predict impending doom. She especially kept reminding me that I wasn't as young as I used to be, or that if I have never traveled, why on earth did I plan to travel in Third World countries? Did I really think I could handle that? People kept asking me, “What about the Avian flu? This is a really deadly variation. What about HIV/AIDS? What about bandits and terrorists and rebel uprisings and animosity towards Americans? Who knows where the next Idi Amin lives now. You know, America is hated in a lot of countries; you can't be naïve about that. Some tourists disappear and are never heard from again. We don't want to lose you over there. What about virulent snakes and spiders and bugs? (The old Tarzan movies flash in my memory of some such creature hanging over the unsuspecting person's head.) Did you know polio is a growing concern in African countries? What about typhus and typhoid and hepatitis? Even immunizations are not foolproof, you know. What about droughts and floods? What about all those nasty, nasty parasites that can ruin your health for life. I know someone who contracted a parasite over there at age 23 and she never was the same.... Don't you know Africa has all these exotic diseases we Americans have absolutely no immunity to? Don't you dare drink any water, or eat anything, for that matter. Malaria can hit you really hard and fast and then you are just gone. Dead and gone.”

Then my supporters would say, “Well, OK, who is arranging your tour?” I would answer, “We mostly will just wing it in Rome and Ethiopia but are not sure about Kenya.” “My God, are you crazy? I thought you had more brains than that. You can't just get off an airplane in a Third World country and not have specific plans for where to go and how to get there. And on top of that you are flying Ethiopian Airlines? What do you know about their safety records? Don't try to save money just to lose your life. You are just inviting disaster. You are too-uh-old and too-uh-I mean, do you even exercise at all-to be gallivanting all over the world like a college kid. What are you thinking? You have to think about being there in the future for your kids and grandkids. You could get really sick. The medical care isn't that great over there, you know. How would you even find a doctor? Your insurance won't cover you even if you do find a doctor. Couldn't you just start off by going to Canada or maybe London, if you are really set on a trip? No one who has never traveled just jumps in with a complicated, unsupervised trip like this one.”

One friend I asked and listened to more because I knew she had made annual trips to Malawi for many years after her time in the Peace Corps 40 years ago. I asked her straight out if she thought I could handle it physically. She hedged a little in a more informed way, so I listened carefully, but she told me she thought I would probably be OK. When I returned, she came up to me and said, “I have to admit I had my doubts, but you really did pull it off. Good for you.”

I actually was surprised by all the pessimism, and it made me just a little nervous, but it was about time I do something a little more exciting, whether I die or not. What a bunch of wimps. I thought, yeah, I might die, but I was embracing something I had heard somewhere: stop complaining about your wishes not coming true and replace your wishbone with your backbone. Before I believed it could happen myself, not from fear, more from my being boring so long that I just plain couldn't believe it, we had bought our tickets. However, I still could not believe my daughter and I could actually pull this off financially or logistically. Thank goodness, my daughter has a good sense of direction for finding our way around because mine is non-existent. Even after we had bought our airplane tickets, I would tell my friends, “I might go to Africa this summer.” I don't think I believed it until long after I began packing for the trip. Now that I have gone there and returned, I still have trouble believing it.

Honestly and truly, I did think I might very well die on this trip because I knew it would be a stretch for me. Somehow I could not quite imagine going so far away and without an arranged tour of some kind to shepherd us, and also coming home. I told my daughter that if I did die, I did not want her to have to fool with a dead body in a foreign country. I told her to have me cremated, and if the ashes were still a legal problem to transport, it was OK to scatter me to the winds wherever we were. Dallas cheerfully said to me, “Mom, if that's what you want, I think I will need that in writing.” I mean can you bring ashes in your carry on? I wouldn't want the authorities to think she was a terrorist trying to bring gunpowder on the plane. That could be an explosive situation, and not a good last memory of her loving mother as she is seized as contraband. I didn't mind my ashes being scattered somewhere in Africa, but I didn't relish being on a shelf in a security office in some foreign airport waiting for the bomb team to be called in. I doubted a safe return, but I was sick of being so boring and predictable, so I would risk the dreaded shelf.

WV was great once we got to Africa, but we couldn't get any straight answers from their people in the USA. Apparently it is pretty rare for a sponsor to go see their child. The one director of a large, very active district in ET told us we were only the third sponsors who had ever visited her district. As the time got closer for our trip, the neurotic one of the two of us (guess which one) was getting really nervous about not being reassured by WV USA how, when or where we could pull this off. I was beginning to worry about who was going to protect ME in the wilds of Africa if we were left totally to our own devices. My daughter kept saying how we would just play it by ear, and I kept feeling that as I age, I am a little hard of hearing, after all. Eh? What's that you say?

My daughter's baby had died, and I held her in my arms for the one and only time after her death because she was very fragile and in an isolette the whole 47 days. Her death was devastating. I never planned this, but at first I could barely stand to see a healthy baby, and then time went on, and I never had the opportunity to hold a baby. She died in January of 2004 and it was 2006, and I still had not held a baby. So much time went by that I began to feel like the baby I next held should complete a circle of some kind in this grandmother's mind and heart. So before we went to Africa, I decided I would hold a baby in Africa; that would somehow be an act of love that would honor babies everywhere, including ones forgotten and so challenged to grow and live and be who they were meant to be. There is no logic to grief and love and you do what you can to find healing. For me, it felt like a full circle.

