Friday, September 08, 2006

My Summer in a Nutshell

11 weeks. 3 countries. 1152 digital pictures. 504 black and white photos. By any account this equates to a good trip.

When I left June 12, I hoped that my summer would include reunions with friends, time for writing, travel to favorite places and new places, and wildlife. Mission accomplished.

There were many high points of my trip.

It's been four years since I traveled to South Africa, and I longed for it. What a gift to be able to hug my friends and talk to them in person. I felt a strong sense of satisfaction upon seeing my thesis on the shelf and reading it. I wish the donated books from Lab School would have arrived while I was there, but I know they will be appreciated regardless.

I turned 32 in South Africa, and I spent a calm weekend in Franschhoek, a village in the wine country near Cape Town. 31 was a difficult year, and 32 already feels full of hope.

On my safari, the lion sightings were the highlight, especially our first sighting in Lake Nakuru and the cubs in Ngorongoro. The cheetah and leopard sightings come a close second and third. I'll also remember waking up in the Serengeti campsite at 4am and hearing the lions roar as they circled the campsite; it's been awhile since I felt that combination of fear and excitement.

Then there was the liberation of snorkeling in a reef off the Zanzibar coast. This reminded me of quadbiking the dunes in Namibia. I felt such peace and awe with the natural world as I stepped out of my comfort zone.

As for the lows of the trip, I felt a twinge of disappointment that I didn't want to stay longer in South Africa. Chicago surprised me with how much I missed it.

The food on my safari was certainly a low, as the cook thought baked beans twice a day for the first week would be enough. Luckily, the five other group members also wanted their carnivorous meals diversified, so we encouraged more veggies and other protein sources. This being said, there were a few dinners that made me want to cry in appreciation.

The roads in Kenya and Tanzania, but mostly Kenya, left me with bruises. I knew we had long drives, so I bought myself one of those neck pillows. However, I was afraid to sleep on the truck during long drives because there was always the need to brace yourself for unexpected potholes. Yet, our driver, Paul, did such a magnificent drive keeping us and our truck happy, that there wasn't much to complain about.

As I sat in the Dar-Es-Salaam airport for my flight back to Jo'Burg, a woman asked me to complete a tourist survey. I told her the most frustrating thing on my trip was being looked at as a bagful of money. All six of us on the safari were exhausted and annoyed by the hawkers that came up to our truck or up to us while we walked in town. Never were we left to enjoy the village in peace. I admit I felt a twinge of relief when I saw the locals being harassed the same way.

I hope you enjoy my pictures and travelogue. Hopefully, you will some day see aspects of this trip in print.

Lots of love,

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