Nairobi, Kenya: (Day 21) Dec-31-2013

We had a feast last night--bread, butter, some type of lental/split pea soup, beef with garlic, rice, pan-fried fish, vegetables, and some chili (pili pili) sauce.  To our  surprise Godfrey made us some pudding.  I am currently being told that it was a 'trifle'.  It was a mild creamy custard tossed with fruits.  There may also have been a biscuit crust.  It was really good.  He made it one other time during our stay on the northern beach at Malawi.  I guess it is a fairly typical--and easy to make--english dish and it is oftentimes mixed with some type of liquor.

I had trouble falling asleep, probably becuase of the coffee I had at dinner.  I had dozed-off for a little while getting ready for the night so I needed a little pickmeup to make it through my meal.  I watched an episode of Doctor Who.  I probably fell asleep for good around 1:00 or so?

SOME COMMENTS ON TRIP:  Some things that come to mind about my trip that I have left out.  I've been too preoccupied by recording the events that occured to discuss any of them in much detail.  During my time at the Maasai Village we went to their primary school, which was a simple wooden building about the size of a small New York studio--probably even smaller (under 300 sq ft.?).  It was positioned just outside their village's protective fence.  The children were in the classroom counting aloud from 1 to 30.  This was on Sunday and I have no clue if this means that the children attend school 7 days a week?  Perhaps they were putting on a show for 'us'?  There children were between 4 and 7 years old, but that's just a guess.

The children were happy to see us and were grabbing our arms, legs, and bodies.  They would reach for my camera with their chubby little hands and try to grab it.  They just wanted to see what I had and play with it.  I took their photos and then bent down to show them their pictures.  They giggled and make funny hand gestures (spasmatic almost) into the air, towards me, towards the camera.  I accidentally bumped one of the young boys in the eye (or nose) with my camera eyecup and I saw that it hurt him.  He started to cry but stopped within 2 seconds.  Had this been in the states the kid would have cried for a while.  Kids are tough here and to a similar degree in all of Africa.  They do not have the support structure from their family/parents that we are used to here.  I don't think I have seen one child cry during my time in Africa.  I had noticed some eye gunk, or mucus, on my camera's eye piece--I wiped if off and hoped for the best.  Many of these kids had yellowish-green mucus running completely down their noses--meeting their mouths.  Like most of the children in Africa both the boys and girls had nearly shaved heads.  The ringworm infections, which spotted their scalps, were clearly visable.

We we informed that the children must attend secondary school away from home.  The goverment provides free schooling to the Maasai within the Ngorognoro Conservation Area.  Becuase of the large area and the decentralized nature of the Maasai villages the kids must be boarded at the schools.  Sending these children to boarding school, though free in tuition, ends up being very costly to the families.  The families must pay for the children's books, transportation to/from the school, supplies, and a uniform.  I asked why the children needed uniforms and the Chief's son explained it to us--it leveled all the children such that the kids could not distinguish which families were 'rich' and which were 'poor'.  The reason I call out 'rich' and 'poor' is becuase these terms are relative to eachother.  One cannot possibly understand what it means to be 'rich' or 'poor' in a given society/culture without some type of level-setting.  Take this for level-setting--A family which owns 100 cattle is very 'wealthy' and they can afford to buy their child new shoes every few years.  A 'poor' can imagine how 'poor' they must be by comparison.

In the event that I ommited the type of shoes the Maasia wear, they have rubber thongs made from recycled automobile tires.

The Maasia don't actually eat the cattle, though they do own them--it is their main source of wealth.  Their status and ability to find wives depends on their cattle.  Also, the woman's family pays the man's family in cattle as a dowry.  The Maasia own cattle (cow), goats, sheep, and donkies.  They eat the goats and sheep.  The man that was showing us his house told us they do NOT eat their cow, but Debby just informed me that her guide told her that they do eat them.  The donkies are used for labor only.  They do NOT eat chicken, eggs, veggies, or fruit!  Sounds like a good diet to me ;).  Just kidding, I am a rabbit--without veggies I wouldn't last 4 days.  They do drink the blood from the cattle however and sell the cows once they have reached maturity.  Cattle is one of their very few assets of the Maasai people.

It's 10:10am and we're en route to Nairobi--we've been on the road singe 7:45am.  We stopped for 30 minutes so Godfrey could pick up something at DHL.  We had 15-20 minutes to get out and look around.  I left the truck to stretch my arms and buy a 1.5L cold bottle of water (cost was only 1,000 shilling or about $0.60).

On our way to the Tanzanian/Kenyan border we stopped on the road due to some commotion.  A person had been stabbed and killed on the side of the road.  The man was being carried out by 6 men.  The police officers were there.  A man stabbed the guy using a Maasai blade...the very same type that I bought the other day.

I knew I would have no issues taking the sword into the states, but I am not sure if I will be allowed to take it with me to Amsterdam.  There are a few options I'm investigating:
   A - I just take it with me, don't declare it, and hope it is not found
   B - I take it with me declare it and convince the agents that it is a relic and not a weapon
   C - I ship it back to myself while in Nairobi.  This can be expensive, so I may want to buy 'more stuff' just so the fractional cost of the shipping to the entire cost of the goods is minimized.
   D - I can take it with me and try to check it in a locker in London/Amsterdam and then pick it up on my way back to the states.  This is the least likely option.

It's just before 1:00pm and we are not in Kenya.  I had taken 0.5mgs of lorazepam and another 0.5mgs of alrazopan 4 or so hours ago.  Appearantly these dosages are too low becuase I still feeel as if I can hike a mountain.  I don't want to take any more even though we stil have 200kms through traffic until we arrive in Nairobi.

It's nice to be back on our truck--It's so much more 'enjoyable' than those 4x4s.  Alot of this trip has involved viewing the countryside during long truckrides.  Stamping out of Tanzania was simple, though we were queued in a line to get into Kenya for well over an hour.  It moved slowly, the person working my line didn't speak english, and it was hot.  Finally it was my turn, we had already filled out the extensive paperwork so the process once I was at the counter went reletively quickly.  I paid $20USD for a transit visa and that was it.  I am not sure for how long the transit visa is good, but I cannot imagine it is less than 1 night.  My flight is just prior to midnight tomorrow so I will be checking out of the country on January 1st, 2014.  The family of aussies (4) all bought single-entry visas which cost 2.5 times what the transit visas did.  They are leaving at midnight on the 2nd.  This just speaks to their mentality.  They are such 'push overs' never wanting to take chances in life.  If their flight is at midnight they have to be at the airport well before that and will have to stamp out tomorrow sometime.  However they were worried that a transit may only be good for 24hrs.  That ridiculousness is another prime example of the people on this trip.  All passports are stamped with the same type of stamp.  You know that type, it has the Money, Date, and Year--the same stamp your old librarian used to use on the punch cards in the back of your books.  There is no mention of 'time' on a visa/passport so the idea of 24hrs vista is ludacrous.  I know this all sounds like I'm being overly-critical, but you have to realize that these are just examples to help draw the picture of many of charecters we have on this trip.  If America ever neded more land, Australia would probably tuck their tails between their legs, give us all their land, and then apologize for having been on it in the first place.  I am not saying people should/need to break the rules to be decent people.  But I DO expect people to think for themselves in a critical fashion and to stop being such goddamn pushovers.  There are always pros and cons when traveling with a group, but it kind of sucks when many of the younger people traveling are mindless sheeple and their herding parents are opinionless pretentious sheep themselves.

On a side note:  I love the ductch.  True there are dutch people I'm not a fan of, but I've met so many along my travels to 'get' (or grok it - props if you get the R. Heinlein reference) their culture   They share many similarities to Americans.  Also, people who are from Berlin are crazy-cool.

On my way out of the Kenyan border crossing building I was being accosted by 16 women in Maasai shalls.  I wanted to buy a couple bracelets so I offered them 300 Kenyan shillings (82 Kenyan shillings to the USD).  They told me 1,000.  After the useless back and forth dribble I got three bracelets for 300 shilling.  Debby and Cara both counted 16 women...that's how many were trying to sell me their products.  They were all the same--the products, not the women--and they would put the bracelets and necklaces on me and tell me how good they looked.  Apparently they were not allowed to come onto the sidewalk of the immigration building because they were leaning towards me.  I wish we were allowed to take pictures at border crossings because this would have been a site to remember.

We're back on the road and Godfrey has told us that the remaining 200kms will take 2-3 hours.  We'll see if we arrive between 3 and 4 though.

Debby and Vincent at our hotel in Nairobi, Kenya
As usual we arrive later than we have been told.  Today we get to the hotel around 4:15.  About half of us stay here and the other half take taxis to their own accommodations.  Nomad orinally stayed at another hotel, but due to the proximity of recent terrorist attack they moved their hotel of choice to this place, which is right in the city center.  Debby, and Vincent are staying here.  Cara and Stephanie need to find a place but most are far away and the few that are available are in unsafe areas.  The cost for them to get a room here was $200.  That is outragous compared to the $72 that I paid when I booked through Nomad.  After much deliberation I extended them an offer to stay with me in my room--I had an extra bed for Stephanie.  Cara stayed up all night becuase she had to leave before 3:00am to catch her 5:40am flight to Dubai.  I had been looking forward to a night alone in peace and quiet with a room to myself--however I would not feel right for a couple of reasons.  First, they should be able to feel safe, we ARE in Nairobi.  Second, Debby and Vincent are both here and we are all planning on going out and spending new year's eve together.

Street signs near our hotel in Nairobi, Kenya
After laying my things down in my room I wrap up the chairs I bought with the 3 top sheets and blankets that I have been 'collecting' from various hotel rooms along my travels.  It's pretty well packed, very heavy, and hopefully sturdy enough to survive the journey through the cargo bays of 4 flights.

I joined Vincent and Debby (as well as Tabby) in the bar for a drink.  They were having chicken fingers and a beer--I had a Kenyan Pilsner beer for 350 shilling ~$4.  These prices are a bit more expensive than what I'm used to but I ago along with it.  Stephanie and Cara join us by the time I'm half done with my beer.  We all chat for another 15 minutes.  We talked about the tour and some of the people on the trip.  We talk about how we all thought there would be more 'young' people on the trip and that the fact that not everyone camped in tents made things very hard for the campers.  We decided it wasn't really the ages that would have made a difference, because Hans and Sonya were older and they embraced life to the fullest.  They are such great people and we talked about how lucky we were to have met them.

Bar in Nairobi, Kenya
I paid my tab and then we all left (excluding Tabby) for the city.  I finished my beer as we walked to the front gate and we gave the empty bottle to the guard in front.  It was around 6:00 (or maybe just before) at this time.  We walked into the city, over a bridge, and went directly to an ATM--I had changed money at the border though.

We walked around a bit and crossed a bar that we had all agreed to go and eat at.  They served different meats straight off the grill.  They offered them just as the skewers or as an accompaniment, which included a meager serving of some type of vegitable, and ugali (with is pap in Zimbabwe).  Every country calls this 'ugali' dish something different.  In place of the ugali you could also get chips (french fries) or rice.

We sat down and saw one other white guy in a field of black faces.  He was sitting alone and we asked if he wanted to join us--he did.  His name was Lawrence and he was from Norway.  He had some free time back at home--so 2 weeks ago he bought a ticket to Nairobi.  He's spending 3 weeks in Africa, but doesn't have an itinerary.  He just come back from the Masa Mara and said it was great.

A SIDE NOTE:  it's 7:40am Jan 1st, 2014 and I've been trying to get internet signal in my room.  The ONLY place that I can comfortably be with signal is near the door.  I have moved my bed 1m closer to the door and am laying down such that my tablet is in the most bottom right corner.  If I move 2 feet away the signal drops to poor and if I move 5 feet away it's to week to connect.  Fuck it, T.I.A.  (this is Africa).

Ok, back to last night...through the course of the entire night, after leaving the hotel, I had 2 small castle lite beers, while the others (except for Stephanie) had quite a few more.  I ordered the 1/4 chicken w/ ugali for 650 shilling (~$8.50 USD).  It was pretty good, but a meager portion, for me that is.  After a bit I ordered a skewer of chicken giblets.  I've never had these and wanted to try them.  They were tough with not much flavor.  Sort of grissely.  I tried to ask what it was but they couldn't give me a straight answer.  I think they were chicken kidneys, but I'm not positive.

After I was seated I had gotten up to look at the food on the grill.  During my walk back to my table 2 women, who were sitting in a group of 6, called me over.  There was a man with the ladies dressed as tacky as ever.  They were asking me where I was from and how long I've been here.  They were being very flirtatious and asked what I was doing tonight.  I told them I was with friends.  They both asked if they could come and join us--I told them we are a close group of friends and don't have any room at our table.  One of their names was Beverly--I can't recall the name of the other.  I said I have been in Africa for well over 3 weeks and asked them what I should do tomorrow.  They told me to go to the Masa Mara.  I told them that I was flying out during the evening and would not have the time.  They asked if I like to have fun--I knew where this conversation was going before it started but I still wanted to treat these 'ladies of the night' with respect.  I told them I didn't understand.  Then they told me they can take me around tomorrow.  They smiled and said "you like fucking?".  I smiled and said I didn't understand.  They said "[they] will fuck me really good".  I thanked them for the gesture but said that I would have to pass  They asked if I was a virgin and I asked them if I looked like I was a virgin and they laughed.  I was still standing up at this point in the main hall of the outdoor bar we were in--only 5-8 meters away from my table so I knew my safety wasn't an issue.  They asked again and then asked why not?  I told them I had a girlfriend and explained how this type of thing is wrong.  They asked why again, as if they didn't fully understand.  I told them that my heart is with her and that it would hurt her and that I would not want her doing the same thing to me.  They looked at eachother and it was at this time that I saw them for who they truly were.  They stopped trying to push themselves on me and told me that I was a good person.  They said that "my type" was rare.  They looked at me as if they thought I had just sacrificed myself for all humanity.  The sole fact that these women stopped trying to hook and respected what I told them helped me to realize that these women are just trying to make a living.  They are not moraly bankrupt but enterprising women.  I told them it was a pleasure talking to them and that I hope they have a good night.  As I walked back to my table they said goodbye and I told them to be safe.