When we were in Kenya visiting Dallas' World Vision child Jeritech, she had a baby sister, and she is the first baby I held since my tiny grandchild had died. No one would guess the special meaning it had for me, not even my daughter. All babies deserve to grow up.
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Old Oct 8th, 2007, 07:10 PM
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It is not too long. I am up to the part where you describe what your daughter has gone through and her determination to go to Ethiopia. The flamingos and rhino sightings are nice, but your own story is fascinating. Looking forward to the rest.
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Old Oct 8th, 2007, 07:22 PM
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The WV boys and the girl looked so much like their pictures it was almost startling. I know that sounds a little crazy. Perhaps it is because so many people had said to my daughter and to me over the years, “You don't really believe that is your actual child, do you? None of those charities are legitimate. They just send the same picture to everyone and she is probably 30 years old by now”. When we saw Jeritech, she was wearing the same red and white school dress she wore in the picture sent two years ago. One of the reasons Dallas was in a hurry was that her boys were 16 and 17 years old now, so she was worried they soon would be leaving home and be off on their own and she would never find them. In actuality, when we saw them, we were shocked to see they pretty much still looked like their pictures when they were 12. In our experience, the children looked very young for their ages, and the adults looked very old for their ages. If you ever doubt whether these kids ever receive the packages their sponsors send to them, we saw the packages in the WV office, carefully organized in large open compartmentalized wall cabinets and ready to be delivered when a trip was made to each particular remote region
So here we were, arriving in Addis from Rome about 6:30 AM, not sure what to do next, since our plan was basically to wing it since the free hotel, car and driver evaporated. We haggled with taxi drivers, who were not thrilled with all our luggage and initially walked away, but we some came back and we got a cheap ride to the Barto Hotel which was a little rough but $9/PM and do-able enough. I was slightly unnerved when I first saw the hotel, but the people there all seemed normal and amiable, so I relaxed. It was adequate and we prefered to spend our money on meal tickets we could give away. The Barto actually looked darn good because originally we had talked about a camping trip. My bones are pretty old for sleeping on the ground, but I thought that might be our only budget solution, especially since my daughter preferred the adventure of true camping. Remember, she had already practiced sleeping on the floor. I liked the authenticity of camping in theory, but.... My question was where will my bones get the best break (no pun intended). Of course, I did fall out of a real bed one night, so maybe I would have been better off sleeping on the nice, safe ground.
When we got to Addis, we left our luggage at the hotel and managed to get a taxi to take us to two orphanages almost immediately after arrival. I had been sorting clothes for kids on my kitchen table for weeks, and I had already split open the seam of one carry on bag trying to cram kids' socks or underwear into every tiny crevice. The taxi driver (his name was something like Keflay) did pretty well until he helped himself to a little too many of our intended donations at the end—and then said he wanted more for his own family until we set him straight. We got to the two AHOPE orphanages, each serving a different age group. That was very important to me, though it was always like my priority was the orphans and my daughter's was World Vision, and it wasn't always easy to juggle timing for both. She and I had really thought about not being somehow patronizing coming to Africa for just a few weeks and bringing items that were so paltry compared to the need. I thought about all that, the last thing I would want to do is be disrespectful, but I just couldn't go there and not do something. If I had it to do over, I would take fewer donations and more cash because it was difficult to handle the logistics of our luggage. My logic was that I really did not have much money of my own to bring, so I would spend time collecting donations, but I was mostly turned down. Walmart was the most generous and gave me huge boxes of clothes, etc. to take that I sorted at home. My church had also given me hundreds of dollars in cash to place as I saw fit, and actually that too was harder than it sounded and was starting to feel like an impossible task to do well without more time.
We also anticipated all the begging we knew we would be exposed to and were not sure the best way to respond. Does it just teach people, particularly the children, never to envision themselves as productive citizens? There is a charity that gives children free packets of kleenex to sell to tourists to try to give them a sense of selling rather than begging, and that seemed like a step in the right direction in an impossible situation. On the whole, we decided to give what we could in a more organized way to WV and the orphanages, although sometimes we just could not resist. We did find a place (I think it was called 'Hope') in Addis which sold meal tickets to give away. You buy them for $.25 each, but they are worth $.50 at certain cafeterias, enough for a decent meal. (And next door was a very interesting shop with legitimate old things. I bought both a 100 year old injera basket and a silver ring with a phoenix on it for $20.00. I really yearned for this very old book that was $200.00 and supposedly from the 12th century. I consoled myself that if it were really that old then it should stay in ET. We would not have bought anything without the guidance and expertise of our guide whom we trusted implicitly. Ah-h, but I digress) We bought $50.00 worth of the meal tickets our last day when we finally found the place, and we had given them all away within an hour or less. As we were driving back to the hotel for our last night in Addis, leaving for Nairobi the next day, we had given away every last birr (worth $.12 each) and meal ticket we had. A mother holding a baby came up to our car with the usual request for help. I told her we had nothing left, but then I remembered the orange juice I had bought for our breakfast, so I gave her the carton. An old man then came up to our car and muttered something in Amharic, and our driver reacted to what he said. I asked him what he said, and he reported that he had said he needs to get a baby so he can get food. There is a bottomless pit of need there.
Keflay was the one who recommended a guide in Gondar to us. Was that Cheru Alemu? I have his business card, and his is the only one I have, but I am not sure of his name and I don't want to be unfair. His picture is in my castles of Gondar pictures, so if anyone recognizes him or not, I would like to know. The guides definitely all help each other out, so you want to make sure you start with a good one because that will color whom you get at the next place too.
When we walked into the first orphanage, the kids were all in bed for their afternoon rest, and most looked pretty happy, but some were clearly tired and very sick. The kids were amazingly upbeat and were thrilled to have company. We wanted to take them all home with us. It was hard to leave them behind, knowing their futures were at risk. ET is so overwhelmed with HIV/AIDS orphans that they have expedited the adoption process. They hate to send kids away from their native culture, but it is a matter literally of life and death.
Sunday we thought we were leaving with WV at 8:00AM and kept waiting for them to arrive, but then there was a mix up—Dallas was supposed to have called on Friday (which we were never told by WV USA) even when she had told the WV people in the USA we wouldn't even arrive until Saturday. We wasted all day Sunday thinking we were waiting for a later departure time that day with WV when we could have gone to a museum or tried to go to a church, etc. We also had not reserved our room for the second night, so we had no place to go again. About all we did that day was discover a very tiny but really good Internet café across the street, save pictures to a CD, call home briefly but cheaply, and send out an Internet note to our large extended family (which I don't think was ever received). I was really disappointed because I couldn't stand the thought of wasting a precious day after coming so far.
On the whole, World Vision was extraordinarily gracious and helpful. The Director of all of WV in ET even stored our excess baggage of more things to donate in his own office, clearly in his way, for two days while we went to see the WV boys. We had to each sign a paper saying we would not try to influence the families' religion in any way which I actually was reassured by. Even though I am a Christian, I don't have any desire to require someone to convert just to help them, and I was a little concerned that might be the opus operandi of Christian charities. We were picked up at our hotel at 7:30AM, so we thought we would be on the road promptly; however, they understandably were going to fill the two long side bench seats of the van up since they were going to make the trip five hours north of Addis; I am not even sure of where we were but it was mountainous and wonderful scenery. I was very lucky because I was in the front seat because it was hard to see the countryside in the back since the seats faced inward. So we stopped to pick some other people up, filled the van, and then we went back to the WV office still in Addis for introductions, speeches and paperwork, and, honestly, we just wanted to get to the boys since we had come so far. I think it was 10:30AM before we were actually on the way.
We had a wonderful driver who was very skillful on an extremely difficult drive. Not the serene type, I kept covering my eyes, since it seemed we were constantly about to hit a goat or camel or cow or, worst of all, a child. I was shocked by the number of young children, appearing to be 8-10 years old who were alone driving herds of cattle long distances along these narrow mountain roads. It is hard to imagine American children working so hard and without complaint. I understand that if a vehicle kills an animal, the driver has to reimburse the owner, or probably the driving would be even more harrowing. The Ethiopians have beautiful, lean bodies and just seemed to walk up and down MOUNTAINS all day with their herds or loads of dung or firewood. I was so frustrated wanting to take pictures from the moving car--so frustrated that I took some anyway, blurry and with the side view mirror in the middle, but some actually came out well enough for me to have at least a record of the beautiful vignettes of rural life. I kept wishing I had a video camera that would work as the van drove, or that I myself was with National Geographic, since there was no stopping to take pictures when we had so far to go. It was killing me not to be able to better record these sights of what I think of as the real Ethiopia. Only 8.4% of the people of Et live in towns, so my trip would have been sadly incomplete without this drive into the country. If we had flown, it would have been a huge loss.
I was surprised to see all the Coca Cola signs and Coke trucks in such an undeveloped country. We did not see many private vehicles at all; almost all the vehicles were commercial. We had thought at one time, sure, we could ride a bus, but the ones we saw were crammed with people like sardines with many standing and looked additionally intimidating on these narrow, winding roads. I was surprised to see many of the boys from ET playing with table air hockey games along the edges of the road and wondered where on earth they put the tables when it rains, or where they got the games in the first place, for that matter.

We did stop at one scenic gorge, and we were met by the most charming shepherd boys. I really wished I had my Polaroid camera then to give these boys pictures of themselves. They were selling hats they had woven from natural dyed goat/sheep wool, but they were not pushy. I had to buy one, but I felt so bad only picking one. It was $2.50 and was quite a well made hat. Later, our guide told me I had bought a man's hat, but I didn't care. There was something about this group that really touched me, and we looked for them on the way back, but the weather was foggy, and they were not there. It is hard when you know you will never be back there in your life. I guess in their picture they look a little grumpy, but they did not come across that way at all. I had the feeling when I took a lot of pictures of people that because they just are not accustomed to pictures they do not have the automatic “Say cheese” smile that we develop.
The WV group did graciously stop at the only restaurant on the way which had real toilets which we appreciated at any time. None of us knew at that time that I would be the Terrible Tourist Toilet Tester. I wish I could remember the restaurant's name because it was a lovely restaurant but with two armed guards at the gate which is always surprising to see for me.
I was definitely worried about back problems before we even went to Africa, but the roads were a lot bumpier than even this old farm girl expected as we drove in rural, unpaved and VERY bumpy areas in Kenya and ET. It helped me to use a flat tempurpedic seat cushion that almost compressed totally in my suitcase. I also used my inflatable neck pillow, which doubled as lumbar support. I was also taking a lot of pain pills. My daughter made fun of me because I looked pretty nerdy, but I felt like the neck pillow really absorbed a lot of the impact away from my back.

We finally get up the road to this other District WV, and still there were more delays and speeches—we had to eat first and be social when all we wanted to do was see the kids. In the van the gentleman in charge kept saying I am sure you will want to shower first. Honestly, we did not feel dirty, but we showered anyway because we did not want THEM to think we were dirty. Our frustration was we were losing precious time. They did have a simple room at the World Vision compound for us to stay in which saved us one night's lodging and was greatly appreciated. They actually had two guest rooms, each with two beds, with an adjoining bathroom, and they tried to insist we each use a separate bedroom, but that seemed like more work for someone to redo, so we gladly shared the bedroom. It is so ironic to me for them to see us as a mother and daughter who need separate rooms (not that my daughter wasn't really sick of me by that time, but that is beside the point) when we were visiting families who had ten people sleeping in one room.

We finally got to go see the kids in their homes though we felt rushed because they wanted us back to the compound before dusk and in time to hear another speech from the very nice and impressive woman director and have a big meal in their main building, washing our hands at a sink outside the building door. We were particularly rushed with the second family as dusk approached--the two boys lived in the same village but several miles apart. I wanted much more time to experience their homes and neighborhoods. This was very important to me. This area was a very poor section, and we walked through deep mud that came over the tops of my shoes as we walked through a dense cluster of homes all crowded closely together and arranged somewhat haphazardly. I remember the WV man who was accompanying us kept saying to me, "You are brave, Mother." I was totally fine except not having another pair of shoes with me. I felt bad about my muddy shoes in the van, but the driver seemed to see that as routine. We all just hosed off our feet when we got to our destination. I wanted to take many more pictures but was trying not to be intrusive about it. I would always ask permission, and I don't think anyone ever said no. Mostly, they were thrilled to see their digital image, although it really slowed me down having to go back and forth to the view mode, and that really limited the number of pictures I was able to take in the short time. I especially felt bad because it seemed like the second family prepared a coffee ceremony for us, we saw the coffee set out on a small table, but they rushed us so that never had a chance to happen. I certainly would have made it a high priority to stay, but we were guests and decisions were made by others.

The entire neighborhood tried to crowd into the two tiny houses, and we were unable to know who was neighbor and who was family. We did bring gifts for the parents and other children in the family, but I sure wish I had had enough for each person we saw. We had been told that simply would not work because they would end up getting very pushy and aggressive, simply because abject poverty does not develop the skill set of waiting in line. It was wonderful when we visited the WV child in Kenya because she was way out in the country, and that was a group we could spend several hours with and share some of our items with, although most had been given away in ET because of the difficulty of so much luggage. I would have loved to have gone to the ET homes again, but WV made it clear that they did not believe long visits were desirable for their families.
Instead of visiting longer in the homes that first evening, it was back to the compound and injera ad nauseum, and I tried valiantly but the nice director still seemed to think I hadn't eaten nearly enough. All I really wanted was some chocolate or that good fried ice cream we had found in Rome. After dinner, they gave us a tour of the compound, which I did appreciate in theory, but in practice it was mostly dark cinder block buildings at night with no lights on. The worst of it was I simply could not see in the dark. (I had that problem at a number of places in ET—ancient steep uneven steps, no handrail, and no lights. My daughter had to let me take her arm which made me feel ancient, but neither of us needed for me to fall.) The locals seem to have much more developed night vision because of the lack of lighting. I was exhausted and am basically a klutz by nature, not to mention out of shape and over the hill. I tried my best to be enthusiastic and it truly was a wonderful compound, just not viewed best at night by western eyes. The rocky, uneven paths were narrow and intimidating as I groped along and tried not to look too obviously clumsy and too much like a spoiled brat Westerner as I held onto any tree I could reach. Also, it had rained, so everything was wet and dripping on us.
The next morning they brought the boys and their families to the compound to have breakfast with us which was very nice, but I still much preferred their own settings. We showed pictures of our own families and they were clearly fascinated by seeing our people as we were seeing theirs. I am not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination in America, but I was embarrassed for them to see the surplus I live with. Somehow by sharing our pictures, it seemed less like our "staring" at them or intruding on their lives, and more like just friends being human and connecting. It felt like a good way to bridge the gaps between us because in the end we all just want love and for our families to be safe and happy. It was obvious that many of the people we met had never seen a white person before. As far away as their world seems to us, ours is even farther away to them.

