Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Half Time!

Yesterday marked exactly six months on the road. One half of one year. In a new place every two to fourteen days. Living in hostels and out of backpacks.

Approximately half of the trip is now behind us. Over. History. How did that happen already??

And about half of the trip is still ahead of us. A highly anticipated mystery.

While time has absolutely flown, our very first stop still feels like a lifetime ago. It's crazy to think that by the time we are thinking about coming home, our experience in Kenya will feel just as old.

Ten countries down. Approximately 19,000 miles traveled (according to my facebook travelmap). Planes, trains, matatus, ferries, buses, dalla dallas, 4WD vehicles, funiculars, dhows and pick-up trucks. English, Spanish, Portuguese and Swahili. New friends, countless memories, bouts of homesickness and never-wanna-go-home sickness.

To those of you who have kept up with our blogs along the way, thanks so much for sharing the experience with us. Here's to another six amazing months.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Children of Africa Hope Mission

I have been putting off writing about our volunteer experience thus far, cause I honestly don't know where to begin.

Perhaps I can start by telling you that the program is called Children of Africa Hope Mission. It is a school of 106 students in the Nairobi slums. At one time, there were 255 in attendance, but they recognized the overcrowding was benefiting nobody. So the first criteria in narrowing it down to those who REALLY needed it most - Children who do not have two parents. In many of these cases, the one living parent is HIV positive. In a heartbreaking handful, there are no parents at all.

The school consists of a shabby structure, much of which is protected from the elements by just a corrogated iron roof and torn plywood walls. In one room about the size of your kitchen, three classes are taught simultaneously, facing different directions. The playground is a small dirt yard with a heaping pile of garbage in one corner and an overflowing squat toilet in the other (they don't have the funds to empty it). In the US, a school without electrcity would be a pretty big deal. Here, that is the least of your concerns.

The kids however... In a word, they are freaking awesome. I guess that's two words. Energetic bundles of exploding happiness. Cuter than the f-ing day is long. And more excited to see us that you can possibly imagine. The moment Reece and I ducked our head through the narrow steel opening and into the compound, we were rushed by seventy screaming, sniffling, jumping-up-and-down, going-totally-apeshit kids.

Our role is to teach English, Math, Music and Science to children grades 1 through 4. We write stuff on chalkboards. We give enthusiastic high fives. We wait patiently while three kids pass around the one pencil they are sharing. Most importantly however (I think), is that we demonstrate to them that someone out there cares. That a few folks have come all the way from America to help them learn. And I think word has spread fast. In the three days we have been going to the school, attendance has skyrocketed.

Half a week down, and we're starting to feel right at home. Waving at the curious locals as we walk through the slum each morning. Eating sakuma wiki and ugali for lunch with the small staff. Taking the kids down to the nearby field for a game of soccer. We anticipate that over the next few weeks the teaching will become easier, and the leaving will become harder.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Beep beep. Yap yap. Chomp chomp.

Nairobi is starting to feel a lot like California.

Driving a car (on the wrong side of the road!). Chattin on my cell phone (we bought a local SIM, since we're practically locals). Eating a steak burrito (my first in six months!).

If that doesn't scream LA Girl, I don't know what does.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

This is the house we are staying in in Nairobi.

No, seriously.

This is the gigantic, superbly comfortable bed we're sleeping in.

This beautiful kitchen is where the chef cooks outstanding meals.

And this is the dining room where they are served.

This is the luxurious backyard where we enjoy glasses of wine by the firepit.

And the living room where we watch world cup matches.

In the afternoon, we play a little catch with the dogs on this lawn.

And this library is, as you can imagine, incredibly exciting for me.

This, is Amelia (on the far right).

She hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu with us. Later, we ran into her in Buenos Aires. Recently, she introduced us (via email) to some great friends of hers in Nairobi.

Hils and Hugh (who I do not yet have a photo of) have been extraordinarily generous in inviting us into their home upon our arrival in this overwhelming city. Each day we are asked absolutely baffling questions (by their staff) such as, "What would you like for dinner tonight?" "Do you have any laundry you need washed?" "Would you like to use the car today?" "Can I make you a drink?"

Huh? Are you talking to ME??

Last weekend, we accompanied Hugh to a golf tournament at his country club. Next weekend, we're joining the neighbors for dinner and cocktails. We are absolutely blown away by what gracious hosts we have been blessed with, and are honestly unable to thank them enough.

In a few days, we shall move on to a hostel to begin our volunteer work. Though, I'm not gonna lie, they may need to have their security gaurd physically remove me from the premises.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Special Delivery!

#45 - #48

It's that time again! Another installment of 'Accommodations', so I may then move on to more exciting entries.