Back at my table we chatted about...well everything.  We saw a very tall and very black man that was dressed in green army fatigues.  He wore a red berret and was held up by two canes that had arm cuffs.  When I looked down I noticed he was missing his left foot.  A man had apprached me and told me ths guy was from the South Sudan and was very upset about the war going on--I am assuming he was involved in the war given his stature, clothing, and injury.  I guess the Sudanese are known for beeing VERY tall.

Cara had wanted a smoke and she had gone over to a table to ask this lady for a smoke.  However there is something you need to know about Nairobi, and Africa to a lesser degree.  Women don't go out.  You see swarms of men together--sometimes you see a man and a women together but they don't sit together like we do in the west.  The concept of dating doesn't really hold here.  When women 'go out' they typically are out in a groups and often are accompanied by 'one' man.  This is the typical pimp/prostitute set up.  As I looked around it amazed me that at least 80% of the women in this bar were hookers.  I think Cara's gesture to go over to the man's table and ask for a light gave the wrong impression.

About 15 minutes after she had walked over to the table the man came to our table and asked me to 'box it' which mean to bump his fist.  It's like when we say 'bump it'.  He asked if could speak to me privately...I obliged him.  He said men are visual creatures and other things that seemed half poetic and half nonsensical, but I knew what he was implying.  He was trying to be smooth about it and trust me he was...very smooth about it.  A translation of his pimp-tastical rhetoric went more or less like this, "I like how the woman sitting across from you looks, what is her situation?"  I am about 75% sure this man was asking if she was available for the night?  I thought it was creepy but I can't blame him.  I mean typically when there are 3 guys out with 3 girls the last thing these people would expect is that they just friends or that some of them are 'dating'.  The assumption here is that we are currently being 'entertained' by some and the other women may just be there awaiting future business oppourtunities.  I said she is not intersted and he got the message and laughed and shook my hand again.  He left and went back to his table.  He approached me 2 or 3 more times over the course of the next 2 hours.  Each time his approach was different, but I respected him for the fact that he didn't go up to Cara or any of the other girls directly.  The more I am thinking about it I don't think he did this on their behalf.  I am quite certain it was that he did not want to show disrespect towards me.

Dancers in a bar on new year's eve in Nairobi, Kenya
There was a live band playing.  There was a guitarist, bass player, a drummer, and at least 8 other people who just danced.  They were all dressed in yellow shirts and the the dancers were just terrible.  Their moves were rythmic, but simple and silly.  They were acting as they were 'the shit' though.  They all had the fake gold chains, flat brimmed hats, sagging pants, rediculous belt buckles, etc. that you would come to expect.  It was a great pleasure watching them.  There weren't people dancing, but this is probably typical since, like I said, women don't go out here in Africa.  One tall man in a muslim-style tunnic and hat danced alone for a bit and then sat down.  There was, however, 1 older woman dancing by herself.  She left NOTHING to the imagination as our new friend Lawrence had pointed out.  She was unattractive, had a large belly, and was letting nothing get the way of her having a good time.  We enjoyed watching her dance.  I had wanted to go back and the rest said they would accompany me.  I told them I was fine to catch a cab alone.  Debby told me that it is customary in Holland that "those who go out together leave together".  I thanked them and we took a taxi back to our hotel.

For 500 shillings we managed to get 6 of us inside a small taxi cab.  The driver wasn't happy about this.  Back at the hotel we sat at the outside restaurant.  We had joined the two from Costa Rica and Tabby.  They had beers and some light fares.  I had chocolate icecream.  Yum!  I went up around 10:45 to relax.  I was dosing on and off.  Stephanie and Cara had showered, I wont shower here--too much work.  Just before midnight I had forced myself to get up and go into the hallway and shake Tabby's hand and tell Vincent and Debby "Happy New Year".  I then went back to bed and passed out.

I must have been sleeping deeply becuase I didn't hear when Cara had left at 3:00am or when Stephanie had left at 6:00am.  I woke up just before 7:00am.

Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania: (Day 20) Dec-30-2013

It was very cold this morning--some people had trouble sleeping.  I guess I slept through the entire night becuase it wasn't until the morning that I had realized my hands were so cold.  Breakfast was at 6:00--afterwards we loading the 4x4s and went down to the Ngorongoro Crater.  We spent 5 hours or so driving around, at least an hour or so just to get to the base.  I snapped a few photos curbside before our descent, some of a nearby Maasai Village.

Driving to the Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
Zebras playing in the Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

The crater was very open, just like I had imagined.  The amount of wildlife was unreal.  Buffalo, Wildebeest, Antelopes, Zebras, and the like flooded the horizon in every direction.  Birds, Hyenas, and Jackels were also very plentiful.  We saw some hyenas feasting on a dead buffalo, some zebras playing/fighting with eachother, and a swarm of hundred+ (maybe a thousand+) flamingos.  We saw some Black Rhinos (3 or 4) but they were so far in the distance that I wouldn't 'really' say that we saw them.  It's a bit of a shame, but I guess seeing 4 of the big 5 is not too shabby.

Hyenas Sunbathe in the Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
We did see a half dozen Lions throughout the day.  I was lucky enough to witness a male and female sleeping side by side--the male got up and mounted the female. After no more than 10 seconds the female slapped the male lion across the head and roared very loudly at him.  That was the end of that--they both went back to sleep in their original spots.  When lions mate they do this sort of thing every 15 minute or so and continue at it for 3 days.  <kitty porn joke omitted here>.

Male and female lion in the Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
We drove around a bit more and finally took a lunch down by a lake filled with dozens of hippos.  The birds smelled our food and after a while of stretching my legs I finished my lunch in the 4x4.  Lunch was horrible, just like yesterday's.  A very old, stale, and dry muffin, package of biscuits, a hardboiled egg, one small piece of old dry chicken wrapped in foil, a browning banana, and 1.5 pieces of of bread that had one thinly sliced piece of cheese in between.  Actually the cheese didn't even cover the entire piece of bread.  We also had some sort of juice,  but I didn't drink it.

Birds trying to eat our lunch in the Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
During our game drive Debby had lost her contact.  She had lost it in her eye, which before today I would have thought was just impossible.  Our driver, Mushaka, didn't understand what a contact was.  After much explanation by Debby our driver just replied, "why you have bad eyes?  You need to eat more carrots".  We just chuckled and went on with our drive.

Divia, Vincent, Debby, and I all tried to sleep on the ride up the Crater but the gravel roads proved too much for us.  There were at least two times when I was just about sleeping when my head nearly smacked our car's roof.  Fuck these roads...and I'm sure our driver isn't trying to make things any better.

We stopped several times for restrooms, for our driver to de-register our car from the park, a craft market on the side of the road, and one time for a diesel refueling.  It's 4:15pm and Marshuka said we still have ~55kms remaining.  The roads outside the Ngorongoro Conservation Area are paved so the drive is much more comfortable.  We should arrive at camp around 5:15pm.  I'm glad tomorrow is my last day--I'm done with the long drives.

It's wierd becuase when I'm given a chance to relax in my room I get bored and have nothing to do.  I'm gotten so accustomed to 'doing nothing' all day on the truck that I don't know what to do with myself when I have free time outside it.  Partaking in any type of 'active' activity is just too taxing after such long days.

The market we stopped at was such rubbish.  The moment I walked in a man took a shallow wicker basket/dish and walked up beside me.  He tried to talk to me and tell me that everything I wanted I should place inside the tray.  After I was done I will bring it up to the front and he will "give me the best rate".  I told him Jambo, which means hello in Swahili, but that I just wanted to look.  He continued to follow me so I began to walk in circles and retraced my route several times until he realized I was just fucking with him.  He finally left me alone.  I went to talk with Marcia and later to Debbie, and Vince about their products.  Debbie inquired about a bowl--the lady priced it at $65 dollars.  It was easily worth $5, $10 if she really had to have it.  By the time I reached the other side of the shop another guy came up to me with a wicker basket.  I told him Jambo and that I am just looking and am not interested.  A few times I would pick up an item to examine it closer.  The guy would just start rambling about it, trying to grab it and place it into the basket and tell me, "you like, very good price for you".  I picked up a Maasai Sword, just like the one I purchased yesturday and asked, "how much for this".  He went on for 5 sentences explaining me how great it was and how valuable it is.  Then he said $70.  I said thanks and put it back and walked away.  He tried to negotiate with me, but the day had already been too long and I wasn't in the mood for this.  I told him I am not interested, but he continued to follow me around.  I did grab a pair of napkin rings and he tried to take them from me to put in that damn basket he had been carying while following me around.  I said I'll just take it to the front and ignored the guy.  I put it on the counter and asked, "how much?"  The man said $15 dollars.  I countered and said $5.  They both looked at eachother and lauched.  They said no, $15 is best price.  I said no thanks, left the item on the counter, and walked back to my car.  As I walked out the door one man said, "ok $10 for you".  I said nope without even looking at him and kept my pace.  While we were collecting by the car the wicker-basked guy came back and said, "ok $10".  I said no and to leave me alone.  Then he said, "ok, we can sell at your price".  I looked at him and said, "You were greedy, you tried to rip me off and then you laughed at me when I made a fair offer.  You are getting no sale from me today."

Some may think I am being hostile and that I am wasting my time.  My take on it is that "I am providing free education on the subject of business ethics one person at a time".

I think I am developing a cold.  My throat was 'scratchy' for the last 2-3 days, today my my nose is starting to run, and I've just begun to sneeze.  Fortunately I don't stay sick long and should be fine by my flight in two days.

Sunrise near the Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Serengeti, Tanzania: (Day 19) Dec-29-2013

Sometime during the night there were loud-mouthed Africans yelling about something.  It was between 1 and 2 in the morning.  I kept silent for a while but was getting pretty sick of it so I finally screamed, "SHUT UP".  Shockingly the level of the discussion did quiet a bit.  It sounded like some people were either just getting to bed, or just arriving at camp and they were getting situated/setting up.  I got out of bed around 5--we were set to eat breakfast at 6:30.  I later learned the entire story behind the commotion--appearantly a girl had started screaming frantically and people thought she had been attacked by an animal, possibly a lion.  It was later discovered that she just had a bad dream.  I'm sure the Doxy had something to do with that?

Hot air balloons in the Serengeti, Tanzania
Just finished lunch at the Serengeti entrance/gate and are back on the road into the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.  It's 2:45pm.  A few quick notes I took while on today's safari:

We learned that the park speed limit is 20kmph.  Our guide went to school for 'birds' and knows over 1,000 types.  Taking a
one hour ride on a hot air balloon costs $500, thought it does include a free glass of champagne.  We saw mongooses and learned that they are often picked up by vultures.  A Vulture will swoop down and pick up a mongoose, fly to a high elevation and then drop the mongoose to kill it.  When the mongooses see vultures they all huddle together and hold onto each other.  Adorable, right?  We saw elephants on the side of the road, again, and the smallest one was 6 months old  It looked so goofy next to its much larger parents.  Also along the road were a dozen ostriches.

Ostriches in the Serengeti, Tanzania
We stopped at the visitor's center and we looked around at their exibits.  The restrooms were amazingly clean.  However, Debby and Vincent were taking much longer than the rest of us and we were growing impatient--we wanted to get back on the road before it became too hot and the animals started to take cover.

One of the cars in our group spotted a leopard so we went looking in the area.  We did find it, eventually, but it was far off and I was not impressed.  We saw three lions--two in a tree and one eating a buffalo.  Whenever there is a large cat spotting 'all' the cars swarm to the scene.  Can you imagine if these lions and leopards thought like we did?  "These animals are very parculiar--they glide along on 4 perfectly round feet, make loud thumping noises that increase in intensity and pitch as the move faser, and they travel alone.  However as soon as one of these species spots me or a family member more quickly encircle me and watch me sleep.  Once they come to a stop they turn silent.  Then they grow from the top of their large heads and smaller creates peek out.  These creatures are closer to my size.  After I go hide somewhere and don't come out for a while these creatures tuck back into the larger creature and then the larger creature shrinks its head.  Then all the large creatures start making noise and leave me alone.

Lions in the Serengeti, Tanzania
Around half past noon, while we were traveling along a grassy meadow we almost flipped our Toyota Land Cruiser.  We spun out of control going 40-60kph, fishtailed, and felt the 4x4's center of gravity shift very quickly from the center of the car over to the right set of wheels.  Luckily our driver regained control before the car completely flipped.  We were all a bit shaken up.  The driver went outside and took inventory of the vehicle.  Our car was undamaged but there was broken glass on the ground, which was probably from a car that had recently fallen.  Our driver had said that had we been in a Range Rover we would have flipped for sure.