I think one of the best things we took was a Polaroid camera, similar but cheaper than a portable printer. We were able to take and give away pictures of these beautiful people, and they were enthralled. When we were lucky, one of us took the Polaroids, and the other could take pictures of people when they were not posing. Other times, I had both cameras around my neck and took two pictures, but then mine were very rushed. A mistake I made was not to take some kind of plastic bag or small scrapbook to give people with the pictures. Think of their small houses and how hard it is to store anything. We visited three World Vision children, and the one child still had a picture my daughter had sent him ten years ago, though definitely the worse for wear. I also would have had the Polaroid with me more often because there were children we met along the way whom I would have loved to give pictures to. We took other things to these children, but the soccer balls (with an air pump) would bring cheers from the whole neighborhood because the neighbor kids knew they would all get to play. Jump ropes and balloons were also big hits along with educational supplies. I also took $1 watches from a dollar store, and you should see the pride on the face of a man owning his own digital watch. We also took first aid supplies to the families, but our mistake was not to have a local translate the directions in writing into their language. They don't know what Neosporin or even band aids are, so I hope they can remember what the WV people told them at the time. I also took small baggies of needles and safety pins for the mothers.
I am an inexperienced traveler, so I had some kind of adapter for the outlets that was sold as if it solved all the traveler's problems when actually I needed another thingy to go with it. I almost panicked since I had my recharger and multitudinous rechargeable batteries, but no regular batteries. Even in Rome the "Kodak" batteries I bought were clearly knockoffs and ran out quickly. In Africa, the guide went alone into the camera shop for me and then I got good batteries at a good price. It is also good to have a blank CD or DVD in case you need to download pictures, and the Internet place doesn't know that part. That totally saved my daughter as she ran out of memory cards near Lake Nakuru.

I was surprised by the formality of the educated and English speaking Ethiopians who were all very articulate when they made speeches. I have taught mostly African American students in my career, many definitely without much academic interest or motivation, and I sure wish they could have seen how beautifully and with how much pride their people handled themselves verbally.
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Old Oct 8th, 2007, 07:32 PM
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By the time we were back to our Addis hotel from seeing the boys, it was late Tuesday because we also delivered pretty much the rest of the orphanage stuff to a former WV child, now grown up. She is now married and has an orphanage of her own, a real continuing legacy for the impact of WV. I heard on Fodor's about an especially destitute orphanage I wanted to take things to, but we could not get them to answer the phone. Even the generous Director of WV, ET, tried to call them for us while we were gone, but he could not reach them either. He is the one who made the arrangements with one of his WV graduates because he knew we wanted to find children to give these things to. He accompanied us under cloak of Addis darkness, or we never would have been able to go there or be admitted after dark and with all the high corrugated steel gates closed, guarded and tightly locked. This couple was in their thirties, and they had about 30 kids in their direct care and another 60 kids they sponsored and assisted so the grandparents or other relatives could afford to raise them after their parents died. Keeping the children in their families and neighborhoods seemed like a particularly important work to me. Their home was named Yezelalem Minch. I was disappointed not to see more of the kids that night or to save some of the things out to take to Kenya, but Dallas was probably right: we just had to lighten our load. I also ended up leaving a friend's bag with the orphanage whose directors were clearly distressed when I planned to keep the bag. I had all this stuff to donate, but you forget they have no furniture or shelves to put it on, so it is very helpful if you can leave the luggage itself with them for storage, in this case, a super sized roll bag. I was grateful to the friend who had anticipated that possibility and said I could donate her bag also if that were necessary.

The next morning we had an early flight to Gondar. We had to beg and offer generous tips to get the hotel in Addis to let us store our confounded luggage again while we were in Gondar. Actually, it was one clerk who helped us out and stored it secretly in her own space. We never had a chance to regroup because we were always getting back late and leaving early AND having to be packed up. My biggest regret was leaving the Polaroid in Addis, thinking we would save it for Kenya since everything else was gone, but it was in rural ET where the situations were better for sharing pictures.

We found a guide recommended to us in Addis, but we ended up knowing he was cheating us. As novice travelers, it took us until the end to really put it all together. He picked us up at the Gondar airport, and we wanted to go to the domestic airline office immediately to see if there had been any cancellations because we had been unable to book a flight to Lalibella. We were literally looking for the signs for the office and about to turn down the correct hallway, and he directed us away and said there was no domestic office at the airport. We protested that didn't make sense, but he insisted he knew. On our way home, of course, we saw the domestic office right around the corner from where we were. We went to the castles built by a series of kings beginning in 1682. It was amazing to see them juxtaposed with the ancient ruins we had just seen in Rome. It was also profound to have just come from seeing the Sistine ceiling with the outstretched hands of God and man, and to come to ET and be surrounded by outstretched hands. At the castles, the guide was at his best; he clearly knew his stuff and gave us good information, although he seemed a little bored with it all. One of the shocking things to see on the grounds was a group of four people stooped over to the ground, either using their hands or a very small tool to pick the grass. Don't ever complain about mowing your grass again. We also went to some kind of nunnery building where they had very nice quality hand woven items, the looms were right there, and the items were for sale. I know vestments for clergy are very expensive in the USA, and I was wishing they could hook up with these women who could do beautiful work for them.
Then we walked across the way to see the Debre Birhan Selassie (Trinity and Mountain of Light) church which was quite impressive. The outside of this 17th c. is modest, but the inside walls and ceiling are virtually completely covered with fine Ethiopian art. There is no flash photography allowed inside (understandably), so a tripod is necessary for satisfactory pictures. It is the only church not burned down in 1888 by the pillaging of the Dervishes of the Sudan. Legend says that a swarm of bees kept the soldiers at bay, and that the Archangel Michael himself stood before the gates of the church and guarded it with a sword of fire.
Our guide promised to take us to see a spectacular site for sunset at the close of day, but at the last minute remembered he had a night (tourism) class and did not have time to take us. So I hope his tourism class taught him how to be more honest with the people he serves.
After the castles and the church, he took us to the open market, but he seemed to be picking up extra young men (who clearly were in cahoots with him) who tried to take over helping us and, of course, expected to be paid while our guide stood back and took it easy. We only paid the guide and told the others they would have to talk to him for more. They seemed to accept that more or less philosophically. Our guide rushed us because he said the market closed at 5:00 PM, so we rushed also. Later, when we were back at our hotel, we were in walking distance of the market, and it was open until dark--8:00PM or so. Another lie he told us. We tried to go by ourselves, but I have to admit, two American women alone in the evening are targeted for a lot more comments, and, Amharic or not, my feeling was they were very rude, so we didn't stay long. I could be wrong and I am not a party person, but the feeling I had was Et pretty much closes up at night, mainly because of security reasons. Except for city establishments, practically every business was protected by high gates and walls. WV told us their employees were not authorized to travel after dark; hence, all the rushing we felt.
After our guide's rushing us from the market, and after our telling him all day we wanted to go to the domestic airlines office to see if we could get a seat to Lalibella, he finally took us there. He leaves us in the car while he goes to the glass door entrance. Then he gets all excited because he says he can see the employee inside but he is refusing to answer the door even though it was still business hours. Then he persists by calling him on his cell phone and this confrontation of sorts went on for some time and with drama and angry gestures. Gradually, it dawned on us that it just was not ringing true. He never was able to get the man to discuss our possible tickets, but, at first glance, our guide seemed like a tourists' dream, advocating for us and fighting to get us what we needed. Then we began to remember about his saying there was no office at the big airport, and somehow we believe he had an agenda all along, not to get us our tickets, but to impress us with his service, so he could get a large tip. NOT. Right after this is when he remembered his class so, oops, he could not take us to see the sunset, after all.
We were spending the night at the Q'uaro hotel which was the nicest accommodation so far for us until I BROKE the toilet. I had showered and used my unique towel to dry off. (Before we left, I saw all these fancy super absorbent camp towels for big money, but I just bought a car drying towel at the Dolllar Tree, also super absorbent, and it was small but sufficient.) When the toilet broke, I was mortified, but Dallas thought it was hysterically funny. Hrmphhh. She had said her only fear of the trip was getting her out of shape mom safely home and in one piece (in spite of the discussion of ashes.) However, in spite of her alleged concern, the highlight of the whole trip for her (not really-- well, actually... maybe) was when I broke the toilet at the hotel in Gondar, ET. She thought it was so funny that she couldn't stop laughing, and I was so totally embarrassed. Honestly, it wasn't my fault. I mean the lid was down (to make that clear), but when you age ( uh-middle age), you sit down to pull your pants on, so I was innocently doing that after a shower, and the darn tank on the back fell over and began to gush water like Old Faithful. I remember in a frantic out of body slow motion moment trying to catch the tank before it hit the floor, and I did break its fall a little, but I guess it was old and heavy too, because it fell and cracked open and I had a whole different kind of African waterfall experience than I ever expected. It sure wasn't the magnificent Blue Nile Falls that we tried so hard to visit, but it was probably the biggest waterfall the Q'uaro ever had.
Before we knew it, the entire water system of the hotel was beginning to flood rapidly into our bedroom, so we had to tell the poor unsuspecting management. I doubt they thought we looked like trouble causers. Since I was shrinking into the woodwork, Dallas was the one who went to the front desk to report the conspicuous problem. I appreciated being able to hide, but she did make it abundantly clear to the staff and probably to all who were within listening distance that SHE did not break the toilet. It was all her mother's fault. SHE was in the bedroom when it happened. We clearly were not their favorite guests. Since they had to turn the water off to our bathroom, we were consigned to the community bathroom for the rest of our time which was a somewhat challenging olfactory experience. I would take a deep breath before I entered and try to be very fast, exhaling on the way out. My daughter took a picture of this highlight of her trip, but somehow I never saw that one. This was one of the few places in Africa I was very grateful never to show my face in again.