Kendwa Rocks
Zanzibar, Tanzania
49,000 Shillings (approx $34)/night

We've raved about this place enough, so I'll just post a few more pics for ya.

Dar Es Salam, Tanzania
27,000 Shillings (approx $18)/night

Both the cheapest AND largest room we have stayed in this entire trip. Imagine that. And a lovely view of Dar from our window.

Kinderoko Hotel
Moshi, Tanzania
27,000 Shillings (approx $19)/night

Forgot to photograph this place, which is a bummer cause it was actually pretty nice. Included breakfast every morning on the terrace overlooking Mt. Kilimanjaro. The view would have made for some incredible pics, if it wasn't so cloudy all the time.

Ujaama Hostel
Arusha, Tanzania
44,000 Shillings (approx $30)/night

This was the kind of place I could really have seen us staying a long time if we didn't have plans moving forward. It's a small house run by an Australian girl and her Tanzanian husband, set up mainly as a home for volunteers. The people were really nice, meals and laundry are included in the price, and the livingroom is fully stocked with TV shows and movies. It felt alot like a college buddy's apartment, and was a comfy place to spend a few nights after our safari. And also where we said a tearful goodbye to our safari best friends.

The Serengeti!

Who would have thought we'd ever be doing a SAFARI in the SERENGETI?! We were slightly hesitant, as this particular once-in-a-lifetime experience is a pricey little number. But it was totally worth it.

Highlights of the five day wild animal camping adventure include:

- Listening to lions roar in the pre-dawn darkness that surrounded us from the safety of our locked breakfast cage.

- Capturing our first kitty cat sighting.

- Watching a curious elephant bound through our camp and tear a brightly colored tent to shreds with his trunk, until the ranger's rifle fired into the air encouraged him to move along.

Yes, it's loaded! Hey wait, are you looking at my boobs?

- Being woken up by startlingly loud crunching, snorting and chomping sounds directly outside of our tent. Peaking out in the early morning mist to come face to face with a half ton buffalo.

- Getting this photo.

Yeah zebras, perv out.

The rest of my favorite photos from Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro Crater and the MAIN EVENT are posted HERE.

You'll probably want to strap on a diaper, cause this album might make you crap your pants.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


You may have missed us for the past week. I understand.

During our internet absence, we've been getting our safari on in the famous SERENGETI!! It was as amazing as one would anticipate, if not slightly more so.

We have some photos that are going to knock your socks off. Lots and lots of them. As soon as wireless speeds permit, we'll be uploading like crazy.

Till then, here is one to whet your whistle.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Dar Es Salam & Zanzibar, Tanzania

In order to make up for my boring Malawi photos, I've got some really nice ones for ya now.

To witness the beauty that is Dar Es Salam and, especially, Zanzibar, click HERE.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Least stressful job ever:

Security gaurd at Kendwa Rocks Resort.

Now, if he will kindly get off my boat so we can resume our leisure time.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Take a look, it's in a book...!

I was going to post a photo of the absurd pile of books on our nightstand, but blogger has decided to be fickle.

Luckily, it's not really necessary. Point I'm trying to make is that I have become completely, absolutely obsessed with reading. Since this trip has begun, I've devoured ten books. Four of those solely since we arrived in Zanzibar. I can't stop! I possessively scour the book exchange racks, eager to snatch up the few options that are in English. And as I near the end of a novel I'm like a desperate junkie, anxiously wondering where my next book will come from.

The first step is admitting I have a problem.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


I'm sorry. I don't mean to interupt whatever it was you were doing. But can you take a look at this water for a minute? Seriously. I know there are way more photos than necessary. But I honestly cannot get over the color of it. If you can imagine, it's even more impressive in person. For reals.

Monday, June 7, 2010

2010 - Twist The Cap To Refreshness

I googled the Coca Cola slogan, thinking it may be a good blog title for this photo I wanted to post. What Wikipedia taught me, is that the slogan changes nearly every year.

The most recent one on the list that I remember is: "Always Coca Cola!" Circa 1993. 1993?! Either I am really old, or really unobservant.

More importantly, how about some of those taglines, eh??

Clearly "Drink Coca Cola" didn't inspire enough enthusiasm in 1886, so they really pulled out the exclamation in the following year.

"The great national temperance beverage"? Um, okay.

In 1939 someone at headquaters got a little too wordy for their own good. "Whoever you are, whatever you do, wherever you may be, when you think of refreshment, think of ice cold Coca-Cola." Well said.

And how about those swingin 60's? "Coke ... after Coke ... after Coke." Perhaps they should have saved that one for the 80's.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Kendwa rocks!