The drive through the grassy meddow was trecherous--almost completely without life, dusty, and infested with flies.  We had to keep our roof and windows closed as to not be completely devoured by the little black devils.  We finally arrived at the Serengeti check-in point where we used the restrooms and ate our lunch as we waited for our 3 drivers to fill out the paperwork.  This took 1.5-2 hours and I was getting increasingly bored.  Over these last few days in the Serengeti I have been thinking alot about traveling the world.  Such issues like, when, how will I get my meds, will I be uninsured once I return home, how quickly can I sell my car, will I get all my visas...etc.  Planning will probably take a bit of time as I want to do my research on all the areas I plan to visit so I will enjoy my experience more.

After lunch a couple joined our group (the 5 or so of us still sitting on the benches).  We talked a bit and I found out they live in Chicago--he is an econ professor as University of Illinios and she's a 4th year PhD student.  Her thesis is on the effect of our aging population on healthcare.  She said that over the next couple decades 50% of our nurses will retire.  NOTE TO SELF:  Any way to invest in companies contracting out nursing care?  He worked for an econ Professor in Ann Arbor, Michigan before his current role--he told me "Go Blue".  They were the 3rd and 4th American I've met so far over the last 3+ weeks.  The other 2 where a couple of recent college grads from the east coast that I ran into during my stay in South Luangwa National Park.  It's possible I have met more Americans and just cannot recall them now, but at most I have met no more than 10.

Maasai villagers greet us in the Serengeti, Tanzania

Currently we are driving into a Maasai village.  We each paid $20USD to have a tour of their village.  I am excited.

Maasai men jumping in the Serengeti, Tanzania
It's 4:30 and we just got back on the raod from our Maasai village adventure.  It was the highlight of the day, for sure.  We were welcomed by the the chief's son--he was 20 years old.  He introduced himself and asked for all of our names and where we came from.  All the men in the village then conducted a welcome dance for us which involved chanting and hopping--so tribal!  The women were in the background singing something but were never introduced to us.

We were then welcomed into their village, which was a small ~60m diameter circle, enclosed all around except for 4 gateways.  Their village fence was comprised of acacia branches, which are extremely thorny, and act as protection against certain animals.  The village had a large 'social' central section which had a large leafless tree growing in the direct center.  Some of the men sat on and around the tree.  As we walked into the village the men and women continued their welcoming dance/song and invited 2 or 3 of us to join them in their jumping.  Men jump as a way of flirting with the Maasai women.  They are a polygimyst culture--everyone in the same village is part of the same family so they must take wives in nearby villages.  However the wives of a given man are always from the same village.  The women live with their children in small houses.  We split into groups of 2 and were each shown the houses.  They were very small, maybe 100 square feet, tops.  They are sort of dome-shaped and have no door.  They take 1 week to construct as the entire village helps out.  The Maasai are a nomadic people and have multiple permanent locations.  This particular village along with another village act as their permanent locations.  They travel between village 2-4 times a year.

Maasai children in the Serengeti, Tanzania
Everyone had such poor teeth it was uncomfortable to look at.  Even worse than typical African teeth, which is pretty damn bad.  The men had gowns--either red, blue, or some combination of the two--and walked with spears and wooden canes used for herding their cattle.  They were wearing black rubber thongs made from recycled car tires and sported numerous necklaces and bracelets.  The women were dressed similarly, though not in such elegant robes.  Many of the women had children slung over their shoulders.  The men never spoke to the women.  It was obvious that even 'us tourist' men were treated with higher honor than the women in our group.

A Maasai woman in the Serengeti, Tanzania
I was hoping to try the typical Maasai meal of bovine blood and milk but they had told Godfrey (who asked on my behalf) that their cattle were too far at pasture now.  I was a bit bummed.  They tried selling us their 'trinkets' after they showed us their, rather meager, dwellings but I didn't bite.  However I did, along the side of the road while en route to our campsite tonight, buy a Maasai blade.  We had stopped to watch a bunch of the Maasai play football (soccer) in an open field.  They had built simple goals out of 3 tree trunks tied together with some sort of twine--no net, of course.  There must have been 50 people on the field.  While we were stopped a dozen Maasai men came over to our vehicle and tried to sell us stuff.  This was common, for men and women, to sell their goods.  I wasn't interested but inquired on the price of one of their swords.  They had started at $70.  I was mostly just negotiating for fun and practice and got them down to $30, $25, and $20 within a few minutes.  I said $15 and they said no.  I said thanks and started to close the window.  When the window was halfway closed the man said, "ok, ok, $15"  I handed him a $20 and he gave me a $5 along with the handmade Maasai blade with a handmade cowhide sheath.  They saw a wad of cash I had taken out of my pocket and tried to sell me on more 'products'.  I told them that I needed this money to eat for the next week and they smiled and understood.

Giraffes in the Serengeti, Tanzania

Our drive to our campsite along the ridge of the Ngorongoro Crater was a long but beautiful one.  We stopped a few times--we even got out of our car and walked up closer to a cluster of Giraffes in a field alongside a dozen zebras.  We also stopped to witness the wildebeast migration.  It was just stunning--spanning as far back as the eye could see.  Watching them dash across the road was a sight in itself.  We saw other delightfully beautiful things along our journey as we finally made it into camp around 6:15.  Although we had stopped several times during the day we had been in transit for well over 11 hours.  Quite tiring given the condition of the roads we were traveling on.

Zebra running with a Wildebeest in the Serengeti, Tanzania

Dinner was at 7:00pm--the same soup and bread we've had the last two nights, cinnimon-spiced rice, and some type of curry beef.  The beef was tough, as it typically is in Africa, but the food was otherwise quite tasty.  For dessert we had orange and pineapple slices.

It's just after 9:00 now and I'm getting ready for bed.  We have another early morning--6:00 breakfast before our game drive down in the Ngorongoro Crater.  I'm sure with the 36 vehicles going down tomorrow and reletively small size (20km) of the crater we are sure to bump into some animals.

I'm in my tent now--I'll pass on brushing my teeth, washing up, and/or showering tonight.  I've grown accustomed to showering every 2 or 3 days and brushing my teeth only in the mornings.  I've worn my North Face pants for all except 3 or so days on my trip.  I really like them, but they sure do need to be cleaned--I have cleaned them 2 or 3 times, but only using cold(ish) water, ringing them tightly, and then letting them air dry.

Elephants in the Serengeti, Tanzania

Serengeti, Tanzania: (Day 18) Dec-28-2013

I woke up before 5:00am so that I could get ready and call Kelly before my game drive.  We took the same 4x4s as we were in yesturday.  We were just leaving camp in our vehicles by 6:00am, way before the sunrise.  Everyone had taken their original seats, as they were in yesturday.  I had asked if we could all rotate to give everyone equal views--everyone agreed.

I slept fairly well, past out before 10:00 and got a solid 6.5 hours of sleep.  I don't recall waking during the night but I may have once or twice.  I had asked the others how they slept...seeing as many in our group haven't slept in tents for many many years.  They said it was all-in-all good, but they had their fair share of complaining (which is understandable).  It was still pitch black at 5:30 when we congragated for tea and coffee.  The stars were shining beautifully--I will try to remember to take a few photos of the star-filled sky tonight.

Sunrise in the Serengeti, Tanzania

On safari we stopped to see the sunrise, it was breathtaking--Exactly how I had imagined.  The dark sky showed a gradient of colors: deep red, turned into red, into orange, and yellow.  The horizen, lit by the morning sun, were silloetted with acacia trees.  Birds flying above were identifyable only by their black bodies which sharply contrasted with sky's light.

Hyena and Jackal in the Serengeti, Tanzania
We first came across a few hyenas being joined by several jackels.  It was interesting seeing such different animals walking around together.  One of the hyenas was pregnant.  We saw some elephants and giraffes throughout the day, but not in the quantity or proximity as in the other national parks.

The Serengeti was bare of most of its grass just a few short weeks ago--now it is overflowing with life.  It seems to be the perfect time for game viewing.  Except for a VERY small % of the land the grass is plenty short and does not hide any of the animals.  We passed termite mounds, which are everywhere here in Africa, and took a bush break.  The area looked looked like a tropical island amid an ocean of grass.  The rocky terrain was unusual for the area, I think it must have been some type of volcanic rock--a byproduct of the volcanoes that helped to form the Ngorongoro crater.

Zebras in the Serengeti, Tanzania
The roads were spread out much farther than in the other national parks we have visited thus far.  This allows for a more 'immersed' feeling--however, it is harder to get close to
the animals.  We came across several groups of lions, some were sun bathing, others were getting some shade.  Towards the end of our drive we watched 3 lions climb a tree while one large male lion relaxed at its base.  It was a bit hard to view due to the distance but still amazing.

A Cheetah in the Serengeti, Tanzania
We ended our game drive just before 11:00 and arrived back at camp at 11:10.  5 hours of driving around nature and now we just finished lunch (12:15).  We ate pancakes, toast, fruit, pasta, and taco meet--it was good.  Now we have 3 or so hours to kill before our next game drive.  Some are showering, but I don't see the point...I'll just get dirty again.  It's probably too hot/humid to relax in the tent, but maybe I'll try.

I have asked both Godfrey and our 4x4 driver to stop at a Maasai village on our way to Ngorongoro crater tomorrow.  I want to try their cuisine.  Enjoying cow blood mixed with milk at a Maasai village inside the Serengeti--what a lifelasting memory, I'm sure.

It's 3:00 now and with the exception of 2 or so people all of our groups  is waiting at the shelter for our 4:00 game drive.  These last 4 hours have been the lonest 4 hours ever.  Other than a showering and sweating there isn't much else to do.  I tried to gather wood and build a stone-rimmed firepit but one of the guides told me that fires aren't allowed.  Maybe tomorrow at the Ngorongoro Crater?  I think I'm comming down with something, probably a bit of a cold.  The back of my throat feels funny, in that not quite sore but possibly swollen kind of a way.  Gargling saltwater would probably help though.

Lions in a tree  in the Serengeti, Tanzania

I can't believe I have been on vacation for 22 days.  It's weird becuase the days are long yet the weeks are so short.  Africa has been a learning experience for me, but I don't think I will make it back here anytime soon...and quite possibly never again in my lifetime.  The natural beauty is wonderful, but the culteral/societal aspects are really lacking.  With the very few acceptions I have witnessed Africa seems to be a place where people just live unremarkable and meaningless lives.  I am sure that sounds cruel and closed-minded.  I feel there is no internal passion in the people here to change their present.  Example:  At a given border-crossing from one country to another lines are long, the workers are slow and dull, and groups of men loiter outside the building to shade themselves during the heat of the day--when asked about these issues the all-too-common response is T.I.A., which means "This is Africa".  What is indirectly being said is 'this is how it has to be', 'it cannot be fixed/controled any more so than it currently is', 'it's beyond MY control'.  It's readily appearant that Africans are continuely shifting blame and justifying their current state of helplessness.

However, I do believe people here are incredibly resourceful--using the 'land' and its fruits as building supplies, medicines, food, tools, etc.  I wonder how much of this resourcefullness is a form of rote memorization learned at a young age and how much is genuine innovation?

I know that if the educational system were better here children would understand that they can make a difference and that they are capable of....well something!  Education is so important and the more I travel the more I understand that.  Yes, we are all the least in a basic sense.  It has been proven that certain 'demographics' have a genetic disposition to be 'smarter', 'taller', 'stronger', 'more aggressive', etc..  But its through education that we are able to understand what our limitations are and where they are NOT.  In Africa I get the feeling that people think 'Whites' are superior and that 'We' look downly upon the 'Blacks'.  There is something about the entirety of Africa that gives me the notion that the Master/Slave relationship is very much alive here.  Ok, sorry for ranting...just trying to kill time until we can leave.  3:20...ok, I'll have to figure something else to do for 40 minutes.

Elephants in the Serengeti, Tanzania
Our game drive was very dissapointing.  Our driver gave some excuse that we had to be 'done' with our drive by 6.  He said it was park rules, which I knew to be false.  We ended up going to the grocer so that our guide could buy a torch.  Was this why he cut the safari short?  We didn't see many animals.  A few elephants and giraffes, birds, and probably some other unsignificant animals, but nothing to blog about.  I felt as if the driver would stop for anything.  There would be one bird barely in eye's view and he would stop the car, turn off the engine, give a 1 minute speech about it, and then wait 4 more minutes until  starting the car again.  In this time he would be chatting to friends on his phone.  Of the two other guides one is supposedly very good, but it may just be the case that Godfrey is driving with them.  The other guide is just as bad as ours and others have already complained.

Our driver drives VERY slowly, constantly being passed by other vehicles.  I think it may be because he will make more money the less gas he uses.  I  am planning on having a very serious discussion with Godfrey this morning about it because I do not want my experience at the crater to be the same.

Night Sky in the Serengeti, Tanzania
We got back to the campground and it was packed, even more-so than the previous night.  We sat down for dinner at 7:30 and were served soup right away.  However, we had to wait another 40 minutes before we were served anything else.  The dinner was fried fish, corn salad (with cucumber  and avacado), and potatoes.  I ate mostly the salad, the others were not too good.  Talked on the phone for a while and watched an episode of Dr. Who.  I was sleeping sometime between 11:00 and midnight.

The Serengeti is beautiful, but the animal density is fairly low--I wonder if this is due to the vast size of the park.  It is over 14,000 sq km.

