Sick of It

Africa: 0, South America: 1, Central America: 0, USA: 0, SE Asia, Nepal, and India: 5. That is the score of my illnesses (not my illness – which is untouchable) while traveling, so I can pretty well say that Asia is by far and away in the lead with me getting sick. And by sick I mean traveler's sickness…..you know the one where you don't want me to write all the details but it involves lots of trips to the toilet, usually you would mention Montezuma but in this case he stayed out of it. The worst part about it is the food here is so good, I mean the other continents were great but the food here is so unique over such short distances or even within a country. For example, in India the south loves rice dishes and coconut, in the north rice is seen as sort of filler, everything is bread based and in a rich gravy. Furthermore, in India there are all sorts of restrictions due to castes and religion; no pork, no beef, no garlic and onions (that one is real), no eggs, vegetarian, pure vegetarian, and I presume more. These restrictions actually just add to the diversity of the cuisine as people still have to make really tasty things without things like garlic! But as usual I break from the point.

As you know about myself and Lu; we like food, and our plan with Asia was to eat our way across the continent leaving a trail of decimated phos, spring rolls, cau laus, hot pots, cold coffees, coconut curries, sticky rice, masala dosas, dum aloos, momos, and kaju curries. However it seems like once every two weeks one of us was lay-ed out on a hammock. Now I understand why antibiotics are sold just over the counter here…. And for like 50 cents.

It's in times like these though that we are all at our weakest and those are usually the times that I am longing for a place to stay, so we can cook our own food, clean our own veggies (I miss fresh vegetables so much, the highly-carnivorous me from circa 2007 couldn't imagine that), add our own oil, clean our hands before touching the food, clean the counters before the food…..the list goes on.

On one hand getting sick is part of travel but on the other it just pisses us off because it takes away from one of our main joys of travel. We are supposed to have travelers' 'street cred' with all the street meals we have eaten throughout the world, but it feels like we have finally started to go soft. When we are in India and I ask 'just toast and plain omlette' – which totally disappoints all the wait staff – it feels like I'm chickening out or just giving up our Indian dream. But, since we do not live here I suppose we have to suck it up as everyone who does live here must go through some of the same struggles daily. But also it makes us wonder about how it is living here, is this just a monthly annoyance, or couple of times a year annoyance?

This brings me more towards what has been looming in the not to distant future now. We are getting closer to the end and maybe it's just the sickness talking or maybe it's the grouchy old men in me (there are two, actually, Statler & Waldorf) but slowly the trip is getting under my skin. The past few times of getting sick has made me a bit grouchy and short with everyday traveler problems (also I should note that most people on the streets around the world are just trying to get by and are not bad people), but the rickshaw drivers that always overcharge are doing that because that's just what they do, the food here just makes you sick sometimes, the train sometimes just stops for an hour for no known reason….these are things that happen on the road, but maybe when they start to add up and start to actually get to us then we start to realize it's nearly time. Fortunately there is hope on the horizon, new countries, new friends, visits from old friends, and then the NEW adventure. AND PLEASE HEALTH FROM NOW ON. PLEASE ASIA, YOU WON.

Note: As you see I mention India a lot, India alone might take like 8 blog post attempts to try to get it all down and all correct.  

Because of a sandwich this was all I saw of Malaysia 

Because of a sandwich this was all I saw of Malaysia 

Writing on not writing

It's been a long time since I've done this. When we first started this blog it was slow going and almost painful to write; I had to hammer out the words. I was not used to writing, or at least I hadn't really done it since High School or University, and on top of that I hadn't done it for fun since I was a kid. In a way school was supposed to teach me to write, but because of the motions of grades and deadlines and exams I began to hate it and didn't keep journals and didn't write for fun. I always had some sort of scrap book with little funny notes of things that had happened, or 'get-rich-quick' schemes (like fog-machine shoes, come on those would be awesome-it would be like walking on a cloud!), but again I could go 6 months without putting anything in it. The journal (not a journal-sometimes it would be on the back of envelopes), didn't have any direction, or voice or sound.

Fast forward a few years and Lu and I are day-dreaming our trip. Lu wants to do a blog, I think it's a good idea for her writing, and we can both update it with what we are doing and put in some pictures. This sounds good, I am not really the best about sharing on facebook or communicating with friends and family regularly (SORRY EVERYONE!!) so this should work well for both of us. We put the website together and I thought 'yeah, I'll just sort of help manage it and occasionally put on some photos and then a little bit of a diary.' Then in Africa Lu wanted me to do a blog post (nearly at gunpoint), but I dragged my feet like a 5 year old because for me sharing online just isn't normal for me.

Due to her persistance this blog come out, and forcing the words to come out I slowly started to develop a voice. Travelling the world made me feel and reflect on a lot….obviously. But when you are tumbling down a road, looking out the window while travelling one's thoughts are rarely 'this is so awesome'. Your thoughts drift to what you saw weeks ago, then to your life before travel, to what you can't wait to eat when you get off the bus, to 'oh my god we still aren't there and it's getting dark', to what will your life be like after travel, to what will life be like in a week...oddly it's almost anything but living in the moment (except the immediate concern of being in the constant state of will-I-miss-my-stop). This constant reflection time meant I had a lot of time to think about the blog and little ideas crept into my head from country to country which then started to pour out onto the page: I had found a voice.

While in Africa and South America there was much time for reflection and everything was new to all senses. Countries continued to impress with their differences in culture, or similarities in culture, or differences in terrain or similarities in terrain, or similarities in food or differences in food. This lead to thoughts about how the world works or how it really works. Then these ideas mix with some of the thoughts/ideas/comceptions/misconceptions from my time London, or back in Seattle, or Michigan, then stew and mix around in my head then rise into consciousness whilst travelling, then pour onto paper. The ideas could range from “People who live in the hills in Asia are more similar to Andean people than even the valley people”, or “Everyone in the world loves: Fried Chicken, Pizza, Crocs, Real Madrid/Barcelona/Manchester United/Arsenal, WWE/WWF Wrestling, karaoke, BBQ & Beer” or “We are really lucky to actually have driving laws in Europe and the US.” That last one happens on the bus…...a lot.

Besides these daydreams, is the ever present, daunting task of planning our travels. In South and Central America there was always at the back of my mind our USA road trip and the excitement of seeing my family and friends. I had to plan the route we were going to take around the country (the largest one yet), the exact times we would arrive in each destination, give at least a little bit of time so that we could do things with friends and family, PLUS show off to Lu my own country (not just the northwest) really for the first time. There is always a balance of thought time, planning time, and action time when travelling, but sometimes I think it's not realized that to do all this you need to take a vacation from vacation which is how these blog posts come about; to get all this down.

We set up a camp in Belieze to plan, write, read and recover before the whirlwind of the states. All the ideas and planning came out easily while in Belize. I had ideas, thoughts, opinions and my voice was flowing. We woke up everyday around 7, made ourselves breakfast, sat on the porch where we read and wrote for 4 hours, made lunch and had smoothies, returned to the porch and planned the USA trip, contacted friends, read again, then wrote more and then bed…. I know, we were fully retired. But it worked for what we needed then.

Then we left.

The states hit like a whirlwind; in Belize we literally jumped up and down when our accommodation had a blender; when we arrived in the Miami airport there was a guy floating by on a hoverboard, then we passed a lady, who we realized about 2 seconds later that she was not an actual human but a hologram assistant projected to aid people in Spanish. What year did we land in!??? Why can't I smell animals and sweat!??? Why isn't there a Taxi driver already trying to shuffle me into a car!????

It was somewhere in this whirlwind of getting to America that I lost my voice. I had come back to the land I know and it sort of shattered my thoughts. I had time for reflection while in the States (A lot of time, we drove around the whole damn country!), but the thoughts were completely different than from Africa and South America and it broke the voice that had been building in my head the whole time we are travelling. Our routine (semi-retired) routine took the hit from the whirlwind in The States as well and it took till now to recover.

I can tell you now that I have been extremely frustrated about this and am sorry for keeping people waiting on an update but something clogged the thoughts going to paper (who am I kidding, paper is so last century, we have hoverboards and holograms now!), but I am trying to bring it back now. The other part is that in the states we were moving at light speed, then in Asia we were moving without a plan. We forgot to take time to do the vacation from vacation to give time for out thoughts to brew.

In the past 5 months since my last post I have had many ideas and thoughts that have been waiting to bubble up and for some reason India is bringing them out now.

Maybe it's the hellish bus rides, the driver honking and yelling at every car, maybe it's the broken down seats, maybe it's the people starring at me (oh my god-a muzungu), maybe it's the smell of spice...and shit and pee everywhere, maybe it's the exotic outstanding food that's bringing it out, maybe it's the thrill of travel that started in Africa that's rearing it's head again but something here is making me write again, I hope it continues, and I hope that I can get my voice back or at least develop a new one. 'Sophmore Albums' always suck, I hope this blog part 2 does not.

Beaches in India are inspiring......but not quite the same as Belize; more Sea Cows in Belize, more land Cows in India

Beaches in India are inspiring......but not quite the same as Belize; more Sea Cows in Belize, more land Cows in India

U!S!A! – As a visitor

I am coming home, but as a tourist. I have not set foot on American soil in nearly two years, and haven’t lived there in five. While travelling we have met many Americans and even some other American long term travelers but really not many that have truly left ‘home’. As a result I can’t really relate to many of them about how weird it will be going back. When I first moved out of the country and went back to the states I always had the reaction, ‘Ahh, back home’. Now with each trip back when I step off the plane I think of the Bill Bryson book title ‘I’m a visitor here myself’ as some things I took for granted when I lived there now seem strange to me – like the buildings are HUGE, man, the new KFC building look like the malls in some countries. Honestly, I know I have changed but sometimes I don’t even see it until I am asked questions about current American culture or until I see some new product from the states or someone asks my opinion as an American. My response is sort of; well I am still happy to be an American, there are many, many things I love about the states, but I have been gone so long now that I have no idea about that topic, or show, or product.