Before I gained my shady reputation for breaking Ethiopian toilets, (I was afraid of a major repair bill or that my reputation would somehow precede me sort of like when you write a bad check in the USA and every store has your name on a list), we met a boy who helped us. When we offered a tip, he only wanted a dictionary. His English was so excellent and he was only about 10. After being disappointed that the WV kids whom we had been told took English in school for years could only say a very few basic things, we were impressed by his achievement. We worried he might be trying to con us and the English-Amharic dictionary was expensive and a good thing to sell when we turned our backs, but we figured he was worth the gamble. He certainly had the potential to be a great leader for his country in the future. He had run all around the market that evening trying to find someone who had one of the other parts to the AC adapter I needed, but the vendors didn't even know what he was talking about. Thank goodness my daughter had brought a lot of regular batteries because I am sure I strained the bonds of familial affection (even with the humor I provided her) by always "borrowing" hers. Thankfully, she had gotten her batteries at Cosco's and they lasted wonderfully well for both of us.

The next day, the same guide arrived to pick us up at the hotel, and, on the time we were paying for, immediately said he had to eat breakfast (leisurely) first. We in our innocence even bought his breakfast. We were going on an "easy" Simian hike, and this owner of the tour service left much to be desired, but the guide he assigned us to for the hike was wonderful and gracious, especially since he had to virtually drag my butt up the hill.

When we got up early AGAIN to go on the Simian hike, I didn't have time to put my newly acquired contacts in and wore glasses which kept slipping and sliding all the way up the mountain. I decided at the last minute before our trip that I should have contacts, so I might actually be able to see the scenery, but I only got them a few days before I left the USA because of unexpected delays. That is NOT recommended. This was probably the worst day of all not to have them. Usually I managed, and Dallas helped me put them in a couple of days when I struggled, but she thought I should grow up and do it myself. I agree, but when time was too short, I wish.... (I think she was still chastising me for the toilet thing.)

I can't believe we even hesitated to get a guide, since he practically carried me up the mountain. When the guide heard I was 60, he did graciously tell me he knew his mother who was 60 could never make this climb. That made me feel a little better. My daughter kept saying we were going around the mountain, not up the mountain, but it sure felt like UP to me, especially in my regular, non-hiking shoes. “Mom, what would possess you not to have bought hiking shoes?” “Daughter, I ran out of money after all the immunizations.” The group would let me stop occasionally to catch my breath, and I was surprised to be more breathless on the way down than on the way up--I guess because of the altitude. There was a group of boys waiting where the vehicles have to stop, and they would probably be fine for guides for the short version of the hike. They also accompanied us, and I had one holding each elbow as I stumbled on the very narrow path and they balanced deftly on the ridges on either side. At one point, because of the muddy path, I could feel myself slipping backwards down the hill. Just when I am processing that this could be a deteriorating situation, I feel one of the boys' hands placed firmly on my butt to stop my slide. I am not really accustomed to unexpected hands pushing on my butt, but this was one of the most generous acts of kindness of my life.

As we walked (I limped and lumbered), we came across another group of three German guys and a guide. Just twenty feet in front of me, one of the young German guys fell over and went into a grand mal seizure. His seizure reminded us all how vulnerable we were. He was a young German man in his late 20's in good shape and he had never had a seizure in his life until this very inconvenient time. We all sat there for a while with his group. I wracked my brain for something I could contribute and came up woefully short with just my Tylenol. They weren't sure how they would get him back to the vehicle since he still was too dazed to walk. Once he sat up and seemed like he would definitely be OK, although not immediately, our little group forged on, now joined by a German guy from the other group.

There was a little shameless neurotic part of me that was proud that I was the old lady and remained seizure free.

We arrive at our destination, a scenic overlook, but the area was totally banked in heavy fog. The German guy was cheerfuly videotaping the vista, narrating and commenting on the long hike for the “magnificent” view. He entertained us briefly, but as time passed, the guide said we should give up and begin our return trip. We hesitated just a little, invoking God's favor, and just then, as if on cue, the fog began to lift. Still, the baboons we were supposed to see were very scarce and hard to see. I think I did see some dark spots in the distance (not too impressive, huh?), but I think you have to go on a much more extensive hike to see them in numbers.

When back from our hike, we went to a basket place by the side of the road. I bought four baskets that fit inside one another so they would take up less room to pack. I have a picture of the lady I bought my baskets from; she is balancing one on top of her head and spinning wool with her hands. She was very proud of herself. After the basket place, we went to a nearby craft place that helped support single mothers, and I bought a small blue pitcher. We tried to favor places that supported the local community. There were these caterpillars just out on this cardboard on the sidewalk, and when we asked, they were the actual silkworms they use to make cloth, etc. When we asked about a bathroom, they guided us towards one “we would like better.” It was still pretty rough but more than the dreaded hole in the ground. I looked through many animals at all the craft places, trying to find a horse for my daughter Lauren, but they all looked like donkeys at best. No one could understand why I didn't want a rhino or lion, which made sense, but my daughter left behind was a horse lover.

Eventually at the very last craft area where we stopped in a field near a restaurant in Nairobi, from a young woman who had just begun to sell that very day, I found the most lovely sculpture of a pregnant mare with just the right curves, which my 'works at the vet school' daughter (who has never been easy to buy for) really loved and appreciated.

I also bought a large four foot tall basket in ET for $12, packed it with other baskets and shawls, etc, and was able to shrink wrap it at the airport and check it as luggage for the trip home. I mention this because I met someone at the airport who was saying they had passed on a large basket because they did not know how they could get it home. So, remember shrink wrap....

We rushed to the airport in our muddy clothes because there was no time to change, arriving about 1:00 PM, and there we stayed until about 6:00 PM. There were just plain hard plastic chairs and my ample butt was sore. Have you ever heard of "fanny fatigue"? Well, I had it big time, natural padding or not. No one would let us know what was going on with our flight even when I asked. They literally seemed to be hiding from us which annoyed us all more. The one good thing about the delay was we did have a nice international time sharing our snacks at the airport (since everything with food at the airport was tightly closed) and meeting the ones who could speak English and trying to communicate with the others. I shared with our new friends cashews which they had never heard of or tasted but enjoyed. We sat there five hours with virtually no information from the airline. It wasn't raining in Gondar, so if they had just told us, we could have gone back to the market or somewhere a lot better than cheap plastic chairs at the run down dreary airport.

We flew with ET airlines and our experiences were all good in the air (as far as I know), but they definitely need to improve the way they handle passengers on the ground. We did get our domestic airline tickets for about half price because we had flown internationally with ET, but the domestic service was much worse service and very frustrating.

Finally, hours later, they told us the postponement was because the heavy rain in Addis was delaying the flight to us. So the plane finally gets to us, we finally get up in the air, we hover over the bad weather at our destination of the Blue Nile Falls, and then we go back to Gondar. Although I definitely appreciate their obvious concern for safety and I know the Falls would be lack luster in the rain, here's where things went definitely downhill and I eventually had something of a private meltdown.

The worst and most unsettling experience we had in our entire three weeks of travel was on this bus provided by the airline to take us to the Ghion for the night. There was a long, steep road leading up to the hotel. By the time we got that far, it was dark and and a very muddy road. The bus ended up stuck in a ditch on the side of the road, not what anyone was in the mood for after a long day of disappointment. I was especially concerned about an elderly lady with a walker who had endured the long day with us. Most of us, having no idea how far or how steep a road it was to the hotel, got out of the bus and began to walk up the hill in the rain. We had walked far enough to realize that maybe this would not be a good solution either, since it was farther and steeper and muddier and rainier than we expected. Lo and behold, with such a light load, the bus was able to work its way out of the ditch. There were two doors on the bus, one in the front and one in the back. The way the bus was positioned, most of us were trying to get back in using the back door of the bus. After Dallas and I got in, we could open our backpack and retrieve a flashlight we had with us, so we stayed at the door to try to help other people see, since it was a pitch black, rainy night and a hard step up to the bus. The step up was something of a leap of faith, whatever your religion.

The aspect that totally upset me was that the bus driver was making absolutely no attempt to account for passengers, and he kept trying to continue to drive the bus up the hill. There would be people with one foot on the bus and one foot literally still in the mud, and he was oblivious. Over and over, the passengers would yell at him, “Stop! STOP!! There are more people coming!” He would lurch and stop, the people would lose their balance and stumble backwards but then hastily scramble aboard. Then after these people were safe, the driver would begin to drive again as others tried to clamber aboard, and we would have to yell again. The passengers were all doing all they could to help each other; I could not fathom why the driver seemed so unconcerned. I realize it was hard driving and hard for the wheels to get traction, but the top priority has to be human life. Why wasn't he worried about his own accountability for our safety even if he did not care personally? It was a very dangerous situation, and we could have so easily had many casualties that night. Remember my naysayers who said I might never come back from Africa? This situation had potential for fulfilling their prophecies. I had to wonder if this were typical or atypical (I hope) of the respect the ET people had for each other. Does anyone know? I would appreciate comments, since that is troubling to me.