Oh, a few more notes.  The company we're using for the Serengeti tour is "Tanzania Experience".  When I asked our driver, "so tomorrow we're leaving early, probably around 6 or 7" he gave me attitude and said he didn't have to leave until later and that the rules only said...fuck that.  Godfrey talked to them and now we're leaving at 7.  Also, I was told that during their lunch break on the first day's drive they had asked if they were able to take out the mattresses and take a little nap before hitting the have to kidding me!  Then they had asked Godfrey if they could cook at 10:00 so they could have some time to rest.   These tour guides are making it hard for me to remain 'PC' in these posts--at least as 'PC' as I am humanly capable of.  I will definetely be talking to Godfrey.

Serengeti, Tanzania: (Day 17) Dec-27-2013

We left our campground/hotel at 8:00 in 3 4x4 vehicles.  I hadn't anticipated the day to be so long.  We stopped at a place to pack our own lunches.  I packed lightly as the food was all fried.  I had a hard boiled egg completely encased in fried beef, which looked like an owl pellet, fried beef, fried potato kabbob, and a friend mashed potato roll.

Afterwards we went to the 'chemist' or pharmacy, for Marcia and Divia.  Divia had needed to get anti-malaria pills while Marcia needed ointment for an eye infection she had developed.  We stopped for gas and were on the road again.  We weren't on the road long before we had to stop and let the drivers eat their lunches--we had already eaten them during the drive.  Next we had to stop for more gas.  We also made stops at the Ngorongoro Convervation Region where we had to pay and register for park entry.  By this point it had already been a very long day.  The roads were not perfect, but paved for the most part.  We had traveled ~200-300 kms at this point.  The next 100-150kms were brutal.  They were on unpaved gravel roads--the road/car noise was so loud I couldn't hear the people in front of me.  This continued for 60km or so until we stopped and got out of the car at the entrace of the Serengeti National Park.

Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Entrance to the Serengeti, Tanzania
The Conservational Area had alot of animals in it and it is defined as 'an area within/adjacent' to the Serengeti in which the Maasai people are allowed to reside.  No one is allowed to reside within the Serengeti, other than the lodges/camp grounds.  We drove another hour or so and had to get out and wait to register once again.  Africa is so person to collect the payment, another to staple the papers, another to take a shit, another person just to wipe your ass.  We were back on the road and we arrived at our camp site around 7:30.  Only an 11.5 hours day.  Not too shabby...ha--and here I thought it would be a 3-4 hour drive.

We are staying deep within the Serengeti.  I heard our guide tell us that it's in the center.  Godfrey joined us on our 3 night excursion, but we are with another tour company for this adventure.  It's 9:20pm and I finished dinner and am now in my tent.  I was lucky enough to have my own tent.  I guess it's becuase all other guys are traveling with a companion/family member.  I am not complaining though.  my windows are closed becuase I saw lightening in the muggy in here right now!

Tents at our camp site in the Serengeti, Tanzania

There had to be at least 3 dozen 4x4s in the parking lot of our campground--no less than 100 tents.  The campground reminds me of an army barrack--with all the stone common areas/mess halls and tents lined up in rows.

We're leaving tomorrow morning at 6:00 for an early morming game drive.  We return for lunch and relax for a few hours until the heat dies down a bit.  Then we're off for an evening game drive.  Today's game drive was interesting.  We did see great animals, but we were a tad rushed.  We had a final destination set--our campground--so we were not completely free to drive around and take our time.  We stopped a dozen times and drove slowly during exciting views, but tomorrow will be more 'chill'.

The "Ngorongoro Conversation Area" is a region adjacent to the Serengeti in which the government has allowed the Maasai people to reside.  The Maasai men all wear red robes--black for men who recently underwent a circumcision.  The men were walking with large wooden walking sticks along with their 100s of cattle.  Many of their villages were primative, but there were some that looked much more modern.  You oftentimes see Maasai in cities--even in Zanzibar--becuase they are sent for work and to send money back home.

Wildebeest migration in the Serengeti, Tanzania

Wildebeest migration in the Serengeti, Tanzania
We saw Elephants, Giraffes, Zebras, Wildebeast, Lions, Birds, and a Leopard...not to mention a breathtaking sunset.  The wildebeast are in their migration now and we witnessed tens of thousands stretching as far in every direction as my eyes could see.  They were crossing the roads quickly and leaping as if the road was a toxic substance.  As we approached their crossing path they stopped and backed up a bit.  Once we passed a bit they continued.  The wildebeast migrate in single file and are typically led by Zebras.  Zebras has much better eyesight than the poor vision of the wildebeast.  However wildebeast have better hearing--according to Divia.  Although there were Zebras walking alongside the wildebeast their numbers were virtually unnoticeable compared to those of the wildebeest.

Bird on tree in the Serengeti, Tanzania
We saw a pride of 5 or 6 lions--2 cubs playing with their mother.  The mom lion was appearantly teaching her young how to hunt since she was stalking a sole caribuo (or bush back).  We waited but a kill didn't seem inevitable, so we kept on going.  As we got closer to camp and the sun had almost set our driver noticed a bunch of cars congregating in the distance.  I couldn't see anything, but it's possible he was keeping tabs on other drivers via phone/text.  Just prior to reaching the other 3 vehicles we stopped, popped the roof up, and witnessed one of the most beautiful sunsets I've ever seen.

Lions in the Serengeti, Tanzania
After the sunset we moved closer to the other 4x4s.  Everyone was looking at a leopard in the distance.  I could just make out its distinguishable black patterned head.  Not only were we able to see the leopard from afar but it actually approached us and walked up to a couple of our 4x4s.  It seemed to want to pose for us--it was less than 10 feet away.  The sounds of our engines, the flashes of our cameras, and our rambling all had no effect on the leopard.  Actually, the leopard started to stroll down the side of the road alongside our 4x4s.  This animal seemed very social, though it was alone (as are most feline breeds, excluding lions).  After snapping photos for a good 15 minutes our driver told us we needed to head to our camp ground.

Leopard in the Serengeti, Tanzania
We reached camp around 7:15 and I located my tent at 7:30.  Dinner was served between 8:00 and 8:30--it took a while to get all our food, but it was delish!  We had some type of chicken/squash soup and white bread for our first course.  Our main dish consisted of rice and some type of beef stew, which was tender and flavorful.  We had watermelon and pineapple for dessert.

It's 10:10 and I'm going to watch an episode of "Doctor Who" before going to bed.  I will be able to charge my tablet/camera in the car as there are two transformers with universal power outlets.

Leopard in the Serengeti, Tanzania
As much as I want to go on and on about my trip and about my experiences I'm not sure anyone would want to hear any more detail than I am providing.  I have, however, been taking some pretty keen photos and look forward to sharing them once I get the opportunity.  Goodnight!

Storms in the distance in the Serengeti, Tanzania
Sunset in the Serengeti, Tanzania

Arusha, Tanzania: (Day 16) Dec-26-2013

Happy Boxing Day.  It's 7:45 am and we are en route to Arusha.  We have been on the road for just under 2 hours and should arrive by 1, making for a 'short' day of traveling-only 7 hours.  I woke up sharply at 5:00 when Debby knocked on my door.  She asked if she could use the shower as hers and Vincent had no water pressure.  I said sure.  I packed up my  'completely unpacked' overnight bag and got dressed for the day.  It was a little chilly here in Lushoto and expect it to be similar in Arusha...though much colder within the Ngorongoro Crater due to its high altitude.  Breakfast at 5:30 and on the road by 6:00.

Today we are arriving at camp just outside Arusha around 1:00 and making lunch for ourselves.  Afterwards we are taking a tour of a local Maasai Village, which also has a snake park.  I'm not sure what to expect, but am excited nonetheless.

I have been thinking a lot about my round the world (RTW) trip over the last several weeks--actually for the last 1-2 years really.  Over the past 2 hours I have been driving myself crazy with thoughts/ideas so I figured I would try to capture some of them in hopes of clearing my mind.

I plan to travel the world for ~12 months.  I would like to go to South America where I can hike Machu Picchu and Patagonia.  Depending on budget I may consider Easter Island.  It goes without saying that every other mainland country will be visited.  Maybe I start my trip going through the national parks here in the US and drive down through Mexico and take busses and trains through South America.  This way I can start my ticket in South America.  Another destination would be Southern India--I've seen a lot of the North and would like to see more, but I may revisit the Northern portion...cost/day is so low here and could probably be budgeted <$50/day for two people for hotel and food....but $25 is also very possible.  Eastern Europe is also a destination I would like to visit.  The unique cultures, ease of traveling within, and central access makes it high on my list.  Western Europe bores me, so I'll visit there when I am older and just want to take a short 2-3 week trip.  Don't get me wrong I really enjoyed Ireland, and London wasn't horrible, but I just feel the US offers more 'diversity' within it's own 50 states than does Western Europe...or least it's not too far off.  I am not a fan of going to "see stuff" so the appeal of the ruins in Greece just does not excite me too much.  Plus I have already been inside the Pantheon and the Parthenon (if you count the perfect recreation in Nashville, TN).  However, I am very excited to Visit Amsterdam next week.  Everyone I have met from the Netherlands seems to possess certain distinguishing characteristics that I really appreciate.  They are light spirited, quirky, educated, sarcastic, goofy, and just plain old fun.  I have a very strong personality so I can pick up fairly easily on if someone wants nothing to do with me.  The dutch people I have met while traveling are not as eager to 'prevent rocking the boat' as many other cultures and this is important to me.  They tend to speak their minds, a quality that is useless in the others as their minds are mostly empty.

Eastern Europe has a different feel and the foreignness of it intrigues me.  I would like to then venture into Russia and travel around for a while.  Russian culture is so beautiful and I have immense respect for their people (nudge, nudge, Ayn Rand).  A country that values science and art to the fullest.  A country where a young male child can practice gymnastics and ballet while not getting picked on has some true merit.  The contributions to the Maths and Sciences brought by the Russians goes largely unparalleled.  Do you think America would ever be proud of their strong chess competition leagues?  Not a chance.  I wont go into the specifics of the types of achievements but just turn on your iPod and listen to you favorite classical music--I'm willing to bet there is quite a bit of Russian influence within your playlist.  I sometimes wonder about WW2 and the cold war.  Why don't we share our victory with Russia, because without the eastern front there could have been a completely different outcome.  Also I really find it comical about our reaction that caused the disaster at the Bay of Pigs.  But seeing as JFK has been recorded as the Country's worst President, perhaps it was just his doing?  If you haven't already seen Stanley Kubrik's "Doctor Strangelove" do yourselves a favor and watch it.  It does a great job portraying how ridiculous things were during the Cold War.  It was such a great time in history that--for the large part--was a time of peace and scientific innovations marching along at an unprecedented rate.  My heart almost goes out to Russia a little bit.  I mean Russia has NEVER used a single nuclear bomb as a defensive nor offensive instrument.  We used two bombs.  Which country to you think was/is more affair of the other using nuclear warfare?

I would like to take the Trans Siberian/Mongolian Railway through Mongolia to Beijing.  I know that it is a 4 day journey and runs around $500 per traveler.  There are 4 people per train cabin and we remain on the train for the entire 4 days--sometimes given 5-60 minutes to get out at stops and breath some fresh air.  Also, there are no showers.  4 days without showers...ha, that's child's play.  I've done close to that in the heat of an African summer while traveling in a non-air-conditioned bus--I think I can handle the train.  I know that I will need to get my visas for all thee countries--Mongolia and China potentially being much more difficult.  Similarly to Vietnam these countries require the visa to have a stated entry and exit date.  If something happened and I arrived in China a day early, they wouldn't let me in.  Same goes about leaving--one cannot even leave before the stated date.  These rules may have become more relaxed, but either way it is a hard restriction on individuals such as myself who wish to backpack through with no set itinerary.

I would like to see some large cities in China as well as the rural areas.  I have reasons for both but I will try to stay focused on my passage (yeah, I meant the double entendre.

From China the logical path would be downwards to Indochina.  I would like to hit up Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand again (however I would be perfectly fine with skipping over Bangkok).  I've been there a couple times for too many days and there really isn't anything else I would want to see.

From here I would go to a few Thai islands, likely work in a hostel or bungalow cleaning and doing yard work, maintenance for free food and stay.  This sort of arrangement is very common.  I figured a beach may be a good place to unwind for a couple weeks.  I could catch up on emails, follow up on my job prospects, take some preliminary and 1st round interviews via phone, etc.  Maybe freelance some of my consulting, or VBA/model building back in the states for a week to raise some money.

From Thailand I would finish off with the obvious (Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Fuji, etc.)  Maybe onwards to Australia/New Zealand, but I don't have a huge motivation to visit...not yet.

My planning has been pretty basic thus far.  I have been working out the logistics mostly.  I would sell my car prior to leaving and that would probably be one of the last things I had to sell.  I would sell/donate my bed before and just use a blow up mattress until I left.  I would sell all my other large furniture.  I would probably sell my TVs, speakers, and everything else that can easily be repurchased.  It should be fairly easy to determine which items I will keep and put into storage and which items I will sell.  I will assume, just for this exercise, that everything I have now I will have also have/get once I return.  Thus if the item has a positive NPV I will keep it and if it has a negative NPV I will sell/donate it.  I know the fixed costs will be moving truck and storage rental for 12 months.  As the number of items I have increases these costs go up, but only slightly.  When I return I am not sure where I will take a job.  Moving these items, which are currently in storage, to my new location will vary greatly depending on distance and number/size of storage.  Thus, this is simply an unknown risk I will build into my model.  I will assume I will move within 1500 miles, and I will add upside risk if I take a job overseas and downside risk if I move locally.  I will take the current value of an item, let's say a TV for example, and see how much I can sell it for.  I have enough forecasting experience to be able to project (with a fair amount certainty) how much a NEW TV will cost 1-2 years later.  However, if I would likely buy a used TV as that is the current condition of my TV now.  Thus, selling the TV is the rational thing to do.  Hard to attain items would be given a premium, as would discontinued items.  Then there are things like decorations, which I've accumulated over the years.  These have memories attached to them and I quite like them.  Also, these types of items are small, easy to store at a friend's/family's house.  I'm not sure what I will do with my elliptical though?  Shit!  Plates, dishes, pots, pans, silverware?  Not quite sure?  Would be nice to start over with few pieces.  I would like to save the inside greenhouse I made, but it is sort of bulky.  I will sell it if I can capture at least $300 for it, but I think it's worth closer to $400.