So while this trip will be a coming home, there also will be some learning for me, like Jim Harbaugh’s new offense. Okay, real learning like the US southwest and seeing my friends as adults not dudes falling off the roof of their college house – which is how I saw them last… and to be fair how I was the last time they saw me. Plus some things which will blur the line as visitor and home coming, places I know but only rarely visited. Like Nashville, New Orleans, and Atlanta. Or food Like Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor – a landmark site in Ann Arbor but with expensive amazing sandwiches so I only went probably once a year or so. Or Breweries, there are so many now with so many flavors in the US! Oh how I miss American beer! In Europe I usually got a lecture about how terrible American beer is, but nowadays it’s excellent. After travelling, I would say it’s only second to Belgium.

Favorite food is part of coming home. When you travel there is always something you crave, it’s a national dish or your mother’s dish but it’s always something you just can’t get on the road. The flavor and the texture has to be just right to send the sensation of satisfaction running through your body. But, it’s more like the taste of comfort, the taste of familiar, the taste of childhood. Things that are not truly taste, but give you the sensation or memory you were craving. Sometimes it’s food from mom or gramma or dad (the fellas can cook too!), or from a restaurant which used to be your everyday fix. After asking other travelers I can tell you that for Germans it is dark breads, for Brits it’s proper tea, for French it’s cheese, but for me it’s salmon, salsa (I know 2 months in central America and still not quite the right salsa), pie, real deli turkey and Trader Joes. Just the food is part of it, but also combining of some of these foods in their right environment will hopefully bring back great memories and hopefully show Lu some of the great things about the states. An Oberon on the shore of a lake in Michigan, a salmon tail gate party, a margarita on a scorching day in Texas, or a bite of beef jerky while passing through the Rockies. These are the things I can now share with Lu as she has never seen or experienced them, but at the very least it can add context to my rambling stories.

There are some unfortunate things as well; she won’t get to experience the college ‘barn’ house, or game day in Ann Arbor surrounded by friends, or a cut throat game of Risk in Ann Arbor, or playing football with Herbie in the front yard, or my Grampa’s French toast. These experiences are important, but will be missing which is a shame but unavoidable as life goes on. The only thing we can do is to make some new great memories in the states, ones where we are both visitors and I am not the local. I have found that life goes through many phases and stages, it will be interesting to see which things from the states I have outgrown, which things I still adore and which things we find that we both love. For as much as I am looking forward to coming home I am also hoping that Lu will leave with an appreciation for the states. But just an appreciation, as the road is where I am loving right now, and that is where our home is!

Finally there is one thing we are both for sure looking forward to; cooler weather, air conditioning, and not being covered with biting ants, mosquitoes, flies, or other strange itchy biting things, and not dealing with ummm runny tummy/the bad belly as we have for the past month or two. So some first world pleasures and northern climates will be a welcome relief for a while. (See previous post) 

This was Lu's last trip to Seattle, maybe this year the rain will let up and she will finally see that 'mythical' Mt. Rainier 

This was Lu's last trip to Seattle, maybe this year the rain will let up and she will finally see that 'mythical' Mt. Rainier 

The Heat & The Fuzz

Lying on the bed with the light of the orange streetlight pouring into the room, the fan spinning on the ceiling, the sweat pouring down, I get up and practice my martial arts then scream and punch the mirror. This is how I feel most nights in Central America…. well except this scene is from Apocalypse Now and not actually me at all. You can picture me on the bed with the light and the sweat but minus the karate and punching the mirror as I am basically on vacation, not in the Vietnam War hunting Colonel Kurtz.

We have never experienced heat quite like this on our trip. I grew up in Michigan which got it’s share of heat waves with high humidity, but we had fans, wood and insulation houses, and air conditioning when it got real bad. Actually to make a short story long, I remember when the whole eastern US lost power in the early 00’s it was also during a heat wave. All the power was out and it was so hot and humid I remember when you saw a car roaming through the night you could see the entire beam of light from the headlights as the air was so hot and sticky. The great part about the heat wave was that everyone took to the streets, parks and porches as the houses were just too hot. Also all the ice cream shops and liquor stores were handing our beer and ice cream for about 1$ for a huge cone and 25 cents for a beer because everything was going to go bad – it was a fun week. But still, we slept in basements or outside to beat the heat.

I remember being hot then, but this is worse…way worse. For one thing we have to use the budget option. This means usually still a private room, but very basic. There is nothing wrong with basic in most places but in Central America it is brutal at night. The rooms have one small window and corrugated iron roofing with no insulation, so basically they turn into an oven during the day and with only one window there is no cross breeze to air out the heat. Even with a fan, the fan became a hair dryer with the heat in the room. Finally the mosquitoes are bad here at night so you have to sleep with a blanket or sheet over you so you don’t get bit, turning the bed into something which smells and feels like a wet burrito.  

 This lasted pretty much from Panama to Belize with only two escapes, Belize and Honduras – Belize maybe the richest Central American country and Honduras maybe the poorest. In Honduras we stayed in a mountainous lake region and deep in the jungle with lofty, multi-vented rooms, in Belize on the coast with a breeze. So note, these are the only budget options for saving you.

The resulting effect is that I have the happiest opinion about these places. I have enjoyed many of the other places that we have visited while in Central America, but they have sort of felt like a dream. Sometimes that dream is like a fever dream full of tossing and turning at night on a sweat filled bed, sometimes it’s the hazy feeling when you pull an all-nighter before an exam, sometimes it’s the in and out feeling you get on a long bus or boat ride where your head keeps bouncing, unaware that you have even fallen asleep. Both of us have these phrases multiple times: was that real? Am I still awake? Did I say that or imagine I said that? Did that happen or was that a dream?

So how did we like Central America; I don’t really know. It’s beautiful, there are friendly people (except in Nicaragua), the food is good, and I think that I might have flown into an exam which I didn't prepare for, naked, with loose teeth, with friends who’s faces I can’t see, while playing in the super bowl.

The moral of the story is going to hot places sounds great, but if it’s so hot you don’t even remember your trip then is it really relaxing? Did it even happen!?? When we return to Central America we will stick to the highlands, or the coast or splurge for Air-conditioning because we will be able to afford it because otherwise we just might not remember it! Finally, when we decide to pick a place to live we might have to reconsider some of the warm places I dreamed of living. These sound great on paper, but I actually do enjoy work and enjoy being able to think while working. So while I dreamed of surfing or beach time in the future, it will have to be in a place that is a little cooler so I can actually enjoy it.

So as Van Halen said-“Stay Frosty”

I think they do their laundry in the lake because it's too damn hot to do it anywhere else. That's my theory anyways.

I think they do their laundry in the lake because it's too damn hot to do it anywhere else. That's my theory anyways.

Charlie Work

When I was 19 years old I shipped myself off to food boot camp in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I showed up to camp sick with mono and junior to everyone by 3 to 15 years.  My job started with waking up at 5am to cook food for ungrateful academics (kidding, they were grateful for every meal and told me so. They were especially grateful if I put a few extra scoops in the coffee machine. Note academics are waaay tougher than Cowboys, union men, or construction workers when it comes to coffee strength)(sorry about too many parentheses). My duties also included; cleaning toilets, picking up trash, repairing destroyed cabins, or just general ‘charlie work’ while getting paid dirt. But like everyone who tells these kinds of work stories, they always say - "It was the time of my life!" Despite this terrible (charlie) work I learned a lot about living and a little about love - and an appreciation for Alan Jackson.

At first I was the new guy; everyone else had been here before and I could barely hold my own due to the mono. But, I recovered in excellent form, and since I was 19 I thought this was an event that should be celebrated and went out drinking my first night after finishing my full course of antibiotics. This was in high altitude, so I was a train-wreck that night. But, due to my hard work while still having mono and my hilarious scene that night - I was accepted as one of the crew.

Once our daily responsibilities were done we would sit on the bench outside the kitchen and shoot the shit until it was time to start a way-too-big a fire then get silly. There on the bench we had some of the best conversations from 'which animal would you ride into battle on' to ‘which song by Journey cuts the deepest’ to ‘how to do home dentistry’ or ‘where to properly punch a bear in the event of attack’. This bench might sound lame as it’s not a luxury recliner or a yacht but in fact it had an epic view of some of the finest mountains. In fact, this little camp was surrounded by multimillion dollar ranches all vying for this view and this wilderness.

The work sucked, but the camaraderie, the view from the bench (I’m a flatlander, so mountains blow my mind) combined with the lengthy, epic, and pointless conversation made it good at the time, but an absolute joy in retrospect.

After that, I worked at another camp, and then returned to this one a few years later, harder, tougher and with a few more scars (from doing stupid things with hooligans mind you not actually being tough). The bench was still there; the culture of hanging around the bench and the shenanigans were still the same and I enjoyed it, but I knew it would be my last time at camp, and I have not been back since but do miss it.

I think we all have some job or passion we once had and said, ‘This is great but I just can't do it anymore’. You realize that you became different and have to move on. You look back at those times working a bum job with fondness but know that you can't go back to it.