The airlines finally bussed us to a nice hotel, the Ghion, a real step up for your favorite budget travelers. When we asked our dubious guide about staying at the Ghion, he said it was totally overrated and no better than where we were already staying (where all his cronies hovered)--all it had was a good view--you know, the one he refused to take us to. We ended up getting to go there courtesy of the airlines, and it was much nicer than where we were. We barely had time to enjoy the new place because we did not get there until 9:00PM, and we had to meet the shuttle bus at 5:30 AM. The rain was ruining their spectacular view that people kept telling us we just had to see. The rain ruined it on the night we were there and the next morning, and the guide didn't take us the night before, and it's hard not to feel cheated when you know you will never be back. It had the most comfortable bed I slept in for 3 weeks and I was very grateful and very sad I had to get up at 5:00AM.

Back to the airport, we finally took off the next morning after another long wait at the airport. We circled B'har Dar and Blue Nile Falls but never could land and went on to Addis again. The ET domestic airlines need to do a major overhaul of their tourist service. All they offered us for our missed trip was a $20 refund. They claimed that was all it would cost to have flown us from Gondar to B'har Dar. It sure wasn't that cheap up front. We had no flexibility with our days in Africa, but if you do go to ET in the rainy season try to have extra days for when the weather complicates your plans.
At this point I had wasted Sunday, and now two days sitting in airports, and I wasn't going to get to Blue Niles, and I began to cry and was sort of that really embarrassing way when you just can't stop. But, hey, remember I had expected to die and I was alive, just dumb and disappointed.

I was very frustrated because I will never be able to go back, and we lost a lot of precious time due to weather and the slow motion pace of the country; everything shuts down for a few hours at lunchtime while they all go to church. Make sure you plan around the lunchtime hours. Now I have a fondness for a leisurely pace in other contexts, but with the expense of traveling, I need to be able to maximize my time. If you go to ET, it is a hard country to visit because the main sites are very far apart, especially with their poor roads. Even when you fly, there are routine delays and cancellations. We needed two weeks to accomplish a weeks' worth of visiting the sites.
Being a person whose budget requires that I get my money's worth, I had gone to the airlines office where the first nice lady promised me the moon but then conveniently disappeared into the solar system. They did offer us free tickets back to B'har, but how could we risk being stuck anywhere when we left for Kenya on Sunday? They acted like they were so generous to give us a new ticket from Addis to B'har Dar, but after those delays and the airline's sloppiness, we couldn't dare risk flying to Blue Niles Friday afternoon and getting back Saturday, when our flight to Kenya was Sunday AM. Trust me, I wanted to trust them, but their reputation preceded them. As it turned out, the flight leaving Addis was also delayed and that meant we arrived in Nairobi about 3:00 PM, instead of 12:00--a big difference when you are trying to maximize time.

We wasted a couple of hours fighting that we deserved a refund that was the value of the ticket, but they just kept cheerfully saying "You can go there when you come back.” I don't think they realize how far away they are from the USA.

I guess this is when we were taken to the Atlantic Hotel with a very spacious room where we could have had a party although it was plain and empty, but I would have traded it all for a bed that wasn't SO LOW that it didn't feel like my bones were lying on the floor and that standing up wasn't pretty challenging for those same weary bones. I might as well have been in a sleeping bag. The next morning, we were waked up by competing priests calling their faithful to worship at 5:30AM. At first I lay there and thought this is really neat to experience their culture and liking the music, but soon I was moaning and just wanted to be able to go back to sleep. What bothered my ears the most was the two competing voices, apparently using very effective loud speakers, and getting louder and louder. I do know that we all are raised hearing different music, and I don't know the technical term, but their music has different harmonics or whatever. It is no better or worse, just not what our ear is accustomed to. On the other hand, there was a charming little Ethiopian girl who sang a song for us that was quite beautiful, I thought. I taped it and have it on my computer, and I will add it to Kodak. (Well, I tried but I can't get Kodak to let me transfer the videos.) I play it for my grandchildren to help them know that all people are more alike than different, and I see their faces soften for this other child so far away. I know the words meant something like God is good and will take care of you no matter what. It was a little hard to hear when we were so surrounded by poverty.

This time in Addis, we found a truly great driver, but, darn, I don't know his name. His taxi is in front of the National Hotel. We paid $5/hour, including gas and the vehicle, and he took us everywhere we needed, although he only drove in Addis which he knew like the back of his hand. He ended up feeling like our friend, he had excellent English, he was a real gentleman, he was very knowledgeable. I would give him the highest possible recommendation. His picture is in my pictures with his big blue taxi. If anyone recognizes him, please let me know. We tried to invite him into the hotel to have breakfast with us, but he told us none of the drivers were allowed to come inside.
He took us for pizza when my stomach was exploding (is it true the food is spicy to cover the fact that the meat is unrefrigerated and old and God knows what else?) and my top tourist agenda was a bathroom. I rushed to the bathroom, grateful to find one 'in time,' but the toilet was ALREADY broken. I had no choice; the green apple quick steps were in control. (Or is it the spicy injera speedy exit?) I came back hoping to remain anonymous, but I almost died when very soon the driver excused himself to go to the same unisex bathroom, and I knew my indiscretion was revealed. He was a gentleman and just calmly reported it to the management, and they hung an "Out of order" sign on the door. I tried to act like it couldn't have possibly been me who "exploded." In my defense it was stopped up before I went in. I want that on the record. I had already broken one toilet in ET, and two toilets was way too many to give a less than royal flush.
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Old Oct 8th, 2007, 07:46 PM
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On our last day in Addis, we went to the famous market in Addis. We made sure we were in Addis on a Saturday so we could go there. For us, it was too huge and overwhelming, and too much junk competed with the items of true value. The owners of the stalls had a way of drawing you into a little room of sorts, and it really felt like being trapped. Who could know where to go when you could not possibly see it all? Parking was scarce, so the part of the market you explored seemed to boil down to where your driver could find a spot, and that spot may not be legal. I would never go there without an honest guide to go with me, to help me fend off the bad elements, and to determine a good buy.

Our driver was such a great guy, and he told me he had been a mechanic and made good money, but the ET government had nationalized the trades (not sure of the proper term there). He told us when that happened, he was making so much less money that he began driving a taxi. Seems like a waste of talent to me. He and his brother were trying to save their money to start their own orphanage.

That afternoon, we had the driver take us to the church at the bottom of the hill ( I think it is named Yeka St. Michael) where Washa Michael, the only rock hewn churches in Addis, can be seen. Washa Michael was created in the 4th c., and is the oldest site in Addis. This was a generational day because we figured it was too steep a hike for me. Darn it. Dallas was going to go by herself, but they wouldn't let her go unless she hired an armed guard. At first we thought that wasn't necessary, but they convinced us that there were bandits in those hills. So Dallas negotiated a reasonable fee for a tall, lean man with a long trench coat and a long rifle. The driver and I were left to our own devices while she was hiking. Obviously, it was not the hike for me because Dallas is a good hiker, and she said she almost turned around. It took longer than they expected, so the driver and I returned to the church too soon.

At first the driver and I just drove through the market, and he let me take pictures of the people there. I was surprised to see so many shoe shine stands at the markets everywhere; I have never had my shoes shined in my life, so it was ironic to see this service occupation so prevalent in such a poor country. However, I rarely have to walk in mud, and that is how they cope with the constant mud. I was feeling guilty about using the guide's gas since we weren't paying him much, so at that point we went back to the church. I also wanted to make sure we were back before my daughter returned from Washa Michael. I wish I had just paid him more and we had driven to more places. We sat in the church parking lot, and Dallas returned considerably later than we had expected, but I actually took some of my favorite pictures just watching the people pass by. The driver and I got into a serious conversation, and I told him about my grandchild who had died. Then he shared with me that he had been married, and on their first wedding anniversary, his wife gave birth. Sadly, the wife and baby both died that day. I felt such a bond to this man on the other side of the world, and we knew we understood each other's loss.
I always looked each person I met straight in the eyes. I guess it sounds unlikely, but they did not feel like strangers. They felt like very important people in my life, and I wanted them to sense that.

I have never had a massage in my life, but my daughter was determined to do that while the prices were low, and I was trying to not be too much of a drag. I think they were $20 at the Hilton, but other places were cheaper, but we couldn't get an appointment and it was our last night in ET. The massage was a lot more than I, the over the hill teacher, bargained for, and I think it will suffice for my whole life. I am such a novice, I never even knew you took a shower, so I felt like I was back in middle school gym, although I managed to time my own entrance and exit perfectly just like I did in eighth grade.

Did I say we were once again delayed leaving the Addis airport, making us late to arrive in Kenya where we wanted to maximize moments? The shopping was good right there at the airport, so that was some consolation. This is mostly where I bought pashminas at Addis and batik in the Nairobi airport to take home and sell (small ones for $4 each), so I could send money back into the countries. I sold items I bought to people at my church and was able to raise over $300.00 that went for mosquito nets and other necessities in Malawi where a friend of mine volunteers in a clinic annually.

ETHIOPIA If you can't see the pictures in this email, click here to see it in a web browser:

Nairobi Backpackers was interesting, but I felt self-conscious about my age and ample girth. I couldn't quite figure which ones of the guests already knew each other and who met here and who had long histories off and on, so I wasn't sure how personally to take being pretty much ignored. I was a little taken aback by the bathroom being in a separate building from our little shack with two bunk beds, but it was a luxury to both have a bottom bunk. Actually, it is technically in the same building; you just have to leave one section of the building, walk across the open area, enter the door of the original section of the building and walk to the rear of that building. (Maybe they knew about me and so separated me from the johns.) I was OK with the unisex bathroom, but I couldn't quite deal with taking a shower with a guy in the next stall, although everyone managed to dry and dress inside the shower stall. I remember that the guys and girls' heads were above the edge of the shower stall where peeks were possible, but my daughter says I imagined that. Can anyone settle that question? We paid $22 that first night which was cheap for Nairobi. We also paid NB for the pickup at the airport and the driver taking us to Giraffe Manor and a craft shop. It was somehow more total money than I had understood in my e-mails to them, but it was still a good deal. We also went to a crocodile farm, but once we got there the driver saw that the prices had really been jacked up recently, (perhaps $12 each) so we had a good free look around, agreed to leave and saved our money. For novices, having that driver solved logistical problems for us like what to do with luggage while trying to maximize our first few hours in Nairobi.