OK SORRY, I KNOW THAT WAS ALOT, BUT I REALY NEEDED TO GET THIS OUT:  Things I will bring with me on my trip.  I will bring 2 pants, 2 shorts, 3 t-shirts and 3 long sleeved shirts.  I'll probably bring thermal underwear/long-t and a light fleece.  I will pick up stuff as I need it.  I've been doing this type of thing a lot so I'm fairly certain I know what I'll need.  I will probably bring my current macbook air.  I'll be able to manage, sort, tag, and post-process my RAWs during the long travel rides I will likely have.  I will have movies, music, and ebooks for entertainment as well.  Depending on the feedback from this blog I may continue keep one.  I was actually thinking of making it a bit more dynamic and building in some features that would allow me to generate a small amount of income to help fund the trip.  Some ideas include, "A small monthly fee to subscribe to the blog...if you don't pay you can't read it", "Provide the blog for free but upload completed and pre-selected photos and charge a nominal fee to view the photos", "Or I could just ask for a donation of $0.25 every time someone read anything in my blog".  In efforts to get more people involved in the blog and to make it more of a back-and-forth experience (as opposed to my just lecturing and you just reading) I could have polls or auctions.  For example I could say, "Next week I'm considering going to A.) place a, B.) place b, .....N.) place n.  I could have people pay $1 to be able to vote where I should go.  Or I could have an auction and the single person that bids the most on a given destination will 'win' and I will go there.  The 'winner' could tell me what they want to see in particular

Here are some examples of how I see it playing out:  Maybe my Grandfather, Papa Gibby, has always wanted to see the TGIF in Moscow--and say he always wanted to know the year it was built and by whom.  He could bid $25 and if he bids the highest I would go to Moscow and use my researching skills to find out the details.  I can take detailed photos/videos and any other relevant information.  I would then incorporate that portion into the blog.  It is sort of a mashup of "Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?", those 'choose your ending' type books, eBay, Charity, and give you a great chance to Live vicariously via me.  You would be directly impacting the direction of my journey.  The butterfly effect would be enormous.  I am just brainstorming, I would love to hear input.  I like this idea, but I've also been told to just start a blog with many pictures and flood it with adds...but I don't want to do that.

So now that I just ranted on some schemes to raise funds en route I have to touch upon how I will manage to afford the trip before going on it.  I have more than enough money saved in 401k, Traditional/Roth IRAs, and a couple taxable brokerage accounts.  I even have a 519 College Savings Plan for my children who don't even exist yet.  Saving is a drug to even though I can 'afford' to take many years off and travel there is a huge associated cost.  The opportunity cost is the largest.  I would have to sacrifice 1-1.5 years of salary, bonuses, and benefits.  I would have to build a robust dynamic  model to track my budget once I started my trip, but a loose starting point that I think is fair would be $25,000 for myself and $45,000 (if I travel with a partner) for 12 months.  Pretty damn cheap for a year, huh?  I will have to put aside $5,000 for my college loans that I will owe, though I may be able to put them on hold if I say I am 'out of work'....more on this at a later time.

Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
Just got off the bus to take a bush toilet break and to snap a few photos of Mount Kilimanjaro in the distance.  Tabby says were less than 100km away.

I just listened to Michael Jackson's 'Man in the Mirror' and it has inspired me so much.  I can't even put into words, but listening to the song while being in Africa has really left its mark on me.

We arrived at our camp around 1:00.  I decided to upgrade and got a bedroom with two twin beds...but I will be sleeping in the room alone.  They had asked $45 dollars but I negotiated down to $20.  The room has its own shower so it was worth it to me.  It's funny because I am paying less than the accommodated people since they paid in advance and in full, I am negotiating when I can and staying in tents when I cannot.  Lunch was at 1:30pm.  Lunch meat and lettuce, salad, and shredded cheese for sandwiches.  We left at 2:20pm and went to a shoprite so we could get snacks for the Serengeti.  I'm so annoyed with how often we have to stop.  These families are the least outdoorsy people ever.  I overhear a few discussing how they will split up tasks while at the market.  For Jesus Sakes...we're being supplied water and 3 meals a day while we're gone...these people are starting to get out of my nerves.  I'm glad my trip is coming to an end.  I have one night here in our campsite just outside Arusha, Ndoro.  Then we have three nights in the Serengeti/Ngorongoro and one last night back here in Ndoro.  We then drive to Nairobi where I will be staying one more night and I fly out to Amsterdam the next evening--late.

Our Campsite in Ndoro, Tanzania
After shoprite we stopped at a shopping mall so a few people could look at some tanzanite.  It was overpriced, but everyone was like "Oh, wow, I have to get it".  I tried to explain to a few why it's not in the best interest of the shop owner to be honest with you and used another product as a comparison--they had carved wooden coasters and were asking $35 for them.  In the Mzuzu Market they would have sold it to me for $5.

It's 4:43 (almost two and a half hour after we left) and we still haven't gotten to where we are supposed to be--a Maasai Museum and a snake park.

6:30 now and we're back on our truck  The snake park and Maasai museum were shockingly really enjoyable.  First the snake park.  We saw a variety of crocs and snakes.  There  was a turtle what that was 100+ years old.  I even got to hold a baby crocodile.  I went ahead of the group while they were staring at dozens of snakes that all looked the same and enjoyed a 22oz of Castle Milk Stout.  It was a nice change of pace from the typical adjunct lager I have been drinking the preceding evenings.

Holding a Baby Croc at a Snake Park near Arusha, Tanzania
Next we went to the attached Maasai Museum, which I found very interesting.  I was asking questions and was really enjoying myself.  A few others asked some questions--they only had a few.  Many of my fellow travelers are brainless brainless sheep.  Debby, Vincent, and Cara where in back and couldn't hear anything the Maasai guide was saying.  I was the only person to tip the guide.  Afterwards, just outside where the museum let out, was a trinket shop.  I had wanted to buy a few items--I had bargained down one of the vendors.  I heard a few of the others telling me we had to leave "now".  I looked for the Germans, the only ones remaining, and we walked out of the shops.  She had said, "we've had such a boring day and when something finally gets interesting we have to go".  I told her I was happy to stay along with her and to "screw the others" but we just decided to head back towards to bus.  As I walked on the bus (probably within 2-3 minutes after the others) a few had commented about me being late--or something that hadn't needed to be said.  I said, I have been bored all day and I find nothing wrong with me staying a few minutes at something that was genuinely interesting.  This pretentious Aussie girl (I'll leave her name out for her sake) makes a snide remark about something irrelevant to the matter.  Something like, "you should have been listening, but you were too busy going ahead and getting your beer".  I wanted to call her a stupid twat, but I didn't.  I was actually getting a beer with Godfrey "OUR TOUR GUIDE" and the one giving us instructions.  He wasn't drinking but he had a Krest with me.  She was just trying to be the pretentious little girl she was.  If you've ever seen South Park think of the College-Know-it-all Hippie...that's her...just not a hippie.  After 1 or 2 years of school and she thinks she knew it all.  I'm sure I thought the same thing, and still do, but to be fair I have her easily beat in the IQ department by no less than 2 standard deviations.

I fear I might develop foot and mouth disease, that is, traveling with all these sheep.  I told that girl, "thanks for looking out for me babe, but as you may need someone to tell you what to do, where to go, and what to think I got myself covered".

The Maasai people are so interesting.  I have asked Godfrey about being able to try a typical Maasai meal and he said it can me arranged, but may cost me a bit.  They eat solely the meat from their chickens/goats (not cows), and the milk/blood from their cattle.  Beef and bloody milk...count me in!

It's just before 7, and we still probably have another 45 minutes until we arrive back to camp.  I just asked Godfrey and he told me, "I don't know, it depends on traffic".

I'll enjoy a meal and watching a movie tonight by myself tonight.

Lushoto, Tanzania: (Day 15) Dec-25-2013

Merry Christmas...I guess?  I'm riding on the truck towards Lushoto through Dar es Salaam.  I am listening to the first bit of music since I set 'voyage' 19 days ago.  First song--John The Revelator, by Gov't Mule.  Such an amazing song and quite appropriate for Christmas.  Today has been the worst Christmas I've ever had, probably.

Knock, knock, knock--my day started when Vincent had knocked on my door at 5 of 6:00am.  He had thought about me while everyone was at breakfast (at 5:30) and I was not there.  I was in fact still sleeping (1st mistake).  I must have pushed my alarms off my bed during the night and slept through their muffled sounds.  I got dressed and repacked my entire sack in under 5 minutes.  I got to breakfast at 6:10 and scarfed down some food (2nd mistake) and by 6:15 I was on my way to reception where we were set to depart at 6:20.  I arrived at reception sharply at 6:20, dropped off my $30 replacement key and loaded onto our shuttle van.

We arrived at the ferry in no time and we made it past security quickly.  Since we were early we had our pick of seats.  Some sat outside on the front deck, I sat beside Vincent and Deb in the front of the middle deck--this way we had more room to put our stuff.  It was a slight pain as many people were using this front aisle to move across the boat.

One of the Jason Bourne movies was on prior to departure, but once the ship had left they changed the programming to the safety video.  I had no clue what was being said since it was in Swahili, but they did have some pictures which helped.  However I am pretty sure some of the pictures were indicating not to play cards, not to spit, and not to kick small children?  Perhaps they should have used more informative pictures?

At this point I started writing in this blog, I had to catch up from yesterday...I'm writing portion of my blog on the truck drive over to Lushoto, Tanzania now and it's about 2:45pm.  Charlie Chaplin is playing on the TVs now.  The family next to me--a married muslim family with 2-3 children--were laughing hysterically.  The irony of a boat filled with muslims traveling on Christmas watching and enjoying Charlie Chaplin made me ponder a bit before returning to my writing/ranting.

I knew the a/c was on but the rate at which I was sweating was increasing and I knew something was up.  Although I haven't had my period in 27 years I was still able to successfully rule out hot flashes.  I self-diagnosed myself as being dehydrated--I had not drank much water the previous day.  I drank some water but became increasingly hot.  Soon enough I began to feel a little headachy...and a bit more...and more.  I got up and went outside and sat on the step in the front deck, which helped only a tad.  I came back to my chair to told Vincent and Debby I wasn't feeling well and that I was going to go out back on the side of the boat and maybe the restroom.  Of the remaining 2 hours I had probably spend ~80 minutes here.

I think it's paramount to state that for the last 2 days  all scuba, snorkeling, and offshore excursions have been canceled due to poor ocean conditions--stormy conditions.  I'll put things this way...the ocean was not nearly as smooth as my way the the ladies ;).  The waves tossed the boat from side to side, huge sprays of water crashed overboard soaking people (and me along the way) from shoulder to toe.  Now this is some feat provided this boat is a multiple level catamaran large enough to carry hundreds and hundreds of passengers--maybe thousands.  I was switching off between crouching down with my head on the metal railing and standing semi-erect (in posture you pervs) staring at the horizon.  I could not manage to stand straight up since I felt too exposed and that feeling somehow made me feel worse.

I managed to keep myself 'semi' calm for 40-60 minutes, but I eventually said, 'FUCK IT' I have nothing to prove and just leaned over and tried to throw up.  I had a few mostly dry-heaves and then moved to the back of the ship for better 'positioning'.  Over the side was a bad idea as we were moving quite fast any projected stomach contents would travel backwards and likely back onto the boat.  I got one good hurl over the back of the boat.  At this point a man dressed in all black and a fez hat handed me a sick bag and pointed me in the direction of the bathroom.  I forced myself to throw up one last time before cleaning my face and rinsing out my mouth.  I stayed by the side of the boat for the remainder of the voyage.  The side-to-side rocking of this ship was unrelenting.  Marcia also joined me--She was feeling increasingly sick, but I don't believe she threw up.  I needed to get back to my seat prior to out embarking since I had my tablet and camera exposed alongside my day-sack.

As we disembarked the new German girl had also said she had thrown up and felt like shit.  People all over the place were throwing up and you couldn't go a minute without the sounds of a person's stomach emptying.  I did some quick thinking and figured it was better to not take another Doxy (malaria prophylaxis) at the risk of further upsetting my stomach.  Next time I travel in such turbulent ocean conditions I will take my motion sickness medicine more than 1 minute prior to departure.