Travelling is a lot like your bum job; often the worst and scariest parts of your trip turn out to be the best and the free time to have conversations about anything with people from all backgrounds leaves a lasting impression. Some of the unpleasant or boring things that at the time seemed bad have now left a good impression on me; like now I crave a hardboiled egg after it was the only food on the bus in Africa , or that horrible trip to Tarrabuco actually ended up making us great friends, or the club in Berlin being too expensive we just had beers on the street – which became the best night out. The not so great things actually make you love the trip in retrospect just like the summer you spent scrubbing toilets. But, the best part is each trip will have great (and bad) experiences no matter your age or which budget you are in; therefore it will be the bum job you will never outgrow. You can always return to the road, but each time the experience will be different as you grow older and as times change. We are no longer staying just in the cheaper possible hostel, eating ramen and drinking the cheapest possible beer (although all this happens sometimes still). We have grown up a little (just a little), and are still able to travel without feeling we have outgrown it. I don’t think we have met or will ever meet someone who has outgrown travelling because even if you are bumming it as cheaply as possible or spending loads there is no wrong way to travel.

P.S. The phrase ‘charlie work’ comes from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, where some of Charlie’s work was to kill rats using a stick with nails in it…. My work was never quite that bad. 

The bus tired EXPLODED while going to Tarabuco.... this was actually one of the BEST parts of the trip

The bus tired EXPLODED while going to Tarabuco.... this was actually one of the BEST parts of the trip

Ecuador we hardly knew ye!

Prior to Ecuador we met a few American expats who had moved down and a British girl who teaches in Ecuador. They both offered us the same advice; get to the country and out of Guayaquil and Quito as fast as possible. So what did we do - we only went to Guayaquil and Quito. Sometimes we listen to others and sometimes we don’t, we wish we had although there was a silver lining to each town.

Guayaquil was pretty rough on us; we arrived at night and took one of the most dangerous bus rides yet. It is the first time I have braced for impact during our travels. When the locals are yelling at the driver to slow down you know things are bad. The driver still did not mind the yelling and carried on through his conversation and forgot to stop for us where we asked him. As a result we ran 15 blocks through a pretty rough neighborhood (or at least it appeared to be at night….. later during the day it didn’t improve much either) with our bags only to realize that we took the wrong bus. If we had taken the right one we would have been dropped off almost at our accommodation’s doorstep. Following this harrowing ride and journey I quickly got a revisit from my friend Salmonella.

 It was a rough 24 hours, but fortunately medical care in Ecuador is excellent and the local doctor prescribed me a battery of pills and elixirs to battle the Salmonella. We explored Guayaquil and were not really impressed but we were able to meet our friends and have a nice meal on the boardwalk.

After Guayaquil we left for Quito to meet our friends again, but just in another town. Quito was much gentler, and due to our friend kindness we were able to stay at their place, which was needed after the griminess of Guayaquil.

Quito is a different kind of city, older, classical and had a cool vibe. We hung out with friends then did some activities during the day. Nothing dramatic and we missed out on the one nature thing we wanted to do because of timing.

When we left Ecuador we felt that we didn’t even scratch the surface and the view we got was underwhelming. But after a few days we started to talk and realized that we actually had a good and unique experience even if we didn’t love the country. This has happened to us a few times when we don’t realize how good an experience is until it is over and passed – sort of like a bad job that you realize was the time of your life later (will explain more in a later post).

Guayaquil was a hole, but in fact we met some nice locals. My doctor was very nice and we chatted for about 15 minutes after my appointment - so we got to know a local which is key to good travel. The medicine worked (also very key), so while I couldn’t enjoy a beer I had a few milkshakes (also very key and not really a struggle when you think about it). On top of that we got to hang out with some old friends (new in terms of time, old in terms of this being the second CONTINENT that we have met up on this year). In Quito we were really disappointed that we didn’t explore some of the forests and the town was only really nice in the old town district. But again looking back on it was really a great time. We hung out with our friends every night, stayed at their wonderful place, went out to concerts, ate some of the best chocolate we have ever had, explored an old town and stood with our legs over each side of the equator, and we saw a dead penis fish. The last thing I need to explain, it’s a parasite which grows inside you if you pee in the river in the Amazon jungle, it is nearly microscopic when it infects you but grows to the size of a jumbo shrimp…with spikes...inside you. DON’T PEE IN THE AMAZON!!! At the equator museum they also had a local history of tribes and local exotic animals which was very well done and they had a dead one of these in a jar.

Ecuador is now a fond memory and a place that we wish to return to. We had a wonderful time with our friends but also had some great experiences despite having a rude welcome and being sick. We checked off all the boxes for a new country without even knowing it; met friends, had great food, met locals, had dangerous experiences, funny experiences, saw a place of interest and left feeling healthier. We have realized this with many places but Ecuador sticks out more now because this happens a lot with small things while travelling, i.e. a type of food you realize you really liked or a town you were at first indifferent to then later realized you really liked, but not usually a country. The only other country we had a bad experience in was South Africa and as a result we have no desire to go there again, but Ecuador has been different. We both really feel we didn’t give Ecuador a chance, but now we both realize that we had a great time and next time we are down here we need to do it again, but this time more sights and more time with friends. And for Lu more chocolate.

Oh, and we met the president and his dog

Oh, and we met the president and his dog


Travelling is a lot like moving

It’s always one thing to hear something and another to experience it. This happens a lot while travelling, you hear about something then the experience is a) exactly as described, b) better than described, or c) worse than described. This is of course true for sights, attractions and experiences: a)Machu Picchu – exactly as described b) Sucre – better than described, c)Ica/Nazca/Huacachina/The gringo trail highway – worse than described. We have read many times travelling can be long and you can ‘burn out’ or go through travelers woes. But unfortunately, we have not met many long term travelers. So we really can only experience the phrase we have read about. It is not really a topic that is discussed much in hostels as most are travelling for 3 or 4 months, some for up to 6 but not many past that. The reason for this is, well, there are just not as many people doing that sort of thing.  But, this sometimes leaves us a little out on our own so we don’t really know how we are supposed to experience it or how we are supposed to experience the time of travelling. As a result we sometimes we find it hard to relate to people with some of their travel adventure despite us both being travelers on……. extended vacations. For one thing we are starting to notice that some of the magic of seeing a sight is starting to wear off, but it still excites us for different reasons. Most travelers will think “I can’t believe I am here! I can’t believe I am seeing this! I can’t believe it’s this awesome!!!” Meanwhile, we will be thinking the same but more like “I can’t believe I got here from that far away and for that long! I can’t believe this looks just like blah blah blah mountain/waterfall/place! I can’t believe that this empanada is different from the empanada 30km away! I can’t believe they have Nutella!!! (Oh, and everything is awesome!!!)” I started to realize that this is beginning to feel a lot like moving.

Now I know what you are thinking, “No shit Sherlock – backpacking is moving everyday”, but I mean more the phases of moving. Since being an adult (which I am not, let the record show), I have moved many times. The first one my Dad dropped me off at college while on the way to work, we unloaded my trash bags (yes I used to move in trash bags) onto the sidewalk and then he just said, “Well there you go!” and gave me a hug and left. If you know my Dad you know he has a sense of humor and you can imagine his delivery was pretty hilarious. The last two moves I changed countries and even at one point walked all of our earthly goods in 3 trips about 5 kilometers across London. The point is that the most mentioned part of moving is the physical, but moving is much more. For Lu and I moving has been like glacial cycles (I am a Geology Nerd, bear with me). For glacial cycles there are some that happen over long periods of time and then very minor ones that happen in the small scale, for example there was a minor ice age in the 1800s and some over 100,000s of years. So at the small scale Lu and I dread moving day, the small scale, but there are effects of moving that take place over months and years which affect us way more.

Moving now only takes us 45 minutes to an hour, but we still dread it. We always have more than we thought when we arrived, and we never know how it all will fit, but magically it does. The difference is instead of that table we have no idea what to do with its’ now as minor as we forgot we bought curry spice, sunscreen (in a non-travel bottle grrrrrrr), and some batteries. But when it all fits, it’s just as glorious as any move when you see the room empty of stuff. I should also note that upon arrival we have a habit to explode our stuff into any room - which is why you have probably not seen many pictures of our rooms on facebook……

That’s the physical push, but anyone who has moved knows there are waves of love/hate to your new environment (the long ice ages). Now we have been on the road over 8 months. We have loved seeing the new sights, the new foods, and the new people. But there are also annoyances/bothers/grievances brimming under the surface as well as unexpected joy and triumphs. I think the main thing we have noticed is how much we are starting to loathe the ‘traveler trail’. We have often been told things while bartering like “Oh, there will be other travelers there! Oh, you will only have people from your hostel!” These phrases are now starting to be red flags for us. When you move to a big city, you want to experience the big city in its greatness or worldly-ness. In your new city you might go to a party and you mention where you are from, and then someone would say “Oh I work with someone from there, you should hang out!” It’s not that you don’t want to hang out with that person, but just because you are from the same place does not mean you are going to be best buds. In the same vein we are realizing most travelers are on short journeys. They just want to party or see a sight; you find that you actually don’t have much in common with them. Also the traveler trail is like the ‘landmarks’ of a city, after you have been to a certain pub, square, landmark, or museum you only really go to it when people come to town. Almost no one in New York would go to the Statue of Liberty when they have the day off of work! The traveler trail is becoming like this, we enjoy seeing the big sights, but are finding that the 2nd best ruin or 3rd best castle, or ‘poor-mans’ Galapagos ends up being better than the ‘1st best attraction’. You start to love a country for what the people actually do and see, or the little hidden gems, in the same way that you start to enjoy your neighborhood in your city or the small crappy pub down the street that slowly becomes your pub.

The next problem is the ‘Lost Goals’. When we first started writing we had all these goals (like blogging a lot, damnit!). On the road things like internet browsing, walks, and lazy days seemed to creep up. I definitely fell off the wagon for exercise, but now I am getting back on it. It’s just like settled life, you pick up a hobby for a few weeks then drop it. Just like moving will never fix your problems or help you achieve your goal, only will power can do that. On the road will power is hard because one day is never like the one before it. When you move you find that many of the original goals of your move haven’t been met, however you found you still grew and might even have new goals.