When we went to the Giraffe Manor in Nairobi, the pleasant young adult helpers were asking if anyone would like to try feeding a giraffe by holding a pellet of giraffe food in one's teeth. No one said a word. If she had asked who wanted to bungee jump or who wanted to swim with sharks, I would think those suggestions fit into the 'over the hill' category. So figuring here was a time even I could go for broke, I volunteered to be the heroic role model for the rest of the group. I figured this was one thing I would never, ever have another opportunity in my life to experience, and it did not involve a jump from a high platform and a possibly unexpectedly too long elastic cord, or sharp, menacing rows of teeth and my unexpectedly shortened body length, or displaced body parts whether in the air, smashed on the ground, or turning the ocean waters red. This challenge was meant for me. It had little potential for morbidity, although I did underestimate the length of a giraffe's tongue. Well, after this old lady let the giraffe partake of his dinner from her own front teeth, everyone else was lining up to join in on the culinary excitement. Perhaps this was a little vindication for the damage I caused to the plumbing in ET—certainly a finer hour for me.

We could have stayed in just a room with three bunk beds and five miscellaneous bunkmates at Nairobi Backpackers. I think that was $6.00 and those rooms were very close to the one bathroom. They had a nice friendly cook who was thrilled when Dallas passed on some fruit her WV family had given her, since we were leaving the next day. Breakfast was provided and supper was a small fee and generous food. There also was a computer you could use for twenty minutes at a time.

We also stayed at NB on our last day in Kenya but could only get the apartment because we didn't reserve it soon enough. It was definitely a luxury of space wasted on us and a disaster for my aching feet. There was a small kitchen and probably space to sleep four or more, great for a family on a budget. I gagged because our first day was $22 and our last day was $36, but I hated the apartment for our purposes. It was just a lot more than we needed or wanted to pay for, and we had to walk several long dark blocks to get the meals and there was even less connection to the group. We did not have to walk outside to get to the bathroom though. My daughter ended up indulging my weary bones and walking to their main building and bringing supper back to me.

The very worst part for me was I was exhausted and my heart sank when they said the apartment was on the third floor. I weakly asked if there were an elevator, got something of a patronizing look from the hotel people, and, no, there was no elevator. My worst day in Kenya had been that day at Hell's Gate—although Dallas loved it and said it was a favorite day. The difference is we had made one of our generational concessions: she had rented a bike and relished the freedom at this national park to roam on your own for hours, and I was basically waiting for her. George and I had driven around some, but the animals were more sparse, it was extremely dusty, and seeing the big power plant was not high on my list of must sees. The one really good thing to me was it was the only chance I had to take a few pictures of some Masai who were nearby, although at the limits of my zoom lens. I had somehow thought I could use the time to take a boat ride on the lake, but I apparently was not as close as I had expected. I had inhaled dust all day and then driven the dusty five hours to Nairobi and then our apartment was on the third floor, with 20 steps to each floor. (Yes, I counted.) I nearly died of oxygen deprivation, old muscles-itis, and there was definite potential for the ashes thing. Those stairs were not a highlight. I didn't break a toilet though or have to walk outside to get to one, so those were major pluses.

NB also had a bonfire thing going on outside, but I think it was a lot of drinking and more for people who weren't traveling the next day but just hanging out at NB. I sort of wanted Dallas to at least check it out, but we had to get up early and it wasn't that feasible

I did like that NB had a 'give and take' basket where you could leave things you didn't need or take something you needed—we were grateful for suntan lotion since mine didn't work (40, my eye) and Dallas couldn't find hers. The lotion was leaking but it was still a big help to us for those last few days. We left diarrhea medicine and some other toiletries since we were leaving the next day.
They also had a donation box for local people—I left my good old still sturdy Clark shoes and a few other things. It is great to just take clothes to Africa that you don't mind leaving behind for the people. I wish I had had more to leave.

There also was free 'locked' storage which is one of the reasons we stayed our first and last nights, and also one of the things that attracted us to NB. I was somewhat thrown to see the storage room with luggage thrown in every whichaway and with the door wide open with a small open lock they didn't bother to use. There was a lock as they had said, but the unmentioned detail was that the door was not locked. The spirit of the road seemed to carry, and we left my large crammed full ET basket and two large suitcases, and all was untouched when we returned. A lock is not needed for men of good will. We met someone who told us she had left things there before for months on several different occasions and never had a single problem. I loved the authentic feel of fellow travelers willingly sharing and respecting each other's journeys. That felt really good, and, for me, beat a luxury lodge hands down. Have you ever walked a labyrinth? There is one in Chartres Cathedral in France, and it is modeled after a labyrinth people would walk in the Middle Ages when it was impossible to make a longer pilgrimage. It is a large circular human maze, and many people can walk at once, all moving towards the center. They are in many different places on their journeys, but you brush up against and pass others on your way.

After our first night in Nairobi at Backpackers, Matthew Mutisto from Raylenne met us the next AM, took us to the bank, and I withdrew the money to pay him. There was a slight moment of panic when they wouldn't let me withdraw the full amount I owed, but Matthew knew the ropes and knew how to use the other machine and then I could get the rest. He delivered on everything promised in our e-mails back and forth, so he worked out great for us. The only problem I had, but it was my fault, was that I kept delaying on making a commitment to him, and in the end owed him more than the original price quoted. I knew that in April though, long before I paid him. Matthew introduced us to George whom we were with from Monday AM until Sunday afternoon when he put us on the airport to return home.

We did not expect this but ended up having a private safari with just the two of us and George. That was helpful because we were not crowded and pretty much followed our own agenda. We went with Raylenne safaris and felt they gave us a very reasonable rate for the three nights on safari, two in Mara and one in Lake Nakuru (all three in lodges—our other nights were as cheap as we could find) and the rest of our time in Kenya.

What really helped us was to hire the same driver from safari for the remainder of our time (and thus created the private safari) because we wanted to go further north (Kabernet area) to visit a third World Vision child instead of first going back from Nakuru to Nairobi.. Raylenne gave us a very good price for hiring this driver and van for the next four days, taking us and stopping wherever we wished, driving us back to Nairobi, picking us up the last morning to go see the feeding of the baby elephants (well worth it), a lunch at the Carnivore, and taking us to the airport for our 22 hour flight home. I know using Raylenne solved a lot of logistical problems for us and was very reasonable for getting us from place to place.

At the meals at both lodges, you were assigned a table with the other people sharing your safari vehicle. I wonder if that is partly to keep track of different arrangements they make with different safari companies. That meant my daughter and I were eating alone at every meal. Although I would have hated to share a table with a group of loud kids I had just spent the day with, I was disappointed to never really have a chance to meet the other people there. The buffets looked great and the entre's were all good. The desserts looked very tempting but did not actually taste very good at all. I thought maybe it was just our Western taste buds, but I asked George and he told me he and the other drivers also thought the desserts were bland and disappointing.

We left with George Monday AM and our trip was in his hands; we arrived at the Mara for an afternoon game drive. George was fine as a driver and a guide, the only problem is when you do both, it was practically impossible for him to tell us anything or for us to ask questions. We could and we did, but because I was in the middle seat and my daughter was in the back, it was very hard for us to hear or be heard by George. I expected to sit in one place a lot more, using my binoculars acquired off Ebay to scan the African horizon, but there was very little of that, and the binoculars were not really necessary. That is probably entirely different on a longer safari. Mostly George was always driving around, always checking out a shadow or a movement in the brush. I tried to use binoculars as he drove, but they just jumped around too much.

On our only full day in the Mara, our driver had given us a choice between a morning and an evening drive or an all day drive. My daughter is a lot tougher than I am, but we had asked each other about the BIG BATHROOM DEBATE and we shared similar attitudes about pulling down our pants in "public," although my pants were especially reluctant. We finally asked George about what facilities would be available (Don't laugh, we really knew the answer to the question, but a girl can still hope, right?), and he said the only bathroom would be the bush. Gulp. I mean I have these bashful kidneys, and I knew the bush would inspire that bashfulness. But we knew we would have a better chance of seeing more if we were able to travel farther, so we threw caution to the wind. As it turned out, at the far reaches of our long day was the only place where we saw hippos, the wildebeest crossing the river, crocs and our one beautiful cheetah with two shy cubs. I am so glad we chose the longer trip. So we drove about three hours, and George says, "Bathroom break." My daughter and I just looked at each other and both answered in unison, "We're fine." George looked very skeptical, but got out of the car and disappeared behind a rather small bush. I was so worried about a disastrous bush bathroom experience that I wore khaki pants and had an extra pair of khaki pants in my day bag, so I could somehow discreetly change (not sure how) if it became obvious I was too darn klutzy to squat successfully or squatted successfully but then fell over, mooning the startled animals as I tumbled—a little people safari tour for them. “Animals of the Mara, are you looking for a great tour of the most eccentric animals of the world? Watch for people creatures with bare bottoms rolling through the bush.”

Our second day in the Mara we left at 8:00AM and reached the Serengeti border about noon. There standing before us, like the Taj Mahal of the bush, was a glorious, glorious, most beautiful outhouse in the world, so, exulting as I went, I never needed those extra khaki pants. We ate a packed picnic lunch which the lodge had packed, but George had forgotten to put in a cooler (but the outhouse overshadowed any disappointment or concern for botulism). We got back to the lodge at 5:30 PM. I don't think our driver thought we could do it, but we hung tough, and we were so glad we gambled on our intrepid kidneys.