Godfrey Moving Between The Truck's Cabin and Front, en route to Lushoto, Tanzania
We disembarked and found our way to our truck--Tabby had left last night to get the truck ready for us.  I was feeling awful and continued to feel as such for the next 4 or so hours.  I knew I was dehydrated and I had just thrown-up all my morning's food/water.  For the first time ever I was able to use a package containing O.R.S. (oral rehydration salts).  The taste was nasty, so I waisted till the truck had stopped and chugged 200 ml several times until the half liter was gone.  I slowly began to feel better, but this was also thanks to the several stops we made for snacks and the chocolate milk I had.  Our first stop for food was unsuccessful since both places at the mall were closed due to Christmas.  The next place we stopped was open.  We needed to get snacks for the day since we were driving straight through till we got to camp at around 7:30-8pm, depending on road conditions.

Marcia and her Henna, en route to Lushoto, Tanzania
There were not many food options at the shop.  I bought chocolate milk, 3 small packets of Oreos (2 packs which have already been eating), 10 prepackaged plums, a Snickers bar, and some local beef jerky which goes by another name.  All this came out to under 12,000 shillings ($8).  They couldn't make correct change so they rounded to the nearest 200 shillings, which is like 7 us cents.  Kind of makes the States look ridiculous considering we have the penny--and a penny for us is much less than 7 cents for someone living in Tanzania.  Australia has a 5 cent piece, but they have just decided to stop using it.  The EU also rounds to the nearest 5 euro cent as well.  I think it's probably a good idea is to buy as many as pennies as possible and hold onto them and later melt them down and sell the raw metal.  I will have to look into the futures market on zinc (that's that I believe is in the center of the penny).  I believe the penny is copper plated (perhaps electroplated) and not cladded...but I'm not 100% sure.  I do know that cooper makes up much less than 10% of the entire coin by weight (and likely volume).  But I digress.

I have taken a Xanax and a half, which equates to 0.75mg--after 3 hours I feel almost no effects.  I took another 1/4 of a pill so I would max out at 1mg (I later discover is still a relatively low dose).  Since the time to peak plasma is short, AKA a short half-life,  the effective dose will only be a 1/2 mg.  I probably need at least 1 mg to be used as a sleeping aid.  Anything lower just calms me having several beers.  Oh well, lesson learned.

We still have 3-4 hours on this truck.  We've been spoiled in Zanzibar and now we have two long days driving day, back-to-back.  Tomorrow drive from Lushoto to Arusha.  Arusha is a city that is a major meeting spot for travelers and backpackers alike that are en route to/from safari.  I think of it as the Bangkok of Asia and the Amsterdam of Europe.

The day after tomorrow we leave for the Serengeti for a two day night stay within the park followed by a one-night stay at the Ngorongoro Crater.

Oh, about the cost of dinner last night.  The octopus tentacle, blue marlin, and garlic naan was 6,000 shilling (~$4USD).  He had quoted something like 9,000.  I said 6,000 and he laughed.  He said sorry not enough, how about 8,500.  I was not in the mood for this game of back and forth and I also knew someone in my position had the upper hand--I was a buyer of a non-differentiated product within a perfectly-competitive market.  I said 6,000 one last time and walked away.  He said ok ok, 7,000.  I looked over my shoulder and said, thanks for your time, but I gave you my only offer, have a good evening.  Three strides more and he was screaming, "ok, ok, for you 6,000",  I turned back, said, "thank you", and waited as he reheated my meal.  He also gave me some hot chili and a cucumber as a side.  Of course I did this for all the other foods I tried--though I often started at a very very low price just to see the lowest price point at which I could get the supplier to bite.  This was the 'field research' I conducted prior to making my final purchase.

My constant bargaining may come across as cheap, but I assure you it is not.  Tourists get charged more for the same product as do locals and this is simple price gouging.  Also, if I would refrain from negotiating I could easily be spending $3-$5 more per day.  This may seem like a pittance to a common American, but part of the traveling experience is to experience the cultures you visit.  People in many parts of the world simply cannot throw money around because they have so much of it.  If I can't negotiate the price down enough to a budget I have deemed reasonable then I should go without the's what the locals would have done.  One last thing, the longer one travels the more important negotiating becomes.

Some Thoughts:

This trip has inspired me to make more of my life.  And I mean that multidimensionally.  I have grown complacent with just existed and have forgotten what it means to really 'live'.  There is so much out there and I just waste so much of my life inside with the TV on, or relaxing.  There is an entire music scene that I'm missing out on.  So many people out there that I haven't yet meet.  I get used to spending my time with my girlfriend and my close friends.  None of this is bad, but it's becoming an issue as I'm not going out and living and experiencing 'life' the way I want to..  I am happy to do these things with my friends, but it has become just TOO east to say, "why don't we just go to the local bar", or "why don't we just hang out here".  I'm really going to force myself to get out and see/do/try more.  I would like to backpack a bit more up the east coast during long weekends.  What's so hard about leaving my home on a sunday evening to driving out to a field with a bottle of wine paired with nice cheese while watching the sunset and listening to nature?  Why have I become complacent to the extent that staying in on a sunday is not just acceptable, but preferred?  There is so much out there and 80% of it is free, or at least super affordable.

Traveling for me is not about seeing things, it's about forcing one to reassess one's values.  What does it mean to be important, happy, valuable...?  What really makes us happy?  Is that sustainable or does it require a significant time investment to keep up with the trends to remain happy.  Case in point--following new technology trends in TV so we can buy brighter, flatter, larger, smarter TVs when they are available.  If we were truly happy with the initial TV then no future TV technological advancement should matter.  BUT IT DOES MATTER...but why?  It's because once we know there is something better and we have the potential to attain it we save and buy it.  Then we are 'happy'.  But are we any happier than when we were after that initial TV purchase?  No we are NOT.  It's the same.  It's that the novelty of the initial TV purchase has been lost as we have switched our focus onto some other gadget, clothing trend, new perfume, new TV series.  During the week we look forward to the weekends because we don't 'enjoy' our work. And on weekends many people enjoy not having to do anything in particular since we just don't have work.  This is not the existence I want.  It's not enough for me.  It's petty and quite frankly it is so sad.  We have become diluted to the point where we attain our happiness through objects we can buy or just pass our time without having to work.  Happiness is a state of life, it's a static feeling we have when we realize how lucky we are to be here on earth and can live life.  You get fired from you job, hakuna matata.  You sleep in and miss your Saturday trip to the Italian, hakuna matata.

Hakuna Matata is a an old Swahili phrase, as many know from "Lion King", which essentially means don't worry.  But more so it means something like be peaceful, life's good, calm yourself, no worries, etc..  Next time you are in the market for a new TV, ask yourself, why?  Did you not want the last one you bought but simply couldn't afford the larger one and now you can?  In  that case you shouldn't have bought that initial one if it wouldn't have made you happy.  If you're buying a new one because you can 'afford' it and just 'want' a bigger one then I think you should do some real soul-searching.  Are you no longer happy with what you have?  Do you think you will be happier with a larger one?  Do you consider how much money was wasted in buying that first TV?  Did you know the highest paid people in Southern Africa (barring South Africa) make $1,000 - $1,500 USD a month?  AND are happier than any of us.  We are so well-off we actually die of 'old age'...a concept unheard of in Africa.  Aids and Malaria are the #1 and #2 killers, respectively, in Africa.  We are lucky enough to die from heart disease, and cancer.  With the exception of patients who have heart disease for reasons other than 'old age' (like people who choose to have it by not eating healthy and/or exercising) we actually die from getting old.  In Africa they have disease, drought, can barely feed their families every day (and often don't), yet they are among the happiest people I've ever seen.  Not to be racists but ever notice how African Americans scream and shout during Graduation ceremonies and in the movies?  Yes this is completely uncivilized, but it's oftentimes the 'american white demographic' who get angry--the African Americans are the ones enjoying themselves to the fullest.  We shove charity in their face and we think we're helping and teaching them--perhaps we should actually look inside of ourselves and ask what we can learn from them.

I have used the TV example to illustrate a point, but the same can be said about new designer clothing, houses, cars, etc..  You know how often my own mother tells me my clothing is 'out of fashion'.  I know she means well and I love her to death for it.  But she is not alone, this is how most people see 'our' world.  My clothing is out-dated?  According to whom?  Some TV show, overpaid model or celebrity?  The entire concept of fashion disgusts me.  If something fits, is presentable, comfortable, functional, what is the purpose of fashion?  The western world derives it's purpose of life through buying things---especially in the US.  If something is in fashion one season and completely 'lame' 2 years later doesn't that reflect on the pettiness of the person making the 'fashion' rules.  If fashion is not objectively measurable and is always changing the ONLY driver of such aforementioned fashion dynamics is people's willingness to absorb what other people tell them.  These people soak it up and believe it and are convinced that in order to be happy they need to then buy or practice these new 'fashions'.  Fashions change because corporate designers need to replenish their products with new inventory, otherwise they face entering a perfectly competitive market, which would bring their average retail selling price down--drastically.  Thus, designers come up with new ideas--oftentimes what they actually are is of no importance, it's just important that they are different.  Using ALOT of money they push these new designs through huge marketing investments (e.g. TV commercials, creative and very strategic product placements, and licensing agreements).  They need to convince you that their brand is valuable and popular.  Now they can charge you 5 times the cost of what it actually costs to produce their clothing.  You think it's more valuable because you paid more, you're a fool if you really believe that.  If they are a publicly traded company, and many of the design houses are, read their annual SEC reports.  You'll learn many luxury brands outsource their actual fabrication to the same factories that make the clothing for Gap and other lower priced brands.  However your $220 pair of Theory pants did cost ALOT more money than those $50 pair of gap pants.  But here is the fucking kicker.  Of the $220 you paid for those pants, $70 just goes to pay for the marketing they had to buy to build their brand name.  Gap maybe spent $5 on marketing.  So now how you have a $45 (Gap) versus $ (Designer).  Since Gap is a larger company they benefit from economies of scale so their cost of material is cheaper as is their labor compared to a smaller company such as Theory.  So you are convinced the theory pants are over 4 times ($220/$50) 'better' than those pair of Gap pants but in actuality the pants are at best 2 times 'better'.  And compared to Banana Republic the Theory pants are only marginally better, with minimally-superior fabric--but maybe the fabric/stitching is 10-20 dollars more expensive, but you end up paying $100 + more because you 'believe' its 'much' better and thus it will make you more happy?

I aspire to live in a the smallest house possible.  I find house purchases an interesting concept.  I understand if money is of no concern, but if that were the case I would want to 'give' my money to my family and friends because I love them and they deserve it ALMOST as much as anyone else.  Not all the money, but wages are fucked up in my country and people doing very hard work are underpaid while you have near-brain-dead morons (think today's music scene, TV reality shows, and athletes) that make ungodly amounts of money for something EVERYONE can do.  And at least 10,000 can do almost as well but don't have the same luck

Ok, I'm done ranting because I'm just getting worked up and probably irritating many people, but I DO hope you think about the next purchase you make.  Please ask yourself, "why am I buying this, do I need or want this.  Do I have anything else that is similar to this and if so why do want this one over that?"

Even if you have the money to buy it, it's not a matter of affordability--it is the parasitic nature of having to buy to be happy and feel fulfilled in life.  I really do pity these people.

ONE LAST IMPORTANT NOTE:  I am not targeting any one person here, I am speaking about western culture (American, more specifically) at an abstract level so there is no reason to take offense.  It's 5:05 now and I'm going to chill a bit.

We didn't arrive at our camp in Lushoto until 8:00.  I upgraded to a hotel room for only $10, hard to pass up.  In this room I had a shower...though I had to take a cold shower.  We have wifi here but I have to sit outside near the bar in order to get signal.

We ate a late dinner--9:30pm--and finished at 10:30.  I cleaned the dishes and put them away, it's been a while since I've helped out.  For dinner we had grilled chicken, sausage, potatoes, grilled veggies, and gravy.  It was quite the feast.  Now I'm sitting outside writing and talking with the new German couple.  It's about 11:15 and I'm about to get to bed.  Goodnight!

Stone Town, Zanzibar: (Day 14) Dec-24-2013

Debby Makes A Silly Face During Our Ride to Stone Town, Tanzania (Zanzibar)
I woke up early, again--7:00.  I sat beach-side waiting for breakfast to open at 7:30.  After re-packing my bag and settling my tab with reception I joined the others on the bus.  We were on our way to Stone Town by and were trying to be on the road by 10:00am.  After a 1-2 hour ride we should be able to check in at our rooms and take tour of Stone Town.

Hotel in Stone Town, Tanzania (Zanzibar)
We got dropped off at our hotels and about half of us decided to take the Stone Tour tour.  We met in front of our hotel only 5 minutes after getting to our rooms.  The hotel was very interesting.  It was built on a hill and there were these long catwalks that went every-which way--all supported by tall wooden stilts.  Our hotel was on the beach, though I never went down to the water.  The pathways were quite extensive, going from my room to the bar/restaurant and back again took no less than 10 or 15 minutes and involved a series of 60-80 steps, each way.  My room had a/c, a fan, many power outlets, a clean bathroom, a king sized clean bed, a TV, and a patio deck.  This was by far the nicest place I've stayed in over the last 3 weeks.  The rooms were $63 dollars apiece, but Nomad gets a 'heavily reduced' rate.

The Market in Stone Town, Tanzania (Zanzibar)
The tour started after a short ride from our hotel, The Ocean Side Hotel, when we were dropped off around the corner from the fish market.  The smell was unavoidable.  The first thing that I had noticed was the how everyone was dressed.  Long story short, very religious (Muslim).

Fish Market in Stone Town, Tanzania (Zanzibar)
The people didn't seem as eager to see us, however the others in the group didn't seem to notice/agree.  Perhaps I got this feeling because we were largely ignored--the locals were just conducting business at the market and seemed to have no interest in tourists.