You know those fancy resorts with their own private plot of beach out front? We all know the ones - comfy lounge chairs, shady cabanas and an oceanfront bar. None of which you are ever allowed to use, cause you aren't staying there.

Enter Kendwa Rocks Beach Resort. On the northern coast of Zanzibar, where there is not a ton of accommodation choices, Kendwa Rocks has kindly decided to build options for all budgets. From the $35/night backpacker hut to the $350/night beachfront cottage, they've got you covered. Which basically means that that rich couple down the way is funding all of the posh amenities that I am enthusiastically enjoying. Genious!!

For perhaps the first time on this trip, we feel like we are on a bona fide (and much needed) VACATION. Travel shmavel. We are drinking fruity drinks, eating candlit meals served on fancy plates, and sunbathing on beds shaped like boats.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

#42 - #44

Blantyre, Malawi
3,100 Kwacha (approx $20)/night

This place was odd. Perhaps cause I was walking around in a prescription-strength antihistamine-induced haze the whole time, but it always kinda felt like you were dreaming here.

It had all the makings of a hostel we would love. A spacious patio with a pool, a big bar with billiards and a sports room with a giant projection TV. An internet cafe and a breezy little room in the courtyard.

Yet, nobody actually went near the pool. The entire property was a ghost town during the day. Then at night the bar would be packed, but oddly quiet. The largest demographic patronizing the bar were local hookers and old white men, respectively. And it was located at the far edge of the bus yard, notoriously the most dangerous part of any city. So as soon as the sun went down, we were captive within the walls of the compound.

Anyhow, it was a fine enough place to recover from The Hellrash before moving onto Tanzania.

Jambo Inn
Dar Es Salam, Tanzania

This place felt eerily similar to the hotel in the opening scene of The Beach. Harsh fluorescent lights. Strange people wandering through dark and sterile hallways. A gritty room with a few beds and a growling AC unit.

I think the combination of flying to a new destination (rather than making our way gradually, overland) and arriving at night makes for an unsettling arrival. Dar Es Salam immediately felt hugely different from the Africa we've come to know. Much more middle eastern, of course. And a whole new vibe we couldn't quite put our finger on. Even the other travelers seemed...different. More on that later.

Their rainbow-colored restarant had fantastic Indian food, and that's probably the most important thing to know about this place. We'll be back on our way through Dar again.

Jambo Guesthouse
Stone Town, Zanzibar (Tanzania)

There is something about a mosquito net that makes you feel like you're sleeping in a princess bed. Especially when it's a deluxe net, like the one at Jambo Guesthouse. They've also got colorful foilage in the hallway. Thanks Jambo.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Dear Air Travel,

I am truly sorry that I have taken you for granted all these years. Many times, I shamefully admit, I've even dreaded you. I knew not how good I had it. Nor was I aware that the occassional empty middle seat between Reece and I was such a glory to behold. Thank you for the drinks and the snacks, the legroom and the armrests, the personal AC vent and the lack of chickens. The list of things I have learned to appreciate goes on and on. I promise to never think poorly of you again.

Put it on my tab.

An interesting contrast became strikingly clear today while sipping a $10 glass of wine at the luxurious Kilimanjaro Kipinski Hotel. We are totally caught in the middle of two opposing identities. Walk down the street, and folks see two wealthy, privelaged Americans. Walk into a nice hotel, and people see two poor, dirty backpackers.

It was pouring off and on during our day out and about in Dar Es Salam. To escape the rain, touts and scammers, we decided to seek refuge in the nicest building in the city. The only four star accommodation they've got, it's rooftop bar could be mistaken for that of any comparable hotel around the world.

It was surreal. In a previous life (not all that long ago), we frequented these establishments on hefty expense accounts. We know what it's like to don the fuzzy bathrobe, order the outrageously priced room service and not bat an eye. Yet here we are now, toiling over the purchase of a single round of drinks, deciding to make it our big splurge of the day.

Looking around the room, it was difficult not to feel self-consious. Rich old ladies snuck sideways glances at us in our tank tops and muddy sandals. I chuckled at the thought of walking into the Viceroy hotel bar with hairy legs and a ponytail. But the funniest part is, we COULD be staying there if we really wanted to. We have more money in the bank now than we ever had in the past, yet we are living on the tightest budget we've ever managed. It's pretty fascinating.

We toy around with the idea of treating ourselves to a place like that, just for a few refreshing days. But then you realize that three short days there could fund, literally, an entire MONTH of our current lifestyle, and it's really no contest.

It is nice to have a reminder of the things we left behind, and that we will inevitable return to after this trip is over. I am relieved to say that I still think fondly of the career I've put on hold and that I even (sort of) look forward to returning to it. Not any time soon though, of course. Till then, I'll gladly enjoy $10 boxes of wine instead.