When we approached the Serengeti border, we saw our one and only cheetah looking regal just sitting by a bush, seemingly oblivious to the vehicles gathering around her. Her cubs were in the bush, but just would not appear for us. I was disappointed, but I couldn't really blame them for not cooperating with a bunch of tourists. I took about a dozen pictures of the bush, hoping that at home, I would be able to zoom in and find the babies in my pictures. Alas, there is no good picture, but an occasional image showed only tufts of fur or two pairs of eyes looking back. We saw them before we stopped to eat our lunch, so when we began the drive home, we looked for the family again. We found the same group, they had moved to a different bush, but the vigilant mama still had her cubs hidden carefully in the camouflage of the new bush.

I fell out of bed. I told you I was a klutz, right? I thought sure it was in a very narrow bed in one of those little hole in the wall places, so I was claiming that line, but Dallas swears it was in one of the nice lodges with a large bed. Darn. So in the middle of the night, I fall out of bed and hit my cheekbone really hard on the nightstand next to the bed. I do remember being tangled in the mosquito net, but before I really even woke up, I am crumpled on the floor crying. My daughter hears me and sits up and says, "Mom, are you lying on the floor crying?" “Uh, I think so....” Fortunately, she had brought one of those instant ice packs that don't have to be refrigerated; you just bend them and they activate. I really think I came very close to breaking my cheekbone and had a whopping bruise that covered one side of my face more and more over the next couple of days (you know, the blood drains down). From then on, people looked at me with great curiosity and even a tinge of respect, as if this old lady must have had a very dramatic and close encounter with some large and scary wild animal. Well, I wasn't going to tell the truth--the old lady fell out of her own bed (in a lodge) for no darn good reason. So I just smiled bravely, crinkling up my bruise, and let them wonder. I may have never told the truth except my daughter wouldn't let me get away with it. So take an ice pack in case you fall out of bed on your safari....

I enjoyed the flamingos at Lake Nakuru, but once we were there and began to take pictures, it seemed like all the pictures looked alike. I began to think perhaps we should have focused on another location in our very limited time, but it was also in the general direction of the WV child in Kabernet.
When we left Lake Nakuru, my daughter's memory cards were almost full. We stopped in Nakuru and found a computer place of sorts, but they had no CD's and did not know how to transfer from a memory card. However, we had a blank CD, so my daughter was able to provide the CD and just do the transfer herself. While I waited, trying to maximize time, I took my Polaroid camera and went out on the streets by myself while our driver got a cup of coffee. I was trying to find children or families that might appreciate a picture. The children were in short supply, and a few mothers thought I was a con job of some kind, but what surprised me was that I quickly was surrounded by the men in the town who sincerely wanted me to take their pictures. One young man came forward and helped me translate. One man offered to pay me any price I wanted for the camera, but I explained to him that the film was expensive and necessary for the camera to work. The man who really touched me somehow was a very distinguished gentleman dressed in a suit who asked me to take his picture. He said he hadn't had a picture of himself for decades and wanted one to give his grandchildren. Every child should have a picture of his grandfather.
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Old Oct 8th, 2007, 08:03 PM
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We arrived in Kabernet, met with WV officials and made plans to visit Jeritech, my daughter's WV girl, the next day. I was anxious to safely disperse some money I still had from my church, so I offered what I had left for this WV district to extend their water line project farther up the mountain. Somehow they immediately gathered the entire water committee, including one woman, to receive the money in a spontaneous ceremony. I was surprised to see the water line was literally just a bare pipe lying exposed on the ground, and the mountain road was unbelievably curvy. The committee was obviously very pleased with the donation and again there were a lot of speeches and, of course, I had to make one too. I told them my church wanted them to know there are people on the other side of the world who care about their health and prosperity. It was also nice because where we met them, there was a small group of stands and one tiny, tiny hotel along the road, and we could take Polaroid pictures of the people there without being mobbed.
Dallas thought I was stark, raving mad, but my only disappointment with this new and unexpected agenda was that I had wanted to take my Polaroid camera to a nearby hospital and get permission to take pictures of patients and families for their long separations.
The next morning we drove to the child's home in a very rural, mountainous location, crossing a couple of small streams. I remember re-playing in my head those warnings on TV in hurricane season about not driving through flooded streets and trying to remember how deep the water could be on your car before it floated. When we got to the small house on a hill by itself, the parents were there with the six small children. The oldest boy was twelve. We had brought many hair barrettes and decorations, but the hair of the three girls was cropped just as closely to the head as the boys' and there was no way to use the hair things. I was glad I had bought one purple hat at the Dollar Tree, so Jeritech could wear that. The girls all wore simple dresses, or otherwise we would not have been able to tell them apart. I was surprised because in ET even the poorest girls often had elaborate braids.
This morning was one of the highlights of our entire journey. We sat on log benches and shared fruit and gave Jeritech and her family her gifts. Her family was a little apolgetic because they had planned to make a cake for our visit, but somehow our visit was a day earlier than they expected. What was especially nice was that more and more nearby families got word of our visit and you could see mothers and children emerging over the crests of the nearby hills as they came to join us. We had the WV men with us who acted as translators for us all, and I think they were enjoying the day as much as we all were. Jeritech and her siblings were sharing their new jump rope and soccer ball. There was an incredible sense of one world community which I believe we all basked in and did not want to end. It was if time stood still, and this was the only place in the world that was real or mattered.
It felt so elemental that it felt familiar to me, like when you meet someone who becomes so special that you feel like you have known him or her all your life. I knew these mothers well in some ways because I also have children and grandchildren whom I love. In other ways, I knew I could not begin to understand the struggles they endured just for their families to survive. We sat on logs on this hill in Africa for several hours, and I still was not ready to leave. There was no need to rush as there had been with the WV boys in ET. Thank goodness, we still had some gifts left, although smaller ones. Here, we could give something to each of the guests. We had small baggies with needles and safety pins for the moms, although we had to show them how a safety pin works. We had pencils and sharpeners and pens and balloons for all the kids, and we took Polaroid pictures of everyone. When we first gave them the pictures, while they were still black and had not yet developed, some had a brief look of skepticism, but then a bright, engaging smile as their images were revealed.
That night we went to Hilltop Camp in Hell's Gate National Park, which was near Lake Navaisha. It was about $10 per night, although they did not build a fire for a hot shower until 7:30 AM and it takes an hour for the water to heat up. That was disappointing to my daughter who wanted to leave early for her bike hike. You had to pay a little more to have hot water. There were running water and several beds and everything we needed. A small family could stay in the room. It was sort of an intimidating drive there (for us) since we arrived relatively late, 10:00 PM, on a Friday night, and we were very conspicuously American as we drove a long ways down a road with party revelers spilling into the road. Even George seemed uncomfortable as we drove on the seemingly endless dark road, and I am sure he was thinking what on earth were these crazy American women going to think up next.
The next day, we returned to Nairobi and spent our last night in Africa at NB. In the morning, George picked us up to take us to see the feeding of the baby elephants (and one baby rhino) at the Daphne Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage on the edge of the Nairobi National Park. Daphne was the first person to develop a formula that was suitable of the young elephants. These babies are rescued and cared for after their mothers are slaughtered for their tusks. A calf less than two years old can only survive one day after being orphaned and without milk. Other than the unhappy context, this was a pleasant, happy way to end our time in Africa. I know some of you see baby ellies playing in the mud on your safaris, but for those who do not have that opportunity, this is a great second choice. The keepers had hoses and shovels, and before they brought the elephants out to the feeding area, they created the most luscious mud for these connoisseurs of that particular lost art form. The baby elephants were just so purely happy as they played in the mud that all the spectators were smiling widely. Dallas sponsored the newest baby elephant, Chulu, who had just been rescued the day before. They have an outstanding sponsorship program with excellent monthly newsletters and updates on your very own elephant. If you sponsor one ($50/year), you can come back in the late afternoon and actually feed your animal, but we could not do that because we had to be at the airport to go home. Actually, just as I type that and I am thinking how much time we wasted waiting at the airport, we COULD have gone back for the private feeding. H-r-r-u-mph.
They had nice gifts at reasonable prices. I bought a child's tee shirt for only $6.00 that had a picture of a baby elephant with the words 'Ivory Orphans.' I think entrance was free, although the entry people came running after George saying he had to pay a tour operator fee. George was annoyed and rightly talked them out of it, since at that point he was only our driver, similar to if someone took a taxi there.

This was our only midday time in Nairobi, so we went to the Carnivore for lunch. I understand they have excluded some of their previous game animal species which had been on the menu, but that is probably just as well. Someone told us the crocodile “balls” tasted like fish, so we decided to pass on them. We did have some camel and some ostrich, more as a matter of principle. The Carnivore was nice and a good way to reluctantly end our time. Our array of choices of food only cost us $22 each. I tried not to eat too much because of our 22 hr flight coming up. I was still insecure about, uh, ...toilets. I would have expected the gift shop next to such a high profile restaurant to be very touristy and over-priced, but we found reasonable prices and good quality items in every price range
George was an excellent safari guide; the only problem was without two people on board, one to drive and one to talk and guide (not a budget safari), what he could explain to us was limited. I did feel that he was very informed and very alert to every sign of interesting animals, and he totally respected the environment which is what we wanted. I think he sincerely cared that we see as many animals as possible and have a good safari experience. He was very competent and helpful driving us around the rest of the week, but I began to feel self-conscious when we wanted to explore a little market, and he seemed so obviously bored. I would have poked around a lot more, especially at less obvious places. Ideally, I would have liked to have met more people. Now I totally understand because I would have been bored driving two ladies around in the USA, but it would have been helpful if he had brought a book or something. I think his real love is the animal safaris, and he was just bored doing the other things. I thought he would be a little more interested in some of the WV things we did, but he missed his animals. The WV staff drove us to see the Kenyan WV girl, so he had a nice half day off then.

