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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Culture Shock

People are funny. On one end of the spectrum are those that romanticize the notion of other cultures or societies, as utopian or ideal, on the other end are the apathetic who remain disengaged or removed from cultures different from their own, unable to see our common humanness. I’ve experienced the entire scale in 9 days.

A little over a week ago Glenn and I took a speedboat an hour and a half off of mainland Tanzania to the exotic island of Zanzibar, an idyllic tropical paradise with powder white beaches and warm turquoise water. Glenn is calling it ‘the vacation from the vacation’. After four days in bustling Stone Town - an ancient hub for traders and sellers for close to 1,000 years - we headed north to the tip of the island for a little peace and quiet. Violating one of our vacation creeds (no big fancy American hotels) we checked into the Hilton on a lead from a friend.

I had come down with a cold so the idea of bunkering down in a nice room with a cozy bed and AC overshadowed my discomfort of the ubiquitous ‘vacation resort’; you know the kind, the towering sea of luxury isolated in every way from its surroundings. Aside from the incredibly comfortable bed - covered in crisp white cotton, a fluffy duvet and down pillows - the Hilton is not my kind of place, but it did afford an interesting opportunity to observe people on vacation in Africa. Up until now we have really only come across tourists en mass in the large game parks and at the airports. We’ve seen lots of travelers, but those aren’t tourists, these are two distinct breeds. The Double Tree has tourists.

Sometimes it is embarrassing to belong to my race. Here I go romanticizing the natives, sliding back toward the former side of the scale while at the same time feeling apathy for my own. Yesterday we witnessed several Hiltonites towering a couple feet above the beach craning over the edge of a retaining wall that separates the Hilton beach from the public beach tossing candy down to the local children below, cracking up as the children fought one another for the treats. They didn’t leave the compound. They just stood there watching the kids clamor over one another laughing until all of the candy had been scooped up; but apparently that wasn’t enough. They returned a few minutes later with 6 bottles of coke to be distributed among 25 or so children. All the while they stood perched safely out of reach of the local children as the kids fought to chug the most coke before someone older, bigger ripped it from their hands. The tourists laughed and went back to their chase lounges. I cringed from mine.

Glenn and I decided to stick to our creed. Just by staying here we are supporting this kind of scene. Your dollar is your vote, use it wisely. Travel responsibly.

If you’ve been following our journey shoot us a line. We LOVE messages from home; it makes the distance between us feel smaller.

My love to you,

Friday, November 19, 2010

Giving Thanks

I have a built in circadian rhythm for Thanksgiving. I’ve read countless recipes, I’ve gone over to-do lists, read helpful hints and gravy recipes. I haven’t ordered a turkey or gone into Portland for cheese. I didn’t stock up on fresh Oregon Coast cranberries and Columbia Valley wines. I won’t have to ask forgiveness for killing a beautiful creature or feel the remorse for having been responsible for its death.  I won’t be making WAY too much stuffing, but I will be thinking of you.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I plan weeks in advance. I actually spend more time planning that one meal every year than I did this entire trip (which is why I arrived with only 1 pair of jeans).  I am a feeder, so the concept of a food holiday rooted in gratitude and shared with friends and family is truly a reason to celebrate: giving thanks, the harvest, a prelude to winter, I love it all.

Instead of turkey and cranberries I’ll be cooking pumpkin soup and flatbreads, holding you dear in my heart. I can’t quantify how Africa has changed me, but I certainly know that I am more thankful this year than ever before. YOU make my life sparkle, your friendship and love are truly the most precious of gifts.   This year I am grateful for you and wish you and your loved ones a very Happy Thanksgiving.

All my love,

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Still Searching

Coffee in full bloom

I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am to visit the spice farm today. I have a weird obsession for knowing how things grow; ok, maybe not just knowing but seeing, smelling, picking and tasting. Glenn has a knee-jerk reaction of telling me not to eat whatever new thing I pick off a tree; like a toddler, things go straight into what I call 'the information hole'. I tell him that it is good for my immune system, but I know he is right.

Zanzibar’s varied history is reflected in its modern day culture: Arabs, Indians and East Africans populate the islands and their food reflects the various elements of each. I wish I could say that is a good thing, but we are still in Africa and your chances of finding really deliciously prepared food are as about as likely as a one-eyed chicken finding a grain of corn, it happens - now and again - but don’t count on it. How can this be? There are beautiful abundant crops in much of Africa.  Did the Colonists muck it up? There are plenty of poor countries with delicious cuisine so it can’t be poverty related. Were there too many food cultures competing at once and the outcome compromised? I don’t have an answer but I suspect that there just weren’t enough Indians in the original group of explorers. Indians, in my book, are the food saviors of the world.

We haven’t given up hope on finding good food so the search must go on. It is a struggle at times, but we’re committed. We’ll let you know how it goes.

Big love and kisses,

For more photos of Northern Tanzania and Zanzibar go to:

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

"Eat my Australian Dust" was never murmured...

...otherwise we would have been forced to take him down. Steve's account of what happened on Kili.

We love our Aussies.

Climbing Kilimanjaro

I can honestly say that the Aussies made us do it; but then again, I did tote Diamox all the way from Hood River…just in case. Back country skiing aside, Glenn and I have never really climbed a mountain. Why we chose the world’s largest free standing mountain will remain a mystery. But we made it Without incident. Well, it most likely claimed Glenn’s big toenail and gave me a few blisters, but a few battle wounds are par for the course; the descent was way harder than the ascent and where the damage occurred. We chose the Machame route to the top because it is the most scenic, and scenic it was. The views were incredible. The glaciers that once looked so far away were so close. It felt like you were standing at the top of the world.
We started the ascent at midnight on the fifth day so that we could reach the summit by sunrise. Despite leaving an hour after the earliest climbers GP and I powered up and were the first to the top; well, that was until Mark (our Aussie buddy) sprinted the last 50 feet to claim the victory for Australia. Had Glenn and I known he was going for the win, we would have both sprinted after him - sucking in a whopping 100-120 breaths a minute - to claim the rightful win for Team America. But we let him go by as we were engaged holding hands with our porter for the last 1/4 mile, a little too delirious to notice his Stephen Bradbury move. He actually confessed over dinner that they had been plotting the victory for months...and we though he was so sweet. 

We loved it and didn't really feel the effects of the altitude until our descent. The top is 19,298 feet (higher than Mt. Everest base camp), so we were definitely sucking air. The headache set in on the descent. I don't know how much of it was the altitude and how much of it was the bottle of Solms-Delta Cape Jazz Syraz bubbly we chugged at 5:40am to celebrate our victory. 

We took a day and a half to decent and are now in Moshi, Tanzania. Glenn and I are going to Ngorangoro Crater and another game park with the Australians before we part again for good :( We are heading south to Zanzibar and they are heading north on a pretty tight schedule. We better see you two back in The Hood soon! 

We are having a blast and totally in the swing of vacation. Enjoy your winter and we'll be home in a few months. 

We love your comments and emails, so keep them coming.

I love you gobs, 

For more of Mark's fabulous photos of Kili go to: