Camels, Shoestrings and Lions in Trees
The "rumor" is that Christmas is coming this week. It's rather hard to believe it since our temperatures are running in the 100s during the day, and it chills down to the upper 90s at night-- even my African friends are complaining!!! Last week I was in a local market and suddenly realized that I was hearing a recording of "Sleighbells Ring" and even saw 1 of the street vendors carrying a rather ratty version of an artificial Christmas tree.
The Day is celebrated much differently here in Africa. It is traditional for people to return to their tribes for a large family gathering and a major feast. I'm living in a hostel now with friends from Ireland, Sweden, England, and Germany. Most of the people planned ahead enough to be gone over the holidays by being on safaris. I, unfortunately, didn't think ahead, so will be 1 of 2 people at our place. I also just discovered that all of our cooks, housekeepers, etc. will be gone for 2 weeks to celebrate the holiday. I wouldn't mind cooking for Dan and myself, but since we don't have refrigeration (few people do, due to inconsistent or no electric) nor a stove or oven, I don't know where to start. Dan suggested we get a piece of meat and throw it on the grill. This wouldn't be a challenge in the U.S., but meat can only be purchased from a duka (butcher) who, when he has meat, only has 1 kind at a time, such as chicken 1 day, pork the next time, and so on. I'm also concerned about buying the meat the day before the holiday since we don't have any refrigeration (of course they don't at the duka, either) - natives must have cast iron stomachs!
As many people are aware, it's very difficult to find some very basic things here in our village. I went to 4 little shops the other day trying to buy shoestrings for my boots (which would be easy in the states). The one string I have I had to sew together by hand one day, and I'm not sure how long that will last. I would think these should be easy to find, but since they aren't, I may have to use string instead; maybe I'll start a new fashion trend.
I stopped the Royal Jelly treatment that I was on for a variety of reasons. My knees are actually doing far better than I had thought they would. The incredibly high temperatures appear to be helpful. The Royal Jelly capsules were pricey - running about $36 US per week. I wouldn't have minded if I was assured that the results would be long-term; however the pain and inflammation rapidly returned when I stopped taking them. I was also concerned that I might have a rebound effect when I stopped the pills. To my dismay, this did happen. I'm unable to walk to most places in our village due to uneven paths and incredibly rocky roads, so I spend a lot of time in taxis. I am trying to walk a certain amount every day in the one flat area I found and it seems to be slowly helping me.
I've been able to go on three awesome safaris so far. These have been arranged so they are "private" which means that I have a driver, a guide who is also a photographer, and myself. Yes, this makes my trips a little more expensive, but the guide and I are working together to hopefully make a video on the nature in East Africa. At my insistence, we are including some of the awesome landscape, trees, flowers, and even butterflies. No, Africa is NOT just elephants, lions, and giraffes! Though I did spend a week on the Serengeti attempting to photograph the wildebeest migration. It was kind of a good news/bad news situation as a photographer.
Because we have had a great deal of rain, the wildebeest were grazing and spread out from each other. There really were millions of animals over an incredibly huge area. I had thought of using a bush plane to fly above them, but felt I'd still lose the feeling of the incredible enormity of it---this is 1 picture that will always have to remain in my head and my heart. On the long drive home, we suddenly stopped so a Maasai warrior (a friend of my guide) could give me camel riding lessons. It was very scary - NOT the Maasai, but the camel! I didn't realize how tall they are - but I survived and can add it to my list of accomplished adventures!
Life goes on in East Africa. I continue to read a great deal about my surroundings. To be awakened suddenly by a heart-stopping scream of a huge lion outside my inn window; to see vervet monkeys and yellow baboons racing through the trees; to find millions of tiny wildflowers scattered everywhere (even the serenity of a peaceful African sunset) - my life is radically different than in America. It can be very challenging, but also rewarding.
On safari last week, I had read about the tree-climbing lions in the area, but the reality of suddenly finding two large females slumbering directly over my head was incredible. We inched forward as quietly as possible in our safari vehicle because we didn't know when they had last eaten, and we certainly didn't want to become their next chokula (meal)! At times, I somewhat forget I'm living in a small village in Tanzania, until I think about the sweet, juicy, freshly picked pineapple we had for breakfast, or the freshly roasted cashews we had in our rice last night. A couple of days ago, I met a friend for lunch in an Indian restaurant with a French name - only in Africa! I was waiting for my friend and suddenly realized that none of the customers were speaking English, and the only conversations I overheard that I could understand were in Swahili! Hmmmmm...
Have a happy, safe, and blessed holiday---