Of course, George was ready to deliver us to the airport, and we were postponing it as long as we could. He was ready for us to go there; I am sure because then his day was done, his week with us was done, but we delayed past the time the airline requested and still had an intolerably long and uncomfortable wait. They would not even let us in the room with chairs. We were just to stand there in the hallway with all our bags unless we wanted to sit on the floor; those were our only choices. Since my bones had never been wearier ever, I just couldn't sit on the hard floor. I tried sitting on my luggage, but that wasn't much better. We were out there in the hall for several hours after they said we should be there so early. Dallas and I took turns staying with our luggage while the other poked around the shops. We would have liked to have lingered at a restaurant, but they obviously did not have room or encourage seat takers.

We finally get on our plane for our 22 hour journey, and we are delayed another hour before we take off, making it 23. Of course, the airplane sitting on the runway was incredibly hot, and I went into a coughing fit from all the dust I had inhaled that day. I sure could have used water in my carry on. That was about 3:00 in the afternoon to 11:00 PM just to get out of Nairobi. We definitely could have found more interesting ways to spend the precious, never to be reclaimed, time. If I had it to do over, since I was unemployed at the time, I would have stayed longer, perhaps volunteering somewhere. It cost so much to get there, but it didn't really cost that much to stay there. Well, at least if you do it our budget way. One simple thing that helped me with the discomfort of the long time in the air was that I had a pashmina shawl with me. It was a easy way to adjust to the heat or the coolness of the airplane, and a lot easier to get off or on than a jacket. The best thing for me was that I tied a loose knot in the two ends, and that provided a sling of sorts for each of my arms. It solved the problem of who gets the arm rest and where to put my arms for all these hours and stay out of my neighbor's way.

It was hard to leave. In some archetypal way, going to Africa felt like coming home to my own roots, whether or not I happen to be a white woman. The hardest part of the whole trip is wanting to go back. Instead of satisfying the yearn to go there, the yearning has just grown. Somehow as much as I loved Kenya and the animals, it is Ethiopia that calls to me. I am haunted by the beautiful faces of the children I met there. When I brought pashminas and batik to sell at my church to earn money to send back to Africa, I was compelled to make a large display of the photographs I have of the faces. Sometimes I just zoom in on the face of a child in the background, and the quality of the picture is not great, but I just value the face. I knew the people at church would also be moved by the portraits of courage and despair, and they also would feel an additional connection to these people who are just like you and me but who live so far away.

ETHIOPIA If you can't see the pictures in this email, click here to see it in a web browser:

KENYA AND ROADSIDE PICS AS WE DROVE IN ET (Supposed to be with ET pics, but my file was too long to load all at once) If you can't see the pictures in this email, click here to see it in a web browser:

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Old Oct 8th, 2007, 08:10 PM
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In case you are wondering what weird, cryptic message I intended by the strange smiley faces, they have no meaning. I just thought I was typing in a "P" for the word "Part," and somehow made that typo. Cheers.
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Old Oct 8th, 2007, 10:32 PM
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The report we thought we'd never get. Worth the wait. Excellent advice to take an ice pack to Africa in case you fall out of bed. ;-)

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Old Oct 9th, 2007, 03:31 AM
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Thanks for your long awaited report. I'd been wondering whatever happened to you two and now I know!
I just skimmed your report for now but I'm going to go back and read it more thoroughly. I just want you to know that you and your daughter are two very amazing people!
Do you realize that your story would make a great book? It's the type of nonfiction that I'm always looking for.
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Old Oct 9th, 2007, 08:48 AM
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What a marvelous story! I sponsor a girl in Uganda through World Vision, and was wondering if it was feasible to visit her -- maybe your intrepid adventures will help my decision in the future.

I'm amazed at your courage in doing such an adventurous trip, considering your own physical limitations -- it's inspiring to see what sheer motivation can accomplish.

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Old Oct 9th, 2007, 09:10 AM
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You’re an inspiration! And, after your toilet stories, nothing I could ever do in Africa will seem embarrassing. Thanks for this wonderful report.
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Old Oct 9th, 2007, 11:00 AM
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Thank you for your report! Wonderful reading and a wonderful adventure. I do hope you have many more. You made my day...maybe even my week.
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Old Oct 9th, 2007, 12:12 PM
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I've just finished Part I. Your detailed account of of the naysayers covers it all. We've all heard it before in bits and pieces but you've compiled the comprehensive list of what ifs.

Your explanation of risking "the dreaded shelf" was a riot.

The plan to hold a baby in Africa is unbelievablly moving and poignant.

I'm glad you have more parts posted.
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Old Oct 9th, 2007, 12:21 PM
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This is one of the best reports I've ever read!!! I didn't intend to read it all in one sitting but couldn't bring myself to stop. You had me crying, then you had me laughing so hard I was crying. You reminded me I mooned 2 trucks while taking a bush break (wait, there were no bushes that was the problem, a sand break?) in Namibia. How could I have forgotten to put that in my trip report

My mom sponsors two WV children so I'm glad to hear they actually exist

I haven't had a chance to look through your photos yet but am looking forward to them.
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Old Oct 9th, 2007, 01:22 PM
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I too surprised myself and just read (actually saw vividly) this entire report in one sitting!! What a great read, I do not even need to look at the photos – but I will later tonight. I had some experiences very similar to yours while meeting and visiting a son and daughter etc. my first two weeks in Africa before my safari.

You have described SEVERAL of the many, many small but profound moments of experiences in such a delightful way! I will comment later when I have more time but one of your statements really popped out at me that has nothing to do with my personal experience directly. While watching a chaotic food distribution process in a documentary over the weekend I expressed to my husband that this situation is not new and it seems someone could find a way to make this a bit more orderly, safer, and fair procedure!

>“We had been told that simply would not work because they would end up getting very pushy and aggressive, simply because abject poverty does not develop the skill set of waiting in line.”<

Your statement brought me (a have) understanding like a good bonk on the head!

Asante Sana,

NOTE to DALLAS: Please, please, Dallas post a report as though your dear Mum has not already done so…I rarely want to see any movie twice but somehow I know I would enjoy the opportunity to see this movie again shot from a different (yours) angle!!
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Old Oct 9th, 2007, 01:54 PM
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Thanks for your encouragement about my long report; I thought you might all think I was stark, raving mad. I knew my report was somewhat different, so I felt self-conscious. I should have said more about how moving it was to me to see the animals free in their natural habitats, but I guess I wore out writing, and other people have said that so well. I was afraid no one would have the energy to read through the whole thing, so thank you for honoring our journey.
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Old Oct 9th, 2007, 02:56 PM
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Dear twoteachers,

I, too, thank you for your willingness to post such a detailed and enthralling report. It was a pleasure to read!

The last paragraph of Part II: "I was surprised by the formality of the educated and English speaking Ethiopians who were all very articulate when they made speeches. I have taught mostly African American students in my career, many definitely without much academic interest or motivation, and I sure wish they could have seen how beautifully and with how much pride their people handled themselves verbally."

You might want to check out the New York Times article published 2/4/07 which address this issue. Go to the search feature and key in "racial politics" and "articulate". It is really quite informative
Additionally, no African-American or African considers the other to be "their people". They are far removed from each other by centuries and culture.

I hope you get your chance to go back to Africa - esp. Ethiopia!

Warm regards,

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Old Oct 9th, 2007, 03:48 PM
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I thought these pictures had been shared, but apparently not, so I am posting a new link. These are not the greatest pictures because they were taken out the window of our moving car, but if you want to go for a drive with me through the mountains of ET, you can see what I saw then.
I have also tried to post a few videos, but things keep going wrong. I especially wanted you to hear the little girl in ET who sang such a sweet song for us. I tried Picasa, and it seemed to work, but then when I went there, the videos would not load. Also, it rejected any video over 1 MB, so it only takes very short ones.

This link should be the regular ET pics, plus the roadside ones. I also repeated the Kenya link. I had to write all this because I was yearning so much to go back. I have been trying to find somewhere I could volunteer this summer, but most places charge quite a bit per week just to volunteer. If anyone knows of a place, I would love to hear about it.

I wish Dallas would write her own report because I am sure her perspective was different. I doubt that will happen because she has a new teaching job, just got engaged and is trying to sell her house. I think Africa brought her a change in luck.

Peace for all journeys.


ETHIOPIA: 2 files
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Old Oct 9th, 2007, 05:43 PM
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What a wonderful and moving trip report. Like others, I could not stop reading. Like a good book that you don't want to put down and hope will not end. Are you by any chance some sort of English/writing teacher? If not, you should be. Or better yet, write a book.

You and Dallas are two amazing women. So selfless and an encouragement to others. So many of us on this board write about the animals on safari, or the cultural sites, but you write so eloquently of the people and your experiences that I wish I were there with you. And you throw a wonderful witty sense of humor in there to boot. Thanks for transporting us so vividly to share your trip with you.

Now I just have to go look at those pictures.

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Old Oct 9th, 2007, 06:51 PM
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Trip report is a misnomer. You have spun a touching masterpiece. It is humorous and heartfelt. Thank you for taking the time to share your moving encounters and captivating experiences in such detail.

There are even some very handy hints here and there. The neck pillow for back support, shrink wrap, your practical photography suggestions. You really gave good advice regarding donations and charity, such as giving money rather than stuff that must be packed and donating the luggage as a storage device, along with the contents.

I hope you have shared this with Dallas. What a lovely account of a life changing mother daughter adventure.

I'll be looking at the photos next.
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