But with that in mind, there is a great sense of accomplishment while travelling. The memorization of a city map and travelling with it in your head, surviving questionable public transport, surviving questionable food (actually in a digestive bout at the moment), all these things make us a little more proud every day.  It’s the same as when you move to the city and figuring out all the beauacratic forms, e-cards, or public transport (Made it home in 35 minutes by 3 buses – yeah! Made it from tower bridge to home on foot with no map – yeah!). But you adapt, and you learn to love your adaption. You can make it in any city. You can yell at the guy who spilled coffee on you on the tube (would not happen in the Midwest), you can get pissed off at the person who took 3 extra milliseconds to swipe their transit card, you can fix your bed frame – you don’t need a new one! (I should explain the bed, Lu broke the bed because she jumped on it too hard to get a pair of skinny jeans on.) Travel is the same, you can ask for directions in another language, you can ask for change back when that guy ‘forgets’ to give it back, you can fix your bag in the back of a sweaty shoe repair shop. The frustrations are endless, but the sense of accomplishment for getting over them is infinite.

The last thing I would subject of why it is a lot like moving is loneliness. Moves are actually very sad. Everyone imagines moving somewhere and instantly having all these friends, or great people around, or hosting huge dinner parties, or instantly having best friends at work. Best friends everywhere! Cue awesome background music! And free Beer! Moves are hard on the soul, they are sad for both leaving what you had behind and for not feeling accepted in your new home. But after a few months or even years you start to realize that some new friends are actually real friends and that all you needed was time with them. On the road Lu and I have each other, which is wonderful, but there are times where we feel we need some more human contact, which was the same in our first few months in London. In London we struggled with finding connections our first few months, but when we left we realized we actually had many close connections. On our travels we eventually found places with like minded or like aged travelers. Then, after 3 days or two weeks we part with those travelers – all the phases of moving in rapid speed. Sometimes only after we part we realize how much we really liked hanging out with someone, or even in some cases brings tears to our eyes when we leave (Sucre). As it is with moving, you will find that road is both a lonely place and a place where you will make great connections, and if you already have a great connection it will grow even stronger. Like moving, you realize that you are having the time of your life and wouldn’t change it for anything. Almost everyone moves to a better place and even if not, when they move back they often realize how great the move was for finding who they are, and that they actually made a few real friends and had a few real good times. We are finding this on the road, that sometimes horrible places make for good stories or in a horrible place we actually make great friends (Tarabuco), and sometimes great places are just that and nothing more. We are also noticing that like with any move it gets you thinking about the future, and for the first time since we have known each other we are thinking about our next move which is to a place where we can unload our bags for, well, a while. 

Moving was probably a little harder for the Inca; involved a few more rocks. 

Moving was probably a little harder for the Inca; involved a few more rocks. 

The end of vacation from vacation from vacation

We are at the end of our times in paradise, we can no longer stomach the Cachaca, the sun is too damn hot, the beaches are too sandy, the samba and reggae have lasted a lifetime, and I have had enough Açai. Okay I lied; you can never have enough Açai. But the chill times must end. We have been on vacation for almost 6 months now, then took a vacation from that trip starting on the Uruguayan coast almost a month ago, followed by a friend flying halfway around the world for a visit so we took a vacation from light beach going to heavy beach going. The beach is nice but now we realize we can’t spend a lifetime there, I guess life is not a beach. Sorry for the pun; I just couldn’t resist.

                While on this multi-tiered vacation we learned a lot about Brazil mainly because we had guides almost everywhere and when we didn’t we had unintended adventures. Everyone who travels mentions the great people they met along the way; this has and always will be true. Having someone on the inside of the culture and willing to share it with you is basically why people travel, otherwise it is almost no better than flipping through pretty pictures online. Well in Brazil we had the gold standard, a friend’s Mom who both loves Brazil and loves to cook. For the better part of week we were given the inside track on Brazilian food, a blend of tropical, European, and African. We ate cheese filled bread, mountains of delicious beans and rice (Lu didn’t eat beans before and is now a convert), exotic fruits, hard cheeses, spicy salami’s, ribs, jerky, sausage, frozen Açai cream, tapioca, pastel, coxihna, dried meatballs, more cheese bread, more fruit, more more more more. We were forced to drink pitchers of caipirinha and feioada (A salty Black bean stew with sausage) and forced to enjoy the view while doing so. While we did this our host went to go work 4 hours at her husband’s shop till it closed. Through little things like this we came to realize that paradise and real work do mix, and mix well. Brazilians do work hard, take pride in their work, but also take pride in their country, their mix of people and taking time to cut loose.

                We learned that Carnival is a time for spectacle and party but also everyone in Brazil seems to use it as a time to cut loose, to forget last year’s problems and look forward to the New Year. While to the outsider it might seem like a week of indulgence and binging (which it is), I think it is a good way to let go of grievances and grudges from the last year, instead of one night at new years the Brazilians shake it all off and do so while loving each other (lots of public affection going on in Brazil this time of year) or relieving stress through drumming or drinking. The funny thing is we were sort of the lame ones at Carnival because while we did go to the parades and a few of the parties we were not cutting loose as hard as I think people wanted to see. Probably the reason for this is that we were already on the vacation from the vacation from the vacation. They didn’t like that we weren’t partying hard enough I think because Brazilians take time to go on vacation, take time for long lunches, go out for drinks etc. because they know it’s important to you health to get all the stress out of you. That life is hard, but it doesn’t need to be if you take time to go out. But as I said we didn’t need it, we were deep in the levels of Vay-Kay.  

                To make matters worse, after carnival we retreated to the tropical, tranquil island of Ilha Grande……. Now a vacation from a vacation from a vacation from a vacation, we are deep in the levels of vacation. The islands postcard perfect beaches plus no cars on the island meant nothing to do but lay, no sights, no monuments, no bus/plane to catch. It was heaven on earth, but honestly at the beach I was itching for something to do, even hoping for some hilarious awkward encounter but alas it was just sand.

                Our friend left us and as soon as she did we hurried our way to difficult travel, where things will not be easily sorted, to where the internet cannot fix all our problems. We enter Bolivia in a few days, there we will have difficulties with visa’s and borders, harrowing train rides, no English, Spanish school, legendary markets, dizzying altitudes, and most of all the hard adventure again. We might yell at each other, we might throw up, we might learn Spanish (finally), we might get lost, but we will be happy because this is what we set out to do. Easy travel is not the kind we like, easy travel does not make stories and quickly fades from the mind. Our travels in Africa were difficult but in a way feel like yesterday and have a glow about them, and while we cannot say a bad word about Uruguay I have already forgotten much of the place as it was too ‘tranquilo’. I will say though that while Brazil has been ‘mui mui tranquilo’, it will still remain a memorable stop not because of the beaches but because of the hilarious and wonderful and awkward lunches we had with our new Brazilian family of whom speak no English and us no Portuguese. I think both they and we will remember that one lunch forever, where we talked for nearly 3 hours, ate a mountain of food, had no idea what the other person said but we understood each other completely. I think this reflects Brazil well, it is a mix of people from everywhere that work hard at mixing and blending even if they don’t understand another’s language or custom, they accept them. I think it’s the one thing I will take from Brazil as we head off into a place quite different than where we were before, a place which will finally end the vacations and take us back to travel.

 

And frozen Açai cream, seriously it’s the best thing, if it’s the only thing you do in Brazil – go eat it.

 

Lunch for 3 people..... and she was surprised there were leftovers. 

Lunch for 3 people..... and she was surprised there were leftovers. 

Margaritaville

In the past month we have moved from one side of the continent to the other. Along the way we saw the amazing Technicolor ravines and mountains of Iruya, tasted fine wine against red rock hills in Cafayete, and had our minds blown by the amount of water at Iguazu falls. We LOVED Africa, but sorry, these falls have Victoria falls beat on any day. I don’t know how many miles we have trekked. Most of them on luxury buses, but a few on some tiny ones inching through a hairline mountain pass, and despite most of them being luxury bus travel is almost never luxurious in what it does to you.

In Africa we usually took the bus for about 3-5 hours, the bus was usually hot and crammed, full of people, bags, and of course – how should I say – ‘distinct odors’. But all this made for an enjoyable active ride. You feel like you are part of something, like everyone is just trying to get to the next place, you have an alliance with the guy next to you who is carrying 20kg of cabbage, you are part of the team which keeps the baby asleep, you don’t complain when you have only 36% of your butt cheeks actually on a seat just because it’s better than the 25 people standing (note according to the board there should only be 8 people standing), and you support the economy by buying the eggs and raw food through the window.

In South America the bus ride is passive, we don’t talk with anyone else on the bus, we recline to a full 130 degrees, we get handed meals similar to airplane food, a movie plays on in the background and nothing can be heard from outside the bus. The only challenge is surviving the Arctic-correction-Antarctic temperatures of the bus at night. The ride takes us through the incredible mountains, small towns and even jungles but we don’t really get to interact with them. This does make the hours fly by though, we have taken several 18+ hour bus rides, plus a few in the range of 6 hours or so which feel like a breeze. When we get off the bus we find that we are exhausted even though there is no reason for it. Honestly I wish I had gotten to travel in South America in the ‘old days’ when the buses were crammed, hot and had chickens being passed through the windows. At least we would feel like we are doing something, now we are just watching the picture show out the window. But as these buses are so easy to catch and so easy to ride on we have covered a TON of distance and finally it took it’s toll in Uruguay.

