March 31, 2016

beyond culture shock

my flight to Tanzania had a four hour layover in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  the airport was more like a refugee camp than a international airport - and i don't say that lightly or in jest of what refugees are going through.  having taken the red eye [coach] i was short on sleep when we landed at 5AM local time.

the light was just coming up but it was bright enough to see the relics of other ages of aviation 'parked' between runways.  i'm not sure if they were trying to showcase the 'vintage' planes to visitors or were just too lazy to move them after they quit working.  

the 'airport' was exactly what we would call a warehouse.  imagine an abandoned warehouse with a few chairs, a couple thousand people and no exit door. that's what i'm talking about - a four hour layover and there's no chance i'm using those toilets.  there were masses of people, both african and western, sitting and laying everywhere.  this is the moment when the phrase 'oh $hit, what have i done' flashed through my mind.

forget restaurants - there wasn't even a place to buy bottled water.  the security line was a joke.  more about going through the motions than really screening for anything - i wonder to myself if the monitor was even plugged in.

the best i could figure is this warehouse is the central spot for changing international flights within east africa.  it was only serviced by Ethiopian Airlines and apparently flights arrive all night filling up the warehouse - then all flights out depart between 8AM and 10AM - i'm guessing they try to empty the warehouse before the heat turns it into an easy bake oven.  i felt lucky that my layover was only four hours.  if you google Addis Ababa airport there are some really nice photos of an airport - let's just say i wasn't at that terminal.

there was apparently an african celebrity there as people were lining up to get photos taken with him.  i was too tired to find out who, or take my eyes off the gate lest i miss the flight and be stuck there another 24 hours.  i was first in line when they called the Jaro [that's what they call kilimanjaro international airport - now imagine a really crappy loudspeaker with feedback and an accent].  so, the transition from the united club in London to Addis Ababa was a little rough but it gets much easier after this.  even at the moment as i was horrified by the conditions, at my core was a strong sense of purpose that this path i have chosen is the right one for me.  i am not here to recolonize or change the people of Tanzania just to provide them with options for their future.

Ethiopia looked from my views at the airport and airplane to be a beautiful country - much greener than i expected.  

the flight into Jaro is empty so i stretch out and get a two hour nap.  the plane isn't clean but it's less filthy than the first leg and is onward to Zanzibar so just a few of us get off in Jaro.  BOOM - 13 hours and change from London to Tanzania - i'm a zombie without sleep but happy to have arrived.  

happy to be on the ground at Jaro

before i even get inside the terminal i'm stopped and asked if i have a yellow fever vaccination [which i don't] and he let's me slide through when i say i was only in the ground in Ethiopia for two hours.  then he starts a whole conversation about hillary vs. donald!  he went on quite passionately for a few minutes and was clearly team trump.  i thought it slightly ironic since trump probably doesn't care a whit about anyone in Africa and hillary would be way more generous with aid and immigration. 

for me, immigration is painless and quick.  unfortunately, one of my bags didn't get off with me and i have to put in a claim for lost luggage. i'm hoping it's just gone on to Zanzibar and will be put back on for the return through Jaro - otherwise i don't expect i'll ever see it again.  after getting my bags that did arrive i found the driver the company sent and head for Moshi, my home for at least the next year.

March 29, 2016

goodbye london

i woke up the last day in London to sunny skies and the news that a plane out of Egypt had been hijacked.

it's bad enough to see that after the bombing last week of the airport in Brussels that but the authorities in Cyprus on TV were saying it wasn't a terrorist attack [really? tell that to the people kidnapped] and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades responded to a reporter's question about whether the hijacker was motivated by romance, laughed and said  "Always there is a woman involved".  hey asshole - here's a news flash - the person hijacking the plane was a MAN.  

GOOD JOB CYPRUS.  your politicians make Trump look presidential.

also, to the dick head that hijacked the plan and later threw a letter off the plane to his ex wife - next time use a stamp.  

i think my tolerance has sunken to new levels.  as i clear security at Heathrow for my flight out, my rucksack is unpacked, rexrayed and swabbed for explosives. they take away my toothpaste which was a medium size with just a few drops left.  i just hope everyone else on my flight is as well screened.

recently i seem to get rerouted alot and my brother, knowing this, suggests if they try to reroute you through egypt today - decline.  

once on the 'safe side' of security i beeline for the United Club - there is always a pleasant face there, fast wireless, free food and cocktails.   and a power outlet at every seat that accommodates both uk and us power cords.  what else could a girl ask for?

the stop at the united club may have been a mistake when the next leg of my journey plays out but in the moment i was loving it.

March 27, 2016

militant vegans

we were shopping around picadilly circus and wandered into the whole foods there.  i was surprised to find whole foods in the UK but i wanted to pick up a few things and do some research on their vanilla supplier so i stopped in.  they had a lot of the american brands and i was happy to pick up a supply of cliff bars.  i only bought six but as my friend pointed out, if i ration them like matt damon in The Martian, they would last a long time.

while i was in the line to check out there was a crazy disturbance.  in the meat section next to the check out line there were a group of militant vegans - one of them on a handheld loudspeaker chanting, shame shame on whole foods and some other stuff, others in the group of three or four were holding up pictures of animals, calves and lambs, while the woman on the loudspeaker was making all kinds of statements that might or might not be true about the animals in the meat case. 

first off, i'm offended by anyone who think that shame is a way to change people's behavior.  next, i think angry vegans act in a way that is contradictory to the path of veganism and damage the image of a mostly loving and compassionate group of people.  lastly, my friend pointed out that they must be idiots for protesting at a whole foods, where most people are not meat eaters and whose supply chain is much cleaner than the mainstream supermarkets.

the management moved quickly and they were shut down in a matter of minutes but it made me wonder, could that happen in the US - why have i never seen anyone protesting inside a store?  even michael moore is usually standing on a public sidewalk with a loudspeaker - as if the CEO on the 50th floor can hear what he's saying.  

March 25, 2016

london - not being a tourist

i had a good relaxing time in london.  tried not to be a tourist but was willingly taken anywhere my friends wanted to go.  had some great food - fantastic thai, impressive pizza and yummy veggie burgers.  i did two of the mueseums... the British Museum because i wanted to see the Rosetta Stone [amazing] and the Royal Academy of Arts because they had a Monet exhibit [like the Art Institute of Chicago].

London is so massive [8.5 million people!] it's a 45 minute [minimum] subway ride anywhere and forget using a Uber - just too much traffic.  i'm a small town girl and the closeted air of the underground was claustrophobic for me.  also, with the shadow of the Brussels attacks just a few days ago it makes a person wary to be in a crowded public place.  

i had a chance to go up to Cambridge and it was nice to get out of the big city and see the old colleges that are so often referenced in the US.  

when i landed it was warm and sunny but mostly it's been spring weather here.  rainy, cold and overcast but the spring flowers and trees are blooming everywhere.  there are thousands of dafodils blooming - i can hardly believe there are any left for the rest of the world. 

mostly it was great to spend time with one of my closest friends who i had not seen since 2013 and meet up with some other UK friends.  

March 23, 2016

takes my breath away

no, it's not big ben or a bridge or any of the other landmarks around london.  i was multitasking, dressing to go out for the evening and talking to someone on the phone when i looked out the window of my friends apartment.  i was literally speechless for a moment as i saw the laser.  my friend has an awesome apartment across from the royal navy observatory where they mark greenwich mean time and at night there is a laser that marks GMT line.  

that's pretty cool right?  because there's only one of those in the world and the rest of the world's time is based on that laser.  0 degrees longitude!  awesome

March 21, 2016

landing in london

i had barely landed and logged onto a wireless network when my phone lit up

with messages and news alerts about the terrorists bombing of the airport in Brussels. 

in the aftermath Belgium has been ripped to shreds by the news agencies.  some calling Belgium a failed state.  others just calling out their security services as pathetic. 

whatever the case, these attacks will gain the terrorists nothing.  not a great start to my stopover in london to visit friends for a few days.

March 20, 2016

last american face

my brother has been so supportive of all my travels and even took me along when he climbed Kilimanjaro ten years ago so it seems appropriate that i spent my last weekend in the US with his family before i am off on my next adventure - living in the shadow of Kilimanjaro.  it was a great couple of days and he did my final pack to get all my bags within my 23kg allowance.  plus cooked up some amazing vegetarian enchiladas and served up smores by the fire under a clear, star filled sky with an almost full moon.  meanwhile, my nephew and i decided on matching tattoos... 

March 9, 2016

yeah, i think you can find it

last week i was texting a friend who i was going to meet at one of the parks for an afternoon walk.  it was someplace i'd never been before and she was giving me some vague directions and finally said, 'you seem to find your way around SE Asia just fine so i'm sure you can find the park in your own city'.  i get so little sympathy from my friends.  navigating cities in Asia is really hard.  if the street has a name it's a bonus but they the idea of house/building numbers is pretty alien.  

March 7, 2016

giggling like schoolgirls

i had plans to meet up with one of my neighbors for a cocktail and i chose one of the well established restaurants on Gaylord Street.  it's next door to a marijuana dispensary.  as we sat outside on the patio drinking our wine i started playing a game in my head.  which of the well dressed passerby were headed to the dispensary?  i brought my friend into the game and soon enough we were chatting with our server about the implications of legal dope smoking in Colorado.  you know where this is going right?  

yep, my friend and i end up over at the dispensary looking for something to help up sleep better at night.  seriously, we weren't looking for some buds to smoke or a high but an edible that would have us sleeping like babies.  i told the greeter we'd never been in a shop before and go easy on us because we were newbies.  the guy [well dressed and middle aged] who walked in right after us laughed and commented, 'oh you ladies are going to enjoy this'.  after checking our ids for age and residency we are admitted into the shop where a budtender [yes, that's what they call them] was standing in front of a bar with shelves of product behind her.  molly was very helpful.

it was like walking into a high end chocolate shop.  lots of different choices and pleasant, knowledgeable staff willing to answer our questions.  we'd been warned off the chocolate and both our server at the restaurant [who had way more experience than she was admitting] and our budtender recommended we try the gummies for an easy night of sleep.  we were in and out in less than 10 minutes which included some additional browsing so kudos to Lucky Sky for making that a great shopping experience.  wish i could say the same about the Whole Paycheck in Cherry Creek where it might take longer and cost just as much to get a few slices of cheese.

we left with our black sealed bag of edibles and laughed all the way to my car where we split up the goods.  my friend started opening the top which is the typical childproof cap for drugs in Colorado.  not understanding her strength she gave up and passed it to me.  i put my hand on the cap and it fell off.  this sent us into another fit of laughter and we blamed it on a contact high from being in the shop.

we divy up the goods and here's my half of the purchase.  we talk about how much take and agree we should cut the dosage in half as recommended by the budtender for 'nonsmokers like us'. unlike my few experiences with smoking pot when i was growing up there was nothing that felt dirty or shameful about buying our gummies.  total investment $24 for the bottle.    

the next day, after a good night of sleep, i wondered, were we supposed to tip the budtender?

March 1, 2016

next adventure starts NOW!

my next trip came as a surprise even to me.  i thought after my time in Asia i would spend some time in Central America but life doesn't always take you where you plan.  i was invited to join an amazing organization doing fantastic work with the farmers in Tanzania.  so it's off to Africa for me for the next year or so.  i couldn't be more thrilled and excited about this opportunity.