A Beautiful Door in Stone Town, Tanzania (Zanzibar)
We walked through the market and through some famous parts in Stone Town--The slave trade building, the only 2 churches in the city, and a few other places I can't recall.

What I enjoyed the most was getting the cultural aspects of day-to-day life, not so much the buildings that were somehow related to something of historical significance.

I never really enjoy these things.  Even in Cambodia, when I was at S-21 and the Killing-Fields--learning about the events affected me more to me than my presence at the empty school building that had been used as a prison.  Same could be said when I was in Israel.  We ended our tour at the famous restaurant Africa House.  Many of us discussed our evening plans on the balcony.  The group was planning on coming back in the evening to watch the sunset from here.

Just Outside Slave Trade Building in Stone Town, Tanzania (Zanzibar)
Back at the hotel I watched some national geographic on the TV.  It was a show on Africa and the host was some British guy.  He was trying to make his adventures sound dangerous by calling out the 'poor construction' the house he was staying at and said that a lion could very easily rip it apart and eat him.  I can't stand these types of shows--the types that market themselves as educational but really only offer a sliver of educational value.  They are just like their reality TV counterpart--over dramatized smut packaged as something else.  The producers are more interested in their Nelson ratings than of the content.  I slept at a campsite along the South Luangwa NP where lions, only a week earlier, had wondered into.  I felt safe...the second night at least.  The show was about how lions in the area of Southern Tanzania had turned its focus on hunting human.

At my hotel, while watching TV, I also tried to shop on Amazon.  The internet was so slow that it took 2 hours to place one order.  I felt bad for missing Christmas and New Years with Kelly because she was not happy about being alone for the holidays (and boy did she make sure to emphasize that every moment should could)--so I had wanted to get her something sweet.  I got her a gift package with 4 types of marshmallow peeps (chocolate mouse, gingerbread, and chocolate chip cookie...).  I hope she saves me a few since I've never seen anything other than the original sugar-coated marshmallow type.  I also got her some black currant syrup--she loves that stuff when mixed with hard cider.

On the Balcony of Africa House in Stone Town, Tanzania (Zanzibar)
I hadn't eaten a large breakfast, but had skipped lunch and was now starving.  I had no time to get a snack so I ordered a beer for the calories alone.  I drank it quickly and met the group at 5:45 to catch a taxi to Africa House for the sunset.  Our taxi never arrived and most of the others just sat back waiting.  A couple had said, "This is Africa, mate" and they just figured it would come eventually.  SO ANNOYING!  I went out and asked one of the security guards at our hotel if they could take us.  He said $20....I negotiated him down to $8 and he seemed to comply.  I hoped into a car, along with 3 others.  The others in our group followed suit...I am Scott, herder of the sheep.

Africa House in Stone Town, Tanzania (Zanzibar)
Our driver spoke almost no English.  As we arrived at our destination he tried to ask for more money.  There was some type of argument but I shoved the money in his direction and told our small group to just leave and that the language barrier alone made any communication fruitless.  They agreed and we quickly exited the van.  We had a drink at Africa House and the rest of the group came about 15 minutes later.  The sunset was disappointing as the cloud coverage prevented a clear view.

I smoked hookah with Vincent and Debbie and then left for the food market, by the water, with Divya and Cara.  This market was the the highlight of my far!  This market was like a food market like you find in South East favorite place in the world.  Venders lined the area with all types of food stalls.  There were 4 or 5 main types of vendors, and vendors of the same type didn't differ from one another too much.  There was the fruit vendor, meat vendor, candy vendor, pizza vendor and sugar cane juice vendor.

Night Food Market in Stone Town, Tanzania (Zanzibar)

The fruit vendors had dozens and dozens of different types of whole fruit.  You could buy pieces or entire fruits.  We had some jack fruit, which is a very unique tasting fruit.  It's a resembles a combination of pineapple and banana with an almost rubbery texture.  We also tried a fruit that resembled the taste and color of sweet potato, but had the texture of a baked potato--really weird.

Night  Market in Stone Town, Tanzania (Zanzibar)
Meat vendors had so much variety.  They had dozens of skewers (chicken, chicken masala, lobster, shrimp, prawn, beef, tuna, blue marlin, barracuda, octopus, squid, etc.)  They had entire octopus tentacles the size of large pickles (I had one, it was very tasty, but very chewy).  I also had a blue marlin skewer (one of my new favorite fish), and a barracuda.  They had crab claws and whole crabs, casaba, grilled bananas, garlic naan, coconut chapati, and so much else.  I also tried the chapati, naan, and chicken at one of the vendors stalls.

Night  Market in Stone Town, Tanzania (Zanzibar)
The Pizza vendors sold these 'Zanzibar' pizzas that were like crepe-sandwiches.  They started with a ball of dough the size of a golf ball and stretched it out into a very thin pizza crust.  They had a lot of filling options and then to complete the masterpiece they folded the 'pizza' edges onto itself and put it onto the grill.  Cara ordered this, I had a few pieces--delicious!

Zanzibar Pizza in Stone Town, Tanzania (Zanzibar)
The sugar cane vendors served a drink which was made right in front of us.  They took an entire sugar cane and passed it through a hand powered press, which caused the plant to shed its juice.  The juice was collected into a large bowl which had a large ice cube in it.  This juice was then drank raw.  Divya ordered a small cup for 500 shillings ($0.33) and we took three straws.  It was very natural tasting--similar to pineapple juice.

Juicing a Sugar Cane in Stone Town, Tanzania (Zanzibar)
The candy vendors had a bunch of candies I had never heard of.  They didn't have any solid chocolates, maybe becuase the heat would cause them to melt?  I bought two things, both were similar to kit kat bars...just more wafer and less chocolate.

Sugar Cane Juice in Stone Town, Tanzania (Zanzibar)
We sat down and enjoyed our meals.  Dozens of stray cats cover the area--they were so cute.  Most of them were white/red, but a few were grey.  They really made me miss Dexter.  I have been having such a great time, but every time I am doing something new I wish I was able to share my experience with Kelly.

I watched some boys jump into the ocean off of the platform about 15 feet up.  It was quite a feat watching these guys get back onto shore.

At the Night Market in Stone Town, Tanzania (Zanzibar)
We walked to Africa House to pick up Debby and Vincent, who were just finishing up their dinners.  We were looking for a cab back to our hotel--we needed space for 5 people.  We asked someone on the street and he said he'll find a ride--then he sprinted away looking for someone/thing?  After a minute we saw him sprint across us to the other part of was about 10:00pm at this point.  He came back in his friend's car about 3 minutes later.  We told him $8 and he complied.  We were driving in a direction that was not familiar and some of us were confused.  I said "maybe he's planning on taking us somewhere else".  I thought I had said it quietly but he said, "this is Zanzibar, not Nairobi, it's safe worries, I take care of you".

There were empty beer bottles in the back seat of the SUV we were in.  It was clear that this was his friend's car and that neither of them were 'taxi' drivers.  They took us to the "Island View Hotel".  We had told him we needed "Ocean View" and he asked the hotel guards where that was (it was just down the road).  When we arrived at the hotel we gave him 12000 shilling (which is $8 if you use the standard 1500/$1USD rate).  He argued with us saying it's 1650 shilling for the dollar.  I knew he was trying to screw us so I just told him, "Ok, that's fine, how about I give you $10 and you give us 3300 shilling"?  I was essentially using him as a bank with amazing currency conversion rates.  He said "Ok".  Divya took out $10 and was about to give it to him when I told her to keep the money until he had the 3300 in change.  He came back from the van and said "give me the $10" and after some back and forth he said I keep the 3300 as a tip.  We went back and forth for a while and he was getting upset.  I told him he did not deserve a tip and that he was a thief.  He essentially told me that we'll run into each-other again and that I will be sorry...clearly and empty threat...but still!  Divya finally gave up and got back 3000 shilling, so we did end up paying $8, which is a MORE than reasonable cost for the 5-8 minute car ride.

When I was back at my room I realized I had lost my key and had to purchase a new one at reception.  $30...Shit!.  The replacement keys didn't have numbers on them so Sadie (the guy at the front desk) had to walk back with me to my room and test out a few dozen different keys.  On the walk back, which was at least 5 minutes, I asked about his day.  He had told me his best friend's mother had just died and that his friend couldn't afford a plane ticket back to Dar es Salaam to go home.  Once I got back to my room I washed my face and then met Cara, Vincent, and Debby at the restaurant's bar for a drink.  I  had a Krest, which is a Coca-Cola branded soft drink similar to Sprite but a bit more sour...I really liked it.

In bed I watched the latest Harold and Kumar movie.  I finally went to bed a bit after midnight.  What a day!

Enjoying Some Octopus at Night Market in Stone Town, Tanzania (Zanzibar)

Nungwi Beach, Zanzibar: (Day 13) Dec-23-2013

I couldn't sleep in--woke up at 6:00.  Breakfast with Debbie, Vincent, and the two women from Costa Rica.  The others had gone snorkeling--I opted out.  I had gotten cut up pretty nasty by my flippers in Kande Beach, Malawi and my sores were just starting to heal...only mildly infected at this point--don't worry Mom, I made sure to pick the scab with my filthy hands and to clean it out using the tab water and rubbing dirt on it to keep it healthy ;).

Much of the Group Goes Snorkeling for the Day, Nungwi, Tanzania (Zanzibar)

I took a nice walk along the beach and whenever someone came up to me to sell something I used the most successful strategy--I looked directly at them and said, "I am so sorry, but I do not speak English very well, have a good day".  I made sure to say it very clearly, thus if they were keen to it they would pick up on the complete sarcasm, but none of them did--they just followed with, "oh, what you speak, Italian, Spanish, hey you what you speak?"  I just continued walking and they would finally leave me alone...more quickly than if I just ignored them.

Massai Attempt to Sell Good on the Beach, Nungwi, Tanzania (Zanzibar)
It's 6:50 pm now and I'm sitting on the beach-side deck sipping a Caipirinha--quite a tasty drink.

Earlier today I sat out a bit and watched people para-sail while I listened to my book-on-tape.  It was around 3 when I ate lunch with Godfrey and Tabby.  It was nice talking with them--I'm starting to get a better understanding of the lifestyle here in Africa.  Even though they are not from East Africa talking with them still helped me to understand South/East 'Africa' more.  We talked about schooling in Zimbabwe and cost of living.  I had asked how much their phones, car insurance, school, etc. cost.  Godfrey said he had purchased his phone for $300--I recalled there is no subsidy here like as in the entire US market.  Tabby said his auto insurance was $50 which was for 4 months.  If he had wanted to get a more comprehensive insurance policy it would cost more like $100-$150 per 4 months.

Godfrey was telling me he was contemplating a trip to NYC.  We discussed how I thought trips to/from Africa were expensive and he disagreed.  He thought you could travel between the two continents for under $1000 USD.  He searched the web on his phone (VERY slow wifi at the hotel) and showed me a listing that read out, "75% of all African airfare".  It was a paid Ad on Google's front page.  People in Africa do NOT have the same experience with the internet as the rest of the world.  Their internet comprehension is equivalent to that of an 80 year old's who is just learning how to log-in for the first time.

I have been in Africa for over two weeks now and feel my understanding of things are getting better, but still not complete--any trip shorter than 3 weeks would prove fruitless, unless one is just coming for 'sights'.

I sat out poolside and talked w/ Debby on our opposing/similar views on Africa--she had brought the subject up.  I had an 'epiphany'  during our conversation--the only way I can drop my 'negative' views on the African people is to accept the following; The African people are not a people that need help nor should their lives be judged through lens of by western/eastern society's standards.  I am mostly thinking about their short life expectancy, reluctance to use modern (and available) medicine,  lazy lifestyles, refusal to practice 'family planning', etc.  For all that know me you know that I am somewhat of an idealist and it is in my nature to believe that everyone is 'capable' of pursuing their dreams with enough effort and forethought.  So when I see this 'African' lifestyle I get frustrated because they are not accomplishing a set of standards that I HAVE SET.  I have viewed these standards as static, universal, and truly virtuous--that's Ayn Rand's influence (for the better and the worse).  Even in the largest of cities I notice charity offices for all the types of aid relief.  Free HIV testing (and treatment in many places), free condoms, and advisers for everything you can imagine.  These resources are largely unused and the African lifestyles has  grown accustomed to 'hand-me-outs'.  It is so ingrained in the culture that they see white people as $$.

Most of the Africans I have met are genuinely nice, but many of people (much less in smaller villages) expect something from 'us'.  This made me mad because of the 'set of standards' I have developed were not being practiced, despite all the African aid.  I have come to terms with the notion that these People are their own people and that they deserve the lives they have chosen.  I don't mean anyone deserves to suffer or be sick...but overall they deserve and have earned much of their current lifestyle.  I would say that all aid should be stopped, but there are economic benefits for western organizations to provide this aid.  I always wondered why there were white range rovers in front of almost every "Charitable" organizations here--it's because of all the $$/profit involved.  Consider "The Salvation Army"--they receive inventory for free yet they SELL the clothing in bulk to African distributors, which in turn sell them at markets to people.  Even the poorest of Africans are not getting these clothing for free.

Hopefully you can piece together my 'epiphany' from this frenetic jumble of ideas, but I have to eat breakfast and get a move one.  I will most likely not re-read this and will just continue with the rest of my day when I get another chance to write...probably on my ride to Stone Town in a couple hours.