We made it to Uruguay a few days ago, coming from Iguazu. Although online we were warned about it’s difficulty we breezed through the border with about as much difficulty as going to France from Germany nowadays. We arrived in Montevideo after 26 hours of travel with well no difficulties, no complaints. Montevideo is a lovely town, it’s modern, has great weather, a great bus system, and hugely stocked grocery stores. We had originally only booked for 2 nights, but we were exhausted from travelling and after covering all that distance, and exhausted from doing nothing, so we decided that Montevideo would become our paradise, our Margaritaville, and like the song we were stuck. We stayed 5 nights (which doesn’t seem like long but at our current pace it is), and during those five nights we read, went to the beach and lived the yuppie lifestyle of whole-natural foods, wine, and fish. It was great and just what we needed. We have now cancelled going to Buenos Aires and decided to cruise up the Uruguayan coast going from beach to beach. We may have skipped what is supposed to be one of the world’s cities, but right now we need a vacation from our trip. The hassle (and I guess job) of going from bus to bus, and the passive inactivity of those buses has left us tired and not ready for another destination, or another sight. Right now having no sights and just starring at some sand and water with the only plan on the table being to get some fish, veggies and a bottle of wine is needed even when on a trip (vacation) around the world. 

Photo taken shortly before I got cranky and demanded Dulce de Leche ice cream

Photo taken shortly before I got cranky and demanded Dulce de Leche ice cream

Northern Argentina (We are getting old)

We are well on ‘the gringo trail’, tons of backpackers everywhere! This has lead to both some fun and depression. So fun first; the good part of there being a lot of backpackers is there are a lot of people around our age or close to our age to hang out with and catch up on meaningful stuff, like Michigan getting a new coach, split peas being the new cheapest meal, or the value of ice cream fixing life’s problems. You know important things. This sort of stupid banter and talking is needed, and getting a taste of home with sports talk is needed. When we lived in the UK, American sports was my connection back home. It gives me some grounding to the ‘real world’, so when people what to chat about lighthearted non-important things like that it is a relief because while travel is great, talking about how travel is great can become weary after a while. So we met new people and were quite enjoying the hostel life again.

There is one part of backpacker/hostel culture which is definitely true, and we enjoyed a little over the holidays, which is partying. On new year’s we went out to a hostel party and had some fun dancing and showing the young backpacker kids how it is done on the dance floor. Also I might mention that we were in the wine region, a bottle of wine was the same price and size as a bottle of beer. So we decided not to discuss with our sommelier, and just said, ‘wine please!’ This lead to a great night of dancing, pool going, you get the idea.

We wake up the next morning, head a little sore, lips a little purple. We sort of blob around for the day, when we added up all the drinks we actually didn’t have that many. This is also where we get to some of the depressing part which is, we are getting old(er). We have not had that much to drink on our travels, so when we have it – we notice it. We notice that in the morning we feel anxiety or depression. The depression mainly coming from feeling like we are wasting time if we are not 100%. If a day is wasted with lying we feel it was a wasted day, where as many of our fellow backpackers have no problem sleeping for a day. This leads to us realizing that we are not quite in backpacker/hostel culture of the younger crowd, we are a little past it now. We still sleep in the dorms, but we are becoming happier with finding a cheap guesthouse. While we like meeting other backpackers we have become annoyed at the huge flocks of them, even though we are part of them, because we want to steer clear of the crowd. Also in our little conversations we found that sometimes the hostel culture has a negative effect on what is ‘an experience’. We hope ‘an experience’ is something that randomly or luckily  happens to us, but, with the new bigger crowds there is a strong pull for local businesses to provide ‘an experience’.

Nowadays, it is incredible what hostels offer you, no longer is it just a bed, but you have options for bungee jumping, volcano hiking, kayaking, sky diving, wine tours, bike tours, limo tours, etc. The problem is that while they are cheaper than you might think they still add up, each one could be $20-$80 US. If we are doing these things everyday than we would have broken the bank already! We are starting to feel that we are not properly experiencing travels if we don’t do one of these extreme activities. Whatever happened to just travelling to see the place? (Old curmudgeonly griping I know).

We also know that it is the time of year here. Our bus today was literally 80% backpackers, but nearly all of them are Argentinian. It is currently summer break and it seems to be tradition that all 20 somethings in Buenos Aries region slowly make their way from there to northern Argentina then up to Bolivia & Peru before coming back for school to start. The average Argentinean backpacker is usually a guitar toting-mate drinking-guacho weaing-95 liter backpack-dragging a huge tent, pad, and sleeping bag-singing on the bus-and working on their dreads. Cut your hair! Get a job! Cook dinner before 10pm! But in reality we like their spirit. It’s pretty cool that it is almost like a travelling festival. Everyone seems to be an artist or musician and so at night there are free concerts at the hostel or people drawing on the street. It seems like a much better experience to explore your one’s country and culture, going for hikes, creating art, and yes drinking a lot of wine at night with your friends, than the culture of going to the club non-stop.

So, we are slowly adjusting and starting to love the towns even when they are overrun with people. Our hangovers have subsided and we love our travels again. Last night the kiddos stayed up late singing songs in the courtyard, with actually a really good guitarist, which lulled us to sleep. Tonight we walked down the cobblestoned streets to a tiny hole in the wall restaurant where we had the same thing as all the other backpackers in the place (5 peso empanadas), and loved it. The place laughed when I couldn’t remember the Spanish word for ‘bill’. This reminds me, my Spanish is horrible. I have to work on that. But the result is I am realizing that experiences can still be had even if everyone else is experiencing them, that they do not need to be original, and when I stopped worrying about original experiences the more they happened.

We talked on the bus and over dinner; that we are doing what travel is to us which is experiencing new places, meeting new people, reading and writing, eating new food, and not really caring what is the right way or wrong way to travel because there is no right or wrong way to travel.

(Wrote this after midnight, whooohooo, still got the youngin spirit!)

Lounging on beds after a long day, it's what we do well. 

Lounging on beds after a long day, it's what we do well. 

Living in the moment

New Year’s Resolution, “Live in the moment!” This seems to be a common thing that people say, or an inspirational quote that you read on the wall somewhere or something someone says to you when you remember good times in the past. After travelling all this distance and seeing the places we have seen so far I feel like we should be doing this, but sometimes it is really hard to keep track of ‘being in the moment’. We are currently held up in Iruya, Argentina in an absolutely fascinating town, like something Indiana Jones would come to just before searching for the golden statue or something like that. It’s surrounded by cliffs and mountains, the streets are all made of stone, the houses of scrapped wood, mud, straw, and occasionally stone, the people are traditional and the drive to get here is hair-raising to say the least. Today I had the moment, ‘wow this is really amazing’. But honestly that feeling doesn’t come all that often even while we are doing or experiencing something amazing.

As we have been talking about we have a little bit of a hangover from Africa, we are still stuck on how amazing Africa was. But, even while we were there we noticed that there were many times that weren’t amazing. There were times we bartered for a papaya on the market, or took a dala dala which was in shambles, or even the Indian meal on one of our airplane rides (I admit it, I LIKE AIRPLANE FOOD!). All these things at the time seemed rather boring or nerve racking (dala dala ride). These experiences have made the trip, and while we think and remember the amazing view sometimes the most mundane things that we didn’t care about at the time have become our fondest memeories.

So sometimes we don’t capture the moment or live in the moment, but oh well. Life isn’t like a TV show, or a National Geographic, or phrases like “live in the moment”. So I guess my goal for 2015 is not to live in the moment, but to capture what I can in my journal and photos, and hope that when I look back at 2015 I can say it was a good year and not worry during 2015 about it being a good year. 

No ideas for a photo, but this little girl seems to be 'living in the moment' at the beach

No ideas for a photo, but this little girl seems to be 'living in the moment' at the beach

Why I love Chileans

I kept thinking what I loved the most about Chile (apart from those giant blueberries and dirty cheap seafood) and the thought that was constantly appearing in my head was: “poochkins, dogs, pikec!” No seriously, what do I love about Chile, I asked myself, and the answer was: “oooh that cute little dog..).

You probably think that I am crazy, but it is true; I love their dogs, domesticated or strays it does not really matter. Dogs here are so nice and friendly and so are the people towards the dogs as well. It was exactly what we needed after our loss of Herbie. It was heartwarming and in a way therapeutic. It took me a few days in Santiago to realize how friendly they are. Once I got this I also started noticing how well fed these dogs are and how well they were taken care of. As soon as we got to Puerto Varas, I “adopted” one dog, and half an hour later two more. They ran towards us with their tails wagging and demanded petting. Yes petting a stray dog is a stupid idea, but I could not resist it. They were adorable.

After a while I started to realize that there are plastic bowls everywhere and made me smile as I knew this was their water bowls that passersby fill up. Each dog knew their regular favourite human as the interaction between them felt like they are best friends since childhood. Seeing an old lady tearing fresh bread and started to feed the stray, who in return rubbed head against her leg.

In Valparaiso we again picked up a female dog, which wanted our company. She followed us for few hours as all she wanted was our company. I know this for a fact as she refused to eat fresh chicken breast ham I bought for her. I had to persuade her to finally eat it, which she only did when I hand fed her. I was searching for a plastic bowl in which I could pour water, and when I finally did there was a local woman cleaning it. I went there poured some water, and the lady was thanking me whilst our follower quenched her thirst.

So people and their love for dogs was what I loved about Chile the most. It is seriously a dog heaven. They are very friendly, nice and big dog lovers. No one cares if the dog is a stray, they will still take care of them and give them cuddles; sometimes even letting them into aerial tramway without paying for a ticket. Thumbs up to all Chileans.

A stray found his way to this aerial tramway...He knew exactly what he was doing and where he was going.

A stray found his way to this aerial tramway...He knew exactly what he was doing and where he was going.

First Impressions of South America

We now have one country under our belt; we learned a little while there. We mostly recovered from our time in Africa and the whirlwind trip to Austria, scammed in South Africa, and having to put our dog down. But, we did learn a little about culture and are starting to get an idea of the continent.

So firstly this is our first major language barrier, in Africa nearly everyone speaks English as a second or third language. Most people here only speak Spanish and do so with a lot of varying accents. We have already had some funny encounters with this. We love markets, so on our first day we went to the fruit and vegetable market in Santiago. There we couldn’t figure out how to say ‘one-quarter’ we could only say ‘1 and 4’. The helpful seller on the market actually took my hand and separated my fingers to show me ‘1/4, 2/4, ¾, 1 Kilo’. It was a pretty funny experience since he could have just told me, but he thought it would be more fun to have an impromptu Spanish lesson.

This is how a lot of people are down here, they are very friendly and friendly to tourists who don’t speak the language, they usually apologize for not speaking English, and in some cases when people hear us talking in English about how we are confused about something they will stop on the street and help us because they speak English. This happened while catching a bus, while ordering food, and while trying to find a ticket office. No one ignores us or gets mad that we don’t speak Spanish, they either want to teach us or will find someone who does speak English, or a random stranger will help.

The climate here is as varied as the landscapes. In one day we went from high alpine to desert to ocean to lush green forests. On one bike ride we experienced, sun, rain, hail/sleet/snow, high wind, then blazing sun after. We are almost getting sick of spectacular mountains, with volcanoes and crystal blue lakes.

I was surprised by the culture as well, it felt very European. I would say that the thing that made it feel the most European is that it has a booming art scene. Around Santiago we found posters everywhere for bands, music, dance, theatre, or art shows. Valparaiso on the coast has also now become an art-mecca. Every street is filled with murals and tags. It’s the type of thing my parents would say they usually hate, but I bet even they would appreciate the murals found EVERYWHERE in the city. Plus the whole region seems to have a vibe of appreciating artists, letting them sell little pieces wherever they like to the city commissioning murals by former graffiti artists.

The other change for us is accommodation. We are now mainly in hostels which are everywhere just like in Europe. They also have a feel of the European ones, where there are people from everywhere who like to hang out, party, and talk travels. This was nice as we had good company for our first warm Christmas, which is celebrated like 4th of July with a big BBQ and cold drinks, and our first warm New Years. One improvement from Africa is that we always have a kitchen now which means we are cooking a lot which we love, and now that we are in a place where food is abundant our hostels often have a free food bin which has helped the budget. Free and unopened pasta sauce is still just as good as store bought!

We are warming quickly to South America and we are happy we did it after Africa. Looking back on Africa we now realize that was like jumping in the deep end, but we were rewarded by meeting some of the nicest people on the face of the planet. We have hopes that South America will be the same even as we head to the more remote North! 

One of the best ones, but one of HUNDREDS in the city

One of the best ones, but one of HUNDREDS in the city

What did Africa teach Lu?

What will I miss from Africa and what did I take with me when I left it? Reading Tan’s African review made me think about this. What could possibly be better in the Motherland?

Just like with most things in life, we were scared. I could deny it and try to show off as fearless traveler, but that would not be true. I always seek for a challenge in my life and then I get flooded with fear. It is always scary although exciting at the same time, to go into unknown. I am not sure whether it was a fear of unknown in Africa or more a general fear for a long term travels. But does it really matter? Fear is good, but you have to make sure it does not overtake you. Changes are needed and are there to help us grow and Africa did help me grow in a way.

Of course I loved all the adventures we did, but it was also a journey on a deeper level. Learning about how to voice my opinions and wishes stronger and sometimes louder (in cases of persistent touts) was probably the most important achievement. It is interesting how I taught myself controlling my voice as I am very high tempered personality; but only around my family. Around strangers, sellers, or people that I only occasionally hear from; the situation is completely different. I gave myself a blockage and was unable to say no or was almost submissive. Africa definitely changed that. When someone does not respect me or ignores my plea’s of wanting them to let me be, my bubble of niceness pops. I have now no problem to tell them off. Sometimes I get so excited about my new ability that I raise my voice. When dealing with African touts you usually have to.

But I must admit I still have to learn to ask ‘stupid’ questions or asking for perks that I am entitled to instead of just hoping that I can get them. I have no problem of voicing this out via email, but still need to work of actually using my voice. Just like with everything, this can be achieved and I did start doing baby steps on this topic.

I am definitely more confident than I was, although people that know me would think I am very confident anyway. They say I talk so much and can’t keep me quiet. But it is different with new encounters with people. I need few pints of beer or few meetings before I open up and start comfortably chatting. I am very interested into anthropology and you won’t get answers if you do not ask questions. Spending short time with tribes, forced me to start conversations with complete strangers without booze and with a time strain. Learning about a different culture sometimes requires starting taboo topics, which can have mixed reactions with the receiver. It was nerve wrecking at the beginning, but now I just ask about circumcision, infidelity, gender inequality/equality with no hesitation.

My opinions about various topics defined in more detail. For example I love animals and I do not approve ZOOs or dolphin/whale shows. But I did not expect that this will expand during this African part of the adventure. I thought I am already doing my part by not participating just to those three activities. Out there, there is plenty more activities that are questionable. With Tan we regularly debate about this topic especially if there is an activity regarding animals. In general I now try much harder by doing my homework before booking animal activity. I love to see them in their natural environment, without luring them to us by feeding them, chumming or chasing them. I did not decide to go to the extremes and I let each person decide for themselves without me preaching them (unless they ask for my opinion); and at the end of the day I am not a vegetarian either. I do think it is important to make informed decision, just like you check the Bank’s interests before deciding to open an account with that Bank (a bit odd example, but hey I am a spreadsheet lady).

Africa also changed my view regarding aid. The change was combination of talking to locals and reading Paul Theroux’s African themed books. I am not saying that we should not help. The help should be done in a sustainable way, so when the donations are gone and foreigners are back home, locals are able to take care of that. In a situation of project we encountered in Tanzania, the kids who were raised within the project are coming back to help by teaching and helping the younger ones. Although this project was started with foreign help, today there are more and more Tanzanians who are donating for this same project. But there is too much aid that started on a wrong path such as all the abandoned missions we saw; there were too many of them. Locals have to be involved from the start, to learn the skills they need in order to be able to get back on their own feet. We encountered a lot of people with mentality; why bother the money will come from abroad anyway.

These are only few changes that happened during this 3 month African adventure, but overall the continent was good to us and we are both eager to come back, with already daydreaming where to take our children to learn the simplicity and see some amazing sceneries. We want them to enjoy the smiles and return them back, buy peanuts from the bus’s window to later open them and smell the freshly roasted goodness. So they can see the animals in their natural environment and learning about their habits, just to be able to reveal the story behind their behavior at a later waterhole (behavior of animals can reveal where and if there is a lion). For them to meet all these beautiful tribal people and realize that nothing should be taken for granted and see how we saw Africa; amazing place with so much to offer and a place that teaches us through its simplicity and hardship.

Masai warrior to be

Masai warrior to be

Bad week

We have had a hard time this past week with many of obstacles on our world course. First it was us getting to the border between Zambia and Namibia called Wenela, where our casual stroll over the border ended up with me being refused to enter Namibia. The day we sorted this problem we got bad news from Slovenia; our little beloved old Bertdog (Herbie) is in great pain. On top of that SA high commission in Windhoek threw another obstacle into our face. The staff member decided that she does not want to work too hard that week and said I should go back to Vienna to get my SA visa. That she won’t accept my application and I should just fly back half way across the world. As per her the reason was that I do not work in Namibia nor I am Namibian. A strange policy for a consular office abroad which job is exactly that: accepting applications for tourist visas. Her not wanting to do the job that is in her job description amazed even SA home affairs officer over the phone. Of course they will receive my complaint regarding this situation.   

But there was nothing else to do, than to go to Vienna to sort that out. In a way we were planning to go to see Herbie in very near future departing from Cape Town. But now we would not have enough time as we got pushed back by SA high commission. We knew it is 5 days waiting time once I file my application, so instead of us spending money in Vienna we decided to go to Slovenia for few days. It did not hurt to save money on accommodation, see my family and our Herbie. It was hard being back in Slovenia as we knew why we are there. Our days were filled with phone calls and visits to the vet, trying to change Herbie’s pain pills and spending a lot of time just being with him. We knew we will have to say goodbye, and at one point we thought we can get away with not making this hard decision and try different pills. As this proved to be worse for him, we had to do this step.

It was probably the hardest thing we ever did, but his life did not have many good days. He was holding on for us, although in so much pain. We had to let him go as on his bad days he could not stand or sit, he had to be handfed and all that was so painful to watch. So we had to give our vet the last call and he came in the evening to release him from this pain. We spent every second together as a family, Tan, Herbie and I, cuddling on a bed until he fell asleep and quite some time after the vet left.

We lost a big part of us and it hurts us so much, that we left for SA unexcited and very depressed. We did not want to be in SA at all, and as a result we disliked it. Our personal experience was not good, and on top of that we got scammed on a day we felt the most depressed about loss of Herbie.

He was a great dog, who lived on two continents and in three countries. He was in Tan’s life for almost 17 years and was sometimes acting more like a person. He taught himself to go into the shower if he really had to go to pee when we were at work. Herbie showed us his anger by knocking shampoo bottles on the floor or having verbal arguments. He loved people, not so much other dogs and travelled to 6 countries in his life; always with us weather on a plane, train or a hotel. I could keep writing about his happy times, but then you would be reading this post for weeks, so I will stop right here. We miss him and love to think he can now run around without pain.

Herbie enjoying the walk - weekend trip to Devon, UK

Herbie enjoying the walk - weekend trip to Devon, UK

Tan’s Thoughts on Africa

Since we are now leaving the continent it’s probably a good idea to think about what I learned while here. What made this place so different that we had to see it, what were the fond memories, what will make us come back? The thing that I think we will remember the most is the friendliness of the people, the community, and the joy of simplicity. I think that most places are memorable for the people but there is something a little more about Africa, something so selfless about it. There are people who are trying to sell you stuff or asking for money, but most people here are just happy to have you here and meet someone from somewhere else. When we were turned away from a border, the people in our cab back actually felt bad for us and understood that it was costing us a lot of money – that we were people too who have troubles as well. While walking the streets in Tanzania people would invite us for dinner or a drink. They had never seen us before, but as we were guests they wanted us to feel welcome. But it goes further than that, when our tour ended our guides and porters didn’t thank us for choosing their company, but thanked us for choosing Africa as it helps their whole community and connects them to the rest of the world. When our computer broke they genuinely tried to help us and went FAR (150KM) out of their way to help fix it without any sort of jealousy or disgust at us having our own computer. But this is the way here as they are a community of communities. People help each other here, there are countless times we saw a bus or taxi pick someone up who didn’t have money, that there are very few retirement homes as the elderly live with their family, that when a truck is overfilled and turns over everyone comes over and helps pick up the pieces, that when village member gets a new phone he shares it with everyone in his village for free.

The other part that we appreciated was the simplicity of it – that options are not always a good thing. When looking for food or in the grocery store there aren’t a lot of options. But that is okay, because there isn’t really a real need for variety. When you have fewer choices there are less stresses. If you go through a western grocery store or look at a western menu you will have tons of options. In Africa not so much, but there is something about not having to stress about choices, and along with the lack of stress just accepting when something is good enough and being happy about it. We actually heard a story from one of our Tanzanian host who went to London, he said that he hated the food. The main problem was that it was too rich! The simple flavor and having nearly the same thing everyday does mean that you get to eat your favorite thing every day and knowing what is coming next.

But like everywhere in the world there are problems and there were a few things we didn’t like seeing that much. Like most places in Africa though it is hard to see the differences between rich and poor, in Swakopmund the houses and streets near the beach were amazing - colorful modern houses and streets which looked straight out of Europe with old buildings and bistros. However, just outside of town there were rows and rows of shanty towns. The same in Kenya, huge mansions with 20 shanties built just outside their walls and the difference doesn’t have to do with laziness. We saw many, many people working very hard. Waking up at sunrise walking 2 hours each way to their job where they do hard manual labor for very low wages in hot heat, whereas I would complain about my comfy train commute if I didn’t get a seat in the first few minutes. But this problem would lead to the other complaint which is it was hard to see the lack of real development. Many of the public schools seemed to be in disarray, with the children mainly playing outside all day long or only learning songs. Or it could be seen that money was being put into something that wouldn’t last, such as a mountain lodge we visited that was horribly managed and possibly exploited others. I think it was also hard to hear from locals who completely understood these problems and hear how they felt helpless to change them – as in the locals completely understand these problems but were powerless to change them due to government problems or lack of wealth.

Following Namibia we didn’t see much more charm, maybe it had something to do with leaving the continent or maybe just our bad experiences with anything South African, but I would say the Africa we fell in love with ended in Namibia. This makes it easier to go on and gets us more excited for a new continent but when we talk about Africa I think we will always remember the people and the life from Nairobi to Windhoek as one of the best parts of our travels and a reason to come back for us. It is where we became independent, where the landscape and animals shocked our eyes, but also where we met some amazing people who taught us a better way to act. If I had to whittle it down to the fondest memory, then I will have to say the joy at being called ‘muzungus’. At first glance might sound wrong for them to call us a name, but we are foreigners - which is what it means, and that their only goal from yelling this at us was to get a wave from us. We will miss Africa and we will be back! (P.S. Festus we will help you find a girl!)

Namibian Hospitality

Well despite the bumps dealing with Lu’s visa we finally made it to the Atlantic ocean. It took us about two months and we had some back tracking but we made it from the Indian ocean to the Atlantic ocean, from Zanzibar to Swokupmund, Namibia.

When we made it through the Namibian border we knew things were going to be much easier, we didn’t have to back track, and all we had to do was survive the overnight bus ride. The ride was nearly 22 hours in total and unfortunately some of the most scenic places were covered in darkness so we were not able to see them. It was still wonderful to fall asleep and wake up in a completely different environment. Zambia is pretty flat with lots of small trees bushes, when we awoke in Namibia it was hills and mountains covered in scrub brush.

The towns of Namibia were totally different than the any of the ones we had experienced in Africa, they were clean, modern, colorful, and everything worked. So this was our first taste of western pleasures in a while and while we loved the simplicity found in the rest of Africa it was nice to know that the grocery store would have everything we wanted, that our lodge would have high-speed internet, and that the roads were smooth. Since everything is much easier than the rest of Africa and everything is straight forward we decided to rent a car and explore the country ourselves. We decided to do a self-drive game drive, then see the ocean.

It was a fitting way to end our time in Africa. While there we had some more bumps with some rental car companies not accepting American Express or Visa Debit (take note of this if renting in Namibia!), but once we had our car we saw Africa in a different way yet again. We were able to go at our own pace, able to stop and stare at a lion or rhino that for as long as we wanted to, the only problem was navigating some of the roads in a Polo Vivo! The place we stayed had a pretty rough road, it was only 8km, but it took us about 40 minutes each way. But fortunately we were the only ones there, so we played with the dogs and warthogs (yes you read that correctly) at night and were treated to a free braai with our host Daan. During the day we went to Etosha National Park which might have been the best game drive yet. It is a very different experience when you are the driver seeing it from your own car; elephants, rhinos, and lions just 25 meters from the car. We saw things that we hadn’t seen on any of the other game drives – elephants white from mud at the watering hole and a lion right next to our car. We watched the lion for what must have been an hour. Not having to leave but to just sit there and watch as long as you wanted. Also we ran off after the 102,519th antelope which added a freedom we didn’t have before. By the end though we had had our fill of giant animals, which I know is a hard thing to say, but again we were able to leave and go at our own pace.

Following Etosha we drove through the desert to the beach, after a while bushes faded and just became sand. As the only ones on the road we finally felt completely alone which was a strange feeling since we hadn’t been in almost 3 months. Before we hit the ocean it felt like the moon or something. Endless sand and hills with a mirage at the end of the road, then suddenly we realized that the mirage actually wasn’t a mirage anymore and we had reached the ocean. We parked and I ran out to touch the ocean making the trip complete.

The next day we returned to Windhoek and were sad to leave the continent we had come to love, and in standard Namibian fashion our backpacking lodge upgraded us from our nice room to a room bigger than our flat in London. This was commonly the case in Namibia, that the Namibians were just concerned that you have a great time and are always accommodating.

The only rude person we met was a South African working at the embassy. This would be a fitting representation of South Africa for us, but that will come in a later post on our Africa round-up. The people of Namibia were incredibly friendly, inviting us to braai’s (BBQs), calling friends when we had visa troubles, or travel agencies helping us for free and even giving their stamp of approval for free when needed.   

Life in Namibia is some of the best in Africa, it blends the moderns found in South Africa with the hospitality you find in the rest of Africa my only complaint would be that we had to go to South Africa afterwards, when we could have stayed! 

They were even  bigger than they seem in the picture

They were even  bigger than they seem in the picture

One step forward two steps back

We enjoyed our final days in Livingstone, Zambia at a pretty relaxed pace. We saw the falls, canoed, and walked with Rhinos. Even getting to Livingstone we took our time and explored the small towns along the way, getting a better feel for the place. On our last day we bought snacks with our last kwacha so we would leave the country with no local currency to waste.

Our Intercape bus took us to the Namibian border where we had to get our exit stamps from Zambia and then enter Namibia. We had a 10 minute walk between border posts so we chatted and continued through the whole line. I (Tan) got my stamp and moved on. Lu was getting her stamp then the border agent just said ‘it’s cancelled.’ What!!!??? What do you mean cancelled!??? We argued with the border guards, then with our drivers who in turned argued with the guards. Slovenia is one of the few EU countries that actually need a visa but more importantly we were told they issue visa’s at the border….. turns out not true (this is not marked clearly).

After a long discussion we found out the only option is to go back to Lusaka to get a visa from the Namibian embassy. This doesn’t sound that bad except that the Namibian border is in the middle of nowhere, and Lusaka is an 8 hour bus ride away from Livingstone, which is two hours from the border….and we have no more kwacha…… But fortunately there is an ATM right at the border. Whew! We put our card in the machine, but the machine- just like us-is also out of money. So no visa, no money, no transport, we are in a great spot right now.

We discover that we have enough money just to get a cab to the bus stand, from there we have to promise the driver of our long distance cab that we will pay them when we get to Livingstone. The cab ride was fun though; everyone laughing about our border problem, joking that it doesn’t matter where you are from the borders can suck!

We arrive in Livingstone then the next day (Monday) take a bus to Lusaka, racing to get to the Namibian embassy before it closes. We run into the embassy an hour before it closes only to find out that the only day they do visas is Thursdays. It continues! This also means out Zambian visa will expire before we leave, which if it does we could go to jail. We also are limited with days as Tuesday is a national holiday for the funeral of their president. This leaves one day to get the extension and one day to get a visa. Not the best timing. Fortunately the Zambian visa extension was possibly the easiest bureaucratic thing we have ever done; it took less than 30 seconds at the immigration office in downtown Lusaka.

We return to the Namibian embassy on Thursday, and fortunately the woman is very nice and takes care of us the same day. The visa was 50 dollars which was our single biggest expense for the whole trouble.

 We are now waiting for Sunday to get on our second bus to Namibia.

So lesson learned. When travelling make sure to check the official website for the country you are going to, don’t trust your guide book or what people on the street tell you otherwise you could be a week delayed like us. Also remember when there is a problem you do have time to fix it, one though that popped into our heads was to ‘throw money at the problem’ or to sulk at our misfortune and eat out or stay in nice hotels. But that wouldn’t have helped our long term goals. So we still got cheap group taxis, took the public bus, and stayed at the same cheap places where we could cook.

There was a positive though; we got to retrace our steps back. This may sound bad but it was relaxing feeling like we already knew the place. We stayed at the same places as before and everyone remembered us and welcomed us warmly. People actually cared about our situation and were willing to help us even though they didn’t know us well. Then at bus stands or stores or in cab rides we already knew where we needed to go and what we needed so it actually wasn’t as stressful as we imagined it at the border when we heard that word ‘cancelled’.

We had our first hiccup and we survived, hopefully there are not more but we are now better prepared. I hope.

Back in Lusaka crossing over the railway to the immigration office

Back in Lusaka crossing over the railway to the immigration office


Moving my ass in the right direction

I sometimes get feeling which some would call it:  ‘out of body experience’. I feel like I am looking at myself from a distance and evaluating my life. It hits me that I AM HAPPY. And I am amazed at myself as it was I who got here by gathering all the courage to be proactive and chase the dream. I am living my dream and I am living it with my best friend and husband. It was just today when I posted some pictures on my personal Facebook page that I realized how amazing our experiences were so far. Swimming in the Zambezi River only to later realize that there is a crocodile and a hippo swimming 10 metres away. Canoeing past all this wildlife, doing safaris, sleeping in a Massai mud hut, tracking rhinos by searching their footprints and dung, and much more; this is our unique life adventure.

People we know or people we just met do wonder ‘how the hell can you afford it?’ It is all about priorities. Our priority during our time in London was to save money for this trip and sacrifice. Our friends got bigger apartments and we were stuck in our studio by choice, but still sometimes we had to remind ourselves what we are saving for. If it concerned purchasing something pricier (eg. shoes, clothes, gadgets, household things or even furniture) it first had to go through set of questions such as: Will I carry it in my backpack the whole time? Is it practical for travel? If it got a positive reply to both then it was a reasonable purchase otherwise we turned our heads and walk away (unless it was a new experience such is exploring the Lake District, Devon, climbing the O2 arena, a trip to see our families/friends, or exploring Morocco). People are different and every person defines what is most important to them. For us family is important and we will get to that when it will be time for it, but at the moment for us this adventure is our current priority. Tan and I were talking about how sometimes we feel like we are missing out on things such as still not owning our own home, not yet having children or even a car. But then again we are not in a rush and have our whole lives to get all those things when we feel we are ready for them.

We are happy to be where we are at the moment and how our adult lives evolved. We live our life for ourselves otherwise we could be still in our home town just to please people around us. As a consequence we could be very unhappy, living our lives by other people standards and not by how we want to live. I am not judging anyone, as people are different. Some love and are happy in their home town, I am only trying to point out that in my case this would mean unhappiness.

What I tried to say with this post is that we worked extremely hard to get here and we do deserve all the adventures we will experience. Instead of putting money down for a house deposit, we decided to do once in a lifetime adventure that we can only gain from it. Our horizons are widening and as a result we are changing in a way we would never be able if we would not set out on this trip.

So stop whining that you wish you could afford all this and start working on it. If you just whine and do not start being proactive you will never be able to afford it. And by not being proactive you are stating that it is not your dream/priority to travel and this is totally ok as long as you do not whine about it! And it is not just for traveling it is about most things in our lives. Don’t be afraid of failing as there is no such thing as a failure, because every time you put all the efforts towards your goal you learn very important lessons in your life. If we, for some reason would not be able to reach our goal, our big saving project taught us that we do not need so many material things. We learned that experiences are the ones that matter and less material things we have more liberated we feel, more time to focus on each other and on ourselves. So stop whining, MOVE YOUR ASS and WORK ON reaching your GOALS and DREAMS!

One buffalo moved its ass, whilst the other one stayed put.

One buffalo moved its ass, whilst the other one stayed put.


Small Towns

Riding on the dusty hot bus we look at each other and then anxiously out the window as we pass by shanty followed by a small row of shops painted in Airtel or Zamtel logos. Lu asks me: “Is this it? Is this it? I think we should get off…..” Our anxiety builds as the bus pulls up in a three stall bus stand. There the taxi drivers crowd the door, and people selling grilled chicken, hard boiled eggs, tomatoes, soda and biscuits rap their hands on the bus making us jump. Then they start to sing like a british football hooligans. We have dread as we see this orchestra build, it adds to the effect of walking out the tunnel to the field. Actually this is totally normal for any stop but this doesn’t help with our main fear – we have absolutely no idea where we are.

With Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, or Zanzibar I think many people have a sort of rough idea where there are, or at least have heard of them. But when we mention places like Same, Babati, Iringa, Mpika, Mazabuka, Choma, or Kalomo most people have no idea where they are. Honestly we had no idea where they were until about a day before we got there. So as our bus goes on we just have to know where to get off since it’s not just the end of the line like when the bus gets to one of the large cities. But fortunately as a custom the driver never announces where we are! We see that we are in a place larger than the side of the road and there is a faded sign somewhere which says ‘Choma Tax Office’ so we risk it and jump into the crowd of sellers and taxi drivers. But this is where things differ from the big cities.

In the crowd people ask us ‘Taxi? Taxi? Taxi? Safari? Chicken?’, but we say no thank you no thank you as usual but the difference is the hassle stops, that’s it. In the big cities these crowds would follow us for blocks ‘trying to help’. In our first town, Same, we escaped the bus stand with no followers but then a man walking down the street said ‘Good morning, how are you’. To myself I was thinking, oh great – here we go, what’s this guy’s scam, but then he just walked past me. He just, walked past me. All he wanted was to say hello, how is that possible. I saw him again later and he asked if he could take us out for a drink. In London he would be an absolute nutter, but here he is a welcome sight.

Maybe it’s because we both grew up in places like Ann Arbor or Skofljica where when someone says ‘hello’ to you they genuinely mean it. Or maybe it’s just after living in a place like London then coming to the large cities of Africa you just assume life is all about the hassle or being hassled then escaping it before your destination. It’s wonderful that the small town reminds us why we are on a journey where we pick destinations on the go.

When we get off in a town we usually have figured out the layout of the town; where to shop, which day the market is on, and a good place to eat. It’s nice because have a feel within hours, then after that we can begin to meet people. Sometimes it’s just because we have eaten at the same place 3 times, or maybe because we got lost we end up in the supermarket talking to the manager for directions, or the Mama’s at our hostel are just so curious about us. Everyone is always genuine and just wants to know more about us, more about where we were from, and usually ‘Why on earth did you pick our small town to stay!??’

It’s in these small towns you get this humor and also get more of the sense of their cultural humor which is one of the best ways to get to know people even if you can’t really communicate. In Same we became esteemed guests at a charity and later at a St. Michaels celebtration and choir competition. They laughed that we could get lost in their small town. In Babati we laughed about polygamy or us not having polygamy. In Mazabuka we met Festus who worked at our lodge. We talked for a while just about everything; he can even talk more than Lu! In Choma we met a woman while we walked down a country road into the bush. I don’t know if she had ever seen two people of our complexion walking down this road before and she just started laughing and clapping her hands. She spoke no English and just said ‘Mazsha kawati na kutdfi za proble its hzftaanbflk’ (I have no idea what she said). But she was pointing down the road and laughing and marching and putting her hands as though she were carrying a backpack like us. What we think she said was something like ‘You just have your backpack on and you are just walking down the road, just like that! Amazing! I love it!’ Then she too walked off on her way to the market. Finally the children in all the small towns just want to say hello. They all wave and ask ‘how are you?’. They don’t ask for money or candy (except for one child who explicitly stated “I am asking you for money”). Then giggle, then laugh hysterically, and then run away when you talk back to them, or come over to touch your hand then run off because they can’t believe they just did that. The wonderful sense of humor for me comes from the ones who also try to do something different. When we were on our huge game-drive overlander driving through small towns the children would run to the street to wave and we would wave back. As we were driving through a rural area of Tanzania we were waving at all these kids, then one teenager in the background just gave us the finger with a huge smile on his face. He sees I am dying laughing at this and he laughs too then waves. Honestly this might have been one of my favorite moments, when everyone else is waving and going nuts at the muzungus, there is one clown who just gives us the finger. Oh and in case you were wondering there is no double meaning to ‘flipping the bird’, it means the same down here. You remember a place better when you are laughing with someone than just taking a photo of something you were supposed to take a photo of.

Still, at each stop it’s hard to remember this when I am on the bus pointing downward with my hands as I loudly ask a fellow passenger ‘Iringa!?’ ‘Iringa!?’. He shakes his head ‘No’, because I am pointing straight down he thinks I am asking if Iringa is on this bus, no of course not, it’s actually outside the window. Why didn’t this silly muzungu just point out the window, that’s where Iringa is.

I think the only way we have made it this far is because of the helpful people in Babati, the town before, who told us exactly how long a drive it is to Iringa. So this has to be Iringa. 

The view from our front porch in Babati, it was a high goat traffic evening 

The view from our front porch in Babati, it was a high goat traffic evening