I had a 'Zanzibar' Massage at 5:00.  This was a combination of a Swedish and Deep Tissue Massage.  A long story short--it was the most uncomfortable/relaxing thing of the day.  There was  one large room sectioned off from the outside by a as you can imagine, no a/c.  There were three women working here and none of them spoke a word of English.  I showered beforehand so I would get all the sand off me but somehow the massage managed to be somewhat exfoliating--sand was just everywhere, as too where the flies.  The girl was unfriendly from the start.  Halfway through the massage I think I caught her trying to read into my pocket and take my money...some bills were exposed.  When I had noticed what had happened I tucked the bills deeper in my pocket.  As I lie on the table beads of sweat just pooled and dripped down all parts of my body.  Within a short period of time the flies and the beads of sweat were indistinguishable from one another.  Once my body acclimated to the sweat I began to notice the flies more easily.  While she was working on one limb I was twitching the others to rid myself of the flies.  It was  hardest when they landed on my face/eyes and I couldn't move my arms enough to shake them.  All-in-all it was a worthwhile experience though very uncomfortable.

I had 2 $20 USD bills and handed them to the lady and asked for change.  She seemed confused but after asking the woman 'in charge' she figured out she needed to get change at reception.  She came back from reception and said "they no take" as she showed me to 1 of the bills, which had a small tear in the center of it.  I said, "Ok, no problem" as I reached in my pocket and handed her another $20 bill.  5 minutes later she came back with 2 $10 bills.  I am not sure if she was trying to force a $5 tip or that reception just didn't have the change.  I am inclined to believe that she's just a moron.  I said, "Ok, that's fine and walked away with a $10 bill in my hand.  I had decided to tip her $5USD even thought she provided sub-par service--she needed that money more than I.

Restaurant in Nungwi, Tanzania (Zanzibar)
I relaxed, showered again, and went out for a happy hour drink for 7,000 shillings.  Cara, Stephanie, Divya, and I went to the restaurant next to us, Laungi Laungi, for dinner.  I had ordered a beer, king-fish, and A calamari/onion/mushroom salad.  The food was pretty good and cheaper than the restaurant at our hotel.  For both lunch and dinner I had grilled veggies in place of chips (fries).

Dinner in Nungwi, Tanzania (Zanzibar)
They had gone for a drink at a bar afterwards and hung out with a wedding party.  There was a wedding at our hotel's beach.  Tabby had some of their wedding cake.  I went back to talk to Kelly instead.  I watched the movie "Choke" afterwards and went to bed just after midnight.

A thought on African life expectancy and savings:
Average life expectancy in these parts of Africa is around 40 years.  I imagine this largely influences  certain aspects of the people's mentality and how they live their lives.  It's much harder to experience the impacts of one's life when that individual dies much sooner than people in a 'more civilized' part of the world.  Also, maybe if Africans lived longer they would think about how they will survive after they are capable of working.  Would they actually save their money instead of buying things like cell phones?  Despite these things, rationality is not a key element in much of daily life here.  It is largely a tribal society believing in healers/witch doctors where people blindly do as they are told-not necessarily what is correct or reasonable.

Goodnight, for now.

Enormous Lobster Caught in the Indian Ocean, Just Off Shore in Nungwi, Tanzania (Zanzibar)

Nungwi Beach, Zanzibar: (Day 12) Dec-22-2013

I stayed up late last night talking with Stephanie.  We discussed African culture--how many of the women do most of the work while the men just remain lazy.  Women are not treated well here.  There seems to be NO forward progress, or aspirations for that matter, to better one's life with respect to gender roles and/or standards of living. Maybe it's because people here don't know of that possibility...but there always this aura of helplessness.

Waiting to Board a Ship to Downtown Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Stephanie had spent a while (I think 6 months) in Kenya working in a hospital.  While in Kenya she stayed with a foster family.  The mother of the house--Stephanie calls her Mamma Kenya--was 'rich' by African standards.  They did not have electricity or water, but she did own a few cattle.  The average wage in Zambia is under $1 USD a day.  I imagine it's not too different in the East African countries.

Boarding a Ship to Downtown Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Today has already been a long day and it's not even 10:00 am.  I woke up at 5:30 and we were on the truck by 6:15.  We only had a short ride but had to walk 15 minutes or so in blistering heat to catch a shuttle boat.  We were waiting in the holding area for an hour before we were able to board to boat.  I felt like a cow, caged in a large holding space, waiting to be herded onto a ship.  It was complete chaos.  There were several decks of passengers and the main deck had a few dozen automobiles.  The ship took us over to the main business district of Dar es Salaam.  It was a short--maybe 15 minute--ride.  Most of the people on this ship were locals commuting for work.  Prior to boarding, in the holding area, the men and women were on the left hand side while the women took the right.  Many women were in burkas or saris and both men and women had very serious looks on their faces.  This city does not come off as friendly as the other towns we've been to so far.

Our Tour Group Waiting to Board our Ship to Down Town Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Once we arrived in the business district of Dar es Salaam we had to walk another 30-45 minutes.  This was quite a task given that even at 8:00 am the heat was unbearable!  Also, we were lugging all of our baggage.  We had stripped down our belongings and only took with us what we thought we needed for our three nights in Zanzibar.  I left my overnight bag on the truck and stuffed my day-pack to its limits.

Fishing Boats in the Indian Ocean, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
We got to where we were going to catch the 2-hr ferry to Zanzibar and still had a bit of time.  Since the building was air-conditioned--the first a/c I've had in over 2 weeks--most of the tour group stayed inside and relaxed.  However Cara and I ventured out into the city.  We both bought water--my 6L water jug was only 2,500 shilling ($1.67 USD).  I filled my 3L bladder in my pack, and my extra 1/2L jug that I carry in my bag's side pocket.  My bag must weight 20-30 lbs now.

I am wearing my hat, Under Armour t-shirt, North Face pants, and my Clark boots (no socks), Timex analog watch w/ built in alarm clock, and a pair of Exofficio boxer briefs.  I have brought along a bathing suite, thongs, one more tight fitting t-shirt for the beach, a long-sleeved technical shirt, and two thick merino wool socks.  In addition to my clothing I have my 1st aid kit (which I've been using quite a bit), various meds, toiletries, Camera (+ extra lens and batteries), tablet/keyboard, external power pack and USB cable, a GPS tracking unit (I've been using this to track my entire trip), folding knife, sunglasses, bug-spray, sun tan lotion, headlamp, passport (w/ yellow fever cert), money-belt, fleece jacket, rain poncho, Sea-to-Summit quick-drying towel, and a few other items.

The process of boarding the ferry to Zanzibar was fucking crazy.  We must have waited in line for 30 minutes before we were able to get through security.  The line was chaotic, people scrambling to pass others.  There was no shade and I felt point fighting it any more.  I let the sweat just drip off me as I continued to drink.  Whether or not today has been the hottest day yet is hard to say for certain.  We are directly in heat, and have been so all morning long, and everyone is carrying pounds and pounds of baggage.

We dropped the 3 Swedes off yesterday afternoon and are picking up 3 new recruits today.  I believe 2 have already joined us, but I'm not sure when/how they met up with us--Stephanie had pointed them out in line just prior to our passing through security.  We pick up the last person once we are in Zanzibar.

Before security when I was in line to show my ferry ticket there was a woman sitting and nursing her child.  Her shirt was completely off and she showed no modesty, despite the 100+ people that were within 20 feet of her.  Other women held their babies across their backs, wrapped in cloth.  Most of the children were covered by the fabric, but some were fully exposed to the sun's intense rays.  I can't even begin to imagine how hot it must have been for a child to be have their body completely wrapped up and under a restricting blanket--absolutely no ventilation whatsoever.

This ferry is shockingly very nice.  There are 4 sun-decks and a middle, air-conditioned, deck.  I choose the middle deck.  There are 6 Samsung TVs hanging throughout the cabin playing some American movie--probably with a title sounding something like "Heist", or something of that nature.

It's 10:20 now and we should arrive in Zanzibar around noon.  We have a ride waiting for us to take us to the northern park of Zanzibar, where we will remain for the next 2 nights.  We can opt for a spice tour, which is somewhere along our ride up north.  If not enough people decide to do it we will have to all go to the hotel and then later take a taxi back for the spice tour--though I'm sure most people will want to take the tour.

SOME THOUGHTS:  I've gotten used to the horrible body odor that is pervasive in Africa.  I've learned that African cuisine is mostly rice, beans, potatoes, and occasionally chicken.  Africa is not the place to go to to eat exotic foods, at least not east Africa.  It is as plain as you can get.  Some food for thought--why is it that in Africa the cuisine is so basic, while in most other 3rd-world regions the cuisine is much more sophisticated?  Everything about Africa is just stunted...corrupt governments (that the people elect), inefficient (lacking) work ethic, and an embarrassing lack of education (despite that most nations offer free education through age 18).  As I look around, even the 'well to do' people just appear leaps and bounds behind the rest of the world.  A man to the left of me is trying to change the battery on his phone and he is struggling on figuring out which side is up...success after only 3 minutes.  A man behind me hunts and pecks on his computer like it's his first time typing on a keyboard.  Seeing as it's his computer I doubt that is the case.  Back in Chipata, Malawi one of the lodge workers could not figure out how to even type in the password to grant me access to use the internet.  He spent 30  seconds typing in 4 letters and the screen had a warning massage on it that he had needed to click "accept" before he could type.  He was typing not realizing the characters were not being recorded.  It's a shame large corporations can't come here and build factories for unskilled labor.  It would be such cheap labor, plus it would help the ridiculously high unemployment rate.

Nutmeg, On our Spice Tour, Zanzibar  
Jackfruit, Spice Tour, Zanzibar
A man to the right of me seems to have had polio--I help him button his shirt as had been struggling for a while.

Back in Dar es Salaam--while we were walking to catch the ferry--I saw a young man who had club feet.  He was walking on the complete outsides of his feet.  His soles were completely exposed as he walked.  He did manage to get by though.

After we arrived in Zanzibar we had to take a private van to where our beach resort was--Amaan Bungalows in Nungwi Beach.  This was in the north, and about a 1.5 hour drive from where we were.  6 of us wanted to take the spice tour so we had gotten off about about an hour from our hotel and left out bags with the group--they would drop our stuff off at reception.

Urucu Fruit, On our Spice Tour, Zanzibar
Using Red Pigment an Urucu, Spice Tour, Zanzibar
I am really shocked that the majority of the trip decided against the spice tour--maybe it was because it had already been such a long day and they wanted to enjoy the weather?

The spice tour was very fun, though a bit too long if you ask me.  Although none of the spices originated from Zanzibar they are grown for the tourists, which is fine by me.  They had everything I could think of; cinnamon, clove, ginger, vanilla, nutmeg, cardamom, pepper, and the list goes on and on!  There were bananas, mangoes, avocados, pineapples, coconuts, grapefruit, jackfruit, coffee beans, and 4 or 5 other fruits that I've never heard of before.

Climbing a Tree, Spice Tour, Zanzibar
We had a guide walking us around the plantation and another guy who climbed the trees to get us samples.  He showed us the plant that Indians use for henna and the flowering tree that is used in Chanel no. 5.  He pointed out a red flowing tree that had these interesting-looking shells that when cracked open exposed fiery-red bb-sized fruits.  He smashed the fruits and put the resulting liquid on his lips, head, and hair.  He was indicating the use of the red pigment from the fruit.  Women used it for lipstick, Indians for there 'dot', and the Masai use it to die their hair red.

 Preparing Coconut, Spice Tour, Zanzibar 
At the end of the tour a man climbed a humongous coconut tree while singing a joyful song.  He brought down 3 coconuts for us to taste.  He then took out his knife and carved away the shell of the coconut and exposed the milk for us to drink.  After we drank the milk he carved away a bit more, created a makeshift spoon, and let us eat the gooey flesh of the coconut.

I like coconut when it has been dried, not when it's fresh.  Oh, before I forget, we were able to taste coffee beans directly from the tree.  They were in a soft red shell...nothing like I had imagined.  The gooey surroundings of the coffee bean tasted great, but the un-dried bean was nothing to write home about.--maybe blog home about though!

Tasting, Spice Tour, Zanzibar

Afterwards, we tasted the fruit that was grown on the plantation and were able to buy some of their local spices...go figure.

Hotel's Main Deck, Zanzibar
I purchased a cardamom and vanilla tea.  I have yet to test it out, but for $2 USD it wasn't much of an investment on my end.

We finally got to our hotel around 4:00 and after dealing with the inefficiencies of Africa I was in my room 45 minutes later.  I have 3 twin beds, air conditioning, a mini-fridge, and a shower.  I have large windows on one entire side of my room--the wall that faces the beach.

I walked in the water for a sec, jumped in the pool and swam for a while.

My Room in Zanzibar
I inquired about snorkeling and getting a massage.  Our group met at the hotel's main restaurant at 7:00.  Our food finally came just before 8:30.  I had ordered an avocado and prawn salad along with a chicken red curry masala.  Both were quite good, though expensive by African standards.  The dinner was 31,000 Tanzanian Shillings, or around $21 USD.
Avocado and Prawn Salad, Zanzibar

I went to bed around 9:30, just after going down to the beach to watch a few hermit crabs come up and scurry about the sand.  It was a riot seeing how fast they could run with their little claws above their heads.  I watched the movie, "Kickass" then went to bed.  A very long day.

Enjoying the Spice Tour, Zanzibar